April 15th, 2014

Fox Creeps into Province House

Here’s my new Prince Edward Island license plate. I paid the $10 premium to support conservation (hence the red fox) and get the special 3-letter variety (the standard is 5); the LHO was what got pulled out of the plate bucket at random, but I like it.

I’ve written in the space about PEI license plates before and their “someone sketched something on the back of a napkin and suddenly it was the design” quality and this new design is no exception; there are no less than 9 graphic elements on the plate:

  1. Raining red maple leaves in the top-left.
  2. Province House.
  3. Canadian flag in the bottom-left.
  4. Prince Edward Island flag in the bottom-right.
  5. The red fox (granted, that was my choice).
  6. The words “Prince Edward Island.”
  7. The word “Conservation.”
  8. The words “Birthplace of Confederation.”
  9. The small map of PEI.

It’s most decidedly from the “cram in as much as we can” school of graphic design.

Most confounding, to my eye, the “Prince Edward Island” and the “Conservation” are set in two distinct typefaces, something you can see clearly by comparing the lower case i, a, s and n in a magnified image:

Without taking away from my commitment to conservation and the letters L, H, and O, my real reason for opting to pay an extra $10 for the conservation plate was to avoid the misuse of the armorial bearings of the province a glorified hyphen:

That was not only one-graphic-element-too-many, but the bearings are rendered much too small to be legible and, more importantly, much too small given their importance as a provincial symbol.

All of this is more graphically tragic given the heights to which PEI license plates have risen in the past. Take 1973, for example:

Was there ever a greater license plate design?  Simple: a single graphic element, plus typography.

And the standard green-on-white that followed and was in place up until the unfortunate Anne situation, was similarly solid and uncomplicated (and, with its simplfiied crest, very much of the design of the times):

Meanwhile, I’m left to deal with a fox creeping up on Province House.

April 14th

Why have you started drinking milk in your coffee, Nana?”

My paternal grandmother – we called her “Nana” – died in 1999 at the age of 84. We were fortunate to have her visit us here on Prince Edward Island several times after we moved here, and it was so long ago that her visits serve, among other things, as a reminder of just how many epochs we’ve been here.

I remember visiting Nana at her house in Brantford when she was in her late 70s. We went out to dinner and when she was having her coffee once the meal was finished I watched her put milk in it.

I had never known her to have milk in her coffee; indeed both she and my parents would always order “black coffee,” to the point where I just assumed that’s what “coffee” was called.

Why have you started drinking milk in your coffee?”, I asked.

Well,” she replied, “I decided to try it one day and I liked it, so I started.”

That one incident has served me well in the years since, reminding me that it’s never too late to try new things, even things you never though you’d like.

In that same light, I really enjoyed this advertorial film from Vodafone about the first airplane flight of two Dutch women. Thanks to Neal Gillis for pointing me to it.

April 13th

Personally, I blame Wendy MacDonald…

Back when Oliver was in elementary school I resolved that if any member of our household was to become involved in the Home and School association it would be me; Catherine is an inveterate, dedicated volunteer and I was certain that, if she were to be the one, we would wake up shortly thereafter and she’d be running the whole show (believe me, it’s happened before).

I resolved that I would “take one for the team,” so to speak, and this is how I ended up sitting around a table in the staff room at Prince Street School with a bunch of strangers talking about how to raise money to buy window blinds for classrooms that didn’t have them.

One thing led to another and, irony of ironies, eventually I agreed to act as treasurer for the Prince Street Home and School and then, a series of horse trades later, as President.

Somewhere in there, Wendy MacDonald, then serving as Past-President of the provincial PEI Home and School Federation, and a dedicated former Prince Street home and schooler herself, casually asked me if I’d be willing to put my name forward as a candidate for regional directory for the provincial body.

Wendy is one of the smartest minds on PEI, and not someone whose requests you take lightly; she’s not pushy, she’s simply straightforward.

And so I said yes.

And one thing led to another and, irony of ironies, eventually I agreed to act as secretary for the PEIHSF and then, a series of horse trades later, as Vice-President.

Nobody is more surprised than I that I not only participate in home and school but that I actually enjoy it and have become a passionate believer in the power of home and school as an actor in the education system.

Which is how, I suppose, I ended up with my name put forward for the position of President yesterday. There being no contrary-minded, by the end of the day I joined a group of dedicated new and returning directors as part of a new board for the PEIHSF.

I’ve written in this space before why I find home and school so attractive; yesterday’s experience at our annual meeting was no different: we considered eight resolutions, each of which was developed and put forward by a local home and school, on topics ranging from lice to technology. There was vigorous discussion on each, and democracy was coursing through the air.

Later in the day there was a similarly-vigorous discussion with the Hon. Alan McIsaac, Minister of Education and his Deputy Minister Sandy MacDonald and with English Language School Board Chair Fred Osborne and the board’s Director of Curriculum, Doug MacDougall. While not everyone’s questions were answered, the transparency was, I think, appreciated by all (and something, I know from discussion with those from other jurisdictions, we are privileged to enjoy).

And so, for the next two year, when Kerry Campbell intros “for reaction from Island parents, I spoke to…” the name will be mine. I’m daunted by the prospect, but also excited: stickhandling a broad-based Island-side democratic organization with a long history is a great challenge and a great honour. I’ll try not to screw it up.

April 10th

Gabrielle Papillon

After four days of wall-to-wall music at East Coast Music Week, and a few days to let it all sink in, my favourite discovery has emerged as Gabrielle Papillon, a Nova Scotia singer-songwriter I had the pleasure of seeing, accompanied by large and talented band, at the Pourhouse at the Music Nova Scotia showcase on Saturday night. Listen here:

April 7th

Lubricate often.

It suddenly dawned on me, after a year of use, that I hadn’t been properly lubricating my Golding Jobber No. 8 letterpress. I’d been greasing the axel, yes, but I’d completely ignored the little “lubricate here” holes that can be found in every corner of the press.

To drive this point home to myself – and to any others who might suffer the same fate – I printed up some reminder cards:


Once the ink is dry, I’ll find a way of making them available to others similarly ill-lubricated.

Update: you can now buy your very own “Lubricate Often” card in my Etsy shop for only $2.00 plus (very reasonable) shipping.