Consumption 2014

Here’s a summary of all of our metered consumption for 2014. The electricity, heating oil (furnace, domestic hot water) and water are for the 2048 square foot house that Catherine, Oliver and I live in. The gasoline is for our 2000 Jetta and various rental cars. What isn’t included is gasoline used for business, or consumption in my office or Catherine’s studio.

Energy Supplier Consumption Cost
Electricity Maritime Electric 5,518 kWh $1,117.69
Heating Oil Coop Energy 3,710 litres $4,344.10
Gasoline Various Unknown $868.77
Water Charlottetown Water & Sewer 128,000 litres $408.73

Compiling this information was easy, as all of our bills are now sent electronically, and so I have them archived in Evernote (gasoline was the exception: I had to hunt through my MasterCard bills for gasoline purchases).

Alex B. Campbell 2.0

About a month ago I received an invitation, under the aegis of my role as Hacker in Residence, Robertson Library, to a meeting in the library with the team working on publishing the ebook and audiobooks versions of author H. Wade MacLauchlan’s biography Alex B. Campbell: The Prince Edward Island Premier Who Rocked The Cradle. While the printed book was published by the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, the library had taken on the digital publishing task, with the proceeds from digital sales generously directed towards the library’s digitization program.

By the time I joined the effort all of the heavy lifting of the digital project – recording the audiobook, preparing the EPUB, and building a website to sell them – was done, and so my contributions consisted primarily of making pithy comments like “why are you charging in the first place, man: information wants to be free.”

Okay, I didn’t actually say that. At least I didn’t say it like that.

But my arguments fell on deaf ears and the capitalist impulse, or at least the enlightened capitalist impulse, won the day, and so I latched onto a tiny offshoot of the project: getting the digital books into the various proprietary platforms – Google Play Books, iBooks, Kindle, Audible – where they might attract a broader audience.

So I started the project being a defender of information’s right to be free and then became one of its jailers. Irony noted.

What has followed, over the past month, has been a fascinating deep dive into the arcane world of digital publishing: EPUB formats, metadata, bank accounts, asserting rights ownership. The whole exercise nearly came crashing to a halt when the intractable finance department at UPEI refused to allow its bank account to be the repository for funds from Apple et al. But I was able to route around all intractability, institutional and technical, and so I am happy to say that you can now purchase the Alex Campbell biography at fine digital stores everywhere, worldwide:

On the Kindle and Google Play what you’ll purchase is a handcrafted EPUB that I stitched together from an InDesign HTML export; this is a “reflowable” EPUB, with endnote references linked to the endnotes, that works equally well on phones, tablets and on the desktop. The Apple version is a straight non-reflowable EPUB that came right out of InDesign; I’m working on upgrading this to a more flexible format.

As to the audiobook, that’s the next frontier: what I discovered is that own the audiobook marketplace, at least in North America: if you want your audiobook on Audible, iTunes and Google Play, you need to get the book on Audible, and to get on Audible requires a U.S. address, a U.S. bank account, and following some strict audio format guidelines.  I’ve cracked the address and banking questions; the audio formatting will get underway next week.

In the meantime, you can purchase the audiobooks – and, indeed, the ebook – directly from the library, where the library keeps 100% of proceeds rather than the crumbs that the multinationals pass on: just visit

Governor Bars Women from New Year's Levee

As I reported yesterday, January 1, 1975 was the first year that women were welcomed, albeit somewhat grudgingly, at the annual New Year’s Day levee at Government House in Charlottetown.

But that wasn’t how the story began: here’s the front page of The Guardian from December 10, 1974, with the headline “Governor Bars Women From New Year’s Levee”:

Headline of The Guardian, December 10, 1974: Governor Bars Women from New Year's Levee

Under that headline there were three stories, under the sub-heads “Tradition Continues As Stand Explained,” “Decision Disappoints Status Of Women Head” and “Various Interpretations Given To Term ‘Levee’ ”:

Tradition Continues As Stand Explained

Decision Disappoints Status Of Women Head

Various Interpretations Given To Term 'Levee'

To its credit, The Guardian ran an editorial in the same issue headed “Change Due,” and calling the ban on its blatant sexism: “Granted, time may be limited for the reception, but since it is a ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ affairs of persons meeting His Honor what has ‘mechanics” got to do with the sex of a person?”:

Change Due

More rational heads obviously prevailed, as the next day’s paper updated the story: “Women Not Barred at Governor’s Levee”:

Women Not Barred At Governor's Levee

Later that month, as January 1, 1975 approached, The Guardian comments on the busy levee schedule, with four levees – Lieutenant Governor’s, Mayor’s, Premier’s and Bishop’s – scheduled for New Year’s Day:

Four Levees Set For Area

The advertisement in the newspaper for Premier Alex Campbell’s levee made a point of specifying “Both ladies and genlemen [sic] will be received,” and avoided, presumably for reasons of not limiting women, the term “levee” altogether in favour of “receiption”:

Premier's Levee

Meanwhile, while not specifically excluding women, neither the Mayor nor the Lieutenant Government specifically welcomed women either:

Mayor's Levee

Lieutenant Governor's Levee

Another reminder that all are welcome at all levees, 40 years on from 1975. Find the schedule for 2015 here and I’ll see you there.

Annals of Excuses for Sexism

Wade MacLauchlan reports in his biography of Alex B. Campbell that January 1, 1975 – 40 years ago next week – was the first occasion that women were permitted to attend the lieutenant-governor’s levee, and only grudgingly at that:

One of the most visible changes came on January 1, 1975. The United Nations’ International Women’s Year was ushered in on PEI with women participating in the traditional lieutenant-governor’s levee at Government House for the first time. This came about in a way that was typical of many of the breakthroughs made by women during the period. Lieutenant-Governor Gordon Bennett had only been in office a few weeks, and had initially indicated in response to media queries that there would be no change in the format of the levee for 1975, meaning that it would be “men only.” The justification offered was that “the mechanics of Government House and the limited time for the reception” made it impossible to accommodate women, although the possibility was left open that something could be worked out in the future.

Two days later, Lieutenant-Governor Bennett issued a statement signalling that women would be permitted to attend the levee and protesting that women had never been barred from Government House, declaring “While I intend to preserve many of the well-established traditions of this office, I will not hesitate to introduce changes and adopt practices more applicable to contemporary society as time and circumstances permit.” Cabinet minister Catherine Callbeck was one of a group of twenty-five women who joined almost one thousand men at Government House on January 1. Gaining admission to the levee was symbolic. Women had been attending the premier’s New Year’s levee throughout Alex Campbell’s time in office, continuing a practice begun in the later years of Walter Shaw’s premiership.

While I don’t think celebrating this fact is in order – should we really be celebrating the fact that in my lifetime such an indefensible, sexist policy was still in place – it is an anniversary worthy of marking.

Everyone – actually everyone – is welcome at every levee that’s on my annual Charlottetown Area Levee Schedule and I encourage you to all attend on January 1, 2015.

Making The Guardian website slightly less annoying for subscribers...

My in-laws are visiting us, and my father-in-law is a dedicated newspaper reader, so I was prompted me to take out a subscription to The Guardian, Prince Edward Island’s newspaper of record, for the next while.

There’s no way to subscribe only to the printed newspaper: the standard $17.50/month subscription includes daily home delivery of the print newspaper along with the “e-edition” and all-you-can-eat access to the otherwise-metered website.  Oddly, the price for this without the printed newspaper is exactly the same. Which doesn’t bode well for print, as it suggests that the print newspaper is deemed to be worth $0.

The first copy of the newspaper arrived this morning (impressive, given that I purchased my subscription only yesterday) and included an excellent cover story on government expenses reported by Teresa Wright and Ryan Ross. It was a good issue to start a subscription with.

Meanwhile, I decided to use my newly-unlocked access to the entire Guardian website as an opportunity to try and make it less confusing to read (I found, to my surprise, that unlocking the website with a subscription doesn’t make any of the ads, offers and extraneous elements go away).

Hence this Greasemonkey user script:

// ==UserScript==
// @name        cleanup-pei-guardian
// @namespace
// @include*
// @description Hides the annoying parts of The Guardian website.
// @version     1
// @require
// @grant       GM_addStyle
// ==/UserScript==

This script, once installed in Greasemoney, has the effect of turning this:

The Guardian: Before Greasemonkey

into this:

The Guardian: After Greasemonkey

The effect is dramatic, and reading the altered version makes me feel like I can breathe again. And it makes me feel like I’d actually like to spend some time exploring the website.

I realize the irony of this experiment, as the bulk of my living derives, directly or indirectly, from web advertising revenue that appears in ways that are often as jarring as on The Guardian. The difference, though, is that I’m paying The Guardian $17.50 and the least they could do is make the experience of reading the website slightly less annoying.

It’s worth remembering that The Guardian has more than 100 years of a history of using design non-annoyingly; witness the front page of the print newspaper from today’s date in 1939:

The Guardian, Dec. 20, 1939

It is a thing of beauty.