New Bike

I purchased a bike recently for a number of the usual reasons, but primarily as a means of maintaining some ability to get downtown when Sheryl arrives next month. As the fall arrives she will have more pressing needs for a car than I, and acquiring a second car at this point seems unwise. Finding a bike was a bit of a challenge as I found the selection was limited and prices here in PEI were far higher than what I would have paid in the past (this is a common refrain for me, as almost everything outside of “fast fashion” is more expensive on PEI than elsewhere I’ve recently lived). The used market was also surprisingly devoid of choice. After a brief infatuation with a fixie that a shop in Montreal was selling, I found a Specialized commuter bike at MacQueen’s Bike Shop which magically dropped $150 in price when I mentioned I was also looking at a Giant at Sporting Intentions, a brand I prefer.

Peter quotes Elmine on her experience riding in Canada from a Dutch perspective, and her experiences ring true to me:

But it’s not just the roads that needs a redesign. It will take a generation to retrain everyone driving the road, both by car and on bike.

Riding in Hsinchu was always a challenge. It often seemed like a death match between rider and driver. With the narrow streets packed with cars, pedestrians and angry dogs you really had to learn to drive with extreme awareness of your surroundings. Good brakes helped too. But people there are accustomed to all manner of vehicles on the streets and there is a sort of intuition that develops over time. As a result, despite facing down dump trucks on narrow mountain roads, and fighting through crazy traffic, I survived unscathed. The pollution was a bit harder to avoid.

Riding in Charlottetown should feel much safer and yet it doesn’t. Particularly when crossing the bridge, which drivers seem to treat as a raceway or major city highway, for which they would seem to lack the experience or skill to drive on.

The first problem is the condition of the roads themselves, which particularly on Water street where rocks from trucks force me to ride out in traffic when a perfectly good bike lane is available. The city of my youth used to have a street sweeper that kept the roads clean but perhaps that program has disappeared. Potholes and general disrepair make predictable riding more difficult as you need to duck and weave, otherwise you are likely to either ruin your rims or end up on your head.

With the exception of the bridge, drivers on the roads in PEI I find exceptionally polite, sometimes to a fault. But I’m not convinced that they have complete awareness of their surroundings. I’ve already seen a number of close calls in my short time riding. Perhaps as more cyclists hit the road drivers will be more accustomed to occasionally checking the right side mirror.

One thing I haven’t grasped yet is the expected riding behaviour. Some ride their bikes as if they were a car, while others are on the sidewalk some of the time, and on the street the other. In Hsinchu I followed scooter behaviour. You stay to the right and you don’t turn left at intersections. There are actual painted boxes for scooters and bikes at each intersection. This is what I have been doing here thus far, particularly at the Stratford main intersection where I walk my bike across.

Charlottetown is so small that you can easily cover all of the city in under 30 minutes, making the whole city suitable for travel by bike, something I hope to do more of as the summer progresses.


System Malfunction

Yesterday my daughter Catriona remarked at how hot the floor was in our kitchen, at the time I dismissed it as some combination of heat coming from the fridge and perhaps her penchant for exaggeration.

That is until I woke up this morning and saw that the temperature in the livingroom was 29.

Our place has in-floor heating which sounded really great prior to our moving in. I envisioned cold snowy days enjoyed inside with comfortably warm tile flooring. In practice, while we were warm in winter, the living room only had one strip of heat emanating near the wall. I thought it was a case of ChaBuDuo-ism or simply a developer cutting corners to reduce cost.

But as I discovered the morning, the whole floor only gets warm, blazingly so, when you turn the whole system off like I did. There is a cool setting too, but as far as I can see that’s never worked.


Last vestiges of winter?

It started yesterday morning, after a somewhat sleepless night, the scratchy throat and general hoarseness in my voice, indicators of a cold in bloom. This will be my 3rd cold in 2 months which must be some kind of record for me.

A quick check with Dr. Google states I could be suffering due all kinds of reasons, including vitamin d deficiency, poor diet, sleep deprivation, poor hygiene, bad oral health and the biggie, an immune system disorder. Luckily I don’t smoke, as that seems to be a catch all for every malady.

Hopefully the good weather we are finally due will serve as a suitable tonic and I’ll be on the mend asap.


A CrossFit Intervention

In hindsight perhaps I should joined a fitness class for seniors at the nearby retirement home.

This past winter has been particularly dark, both literally and figuratively, and before I spiralled any further down the depths of despair, I decided to do something drastic to rid myself of the funk I had been in for months. So I signed up for CrossFit.

This year I discovered just how much I dislike winter on the Island. For 5 months I have been completely inactive; didn’t run, hardly walked, and stopped my nightly yoga/stretching routine. Gradually as the weather worsened I stopped heading downtown to work and didn’t socialize much at all, preferring to stay in my closet sized office where it was warm. This isolation coupled with the challenges of trying to work alone meant that my productivity, and as a result my general mood, worsened over time. My diet hasn’t been that great either – we ate primarily fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat in Taiwan but in an attempt to keep costs comparable, we ate far more prepared food and breads than I should.

I’ve been going to CrossFit for just about a month and my goal, other than enjoying the benefits of exercise, was a kick in the pants that you get from the commitment to group activities. The first class resulted in me hobbling home to have a nap, and I was sore for days afterwards. 4 one-on-one coaching sessions followed where I learned a number of different warm-ups, discussed my limitations, and did some olympic lifting minus the olympic sized weight. I’ve been attending regular classes since and despite my conscious attempts to keep my tendency to want to kill myself through exercise in check, I’ve been teetering on the verge of serious injury ever since.

Coach to CrossFit would seem to be a bigger challenge than I anticipated. But it seems to be working and if I can strike a balance between challenge and safety, I think it will work out for the long term and perhaps make me a better runner, and a happier, more productive person.


Downtown for the summer

I’ve taken up residence at the Start Up Zone for the summer, planting my monitor and associated apparatus on a desk with my back against the wall. It’s only been the 3rd day (I like working on Sunday afternoons) but so far it’s been going fine.

As far as a working environment goes I see working in the fishbowl as the lessor of 2 evils. I generally hate open offices and since the StartUp Zone for some strange reason combines kitchen, conference area, and work space into one, the distractions reach at times an insane level. But it beats the isolation of my closet at home and the stamping, yelps and hoots that appear out of the blue from my Upstairs Neighbor.

One of the main attractions for working downtown is that Charlottetown is a great place to be when the sun shines, the air warm, and people present. The city is very walkable and will make for some pleasant breaks from work. It’s much better than the desolation of Bunbury.


I decided to noise-cancel life

I own three pairs of noise-canceling headphones. Two go over my ears, enveloping them in cozy tombs of silence. One pair consists of earbuds, one of which I jam into my ear to block out the world while I use my other ear for phone interviews. Besides the noise-canceling kind, I have headphones for basically every activity I do. In fact, I recently came to the disturbing realization that there’s rarely a moment of my day when my ears are not filled with or covered by something.

[…]

I realize the dangers inherent in this overall trend—I might even go so far as to call it “socially alienating” and “destructive of relationships”—but I nevertheless feel it’s inexorable. At this point, everything is curated—except, of course, what we hear. And as long as unfamiliar sounds are going to be foisted on me all day, it feels good to draw a private, firm border. The buck stops at my cochlea.

This is a somewhat new habit for me. One of my goals for moving to PEI was to escape the constant din of noise that I experienced elsewhere and yet during the day I am either wearing noise cancelling headphones or Etymotic Research Earplugs, and non-vented earplugs to sleep. Wearing earplugs has some risks but so does a lack of sleep.

What Happens When You Always Wear Headphones


Some perspective

I have a tendency to see things as they should be compared to how they could be or how they have improved. This comes up often when I express disappointment with Catriona’s academic performance, she the optimist states that she has improved, while I state that she still isn’t reaching her potential.

This frames my frequent grumblings about the local medical system and my anxiety with the possibility of growing old here on the Island. My mothers quality of life was greatly diminished by a lack of timely diagnosis and care, until the end, when she was in palliative care where she experienced what can only be described as the best attention that people can give to others; a shining example of what quality care should be.

But as the screenshot of Alberto Cairo’s tweet below shows, things could be much much worse:

I don’t know much about the US health care system, but I feel there is no way we could attempt to lead the life we want to live here, in the manner in which we are attempting, south of the border. In that context we seem very lucky.

Via DoctorbyDesigner


Negative communication

Someone was angry when they created the messaging for this sign.

In a recent post, Peter gives an excellent example of how we can use language to frame a reality – in this case a street sign which sends a negative message in what should be expressed as a positive. That area is pretty much the lifeblood of the city in summer.

The picture above taken at an old exit inside the Confederation Court Mall, takes this to a needlessly hostile level. In this case you need to find a way to balance the requirement for an exit/entrance with peoples tendencies to make mistakes without treating everyone like a criminal. What message does this sign give to visitors to the space?


Giving it away is more profitable

The day before yesterday, despite the protestations of my son, I sold a Samsung 40” TV that has been sitting under my desk for the 10 months I have been here on the Island. It sat there mostly due to laziness and some vague idea that I might “use it for something”.

I listed it on Facebook for $50, which I thought was reasonable, and would guarantee a quick sale. Later I learned that that might have been a tad low, as it wasn’t 5 minutes after posting, that a flurry of messages starting dinging on my phone from interested parties. And the messages kept coming.

I initially tried to respond to each and every message that came my way. Eventually it was becoming too laborious, so I created a template in Drafts to help automate replies. This too was taking too much time so I set up a who-looks-like-they-deserve-this-old-TV filter to help me decide who to interact with.

I fell into the same trap I criticize companies of; poor communication (it’s only an ad on FB but I felt bad about how I interacted with people).

Eventually the buying customer came all the way from Kensington just before I had to go pick up my daughter from choir. All in all, it took over an hour of my time to sell that old TV.

I should have given it away.


District 5

I went to the Green Party’s district 5 headquarters a couple of times before I voted in the advance poll. The first time I had hoped to talk to Michelle Beaton about a range of issues that are important to my family, and to get some clarification on a few contradictory statements I heard in Peter Bevan Bakers speeches (the second time was simply to purchase more of her mothers excellent baked goods). I was impressed by her genuine interest in engaging with her potential constituents, her belief that this was “her life’s work”, and how we could find common ground for a conversation that lasted just shy of 45 minutes. What most impressed me about her was the simple fact that she upon realizing that she didn’t know the answers to all my questions, admitted as much, and set out to find the answers. Which she immediately did and my questions were answered. That quality is valuable I think and I suspect rare amongst those engaged in politics (or leadership in general).

I’m confident that district 5 is in good hands.


It’s broken and no one knows how to fix it

My son has been suffering from an infection from an in-grown toenail for about the past month. Of all the problems one can experience this is certainly no where near the top of the list, except that is, for the infection and the blood. And of course the discomfort.

The first time we went to a walk-in clinic I was surprised by the efficiency of it all. I was also surprised by having to pay a small fee to “Skip the Waiting Room” (previously I called this Skip the Wait I error). Isn’t this socialized medicine? That time we left with some medication and instructions for self-care.

That didn’t work, and the infection got worse, and was having an effect on his ability to enjoy his time training in Jujitsu. And well it’s an infection.

So we found time for another visit to the walk-in clinic – it can be difficult to see a doctor, but this doctor graciously worked over the Easter weekend. Again, no wait and the doctor agrees with me that something more invasive needs to be done. So a referral to another doctor is made.

This morning I received a call from Dr. Flemmings office about a referral for my son. After clearing some initial confusion about his name, I explained that his toe is swollen, bleeding, infected, and rather sore. I was given an appointment for 2 months from now (with an appointment booked that far in advance there is no guarantee).

I did my best to hold back my laughter.

These conditions are apparently have a hereditary component, and my daughter suffered the same problem when we were in Taiwan. There after the initial consult, she had to wait a week, as it was for some reason deemed surgery.

The situation here on PEI is of course ridiculous and peaks my interest as to how despite an increase in taxes by over 260% this year (compared to Taiwan) we can’t manage to enjoy the considerable talents of Canadian doctors, in any reasonable period of time.

This can’t compare to cancer patients or broken bones or the Charlottetown woman who waited 13 hours in an emergency room, but I can guarantee that this issue absolutely scales, and no matter the severity of the condition the problem of access to care remains.


I Voted Yes!


I'm not a fan of the "upgrade our democracy" trope either.

Prior to arriving at the polling station on Thursday I was all set to vote for the status quo, a term I’ve adopted for situations like this, after 20 years of following Taiwan politics. It was more a reaction against what I thought was completely ill formed communications from both sides of the debate, than an out right disbelief in the positive aspects of this proposed proportional system.

Both sides showed a complete lack of empathy, exhibited little understanding about how the human mind works, lacked the ability to educate people on the pros and cons, and politicized the whole process. And I was annoyed that the current government gave such little time for people to understand a change that would may a greater effect on peoples lives than who becomes premier.

On Wednesday, I had a meeting with Anna Keenan of the Coalition for Proportional Representation and she helped me put aside my criticism’s of the other paid campaigns and focus on the positive. Forget ugly billboards spreading FUD or ads emphasizing how easy it is, it’s these kinds of grass roots efforts, simple conversations between people, that real change can occur.

I think Prince Edward Island is at a point where it can handle this kind of change, a change where people of more disparate viewpoints are required to work together in government. A little well directed conflict will be a good thing.


PEI political party websites are a mess

The websites of PEI’s major political parties are without exception a mess. Empathize for a moment, pretend you are someone short on time and/or with poor eyesight, and try to complete these common tasks as quickly as possible:

  • Who is my constituent and what is her qualifications for the job?
  • What is the party doing to meet my needs (the platform)?
  • Are there any upcoming events in my area?

Some websites will be more successful than others. Some quick annoyances I’ve found:

The PCparty doesn’t bother introducing their candidates, they don’t have any events, nor do they seem to have a platform.

Someone told the Liberal party that putting their platform as a pdf in a “3D Flipbook” was a good idea. It’s not. It’s completely inaccessible and not scannable. Also, how they have chosen to disseminate their platform puts too much of a cognitive load on us the voters, we’re supposed to piece together all these tiny media releases into one coherent whole? That’s their job.

The Greenparty appears to have a number of different landing pages depending on which link in Google I click. One leads to a huge picture of nature (a pdf I believe), another to a face of the party leader, and yet another which emphasizes the two successful members of the party. Luckily one landing page gives you access to an html version of their party platform, which allows you to use the accessibility features of your computer, but it suffers from a common problem of organizing data for their own understanding, versus the understanding of their prospective constituents. Their PDF version looks great but isn’t scannable and thus unusable.

I didn’t bother looking at the NDP party because they don’t seem to be even trying.

Serving your electorate involves transparency and convenient access to information for all. How the party’s attempt to disseminate information is a key indicator for me of their values as an organization. Designing for outliers (inclusive design) is important for public organizations. All party’s seem to be struggling in this regard.

This was by no means a comprehensive review of any of the websites. I had 10 minutes to spare and was dismayed at what I experienced. Having said that, if I had trouble, then it’s fairly reasonable to expect others will too.


A First: An Election and Taxes

This month marks both the first time I have had the opportunity to vote in any kind of an election, let alone a referendum, and the first opportunity I’ve had to file taxes in Canada without the assistance of an expert (I don’t actually remember ever filing taxes). I have very little understanding about how any of these processes work so I expect I’ll be spending most of my free time this month ensuring that I actually can vote, understanding the various political parties platforms and seeing where my concerns and values match with theirs, and crossing my fingers that I make no mistakes with my tax file.

I like how the proximity of both filing taxes and selecting those who spend this contribution adds a more practical air to the whole process.

I’m very much a political novice and know little of the issues concerning Canadians. For the past 20+ years, politics, like religion, was just not something that was wise to talk about. In China, a mere mention of Taiwan is good cause for being forcibly placed on a flight out of the country. I made that mistake once, to a party member no less, but fortunately he thought it was just another example of my poor sense of humour.

As far as the election goes, my concerns are entirely practical. I’d like to consider more nuanced, or issues affecting my children’s future, but it’s difficult (but not impossible) to be concerned about environmental topics like zero carbon when you are concerned with keeping a roof over your head. If we lose the apartment we live in tomorrow, we would effectively become homeless. Affordable housing, and housing in general is of great concern. As is PEI’s broken medical system. We paid an effective tax rate of 9% in Taiwan, that combined with a small monthly MHI contribution entitled us to access to care, that puts what we have great difficulty accessing here, to shame. I’ve had to set aside a couple small investments to cover the costs of a flight overseas in case we need prompt medical care.

There are a myriad of other concerns … I find it extremely disconcerting to see people homeless, or begging on the streets, while people brag about taking their kids out for $16 burgers for burger love (the optics of such, seems to be lost on a particular Green Party candidate). For a peoples so concerned about social inequality, we seem overly fixated on over priced burgers.

After I become more educated in the local political environment, if possible, I hope to become involved in some small way. Until then I’ll spend my time listening, pay my taxes, and try to be an educated voter.


Punishment for laziness

Charlottetown is a small place and none of the 3 parkades more than a 7-10 minute walk from anything in the downtown. But a parking spot right outside the office is hard to pass up on these cold days, so when I saw one available this AM I grabbed it immediately. I had just enough change for the meter to allow me to run to the bank to get cash (resulting in paying their exorbitant fee), run to a couple businesses begging for change, and then top up the meter. Naturally, I lost track of time and missed the meter expired time by about 3 minutes. The guy in charge of writing tickets was much more punctual.


Farmers market in winter

I find the Charlottetown Farmers Market far more enjoyable in winter, as the crowds are smaller, and the line up shorter. I still believe that it should be 3x the size it is now but perhaps that might in some way make it less personable.

My Saturdays used to be about a long run – an hour or more on my feet. Now I spend an equivalent amount of time at the market sitting, drinking cheap coffee, and eating delicious sweets. I need to learn to combine these 2 activities – what better way to end a long run than with blueberry sweets.


Storm Chips

With the approach of yet another purported snow-apocalypse I keep hearing about the necessity of having storm chips on hand; there is even a beer and storm chips scale to rate the severity of the incoming storm. So in order to prepare, the kids and I went Asian Grocery to stock up. Obviously, I’m not quite yet in tune with the culture of my homeland, but the kids seem pleased.


The True Cost of 2 Day Shipping

One of the often cited key benefits of living in Taiwan is the convenience of many aspects of life there. Especially so when ordering anything online – 24hrs or less (more often less) shipping makes the hassle of fighting traffic pointless. Why bother driving to a box store when they will ship it to you at your home, or the nearest convenience store the very same day. The waste of such activity became more apparent when during the toilet paper crisis, large boxes full of nothing but rolls of toilet paper started clogging up the logistic infrastructure.

Moving to Charlottetown you get nothing near the same level of service, but habits die hard and I signed up for Amazon Prime and their free 2-day shipping. For PEI that generally translates to a week or more, depending on the mood of the Postal Union. I loath the likes of Walmart, and the arrangement of Charlottetown’s big box stores which are spaced far enough apart that you need to drive between each one. But when my house starts filling up with boxes, I’ve often wondered if sacrificing my sanity by listening to those poorly designed pay terminals might be better for us all in the long run. Apparently, not necessarily so:

Transportation experts are split over whether online shopping reduces or increases emissions. In theory, online shopping can be more environmentally friendly than a traditional brick-and-mortar store: Either way, a truck has to deliver the items, and in the case of online shopping, you don’t have to drive to the store as well.

“Our research shows that delivering a typical order to an Amazon customer is more environmentally friendly than that customer driving to a store,” said Melanie Janin, sustainability representative at Amazon, in an email.

But, and I don’t now if this applies to our experience since there seems to be little difference between shipping times, apparently the environmental cost of 2 Day shipping, which comes with Amazon Prime, is huge, when compared with other shipping methods, per this article on Grist.

Free two-day shipping — the hallmark of Amazon’s plan to squeeze out traditional retailers — burns through significantly more emissions than standard shipping or traditional in-store shopping.

When you wait three to five days for shipment, Jaller explains, Amazon has time to find the most efficient (and cheapest) way to deliver goods. Aviation is by far the most carbon-intensive transit option, and with more time the company can route your package by land, instead of by air…and group your package with other, similar deliveries.
“The concept of Amazon Prime pushes us towards more emissions…and makes the marginal cost of purchases very small, so you have motivation to buy more. And of course, that’s what Amazon wants.”

So seeing there is very little difference in the speeds of shipping methods to PEI, perhaps giving Amazon extra time might be a suitable alternative. Especially when you consider they are sending me a small bottle of brass cleaner across the country (the inspiration for this post) because it wasn’t ready as fast as the other items I ordered.


Winter on Prince and Richmond

We made our weekly sojourn unscathed to Trinity on Sunday despite streets that were heavy with slush and drivers driving like it was still summer. Downtown Charlottetown in winter is quite beautiful – I only wish I wasn’t in such a race to get home and could have gone for a long walk taking pictures as I went. But looking after 2 kids alone has made me far more cautious than I have ever been in the past, so my irrational fear of a snow-apocalypse sent us scrambling back to the relative safety of Stratford.


6 months on Prince Edward Island

The end of the year is often a time for introspection and establishing goals for the new year. In terms of goals, I don’t have any broad resolutions for the coming year, its’ not something I find useful (though Julia Rothman’s More Less list might serve as a good reminder), but since we just crossed the 6 month mark in our move “back” to PEI, sharing the highlights of what we have accomplished might keep me honest.

So in the spirit of the weekly/monthly reports I hated writing in the past, the following is a 6 month report*:

  • The kids, especially Catriona, enjoy school far more than in recent memory. This can be partly attributed to having little to no homework, few tests, and a whopping 12+ days off due to teacher PD days, holidays and storm days. Their days are much shorter too. Credit should be given to the teachers who have created a far more relaxed and open environment for learning than what you will find in the Taiwan school system.
  • Catriona has completed 3 months of CrossFit training and Camren has received his first bar in Gracie JuJitsu.
  • Camren has competed in 3 separate swim meets with the Bluefins, winning some, and placing in others. Catriona’s participation with the Harmonia Choir culminated in a series of wonderful concerts. Looking forward to hearing more from them this year.
  • Despite living here for 6 months, I would be lying if I said I didn’t still suffer from culture shock on a daily basis. All of us do to some extent. I expect this will diminish overtime, but I imagine I will always retain much of what I was affected by in Taiwan.
  • We were accepted as a resident company in the Start Up Zone in mid to late September, the benefits of which weren’t immediately discernible. Unfortunately, working out of the fishbowl, as I call the place, hasn’t really worked out. Open offices are nice if you like interruptions and noise, but not so great if you need quiet and space to focus. Also, I can’t really seem to align my schedule with the limited availability of buses in Stratford, making trips to the downtown (via car) expensive.
  • We started our company Minzoo in October, but the roots have been in place since July of 2017. The products we have in our pipeline are the easiest I’ve ever worked on, and yet it’s the most difficult and slowest to launch.
  • The past 6 months has brought about a sea change in terms of the amount of networking, workshops, meet-ups, coffee chats, and meet & greets I’ve attended. I’ve had far more opportunity to attend events such as these in the past 6 months, than the past 6 years in Taiwan and China. This is exactly what I was hoping for when I moved here. All in all I have been averaging 3–4 events a week, making this one of my primary activities.
  • From all these workshops and get togethers, and the reading done, I’ve received the equivalent of the Coles Notes version of an entrepreneurial MBA. Or so if feels, but I still know nothing about finance and marketing.
  • The longest event I participated in was StartUp Weekend. There was a lot to unpack from that weekend long event, not the least of which was that an army marches on it’s stomach – great food helps make any event a success. This was the first time I took non-design savvy folks through a customer journey map and got buy in for the importance of experience design. It went well.
  • We launched a podcast called Sleep Tight Stories, the quality of which is improving over time. It’s not wildly popular as of yet but its audience continues to grow.
  • I’ve largely dropped out of social media but still enjoy looking at puppy pictures on Instagram. It helps me end the day on a positive note. I still have the @hsinchunews twitter account, but I expect I my interest in following what is happening in Taiwan and the Hsinchu Science Park will diminish over time.
  • I’ve written 175 diary entries and 101 blog posts.
  • We launched 3 new or refreshed websites, 1 I contracted out to a young designer. Playing the role of client, gave me some new insight to the client and contractor relationship.
  • We carried out 4 different users tests since October, the results of which, like most user research, was enlightening and interesting. Individuals are always interesting and have stories to tell, performing user research is as good an excuse as any to hear them.
  • Apple doesn’t offer commutative data but app downloads are, but for one exception, all up – some over 1000%. The most popular efforts are stickers I created with my son – I’m not sure what that means. A respectable number of downloads does not equal revenue unfortunately, and I don’t see us breaking even anytime soon.
  • Our business is at risk of being a cliché. Most businesses fail and our venture is struggling. As such, I’ve started looking for job opportunities. It’s early days and I have no idea what form employment might take; remote, freelance, consultant, or something I’ve never considered before. I have no answers as of yet as to how I could do the work I have been doing these past few years while living in Charlottetown.
  • This year is a bit of an experiment. Could we have a similar lifestyle in Charlottetown to what we had in Hsinchu. I’ve been keeping fairly accurate data, not complete enough to publish, and thus far it has proven to be very difficult. We’ve never been able to stay within budget, part of this is start-up costs, but the rest is simply due to a higher cost of living. The greatest dollar increases are found in kids activities, which can cost 2x what we might pay in Taiwan. As an example, the price I pay for my son to be a part of Bluefins is the same price we payed for both kids in Taiwan, except in Taiwan they had almost double the amount of time in the pool and it included dry land training. But in terms of a percentage increase, nothing beats the cost of connectivity on PEI. The kids mobile plan costs increased 1433%, mine has increased 184% – with a drastic reduction in service, and our home internet has increased 225%. Food costs have increased, with boneless chicken, a key ingredient to my kids comfort food curry chicken, twice as expensive as what we paid before.
  • I ran my 2nd marathon this year in October and despite some problems during the race I am happy with the results. To prepare I was running an average of 75km a week. Unfortunately I have been rather inactive since which is being reflected by my ever growing waistline – when you are training you get used to eating a lot of food. A fun habit which is hard to break.
  • I’ve put 6000kms on our car. I’ve no idea if this is a modest amount of milage. Driving my kids to various activities is where my late afternoons and evenings are spent. I do realize that a car is a burden I wish I didn’t need to bear, but public transit in Charlottetown is only effective along certain corridors and not really useful for our needs. I’ll wait until Uber arrives before I rely upon the overpriced taxi companies here.
  • We launched Sleep Tight Relax. It’s loaded with bugs, some of which are an easy fix, but a weird Xcode bug has delayed any update.
  • I’ve made some progress these past 6 months in being able to survive the inevitable “introduce yourself” section of any get together. I still have some work to do with removing jargon and speaking like a normal person.
  • Somewhat related to self-introductions, was the need to refine our business pitch. I took three separate workshops on how to pitch effectively and managed a polished 1 minute delivery, only to later realize how fake it all sounds. The people who like these pitches seem to prefer the fake.
  • We travel far less than in the past. We’ve managed a couple trips to Summerside, 2 trips to Truro, 2 to Moncton (Costco), 1 to Halifax and 1 to Sackville for coffee. We explored a bit of the Island in the summer but seem to be at a loss for winter activities – I guess we could try snow shoeing, but other activities like skiing are out due to their high cost.
  • We invested in too much tech gear, including TV, game console, sound bar, smart speakers, laptop, keyboards, headphones and sound recording equipment. With the exception of a new iPhone, none of these products came from Apple, because either Apple doesn’t produce them or they are too expensive if they do. In some cases Apple’s product is actually inferior. If this was a trend, it may help explain their drop in profits.
  • One disappointment was my inability to find time to volunteer or socialize. Outside of working with stray dogs, I didn’t have much opportunity to contribute in a more direct way to our community in Taiwan (volunteering is actually illegal for foreigners), so I was hoping to be able to find opportunities to contribute here. I’m going to make volunteering one of my priorities for this year.

It’s been an extremely busy 6 months. There are some key upcoming events which just come in outside the 6 month mark, including: the kids write their first exams, and I have some important work related deadlines to hit. I’m looking forward to what the next 6 months might bring.

*I’d love to incorporate more data, with presentations akin to Nicholas Felton, but one of my many weaknesses has been good record keeping and I time box all my blogposts (which means I don’t give myself the time required to create something similar).


A little Christmas cheer

I had a romantic notion of what Christmas would be like back here on the Island, something akin to what you see in Christmas movies, with gently falling snow, elaborate decorations everywhere, ice skating, people out and about holding hands as they go, and the sounds of carollers floating through the air. The reality has been Amazon and trips to Walmart (and those other soul-less box stores nearby).

In retrospect Hsinchu did pretty well, at least on the elaborate displays front.

But today I had a small sample while shopping downtown for some final small items – books, candy, and silly things. I went into Kitchen’s Unlimited and purchased just a couple small cups and was greeted by friendliness and cheer. The two staff also boxed my 2 small gifts and did a fantastic job wrapping — all without an extra charge. This may not seem like much but compared to the “just a transaction” type of experience at the box stores and online, it’s a wonderful human touch that is missing all too often today.

Also, I don’t know if the small local shops downtown treat their staff better, but many I have interacted with recently feel genuinely interested in being there (or as much as you can in any job) vs. the feeling conveyed by many staff at Walmart et al, that this is employment of last resort.

So my small recommendation is to shop downtown, and if you can, visit Kitchen Unlimited.


Snow Squall

Yesterday afternoons snow squall, a term I had to look up, had some of the most beautiful snow flakes imaginable. It made for a great winter scene in downtown Charlottetown, all the more special since technically winter still doesn’t start for 10 days. The picture above, taken just outside the “fish bowl“, doesn’t do justice to what I later witnessed, but in my inexperience, I was in a rush to get home before the whole town shut down. Which of course it didn’t.


This afternoon’s diversion. I’ve lived in some unbelievably noisy places but nowhere have I been required to constantly wear earplugs until I moved to Stratford. This due in part to a building made from wood and a couple neighbours who were never taught to not stamp their feet. I’d have moved by now but am hampered by Charlottetown’s housing crisis and the lack of affordable homes that suit our needs.

Effects of floor impact noise on psychophysiological responses

Effects of Low Frequency Noise and Vibrations: Environmental and Occupational Perspectives

The effects of low frequency noise on people