We are okay

We are okay.

Hurricane Fiona was truly horrific and the devastation to property, and to the trees of the city, boggles the mind: we lost almost every tree in our yard, and there are trees, some massive, down on almost every block.

But our little house survived intact. We have food, family, friends.

No electricity for 24 hours now; fortunately my car is essentially a huge battery with car attached, so I have a lot of phone charging opportunity still left.

The lack of bandwidth is very very hard for Olivia, and she’s worried about her October 1 birthday being affected. But she’s doing remarkably well holding it together.

Brighton, Brighton, come in Brighton

With Hurricane Fiona bearing down on us, we picked two of the last three sets of walkie-talkies on the shelf at Canadian Tire yesterday, as a backup Brighton-Downtown-Stratford communications system, should cell service go down.

They are Cobra AXCT1035RFLT, and they are not the walkie-talkies of my youth (which had a range of “Mike’s bedroom to my bedroom”).

That said, the advertised 37 mile range is under optimum conditions—Great Salt Lake, perhaps?

My house is about a mile across town from Lisa’s and there’s a lot of downtown infrastructure between us. From our experiments yesterday it seems like we’re on the edge of “urban usage” range. We’re going to test the Stratford link this afternoon, which I’ve greater hopes for, as it’s almost line-of-site across the water.

We’ve spent the last 24 hours clearing out our yards, stowing projectile-possible things and lashing what can’t be stowed.

I started to write that this is the first big “there’s nothing you can do, and nowhere to run” thing that’s come along since Catherine died. But then I remembered, well, COVID. All the same, it is unusual to be in anxiety-sync with everyone else around me, perhaps more noticeably because the early stages of COVID anxiety were from lockdown, so I didn’t bump up against a lot of others in the same state: this week the collective anxiety in the grocery store, on the roads, in the air, has been palpable.

Remembering Dennis Friesen

Over the years that I worked on the Prince Edward Island government’s website I met hundreds of public servants. Of those, few stood out more than Dennis Friesen, who died this week.

His obituary writes of his “quiet gentle way,” and that his how I remember him. Dennis was an exemplary public servant: organized, straightforward, contributing. If he said he was going to do something, you knew it would be done. And done with good humour, humility, and integrity.

He will be missed.

The Sectional

That old couch.

Bought, along with its sibling the big-red-chair, at the tail end of the 1990s at a Sears Whole Home store in Burlington (and shipped to the house on the Kingston Road for $35 in some freaky rip in the shipping-cost-space-time-continuum).

In 2000, it moved to town. And so many of the early photos of our burgeoning family were set there: infant Olivia on my chest, falling asleep; friends gathered for her first birthday party; grandparent visits; and on and on.

Torn and worn and patched and recovered several times. An almost permanent place for Olivia in recent years, to the point where I expect you could create a new Olivia by using it as a mould.

It was time for it to go.

Lisa’s been a breath of fresh air in my life, and a breath of fresh aesthetic in this house: it’s such a wonderful thing to reshape the spaces with her; we have design sensibilities that are pleasantly divergent and overlapping. I’ve been nudged in wonderful new directions, and have done nudging of my own, and the result ends up being very much an expression of our #togetherness.

After last month’s repainting, the next logical step was couch replacement.

Shopping locally for furniture on Prince Edward Island is a challenge: the selection is small, the aesthetic more Anne Shirley than is called for, and, due supply chain issues, even if something’s “here,” it’s likely not here.

My friends Angela and Josh spoke highly of a sectional from Cozey; I’d considered buying one of their couches last year, while on a less ambitious redesign jag, but shied away. Lisa and I took another look this summer, and their Ciello model caught our eye: it’s lower-slung than the original model, more Miami than Zurich.

We pondered. I hemmed. I hawed. And then, on September 1, I placed an order.

It arrived yesterday, via courier, in 14 boxes.

That’s a lot of boxes. A lot of unboxing. A lot of fitting sections together just so.

But the result is wonderful, and I love it. I’m sitting on it right now.

So much of my life in the immediate wake of Catherine’s death was taken up with unburdening: unburdening myself from guilt and shame and loss, unburdening years worth of her accumulations, unburdening this house from the notion that it should, could never change, that it was simply unchangeable given the pathways worn deep into it.

So much of my life more recently has been taken up with growing, stretching, recognizing: seeing the myriad parts of me and how they relate to each other, how I feel about myself, how I relate to others.

And so unburdening has turned to inhabiting. And it is a delight.

Some of the boxes holding the Cozey sectional.
The half-assembled sectional, without cushions or the sections being joined together.
The finished, assembled Cozey sectional in my living room, on hardwood floors, with a multi-coloured rug.

Automatically creating date due reminders for library books checked out out using a self-checkout machine

The Public Library Service here in Prince Edward Island has self-checkout machines in some branches: touch screens with barcode scanners that allow patrons to check books out themselves, similar to self-checkout machines in grocery stores. The machines come from D-Tech, and when you opt for an emailed receipt from at the end of your session, you receive an email like this from notifications@d-techinternational.com:

PEI Public Library Service

Self Service Receipt for Borrowed Items

Name: **********5366

COVID chronicles : a comics anthology

Item ID

Due Back


Date: 17/09/2022 4:41:31 PM

Thank you for visiting the Library!

To automatically parse this email and create macOS Reminders for each item, I wrote this AppleScript:

using terms from application "Mail"
    on perform mail action with messages caughtMessages for rule catchingRule
        repeat with caughtMessage in caughtMessages
                -- Get the body text of the email message
                set receipt to content of caughtMessage
                -- Split the body text into individual lines
                set theLinesList to paragraphs of receipt
                -- Loop through each of the lines in the body text
                repeat with a from 1 to length of theLinesList
                    -- Get the current line
                    set theCurrentListItem to item a of theLinesList
                    -- If the current line is "Title" then...
                    if theCurrentListItem as string is equal to "Title" then
                        -- The actual title of the book is the next line, so store this
                        set theTitle to item (a + 1) of theLinesList
                        -- If the title is not empty then...
                        if theTitle as string is not equal to "" then
                            -- The date due is 7 lines later in the body of the email
                            set theDateDue to item (a + 7) of theLinesList
                            -- Re-format the date from D/M/Y to M/D/Y
                            set command to "date -j -f '%d/%m/%Y' " & theDateDue & " +'%m/%d/%Y'"
                            set theFormattedDate to do shell script (command as rich text)
                            -- Create a reminder in the "Project" list of the Reminders app                            
                            tell application "Reminders"
                                set mylist to list "Projects"
                                make new reminder at end with properties {name:"'" & theTitle & "' is due", allday due date:date theFormattedDate}
                                -- Say the title out loud!
                                say theTitle
                            end tell
                        end if           
                    end if
                end repeat
            end try
        end repeat
    end perform mail action with messages
end using terms from

This script looks for every book in the incoming email, grabs the title and the date due, and creates a reminder.

To connect it to Mail.app, save the script in /Users/peter/Library/Application Scripts/com.apple.mail/LibraryDateDueReminders.scpt.

Finally, create a new Mail.app Rule that looks for incoming email from notifications@d-techinternational.com and passes each email that matches to the AppleScript:

Screen shot of creating a new Mail.app rule for creating a date due reminder

From this point, whenever a new email arrives from the self-checkout machine, a new reminder will be created. Like this one:

Screen shot of the reminder created for the date due in the Reminders app

I am very much a home cook when it comes to AppleScript: most scripts I write by Googling things like “date conversion in AppleScript” and “parsing strings in AppleScript.” It’s forever a language just on the edge of my ability to perceive it logically; it’s “human-like” syntax always seems like more a hindrance than a help. But it’s also a powerful Swiss Army knife of amazement if you’re willing to put the time in to figure it out every time anew.

Heather Mullen for School Board

My old friend and former Home and School colleague Heather Mullen is running for school trustee in Charlottetown:

Today I went outside my comfort zone to become a candidate for a public election. I did this because the public education system in PEl is very important to me. I will be running in the Charlottetown area (I moved to town this spring) however my time with PEI Home and School Federation has taught me the importance of representing the needs of students, schools, and staff across PEl and I will continue to listen to those concerns. I hope wherever you live in PEI, you would consider being involved in the Public Schools Branch election, either as a candidate or by voting.

Heather is a dynamo: smart, progressive, organized, compassionate. She took the school food program baton handed to her when she became President of the PEI Home and School Federation and, with enormous dedication, expenditure of her own time, and deftly building a focused team of others, took it to the finish line.

I’ve every confidence she’ll take the same energy and passion to her role as school trustee.

The process for voting in this election is more involved than you might expect it to be: all electors need to apply for a mail-in ballot before October 9, 2022. It’s not difficult and will only take a moment. It’s worth it to ensure we have a school board with a strong mandate.