Catherine and Oliver and Ethan and I were the guests of the Winsloe Lions Club last night at their annual Charter Night dinner – a sort of “closing ceremonies” for the Lions year where pins and awards are given out and steaks and lobsters consumed.

Lions Clubs existed at the very periphery of my awareness until this year: I knew they did good works (pancake breakfasts at Prince Street School to support the Breakfast Program, for example), but otherwise I had them stored away in that part of my mind reserved for fraternal organizations, around the corner from Rotary and across the street from the Kinsmen. And that part of my mind is way, way in the back.

But Lions Foundation of Canada, an umbrella charity supported by Lions Clubs across the country, operates the Dog Guides, the program whence Ethan came into our Oliver’s life and spending a week at the Dog Guides training centre in Oakville and seeing the tremendous generosity of clubs from coast to coast to coast endeared me to the organization in a way that’s hard to describe.

We were in Winsloe mostly because Catherine and Oliver ran into King Lion Jason and his wife Michelle running a photo booth at the Charlottetown Mall where kids could get their picture taken with the Easter Bunny, with the proceeds going to Dog Guides. They saw Ethan, offered to take his photo with Oliver, and talked to Catherine about the upcoming Walk for Dog Guides. And then a few weeks later we got invited to come out to the Charter Night as special guests to allow the club to meet Oliver and Ethan and to allow us to tell them something about how their generosity pays off in our family.

Going to a Lions Club dinner is something that, as anyone who knows me will attest, falls way, way outside my comfort zone. But I feel we have a responsibility to share our story, especially with Lions, and so we happily agreed to attend.

It was an interesting night: we got to meet all of the Winsloe Lions, learn more about what they do, see their dedicated members receive awards for things like “taking the crib night to another level this year,” got a feed of lobster and steak (wherein I learned, again, that I have no idea how to eat a lobster) and a chance at the dessert table (pumpkin pie!).

And then I got to tell the story of Ethan – you can read my speech here.

Everyone we met was generous and supportive and deeply committed to the Dog Guides program. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better bunch of folks on the Island.

Doug Ford is the Lion on Prince Edward Island who represents Lions Foundation (he got his 40-year service pin last night) and I’ve offered to tell the same story to any club who’ll have us on PEI. As Doug is something of a dynamo, I expect we’ll be visiting a lot of clubs over the next while.

Remember, if you want to support Dog Guides directly, there’s nothing stopping you from doing it right now!


Pete the Printer

Brenda Whiteway wrote a very nice blog post about my little part of her Confederation Country Cabinet project. She also snapped a photo of my beside the Golding Jobber № 8, which is a rare thing indeed, as I’m usually all by myself down in the printing office and the only photos a take are ones of type.

Me, at the Letterpress

The setting and printing continues: this morning it was Emily Carr and Pauline Johnson, this afternoon it’s J. J. Steinfeld and Monday or Tuesday I’ll reset and reprint Frank Ledwell after an unfortunate setting incident wherein I conflated “Confederation” and “Charlottetown.”

Milton Acorn – in 3D!

Milton Acorn’s Poem for the Astronauts looks rather like a small city when set in 14 pt. Bodoni. I wasn’t happy with the original run of this Confederation Country Cabinet piece, so I reprinted tonight and I like the result a lot better; sometimes you just need to tear things down and start again.

Photo of Letterpress Type in Chase

I have Frank Ledwell’s “Confederation Conference” set and ready to print; it’s late, though, and visions of losing a hand to the printing press because I’m groggy convinced me to clean up, go home, and live to print another day.

I remember the day the bus exploded right in front of the fire eater and her amazing magical cat...

Despite myself I was always a fan of the Road to Avonlea television series. It was hokey, and not even shot on Prince Edward Island, but it was also endearing and provided a useful lens through which to look at life in contemporary Prince Edward Island.

The archetypal episode would involve some interesting character from away arriving in the village of Avonlea, with hijinks ensuing.

A long-lost huckster cousin of Aunt Heddy would show up and talk Jasper out of his inheritance.

Or a rough-looking carnie would arrive on the train from Charlottetown only to run into Olivia and sweep her off her feet.

(When I think of developer Richard Homburg and his arrival in Charlottetown as a billionaire saviour I tend to think about it in Road to Avonlea terms; it’s far more entertaining).

And so it came to pass that yesterday, while popping down the street for a quick lunch before heading to the dentist, I spied an intriguing character walking down Queen Street: an eclectically dressed woman walking a cat on a leash and carrying a well-worn hula hoop on her shoulder. I was moved to Tweet:

Tweet about leashed cat woman.

And then I went on with my day.

Later in the day, as I was heading home for supper I ran into my friend Noosh returning from moving his car because of a gas tank explosion on a bus that had just happening in front of his restaurant, Casa Mia Café, up the street. He managed to get his car out of the way before the diesel fuel rolled down under it.

I returned to the office 90 minutes later to find Queen Street closed off between Richmond and Grafton, firefighters on the scene, and absorbent material slurping up the now-flowing-down-the-street diesel fuel. It was an impressive sight, and the Charlottetown Fire Department were all over it.

And then I went on with my day.

Until this morning when I spotted this on the front page of The Guardian newspaper:

Story from The Guardian

In the reporting of the story of the diesel spill, ace reporter Nigel Armstrong noted that the hula hooped cat-bearing woman I’d seen earlier in the day was, in fact, a fire-eating busker, a fire-eating busker on the scene of the diesel gas tank explosion, no less.

Knowing that Islanders need to know the details, Nigel didn’t disappoint:

Watching the whole proceeding with a sense of irony was a fire-eating busker who gave her performance name of Ariane Pyromane, her last name being the French equivalent of pyromaniac or arsonist.

She just arrived on P.E.I. from Montreal Monday with her cat TouTou, her guitar, and her fire eating hoops and gear.

She was strumming a tune on a park bench in front of Confederation Centre when she heard a sort of explosion just meters away.

“The bus kind of lifted a little bit in the air and then all the gas started spilling everywhere,” said Ariane. “There was no fire, only a little bit of smoke.”

TouTou remained unimpressed and Ariane kept on busking as firefighters and police arrived on scene.

“TouTou remained unimpressed…”

Nigel should get an award for that.

When I’m old and grey I’m sure I’ll pull out yesterday as a good story to tell the young folk: “I remember the day the bus exploded right in front of the fire eater and her amazing magical cat… that was quite a day, yes…”

Such is life in Avonlea, circa 2014.

I'm an Island Tel Customer Again

Over the last 15 years I’ve written 111 posts that mentioned Island Tel and 119 posts that mentioned Aliant, it successor company. Put together, that’s a lot of ink spilled in commentary on the phone company.

I was an Island Tel customer from almost the first day I landed on Prince Edward Island, and over the years we’ve had all sorts of adventures together: the company equipped me with a giant “cellular modem” while the Confederation Bridge was being constructed to allow us to set up the “Island Cam” on the ferry going back and forth across the Northumberland Strait; we worked together on a complicated project in the mid-1990s to equip all of the visitor information centres on the Island with Internet via ISDN; I’ve carried Island Tel mobile phones, used Island Tel dial-up Internet and admired Island Tel commercials. The company even threatened to sue me once.

I stopped being an Island Tel customer a number of years ago, jumping ship to Eastlink, the company’s primary competitor for phone, Internet and television service. Eastlink is no phone company, in the classic “we’ll send out a tech in the middle of the night to ensure you have phone service” model; but I’ve been relatively happen with its service over the years.

But then I met Paul Murray.

Paul works for Bell Aliant here on PEI as the sales manager for the region and several years ago when we were setting up the TeacherNet project at Prince Street School Paul came on board as a sponsor. He did this quickly, efficiently and with good humour, and Bell Aliant continued to support the project for an additional year after the original sponsorship ended.

While there was no expectation of my abandoning Eastlink as part of his arrangement, I felt a gratitude to Paul, and felt it only just that I seek to migrate to Bell Aliant here at the Reinventorium. It took a couple of years – some complicated engineering challenges had to be solved because the conduit into The Guild had been blocked by the construction of a new building – but today I called up Eastlink and cancelled our service after Bell Aliant’s Fiber Op was installed last week.

With the move we jump from 20 Mbps down. 2 Mbps up to 50 Mbps down and 30 Mbps up. Most of the time I don’t notice the difference, but when I do – uploading photos to Flickr, for example – I really notice it.

To my delight, the wireless router that’s our new gateway to bandwidth – it connects to the “media convertor” that turns light into, well, whatever Internet is – is quite capable and supports things like setting up a DMZ, port forwarding, static IP address from DHCP based on MAC address and more. So I’ve also retired the Apple Airport Extreme that’s served us well here for a couple of years.

Given our mercurial history, nobody is more surprised than I to be an Island Tel customer again. And while the days of “when you call, I’ll be there” might be over, it does, in a way, feel good to be back.