1.21.2019

คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019

in which we reluctantly begin the search for a new vehicle

We were warned about this! We were half-expecting it.

Our car didn't pass the inspection for BC auto insurance. Supposedly this is what happens when you bring a car from another province.

We drive an old (2006) Kia Spectra, which we bought two years ago when our even older (2005) Chevy Optra was hit by a careless driver and our insurance carrier dumped it. Considering its age and its 155,000 kilometres, the Kia has been very solid. Before we drove west, we brought it in for a full check-up and got everything it needed, plus new snow tires. It drove across the continent without a hiccup.

Given that, it's a wee bit hard to believe that the car suddenly needs another $3,000 in repairs. But you can't get car insurance without the inspection, so the inspectors have you over a barrel. (If you enjoy word and phrase origins, over a barrel has an interesting story.)

It would be ridiculous to put another $3,000 into this car. It's more than we paid for it in the first place! Allan wants to get a second opinion, another inspection, but I'm not hopeful. So... we are car shopping. It had to happen sometime.

Now that we're in this rugged country, I'd like to get something slightly bigger and heavier. Almost everyone in our area drives a truck or an SUV. I don't think we want to spend that kind of money, but a bigger vehicle would be very useful here.

Here goes.

1.18.2019

jackie robinson: "i owe more to canadians than they'll ever know."

Let me set the scene.

The year is 1946. The United States is deeply segregated. The birth of the civil rights movement that would begin as African-American soldiers returned home to Jim Crow, after fighting for democracy abroad, is still a good 10 years away.

Newlyweds Jackie and Rachel Robinson leave their hometown of Pasadena, California, for Florida, where Jackie will become the first African-American to play organized, professional sports in the United States. When Rachel sees "whites only" signs for the first time in the airport bathroom, she takes a deep breath and walks in anyway, feeling scared, but proud and defiant. Neither Rachel nor Jackie had ever seen the heart of the Jim Crow South. They had no idea what awaited them.

Despite her airport bravada, Rachel and her husband weren't allowed to board their plane. They were "bumped" from their scheduled flight, and the flight after that, and the one after that. They were also not allowed to purchase food while they were waiting. The airline finally suggested they go into town and wait until a flight was became "available". Twelve stressful hours later, they were allowed to fly as far as Pensacola, Florida -- where they were forced off the flight, their seats sold to white passengers.

They then boarded a Greyhound bus, where they were forced to sit in the rearmost, windowless row, for 16 hot, bitter hours, then waited in a dirty, overcrowded "colored" waiting room for yet another bus, shared with black labourers on their way to work. Thirty-six hours after leaving Pasadena, Jackie and Rachel finally reached Daytona Beach, where the Brooklyn Dodgers held spring training.

Robinson and Branch Rickey,
Spring Training, 1946
And then it began. Teams cancelled games rather than have a black player on their field. Thousands of paying (African-American) customers were turned away when the "colored section" of inferior seats were sold out. Disgusting catcalls from the stands were standard. Pitchers threw at Robinson's head repeatedly. Sliding baserunners aimed their spikes at his skin. When the team was on the road, Jackie and Rachel stayed and ate at the homes of African-American families, as none of the hotels or restaurants that served the team would admit them.

At the end of spring training, Jackie was assigned to the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' top "farm club". Road games were a nightmare – but home games were a joy.

From Jackie Robinson: A Biography, by Arnold Rampersad:
In Montreal, after about a month in a guest house, and despite an acute postwar housing shortage, Jack and Rachel found a nice apartment. Expecting the sordid resistance that would have come in virtually any white American neighborhood, she was stunned by the genteel response when she answered an advertisement to sublet half of a duplex apartment at 8232 Rue de Gaspé, in the traditionally French-speaking East End. Deliberately, Rachel [who was pregnant with their first child] had chosen the less affluent French-speaking district over its wealthier English counterpart, which she expected to be more exclusive. (Montreal had no distinctly black district.)

On De Gaspé, almost everyone spoke mainly or only French, and a brown face was unusual; but the woman of the apartment received Rachel pleasantly, poured tea and talked, and quickly agreed to rent her apartment furnished, with all her own linen and kitchen utensils. Rachel was almost overwhelmed. "The woman didn't merely agree," she said, "she insisted that I use her things. She wanted me to be careful–no water on the hardwood floors, that sort of thing, but she was gracious. It left us euphoric, really. All the months in Canada were like that."

They moved in without incident. Later, when she began to show, an informal delegation of local women visited her to offer not only advice and friendship but also coupons from their ration books, so she could buy any scarce foodstuffs she needed or craved. With the language barrier and the demands of the Royals' schedule, Jack and Rachel could make very few friends in the neighborhood; but upstairs were the Méthots, with seven or eight children who brightened the house. Rachel and Jack came to know Edgar Méthot and his wife, who had just had a baby; twenty-seven years later, the Methots would recall the Robinsons as "such good people." Their closest friends, however, were a Jewish couple, Sam and Belle Maltin. Sam, a Canadian and a socialist, wrote on sports for the Montreal Herald but was also a stringer for the Pittsburgh Courier; like Rachel, Belle was pregnant at the time. Knowing of Rachel's love of classical music, the Maltins took them to outdoor concerts on Mount Royal that reminded Rachel of visits to the Hollywood Bowl. Belle introduced Rachel to Jewish cooking and also knitted her a sweater she still wore fifty years later. The Maltins had another black friend, Herb Trawick, a football player with the Montreal Alouettes, and the Robinsons got to know him as well.

On the whole, however, the Robinsons aimed for a subdued life when Jack was home. Rachel's day was bound up in going to the ballpark to watch him. When he was away, sometimes she traveled with him (although the club frowned on wives on the road), but mostly she stayed home and sewed clothes for herself and the coming baby, or worked on a crochet tablecloth she was making for her dream home in California. She got to know some of the neighborhood children because they followed her on the street or carried her groceries home; she also tempted the children living upstairs by leaving a door open and a bowl of fruit in plain sight. Rachel could say little to most of the adults – she had taken Latin but no French – but they remained friendly and protective of her. She liked to watch them come out onto their balconies to take the sun in the lazy summer afternoons; they, no doubt, admired her brown-skinned beauty and grace. In May, an Afro-American woman reporter, recalling Rachel's night of abuse in Baltimore, wrote admiringly of her unusual calm and poise: "The only person I know who can equal her is that first citizen of the world, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt."

. . .

[Robinson] could count on a uniformly warm reception only at home, in De Lorimer Downs. "I owe more to Canadians than they'll ever know," he said later. "In my baseball career they were the first to make me feel my natural self." Robinson would write later about one French-accented rooter who "used to shout from the bleachers, if things were bad, 'Jackie, 'e's my boy!' The man had lungs of brass, a voice of iron, and a heart of gold."

. . .

Protected in this way, Jack flourished on the field despite his periods of gloom. Typical was a game in Baltimore when he led an injury-ridden Royals team to a 10-9 victory, after Montreal went ahead 8-0 only to have Baltimore tie the game. Jack not only got three of the Royals' seven hits but also stole home. Such feats made him a lion to his teammates, and to his manager, [Clay] Hopper, who was now almost a complete convert to Rickey's view of Robinson. In Newsweek, Hopper saluted Jack as "a player who must go to the majors. He's a big-league ballplayer, a good team hustler, and a real gentleman." Race now meant less to other baseball men. "I'd like to have nine Robinsons," Bruno Betzel, the Jersey City Giants' manager, declared. "If I had one Jackie, I'd room with him myself and put him to bed nights, to make sure nothing happened to him."

"I've had great luck and great treatment," Jack told Newsweek modestly. "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me." By September, when the regular season ended, he had completely vindicated Rickey. Robinson became the first Royal to win the league batting crown; his average of .349 also eclipsed the Royals' team record, set in 1930. Hitting only three home runs, he nevertheless drove in 66 runs; he also scored more runs, 113, than anyone else in the league. His 40 stolen bases put him second only to his teammate Marvin Rackley's record-setting 65. At second base, he ended the season with the highest fielding percentage in the league. With one hundred victories, the highest number in team history, the Royals won the pennant by eighteen and a half games. They also played before the largest crowds at home and away – more than eight hundred thousand people – in the history of the club.

In the playoffs, the Royals won two tough seven-game series, first with the Newark Bears and then with the Syracuse Chiefs. Against Syracuse, in the deciding game, Jack went four-for-five. Then, late in September, the Royals traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, for the Little World Series against the Colonels of the American Association. For many of the Louisville players, officials, and fans, Robinson's presence was the most urgent single consideration; the series brought integrated baseball to Louisville for the first time. The Colonels, who had agreed only reluctantly to his playing, underscored their opposition by sharply limiting the number of seats for blacks, many of whom were left to mill about in confusion outside the park. Some who made it inside probably regretted their luck. "The tension was terrible," Robinson wrote, "and I was greeted with some of the worst vituperation I had yet experienced."

The Montreal press loved him.
The series opened with three games in Louisville, during which Jack slumped, going one for eleven. His failure only fed the rage of many white fans in the cheaper seats. "The worse I played," he recalled, "the more vicious that howling mob in the stands became. I had been booed pretty soundly before, but nothing like this. A torrent of mass hatred burst from the stands with virtually every move I made." As Jack suffered, Montreal dropped two games after taking the first. The abuse was so great that the white Louisville Courier-Journal felt obliged to deplore the "demonstrations of prejudice against Montreal's fine second baseman, the young Negro, Jackie Robinson," as well as the "brusque refusal" of the park to accommodate more black fans.

However, when the series moved to Montreal, the local fans repaid the Colonels. A storm of abuse, unprecedented at a Royals game, descended on the visitors. Down 4-0 at one point in the first home game, the Royals stormed back to win 6-5 in the tenth inning on a single by Robinson. In the fifth game, Jack doubled and, just after Louisville tied the game 3-all, hit a towering triple; then he laid down a bunt in the eighth inning "which really settled the fate of the Colonels," according to the Montreal Daily Star. "This was a really heady play, a beautifully placed hit." With Al Campanis, he also executed superb double plays to kill off Louisville scoring threats. Finally, on October 4, before an ecstatic crowd, the Royals defeated the Colonels once again, 2-0, to win the Little World Series. Robinson, who finished the series batting .400, also scored the last run.

Hustling to leave the ballpark in time to catch a plane, Jack made the mistake of stepping back onto the field before he could shower and change. Deliriously happy Montreal fans snatched him up in celebration. Previously, they had lifted Clay Hopper and a white player to their shoulders. Now, hugging and kissing Robinson, slapping him on the back, they carried him on their shoulders in triumph, singing songs of victory, until he was finally able to break away. Watching, the veteran writer Dink Carroll of the Gazette began to cry: "The tears poured down my cheeks and you choked up looking at it." Inside the locker room, Hopper warmly shook his hand. "You're a great ballplayer and a fine gentleman," he told Jack. "It's been wonderful having you on the team." When Robinson reappeared outside in street clothes, a large part of the crowd was still waiting. "They stormed around him, eager to touch him," the Gazette reported. Knowing exactly what he had accomplished over the season, they sang in tribute, "Il a gagné ses épaulettes"—He has earned his stripes; "they almost ripped the clothes from his back." In the Courier, his friend Sam Maltin wrote memorably of the astonishing scene: "It was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind."

1.17.2019

a reading plan for 2019: the year of the biography?

A new biography of Frederick Douglass has gotten glowing reviews, and as Douglass is one of my great heroes -- one of the greatest Americans -- I definitely want to read it.

This made me realize how many biographies I've been putting on The List and not reading. The one that's been on The List, unread, longest is Arnold Rampersad's biography of Jackie Robinson. Rampersad was the first biographer to have full access to Robinson's letters and other papers, as well as Rachel Robinson's approval and cooperation. It came out in 1998, and I'm reading it now.

Others on The List:
Peter Ackroyd's Dickens (1990) -- at more than 1,000 pages, this one is intimidating
Orwell: A Life, Bernard Crick (1992)
Helen Keller: A Life, Dorothy Hermann (1998)
Galileo, Watcher of the Skies, David Wootton (2013)
Ali: A Life, Jonathan Eig (2017)
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caroline Fraser (2017)

So I'm thinking, for my own reading, maybe this is the Year of the Biography. In between the bios, I would read other books as palate cleansers. I'm working my way through a mystery series -- very unusual for me to read an entire series, but I'm really enjoying Henning Mankell's Wallender books. Those will be great in between big fat biographies, plus there are always random titles I pick up at the library.

Will it all get boring? I'm going to try it -- with the understanding that I can drop it if I want. Also that it might take more than one year. That's all right, as I plan to be alive and reading next year, too.

I noticed we last chatted about my reading plans here. Readers had some very good advice... that I'm still working on.

1.16.2019

what i'm reading: occupy nation by todd gitlin

Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street is a history and ethnography of Occupy Wall Street, and the Occupy movement. Author, sociologist, and longtime leftist activist Todd Gitlin has written an account of how a social movement was born, grew, and died. After reading it, I felt utter despair at our ability to create a more democratic political system, and a more just economic system. I'm pretty sure that's not what Gitlin was going for!

It's easy to forget how present the Occupy movement became -- how quickly it spread, the attention it drew, how it forced a change in the terms of the debate. Hundreds of thousands of people in nearly 1,000 cities around the globe took part in Occupy demonstrations. The expression "the 99%" entered a common vocabulary. Occupy focused public and media attention on income inequality in a way I had not seen in my lifetime. Together with the Fight for 15, Occupy made labour and economic issues truly visible for the first time in many decades.

Gitlin does a good job of situating Occupy within the context of other progressive movements in the US, and to some extent, globally. I was most interested in his analysis of Occupy's inner workings. How did the movement grow? How was it governed? How were ideas put forward, how were actions chosen, who created the strategy, and how was it carried out? That's what I found so depressing. Occupy was strangled by its own ideals.

Occupy organizers wanted to create a participatory (as opposed to representative) democracy; they had a strong commitment to a leaderless structure where all voices were equal. It was meant to be a "prefigurative" movement -- a movement that reflects the world it wants to build.

Occupy's commitment to participatory democracy helped it quickly spread and grow, as people felt included and heard. But movements need goals, agendas, strategies. Movements need mechanisms to build consensus, to break bottlenecks, to ensure participation while still moving forward. And movements need leaders. Leaders arise very naturally in all situations; processes are needed to allow those leaders to lead, while still ensuring constant communication and participation at every level.

The "interminable meetings of fractious and dogmatic Occupiers" (as a Kirkus review puts it) eventually became unsustainable. There was no direction or plan for moving forward. There were too many ideas for forward movement, but no road taken.

None of this means Occupy was useless or accomplished nothing. I've written a lot about that and I don't want to repeat it all here. Occupy was an incredibly positive phenomenon. But it was unsustainable.

It's easy to create change from the top down -- to impose a strong will on others -- at least for a short period of time. But change from the ground up, a true grassroots movement, is infinitely more time-consuming and exponentially more difficult to build. It's also incredibly fragile, especially if the movement insists on being democratic and inclusive.

After reading this book, I felt, and certainly not for the first time, that building a new social system is all but impossible.

Of course, reform is possible. We can force reforms onto the present system, tiny bits of social democracy grafted onto a grossly capitalist system -- social security, public education, minimum labour standards. Everything that comprises the social safety net is such a reform. But reform is always too weak. Reforms leave too many people out, and they prop up a corrupt and unjust system. And as we know, those reforms can be withdrawn, or weakened so badly that they might as well not exist.

Moving from a nominally representative democracy to authoritarianism of any stripe is so easy. The playbook perfected in the 20th century has never gone out of fashion. Lies, propaganda, scapegoating -- create and sustain fear -- suppress the opposition -- repeat repeat repeat. The recipe is so effective, because it asks so little -- follow me blindly -- and apparently is very satisfying to large numbers of people.

Moving from that nominally representative democracy to something truly democratic and responsive to the needs of the people can never be accomplished through reforms. But is reform all we can get?

I know how almost everyone reading this answers that question. And I hate when I answer it the same way. Gitlin's book reinforced that dreaded answer for me. The answer I (try so hard to) refuse to believe.

1.13.2019

my first island off the island: a brief stop in sointula

This week I drove down to Port McNeill -- about 30 minutes away, and the home of one of my libraries -- and took the ferry to Malcolm Island, to visit another of my libraries, in the town of Sointula. I traveled with a co-worker who does programming and support work in our zone's libraries and communities. She's a great person and an awesome library worker, and we're doing all my first site visits together.

We stepped off the ferry and into Coho Joe, a local haunt. No sooner did we walk through the door than C was greeted warmly by name. She introduced me to two women, one a local artist, and both heavy library users -- one of whom we would see later that day.

Coho Joe is my kind of place.

An adorable menu, great food, and amazing coffee.

The library!

The small library, walking distance from the ferry, is incredibly well-loved by its community -- voracious readers whose tastes run a full gamut from esoteric nonfiction to paperback westerns. Twice a month a local textile artist leads a craft. A group of teens are working on bullet journals. C and I are planning a seniors program.

Most Sointula kids commute by ferry to school in Port McNeill, but there are also many homeschoolers. Public libraries everywhere are vital resources for homeschooling parents, and perhaps even more important in a small island community.

How you know this is a stock photo: note the blue sky and sun.

While we were there, a mom stopped in with a toddler, and C and the little girl did some building with connector straws. One of the women we met in the cafe also came by, and I worked with her on using the library's new website to access digital resources. What fun! I love doing "e-help" with motivated users, especially when we have to figure out some of the answers together.

In the coming weeks I'll be visiting all my libraries, meeting in person the people who make them run, and learning how I can better support their work and strengthen library services to their communities. So much fun! Days like this, I feel like I won the lottery of great jobs.

Sointula

Ever since learning its library would be part of my portfolio, I have been extremely intrigued with the town of Sointula. It began life as a utopian community, founded by striking coal miners! The name itself means "place of harmony" in the miners' native Finnish.

I've always been fascinated by utopian communities. In the 19th and early 20th century, there were several in New York and New Jersey, but you really have to dig to find any of the history. The dissident roots of Sointula are much easier to find -- in fact, it feels as though they are on display. The town is proudly eccentric and almost defiantly independent.

View of Sointula from the Port McNeil ferry.
Sointula and Malcolm Island are high on my list of local places I want to explore. There's an annual winter festival that's supposed to be amazing. In August, from a viewing platform in Bere Point Park, you can see migrating Orca rub against a beach to scape off barnacles.

A brief west-coast geography lesson

Between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, in the Strait of Georgia (or the Salish Sea) there are more than 200 islands, collectively known as the Gulf Islands. Gabriola and Salt Spring Islands are the largest of the Gulf Islands, and also the most convenient to the population centres of Vancouver and Nanaimo.

Southern Gulf Islands
North of the Gulf Islands is the Queen Charlotte Strait -- more water between Vancouver Island and mainland BC, and home to yet more islands. These are more remote, and also closer to where we live.
Here you can see where we live relative to the islands.
Note Nanaimo on both maps. Nanaimo is a 90-minute ferry ride from the city of Vancouver.

Still farther north is Haida Gwaii, an archipelago that is the heart of the territory of the Haida nation.

Note Port Hardy, our North Island town.
There are four VIRL libraries on Haida Gwaii.

For more perspective, note Haida Gwaii relative to Alaska.

You will occasionally hear people call Haida Gwaii the Queen Charlotte Islands, or just "the Queen Charlottes". The name Haida Gwaii -- which predates the anglo name by more than 10,000 years -- was returned to official status in 2010.

There is a movement to officially change the name of the province of BC as well. As this columnist wrote in 2016, the name itself is shameful, which may partly explain why one very rarely hears the full name spoken.

1.08.2019

the north island report: update on us

Things continue to fall into place here, a little at a time.

I'm enjoying our quiet weekends. Allan is off every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday; I work Saturdays until 5:00, then I'm off Sunday and Monday. This is more time off together than we've had in a long time, and having two consecutive days off every week -- without the added work from union responsibilities -- is so nice.

Every weekend we get out to explore some local beauty. We'll walk on the paved walk path along the bay, or poke along seaweed, shells, and rocks at low tide, or drive 10 minutes to a sandy beach where Diego can run on the sand. We always see birds. My many birding friends may enjoy this: I picked up one of these pocket guides to local birds, and I put it -- along with binoculars -- in the glove box in the car. I'd like to expand the range of birds I can identify... without making it a whole big project. (My ongoing quest against all-or-nothing thinking continues.)

I purchased the field guide at Cafe Guido, also known as The Book Nook, our local cafe/bookstore/gift shop/craft shop, across the street from the library. It's the sweetest place. The coffee and food are top-notch, and it's full of work by local artists. It's the kind of place you find in overkill proportions in touristy areas, but in Port Hardy, it's the only place like it in town. It's directly across from the library.

We had dinner in Port McNeill, which is about a half-hour down the "highway," and where another one of my libraries is located. We were again pleasantly surprised, and can now add Archipelagos to our short list of good local restaurants. This makes three! I think we'll end up with four or five places that we can cycle through, once a week. And when I think about it, that's really what we did in Mississauga. The difference is that in the GTA if we felt like something different, pretty much anything at all, it was available. (I can tell that when we travel, sushi and dim sum will be priorities!)

This means I'm cooking more. I'm getting into a weekly habit of cooking one or two dishes in a large batch, usually in the slow-cooker, and freezing it in portions. This leads me to want to expand my cooking repertoire.

We bought a big load of firewood. Someone posts firewood for sale in the Port Hardy Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook group, and then her partner delivers it to your home. A few days later, the firewood guy was on our street for another delivery, so he knocked on the door, and arranged to drop off smaller, "starter wood" (that's what he called kindling) during the week.

The wood is fir, and comes dry and ready to burn. Allan is going to get an ax and get some exercise making smaller logs, something he's not done since his teenage years in Vermont. (Don't worry, all safety precautions will be taken.) At night our neighbourhood smells so sweet from the smoke drifting out of the chimneys. We're hoping to contribute to that soon, and hopefully cut down on our enormous hydro bills.

We got our BC driver's licenses! Only temporary licenses so far while the real ones are being processed, and we've started the auto insurance process. Car insurance is public in BC. The North Island has slightly higher rates than "down island", as the many unpaved roads and changeable weather leads to a greater number of claims. Even so, our monthly premiums will be about the same as they were in the GTA.

And -- drumroll, please -- I got my hair done! This was the scariest piece, and I finally got it over with. I had a great cut/colour/highlights -- and Allan got a haircut, too -- at one of two local salons. It was as good as what I had in Mississauga, although much less expensive and I didn't have to step foot in the dreaded mall. Plus the stylist, who owns the shop, was really cool, and we had a good time talking. I often have to suffer through those conversations, but this was genuinely nice.

Also, we did all this right in town: driver's licenses and insurance in one stop, plus hair, a little lunch and the bird book, all steps away from each other on our main street, which itself is a five minutes' drive from home.

There's not a lot here, but on the other hand, there's everything we need. And as expected, we need less, and I'm enjoying that.

Several people have asked about photos... but Google street view will have to do for now. I often prefer to go out with out a camera, and I'm not into posting cell-phone pics. Sorry!

1.04.2019

harry leslie smith -- rest in power, and thank you

Harry Leslie Smith, who sometimes called himself "the world's oldest rebel," died in late November 2018. I was unable to acknowledge his passing on wmtc at the time.

Smith, a writer and an activist, was a steadfast critic of neoliberal policies, especially the austerity agenda. He spoke out constantly and consistently for a more generous, more just, and more inclusive society -- in short, for the preservation of social democracy.

His obituary in The Guardian quotes him:
I am one of the last few remaining voices left from a generation of men and women who built a better society for our children and grandchildren out of the horrors of the second world war, as well as the hunger of the Great Depression.

Sadly, that world my generation helped build on a foundation of decency and fair play is being swept away by neoliberalism and the greed of the 1%, which has brought discord around the globe. Today, the western world stands at its most dangerous juncture since the 1930s.
Smith was at his most eloquent when speaking against war-for-profit and in support of peace. In 2013, he wrote "This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time". It's a brilliant and heartbreaking piece. I will print it below; I hope you will read the whole thing.

Smith gave his initials HLS new meaning with his Twitter name, @harryslaststand. Last year, Smith tweeted this. Then as now, it brings tears to my eyes. An incredible honour, and something that helped me through the ordeal.


This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time
Harry Leslie Smith

I will remember friends and comrades in private next year, as the solemnity of remembrance has been twisted into a justification for conflict

Over the last 10 years the sepia tone of November has become blood-soaked with paper poppies festooning the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders. The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. The American civil war's General Sherman once said that "war is hell", but unfortunately today's politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens, in the name of the public good.

Still, this year I shall wear the poppy as I have done for many years. I wear it because I am from that last generation who remember a war that encompassed the entire world. I wear the poppy because I can recall when Britain was actually threatened with a real invasion and how its citizens stood at the ready to defend her shores. But most importantly, I wear the poppy to commemorate those of my childhood friends and comrades who did not survive the second world war and those who came home physically and emotionally wounded from horrific battles that no poet or journalist could describe.

However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy.

Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war with quotes from Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling and other great jingoists from our past empire, I will declare myself a conscientious objector. We must remember that the historical past of this country is not like an episode of Downton Abbey where the rich are portrayed as thoughtful, benevolent masters to poor folk who need the guiding hand of the ruling classes to live a proper life.

I can tell you it didn't happen that way because I was born nine years after the first world war began. I can attest that life for most people was spent in abject poverty where one laboured under brutal working conditions for little pay and lived in houses not fit to kennel a dog today. We must remember that the war was fought by the working classes who comprised 80% of Britain's population in 1913.

This is why I find that the government's intention to spend £50m to dress the slaughter of close to a million British soldiers in the 1914-18 conflict as a fight for freedom and democracy profane. Too many of the dead, from that horrendous war, didn't know real freedom because they were poor and were never truly represented by their members of parliament.

My uncle and many of my relatives died in that war and they weren't officers or NCOs; they were simple Tommies. They were like the hundreds of thousands of other boys who were sent to their slaughter by a government that didn't care to represent their citizens if they were working poor and under-educated. My family members took the king's shilling because they had little choice, whereas many others from similar economic backgrounds were strong-armed into enlisting by war propaganda or press-ganged into military service by their employers.

For many of you 1914 probably seems like a long time ago but I'll be 91 next year, so it feels recent. Today, we have allowed monolithic corporate institutions to set our national agenda. We have allowed vitriol to replace earnest debate and we have somehow deluded ourselves into thinking that wealth is wisdom. But by far the worst error we have made as a people is to think ourselves as taxpayers first and citizens second.

Next year, I won't wear the poppy but I will until my last breath remember the past and the struggles my generation made to build this country into a civilised state for the working and middle classes. If we are to survive as a progressive nation we have to start tending to our living because the wounded: our poor, our underemployed youth, our hard-pressed middle class and our struggling seniors shouldn't be left to die on the battleground of modern life.

1.01.2019

what i'm reading: hunger by roxane gay

During the Ontario provincial election, after a hack from the Toronto Sun drew attention to an unpopular view that I had expressed some years earlier, I was the object of right-wing attacks by email and on social media.

Many of these wingnuts referenced my weight in various disgusting ways. This shocked me because, although I am overweight, I'm not unusually heavy, not large enough to be remarkable. No matter. Total strangers mocked me for being overweight, using a whole slew of pejoratives and curse-words. I had never experienced that before.

I confess that even though I couldn't possibly care less what trolls think of me, each time this happened, I felt a brief pang of humiliation and embarrassment. I've always been impervious to right-wing bullying; if anything, I wear it with pride. But these taunts hurt, if only for a split-second. I wish this weren't true. I'm embarrassed to admit it.

I thought of this experience as I read Roxane Gay's powerful book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. I imagined what it might be like to feel that humiliation and embarrassment all the time, multiplied a thousandfold, day in and day out, year after year. To experience this so often and so typically that you come to expect it and imagine it, even when it might not be happening. I tried to imagine the psychic cost.

Gay makes it easy to imagine and to empathize, as she lays bare her thoughts and emotions in a way few memoirists dare. She lays open her heart to the reader. Even more than that. She opens a vein. Few writers allow themselves to be so vulnerable, so emotionally naked. It's impressive, and sometimes painful to read. I felt that Gay is asking us to bear witness. That's not comfortable or easy to do; it's not supposed to be.

Hunger and Gay's unsettling candor is not just about her weight. It's about why she first began to overeat, to build an armor between her and the world. When she was 12 years old, Gay survived an extremely brutal rape -- a gang rape, in fact, organized by someone she loved and trusted. The circumstances surrounding the assault -- who the perpetrator was, and Gay's relationship to him both before and after the attack -- add even more layers of horror.

Overwhelmed by shame and self-blame, Gay never told her parents. For a long time, she never told anyone. Her isolation amplified her feelings of worthlessness, and set her on the path of an extreme eating disorder.

Gay is a committed and informed feminist. Yet she carries an overwhelming hatred of her body, and an almost elemental self-blame and self-hate.
It would be easy to pretend I am just fine with my body as it is. I wish I did not see my body as something for which I should apologize or provide explanation. I'm a feminist and I believe in doing away with the rigid beauty standards that force women to conform to unrealistic ideals. I believe we should have broader definitions of beauty that include diverse body types. I believe it is so important for women to feel comfortable in their bodies, without wanting to change every single thing about their bodies to find that comfort. I (want to) believe my worth as a human being does not reside in my size or appearance. I know, having grown up in a culture that is generally toxic to women and constantly trying to discipline women's bodies, that is important to resist unreasonable standards for how my body or any body should look.

What I know and what I feel are two very different things.
I think most of us can relate to a gap between what we know and what we feel. Much of Hunger resides in that gap.

Gay writes about how her size and her self-loathing impact everything in her life -- travel, dining in restaurants, shopping, public speaking, exercise. And of course, her relationships. In short, she writes about what it's like to be very fat in a fat-phobic world -- and by extension, what it's like to be a woman in a world where the female appearance is relentlessly policed and judged.

Some of the best pieces in Hunger focus on reality television, the weight-loss industry, and the culture of celebrity fat-shaming. I'm no stranger to this material, but Gay's analysis is trenchant and bracing.

Her writing is spare, and it is blunt. Where it shines the brightest -- and paradoxically, where it's most difficult to read -- is her analysis of the aftermath and enduring effects of the rape. Throughout, she connects her private struggles to the larger public sphere.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body is an important book, both deeply personal and staunchly political.

If you're interested but don't think you'll read it, here are two very good reviews: The New Yorker and The Guardian.

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.