Two burgers worth, please…”

As I move, ever so slowly, toward full-service parenting, new hurdles arise: today’s was cooking meat.

I have been a vegetarian for as long as I can remember, and the last time I purchased meat was perhaps 35 years ago. But circumstances conspired today to require meat to be cooked: Californian niece A. is running the Family Zoom tonight, and we’ve been instructed to come bearing magical potions of our own design.

Oliver, sensing a way over the fence of my fascist vegetable regime, specified that he required burgers for his magic potion.

What was I to do?

I tried pulling the old “surely veggie burgers will do?” routine, but was immediately shut down. So meat it was to be.

Off to KJL we went.

I’m looking for ground beef,” I announced on arrival.

How much would you like?”, asked the jaunty young butcher.

Well played, meat boy.

Two burgers worth, please” I squeaked out, certain he could smell the vegetarian all over me.

I was directed toward the case behind me, where I picked up the smallest possible amount of ground beef. $6.80 worth.

Once home, I had to figure out how not to kill myself or Oliver; visions of Jack Klugman’s Quincy danced in my head: “Looks like a classic case of naïve meat poisoning by a vegetarian, Sam.”

I proceeded to conduct what might be the most hygienic preparation of hamburgers ever: I washed my hands every couple of minutes; I made sure that no surfaces that had meat on them touched anything else, and went immediately into the dishwasher; I cooked the burgers to within an inch of their life, and used a meat thermometer to make sure they were at an appropriate “way more than well done” internal temperature.

Meanwhile, in the backup frying pan, I made myself a Beyond Meat burger.

At this hour, both Oliver and I are still alive, and Oliver reported that the burger was tasty and satisfying. The potion ingredient burger is in the fridge, standing by for later use.

As that might be all the meat cooking I have in me for 2020, if you are moved to take Oliver out for a steak sometime, please be my guest.

Upping My Backyard Game

Ironically, given the worldwide “go into your houses and do not emerge until at least 2022” feeling in the air, this has been a more social summer than any summer since the early 1990s for me, something facilitated greatly by the installation of the patio umbrella on our back deck. The umbrella turns a previously sun-baked space into a shaded nook, aided greatly by the helpful shady landscaping grown by our northward neighbours.

Because my having-company-over social skills have been left fallow for so long, COVID-19 socializing is not a stretch for me: it just seems normal

I had a new neighbour over yesterday for tea to talk cycling and wind energy; here’s the setup:

Table on our back deck set for a guest.

An over-gifting of Sodastream bottles at Christmas has had the unexpected spin-off benefit of allowing me to give each visitor their own chilled bottle of water-with-gas. I got strawberries from Heartbeet Organics on Wednesday, and mindful of the “don’t serve food via buffet” public health rule, we each got our own bowl. I poured the tea; we each got our own milk pitcher. Just off to the right, out of view, was the monster bottle of hand sanitizer.

A good time was had by all.

Thrive not Survive

Perhaps the most motivating call to action I’ve ever had was when a school board official told me and Catherine, in 2014, that “educational assistants are in schools to allow students to survive, not to thrive.” I appreciated their candour in saying this, as it’s this sort of thing that educators will rarely say out loud, even if it’s true. But it was a hard thing to hear, and a hard notion to consider given the number of students whose lives it described.

I used those words when I testified to the Legislative Assembly about the Autism Coordination Act in the fall of 2018, and I’ve referenced them many times when I’ve been advocating for how we need to change our attitude toward allowing our autistic brothers and sisters full citizenship.

The Autism Coordination Act requires that an annual report be tabled to the Legislative Assembly detailing the activities that have taken place under the its umbrella, and the first such report was tabled on July 7, 2020 by Hon. Brad Trivers.

In his introductory message in the report, Minister Trivers finished with this sentence (emphasis mine):

By continuing our collaboration, we can help ensure those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families thrive on Prince Edward Island.

Reading the report, it’s clear that there is much to be done: to date much of the work of the Autism Coordinating Committee has been taken up with formalizing itself and getting the lay of the land. 

While history gives us many reasons to be skeptical–we were at a similar juncture in 2009 when government’s Autism Action Group released a draft report with a set of recommendations that went largely unrealized–I remain hopeful that this is the start of a revolution of how we embrace autism in this province.

Thrive, not survive, is a good place to start.

First Long Distance Electric Vehicle Trip: Charlottetown to Halifax and Back

Since we bought our Kia Soul EV in December, the Holy Grail of trips has been Charlottetown to Halifax, that being the far reaches of our need to travel by car. We don’t go to Halifax often–perhaps once or twice a year–but I was determined that if we were going to go we’d not leave our EV at home in favour of a gasoline-powered car.

This week was our chance to seek this Holy Grail, and it went flawlessly. 

We started with a 100% charge from our home-based level 2 charger on Monday morning at 8:15 a.m., driving east to Wood Islands where we caught the 9:30 a.m. ferry.

On the other side we drove to Stellarton to the level 3 “fast charger” at the Needs gas station, a Flo charger of the type similar to those recently installed on PEI. 

We started charging at 10:22 a.m. and got to 80% by 10:33 a.m. and then, feeling a little nervous about the distance for the next leg, plugged back in from 10:37 to 10:45 to get up to 90% (the rate of charge slows as you reach 100%). Total cost of the Stellarton stop was $4.35.

Our Kia Soul EV charging at the Flo charger in Stellarton, Nova Scotia on a rainy Monday.

We continued onward through Truro to Stewiacke, where an Apple Maps routing incident left us looking for a charger in the middle of a forest; switching to Google Maps got us to the right location, a few kilometres up the road at the Petro-Can.

While the Flo charger required a Flo account to use, the Petro-Can charger didn’t: a credit card was all that was needed, with the receipt optionally sent to my mobile number.

We started charging at 1:00 p.m. and finished up at 1:16 p.m., at 81% charge, with a total cost of $3.79.

The charge cable and plug on the Petro-Can charges is hefty:

The level 3 charger cable and plug, in my Kia Soul Ev.

We pulled into our friend Yvonne’s house in Halifax at 2:15 p.m.; the door to door trip took us 6 hours, ferry and charging included, with the charging adding only 40 minutes to the trip.

We still had a range of 35 km once in Halifax, and that was more than enough for our mostly-rooted-in-place visit to the city.

On Tuesday morning we drove out early to the Petro-Can on Herring Cove Rd. to charge for the return trip. That charge took 15 minutes and cost us $3.82 to get us to 80% charge.

Our Kia Soul EV plugged into the Petro-Can charger in Halifax.

In the late afternoon we headed back, taking the same route in reverse, stopping in Stewiacke (15 minutes, $3.13) and Stellarton (20 minutes, $4.99). We arrived home with 50 km of range.

The total cost of the electricity for the trip breaks down like this:

Leg of the Trip Cost
Charlottetown to Stellarton (at home level 2) $0.81
Stellarton to Stewiacke $4.35
Stewiacke to Halifax $3.79
Halifax to Stewiacke $3.82
Stewiacke to Stellarton $3.13
Stellarton to Charlottetown $4.99
TOTAL $20.89

The stops for charging weren’t onerous: a couple of 15 minute stops was just enough to use the washroom, check email, and have a quick rest; this was by far the least rushed and most civilized trip I’ve ever taken to Halifax.

In terms of “range anxiety,” the lowest the car’s range-estimator got was 19 km when we arrived in Stellarton on the trip home. That made me a little nervous, but not too much (we could have charged up to more than 80% in Stewiacke, and I could have driven a more reasonable 90 km/h, but chose instead to do 100 km/h). In theory we could have skipped Stellarton altogether and charged at the level 3 charger in Wood Islands, but I was reluctant to be in the wilds of late nite rural PEI with a charger I’d never used as my only ticket home; next time!

Kia Soul EV showing 19 km of estimated range.

Masked Men Coming Home

Our night and day in Halifax was an invaluable respite; even though the visit was short, I’m so glad we went.

Halifax is as ghost town-like as Charlottetown, perhaps even more so: we walked from Quinpool Road downtown to the harbour and back, stopping for tacos on the way, and didn’t see more than isolated pockets of people.

Otherwise we enjoyed spending time with Yvonne, eating quinoa salad and brownies and drinking strong coffee, with the occasional phone-in special guest family members.

Mask-wearing is much more prevalent in and around Halifax; not near total by any means, but a lot more than on the Island, where it remains rare. Everyone in the service industry was wearing a mask, save our taco server, who volunteered to put one on if we wanted.

As I write we’re about to board the Holiday Island ferry for the voyage home.

Bubbling Over

When speculation of an “Atlantic Bubble” began—quarantine free travel to neighbouring provinces—I was skeptical: why on Earth would we want to leave PEI at a time like this!? And why would we want people from away in our midst (both for reasons of COVID and because it would disrupt our once in a lifetime tourist-free aerie).

But then, this weekend, with the Bubble a real thing as of Friday, our friend Yvonne texted from Halifax, inviting us to visit before she heads west to Saskatchewan next week.

There aren’t many people in the world I’d bubble for, but Yvonne is one of them, so plans were quickly thrown together: EV charging stations pinpointed, sandwiches made, support workers furloughed.

And so off we headed this morning, east to Wood Islands to catch the ferry to Caribou, NS. The plan is to fast-charge in Stellarton, and perhaps again on the other side of Truro.

We’ve packed a deck of cards, and plan to resist the urge to indulge in Big City Living: Yvonne has held out promise of pie-baking, and I suspect Crazy 8s will be played.

This will be our first trip off the Island in eight months.

Post-Apocalyptic Farmers’ Market

Last night on the regular family zoom it was trivia night. Oliver made up the teams: OG Canada, OG USA, New Canada. I made up the questions, questions like:

The following pairs of NHL players are each related to each other. For each, what is their family relationship? Ty & Jack Arbour (brothers). Don & Riley Barber (father and son). Toe and Mike Blake (Uncle and Nephew). Red Kelly and Mark Jankowski (grand uncle and grand nephew). Guy Carbonneau & Brenden Morrow (in-laws).


Here are some capital cities; what are their countries? Riga, Vilnius, Chișinău, Ulaanbaatar.

But also family-related questions like:

When Mike and Peter were little, Mike would tell stories about what fictional band of heros?

Surprisingly, the questions that seemed to stump almost everyone were:

Name three significant inventions that didn’t exist when Frances was born.

Name three significant inventions that didn’t exist when Karen was born.

Name three significant inventions that didn’t exist when Oliver was born.

The teams eventually squeaked out the answers, but it was a lot harder for them than you’d think (“Alexa” was one of the answers for the last one; surely there’s something more significant than that that’s come along in the last 20 years?!).

This got me thinking about nuclear weapons, which didn’t make the cut, but arguably have been one of the most significant inventions in the last century, if by “significant” we mean “existential threats to humanity.” Right up there with the internal combustion engine.

The threat of nuclear winter was a palpable part of my childhood in a way that people of Oliver’s generation will never understand. When The Day After aired in 1983, it seemed like a real possibility that it described our future. We watched Dr. Helen Caldicott in the 1982 documentary If You Love This Planet in high school and her warnings about the dangers of the nuclear age were more than just academic.

So the idea of going into a bunker when Buffalo, New York was hit by Soviet missiles, only to emerge sometime later into a much-changed world, seemed like something that might be part of my future, a possibility helpfully illustrated for my teenage imagination by Jason Robards, Steve Guttenberg and JoBeth Williams:

Still from The Day After, 1983

(Still from The Day After, 1983)

Today was the first day the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market was open, in something approaching its usual fashion, in 17 weeks, and there was no way that Oliver was not going to seize the opportunity to latch onto some pre-COVID routine comfort, so I concocted a reasonable simulation of our regular Saturday morning, mindful that the market, while open, was not operating at full strength and thus was going to be missing some important components.

I started the day making a smoothie-to-go for Oliver, as this was something I knew he’d be missing. Then we headed for Gallant’s in the industrial park, where Tyler helpfully had a couple of smoked salmon bagels waiting for us to pick up. Bagels and smoothie in hand, we parked in the UPEI parking lot across the street from the market, waving at friends and neighbours coming and going.

We managed to time our arrival perfectly: there was no line-up at all, as the early-birds were gone and the late-birds were yet to arrive.

The market was set up in a large loop in the parking lot, the market building itself closed. Oliver was initially flummoxed that the vendors were in a different order than our usual loop sees us encountering them: John Macfarlane was near the beginning, not the end, for example. Oliver was also perturbed that the instructions from the market were to move right along and not dawdle with the usual small-talk, something he described succinctly in an after-action blog post.

While the effect was rather more pleasant than emerging from a bunker into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it did have the effect, more than anything else I’ve encountered in the months since March 7, of reinforcing that everything is different now.

We walked the out-of-order loop, making the best of the topsy-turviness, buying Peach My Cheeks iced tea from Willow, spinach and bok choy from Paul and Jen Offer, chocolates from Katlin, romaine lettuce from Sam, and perogies from Lori. We’ll be eating salads every meal this week, I think.

We did manage to fit in a tiny bit of kibitzing, not nearly enough for Oliver’s tastes, and not enough, thankfully, to exact penalties from the COVID-enforcement monitors.

The end effect was something equal parts pleasantly familiar and eerily different.

Who knew that 1971’s The Andromeda Strain was the film I should have been paying attention to when looking for the apocalypse in my future.

Still from The Andromeda Strain, 1971

(Still from The Andromeda Strain, 1971)