“Unfortunately not everyone is on board”

We went out to run some errands today at noon, which included a stop at NoFrills, the Post Office, and Receivers.

The Island being the Island one stranger shared that they were now on a diet and not eating meat. Another, showed me their feet (they had shoes on) in order to detail their injury and I shared that I have forgotten how to wear pants.

With the exception of Receivers, no one was social distancing, wearing any kind of PPE, nor utilizing what little sanitizing your hands apparatus was available. It’s like nothing had happened; nor was still happening.

We can’t stay inside forever. We need to eat, and not everyone has the opportunity to work remotely as a programmer or other desk bound occupation.

Islanders have from my vantage point been great, at least until it was decided that people from away could come to their summer residences (I don’t think they should). Real leaders make unpopular decisions based on the available data and experience, it’s hard.

Living through viral outbreaks, or in this case, hopefully a once in a lifetime pandemic, requires a massive cultural shift for Islanders. Washing your hands, carrying antiseptic wipes and hand wash, wearing a mask, using store provided antiseptic hand wash, installing antiseptic matts, and on and on, must become an ingrained habit. It is elsewhere; they’ve been screening travellers in Taiwan and elsewhere for over 15 years. Arriving from a region known to have an outbreak? Step aside sir while we ask you a few more questions. Have a fever? Off to quarantine you go. Not wearing a mask? Please leave the building. Kid sick? Isolation and then a call to come collect the child.

These are the things you do. Take matters into your own hands, complaining about people coming in from outside the province is not enough.

Via Ruk.


Patti Larsen: Cat City

Our last Sleep Tight Stories episode featured a chapter from a story by Island author Patti Larsen called, Cat City. It’s wonderful to bring her work to a new audience. It’s a great story, sure to spur the imagination of kids of all ages, myself included. Sheryl and I are her latest fans.

In my short conversations with her I also learned a great deal about the mental model of, or how publishers and authors differ in their approach to book promotion, and more.

One of the benefits of being on the Island is that people here tend to be friendly and approachable, which can lead to all kinds of interesting conversations, and sometimes collaboration.

To purchase her book please visit: https://books2read.com/CatCity or your favourite bookstore.


What have I become?

When we lived in Taiwan fellow parents used to say to me that I was more Chinese than they were, referring to my attitude towards education I suppose. It would seem I still harbor some other Taiwanese characteristics that I didn’t know I had.

Here it is Saturday morning, and I remarked to Sheryl that I still haven’t received an email reply from a potential partner for a project she is developing. I thought it was strange that she wasn’t working Friday night and Saturday morning. Sheryl gently reminded me that people don’t work Friday night and weekends here.

I’ve become what I used to constantly rebel against when I worked for those bosses in Taiwan and China.


Behind the scenes

This mornings Facebook livestream with Sheryl. Replacing the iPhone’s internal mic with an external makes all the difference in the world. Some lighting would help too, but by the time we felt the need the prices for lighting went up measurably due to the pandemic.


Blue

I went for a walk Monday evening and while this section of Stratford has that lack of life feeling that comes from quickly building houses on a farmers field, the blue skies and clean air can’t be beat. I could stare at the skies on PEI for hours on end.


The global pandemic might change how we interact with daily objects

By Tiouraren (Y.-C. Tsai) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82148132

Peter posed an interesting question: “What are the right Pedestrian Call Buttons for the Pandemic?” I thought of writing a comment along the lines of, there is nothing more cost effective than getting into the habit of washing your hands. But in the context of his blog I think it comes across as flippant, and I can be as flippant as I want here.

Giving it further thought, most high traffic areas in cities in Asia have a certain amount of automation – doors, traffic lights, and lighting itself often work on a no contact required principle. So no change in affordances are required, unlike in our building where I open the doors with the sleeves of my shirt.

In Affordances of the post-COVID-19 era Can Aslan briefly discusses how we might see changes in design often used public objects, including a concept by Dutch designer Thor ter Kulve who hacked a traffic light button by placing a lever on top of it which can be pushed by knee, elbow, or hip.

As every person is a potential virus carrier and each publicly used object is potentially contaminated, how we perceive and interact with these objects have been dramatically changed. Thus, the core concepts of product design might be subject to change as well.

One of these concepts is affordance, which was popularized by Don Norman, a researcher, professor, and author. In his book The Design of Everyday Things, he defines affordance as “a relationship between the properties of an object and the capabilities of the agent that determine just how the object could possibly be used”. In other words, affordances determine what actions are possible when interacting with an object.

Affordances of the post-COVID-19 era

The image above is of Xiaolüren or little traffic light man, which provides a delightful representation of when you can walk and how much time you have left. The character walks faster, and then runs, depending on the time.

See also: Taiwan’s Traffic Lights Just Got a Romantic Redesign for Valentine’s Day


Back to the classroom in Shanghai

This was shared with me by Sheryl from a friend who posted it on Facebook. It’s for a school in Shanghai and though I wouldn’t characterize it as new (whenever there is an outbreak these procedures are put in place), it represents in part how schools elsewhere are returning to the classroom.

It’s the new “normal”, returning to school after 15weeks of home schooling. Every day at school Mr F will:
– have to wear a face mask all day
– take his temperature before he leaves home
– have his temperature taken at school before entering
– sit with 1.5 meters between each school desk.
– take his lunch to school
– not wear a tie (considered germ catchers)

With the addition of 1.5m rule, all other steps are the same ones taken during SARS. We can do this! And he is very happy to see his friends again.

I would be very surprised if we had similar procedures here. Not because of science, but because my impression thus far is, that unlike the leadership exhibited by the Chief Medical Office and the Provincial Government, the Public School Board hasn’t been exhibiting the kind of leadership required to institute these procedures.


More Masks

This photo is notable for the regrettable use of the filters that were popular during early iPhone photography. We lived in a house in Xiangshan at the time, the sick house as we called it. Large mold formations use to appear in parts of the kitchen, and Camren was always sick looking during the time we were there; he always had large circles under his eyes which cleared when we moved to the Science Park, where they constantly sprayed poison to kill off all signs of insect life. We enjoyed the neighbourhood for the most part, it was so close to walking trails, rice patties and country roads.

The mask might I was wearing might have been due to the Avian Influenza (2010) which was in Hong Kong at the time, or I may have been trying to protect my lungs from pollution while riding.


A visit to Deckers in Cornwall

It was a beautiful crisp day yesterday and after a finishing the days work and a quick run we finally had the chance to head out as a family for a sojourn to the wilds of Cornwall.

The main attraction in Cornwall, and a summer tradition, is Decker’s which is now open for take out, with some common sense initiatives in place for social distancing. The main attractor for me is the ice cream, but the temperature though much improved, still feels far to akin to winter to start that summer habit. So we opted for some burgers and fries, which we shared with my uncle who lives just around the corner. It’s been a long time since he has had so many visitors, or any visitors at all, due to all the restrictions in place at seniors residences. He also shared that he has now lived in Cornwall for 12 years, which is “longer than he expected to be alive”.

The taste of the food is fueled by nostalgia, which is to say that when I got the bill for $80 I laughed, and ate the burger, which came devoid of any of the salad inside, a little more slowly that I might normally eat.

It was money well spent as finally getting outside as a family led to laughs, and a much needed break from the confines of our too small abode.


Stepping into the Covid-19 Waters

We have avoided anything but the most cursory mention of the pandemic on our podcast. One reason was I wanted to be sure that if we did give it some attention that what we said was accurate. Parents have enough problems understanding guidance from health care professionals to have us add confusion at sleep time.

The other reason being that despite this being a health issue, with little leadership at the national level and a seemingly general distrust of health care professionals (not to mention people protesting for their inability to get a haircut), it’s yet another entirely politically charged topic in the US, where a large percentage of our audience lies.

But when Vince mentioned that his partner wrote a book entitled, The CoronaVillain vs The Stay at Home Kid, I thought this was a great way to kick-off our renewed focus on locally authored stories while providing a way for kids to gain some understanding of the issues. They described the books as follows:

The evil CoronaVillain is using the world’s concerts and parties and hugs and kisses against them! Someone needs to buy some time so that the Council of WHO can finish their secret weapon. This sounds like a job for The Stay at Home Kid and his gang. When the world needs heroes, you can count on them.

This fun book is a great way to help kids understand some of the concepts influencing their daily lives: disease, social distancing, hand washing, and the World Health Organization.

If parents are finding it challenging talking to kids about what’s happening in the world, this book provides a great foundation and some laughs along the way.

My sound treatment of the story was perhaps a bit on the scary side, but we decided to go ahead with it as is, and though we want to provide a safe experience for all, hoped that parents could decide whether it was too intense for their kids.

We get lots of critical feedback from our listeners, I read it all, and make changes where we can. But this one comment from a listener is indicative of what I had hoped to avoid:

We loved these stories until recently when I put on the Corona vs the stay at home kid … why are you supporting and even mentioning the corrupt and incompetent World Health Organization in a children’s bedtime story?

I’m not sure how to respond to that, so I think I won’t respond at all.

Listen to The CoronaVillain vs The Stay at Home Kid on Overcast.

Since then we have also released, with permission from Nosy Crow Ltd., Coronavirus: A Book For Children 🦠.


What do you like about the place where you live?

Oliver Rukavina is organizing an unconference, in Zoom, today. Unfortunately I can’t attend but I have been pondering the two questions he posed for the unconference all week

What have you learned from the pandemic that you want to keep for the future?
What do you like about the place where you live?

The first question I have seen posed in a number of places and it requires a lengthy response. The second question is much easier. The response comes to me from simply looking out our patio doors this AM.

The lovely clear blue skies.


Navigating for pay services

The problem Sheryl and I are mulling over today is the difference between having our free podcast, be used by for pay services, vs. the already established platforms, which in essence charge too. What’s the difference between Spotify, where most of our audience resides, and a young start-up offering a curated podcast listening experience?

Sleep Tight Stories is still a simple thing, without the elaborate production values and serialized story telling of say, The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian, but it’s taking an ever increasing amount of our time to produce. Our ongoing effort to reach out to independent authors is an effort worth doing, but many most publishers consider partial readings as theft, not a marketing opportunity, or a chance to reach a new audience. This takes time. A lot of time.

When you publish something via unprotected feed, there is little we can do stop anyone from pulling that feed into their service. In fact up until now we have been actively encouraging them to do so (being included in JioSaavn’s service required a visit to a lawyer to review contracts).

I’m inclined to think that it’s great to be included. But Sheryl’s reflex response was no. It’s her voice after all.

We have a few hours to decide before politeness requires I respond to their email.


Mother’s Week

This week was always considered Mothers week in my mind, being framed on one end by Mother’s day and her birthday on the other. I don’t remember the time that the above photo was taken, but I suspect it was during the time we lived for a short period on the family homestead in North Wiltshire.

The photo below was taken during our last time together at the Palliative Care Centre in Charlottetown. A place filled with the most remarkable people imaginable.

I’m sure she would love to see how her grand children have changed and grown into their own, and I suspect she would have sage advice for them as they enter adulthood.


Stressors

There are a great deal of possible stressors that we could experience during this pandemic. In the beginning I was concerned less with getting sick, then with how people would react. Would there be hoarding, or would we witness the extreme reactions as in the US, that you see endlessly broadcast on social media? People here have little experience with outbreaks like this but luckily Islanders took it in stride and didn’t see it as some kind of infringement on their rights. Islanders are a hardier bunch.

There is financial worry, as it’s hard to make a living when everything is shut down. And this is made all the more difficult when you can’t leave for places where employment is still possible.

There is the concern that your neighbours, family, friends or colleagues might become sick. Or worse.

And of course there is the very real stress of being inside with family 24/7. We love each other, but conflict is bound to arise when in close contact with people for extended periods of time. This is intensified when you have little space, like we have.

None of these emotions seem to compare to the stress caused by the simple fact that our kids aren’t in school. There has been at extraordinary amount of attention given to not wanting to add stress to children’s lives by giving them learning tasks, but none to the simple fact that the act of learning, of doing work, is in itself a way to keep kids thinking about a better future. Not to mention keeping kids engaged on things more valuable then days filled with Xbox or extreme boredom.

Each letter from the school board is filled with indefinite language, nary a “will’, but instead many “maybes” and at best a “can.”

My son misses the structure, and though I know he won’t admit it, he misses learning the topics that were covered in school. Right now, it’s all review, and no marks are given. Everything is positive, that is, if he receives any kind of interaction with the teacher at all. He sees through this, and feels he is wasting his time. Which in a way he might be, since the math and science topics he is covering in grade 8, he covered in elementary school. This isn’t a comment on his teachers, who I have come to have an incredible amount of respect for.

This is a crucial year for our daughter and unfortunately all her critical classes were lumped together in one semester, this semester. Her marks for the year have apparently largely been decided, though they do send her new material to learn on her own. If she doesn’t hand in assignments it is marked as “not handed in with justification” with no effect on her final score. Thinking like a normal teenager, why would I pay more than a cursory attention to the work? She does, and we constantly reminder her to do so. She has had one test in one of her classes before the closures of school. She did very poorly. The assignments she completes can help her final grade, maybe.

Going safely back to school requires a cultural shift. Masks are most effective when everyone wears them, constant hand washing, social distancing, multiple temperature check points, procedures for when 1 child gets sick, and so on. It’s hard. But what choice do we have? The infrastructure on the Island doesn’t exist for distance learning, even in the city, bandwidth is constrained on consumer Internet. And the teachers don’t become experts in distance education over night.

A semester off isn’t the end of the world but if this continues I have many concerns about how children and families will cope.


Fuzzy Thinker

I have at last count 6 unfinished blog posts in my drafts folder in iAWriter. I think this indicates that my thinking on these topics is still unclear, and at the rate I am going, may never be. Or perhaps this fuzzy incomplete writing is reflective of fuzzy thinking in general.


Just buy Receivers

I have since returning to PEI ventured to try every coffee bean brand that I could find in the local stores and on Amazon. With the exception of Kicking Horse coffee’s Hola Light Roast, all have proven to be a disappointment. The Hola Light Roast proves to be a value only when on sale, it’s regularly $9.99 for a 1LB bag on Amazon. I can’t imagine paying the prices in local grocery stores. Even Lavazza, which I’m drinking now is nothing deserving of their heritage and the small batch roasters located in Nova Scotia and Toronto are nothing to get excited about.

One of the main factors for this other than the industrial sized roasting that many brands do, is simply that by the time that bag of whole beans arrives at your door it’s already stale. You taste a huge difference when you roast your own, or buy from a local roaster.

Considering the cost of coffee here in the stores you would be far better served buying Receivers Operator Blend, which tastes great, and importantly is roasted less than a month from your date of purchase.


Dinner at Phinley’s

We ate out for the first time in 6 weeks last night and opted for a restaurant nearby, which gave Phinley’s the win by default. Camren wanted Vietnamese food but we overruled as Sheryl wanted a burger and I never go against a chance to eat red meat. Though it’s a short walk away this was our first time experiencing their food, though we have visited their dairy bar a couple times during summer.

The service was amazingly quick and the food was … fine. We may go back sometime when sit down service is allowed again.

While the food was not “lets get on Yelp and leave a 5 star review worthy” it was a good way to mark the restart of normal life on the Island.


Lost semester

Schools are closed across the country. We are told by education experts and the media that the pandemic has created an educational catastrophe, that millions of children’s learning will be severely stunted, that we may have created a lost generation. Various groups are calculating the months of lost learning, which, we’re told, will be far worse than the “summer slide.” It might be up to year in mathematics! Some suggest making up those losses through compulsory summer school. Others absurdly recommend holding all students back a year — or perhaps the requisite number of months?
Via WP

There have been many positives as a result of our experience StayingHome during this pandemic. We seldom drive, we eat great and spend a great deal of time together as a family.

Our greatest concern now that we know the path forward is how our daughter Catriona is going to manage to get into an off Island university after next year with practically a whole semester of key courses essentially incomplete (Charlottetown Rural for some unknown reason scheduled all these courses this semester). She’ll pass, as will everyone, but considering how weak the math curriculum is already, how will she be able to compete with kids from elsewhere? There won’t be summer school or remedial classes, nor will the intensity in instruction be increased, so either topics of instruction will be dropped or simply less time spent on them.

True distance learning is pretty much a no go here. The network infrastructure just does not exist, and I would go as far as to say that even within the areas with Fibre it’s still inadequate. On every call I have been on there are always people who cannot adequately participate due to network issues.

Camren will be fine. He has the benefit of time and the math curriculum that he is being presented with in grade 8, he covered in elementary school.

Luckily they both have great teachers, particularly those at Birchwood who admire greatly, more so since spending all this time with Camren, trying to persuade him to learn. The patience they have must be monumental.

And we really have no answers to this problem other than to hire tutors to help prepare her for the curriculum that she will face in university and which she may not get adequate class time covering.

In perspective, in the grand scheme of life, one semester off from school is not a big deal. They both may even look back on this time fondly. But while our kids stay home reviewing material, other kids elsewhere are pushing ahead, which I think considering the amount of wealth in this country, is a shame, and further illustrates a digital divide between those who have critical infrastructure and skills, and those who do not.

50 Million Kids Can’t Attend School. What Happens to Them?
School closure and management practices during coronavirus outbreaks including COVID-19: a rapid systematic review
Taiwan’s coronavirus protocol might be seen as ‘extreme’ to Canadians, but it works


Send help

One of the unfortunate aspects of having everyone in the house for long periods of time is that we then need to share in each others taste in music. Camren has been listening to these 2 songs incessantly for the past week; music he discovered from his other obsession Brooklyn Nine Nine, a TV show I really don’t understand. Luckily Catriona keeps her love of KPOP largely to herself, though lately she has been sending me playlists of what might be considered MANDOPOP.


Best Podcasts for Sleep

Tuck, who bill themselves as the most comprehensive source in sleep, recently published their annual list of the Best Podcasts for Sleep. We are happy to be a part of their list.

I think I used Tuck to help come to a decision on what mattress I should buy (perhaps one of the most complex purchase decisions possible) when I first arrived here in Stratford. A decision I have since come to regret, though that had nothing to do with the information they provided.

Sleep Tight Stories was selected for Best Bedtime Stories, while Sleep Tight Relax for Best Podcast for Relaxing Sounds.

It’s a small win, but we take our victories where we can.


Baby Face

I don’t remember exactly when this photograph was taken but I would guess it was more than a few years ago.

The act of playing a brass instrument is amazingly simple*, you simply breathe and create, or wind and song to quote Arnold Jacobs. But this simplicity in action and thought, hides a life time of struggle, study, and practice. Once you get to that point it’s meditative; nothing brought me focus like my morning warmup (running comes pretty close).

*A simplicity I miss greatly as I struggle to understand Facebook’s befuddling page management UI. How is it possible to make something so complex when you have legions of talented well compensated people working for you? Complexity by design is the only answer I can think of.


What I was wearing today

It must be a couple months now, or maybe more, when I was noticing that during some activities at CrossFit my heart rate would spike and sometimes stay above the 200 bpm mark. It was a rare but regular occurrence. 185 bpm was quite common. When I am running regularly my resting heart rate is about 42, which makes getting up quickly a dizzying activity.

On top of that I’ve been suffering from the occasional irregular heartbeat. I at first experienced this on a couple long runs in Taiwan, which when you are out running 15 kilometres from home can be concerning, especially as I never run with a phone or much of anything anymore. I figured at the time it was just another symptom of poor electrolyte balance, something that I struggled with in Taiwan, to the point of almost passing out during one night time race.

Here on the other Island I’ve experienced an irregular heartbeat on a couple of occasions, both when doing burpees after some other extreme exercise. Both times I had to take a knee as the world started to close in around me. Trying to keep up with athletes in their 20’s during CrossFit has taught me just how far my heart and lungs are willing to take me.

Common sense says that someone my age should seek medical advice, especially before starting a more rigorous training plan. Before we entered this lock down, I was planning on continuing CrossFit while I trained for an ultra. Now most of my heart rate increases are a result of the 8 cups of coffee I now drink a day.

But before the world came to a rest, I did manage to see a doctor at the walk in clinic, where he ordered a number of different tests (He didn’t seem as concerned as other people). The last of which is what looks to me as very old tech., a heart rate monitor (Holter monitor) that I must wear for 24hrs. The timing of the test isn’t great, but perhaps the doctor will get some useful data.


Low Status

It feels like blogging is still frozen in amber today because we haven’t yet figured out how to attach status to it. People have been blogging for decades, but the most successful bloggers still look surprisingly old-school, with entire micro-communities that thrive solely in their comments and adjacent forums. Although there are an endless number of blogging platforms, they’ve all struggled to create value beyond utility. They provide technical infrastructure for writing and publishing, but not social infrastructure. Eventually, these platforms churn out, with a new prom king crowned every couple of years (Xanga, LiveJournal, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Medium…).

No platform seems to have figured out how to make blogging a legibly high-status activity. I refuse to believe that this is just because bloggers are too cool for platforms, because the same argument could’ve been made for online forums and gaming, and yet we have Twitter and Twitch.
Internet friends


Website Using Camera And Microphone

I’ve had my head down and haven’t been generally aware of what is running on my Mac. I also treat some browser tabs as a todo list of sorts – I have a course open to help me navigate the quagmire of the Ximalaya podcasting platform, design patterns to practice, and a course on Design Thinking that IDEO made free for April all ready to start. I guess I fear if I close these tabs, or quit my browser, I’ll forever forget about these tasks and move on to something else.

With the increased usage of Google Meet and Zoom for meetings, comes a personal responsibility to safeguard my privacy; on principle, as I do nothing involving others proprietary info. these days, and certainly nothing nefarious. Google and Zoom (and Facebook of course) all represent the “dark side” of consumer privacy, and as the icon in the picture may illustrate, they don’t always want to relinquish their hold.

So once I get started on going through those tabs, I’ll restart my PowerBook MacBook and hope the at first glance disturbing icon disappears.


More masks

After searching my photos for and not finding any evidence of the strangeness that was living through the SARS outbreak, I’ve been looking for other photos of members of our family wearing masks. My #covidbrain finds this strangely interesting, either that or I am suffering from general tiredness brought on by neighbours who have taken the opportunity during this crisis to socialize more, and into the wee hours of the AM (I’d take the opportunity in response to start practicing fanfares again on my trumpet in the AM, but there are other more “turned in” people nearby).

This one was taken in January of last year when there was yet another viral outbreak making its’ way through the schools.


Digital water cooler

One of the most powerful nudges Humu has found during this crisis is a reminder for people to set up what we call virtual watercoolers.

“Set up a meeting, and have it run on Zoom or Google Hangouts on whatever platform you want, forever. … Set up a three- month long meeting. So anyone can just pop in when they need support. That reinforces affinity and kind of replicates that randomness and serendipity you have where people bump into one another,” Bock said.
What we’ve learned about how remote work is changing us

This is an interesting idea. One of the things I miss, not just since self-isolation but since returning to PEI, is the lack of idle chit chat around design or the work we are doing.

There are a lot of traditional graphic designers, fine arts folks, and a handful of talented people in UX, but there is very little in the way of afterwork mixing going on, or much taking at all really. Likely people get enough of that in their workplace, and treat 5pm as a time to leave that behind. There was a meetup of sorts, but it was generally poorly attended and as far as I can see has been put on hiatus.

There are many avenues online to have serious discussions about design or design research et al., but that’s not really the same, and to be honest not as interesting to me as it was before.

What I did try last week, was starting a Facebook Live session. I thought since my goal was to continue to ignore Twitter and read something of interest I could in a short video share what I was reading. This would have the added effect of some accountability and perhaps most importantly, help me confront my hatred of seeing myself talk on video.

So I started the session early in the morning while I was drinking coffee, picked Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction By Nathan Shedroff as my first read, and pressed Start Live Video. All of a sudden I had I think 700 people watching my live stream, a number of who peppered me with questions like, “Where are you from?”, “What are you doing?”, and etc.

Not exactly what I was expecting.

The beauty of having an audience of a few (like this blog) is you can do whatever you want. All of sudden during that live-streams I realized that someone might actually watch it and that might require some preparation, which gives it a sense of seriousness I was not really counting on.

I may try it again, by embracing the banality of it (fitting extension of this blog) or by trying something else. But like a casual talk, I hope I don’t have to prepare.