Warning: Expect Painter Next 2 km

One of the first things to go is spontaneity.

In my 20s I would think nothing of hopping in my Datsun 510 and driving to Vancouver if the opportunity presented itself. Indeed I did just that, once.

But then mental atrophy sets in. And the need to have the breakfast cereal out of the same bowl every morning becomes increasingly important. Part of this is simply complexity: it’s harder to coordinate a small platoon of two adults, one teen and one dog into a sudden outburst of spontaneity. But there’s more to it than that: well-worn ruts, as Bembo showed us, can prove very alluring.

Which is why sometimes having someone email you, at the very last minute, with a “Hey, we’ll be in Charlottetown tonight, can we park in your driveway” can be an welcome shock to the system.

Which is exactly what happened yesterday: my friend Julie is acting as aide-de-camp for her friend Nicole while Nicole makes her way from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Montreal, stopping every 50 km to paint the Trans-Canada Highway. They are now 15 days in, having made their way across Newfoundland (twice, actually, as they had to first get to St. John’s) and Cape Breton, and opting to take the more interesting Prince Edward Island leg of the highway over the less interesting Nova Scotia one (who knew the Trans Canada had forks?).

So not only was there an unexpected injection of spontaneity into our life, but it had an right-up-my-alley artistic hook to boot.

And, so, this was the scene in our driveway this morning:

Julie's VW Microbus at 100 Prince Street

By all rights Nicole and I should know each other: we lived in Peterborough, Ontario at the same time for a number of years. Hung with a similar crowd. We even went to the same high school, albeit in different years. But, as near as I can determine, our paths never crossed. At least in a way that I can remember. (It’s also possible the we were roommates and that I’ve just completely forgotten several years of my life; this is not as far-fetched is it reads).

This morning Nicole will backtrack toward the Wood Islands ferry, stopping 18 km this side, which, added to the 32 km on the Nova Scotia side since her last painting, makes an even 50. This will put her, I reckon, in downtown Pinette. And would make PEI painting number two land somewhere around the North River causeway. And painting number three almost exactly at the end of the bridge (how convenient our kilometerage is!).

Along the way I’m hoping that she can intersect with a Guardian photographer and a CBC crew – hastily arranged late nite emails went out that the journalistic community yeomanly responded to quickly – and so Islanders will be able to learn a bit more about the project too.

In the meantime, we had a nice dollop of spontaneity land in our midst, got to renew ties with Julie, and start ties with Nicole.

As you’re making your way from Wood Islands to Borden today, watch out for painter.

CBC + Kodi: Watching Compass with my Raspberry Pi

I am a big fan – and a daily user – of the open source Kodi media centre. I run it on an inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer hooked up to our 20 year old Sony television and, thanks to video services that have Kodi plug-ins, like USTVnow and YouTube, I have a rich pool of content to use to supplement our steady diet of Netflix (which we watch via our Nintendo Wii).

Something that I’d been missing, though, was a way to watch Compass, the local CBC evening news here in Prince Edward Island. As a vocal Compass advocate, this absence from my supper hour seemed downright unpatriotic.

I’ve been able to bodge together a solution that works via an iPad, AirPlay and Kodi’s ability to receive AirPlay streams. But it only works some of the time (most noticeably and helpfully on provincial election night), and, for some reason, seems unable to play me Compass.

And thus I was happy to encounter news of a CBC plug-in for Kodi, which held the promise of native-to-Kodi access to Compass (and a range of other CBC programs I’ve been missing).

And the plug-in works.

I was able to watch Dragon’s Den with my breakfast this morning and it was rock solid.

Unfortunately, Compass seemed to be missing from the mix.  Navigating through the Kodi UI to News, and then Local News Shows, results in just a single program, Here and Now, from St. John’s, Newfoundland:

Kodi + CBC Plugin

Here and Now in Kodi

This isn’t the fault of Kodi nor the CBC plug-in, though: if you navigate through the CBC’s own (dreadful) video gallery, following the same path, you end up with the same result, showing a single local news program:

CBC Video Portal

Navigating to video from the Compass website ends one up at a page with breadcrumbs that look like this:


Which suggested that if, rather than following News > Local News Shows, I instead followed News > Canada > PEI, I might find the promised land. And, sure enough, it’s all there:


And here’s Kodi happily playing last Thursday’s episode of Compass:


I am again a happy Compass patriot.

The Saddest Story Ever Told

(Warning: this really is a very sad story; don’t read it unless you’re prepared to be sad afterwards)

Seventy years ago this weekend, on the front page of the May 9, 1945 edition of The Charlottetown Guardian appeared what is perhaps the saddest story I’ve every read, under the headline “Sad Fatality Mars Day of Celebration” and concerning the death of 9 year old Charles Dalton Stewart in the VE Day parade in Charlottetown:

The Guardian, May 9, 1945

It’s impossible for me to conceive of the depth of grief that must come from losing a child, especially after living through the war, and on a day on which the rest of your community, province and country is lost in a reverie of joy over the war’s end.

With a haste that, contrasted with current practice, was impressive, the coroner’s inquest was, indeed, held that evening, and the following day’s newspaper contained the ruling:

A coroner’s jury, Inquiring last night Into the circumstances surrounding the death Tuesday afternoon of ten-year old Charles Stewart, brough in the following verdict: “We In find the the said Charles Stewart came to his death in the City of Charlottetown in Queen’s County. on Tuesday, May 8, 1945, by being run over by a motor truck, causing a fractured skull. No blame is attached to Mr. Lord, driver of the truck.

Dr. I. J. Yeo, coroner, presided at the inquest and the Attorney General was represented by Mr. G. R. Holmes.

Dr. I. Rachmel, who was the first witness, said he was called to the P. E. Island Hospital to examine the dead body of a boy. Found the boy had a multiple fracture of skull. There was no other signs of injury to the body. Pressure had been exerted on head from opposite sides and brain tissue had been squeezed out through mouth and other orifices of head. Death could have been caused by heavy wheel passing over head.

Fred McDougall, 320 Kent Street. said he was sitting on truck and felt a jar. Gordon Lord was driving. He was sitting in back with Leo Dowling. Charles Stewart was not on truck. The truck was going less than or mile an hour. Felt the jar when truck was between Frank Hennessey’s and Charlottetown Hotel.

Gordon Lord, 5 Spring Street, said he was driving truck with two others sitting beside him. Witness did not know Charles Stewart, until he saw him lying on the street. Witness felt a jar. He was driving very slowly, There were a lot of children clinging to running boards of truck.

Leo Dowling, 373 Kent Street, said he was sitting with Fred McDougall at back of truck on a car cushion. A few children were hanging on rear of truck and on sides. Witness felt a small bump. Saw Stewart boy lying on street behind and on right side of truck. Thought rear wheel went over him.

Sgt. Allan McInnis, City police, said he was told by an airman that a boy had been killed on Kent Street. Ran down to scene of tragedy, opposite A. A.. Hennessey’s. Found small boy face down on street in a pool of blood. Boy was still breathing and witness lifted the boy’s face out of blood to prevent him smothering. Blood was gushing from both nostrils. Witness thought boy was dead when ambulance arrived few minutes later. Witness said truck was moving very slowly as it was impossible to go faster on account of large crowds of people. Did not know who boy was until brother came up before ambulance left and said, “This Is my little brother.”

Fred McKenzie, 278 Fitzroy Street, said he had one foot on side of truck and was hanging on. Stewart was on other side trying to get on. Witness did not see Stewart fall but saw rear wheel pass over him.

Albert Vincent, 247 Grafton Street said he was on truck with Leo Dowling. Had got on when truck left Victoria Park. Witness was told by driver to try to stop the kids from pulling off Hitler’s boots (truck was carrying an effigy of Hitler). Lot of young lads hanging on truck. Witness felt rear right wheel raise up near CFCY, Witness got off when truck stopped. An airman and a sailor grabbed witness’ hands and formed a ring around Stewart to prevent people crowding prostrate body. Witness wanted to give himair. Witness said it was impossible to get kids off the sides of truck. They would not listen.

Rankine McLaine said he owned the truck. It was of 6000 pounds capacity and had never been out before. There was no body on truck. Gordon Lord was a reliable and careful driver, witness said.

The jury, who only took a few minutes to reach a verdict included Byron Brown (foreman), James Brown, George Berrigan, William Flynn, Ray Steele, W. E. Scantlebury and Alex Lafferty.

The funeral for Stewart was held the following day, May 11, 1945, at the family’s home at 302 Fitzroy Street:

Charles Stewart Family

Cross Roads Cemetery is located across the bridge from Charlottetown behind Cross Roads Christian Church. Stewart is buried there, under a headstone featuring a lamb, beside his parents Cecil and Laura who died in 1977 and 1965 respectively:

Charles Stewart's Grave in Crossroads Cemetery

What Township Lots Haven't I Visited?

The energetic folks at goPEI! invited me to join them today for the announcement of Walk a Lot, their project to encourage Islanders to get out and explore the Samuel Holland township lots in this, the 250th year since they were first surveyed. I was there to talk about WhatsMyLot.com, my own little contribution to the Holland 250 commemoration.

One little hack begets another, and I was prompted, as the result of a conversation at the launch event, to calculate the number of lots through which the Confederation Trail passes.

Which, in turn, prompted me to wonder: how many lots have I passed through in the last year?

Fortunately, I’ve been tracking my location, minute by minute, for the last year, so this is an easy question to answer using exactly the same techniques that I used for the trail.

I started with the Holland Map and my personal GPS breadcrumbs:

My Travels Overlaid on Holland Map

I then used the point-in-polygon tool of QGIS to calculate how may lots I’d set foot (or car tire) in over the last almost-365-days.

The result?

I’ve visited 52 lots and 2 royalties over the last year.

The lots and royalty that I haven’t visited yet are:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 15
  • 18
  • 20
  • 46
  • 47
  • 54
  • 59
  • 61

Here’s what they look like on a map, with the lots I haven’t visited shaded in blue:

Lots I haven't visitied!

It’s obviously high time to go on a tour of public schools in West Prince, and to visit Lower Montague and Panmure Island, Bridgetown, East Point, Malpeque and the Evangeline Region.

Libraries are not Workhouses

My academic colleagues at Robertson Library, University of PEI, have a lovely new wayfinding sign at the entrance to the library; it’s very well-designed, and will be a big help to patrons:


What strikes me as odd, though, is the library tagline used at the top of the sign: “Your place to get work done!”

Of all of the ways I would choose to describe a library, “a place to get work done” would appear very low on the list.

“Your place to explore the wonders of the universe!”

“Your wormhole to knowledge!”

“Your collegial gateway to insights through resources!”

“Your place for books, computers and coffee!”

“Your place to rock your learning with secret library sauce!”

All yes. 

But “get work done”?! 

Libraries are amazing assemblages of people, tools and resources. They are not workhouses.