12.31.2018

more trip pics on flickr

More photos from our drive west are now on my Flickr page: here.

I'll also be adding to the sets vancouver island and vancouver island north as we explore.

the view from here

This is the view around the corner from our place, maybe 100 metres down the main road into town -- when it's not raining.


looking back, looking ahead: the year that was 2018

Last year at this time, the wmtc i hate christmas tradition -- after being in decline for several years -- roared back in full swing.

This year we enjoyed the two extra days off, and I found nothing to hate, or even dislike. About half the houses in our neighbourhood have holiday lights. People wish each other Merry Christmas, and when I say Happy Holidays, it appears unremarkable.

And now it's New Year's Eve, one of the few holidays I really love. A time to look back and look forward, to take stock and to make plans. On this arbitrary date (it hasn't always been January 1!), the whole secular world flips the calendar and tries to make a fresh start.

This has been an eventful year! Events were fun, stressful, horrible, surreal, nerve-wracking, heartbreaking, amazing, and wonderful.

- We visited Vancouver Island with my brother and sister-in-law, to see if we wanted to live there.

- I was asked to stand for election in the Ontario provincial elections, and accepted the nomination.

- I took a leave of absence from the Mississauga library to campaign.

- I was targeted by a right-wing hack, and got doxed by wingnuts. I became a meme!

- The NDP came in second in our riding, beating the Liberal candidate who had vastly more resources. This was a first in Mississauga.

- I applied for a job with the Vancouver Island library.

- We spent two weeks in provincial parks in Northern Ontario.

- We decided if I was offered the position, we would move to a tiny town in the remote North Island.

- We signed a lease before I was even interviewed.

- I got the job!

- Allan was asked to keep his same position, working from home!

- I resigned as president of CUPE Local 1989.

- We said goodbye to friends, comrades, and union family.

- We drove from Mississauga to Port Hardy! We did this with my brother, a huge truck, our tiny car, and our dog. Our sister-in-law joined the party in Calgary.

2019 promises to be much less eventful. I very much hope it keeps its promise.

As always, thanks for reading. I wish you all the best in the year ahead. Stay in touch, eh?

12.25.2018

listening to joni: #7: the hissing of summer lawns

The Hissing of Summer Lawns, 1975

Front and back covers:
The landscapes of the songs
Joni's seventh studio album (her ninth album overall) is both a continuation and a departure. The Hissing of Summer Lawns is rich and multi-layered, somewhat enigmatic, full of interesting images and sounds that are open to interpretation. When I'm in a certain mood, this becomes my favourite of all Joni's albums, surpassing even Court and Spark in my imagination, flooring me with its beauty and complexity.

Musically, on this album Joni continues to bring more jazz arrangements to her songs. But she also begins something new: the music is used very sparingly, sometimes only for rhythm, while the melody is carried by only one instrument, Joni's voice.

This is most pronounced in some of the album's most memorable numbers: "Edith and the Kingpin," "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow," "Shades of Scarlett Conquering," and "The Boho Dance". Listen to each of those songs and try to find the melody from the instruments: you can't. The instruments provide a rhythmic backdrop, harmonies, or counterpoints. The melody is almost entirely vocal.

Inside cover: Joni in the pool
I didn't notice this until I began to listen more to Hejira, the album that follows Hissing, where this idea takes full flight. Listening to these albums in order of release, time and again I've heard a musical expression in one album, then an expansion of that idea in the next. This project has been wonderful for that.

The vocals themselves are as rich and pure as anything Joni has sung to this point, her voice at its greatest warmth and range. She uses her "vocal acting" sparingly and precisely. In "Scarlett," there is "cinematic lovers sway" and "she likes to have things her way..."; in "The BoHo Dance, "....Jesus was a beggar" and "Don't you get sensitive on me"; in "Edith," "the wires in the walls are humming". If you can't hear those in your mind as you read them, go and have a listen.

Lyrically, although some of the themes of these songs are familiar, their forms and structures are very different. Joni goes seemingly to a new place, leaving the first-person for the third, from so-called confessional (a label she always rejected) to story songs, very nearly like traditional ballads.

Of 10 songs on this album, seven are stories, and another two can be read that way. Court and Spark has story-songs -- "Raised on Robbery," "Trouble Child," for example -- but the album as a whole retains a first-person feel. The stories on Hissing are like little movies. There is the couple in the title track, she nesting and lonely, he overworked and alienated. There is the gossiping women in "Edith," and Edith herself, with her dubious prize. The woman in "Sorrow," proud and angry but also resigned. The couple from "Harry's House" might be the same people from "Hissing," a little farther into their lives. In "The Boho Dance," Joni hands us the movie script: "A camera pans the cocktail hour / Behind a blind of potted palms".

Many images from these lyrics are indelible for me. "A helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof / Like a dragonfly on a tomb" and
His eyes hold Edith
His left hand holds his right
What does that hand desire
That he grips it so tight
There are many unhappy people in these stories, especially many women whose lives have taken bad turns or who have made bad choices, valued the wrong things. But the lyrics aren't biting or cutting, the songs don't condemn them. The woman whose moods and choices echo Gone with the Wind is cold and imperious, but she's also fragile and lonely. In the suburban world of "Harry's House" or the small-town glamour of "Edith," characters are searching, yearning, struggling, lonely. Joni views them with compassion.

On The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Joni's recurring theme of the conflict between art and commerce finds its greatest and most nuanced expression: "The Boho Dance". Here Joni sings to and about another musician. Whether this person is based on a real friend or is a composite of people she's known doesn't matter. This other musician has chosen the purist route, the life of small smokey rooms, creating music without fame or wealth, or even public recognition. The narrator, Joni's lyrical stand-in, sees the purity as a kind of conformity, a choice -- a dance.
And you were in the parking lot
Subterranean by your own design
The virtue of your style inscribed
On your contempt for mine
In this song, though, Joni doesn't condemn the dance, or dismiss it, or even envy it. She sees it for what it is, "an old romance," and knows it was not for her: "It's just that some steps outside the Boho dance / Have a fascination for me." The woman who wrote "he played real good for free" has seen much more of the music-making world now. She knows herself and accepts her choices.

The final two songs on the album depart from the stories. Joni uses a wider lens here, and becomes philosophical. "Sweet Bird" and "Shadows and Light" are both very different than the rest of the album, and unusual for Joni. "Sweet Bird" is the Sweet Bird of Youth, the title of a Tennessee Williams' play and movie.1, 2 The woman who wrote "it won't be long now, until you drag your feet to slow those circles down" now understands the brevity of those youthful circles in a more profound way.
Sweet bird you are
Briefer than a falling star
All these vain promises on beauty jars
Somewhere with your wings on time
You must be laughing
In this song, Joni declares our grasp of the mysteries of life "guesses at most". The older I get, the more meaningful this is to me. The more we know, the greater the wealth of our experiences, the more we see how little we know, and realize that in so many ways, we are blind and uncomprehending.

Then the album segues into "Shadows and Light," an unusual Joni tune, one that sums up her vision of the world -- one of contrast and duality. Art and commerce, love and freedom, joy and sorrow. She brings us the interconnectedness and commonality of humanity -- and perhaps an idea that our way of seeing and classifying the world is as imperfect and unknowing as we are. Maybe this is why I don't understand the harsh criticism of Joni: because I see the world this way, too.

Bad critic comment of the album

Hissing was received with skepticism and general disdain. There were some positive reviews, but most were dismissive. Many critics cited the lack of conventional melodies and "the problem" of setting poetry to music.

Hissing marks the end of most critics understanding Joni's music, at least for many years to come. Court and Spark was triumphal, and now it was time to start taking her down. (Aimee Mann: "...in a town where winning isn't sweet / And every win is the beginning of defeat".) I don't think Joni ever intended to be opaque or incomprehensible, but the boundaries of popular musical were too small and confining. Critics looking for popular tropes, by definition, will be disappointed.

Writing in The New York Times, Henry Edwards found Hissing "nebulous and pretentious". After referencing a few of the Hissing characters, he claims: "Mitchell has refused to amplify these feminist perceptions with melody, and so they exist as nothing more or less than cocktail jazz-rock." Edwards found the album "eventually becomes numbing."

John Rockwell, one of the godfathers of rock criticism, declares the photo on the inside cover "narcissistic," the lyrics "saccharine," the music "brittle, rhythmically displaced". He dismisses the whole lot as "the same humorless self-absorption that has always marked Miss Mitchell's work". This is a real head-scratcher to me, since almost the entire album is about other people. I wonder, are all photographs of artists on album covers narcissistic?

Rockwell also includes this backhanded praise:
That said, "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" is a fascinating piece of work.3 The poetic interconnections, the musical idioms, the way Miss Mitchell expands her past styles (African drums, more synthesizer than ever) - all fuse into something unique in pop music. This really is the "total work" she tells us it is, and if that means she shows her warts, her warts are slicker, more glamorous and more interesting than almost anybody else's.
The album cover

Joni has drawn a pen-and-ink landscape, the world of the songs contained therein. In the foreground, the jungle line, and perhaps the boho dancers, make their way across a lush green. Two spots of pool-blue show us Harry's house, and the world where the lawns are hissing. Or maybe Joni's house, as inside, she is shown in her pool. The album cover is evocative and enigmatic, like the album.

Cacti or stockings?

This one leaves no doubt. We've got both the ripped stockings and the lace/stockings with the jeans.
But even on the scuffle
The cleaner's press was in my jeans
And any eye for detail
Caught a little lace along the seams
. . . .
A camera pans the cocktail hour
Behind a blind of potted palms
And finds a lady in a Paris dress
With runs in her nylons
Other musicians on this album

Many musicians played on this album, chiefly:
Electric piano, Joe Sample
Electric guitar, Larry Carlton
Bass, Wilton Felder
Bass, Max Benett
Drums, John Guerin
Horns, Chuck Findley
Keyboards and percussion, Victor Feldman

And also:
Electric guitar, Jeff Baxter
Horns and woodwinds, Bud Shank
Vocals, James Taylor (also guitar)
Vocals, Graham Nash, David Crosby
...and the warrior drums of Burundi

The rich vocals on "Shadows and Light" are all Joni and a Farfisa synthesizer.

Joni herself tells us:
This record is a total work conceived graphically, musically, lyrically and accidentally - as a whole. The performances were guided by the given compositional structures and the audibly inspired beauty of every player. The whole unfolded like a mystery. It is not my intention to unravel that mystery for anyone, but rather to offer some additional clues:

"Centerpiece" is a Johnny Mandel-Jon Hendricks tune. John Guerin and I collaborated on "The Hissing Of Summer Lawns." "The Boho Dance" is a Tom Wolfe-ism from the book, "The Painted Word." The poem, "Don't Interrupt The Sorrow" was born around 4 a.m. in a New York loft. Larry Poons seeded it and Bobby Neuwirth was midwife here, but the child filtered thru Genesis at Jackson Lake, Saskatchewan, is rebellious and mystical and insists that its conception was immaculate.
This is first time Joni has included notes of this kind on an album.

Note: I enjoyed writing this more comprehensive review. I'm thinking of going back to my posts on Blue and Court and Spark and fleshing them out a little more.

1. I don't know if Joni is referencing the title of the play or if both titles share a common origin.

2. "Shades of Scarlett Conquering" is often said to evoke Blanche DuBois, of Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. I've wondered if there's a connection.

3. Early "that said" sighting!

12.24.2018

another piece to check off the list: we have a new vet

We knew there was a veterinary clinic in our area, the North Island Veterinary Hospital. But I was a bit concerned. This is a bias a mine, perhaps unfounded, but in my experience, people in rural areas may be less vigilant about the health of their dogs and cats, leaving things more to nature than to modern medicine. I wondered, would we find a vet who "got" us, who would understand and support the place our dogs hold in our lives? Would it be a problem to order Diego's special food? Would they be up to date on the latest treatment options?

Earlier this week, we learned the answers are yes, yes, and yes. This is a great relief!

We are still treating Diego for a skin infection, likely caused by allergies. We're running out of meds, so this was an excuse to meet a new vet and check out the clinic. As soon as we walked in, I knew we would be all right. It's a large, bright, modern facility, with all the prescription foods for sale, and friendly, professional staff.

The vet we saw is here on a temporary gig. He's from Saskatoon, and he's working in month-long rotations at various west coast towns. He was super nice, and very knowledgeable and competent -- which speaks well of the principal vet who hired him.

He was great with Diego. We've had only bad experiences with male vets and uniformly good experiences with female vets, so I wanted to see his bedside manner, so to speak. He was perfect. Another relief. (This post reveals two of my main biases! In 30 years of dogs, I've had a lot of time to form them.)

There are normally three doctors at this clinic. They are open seven days a week, and have a satellite office in nearby Port McNeill (home to another of "my" libraries).

We even learned something new. Dogs in this area need flea and tick protection all year, something our old vet thought we might find. What we didn't know is that there's now an oral treatment that's good for three months. Nice!

I was much more concerned about finding a good vet than about finding a good family doctor. My experience with medical professionals in Canada has been very positive, that I'm expecting a positive experience when we check out the Port Hardy Primary Health Care Centre. I'll keep you posted.

12.23.2018

true confessions, or will laura buy new window treatments for a house that doesn't need them

This is the other shopping story. The one in which I don't come out looking like a rational adult.

I don't care much about clothes, shoes, bags. I don't buy expensive cosmetics or skin-care products. As long as I have what I need, I'm good. It's easy to watch my spending about any of those.

But. There's always a but, right? I love home things. Towels, linens, dinnerware. Rugs. Shelves. Lamps. Organizers. (I could go on.)

And I love home-decorating. When buying clothes, I hold my nose and get it over with. But don't let me in Bed Bath and Beyond or Ikea without adult supervision.

Despite this, I still try very hard to not buy gratuitously. I won't say I never buy home things that we don't technically need. But once I've got our "needs" covered, I try to leave it there. (Scare quotes around needs, acknowledging that these are not true needs, but needs of privilege.)

Does it seem like I'm avoiding something? Not getting to the point? Window treatments. There, I said it. Window treatments. Curtains, shades, blinds.

Why window treatments? I love colour, and curtains or shades add big swaths of colour to a room, totally changing the way a space looks and feels. (I could go on.)

I've had a bad habit of spending too much money on window treatments. This goes alllll the way back to Brooklyn, the custom-cut blind for the bedroom window that had to match the lavender comforter. 

Then there were the vertical fabric blinds over the huge picture window on Bogardus Place, our first apartment in Washington Heights

I didn't feel bad about either of these, despite being relatively poor, with hand-me-down furniture and very few things to wear. It was more important to dress the apartment well. And to be fair, there was a giant window facing the street, with no covering at all, and it was an odd size. And I don't remember the cost being exorbitant. 

See what I did there? I can rationalize anything.

On Bennett Avenue, where we lived 14 years, the majority of our time in New York, I bought some inexpensive fabric and a friend made curtains for me. This was penance for the Bogardus vertical blinds (the ones I just rationalized). An apartment had become available on a nearby but much nicer street -- a bigger apartment in better condition, for much lower rent -- and we decided to move. And my custom fabric vertical blinds were now wasted.

That was my first experience with this phenomenon. I'd like to say I learned my lesson, but if I learned my lesson in 1992, would I be writing this post?

Now we fast-forward to 2005, the year "wmtc". We rented a tiny, dilapidated bungalow in the Port Credit area of Mississauga. To us, it was paradise. It was walking-distance to the Lakeshore GO train, steps from the most beautiful part of the Waterfront Trail, and for the first time in our adult lives, we had a backyard. The lake was at the end of our street! And we were in Canada! We were overjoyed. I felt like the luckiest person in the world.

The house itself was dirty, cold, and not in good condition. While waiting for the moving truck to arrive with all our things, we painted. That's how it started. The painting was necessary, but it got into my head: I had a little house to decorate.

First there were the three accent walls -- in wild colours renters are not supposed to use, including one wall from which I stripped seven layers of wallpaper. None of this was expensive, and using those colours was fine, since we knew the owner would eventually sell the property for a tear-down. Now we're getting to the heart of the matter. 

"...since we knew the owner would eventually sell the property for a tear-down."

The rental wasn't long-term, and we knew it. We just didn't know how short-term it would be. After the one-year lease ran out, it might have been five years, it might have been five months.

So here we are at the real confession: the custom-made shades I bought for the living room and dining room of that house. I won't even tell you what they cost. It would have been expensive for any house. For a broken-down rental that had the potential to be short-term, it was... You can fill in the blank. I don't want to say it. 

I didn't buy them on impulse; I thought about it for a couple of weeks. My mother encouraged me to go for it, but she didn't know what they cost. Allan, who is more frugal than I am, went along without a peep. I'll never understand why.

The windows needed something, of that there is no doubt. But why didn't I buy inexpensive curtains at Ikea or Home Outfitters? That would become my default setting for "I need to fix up this rental without spending a lot of money". Yet I didn't even consider that. I just plowed ahead and bought the beautiful, two-colour, honeycomb fold, Hunter Douglas, fabric blinds.

And we lived in the house 14 months, and then had to move.

We took down the blinds. I saved the hardware and wrapped up the blinds in bubble wrap, and I've been moving them from rental to rental ever since, hoping that one day, some rental somewhere, will have the same size windows. (I've also tried -- multiple times -- to sell them on Craigslist and Kijiji, for a small fraction of their cost.)

Since then, we've lived in too many places. First there was the sewage flood, then the greedy landlord, then the big move west. For each place, I bought some inexpensive curtains, or else bought fabric and had curtains made. I spent very little money and significantly changed the look of the room, exchanging ugly PVC blinds -- and in one case heavy velvet curtains with a heavy coating of dust -- with big swaths of colour that pulled together all the other colours in the room. Very little money, big results.

And now my long story finally arrives at the present: the lovely old house we are renting in Port Hardy. For the first time ever, we have moved into a house with nice window treatments: fabric vertical blinds in the kitchen, dining, and family/living rooms, and fabric black-out curtains, complete with matching and good-looking rods, in all the bedrooms. There are even nice thin blinds in all the bathrooms. All quality, all matching, all in good condition.

And all beige. Sandy. Approximately number 13 on this.

On the day we arrived -- literally on our first walk-through of the house! -- I saw the blinds and curtains and thought, beige. I thought, Those would be great if they were a better colour.



I'm know I won't do it. I'm pretty sure I won't do it.

12.21.2018

in which i buy shoes on the internet and this makes me way happier than it should

I have two stories to tell about my shopping habits. This is the one with a happy ending, the story that makes me appear to be a rational adult.

On our road trip from Mississauga to Port Hardy, I quickly became aware that my boots had become useless. They were light hiking boots from New Balance (shown here). I wore them in Egypt and on our Northern Ontario trip, but they were suddenly taking on water like a leaky raft. If it was at all wet outside, my feet were wet and cold. Note to self: buy new boots.

But how? Where? Surely not in Port Hardy. Not even in Campbell River. There really is only one answer: buy them online. I buy almost everything online; it's been my preferred method of shopping for a very long time. But can you buy shoes online? Of course I know shoes are sold online, but how do you buy shoes if you can't try them on first? And don't you need to try on multiple pairs, until you find one that fits?

I also realized I need not just new boots, but better boots. It's not like I'm such a rugged outdoorswoman. Hardly. But my feet -- like everything about my annoyingly high-maintenance body -- need a lot of support. I have custom orthotics, but I still need a lot of cushion, and ankle support, and grip. And living in rainforest territory, waterproofing is essential. These days I need boots (as opposed to sneakers) for walking of any distance, especially if there is any possibility of uneven surfaces.

I never researched boots before, I just bought whatever was available, and was usually less than thrilled with the results. So this time I read things like this and this -- and general advice like this -- and checked reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. I also read Reddit and other forum threads where people were discussing the pros and cons of online shoe-shopping. (Yay internet!)

I'm probably making this process sound more methodical and meticulous than it was. I don't have a lot of patience for research, but I've (mostly) learned to stop myself from making impulsive buying decisions. I usually do short, quick bursts of research, multiple times.

Turns out many people buy shoes online. People with hard-to-fit feet. People who want shoes they can't find locally. People who like to shop online. Check, check, check: I am all of the above.

One of the biggest issues about online shopping in Canada is practically a non-issue now. In the past -- as recently as five years ago -- many companies simply didn't ship to Canada. Others charged outrageous and prohibitive shipping fees. Amazon has pretty much solved that. Living in a town with an easily accessible post office is great, too. (Remind me to write about our mail and the post office. When I picked up my packages, they had a dish of candies out.)

So, I bought two pairs -- one pair of duck shoes, and one pair of hiking boots. Both arrived within a week, which was better than I expected. I was very nervous about the fit, and had convinced myself there was no chance of either pair fitting properly. And then... they did. Both pairs fit. They fit! I. Am. Thrilled.

The moral of the story is: if you want to buy shoes online, you should go for it. You all probably know that already! But this was a fun revelation for me.

Boot #1:
Vasque Women's Breeze Iii GTX Waterproof Hiking Boot

12.20.2018

the north island report: about that rain

The first few days after we arrived in Port Hardy, the weather was beautiful for late November. It was overcast, occasionally sunny, but around 8-10 C, with very little rain. Through December, it's been raining off and on -- mostly on.

Occasionally it's cold enough for freezing rain or light snow, but that will be brief bursts. Mostly it's been around +3 to +8 (high 30s to mid-40s F), cloudy or raining. Since moving here, I've yet to put on a winter jacket. I've been wearing a fall-weight jacket, or else a rain jacket that's just a shell (my new find from L.L. Bean).

So for winter, it's warm and it's wet.

Here's the thing. Wet weather has always made me feel bad physically. Yep, that's the dirty little secret I didn't want to talk about before we moved. In the back of my mind, I was concerned about potential fibro/arthritis flare-ups. But... nothing. I've been completely fine.

I don't have an explanation for this! I do have a theory. Could it be that what was difficult for me wasn't the rain itself, but rather the barometric pressure change? And that in a climate with a lot of rain, the pressure is more consistent?

Sadly, there's no sign that I no longer have these conditions or that they're improving. So this air pressure theory is all I can come up with. I'm sure some readers will weigh in.

And here's the other thing.

Several people have advised and suggested that the rain shouldn't stop us from walking or hiking, as long as we're dressed for it. I now have a good rain jacket -- the first I've ever owned. And after discovering my hiking boots are no longer waterproof -- in fact they now immediately result in wet feet -- I found two different pairs of waterproof boots, which I'm very happy about. (No link because the boots are getting their own post!)

I've seen many colleagues come to work wearing a rain jacket and rain pants, and quickly slide them off and continue on their day. I don't have rain pants yet, and I'm not sure I can find ones that fit my size and shape, but I'm going to look into it. They do seem like a very good idea.

However... you can suit up for the rain and stay dry -- but it's still raining, and being outside is still unpleasant. I have a friend who is an all-weather walker. She lives in southern Ontario and she walks for an hour every day, no matter what the weather. I would very much like to do this, especially here where I usually won't have to deal with snow and icy sidewalks, or incredibly hot and humid weather, both being prohibitive to me. But walking in the rain for a sustained period of time seems very unpleasant.

There is a recreation centre in town, with a pool. I could return to swimming, which I did avidly for 20 years, until I started graduate school in 2009. But there are other issues with that, and I'd much rather be outdoors. I'd like to learn a new attitude about walking in the rain, but I'm not sure that's realistic.

12.19.2018

the north island report: expense check

One thing we had heard about Vancouver Island as compared to the mainland is that everything would be more expensive -- groceries, wine, personal care products, and so on. We've been looking at our receipts and discussing them (practically daily!) and we don't find this to be true.

I was also concerned about the quality of the supermarket, hoping moving to a small town where there is one supermarket would not mean a return to the crappy grocery stores we had in New York City. Now that I've been to the supermarket a few times, I'm actually pleased: it has a good selection and quality products. The building itself is a bit old and run-down (Save-On-Foods: please renovate!) but the store is actually quite good. That's a relief.

But simply put, groceries do not cost more than they did in the GTA, and many items are less expensive.

We knew that the nearest town with big-box stores is Campbell River, almost three hours away, and we were fine with that. The only thing I find challenging is housewares, things for which I would normally pop in to a Canadian Tire -- which are just the kind of things you need when you're settling in to a new place. There's a Home Hardware and an Ace Hardware in town, but for housewares, the selection is minimal and the prices are not good. We could save up a list for a trip to Campbell River, or shop online, or just settle for what's available. We'll probably do all three, depending on the item.

(I'm not complaining, by the way. The insane amount of shopping available in Mississauga is part of what I found unpleasant.)

Internet and cell phone both cost more here, because we used alternative providers. There are a few alternative providers on the Island, but only in the Victoria and Nanaimo areas. (Driving from Campbell River to Port Hardy, or between any of the other North Island towns, there is no coverage. No phone, no data.)

We haven't seen a utility ("hydro") bill yet, so I don't know how that compares.

Our rent is significantly less than what we were paying in Mississauga, or anything we could hope to find in the GTA. The difference may be made up by internet, phone, and utilities. We'll see.

Gasoline prices are slightly more than in the GTA, and significantly more than we saw as we drove through the prairies. We're very fortunate in that we will need very little gas, with Allan working at home, and my work -- and everything else in town -- five minutes away. When I travel to the other library branches, I'll be reimbursed by my employer, which is typical.

One thing I haven't mentioned is that I'm earning less. Think three tiers of professional staff: librarian, senior librarian, manager. As a senior librarian here, I'm earning what a librarian is paid in Mississauga. Managers in my current system are paid what senior librarians earn in my old system. Everything is one step back, so I've moved back to my old salary. This is not a big deal.

It will be interesting to see how things shake down.

Today: first day of work in my library! Reports to follow.

Little update: the Rexall across the street from the Save-On will be great for toiletries, personal care products, and prescriptions. I am pleased to see this.

12.16.2018

home at last: three days between the end of training and the start of work

I am so happy to be home! I got home late Friday night and on Saturday gave myself a full day off from all devices.

My last few days of training were very interesting. I went back to Nanaimo for an all-day meeting for professional staff -- regular librarians, next-step-up librarians such as me, managers, and system executives. To my delight, this meeting was followed by an annual union meeting, the BCGEU local of which I am now a member. Both meetings were very interesting and positive.

The librarians' meeting was a look at goals and plans for 2019. It gave me great ideas on what committees I hope to join and specific work I'd like to accomplish in the new year.

The union meeting had nearly 100% attendance. Comparing turnouts to my former CUPE local's meetings isn't really fair, as the circumstances and access to the meetings are very different. Even so, there was excellent engagement and participation, and in general a strong understanding of why our union matters. Union leadership seems very smart, strong, and transparent.

Many people have asked if I plan to be active in my union. To me, there's no question. How can I not be? But not yet. I'm enjoying an intentional break from activism right now. More on that in my next post.

In general I'm very impressed with the quality of both my employer and my union. I fully understand that there will be some issues with both. Organizations of made of people, and people are not perfect, so there are no perfect organizations. But in general, I'm very pleased.

I spent the night in Nanaimo, then it was back up to Campbell River -- I'm getting a lot of experience and confidence in driving in the rain -- for another few days of training. I also had the opportunity to jump in and help some customers, which made me happy. The staff at Campbell River couldn't have been nicer, and were so generous with their time. Library people are the best.

I had been planning on driving home on Saturday morning, but I just couldn't take it anymore. People here are careful about driving in the dark, as there's a real danger of wildlife on the roads. But I would have left very early anyway, so it's either drive in the dark at night, or drive in the dark in the morning. More importantly, I checked weather and road reports: there was a window of clear weather in between rain and more rain, and I decided to go for it.

It was actually a lovely drive. There was a bright moon, I had music blasting, and I cruised right along. Now that I know what to expect, the stretch of rural road between Campbell River and the North Island is fun to drive. Some areas are perpetually shrouded in mist; in other areas snow appears out of nowhere -- but you know that will usually clear up in a few kilometres. As long as I stay at around 80 or 90 kms/hour (about 50-55 miles/hour), it's not scary or stressful.

Allan and I had arranged to meet at the airport, to return the rental car I was driving. Naturally he brought Diego, who went insane with joy when he saw me -- and I did the same! I am incredibly happy and relieved to be home.

My libraries are closed on Mondays, so I have three days to work on the house, and also read, take walks, and watch some shows. Allan did a huge grocery shopping and I plan to spend some time in the kitchen, to make big batches of soups and stews to freeze. On Monday I hope to scope out an appointment at a hair salon (scary!) and our new vet. I still don't feel like I live here, but this should help.

12.10.2018

week two of training and counting days to go home

It was wonderful to have Allan and Diego with me this weekend. The weather was "cold" -- cold for the island, between -2 and +3 C -- and wet, and I wasn't prepared for that, so we didn't do a lot. We went to Ideal Cafe twice, a famous local haunt with amazing breakfasts, now a must for all Campbell River outings. (I can also recommend SoCal Restaurant, in Willow Point.)

We drove down the coast, which was wild and windswept, and very beautiful. And we read, and watched a few episodes of a new series. I was so happy to see my guys! And sad to go to work, knowing they wouldn't be there when I got back.

I really want to go home and begin my new life and new position. But training continues apace. Last week was all the big-picture stuff/ This week is all the nuts and bolts, the how-to -- circulation, collection management, payroll, time-off requests, revenue reports, and so on.

In a bit of excellent timing, this week there is also an all-librarians meeting for the whole system. Unfortunately it means driving back and forth to Nanaimo, two hours each way, but I'm very happy to be going.

I'm staying in a funny little place, an old-fashioned motel, very bare-bones, but also very clean and convenient, and it's really nice to have a kitchen. I picked up supplies for breakfast and some healthy snacks to bring to work. For dinner, I'm stopping at a supermarket every night after work to pick up some prepared food. Five more sleeps.

12.09.2018

this week, give 15 minutes of your time to defend human rights #write4rights

คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019Are you writing for rights? I almost gave myself a pass this year. I'm living out of a hotel room and I don't have easy access to a printer, and... what the hell? I'm one of the most privileged people on the planet. Surely I won't skip Write For Rights because it's a bit inconvenient!

On December 10, 1948, the newly-formed United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first document of its kind in history.

Every year, on and around December 10, people who have human rights use them to help others whose human rights have been violated or negated.

Here are the 2018 Write For Rights cases. Notice anything different?

Join me and thousands of others.

Join the biggest human rights event on the planet.

By giving 15 or 30 minutes of your time, you can join thousands of others who believe that all humans have rights, no matter who they are, where they live, and what they believe.

The right to peaceful protest.

The right to inform others.

The right to be free from torture.

The right to not be arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned; the right to a fair trial.

The right to express their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The right to worship in any faith and the right to not worship.

The right to organize a union.

The right to refuse military service.

The right to live free from involuntary servitude (slavery).

The right to be free from sexual violence.

Read: Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What you can do.

Think you don't know how to write a letter defending human rights? Take a crash course.

Want to know more about Amnesty? Here you go.

Here are the 2018 Write For Rights cases.

Write because an issue resonates with you.

Write because you've been to a country and you feel solidarity with its people.

Write because you're angry.

Write because you're horrified.

Write because the world breaks your heart.

Write because you believe in something.

Write because it works.

Write because it feels good to help others.

2018 Write For Rights case are here.

This year, all the Write For Rights cases are women. Write because you are a woman, or because you love a woman, or because you believe in a woman, or all three.

12.08.2018

in which an old-fashioned mom-and-pop motel saves me from union busters

For the portion of my training taking place in Campbell River -- two days this week plus all of next week -- I was booked into the Coast Discovery Inn, a Coast chain property. Before this trip, I was unfamiliar with the Coast chain. Their slogan "Refreshingly Local" means they acquire already-established hotels and bring them into the Coast brand. We stayed at one in Tsawwassen the night before taking the ferry to Vancouver Island, I stayed at one in Nanaimo. They were both very nice -- lovely rooms, amenities, and service.

Based on those experiences, I was very disappointed when I saw my room in Campbell River. It was tiny -- one bed, and the bed took up the entire room. This is fine when you're out exploring Paris, but when you're living in a room for 10 days, it would be confining and inconvenient. In addition, Allan and Diego are spending the weekend (yay! can't wait!), and I don't see the three of us living in a shoebox together, even for a few days.

I asked if I could change rooms, and explained why. I was told: "All our rooms are the same size. The only difference is the size of the bed."

I asked, "You don't have any rooms with two beds?"

"But you are booked by yourself. Do you need two beds?"

I was amazed. One person staying in a room with two beds is standard. Rather than argue about that, I noted that my partner was arriving on Saturday, and bringing our dog, and we needed a larger room. He said there was a room available on Sunday. I said never mind.

I had arrived in Campbell River that morning and was checking in on my lunch break, so I would be able to crash right after work. I went back to the room, found another pet-friendly Campbell River hotel, cancelled the rest of my reservation, and went back to work, grabbing something for lunch along the way. (Not exactly a relaxing break!)

After work, I went back to the Coast Discovery Inn. The moment I walked in, I began to cough -- quite a bad "fit" requiring use of my inhaler. The whole place smelled very strongly, either from cleaning products or air "freshener". Luckily my room didn't also smell, or I couldn't have stayed even one night.

I went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. It was dismal. It looked like a coffee shop -- which is fine for coffee shops, but strange for a supposedly upscale hotel -- and the food was marginal at best. I had a decent night. Breakfast was the usual limited hotel self-serve options. I packed up the car and went to work. 

Later that day, I mentioned to someone that I was checking into a different hotel. She said, "I'm glad you're not staying at the Coast anymore. They are extremely anti-union."

Apparently the owner shuttered the hotel for nine months rather than work with the union representing hotel workers. Googling, I didn't find a lot on this: one story from the local Campbell River Mirror, and one in the Times Colonist. **

So, after work, I drove off to find the Heritage River Inn. The name is misleading, because it is an old-fashioned mom-and-pop roadside motel. My room is huge, with a full kitchen! This is very welcome, since I'll be here for a full week. It also has a wooden floor. The feature of mom-and-pop motels that is often an issue is old carpeting. On our road trip from Ontario, we stayed at non-chain motels in two towns, Wawa and Ignace. Both rooms had carpeting and a corresponding musty smell. They weren't mouldy -- I know that because my body is a mould detector -- but the carpets were somewhat icky. The bare floor solves this problem.

There are other chain hotels in Campbell River, but they are not pet-friendly. So if this room didn't work out, I would have to change a second time, after Allan and Diego go home, and I did not want to do that.

** I found this story from Unite Here, about a one-day strike earlier this month at this same hotel -- which means they did unionize. And from the small-world department, the union bulletin was written by someone I know.

12.05.2018

the vancouver island report: two more days of training and on to campbell river

I've completed another two days of training and orientation. It's been pretty awesome. In the past three days, I've had a tour of the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch, which is something of a showpiece and central library, and a tour of the Nanaimo North branch, which is new and beautiful. I've met with managers of: library systems, payroll, scheduling, facilities, human resources, purchasing, health and safety, communications, finance, technical services, the Creativity Commons, and e-resources. Each one has given me an overview of their functions and talked about how I will interact with their departments. And each one has been warm, friendly, welcoming, genuine, and generous with their time. It was both overwhelming and wonderful.

I've also been watching videos for all kinds of regulatory requirements. This is pretty typical when you work with the public and/or are a supervisor -- health and safety, respectful workplace, violence prevention, emergency preparedness, among others. I don't know if all workplaces do this now. When I worked in law firms, support staff got exactly zero training on any of these. My current employer is taking the correct approach: giving a new employee time to complete all the training before starting the job. My previous employer, not so much.

I also have to learn a new "ILS," the software that links the catalog, customers, materials, circulation, and library staff. It stands for Integrated Library System. We all use it all the time, and if you don't understand it thoroughly, you end up frustrated, or screwing things up, or both.

I continue to be very impressed with the organization and efficiency of this library system, from both a customer and employee point of view.

Also today, I saw some photos of the interior of the Port Hardy library, where I'll be based. It looks like I won't have an office, just an alcove. This may prove very challenging. You can't really be visible to the public but not available to the public -- and if I'm always available to the public, I won't be able to attend to many other aspects of my job. On the other hand, there will be other staff, and the numbers of customers may be more manageable than what I'm used to. We shall see!

Early tomorrow morning I drive two hours north to Campbell River, where I'll meet my manager in person for the first time and begin more specific training and orientation with him.

I can't wait for Saturday, when Allan and Diego will join me for the weekend. I really miss them.

guest post: allan and diego's first week in port hardy

Allan wrote some really nice things about our new life, both in emails to me and on one of his non-baseball blog. With his permission, I've collected some of them here.

* * * *

I drove into town today, thinking I would go to the library and museum, but I forgot they are closed on Monday. I went into the Cafe/Book Nook. Small book area in a semi-lower floor, way more new books than used. There is a craft store upstairs that has all kinds of nice things, including earrings I'm pretty sure you like - and a wonderful golden-haired adorable young dog. Quiet as a mouse, s/he followed me around and then went back to the register and laid down. I got a tea and walked over to the library (sign on door said something like "No bathrooms - Key is missing"), went over to Mo's pizza/sub place (they deliver for an extra $2, fwiw).

I found the Ministry office but this was the 12-1 PM closing time, so nothing was going on. I walked back to the main street. One business had a handwritten sign saying it was closed ("More Medical Procedures!"). I saw the post office down one street, so I went and got our mail. There was a taped green envelope addressed to "Laura and Allan". No return address. I figured it was one of those 'welcome' flyer things with junk mail inside. I opened it and it was a card for you from library people. They said extremely nice things about you. I walked back to the car and came home.

I sat out on the deck reading for a bit with Diego on the stake in the side yard area. Our neighbour in the house beyond the deck came over and said hello to Diego. Brenda and her husband are retired and they travel a lot in their massive RV (Arizona, Florida, "down island"). She asked if we were retired. (I guess I looked really old today.) When she heard you were a librarian, she said she used to work as a librarian and her husband was a school principal. They apparently are famous for having the most Xmas lights on their house, but they are getting a late start. She wanted to know if she could come into our yard to string lights on the fence because there are plants and whatnot on their side. I said sure. (I think that was the real reason for introducing herself.)

I am going to grill some burgers tonight and maybe have a fire. M got it all prepared, so I can't really call it my first fire. ... Also, a lot of frost on the grass this morning. The roof looked like there was a very light dusting of snow.

I really liked walking around in the town. This seems like the right amount of town for me. (That may change, who knows?) Plus, I like the uniqueness of every single house, the water nearby, the cool weather, etc. And being in a house instead of an apartment is such a wonderful difference. Everything else has worked out according to plan - and then some - so that aspect had better do so, too.

* * * *

For more of Allan's thoughts and some pics, including one of the house we're renting, go here: Port Hardy After One Week.

I'm sorry I haven't posted any pics. This is all I can deal with right now.

Funny note: Cafe Guido, mentioned above, has the spare key to the library in case staff gets locked out.

12.03.2018

first day of work braindump

I've just finished my first day of training and orientation at [my new library]. I have a lot to report on! Much of this may be of interest only to library workers, especially my union buddies.

I took notes all day, and I'm getting it all down here -- in no order, with no attempt to weave it together. All questions are FAQs I've been getting since announcing my move.

1. Who had this position before you and why did they leave?

It is a newly created position; I am the first person to hold the job. The position is part of a larger strategy to bring more robust library services to the North Island, to put them on par with the rest of the Island.

2. My position, the "Customer Services Librarian II", is the equivalent of the senior librarian position I recently left. However, there are only a handful of CSLIIs in the system.

3. Will the manager be in the branch with you?

I will mostly work on my own. I will report in to a manager, but he will work out of Campbell River, 2.5 hours away. The manager is also new to the North Island and has not yet been able to visit all five branches.

4. I have the opportunity to make this position what I want as I go along. Not only am I the first CSL II in this area, there has never been a CSL at all -- meaning no librarian.

5. What are you going to do for two full weeks of training?

Today I was given a schedule for my first three days, which are taking place in Nanaimo. I spent the day at the North Nanaimo branch, a beautiful facility that opened in 2015; it previously housed only the administration and back-office functions.

Today I met with senior staff representing HR, payroll, finances, health/safety, and IT. A full hour with each. This is so amazing. For almost my entire working life, I've been accustomed to being thrown in with no or minimal training. This system is also way more efficient. I can't begin to describe how much time is wasted trying to track down the appropriate person for an issue.

I also had a tour of this branch, and I met the union steward for my union. (There are two unions.)

Tomorrow I will be at the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch, right near the hotel.

6. I was given a laptop and a cell phone. There are eight hours of online training to complete, and I can do it in bits as I find time over the next two weeks.

7. As professional staff, I am allowed to modify my hours as needed. For example, one of my branches is on a different island. If I need to adjust my work different hours because of the ferry schedule, I can do that.

8. I will be responsible for approving payroll for my branch. Many of my responsibilities are managerial responsibilities in my former library system.

9. VIRL has 39 branches -- on the Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte islands, and in two mainland locations. They have been building or renovating branches since 2010. By 2020 or thereabouts, all branches will either be renovated, rebuilt, or newly created.

10. With a few exceptions, the entire collection is floating! Customers must be adept at using the catalogue and placing holds to get what they want. There is a lot of staff instruction available for customers.

11. There is a YNF collection! I first saw a youth nonfiction collection in Vancouver Public Library and absolutely loved the idea. I developed a proposal and pitched it to the Mississauga Library. They rejected it, of course, but I love that VIRL has this.

The youth collection also includes "Playaways" -- digital audiobooks with a rechargeable battery. They are very popular.

12. How long does it take for a hold to come in? "It depends."

There are long distances between branches. Some branches get weekly deliveries, others twice weekly.

13. Books are sent by mail -- delivered by float plane -- to customers in remote locations. These are sent weekly. Loans are six weeks with no fines.

14. Next year children's materials will all be fine-free. !!!!

15. On December 12, there is an all-librarians meeting in Nanaimo -- CSLs, CSLIIs, and managers. It's perfect timing for me, as I'll still be in training.

16. Today I felt and appreciated how much I've learned in the last five and a half years as a working librarian. I was very comfortable with the information and asked a lot of good questions. I didn't feel like I was faking it. That is huge.

17. Yesterday I had a horrific getting-lost experience, and so was a bit anxious about driving to the branch and back to the hotel. Both drives went smoothly, and I even did the last bit by feel.

18. Their intranet is friggin amazing. This is a huge help for staff, and very different from what I'm accustomed to.

19. The provincial government here is often referred to as a "fragile coalition" of NDP and Green. One NDP MLA stepped down to become mayor of Nanaimo. This means a byelection could shift the balance of power. Scary!

20. There is a room in the admin offices called "hotel". Guests can park their stuff, login to a computer, and take breaks there.

21. For one of today's meetings, I was sitting next to someone who was walking me through some processes on her computer. The desk and monitor were too high for me, so my neck was straining the whole time. Her screen backgrounds were the default white, and the room had harsh flourescent lighting -- all of which give me headaches. I was becoming very uncomfortable. This made me think about accessibility for interviews and training. I repeatedly tried to adjust myself, but was unwilling to straight-up say I need help.

22. I will be coming in to my branches as the new senior supervisor -- the new boss. Typically in those situations, some people will like this and feel relieved and happy, and others will be threatened and see me as encroaching on their turf. I will enjoy the challenge.

12.02.2018

a walk on the bay and a drive to nanaimo, plus photos of the rockies

I am in Nanaimo and will be in Campbell River, for two weeks of training. My former co-workers in the Mississauga Library are amazed and envious. Training in Mississauga ranged from nonexistent to inadequate.

I'm at a lovely hotel in Nanaimo with a view of the harbour, but I'd much rather be home setting up my office or organizing closets. Allan and Diego are going to visit me on the weekend. I don't know what this training will entail, other than mandatory first aid. I'll keep you posted.

Yesterday we took a break from working on the house to take a walk on the bay. We drove five minutes from the house to a paved path right on the water. It was so quiet and peaceful. A few other people were walking, some families were in a playground. Mostly it was just water, trees, and sky. It was overcast, making the scenery even more dramatic. It's hard to believe that this is our backyard. (Photos to follow.)

On the walkway, there are interpretative signs posted about the wildlife. Even better, there is wildlife. I saw a bald eagle swoop down over the water, then sail up to the top of a tree. By the time I got the attention of Allan, M, and SIL, there were two of them, perched on two nearby trees, surveying their kingdom. It made my day.

Also yesterday, we drove to the tiny Port Hardy Airport to rent a car. No one was at the counter, but there was a phone number to call. A woman asked, "You're at the airport? You have a credit card, driver's license? OK, I'll be right over."

Ten minutes later, she appeared, her feet in slippers. "I was pickling. Beets! I think I brought some with me on my shirt." Later: "You're lucky, yesterday a guy called, said he got a ride. That's the only reason I have anything available." The Ontario driver's license raised a few questions, which we answered; she shook my hand and welcomed us to town. She was hilarious.

Unfortunately we forgot to make both of us drivers... so we ended up calling her in (and possibly waking her up) today as well. The rental car outlet is supposed to be open on Sundays, but if there are no reservations, no one comes in. Who can blame them? After all, the airport was locked! We were very apologetic, she was very good-humoured.

While Allan and I were dealing with the rental car, M and SIL were driving to Campbell River to return the U-Haul truck. I drove down shortly after them, then we met up and went to Nanaimo.

This was my first opportunity to see the north island drive during the day. It is beautiful. A winding, hilly road, forest all around, with mountains beyond. Often the hills were shrouded in mist and low-lying clouds. Sometimes you can see the mountains on the island's west coast, huge and snow-capped. Signs are posted for the turnoffs to the few north island communities, but the road feels so remote and solitary.

On a decidedly less beautiful note, I'm not happy about all the damage from the careless movers. I know they're only material things, and replaceable. But it was all completely preventable. This makes the scam with the US dollar conversion rate even worse. I don't know what recourse we have, if any. I'll investigate this week.

Bonus: photos of our drive through the Rockies are here on Flickr. They're not great -- taken on the fly through the windshield -- but it might give some idea. By the way, I believe those two black animals are dogs.

12.01.2018

eleven things about our new life in port hardy

Here are some really nice things about our new life in Port Hardy.

1. It is very quiet. In the house, we hear bird song, the occasional barking dog, a car going by. No sirens, car alarms, bus announcements, school bells, screaming children. We have never lived anywhere quiet. It's lovely.

2. People are friendly. Very friendly. Also lovely.

3. It has not rained since we got here. It is sometimes misty or foggy. I can tell the air is humid by how long it takes damp laundry to dry. But so far, no rain.

4. We are very near water. Mississauga and Toronto are technically on a huge body of water, but you never feel it unless you're right beside it.

5. Having laundry in our own living space again is very wonderful.

6. All of the appliances in this house are shiny and new, and not the bare-bones that we usually find in rentals. I always say, I am destined to have crappy kitchens. This seems to have changed.

7. We have had two very good meals in restaurants in town, including really good pizza at a pub. There are still two or three cafes we haven't tried.

8. We have outdoor space again. There's no describing how wonderful that is.

9. Diego seems completely adjusted and at home.

10. Allan is happy. This sometimes feels like a rare event, so seeing him happy fills me with joy.

11. Having M and SIL with us for the move-in has been so wonderful. SIL is a great organizer and has unpacked a ton of stuff. M is Mr. Fix-It -- actually more like Mr. Fix-It, Break Down and Rebuild It, Repurpose It. All that plus the four of us have been having a great time together.

Life is good.