Taking Stock

My brother Steve says that we’ve all grown older as a result of the “attack on America.”

There is no joy to be taken from the death of so many and the suffering of so many connected to them.

But I am heartened to see that people are starting to look at why this may have happened. Not why in a “crazy whacked out terrorists” way, but in a “how did we create a world where this is possible?” way.

For example, Dave Winer says:

People don’t sacrifice themselves for no reason. Let’s find out what it is. And if we did something wrong (no doubt we did) let’s apologize, ask for forgiveness, and then ask how we can do better. It’s clear now that when we screw up we’re going to feel it. And let’s not waste the unity in the rest of the world. We now have the attention of the leaders of all the other countries. We’ve got to find a better use for it than use it as an excuse to unleash our anger through military force. (read more)
And Michael Moore says this:
We fund a lot of oppressive regimes that have killed a lot of innocent people, and we never let the human suffering THAT causes to interrupt our day one single bit. We have orphaned so many children, tens of thousands around the world, with our taxpayer-funded terrorism (in Chile, in Vietnam, in Gaza, in Salvador) that I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised when those orphans grow up and are a little whacked in the head from the horror we have helped cause. (read more)
Maybe we are all so angry because we know, deep in our heart of hearts, that we are at least partly responsible for letting it all come to this. As it says in The Pogo Papers:
There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.
So maybe we have grown older. But this doesn’t mean we have to sink on the weary weight of age: maybe this means we can take the maturity of age and use it to good end.

Freedom from Opera

It is becoming more apparent that Henry Smith, brother of Isaac Smith (architect and builder of Province House and Government House here in Charlottetown) was the original resident of our little house here at 100 Prince St.

Henry Smith, after living in Prince Edward Island for some 30 years after emigrating from England, picked his family up and sailed on the Prince Edward for New Zealand, where he spent the rest of his life.

Since I learned this, I’d wondered what would drive a man to pack up his family and step aboard a sailing ship for a precarious sailing journey half way around the world to a country he’d never visited. I can hardly imagine doing this myself today, and I could be in New Zealand tomorrow if I really put my mind to it.

Some evidence emerged on this topic from recent trip to the Provincial Archives which, in turn, pointed me to a book called New Zealand or Zealandia: Britain of the South. While there is no copy of this volume, published in 1857, on Prince Edward Island, there is a copy in the National Library of Canada.

My operative Gary visitied the National Library on my behalf, and describes the volume as follows: “It is a beautifully bound 2 decker… 650 pages… full of detailed tips for prospective emigrants.” I tracked down the following quotation from the book in this paper:

New Zealand is an integral part of Great Britain — an immense, sea-joined Devonshire. An Englishman going thither goes among his countrymen,he has the same queen, the same laws and customs, the same language, the same social institutions and save that he is in a country where trees are evergreen, and where there is no winter, no opera, no aristocracy, no income tax, no paupers, no beggars, no cotton mills, he is virtually in a young England.

While freedom from opera and aristocracy, to say nothing of winter, does sound very appealing, I still don’t think I have the full story. I will dig on.

The 2002 Old Farmer’s Almanac

The 2002 edition of the The Old Farmer’s Almanac goes on sale today. This is the date that is imaginatively called the “on sale date” in the hallowed Almanac offices in Dublin, New Hampshire.

The Almanac is North America’s oldest continuously published periodical, having been released each year since 1792. I’ve been stoking the e-fires in the boiler of the Almanac.com website for the last 6 years, which means I’ve been involved for a grand total of just under 3% of the Almanac’s existense. For that matter, I’ve only been alive for 17% of its days!

My favourite page on the website, a page for which I can take no credit at all, remains The Hole Story, the only link on the website to which is the “hole” in the top-left corner of the site’s front page.

You can buy your copy of the 2002 printed Almanac starting today, either online or at your local Shoppers Drug Mart or fine local bookstore.

You can take some comfort that through your purchase of the bona fide Old Farmer’s Almanac, you are not only keeping 209 years of tradition alive, but also, in your own small way, helping to put food on wee Oliver’s table, and that of his slightly less wee parents.


When instant messaging first hit town, I couldn’t see the point. You could either use it to chat to total strangers (no appeal for me) or with your online buddies (no buddies for me).

This changed somewhat when all but one of my immediate family started to use MSN Messenger, and suddenly we were all more connected across this big country (PEI, Ontario, Vancouver) than we ever had been.

But you can only talk to your family so much, and to really talk to them, you’ve got to use the phone.

The big revelation for me, though, was when my brother Johnny started working for The Company. He’s in Vancouver. I’m in Charlottetown. We needed a way of staying in almost constant touch while he glides his way up the web learning curve. Suddenly instant messaging became a useful business tool.
Powered by Jabber

Which brings me to Jabber. Jabber is an open source instant messaging system. Which means that it’s very configurable, and very easy to take in new directions. If using MSN Messenger is like driving one of those modern cars where you can’t even change the oil yourself, using Jabber is like owning a 1972 Chevy Nova and a really well-stocked toolbox.

One of the really nifty things about Jabber is that it can act like a sort of rosetta stone for the instant messaging world. Using something called “Gateways” in Jabberspeak, you can use a Jabber client to exchange messages with people using MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and ICQ.

Once you start to play around with Jabber a little, you start to see potential applications for it that have little to do with traditional instant messaging. For example, this server is now set up so that if you submit a discussion posting for this item, I’ll get an instant message telling me about it. Obviously there are other similar applications: indeed anywhere there’s a need for some sort of instant notification or alert, the Jabber system can be called into service.

You can learn more about Jabber at jabber.org.


Greenwich Dunes Panorama

The Greenwich Dunes from the boardwalk. Click picture for a bigger version or here for QuickTime VR.

Although I am corporately a part of the Prince Edward Island tourism promotion industry, and thus unlikely to say much of anything negative about the Island and its wonders, please believe me when I say that at your next free moment you should drop everything and go up to the new extension of PEI National Park in Greenwich.

It is an understatement to say that I am not an outdoorsy kind of guy, no matter how much I might aspire to one day be so. I live in an ocean paradise, yet go to the beach only one or twice a year, and reluctantly at that. But today wee Oliver and I needed a field trip, and Oliver [Duncan Lowell]’s namesake Lowell Croken and his wife Cathy sang the praises of Greenwich after their recent visit, so this morning it was off down east for Oliver and I.

Parks Canada has done a fantastic job at creating low-impact visitation system for the Greenwich Dunes. After you leave the interpretation centre, which is at the head of the park just off the road, there are no power lines, no pop machines, and only one [solar-powered] washroom. After you leave the last parking lot, there’s nothing but 4 or 5 miles of trails between you and the ocean.

And what trails they are. Oliver and I took the trail that leads out over a floating boardwalk and ends up cutting through the dunes to the beach. At the risk of sounding like a tourism brochure, the walk is truly spectacular: you start of about 1/4 mile up from St. Peter’s Bay on a trail packed with fine gravel. About 15 minutes later you veer right into the shade of the forest onto a trail that’s less hard-packed, but still suitable for a stroller (or even a wheelchair, I think, if you have strong arms). And finally, after a 10 minute walk through the woods, you emerge at the marsh and walk over the floating boardwalk which carries you out to the dunes where a new-fangled sort of enviro-mesh cuts a trail over to the ocean proper.

The total trip from car to ocean is about a 45 minute walk, and was a reasonable distance to wheel along with Oliver without collapsing or enduring too much fussing. We stopped mid-way over the floating boardwalk (see panorama above) for some water and a jar of mushed carrots. Remember that there are no facilities once you leave the parking lot, so you should be sure to pack enough water and supplies to hold you for an hour and a half of walking in the sun.

Once you reach the ocean you will, dollars to donuts, find yourself alone on a vast expanse of pristine PEI beachfront. The water’s just now about warm enough for swimming, though Oliver and I only waded around and infused ourselves with sand.

The interpretation centre is worth a visit. Although it’s a little pricey — $6 admission for adults, less for kids, free for under age 6 — there’s a really nifty model of the coastline from Morell to Cable Head that sits down 2 feet underground, covered with thick glass panels that let you walk (or crawl, as the case may be) right over it. Otherwise there is the usual sand, dunes, wind and sea propaganda, and a 12 minute slide/tape presentation that hits the usual Mi’kmaq, French, English high/low points. The building itself is well designed, has large clean washrooms, and there’s a pleasant enough gift shop that sells the usual giftiness, but also sells bottled water, sunscreen, and a variety of beach toys.

On your way through St. Peters on the way back, you can marvel at the explosive growth that the small village has undergone (relatively speaking), presumably to serve the eco-tourism trade. There’s a couple of restaurants, places to rent bikes and kayaks, the new Visitor Information Centre and a gas station.

So, now you know; turn off the computer, get in the car, and go see for yourself.

Country Canada

It strikes me as odd that there is seen to be demand in Canada for a television channel with a Saturday night schedule that goes like this:

6:00Country Canada
6:30On the Road Again

8:00Twin Peaks

9:00Saturday Movie

Country Life

Perhaps I underestimate the tastes of rural Canada. Anything to save us from Hockey Night in Canada can’t be all that bad, I suppose.