Reeder

I’ve been using the OS version of the RSS feed reader Reeder for a long time. I probably would have used the iOS version more if I could have easily synced the feeds between devices, but I would have had to set up another account to do that and I just couldn’t be bothered to figure that out.

The latest version of both apps now support iCloud syncing, and it works perfectly. Reeder was stuck at version 3 for a long time and it looked like it might just fade away, but there have been two updates in the past year or so. A lovely simple app.

National Theatre At Home

One of the few gifts of the spring pandemic lockdown was being able to watch plays from the National Theatre on YouTube for free. I don’t miss much about living in a city, but I do miss going to live theatre, and this was a welcome distraction from the simmering panic.

Steven and I have gone to Charlottetown in the past to see the National Theatre Live productions at the movie theatre, but this hasn’t been possible in recent years. When the Live at Home series ended, I wondered why we couldn’t just watch plays at home all the time.

The answer to my prayers arrived today with the new subscription service National Theatre at Home. We haven’t subscribed to any streaming services for some time, but I jumped on this right away. You can sign up for a yearly subscription or rent single shows.

There isn’t a lot on there yet, but they promise to release more each month. There is Medea with Helen McCrory, which we saw at the movie theatre and can’t wait to watch again as it was breathtaking. Amadeus was fantastic as well. And I hope Death of England: Delroy, which streamed on YouTube this past weekend, shows up on NT at Home as it was dense and powerful, a play about Brexit and Black Lives Matter and COVID-19 and so much more, the only play I’ve ever seen that talked about what was happening at the same time I was watching the play.

Radio didn’t kill theatre, movies didn’t kill theatre, television tried to kill theatre and probably came close at times, but theatre adapted, continued on, and the online world will only stretch it more. We still want to be in a space with someone else telling us a story surrounded by others who are listening to the same story. Sitting in your living room watching a play isn’t quite the same, but who knows what virtual reality will make possible?

Greetings from Halifax Parish

As our home internet is through a Bell Aliant wired connection, location services on websites can be either scarily accurate (right over our house) or humourously wonky (Kensington, Summerside, Tignish, all dozens of kilometres away).

Today the weather widget on my iPad shows me as being in Halifax Parish, which is true, but I would guess 99% of Halifax Parish residents would not know that’s where they live. Samuel Holland divided Epekwitk into counties and parishes on his 1765 map, and Lots 8-12 were Halifax Parish.

My guess is you would have to go back to the 1800s to find this term being commonly used for this area, so how did the bots grab onto it and thrust it into today?

What A Fiddle

I printed some meeting minutes on our HP LaserJet 1200 printer last evening. This faithful 16-year-old workhorse sits in Steven’s office and has printed 39,592 pages, with only 110 mispicks or jams. l gave it more RAM a couple of years ago, clean and dust it, sing it lullabies.

This morning I had to print a poster for a bake sale. Same MacBook Pro, same network, same printer, same same same…but no printing. The print job would go to the queue, show it was printing, the job would disappear as if it had printed, and nothing would happen, no lights, no movement, nada. I plugged the printer directly into my MBP and still no luck. Meanwhile, Steven’s older MacBook connected as normal. Well.

I opened every setting I could find and fiddled in dark corners of my computer I had no business being in. An online search leads me to believe that no one in the history of the online world seems to have ever had this exact thing happen, or perhaps they expired with frustration before they could write about it. Given how many different types of printer/computer configurations are out there, and that this is ancient tech connected to current tech, it’s not a surprise I had to find the answer on my own.

I finally found a pretty simple solution: in System Preferences>Printers and Scanners, I just added the 1200 as a new printer and chose something called “Generic PostScript Printer” settings instead of “HP LaserJet 1200” (“Generic PCL Printer” seemed to work just as well). Hey presto, printing resumed.

I bought my first computer in 1992, along with a 14.4k modem. In those 28 years, I’ve had two desktop computers (a Compaq with a huge 100MB hard drive and a G4 iMac in Bondi Blue) and four laptops (my first computer, a Sanyo without a graphics card, two iBooks and my current MacBook Pro). I have had only two printers: one ink-guzzling Canon inkjet, and now our dear 1200, who has been with me for more than half my computing life. Now that 1200 is a teenager, I guess it’s allowed a tantrum!

15 Years of Kiva

Today is Kiva’s 15th Anniversary! Kiva is a microfinance platform that allows people to make small loans to borrowers around the world. I’ve been a Kiva lender since 2007 and a volunteer editor with their 400-strong Review and Translation Program since March 2009.

As of today, I’ve edited 11,787 loans that have enabled 11,206,606 USD in lending activity on the Kiva website. The nifty Kiva editing platform, Viva, also tells me those loans added up to 1,585,796 words. I check each loan over at least twice, so it’s no wonder I now wear reading glasses!

It’s interesting to look back at how my yearly editing totals grew over the years, with the exception of 2015, the year I was diagnosed with hemochromatosis and obviously slept when I should have been editing! This year’s total is certainly a reflection of the global impact of COVID-19, with very few loans being posted for a while as the pandemic raced around the world.

What have I learned after reading about nearly 12,000 people, most of whom live in places I’ve never been and will probably never visit? More than I can ever relay, I’m sure, but here are a couple of examples:

  • a convenience store is called a sari-sari in the Philippines (so when one opened in my area, I knew exactly what it was!)
  • tuk-tuks, boda-bodas, habal-habals, and just plain motorcycles seem to move billions of people every day
  • M-pesa is changing Africa and most of us in Level 4 countries have never heard of it

I was asked to tell my personal Kiva story earlier this week at a Zoom meeting of Kiva staff and volunteers. The rest of the world seems to have spent the entire COVID-19 pandemic on Zoom, but I’ve not been able to join in due to our janky home internet. A kind friend with slightly better internet connection allowed me to set up shop at her house and everything went well! I had hoped to impart some profound wisdom gleaned from a decade of being a Kiva volunteer, but it all ended up being quite simple :

The biggest lesson that is constantly being reinforced for me through my Kiva volunteering is that we all want the same basic things, no matter where we are in the world. Everyone who is caring for children wants them to have a good education, they want clean water and better living conditions, an opportunity to start a new business or improve the one they have. It’s certainly like that here on PEI, and while I imagined it was the same everywhere, I get to see the proof of this in every loan I edit.

PEI is in the Atlantic time zone, 4 hours behind the UK, 4 hours ahead of San Francisco. So, when I’m heading to bed on a dark, snowy Canadian winter night, I sometimes think of the people I’ve met through their loan descriptions, who are 12 hours or more ahead of me in Asia or Africa, starting their morning by opening their store, or preparing food for their restaurant, or walking to the fields, getting their children ready for school, launching their beautiful boats to go fishing. I cheer them on from afar, these new global neighbours, and for me, that’s what this editing journey has been all about. 

I’ve been volunteering for something or other almost my whole life, but my experience as a Kiva volunteer has been the most enjoyable and enriching of anything I have ever done as a volunteer. It remains fun and interesting, and that’s why I’m still doing it (and the fact that I can do it any time, even in my pajamas, is pretty great, too!).

Through Kiva, I get to see the best of the human spirit, and help to make the world a bit better for others. On days when the world seems especially upside down, which seems to be quite often lately, Kiva gives me hope. I’m not sure who I would be now without Kiva.

I happened to notice yesterday I had made a total of 499 loans, so I’m off to make one more in celebration of this milestone and round things off nicely. If you want to join me and nearly two million other lenders, you’ll find more information here.

Courgette My Love

Feeling a bit “squashed” by zucchini? Only two of my summer squash plants made it through the hens picking most of the garden to death, but, really, there have been plenty of zuccs to go around with only two plants!

Thankfully, The Guardian has a cornucopia of courgette recipes. Just made Nigel Slater’s recipe for sweetcorn cake (I didn’t read the part where it makes two cakes, so ended up with one, which was fine), and last week make this rather odd-sounding but completely delicious Creamy Courgette and Tarragon Cobbler. Both vegetarian and easily made vegan and gluten free.

A pro tip from my mother, who used to grow and freeze oodles of corn: cutting corn off a cob is a lousy and potentially dangerous job, so cook your corn on the cob, then pry the kernels off using a fork. They come off the cob easily as you run the fork along, and stay pretty much whole, so no waste. You also don’t slice your thumb off, which makes everything better. I also find steaming corn is better than boiling it, and that’s what I did for the sweetcorn cake recipe.

Searching

I was up late last night cutting green tomatoes and onions in order to make pickles this morning. It was a windy night and I could hear the sound of a low, steady engine drone. The noise was unidentifiable when I opened the back door near midnight, but my best guess was that someone was harvesting corn, though it would be highly unusual to be working so late.

A large airplane flew low over our house early this morning, then another an hour later, followed by a search and rescue helicopter. Military exercises have occurred in our area in the past, but I guessed it was what I had hoped it wasn’t late last night.

It turns out three teenage boys from the Alberton area went out in a dory last evening, but only one boy returned to shore by swimming. Fishers, search and rescue volunteers, and military and police services are searching the area for the two boys.

The dories used here are flat bottomed and sturdy, used mostly for inshore fishing of oysters or for sport fishing. They are very stable in rough water, but if you are speeding along and your propeller snags on a hidden rope, you can be instantly thrown from the boat. This has been more of an issue in recent years due to the increase in growing mussels and oysters in cages suspended in the water and anchored to the bottom as the anchor ropes are sometimes mistakenly left behind. A couple of my cousins have had close calls just a few hundred metres from here, it can happen so quickly.

Those three poor boys must have had something unusual and frightening happen. My heart is aching for them.

Another plane went over a few minutes ago, the low drone of engines still off to the north. That’s a good sign, the search goes on, and there is hope for the anguished families. I keep looking out at the river.

Search and rescue plane, in the haze of the smoke from fires on the west coast of North America.

1960+60

My parents were married in Summerside on September 7, 1944 . No big celebration, not even one photo of the day, just my parents, their two witnesses, and the minister for a simple service in the church office. A couple of days later, my parents, who were both still serving in the RCAF, went back to their wartime posts.

Their 16th wedding anniversary in 1960 would have been on a Wednesday, the day when all country general stores like theirs, and many stores in the bigger communities on PEI, closed in the afternoon. Why Wednesday? Who knows, but it was a different time, a slower time, and everyone agreed Wednesday afternoons and Sundays were not for commerce.

September 7, 1960 would have been an exception to that Wednesday closure rule because a huge forest fire was tearing through western PEI, burning thousands of acres of forest and destroying homes and businesses. My father probably spent the day evacuating neighbours with his one-ton flatbed propane delivery truck, and my mother would have kept their store open the entire day, even as they were running out of basic supplies.

10 years ago, I published the digital version of a scrapbook of newspaper articles my mother saved during the 1960 West Prince Forest Fire. If anyone has looked at my website, it has probably been to look at this resource, and I’ve heard from hundreds of people who wanted to share their memories of that time.

I was born in 1966, but heard so many stories about The Fire for my entire life that it seems impossible that I wasn’t actually there! The physical marks of the fire were all around me when I was a child, burned stumps and tales of lost buildings. 

I took a walk around our property yesterday looking for the remnants of that fire, and there are very few left. If I didn’t know what I was looking for, I wouldn’t have given the few things I found any special meaning, for they don’t look important in any way.

Here’s a bit of burned tree stump that has yet to be totally absorbed into the spongy forest floor. Most of our land had been in grain or hay in the dry summer of 1960, but some trees stood along the riverbank, and many of those were lost. When I was a child in the 1970s, there were dozens of stumps like this in our woods, but today I only found this one tiny bit.

Remnent of tree burned in 1960 fire.
History is well hidden, almost gone.

Here is the firebreak created by an unknown bulldozer operator to try to save the house that belonged to our neighbour, Ida Skerry. It’s difficult to see this little mound of dirt in a photo, so I doffed my rubber boots to give some perspective! Ida’s house was saved, but her small outbuildings were lost, and bits of melted glass and metal are all that remain of those little sheds. Those fragments of history emerge from the soil every so often, but each year’s cascade of dead spruce needles and birch leaves is burying them a bit deeper, and soon they will stay hidden.

Here are burn marks on our log cabin, a tinderbox that survived only because a bucket brigade hauled water from the river after the electricity poles burned, killing the water pump that had just been installed the previous year when electricity had finally arrived in our community.

When I’m gone, the history of the enormous fire that raged over this small plot of land will will be erased, absorbed into the ground to moulder and disappear, but yesterday we remembered. My mother and I talked about her wedding day 76 years ago when she had just turned 22, and the fire 16 years later that threatened everyone she knew and everything she and my father had worked so hard to build. We felt grateful to be together.

Stay Safe

This has been a challenging Monday morning, plans abandoned as priorities changed quickly.

I decided to take a few minutes to recalibrate and finsh reading a library book so I could return it tomorrow. I found this little note on the back of a library slip which, by the March 31 due date, means it was likely written just as PEI started to lock down and we searched for ways to express our concern for each other in this new COVID-19 time. I went from feeling resentful and harried to feeling present and calm in the space of a few seconds, the powerful combination of surprise and words bringing me back into my body and helping me to feel peaceful. The twists and turns of life never cease to amaze me.

Hummus

Gentle readers, I regret to inform you that Felicity Cloake is correct in claiming that peeling chickpeas makes a nicer hummus. It seems like a silly job, but you could say the rosary or review the Four Noble Truths while doing it for an efficient and holistic win-win!