Reinvented in Vinyl

I really, really like Lumi, a company offering small runs of things like screen printing kits and vinyl decals from your own artwork. To try its services out, I prepared a vector version of the Reinvented logo and used Lumi’s remarkably simply web tool to upload it and select products to order (I ordered a vinyl decal and a screen print kit; total price $26.60 US).

Fifteen days after I ordered, the package arrived here in Charlottetown.

Lumi really needs to update its packaging game; my shipment was packed in a thin cardboard envelope that was twice as large as it needed to be and had been folded over double by the post office; the screen print ink in the package had started to leak a little. That all said, the decal and screen arrived intact and ready for use.

Here’s the vinyl decal before installation:

Lumi Vinyl Decal for Reinvented

And here’s the vinyl decal installed on the door of the Reinventorium:

Lumi Vinyl Decal for Reinvented on the Door

It was very easy to install, especially as a the kit included a squeegee. Lumi’s guide to decal installation was helpful, especially the caution to be careful when removing the transfer sheet (Reinvented almost lost an eyeball, but I used the aforementioned caution and avoided this).

Selkirk Road Public Forest

About a year ago the Restore an Acre initiative of the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project came to my attention. There was something about its simple, direct, well-executed approach to forest restoration that struck a chord with me, and so I became a supporter, making a $200 donation, in honour of former PEI premier Alex B. Campbell, who had been much on my mind last fall.

This weekend there was a walk through the forest that’s being restored – the Selkirk Road Public Forest – led by the project’s personable and enthusiastic leader Gary Schneider.

It was a damp, overcast afternoon, but a sizeable crowd of Restore an Acre supporters turned out and, over the course of three hours we headed from the Selkirk Road entrance deep into the woods, passing from the formerly-farmed front section into the sections at the rear that, among other things, sport large hemlock trees that, if you’re not used to them, seem completely out of place on Prince Edward Island.

Selkirk Road Public Forest

Never missing an opportunity to map a new part of Prince Edward Island, I had GPS Logger running on my Android phone during the walk, and yesterday I turned the traces I’d gathered, along with data traced from the satellite view, into OpenStreetMap. There’s still some fine-tuning and enhancement to do, but here’s what the map looks like after my update:

The Selkirk Road is well-known to many Islanders as the fast run from Charlottetown to the Wood Island Ferry. Next time you’re heading to or from the ferry and you’re in need of a walk in the woods, I encourage you to take a hike through these woods.  And, of course, there are still acres waiting to be restored.

Hemlock at Selkirk Road Public Forest

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Said It Would Rain Today

The Old Farmer’s Almanac long-range weather forecast for Charlottetown for November 2015 calls for “showers, cool”:

Weather Forecast Snippet from The Old Farmer's Almanac for November 2015 for Charlottetown

It is currently overcast and 7°C with light rain in Charlottetown – showers and cool, in other words:

Today's Charlottetown Forecast

And thus my Old Farmer’s Almanac umbrella, which is emblazoned with “The Old Farmer’s Almanac said it would RAIN TODAY” is, yet again, proved correct:

 The Old Farmer's Almanac Said It Would Rain Today

The Day the Whirring Stopped

One the second floor of our house at 100 Prince Street we have a washroom with built-in shower that sports a light and exhaust fan in its ceiling.

Last week I went to take my morning shower and, as I do every morning, I flipped on the switch that turns these on.

Nothing.

I tried again.

Nothing.

Oh no,” I thought to myself, “I’m going to have to call an electrician.”

Later in the morning I booked an appointment with Kingston Electrical.

A few days later the battery in my Braun shaver was getting low, so after my morning shave I plugged it in to the outlet next to the washroom sink.

The next morning I went to shave, only to find that the shaver was dead. 

Nothing.

For some reason it hadn’t charged up overnight.

I checked all the connections, and the plug, to make sure nothing was awry, but it appeared that the shaver was kaput.

Oh no,” I thought to myself, “I’m going to have to buy another shaver.”

Later in the morning I went up to Home Hardware and purchased a Remington foil shaver that, helpfully, was on sale for $31.

This morning Kingston Electrical arrived first thing for their scheduled visit.

They went up to the washroom, noted that the ground fault circuit interrupter button on the washroom outlet was “tripped,” reset it, and then everything – the outlet, the shaver and the ceiling light and exhaust fan – started working.

Apparently, for some reason – they said it was unusual but not otherwise problematic – the shower stall’s electrical wiring was wired through the sink plug’s GFCI.

Live and learn.

Kerry Campbell interviews Dog

While we’re on the topic of Ethan, my friend Heather Mullen, who is the best “snap a quick interesting photo on their phone” person I know, captured this shot of CBC’s Kerry Campbell about to do an interview with me about changes in education governance last week.

As it happens, Ethan was along with me that afternoon, and dutifully stood by as Kerry conducted his interview. Which is when Heather captured us.

IMG_20151105_213317

Sleeping Dog Lie

One of the challenges of having a service dog like Ethan in your house, when he’s not in service of you, is remembering that you’re just there in a supervisory capacity; you’re not “the customer” for the magic powers of the dog.

In our household this means that Catherine and I have to allow Ethan’s primary bond be with Oliver.

And most of the time we’re successful at that.

And then there are lapses.

Like last night. Ethan was exhausted after a day of playing with a new ball that friends helpfully left him on Saturday when he took a shine to it. When I put the ball away at the end of the night so he could calm down, he was distressed, and so in an effort to calm him down I invited him up on the chair with me. Where he immediately fell fast asleep.

If you ever harboured any doubts that a 65 pound standard poodle could be absolutely adorable, it’s time to let them go.

Sleepy Ethan

My, how I’ve shrunk…

Earlier this year I mentioned to Premier Wade MacLauchlan that 2015 was the 20th anniversary of the establishment of www. gov. pe.ca, the official website of the Province of Prince Edward Island, and a project that I helped found.

I suggested to the Premier that it was high time to recognize the contributions of Carol Mayne, the public servant without whose skills and tenacity the site never would have seen the light of day. I’m happy to report that there was a celebration of exactly that this afternoon: Carol, along with the members of the original web team and the current web team all gathered for cake and a chat. It was wonderful to see everyone and to hear the old stories about when the web was young.

Among the artifacts of the earlier digital age on display at the even was a photo of the web team taken when the project was awarded recognition during French Language Services Week sometime over a decade ago. This afternoon we gathered together in the same room to take the same photo; here’s old me vs. new me cropped out of both photos:

Old Me New Me

My how I’ve shrunk in the intervening years.

I’m smiling in both photos, though; that’s the important thing.

Beautiful Cascumpec

One of my favourite stretches of road on Prince Edward Island is Route 12 north from Route 2 to Alberton. It’s a road that runs through the heart of Cascumpec, through hills and valleys, over bridges, through twists and turns, with stunning views of Cascumpec Bay along the way.

I drove the route tonight at dusk en route to Alberton for a home and school meeting. The leaves were at peak; the weather cleared from rain as I crossed through the peat bog heading west from Miscouche; conditions were perfect.

The first time I drove Route 12 to Alberton was 22 years ago, one stop on a series of visits to Island crafts producers when I started my work with the PEI Crafts Council. I drove up to visit Herb Leavitt, who made things out of bird’s eye maple from his shop at the corner of Church and Prince William. He was a genial host; over tea and a biscuit he told me about his craft, and then took me on a tour of his shop.

Herb died 4 short years later, in 1997, and in 2012 the former home of Leavitt’s Maple Tree Crafts, the shop I’d toured at at the corner of Church and Prince William, was demolished.

I returned to  Route 12 in 2001 and 2006, in both cases to visit the Princess Pat Drive-in, a singular place to watch a movie with a view over the bay, a solid canteen, and friendly staff. It too is no longer, alas; it suffered wind damage in 2008 and closed shortly thereafter. It was for sale for a time, and I must say that I gave more than passing thought to acquiring it. I could think of many things worse than living out my days changing the reels in the projection booth while the residents of greater Cascumpec lined up for popcorn. But it was not meant to be.

The home and school meeting in Alberton was engaging: parents from Alberton and Bloomfield gathered to talk about the PEI Home and School Federation resolutions process. There was much good discussion of education, and I emerged sure in the knowledge that the good ship ship home and school is well-tended in West Prince.

Things I’ve Liked Recently

Eating

  • Breadworks, the bakery recently relocated to Charlottetown (off the alley between the Atlantic Technology Centre and David’s Tea), makes the bread you wish you always had ready access to. I’ve been working hard to work a bread-pickup into my weekly routine; so far we’re managing to pick up a loaf every Saturday afternoon. This is truly the kind of place that can change your relationship to bread.
  • Phở Hưng, on the water end of Queen Street near the Delta Hotel, not only makes tasty Vietnamese food, but it is owned and operated by some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  I have now achieved the status of being able to walk in, nod yes when they ask “the usual?”, and have a plate of seafood fried rice in front of me a few minutes later.
  • The new Nordic Breakfast at Receiver Coffee is my new favourite meal there: toast (from Breadworks bread), smoked salmon, vegetables, pickled onions and cheese. I would have it every day for breakfast if I could afford it. Take note that the kitchen is more consistent during the week, so I recommend you start out with a weekend morning Nordic to experience it at its best and then use that as a baseline.
  • I stopped eating most sugar three years ago, and I’m at the point now where eating a Mars Bar would send me into some sort of toxic shock. My sole remaining connection to the world of dessert is the weekly salted caramel chocolate I split with Oliver at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market from the Nurturing Essence Raw Chocolate stand operated by Katlin Doyle. Whatever it is in regular factory chocolate that sends me into a dietary tailspin is missing from Katlin’s creations.

Equalizing

  • We signed up for an Access 2 card this summer; a product of an initiative of Easter Seals and various theatres and cinemas, it entitles one person accompanying Oliver to free admission. So far we’ve used it only at Cineplex, but there’s a long list of theatres and attractions that accept it.
  • We’ve been the beneficiaries of Air Canada’s excellent services for customers with special needs over the last year. This includes accommodations for Ethan to travel in the cabin with us, to a free companion fare for Canadian flights for someone accompanying Oliver. The Air Canada Medical Office is staffed by friendly, efficient people who answer phone calls and emails promptly and helpfully. It is a model for other airlines.

Traveling

  • On the way to and from Oslo last month we transited through London Heathrow, and in both directions we booked a room at the Thistle Hotel (a day room on the way there, an overnight on the way back). It’s a quick Hotel Hoppa ride from Terminal 2 (Air Canada), and Terminal 5 (British Airways) is a quick ride by automagical POD from the back parking lot. We had some service glitches on the overnight stay related to Ethan staying with us – a cab refused service, the hotel dining room initially told us Ethan couldn’t eat with us, a 20 pound “pet fee” was tacked on to our bill – but these were so quickly and deftly dealt with and apologized for by the manager as to endear me to the property. We’ll stay there whenever we’re passing through Heathrow.
  • Once we discovered that our Airbnb rental in Oslo was up a steep hill from public transit, we rented a Ford S-MAX, a minivan the company only sells in Europe. It comfortably accommodated 7 people, and was, it turns out, a joy to drive. It also had fuel economy of 5.5 litres per 100 km, which is about twice as good as the 2000 Jetta sedan (which uncomfortably accommodates 4 people) we drive at home.
  • Twice this summer we rented a car from Avis to drive back and forth to Halifax, reasoning that it’s best to preserve the Jetta’s last years for on-Island puttering. And both times we ended up with the same white Chevy Cruze hatchback. Despite my strong feeling about gratuitous use of the letter Z, the Cruze turned out to be a joy to drive and I’d happily rent one again. It also turns out to be super-easy to rent from the downtown Charlotteotwn Avis office if you book in advance and are an Avis Preferred member; it’s not quite “walk in, receive keys,” but it’s pretty darned close. To the point where life-after-Jetta might be simply rent-on-demand.

Watching and Listening

  • I really enjoyed the Steven Spielberg film Bridge of Spies. It was beautifully shot, well-acted and directed, and has a lovely score by Thomas Newman.
  • Here are the fall TV shows I’m enjoying: Downton Abbey, The Blacklist, Scandal, The Affair, Quantico, Madam Secretary, Modern Family, Homeland, Narcos, The Bridge and Mr. Robot. Of those, Homeland and Downton Abbey are the ones I’m most passionate about.
  • I’ve been promiscuously flipping back and forth between Rdio, Spotify, Google Music and Apple Music subscriptions to stream music into the office. The the arrival of an Apple TV developer box a month ago, I’ve settled on Apple Music for the time-being; I eagerly await the arrival of the Android Apple Music app as a result.
  • Podcasts in my Pocket Casts app on my phone in regular rotation: This American Life, Serial, Radiolab, Planet Money, 99% Invisible, Invisibilia, WTF, StartUp, Reply All, Canadaland, Mystery Show, and Kermode & Mayo’s BBC Film Reviews. Pocket Casts, by the way, is a great podcast app for Android that gets better with every release.
  • The WTF episode featuring an interview with James Taylor was gripping. I had no idea Taylor had lived such an interesting life.

Pointing and Clicking

  • I’ve switched, at least for a few months of testing, from my stalwart text editor, BBEdit, to using Sublime Text. The transition was mostly smooth, and I really like the Git integration in Sublime Text. I’ve not 100% the switch will stick, but signs are good.
  • Apps on my Android phone’s home screen: shortcut to call Catherine’s mobile, Tiny Tiny RSS, Twitter, 1Password, Authenticator Plus, Gallery, Yatse, SeriesGuide, Google Calendar, Camera.
  • I managed to render my Moto G second generation useless the day before we left for Oslo (I tried to trim down a full-size SIM card and managed to get it stuck, and then managed to damage the screen while levering it out). Needing a phone for our trip, I simply replaced it with another Moto G from Staples (where they’re sold unlocked and are generally in stock). It’s not the perfect phone, but it’s relatively cheap (less than $300) and capable enough for almost everything I want to do with a phone. On occasion I lust for the sexiness of a iPhone 6S or a Nexus 6P, but I can’t imagine carrying around a phone that costs more than $1000 in my pocket.

On the End of Coop Energy

I have been a happy member and customer of Coop Energy for more than 20 years. The service has been great, the people friendly and helpful and, more than anything else, I’ve been happy to be able to purchase home heating oil from a cooperative enterprise.

And so I was dismayed to find, upon returning from vacation this week, that Coop Energy is no more: its assets have been taken over by Ultramar, which is a division of CST Brands, “the second-largest publicly traded fuel and convenience retailer in North America.”

Coop Energy Closing Letter

I’m not entirely sure I want to be a customer of Ultramar’s, and so yesterday I send an inquiry to the suppliers of home heating oil in Charlottetown – Kenmac, Island Petroleum, Bluewave, Irving and Ultramar – asking them about the services, their billing procedures, and, most importantly, their ownership structure.

So far the only company to respond has been Ultramar: I received a call this morning from a former Coop Energy employee, now presumably employed by Ultramar, from their New Brunswick office, offering to answer any questions or concerns I might have. She took great pains to reassure me that nothing would change: I would still call the same number, I would still be dealing with the same employees, the same discounts and rebates would apply.

My response was that while all of that might be true, from my perspective everything had changed, as Coop Energy was a coop and Ultramar is a branch of a large multinational corporation. She agreed that there wasn’t much she could do about that.

Of course it’s not like there’s anyone selling artisanal locally-produced home heating oil here in Charlottetown: they’re all dipping into the same well, so to speak. But I care about the way that businesses I purchase from are owned and operated, and home heating oil is by far and away the household expense I spend the most money on every year, so to the extent that’s it’s possible to exercise some influence through the kind of company I purchase from, I’d like to.  It can’t be a coop now, alas, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be a multinational either?

I welcome comments from customers of other providers here in Charlottetown (or from the providers themselves).

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