X mark

Sheryl and I spent our Friday night having dinner at MadWok, which she found underwhelming (she needs more time to forget what PadThai really tastes like), followed by a quick trip to NoFrills, and capped by a visit to the local polling station to cast our vote in the advance poll. Once at home we attempted to finish El Camino on Netflix but failed.

This I think was a far more rewarding evening than in my youth when I would spend my time standing around in a crowded bar pretending to have fun.

This morning after having burpees for breakfast at Crossfit (the Saturday crowd are a lively bunch), we dropped by the Farmers Market to get some rainbow carrots, my sons surprise favourite, fill him with rice noodles and hopefully run into Elizabeth May. Which I did, as Glen Beaton brought me over somewhat reluctantly to meet her. I had nothing to say other than some niceties, but it would be rude to take her away for more than a brief moment, from what looked like a delicious lunch, to ask yet more questions of her.

She is I think the perfect antidote to the Andrew Scheer’s of the world.


Another cut

I walked into the barbershop this afternoon 5 weeks after the last visit for another cut. At 22 minutes in and out it was slightly slower than my previous visit but I am more pleased with the result. Perhaps adding more time to a task does result in a corresponding increase in quality. I think she styled me as she might see her grandfather, if she had one.

She is new I think, and doesn’t know me, so we started our short time together with some small talk about Thanksgiving. My lack of desire for chit chat during an activity which brings no joy to me was apparent and we stopped at that.

I do continue to enjoy listening to the way they talk and phrase the beginning and end of topics. “Well it is October”, was a convenient excuse for talking about what they described as a dark topic. Todays topic was a comparison between getting tattoos and giving blood. Both use needles, but getting a needle at a hospital is seen as far scarier in part because of something leaving your body vs entering your body (ink), which is the case with getting a tattoo.

I wanted to ask them some questions about all the whiskey on display. Do people really want to drink whiskey while they are getting a haircut? Many places offer you something to drink upon arrival, which I think is polite. But the ones that do this best are the places that give you time to enjoy quality tea or coffee in an environment conductive to doing so. There is a barber in Quebec City that doubles as a café which looks worth a visit. Some places in Taiwan do this well, but most don’t which often resulted in hair floaties in my cup.

Todays barber was rather inspiring with her died hair color an exact match for the color pattern on her sneakers. Something I might try in the near future.


Quiet Please

This August past we were given the best of gifts as both of the neighbors, who for over a year caused me so much grief, moved out.

Their absence combined with beautiful weather, friends visiting from Taiwan, and the whole family together again made for a great month.

Stampy as I called him, and the young man who did nothing but scream at his tv all day and night, left suddenly without much fanfare, leaving the apartment above us to be occupied by people who have been largely invisible. The best kind of upstairs neighbors are those that don’t make their presence known.

The young person who would have loud parties in her bedroom was replaced by a delightful family who cook the most delicious smelling food. Certainly, they represent the best of apartment living.

It’s been so quiet that I was starting to believe that living in an apartment in Stratford wasn’t so bad at all. I even considered removing the earplugs that I started wearing last year.

But alas winter is coming.

Recently there has been a noticeable change in activity levels upstairs – with a new heavy foot and someone operating some kind of machine that vibrates the floors at all hours. As it turns out new residents have moved in with the tenants above bringing the number of adults to 5. There may also be a young child in the mix.

As far as problems caused by the housing shortage goes, this would be far far and away from those who are sleeping in their cars. We are warm and we have a place to sleep, for which we are thankful.


Number 2

I’m playing catch up this week, trying to understand each political party’s platform, as I head to the advance poll this Thursday or Friday. I think this is only the 2nd time I’ve had the opportunity to vote and Sheryl believes it may be her first, so there is a certain thrill to being able to exercise this privilege.

The kids have questions too, but I’ve only been able to talk about this election in the most vaguest of terms. During the provincial election I was much more engaged, meeting with representatives, going to speaking events and digging into their various platforms. I’ve been distracted for this election and unable to attend the speaking events – Sheryl often needs the car and it’s still very difficult to get from Stratford to anywhere without one.

The only representative who made the effort to reach out in our building was Wayne Phelan of the Conservatives. As is often the case on PEI we established that first I grew up here, and how we might be connected. I went to high school with his older brother Alan. We also have something in common in that we both spent time in Asia. When asked if I had any questions, I felt like asking his opinion on resume padding, but seeing as he seems like a far more amiable person than his national leader, I simply apologized as I hadn’t had time to think through the issues.

The Liberal party did leave a poster, and the Green Party a slew of pamplets, which doesn’t seem so green at all.

I have a “can you please just get out of my way” attitude towards government, which places me at odds with all the major parties worth considering in Canada. It’s been easy to avoid governance for over 20 years, but it’s not so easy now.

Watching the debate last night was much like listening to my kids when they are tired of each other, often times nasty and frequently incoherent, with Elizabeth May seemingly the only adult in the room. She comes across as authentic and honest, something rare in politics I think. But we don’t vote directly for her and I remain unconvinced with Michele Beatons father.

I have a couple days.


Todays long run

Today felt like a dress rehearsal for just about any marathon I have run; very little sleep, upset stomach, out the door before sunrise, and pain and huge appetite after the run.

I took a similar route as last time but wanted to give the hills on Sherwood road and on University a try on tired legs. The last time I ran the PEI Marathon these pushed my left hamstring over the edge and I started to cramp, which caused a loss of about ten minutes in my final finish time. Today I had no such problem, but I was also running far slower. The protests from my body have progressed this year to the muscles around my hips, which have been getting a great work out from CrossFit and my running. Every year of running brings some malady – I’m hoping that this year, with the 15+ hours of training I do a week, may be different.

I’m still not convinced that I can complete a marathon in October within a respectable period of time. At the pace I am running now it’s mostly a mental game. As I don’t listen to music, I usually pick work related problems to solve while running. But work is far less challenging than in the past so I usually spend time writing blog posts or stories, which never see the light of day. I also do other visualization exercises (sometimes visualization a huge feast at the end of a run helps) to keep my mind off the fact that once I hit the 21k mark I start to feel real discomfort. When I start looking frequently at my watch I know that I am near the end of my patience, today that happened at around 25k. At that point though I still had ways to go and had little choice to continue.


Storms

One of the benefits of apartment living for us (I might say the only benefit) has been that when a storm of any magnitude comes the responsibility for cleanup and prep largely lies with someone else. That was the case this past weekend when Dorian hit and we, with the exception of a loss of power for four hours after dinner, escaped unscathed. Others were not so lucky, and the topic of sore backs, the love of hot showers, and the zombies lining up for hours for bad coffee was the topic of many recent conversations.

Being the Gentle Island whenever the wind picks up some level of devastation follows.

Incidentally, it was 3 years ago this month that I experienced another storm, a typhoon this time, right after I landed in Fuzhou.

We were pretty accustomed, as much as you can be, to the yearly onslaught of cat 1-5 typhoons that wreak havoc on Taiwan, China and the Philippines. Living in the Hsinchu Science Park meant that we were well protected, the power never went out, and flooding was at a minimum. But we still would be prepared with fresh water and food in case the need arose.

I was entirely unprepared when I first landed in China. For some reason the company’s HR department required my arrival just as everyone was about to go on a week long holiday. The logic behind this was never explained and it was one of the many mysteries of working there. Since there was no one to show me to my apartment on the new campus I was given temporary accommodations at one of the dorms in the city. And then after a meal of dumplings left alone for a week. Which is fine, I’m in China, on holiday, lots to see. Except, I couldn’t leave the city until all my papers were sorted, which would take longer because people were all on holiday.

I had about a day before the rain started and during that time I covered as much by foot as I could of the sprawling city of Fuzhou. I’m not sure why but for some reason when I went back to my room that night I brought water but no food. Perhaps, it was due to the typhoon being downgraded to a simple tropical storm, which in my mind meant business as usual.

Unfortunately, in the part of the city I was staying in, rain meant flooding, and flooding meant sewage everywhere. So when the storm struck I was stuck in my dorm room. The murky water wasn’t deep, only up to my knees, but any cut from the debris might bring along all kinds of maladies. So at the behest of the building security guard I stayed put.

On PEI Dorian brought out best in some Islanders, and in China as well there were moments of kindness. As the day went on people were checking in via WeChat, there were frequent offers from my new colleagues to come and fetch me, or have food delivered. There were still some restaurants open nearby with people willing to risk the possibility of infection, but I hadn’t yet started the long arduous process of setting up WeChat Wallet, so I had no way to pay. It was the security guard who came to my aid first. Noticing that as the day dragged on I still had nothing to eat he insisted I share his dinner. Which I did, and thanked him as best I could. His simple act of kindness made an otherwise dreary day all the brighter.

By the next day the water receded and the legions of workers came out to clean up the mess. A week later I was settled in my apartment on the new campus by the beach.


The Blue

Sept., 2018

Of all the benefits of living on Prince Edward Island certainly the clear blue skies, which I could stare at for hours, must rank near the top.

The summers when we would arrive from abroad would be a healthy respite, a noise and pollution detox. My mother used to say that the sea air cures all, and I can confirm that the effects of finally breathing air free of pollutants feels curative, like some kind of magic elixir. Others leaving Asia for extended periods report similar effects.

This morning was near perfection, with crisp cool air of the type that I seldom experienced during all the years I lived and traveled throughout Asia.


My Haircut

Kudos to The Humble Barber for yesterday’s haircut experience.

At about 2:40pm I suddenly realized the time, and that I had an appointment for a haircut at 3. I was in the car 5 minutes later and with the help of the Hillsborough Bridge Raceway managed to walk in their door on Kent St. at 3 on the nose. By the looks of the staff standing around in a circle, they expected me to be a no show.

In years past I would take advantage of my time getting a haircut to practice various Chinese language phrases or listen to the banter of the other customers in the shop; it was a great way to gain some insight into what is important to people outside of my usual social circle, or to find out where the latest and greatest restaurant is. But generally I find getting a haircut a chore, and prefer to go and be finished in as short a time as possible. With the exception of language practice, I seldom have the inclination to talk. Some barbers here on the other Island try to engage in conversation, younger ones especially, who use unique difficult to understand language full of adjectives. After a few concise replies, they often give up, figuring I am unfriendly. The ordeal often leaves us both uncomfortable.

It would seem though, that I have found my haircut nirvana. During the whole time I was in the chair at The Humble Barber yesterday, the barber didn’t once attempt to engage me in idle banter (in a previous visit another barber admitted that she didn’t like people). Also, she didn’t discuss hair styling – in Taiwan this always frustrated me, as barbers would always give themselves lofty titles such as “artist” and yet would rely on me to tell them the best look for my big head. What am I paying all this money for if I am doing all the “art?” Lastly, she positioned my chair so that I didn’t have to continuously look at myself in the mirror, another pet peeve, and instead could look out at all the curious characters on Kent St. In the end she performed the big reveal by turning my chair around to explain my new do.

All in all it took less than 15 minutes and I was out the door on Kent at 3:15 dodging the smokers crowded outside of the Tim Hortons.


Don’t ride here

When we lived in Hsinchu it was common knowledge that whenever a driver of any kind of a large vehicle hit you it was best for them to make sure you were dead, because the costs related to your death were less than your continued care while in and out of the hospital. So it was said that if you get hit watch out as truck drivers might back up for another pass to finish the job. How true that actually was I don’t know but I do know that the cost of hitting anyone with your scooter, bicycle, or car could cripple you financially. This despite Taiwan having a health care system equal to, or superior to, what we enjoy here.

With that in mind I still road my bike for a number of years, and when Camren was really young, with him in a trailer behind me. This we would do in the back narrow roads that lead from our house in the hills, to his kindergarten, all the while sharing the road with huge cement trucks that would regularly come within an inch or two of my bike. The same could be said of running, which was at times in a pretty hostile environment, as you dodge vehicles that would speed close enough so you could rap on the window to break the drivers from their stress induced myopia.

That said I think it mostly worked, at least for me as I’m still here, and able to utilize my legs. Part of this was due to a combination of looking out for yourself, the realization that there are kinds of things (people, dogs don’t fare well, cars, scooters, bicycles) sharing the roads, and the confidence and skill to be able to negotiate small distances when driving.

These factors don’t seem to exist here in Charlottetown – particularly in the heavily trafficked Hillsborough bridge and connecting streets. Every time I ride or run across the bridge I am convinced that drivers of vehicles large and small have no idea I exist on the road. It’s especially disconcerting when you see a large gravel truck slowly veering over the white line on the road as it speeds towards you.

This isn’t necessarily the case everywhere. When running on rural roads many drivers give me an extraordinarily wide berth. In Cornwall people used to slow down and ask me if I wanted to talk a break and get a drive home. In other cases people toot their horns and wave as they go by.

There is something about that Stratford to Charlottetown connection that brings out the less than friendly part of people.


Sunday’s route

In a place as small as Charlottetown it’s hard to find routes that stay within the town limits. Running for me is as much a mental challenge as it is physical; learning to ignore the pain while trying to enter into some kind of zen like state. It works for a while but then I get bored and need the kind of visual stimulus that running through an urban setting provides. Running in parts of Hsinchu was a bit like being hunted by people in machines and maimed by all manner of traps on the road. This required a level of mental alertness which is thankfully not usually necessary here

I’ve discovered much of the various neighbourhoods of Charlottetown on my feet. This is the second time I’ve run this route and my favourite part is not urban at all. The Robertson Road Trail goes through a beautiful piece of nature which looks much like how the world may look when all the humans have left. I think we will return this evening for a more leisurely walk around the area.


Founders Food Hall and Market

I dropped by the Founders Food Hall and Market this afternoon for their opening. Well executed I think. Enjoyed some wonderful BBQ wood fired pizza from Fiamma and some kind of bacon, chocolate and coffee on a stick concoction from Holy Fox. This was washed down with samples from Receivers and RAW Juice. The sandwich meat was superb as well. I’m sure that different use cases for this space could be argued but it looks to my eyes to be the best looking space of this type on the Island. I didn’t catch the hours, but if they manage to have weekend hours it will be a more convenient alternative to the Charlottetown Farmers Market.


Secret Design Bunker Pop-up

I love the exterior of this building. So much more inviting than any blue glass monstrosity.

I dropped in to the Nine Yards Secret Design Bunker pop-up early this afternoon – it was a nice display of ideas. It would have been nice to have some explanation behind the work but my timing was off, as a large group arrived shortly after myself, which kept the sole person managing the affair busy answering their questions, afterwards they disappeared into what I guess was the secret bunker part of the exhibition.

It’s nice to see this kind of work – great aesthetic, perhaps a cross between Eslite and some of the work I have seen produced by NCTU GIA.

Hopefully this will be a regular event.


The Brass Shop

We had coffee at the Receivers on Water St. yesterday and I agree with what was said at the table that the experience is far superior to their Victoria Row location. Better service and the latte’s better prepared.

The Victoria Row location would appear to not be designed for the flood of customers it often receives, particularly when the downtown is busy with guests enjoying the city. Sheryl and I had breakfast there earlier in the week while sitting outside; the environment was nice and the food ok if not comparatively more expensive. The latte did not look like the one pictured above.

I often mention the trials of finding good coffee in Charlottetown, but our friends we were chatting with thought it was richer tasting than I assume what they are used to in Singapore. I have little experience with coffee there but I have come to realize that my views on coffee are in the minority, or I’m just accustomed to, or romanticize the variety of tastes available in our former home.

Seeing as this location is only adds 2 minutes in walking time from Water & Queen, I’ll try visiting there when the need arises.


Comparisons are odious

As I was sitting at my desk sweating while waiting to talk with a CRA representative, I took the opportunity to connect with old colleagues and companies to see what kind of projects they have been working on. Comparing oneself to others, even other companies, is seldom a good thing, and it adds to my internal struggle as to whether to stay in PEI or to leave.

Working independently whether as a freelancer (not in my future), remotely for someone else, or as some kind of entrepreneur allows for the kind of freedom that I have always wanted in my life. It would be almost unheard of to take a 9am CrossFit class with my daughter while working in Taiwan, we would both be too busy and the political price for “custom” hours at a tech company too high. If you can manage the difficulties inherent in making a livable wage on PEI, the amount of free time people, including myself, have here makes for a higher quality life. Time > $$. The past year has felt somewhat like a vacation.

But, what I can accomplish alone, with very limited support, pales in comparison to what I was confronted with before. And what friends of mine are doing now. While they are building software that potentially affects the lives of many, I attempt to create things on a much much smaller scale. I’m not sure I can be content with creating podcasts, simple apps, and ed. services. Much of my experience and education has gone unused this past year; I feel rusty.

I guess this is an internal struggle many go through when they downsize or move to a more sane locale, some resolve it very quickly, and I suspect some struggle with it over longer periods like I do.

The beautiful summer skies here certainly help to push the problem to the back of my mind.


The past 5 days

With Sheryl’s arrival this past Tuesday on a delayed 1 am flight, my adventure as a single parent has come to an end.


Before my wife left Taiwan a student graciously gifted a huge box of coffee including these 3 bags. Good coffee is difficult to find on PEI, and shipping from elsewhere a tad too expensive, so after these are gone it’s back to home roasting.


What better way to kick off Sheryl’s first year in PEI than attending this years Business Women’s summit which was relocated to the Delta due to the Startup Zone’s ongoing AC troubles. They did a great job pulling it off considering, but I enjoyed last years more.


I’ve always marvelled at the skies on PEI; clean, free from pollutants and beautiful.

We attended the Pride PEI BBQ on Saturday, which I thought was well attended. After a quick chat with Sean Cassey we were off to Cornwall to attend Heath McDonald’s Strawberry Social. Despite not having any affiliation with the Liberal party, we attend (crash) their strawberry socials every summer.

We still feel like tourists here, so our annual sojourn to Cavendish still seems fitting.

It’s for the tourists. It’s fake. But Avonlea Village is the kind of city density that I appreciate. It’s walkable, free of cars, and well maintained. While I wouldn’t suggest a Disney-fication of all of Charlottetown, I would love to see this kind of density continue past the tourist area of the downtown.

I’m convinced though, that a walkable city is unpopular with many, if not most Islanders. Charlottetown is wonderful in the summer – kids running around, parents walking with strollers, all kinds of people enjoying the downtown in a myriad of ways, but these people are primarily visitors. Once they leave the city dies. Driving between the box stores seems to be more the norm.

Sheryl and I were in Georgetown for a 10k race on Sunday. It was so humid one would think we were running in Taiwan.


Good bye old girl

Elsa was the last of our 3 dogs. Our first dog in Taiwan was Buster, a large black lab and my daughters protector, who I had to send over the rainbow bridge due to a burst liver. Lulu, another Lab and an adopted sister to Elsa, developed cancer and I had to send her as well over the rainbow bridge, my last task before leaving Taiwan. All our dogs were adopted, Buster from the streets of Kaohsiung, Elsa and Lulu from the streets of Taipei. All had acute behavioural problems which required loads of time to work through as they became integral parts of our family. The kids miss them all.

Elsa didn’t join us here partly due to her age, we aren’t entirely sure, but we guess her age to be close to 15 years, which might make the stress of a long international flight too harrowing. There is also the simple fact that with the housing crisis on PEI, there was no place available that would allow pets. Our current lease forbids it and with the uncertainty of our life here the commitment of a house seems unwise.

Finding her a new home was an almost 1 year heart wrenching task for my wife; finding a home for any dog in Taiwan is difficult, we have re-homed many, but a senior dog is especially so. Luckily, in the end Elsa has a found a family that she can enjoy her final days with in love and comfort.


St. Peter’s Harbour Lighthouse Beach

I’m not much of a beach person – I don’t swim and the kids seem to be just outside the age that we need to be concerned about beach shovels and the like. Also, I don’t particularly like going somewhere to relax, and can’t fathom travelling anywhere to just lay down (the beaches in Thailand are as much about the scenery, people watching, and sharing my kids love of the water as anything). But I appreciate the beach at St. Peter’s Harbour Lighthouse for its beauty, PEI has some of the best beaches I have seen anywhere (no medical waste garbage problems here), and for the fact that few if anyone ever goes there, so we often have the beach to ourselves.

That was the case yesterday and the kids and I walked along the beach talking, arguing, and enjoying the warm sun without any of the hubbub of the touristy areas. My son also collected drift wood, creating swords to protect against possible zombie attacks, and my daughter wondered if the buildings in the distance had any food. Admittance was free, as it should be.

Since it was only a short drive further, we drove to Ricks Fish ’n’ Chips in St. Peter’s Bay where we all had the haddock.

I’m glad we took this little afternoon diversion, as the weather this summer seems to be unusually cold and wet which would seem to continue for the next 10 days or so.


An Island moment

Yesterday, I had an eye exam at the Family Vision Centre, which encompassed far more tests than the garden variety done by teenagers at the ubiquitous eye glass stores in Hsinchu, and seemed lest harried than visiting the famous eye doctor on Dongda Rd in Hsinchu who has massive photos of herself covering the outside of her office. Afterwards, I hopped on my bike to see the on call eye doctor at the QEH ER.

The pace from eye exam, to further tests at the QEH, to sitting in a chair for a procedure was entirely unexpected. I didn’t even have time to consult with Dr. Google. This is how it should be, but I have been conditioned to having to wait from months to never for any kind of treatment here on the Island.

The fact that I have a health problem has chipped away at my belief that I am somewhat invincible. For the past 7 – 8 yrs or so, I’ve had an almost religious conviction that refraining from bad habits, eating right and vigorous exercise would shield me from the advancing maladies of middle age. While I can run up flights of stairs with greater ease than the colleagues of old who were half my age, there seems to be no avoiding some of the challenges brought forth by Father Time. Anyway, at this point it’s nothing serious.

After getting an injection in my eyeball, which at the time conjured up images of Blade Runner and had me wondering what the doctor now knew about me, the doctor asked how I was getting home. He knew I had arrived by bike but was concerned that I shouldn’t be riding over the bridge after having the procedure. Either due to the bridges reputation for carefree driving or concern over my now inability to see clearly out of my left eye, he insisted he drive me home.

So we walked out of the emergency room, I grabbed my bike, threw it in the back of his van, and he drove me over across the river to Casa MacLeod.

This could have happened no where else.


The CBC has taken a detour into the lifestyles of the rich and famous with a piece on an expensive renovation project by AmberMac.

Reading Amber MacArthur gives P.E.I. historic home a high-tech makeover one would be led to believe she is transforming a century home into a Jetsons like experience. What we get is a short piece detailing things which as far as I’m concerned have been commonplace for years.

This piece seems more like a wasted opportunity to have her explain in more detail the “green and sustainability angle” of what she is doing, instead of the self-promotion piece it is. AmberMac has a talent for explaining technology in a way that most people can understand, it’s a shame they didn’t utilize it.


Unexpected efficiency

I have been experiencing problems with my left eye to the point that I’m finding work more annoying than it should be. As this has been ongoing and getting progressively worse a trip to the doctor was in order. “You only get one set of eyes” said someone who never watched scify movies.

My first planned stop was a walk-in clinic. PEI does not for some reason cover visits to an eye doctor as part of its universal health coverage, so keeping up with my el cheapo persona, I thought it best to discount any generalized causes before I paid out of pocket for privatized medicine. I half expected the doctor to tell me to stop running and going to CrossFit because almost every doctor I’ve met seems to be against pushing your body to it’s natural limits.

As it turns out it was a complete waste of time as the doctor simply flashed a light in my eye and sent me on my way. A very friendly yet perfunctory experience not unlike Taiwan.

As an aside, I find interesting the start contrast between visiting the offices of the public walk in clinic and the privatized eye doctor. It’s stark. The staff in the eye clinic are obviously paid far more (all wearing matching smart watches), the environment more relaxing, and you can actually see a doctor, and keep seeing that doctor within reasonable periods of time.

The problem with all this was the timing of the clinic visit. I used the Skip the Waiting Room system to book my time with the walk-in clinic doctor. It’s an effective, yet surprising, privatized efficiency infusion to a social system. I started the registration process shortly after it opened online and no doubt due to it’s popularity I wasn’t given a spot until close to closing. With my 15 minute lead time I was told I wouldn’t have to leave until about 3:10pm. I figured later.

Unfortunately I had somewhat of a scheduling conflict. I had a short meeting at 2pm discussing the possibility of helping various tourism SME’s develop a more cohesive experience strategy for their business. Businesses here have seemingly endless options for marketing expertise but few seem to be talking about customer experience or service design or other jargony speak. Intense competition in Taiwan makes staging an experience a necessity for survival for many businesses; but they call it something else and seldom hire experience designers specifically. Since I am a poor capitalist and dislike the word consultant, I envisioned doing this advising somewhat for free, much like what I do at StartUp Zone.

The meeting was short, a 30 minute meet and greet, so I decided to keep both appointments. That turns out was a mistake.

We were just in the midst of discussing customer journeys, and all that boring stuff you need to mention, when I started to get sms notifications to come to the clinic – a full 45 minutes earlier than expected. This doctor would seem to be quicker than most.

So I had to quickly wrap things up, bid adieu, and race out the door. No doubt never to hear from this government official again.

In the future when booking appointments with doctors here, I’ll be sure to block out either the whole morning or afternoon for the visit. I experienced a similar problem with a visit to Dr. Flemmings office with Camren recently, when a short visit became multiple hours due to delays and his fastidious attention to detail.

Lesson learned.


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.

Couch 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