And so ends the Facebook experiment. I hope to see you all outside from time to time...

About a year ago I had someone coming to visit me from away and the only way I had of getting in touch with them was through Facebook.

Which meant that I was exposed to Facebook again for the first time in several years.

And so I decided to pay attention for a while: I was interested to see if, despite misgivings about its status as a sort Compuserve-like private Internet, there was value to be derived for the parts of my soul I was forced to give up.

I stuck with it for a year. I did, indeed, connect with some long-lost friends. And got some good letterpress advice from Sweden. I even set up an IFTTT recipe to automatically repost anything appearing on this blog as a new Facebook post, just to see what would happen, and when I shut off comments here Facebook became the de facto place for readers to leave comments. There certainly was some value to be had in the connections I made there, and in the continuous partial attention I was able to pay to a wide circle of family, friends and neighbours.

But, after a year, I’m bringing the experiment to a close. This will be my last post echoed to Facebook, and you shouldn’t expect to be able to reach me through Facebook’s communication tools any longer.

Which means that if you want to read what I write, you’ll need to come over to to do so, and if you want to reach me you’ll need to use one of the other myriad ways you’ll find laid out at

What’s ultimately responsible for disconnecting me from Facebook is simply being uncomfortable with contributing to the Facebook paradox: people join Facebook, and stay there, because everyone else, it seems, has a Facebook account. And so on. It’s where the baby pictures are. And the value proposition for many means that they’re willing to put up with the highly-targeted ads to see those baby pictures.

I’ve got nothing against the baby pictures, but I’ve decided that I can’t countenance continuing to engage with a system that is missing so many aspects of what makes free, open, non-Facebook Internet attractive.

And so, as much as I’m able, I’ll work on furthering that free, open, non-Facebook Internet, creating other less onerous homes for baby pictures.

It’s been an interesting year. I’ll see you all outside, I hope.

Winter River Trail Head

Cautionary Tale for CIBC Visa customers sold to TD Visa

In an episode of corporate gymnastics that I don’t completely understand, CIBC sold part of its Aerogold Visa business to TD Canada Trust. I happened to be in the part of the business that was sold, and so in June of this year my CIBC Visa became a TD Visa (ironically I’d switched away from TD Visa several years ago to CIBC; they just keep pulling me back in again).

As part of the transition, I received a new Visa card number, and had to switch to using TD’s online systems. Because I’m a “pay my credit card balance every month, on time” kind of person, on the day I received my new TD Visa card, I immediately registered for a “TD EasyWeb” account for the card and turned on email statement notifications so I’d be sure not to miss my first statement.

And then life went on.

Until yesterday when I went to pay for something with my new TD Visa only to have it declined.

This morning I phoned TD to find out why and I was told that there was a “non-payment hold” put on my account because I hadn’t made a payment. I replied that I hadn’t received a statement yet, despite having set up email statement notification.

It was only at this point that I learned that, sometime after I set up a new EasyWeb account for the new credit card, TD, of its own volition, merged the new Visa card into my existing EasyWeb account, attached to a line of credit and a long-dormant chequing account. This old EasyWeb account didn’t have email notification turned on, which is why I never received a statement.

The agent claimed that the only way to make all of this right was to make a payment on the account, wait 3 to 5 business days for the payment to clear, then wait a further 2 business days for the hold to be removed.

In other words, I’d be without my business credit card for a week.

Despite my protests that this would be extremely inconvenient – not only would I not be able to purchase anything online for the business, but any automatic payments associated with the account would presumably be kicked back declined as well – I was told there was no way to override the system and that I was stuck.

I hung up.

I called back.

I explained the situation again, from the start, to a second agent.

The second agent told me he would immediately remove the hold, remove the $16 in interest that had accrued because of non-payment, and that I could start using the card again immediately.

So, TD, I’m not impressed.

And if you find yourself in the same situation you may want to both check to make sure you’re email statement notifications are turned on, and, if you find agent number one unhelpful, call back and speak to agent number two or three, who may have better answers.

Ron Boyles, and perhaps the most interesting television commercial ever produced on Prince Edward Island...

In honour of our friend Ron Boyles, who died earlier this week, here’s a television ad, produced by my longtime friend and former business partner David Moses, that ran on the CBC in the mid 1990s. It was an ad most remarkable for the fact that despite having seen in dozens of times, it was only years later that I realized it was an ad for Boyles Optical, Ron’s family business.

To this day I have no idea whatsoever how David managed to convince Ron that producing a minute-long noir drama set in abandoned buildings down by the docks was exactly what his optical business needed.  But he did. And it aired. And Ron had a story to tell for years after. It is, I think, the most interesting television commercial ever to air on the Island.

And that tells you a little something about Ron that might get lost in all the talk about his status as a gruff but legendary golfer. Which is not to say that Ron couldn’t be gruff or that he wasn’t legendary. But he was a complex man, not so easily summed up, and, despite being perhaps as far to the opposite end of almost any spectrum you can name from Ron, I always had a soft spot in my heart for him.

Thanks to Beryl and Jason at Moses Media for digging into the company video vault.

Ron’s funeral service will be held tomorrow, Friday, August 14, 2014, at 3:00 p.m. at Spring Park United Church in Charlottetown with visitation following until 6:00 p.m.

Our thoughts this week are with Carol and their children and grandchildren; Ron will be missed by many.

How many times did I eat lunch at Tai Chi Gardens?

I’ve been doing some work this week on “geopresence archiving,” culminating in the release of some code, called GeoArchive, that will slurp in Foursquare, Plazes, Twitter, Openpaths, Google and Flickr geopresence data and convert it into GeoJSON.

GeoJSON is a funny thing: you’d think that the last thing the world would need is yet another format for GIS data. But it turns out that is exactly what the world needed, for GeoJSON appears to have hit a sweet spot of portability, understandability and flexibility that is causing a whole new set of geographical tools to flower.

Using the aforementioned GeoArchive, I converted every single geopresence I’d logged in the last 10 years (starting in 2004 with Plazes and continuing until the present) and dropped the resulting GeoJSON files into a GitHub repository called geotraces (yes, that’s making public some detailed private information, but it’s information about the past, and I haven’t murdered anyone or had an affair, so I’m comfortable with that).

I then used the (excellent, free, open) GitSpatial tool to sync that repository so that I could use its spatial querying magic to extract interesting insights from it.

I eat lunch at Tai Chi Gardens, a small vegetarian restaurant around the corner from my office, several times a week.

But exactly how often do I go there?

I decided to use my newfound geo-superpowers to find out.

I used the (dreamy) BoundingBox tool to get the coordinates for a bounding box around the restaurant, building in a comfortable buffer to allow for the inexactness of GPS:

A bounding box around Tai Chi Gardens.

This gave me a bounding box (selecting the CSV format) of:


To query my GeoJSON, I opted to start with my Google Latitude traces, which cover the longest recent period in the most detail (because, in part, they were collected passively; I didn’t need to “check in” to record my presence); the GitSpatial URL I ended up with was this one and visiting it gave me – handily and happily – some more GeoJSON, which I could feed to the (very helpful), which allowed me to double-check that everything worked as I wanted (it did):

Tai Chi Gardens geopresences in

With this GeoJSON in-hand, I then used some old-school UNIX command line magic to extract the number of unique dates in that file:

grep when taichigardens.geojson | cut -d" " -f10 | cut -d'"' -f2 | sort | uniq

That gave me a list of dates when I’d been inside that bounding box – and, likely, eating lunch at Tai Chi Gardens:


Piping that result through wc and I find out that over the period from January 16, 2010 to November 26, 2012 I visited Tai Chi Gardens 42 times:

grep when taichigardens.geojson | cut -d" " -f10 | cut -d'"' -f2 | sort | uniq | wc -l

This is just a toe dipped in the water of the experimenting I hope to do with my decades-long stretch of geopresence data. I welcome you to join me.

Ernie Kalwa and his Barber Shop

While I was trawling through the archives of Arthur from 1985 this morning, I noticed that there was an ad in every issue for Ernie’s Barber Shop – “Ernie & Pauline, Operators” – on Simcoe Street:

And then, in the issue of November 11, 1985, a review of Ernie’s that I wrote – my first newspaper story (although it ran, oddly, without a byline), headline “Real haircut”:

For the past 15 years, I’d been making the monthly trek out to the old “Long Acres Barber Shop” near home; Kurt, Louis, Joe and Mike were always there, always friendly and had become like members of the family. Moving away meant saying good bye to all that; facing the world on my own: finding a NEW barber.

I roamed the streets of Peterborough … oh there were places to get your hair cut — “Rice’s House of Unisex Hair Design,” “Fernando’s Hairateria”, “The Hair Cutting Ranch” — but no real barbers. In desperation. I let my fingers do the walking and pulled out the yellow pages. There. between “Dynasty Hair Design” and “Esquire Hair Salon” was what I’d been looking for “Ernie’s Barber Shop”.

Quickly I found my way to 173-1/2 Simcoe Street. At first I thought that Ernie’d been bought out by some crazed lawn ornament salesperson. There were all sorts of things — I think they call them “curios” — in the front window. It turned out that Ernie IS the crazed lawn ornament salesperson: I guess you can’t make a living just cutting hair.

I opened the door, walked in, and immediately knew I was in my element. I was greeted by Pauline (Ernie’s protege) and escorted to a real barber chair. Pauline was extremely friendly and my fears disappeared within minutes. The conversation was pleasant, my fellow customers interesting (there’s one lady who comes in nearly every day and has been for the past couple of decades) and the hair cut superb (I was assured that if I wasn’t pleased I could come in anytime and they’d touch it up “on the house”).

That article in Arthur caught the eye of James Ramsay, also an Arthur writer and a Trent student a few years my senior. James also grew up in near Aldershot, and also got his hair cut at the Long Acres Barber Shop. We remain friends to this day.

I had my cut for years thereafter at Ernie’s, sometimes by Ernie, and sometimes by Pauline (although after a while Pauline left and Ernie was on his own). Eventually the original location closed and Ernie opened up in a more modern space around the corner, and I followed him there. Who knows how many times Ernie cut my hair.

Toward the end of my time in Peterborough I went into Ernie’s for what turned out to be my last haircut in the the city and my last hair cut from Ernie. As I was sitting there in the chair with Ernie at work I noticed a newspaper clipped taped to the corner of the mirror: it was my article from Arthur.

I thought about telling Ernie that I was the writer – and for all know he’d figured it out — but I decided to remain anonymous. My haircut done, I paid Ernie, left him a tip, and headed out, a satisfied customer.

I learned this afternoon that Ernie died, of lung cancer, a couple of years ago; here’s his obituary

KALWA, Ernst “Ernie” Erwin, born 26 October 1929 in Osterode, Germany, succumbed to lung cancer in Peterborough on 01 December 2012. Ernie immigrated to Canada in 1953, and came to Peterborough on the recommendation of a man he met on the ship. He found work as an orderly at St Joseph’s Hospital where he met Registered Nurse Muriel Doris Calberry of Hastings. They were married 26th October 1955. He began barbering in 1954, operating Ernie’s Barber Shop on Hunter Street, and later on Simcoe Street, until retiring “a legend in barbering” in September 2012. Ernie was an avid angler and horse-racing enthusiast. He is survived by his loving wife Doris, son Paul Elliott Allen Kalwa of Peterborough, son Ernest Larry Kalwa (Elysia DeLaurentis) of Elora, sister Elli and brother Walter, both of Germany. He is predeceased by his parents Johann and Augusta Kalwa (née Opalka), brothers Adolf and Paul, and sisters Ida and Hedwig, all of Germany.

It amazes me to learn that Ernie was still barbering until two years ago, 27 years after I first walked in his door.

Thank you, Ernie, for filling an important void in my life at an important time. And for getting me started in the writing game.