Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The case of the vanishing lettuce

 At the beginning of April I put some lettuce seed into a pot filled with potting soil. I’ve been doing this for a few years, after many years of seeding directly into the garden, and then not thinning adequately when the plants inevitably came up: fewer plants, more widely spaced, leads to better yields. 

But you knew that.

Anyway, other pots and flats with other seeds started to produce plants –– leeks, tomatoes, beans, squash –– but I noticed not one of them was lettuce. That pot had vanished entirely.

Confession: I’m not much of a gardener. I know this for a fact, because we have friends and neighbours who are superb managers of their gardens. It’s one of the reasons why we’re heavily into rhododendrons, which, once you plant them, pretty much look after themselves. I suspect it’s why our excellent neighbour once observed, “You should have been a farmer”, almost certainly obliquely noting the piles of potentially-useful stuff and compost piles scattered in strategic places around the yard, where he would have tended immaculate grass. 

Anyway. I understand my limitations, and that usually I would rather read yet another newspaper than tend to the vegetables.

I’m always amused by the people who, upon hearing that I was born in Holland, exclaim, “You must have inherited the Dutch gardening gene!” because little could be further from the truth. It’s true my maternal grandfather was descended from a long line of farmers in the Dutch province of Zeeland. But when it came time for him to make his way in the world he put that firmly behind him and joined the army. There he became a Physical Training instructor, which he subsequently exploited to become the Physical Training Instructor at the gymnasium (high school) both my parents attended. And my paternal grandfather, the one after whom I’m named, came from considerable money. He was modestly-successful as an artist and made a considerable career of writing: art criticism for a newspaper and a number of books on art and philosophy. 

(I read Dutch the way a 7-year-old beginning reader reads Dutch, so I cannot tell you how good these are, but you can still google his name, and if you don’t get my dad or me, that’s him.)

I have always assumed my paternal grandfather’s family employed a gardener because they didn’t even do their own laundry or cooking, but I know for a fact that at least two of his relatives, who owned large estates in Rotterdam, had live-in gardeners. Because I met them.

Back to the lettuce.

When Sandy’s flowers started to grow in their little pods, I noticed some of them looked suspiciously like lettuce so I asked her. No, they were gazenias, because that’s what she’d planted, and, unlike me, she keeps track. She even planted a number in what was to be their summer home, a large decorative pot on our new stairs.

And then it became obvious that her gazenias were, in fact, my lettuce. She had obviously found a pot of unclaimed potting soil, conveniently close to her tray, and used that soil, just like anyone else would. (Did I mention that I don’t usually bother to label my vegetable starts?) 

So that mystery has been solved. The lettuce has been reclaimed and planted. And, just for a little bonus, some of the lettuce plants were actually sharing a pod with a very small gazenia plant, so Sandy wasn’t altogether wrong!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

I'll get right on that

     Our very excellent VW Golf TDI is 10 years old this year, and this is the month it became ours. 

When I got it home from the broker in Victoria, on considering all its attributes and parts I discovered a cord that I couldn’t immediately place. Until it occurred to me that it must be for plugging in the block heater; indeed, that was confirmed by the manual. 

So it was filed away and forgotten: we live in southern BC, on Vancouver Island, where block heaters aren’t a consideration.

File this information away for later, because I first want to tell about our experience in Quebec, where block heaters are very much an issue.

We all know there are times when it becomes bitterly cold in Quebec. How cold? Well...

The second time we lived there we were driving a 12-passenger Ford 350 van. When we arrived, in order to accommodate provincial regulations, we had to make a number of modifications,  and while the van was in the garage having this done, I had them install a block heater. This was used religiously when it got cold, because the van had been converted to propane, and propane is even less tolerant of cold than gas. Consequently, we never had problems with starting although our fuel mileage was atrocious.

The only auto-propane station in our region was in Victoriaville, and although the propane service regulations in Quebec are the same as here (to wit, the attendant has to be trained to service a propane vehicle) when it got really cold the attendants didn’t want anything to do with service, and asked me to do the fill myself. So I did. One day, when the temperature was in the high minus-20’s, I didn’t get the nozzle attached quite right, and some fuel spilled out into my hand. Where it shivered and puddled, and refused to turn into a gas. 

That’s how cold.

A number of my colleagues on staff owned VW diesels. They loved them, and were always crowing about and comparing their excellent mileage numbers. But then came the real cold, and suddenly that talk turned into what to do if your fuel turns into a gel, as diesel is apparently wont to do when it gets really cold. The block heaters they all had, I was informed, don’t resolve this problem; for that you need chemicals, available at the Canadian Tire outlet in Victoriaville. 

I believe that even in our part of BC the formulation of diesel changes with the seasons.

So I was not surprised to see the required cord, even though I wouldn’t be using it.

Fast forward to yesterday, when we got a very official-looking envelope from VW Canada, featuring a prominent red stripe on both front and back reading IMPORTANT SAFETY RECALL NOTICE  

After 10 years and Dieselgate, what could possibly still require a recall?
The enclosed letter, which revealed all, was entitled "Important Safety Recall", and subheaded: "Follow-up to Safety Recall 97EK -- Label for Engine Block Heater Cable/ label enclosed for your Engine Block Heater Cable"
It seems the previous one that had been issued, the one I don’t believe I ever received possibly because I didn’t buy the car from a dealer, came without instructions in French. 

On the reverse of the letter, instructions for installation complete with illustrations: "Engine Block Heater Warning Label Installation Instructions". These informed me that I should peel the backing off the adhesive strip, run that strip through the hole punched in the card, fold the strip around the cable, and then press the two adhesive sides together.
The new bilingual card and the tape to stick it to said cable were enclosed. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

An Intercooler saga

Volkswagens do apparently go forever, but only if you look after them, and ours are getting on.

Which is why our 2011 TDI Golf Wagon, the one with nearly 200,000 KM on the odometer and about 9 months and nearly 8,000 KM since its last service, went to see the garage in Courtenay last Tuesday.

For an oil change and a general checkover, and because the little pop-up notice temporarily replacing the mileage readout to remind one that routine service is increasingly overdue was also becoming increasingly insistent and annoying.

Of course, being a VW diesel the Golf’s needs cannot be satisfied just anywhere; it needs the ministrations of a fully-trained-and-certified VW technician, who works for the dealer in, of course, Courtenay, some 45 minutes away. So that required two of us and two vehicles, the other being our 1992 Westfalia Eurovan, 5 cylinder gasoline, 330,000 KM, and usually retired for the winter.

We dropped the Golf off with the dealer, and drove to Costco, where we could kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.

Having survived that, we set off for home with a full load of groceries, some of them frozen. We hadn’t even cleared the outskirts of Courtenay before the alternator light suddenly went on. It’s bright red, set just under the speedometer so you cannot miss it, and when it goes on, you stop.

We did that. There’s a display which reads out the voltage being produced by the alternator just above the window; it read 11.5V. That’s not enough, but it isn’t nothing, so I reasoned that I should be able to get home to deal with the frozen stuff if I was careful. 

(Last time that light came on we were in Clarkston, on the Snake River, on the Washington side. That time it blinked, so I thought it must be defective, and mostly ignored it. We got to just past Moscow, Idaho before the van shut down altogether and Sandy had to call the Automobile Association, who arranged a truck to take us all the way to Coeur d’Alene where there was a garage...)

Anyway, I was careful. And nervous. And then suddenly, just before the Oyster River, the light went off, the alternator started putting out the required 14.5V, and we drove home without further incident.

I went to pick the Golf up when it was ready, explained what had happened to the Service Manager (we’re on a first-name basis: never a really good sign but by now we have a history, and I have learned to have a good deal of faith in his expertise!) and left the van there, knowing they wouldn’t look at it right away, knowing it was very unlikely that an obvious explanation would be found.

Fast forward to Monday, a week later. It had snowed in Campbell River on the weekend, and we’d had some serious frost at night. The Golf had been sitting in the carport. It had not moved for three days. It was warmer, the snow was nice and soft, and although there was around a foot of it, in late afternoon I thought I could save myself some shovelling by driving the car onto the road and then back into the driveway and carport. This is not a new tactic and more often than not it works.

I got in the car, turned the key halfway, waited because it’s been cold and glowplugs work better when warm, and turned the key fully: the car sounded terrible, like one cylinder was dead, and produced clouds of white exhaust. I immediately turned it off. But that wouldn’t solve anything, so I tried again. This time, after a little coaxing, it ran a little more smoothly, idled fine, but when I stepped on the accelerator, the engine would go to only 2500 RPM. At that point it sounded terrible, and produced clouds of white exhaust. I tried letting it idle for a while. No change.

So I abandoned that. Tried again in the morning: no better.

Since “Dieselgate”, when one has had one’s vehicle serviced, VW provides 6 months of complimentary “roadside assistance”. I phoned; they arranged a tow. The truck came eventually and took the Golf away.

When Mike dropped me off at the garage in Courtenay, the Service Manager got me up to speed: no, they couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with the van, so they cleaned up some contacts. We’re left hoping for the best, and in truth, the van runs like a top. 

They had the Golf in the shop, and suspected water, but how it got into the fuel and the fresh oil was something of a mystery. He mentioned the “intercooler”; said Volkswagen would replace it for me, and we’d all cross our fingers and hope there was nothing more serious.

I drove the van home without issue.

Now I associate “intercooler” with the decal on the back of Mercedes-Benz cars of a certain age and nothing else, so when I got home, I looked up “VW TDI Intercooler”, and in the beginning of the article I found:

  The new common-rail TDI models do great in cold weather outside of one potentially serious problem – intercooler icing.  Ice in the intercooler blocks airflow and, in the worst cases, can send ice chunks or liquid water into the engine, causing serious internal damage.


Upon first starting the car in the morning, cars with icing in the intercooler will run more roughly than usual, sometimes will shake or sound like the motor is struggling to stay running.  When icing becomes serious the motor may abruptly stall or make a rough “hiccup” or “missing” type noise.

Crazy, right? Because that almost exactly describes what happened. Turns out, every car with a turbocharger has an “intercooler” to cool the incoming gasses so they explode better. Who knew?

Denouement: Today, just after 4 the garage called: the car was ready. Sandy and I debated briefly, then decided the forecast for East Vancouver Island for tomorrow was iffy, so we’d go pick up the car.

Did that. The intercooler had indeed been defective, or at least not a model designed for operation in winter. (Which is a bit odd, as we’ve been doing just that for 10 years!) Volkswagen replaced it, plus the fuel pump. We also had some “200,000 KM work” done, so it should be good for at least another 100,000 KM.

In other words, another 100 tanks of fuel.

As usual the garage provided excellent service, and made a bundle. We paid the price for our part of that excellent VW service, and VW honoured its recall.

The van performed flawlessly, coming and going, and is once more retired for the winter. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


 People with Telus email accounts will have noticed that Telus has decided to hive off responsibility for them to Google mail, the more secure version of gmail, sold to businesses.

About a month ago, we “migrated” our rarely-used family account to Google, without much incident.

Then Telus told me last week that it was time to migrate my personal Telus email account. I set that up for this morning, and got a notice in my inbox (sent to island.net; it's significant that’s not a Google account) that the migration had happened. 

Approximately simultaneously Thunderbird, my email client of choice (as it has been for about 20 years) started to squawk about being unable to contact the account in question.
I'd carefully prepared by assembling the instructions, but of course if one already has two other Google accounts nothing looks like the instructions suggest. And Google apparently isn't that fond of Macs and hates Thunderbird. 

Fortunately there are settings even for email clients that don’t have Google’s immediate approval, if you can find them. I did, eventually, so entered the required information, and then got a message that the account had successfully migrated.
Thunderbird continued to complain bitterly that it couldn't connect. So I looked at the settings for our family account and could see why: both incoming and outgoing servers were obviously wrong.
Except that one cannot edit the settings of an account already in Thunderbird.
Solution? Trash that account and start a new one.

So I did the laptop, expecting further issues, but having done the desktop, that turned out to be a breeze.
Still, it took me the best part of 1.5 hours.

I'm retired; of course none of this matters.
But I cannot believe that I'm the only one with a Mac and more than one email address! 

Because the process I encountered is distinctly convoluted.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Election 2020: The view from here

November 9, 2020

There are times when those of us who live in BC feel even further from Toronto emotionally than we are geographically.

For me, this was such a day.

Today I had to scroll all the way past voluminous (and admittedly excellent) coverage of the US election and the death of Alex Trebek to Page 6 in Canada’s self-styled “National Newspaper”, the Globe and Mail, to get the only inkling that something rather momentous politically had just happened in the third-largest and most populous province of Confederation.

And what did we get on page 6? We got Ian Bailey’s interview with Christy Clark, in which she gave “advice” to the BCLib deep thinkers on how to regain influence with BC voters. 

As if she isn’t the architect of their present misfortunes! As if the compassionate centre she advocates isn’t already occupied by the BCNDP! “To be specific, she cited climate change, addressing the wage gap for women, systemic discrimination, supporting First Nations and the LGBTQ community,”  says Bailey.

Well, she’s history, and unless something unexpected happens, so is her party; that “big tent” is open to the elements.

In the meantime, he did devote one paragraph to the final numbers (only one is going to recount) BCNDP 57, BCLiberal 28, Green 2

And so far I haven’t seen anyone outside of Twitter mention that the NDP caucus will have more females than males. I do believe that’s a first in Canada, and more than a little significant!

November 11, 2020

Statistics frequently don’t tell the important parts of an election story, but this one, I believe, is a bit of an exception. For example, NDP candidates have won North Island  (exception 2001, in the BCLib near-sweep) forever. But never very comfortably until this election, when the NDP’s Michele Babchuk, running for the first time, got 50.75% of the vote. Another one: Oak Bay-Gordon Head has almost always followed the government, voting Social Credit when it was the dominant party, switching to NDP when it was, switching to BCLiberal when Campbell became Premier, and then beating expectations by going Green with Andrew Weaver in 2013. (Of course he effectively became part of the government when Premier Horgan and he scraped together a working agreement to oust the Clark government in 2017.) Then he retired. Murray Rankin, long an NDP stalwart federally, ran there tis election, and increased the NDP vote 27.5% to 51.1%. And yet another: Ronna-Rae Leonard, in Courtenay-Comox, notoriously won last election in a squeaker of a recount, her victory making the NDP minority possible.  This time? Up 13.2%, and 50.6%. Yes, she is a good constituency MLA, but not that good!

I could, of course, cite many more examples: something was definitely happening!

You could tell something was in the air in Campbell River from the beginning. Yes, there was a pandemic happening, and yes, it was a snap election, but still... The Babchuk campaign got signs up during the second week. All the usual lawns had them and then some, and very few in public spaces: textbook NDP sign tactics. It took more than 3 weeks to see the first Green signs (They clearly thought they had a winner in Alexandra Morton, the notorious anti-salmon farm activist; those of us who’ve been on the political salmon file for years were pretty sure that was delusional: wrong candidate, wrong constituency, insufficient funding to make much of a dent. They ran 3rd, as usual) There weren’t very many signs and very few of them were on lawns. They appeared to use exclusively small signs, and this year’s version of green blended too well with the vegetation. Then finally, in the last two weeks, we got a blizzard of BCLib signs. There may have been some on lawns, but certainly most were in public spaces and inefficient: what makes anyone think putting 5 signs in a clump along the road is useful? That just suggests your campaign ordered too many and doesn’t have actual addresses at which to place them! 

Of course, there was no door-knocking. Some of us have maintained for several recent elections that that kind of door-to-door campaigning, a city mainstay, is largely irrelevant in constituencies like North Island. Proof? We’ve never before won Campbell River. And the rest of the constituency is far too spread out. This time our candidate was well-known: a city councillor, the chair of the Regional Board, and a former Chair of the School District. Obviously the fact that there was no personal contact didn’t do her campaign any damage. 

Her campaign did an adequate job of Facebook ads, but the winner of that file, hands down (apart from the excellent central campaign focusing on premier Horgan) was Murray Rankin in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, who managed a significant posting virtually every day.

I have no proof, but suspect the campaign in Campbell River was pretty typical. In BC, only 52.4% of eligible voters voted, which is the lowest number in 90 years. Why? It was easier than ever to cast a ballot: Sandy and I both ordered a mailed ballot online and sent it in when it arrived in the mail. (Altogether, over 640,000 mailed ballots were cast, another significant record.) There were a full 5 days of advance voting; consequently, by voting day there were almost no lines anywhere. So no one can claim voting was too onerous! 

When John Horgan first became leader of the BCNDP the Christy Clark government tried to tar him with an “angry John Horgan” label. That didn’t work at all: Horgan found another gear entirely as Premier, and I suspect BCers were quite satisfied with Premier Horgan’s low-key, non-confrontational approach to governing. He also didn’t hog the spotlight; his Cabinet, particularly his key Ministers (Dix, James, Eby, Simpson, Fleming, Heyman, et al) almost all of whom had been the opposition critics for those same portfolios for years, became very much the public face of their portfolios.  Most BC voters, I believe, think that worked.

But the very biggest difference in 2020 was that the party and election financing rules had been changed, with enthusiastic Green cooperation. No longer could corporations pile vast amounts of money in BCLib coffers; no longer could BC trade unions prop up NDP campaigns and constituencies. The result was that everyone was short of money, but the change hit the BCLibs particularly hard. For once they had no aircraft, and no campaign bus. Furthermore, as the campaign progressed, it became clear that they were lousy improvisors. 

The other change is that people like us were told we had contributed the maximum, and no number of pleading emails could change that. The implication of that fact is that parties are going to have to really work at expanding their donor bases. That’s good for democracy.

I believe the new rules have changed elections in BC for the better and for good. (unless some future government changes the law again, of course!)

To sum up, I think this election was both an outlier (in that we’ll never again get such numbers and so many seats) and an indicator of a significant cultural shift in the BC electorate. 

As you can tell, we’re pretty chuffed by the results!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The vinegar solution meets new technology

About 8 months ago our venerable Italian pod coffee maker died a horrible death when a significant quantity of icky black liquid emerged from where its workings hid, and it refused to provide anything else.

I investigated purchasing another, but they've gone up considerably in price and besides I couldn't purchase one in Campbell River, so I broke down and bought a Keurig. It works fine, and makes excellent coffee if one feeds it excellent beans. 

Which I do, because we're old and very particular about our coffee these days!

Anyway, I know about pod coffee makers: you have to de-gunge and de-scale them about every 6 months, right?

Right. So I googled it and discovered, as anticipated, that vinegar was the solution. 

Unless you read the Keurig instructions, of course. They tell you to purchase their patented Keurig de-scaling solution.

I naturally concluded this advice, which comes in the box, is for idiots who don't know about vinegar's amazing de-scaling and de-gunging properties.

So I replaced the water in the reservoir with vinegar, placed a mug under the outlet, and started the usual coffee-making process.

The first cup came out as expected, hot and vinegary. Then the second cup stalled: the little pump that blasts the hot water through the coffee in the pod refused to expel more than a couple of tablespoons into the mug before stopping.

I started thinking my newish coffee maker had been so insulted by the vinegar, that it had quit on me. I started thinking what I would need to do to replace a newly-defective machine. 

However, the little water it produced looked fine, and was heated appropriately, so I removed  the excess vinegar from the reservoir, filled it up with cold water and carried on, producing a few tablespoons of liquid each time.

By about the 8th or 9th attempt, the machine started to reward me with a little more each time, and by the 12th time it was producing heated water in the appropriate quantity. 

So I ground some fresh coffee, scooped it into the re-usable pod, and fired up the coffee maker once more.

The coffee was excellent, as always.

But I may have to re-think that vinegar solution, next time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Some anecdotes regarding technology

 We live in astonishing, maybe miraculous times, even without talking Covid.

To illustrate: Sandy was showing me the Instagram feed of our daughter, photos of a very recent trip the Super Cousins (our grandkids, in other words!) and their parents had done into the heart of Strathcona Park. There was one photo in particular that I thought I needed for our board of family photos, a photo of them, after the hike, tired, triumphant, and soaking from the recent rain.

So I texted, specifying the photo, which promptly arrived by return text.

It went from her phone to my phone, which doesn’t have a printer connected, so I emailed it to myself, picked it up on my desktop computer, printed it on the attached photo printer, and posted it to the board. 

Nothing remarkable about this, right? But think about what just happened for a moment: that process, the precise route of a photo taken by my daughter’s phone, transmitted wirelessly to my phone, in a matter of minutes appearing on the board, would have been impossible as recently as 10 years ago!

Other examples:

Our eldest grandson, not yet 11, writes a blog of family news from his perspective for his cousins,  relatives, and friends. He started writing it for printing on their home printer several months ago using an old iPhone handed down from his mother, and often includes photos he has taken with the phone or collected from his aunts or cousins via his home’s wi-fi. His dad hooked him up with the blog and I believe he has now dumped the phone for a tablet, which allows him more choices of fonts and colours.

Our granddaughters, having been shown the ropes by their mother, a digital-age secondary teacher, regularly make, share, and send small movies to their grandparents and cousins.

Our daughter, who lives on the wrong side of the border so that we cannot see her family in person, communicates most days by Zoom, and regularly sends Snapchat videos, usually featuring their children, the younger of whom may be too young to remember us in person, but has no trouble talking to us remotely.

It’s particularly astonishing if one considers where we, in our lifetimes, started this journey.

In 2008, well before there were any “Super Cousins”, our daughter was teaching in Turkey. We talked to her on Skype quite regularly, although the connection was frequently unreliable. (But imagine! The stuff of science fiction only a few years earlier!) My dad, then into his 90’s, was over one day when she called, and so he was able to talk to her, face-to-face, in Istanbul. I took a photo, which remains one of my favourites. 

As a child he had had some experience with telephones, but his family didn’t have one, and I don’t think he personally had one in Holland until the late 1940’s. Later, after we were sufficiently settled in Terrace to afford one, it connected the entire Eby Road, and one knew when one was being called because the phone rang your ring: long, short, long.

When the Timberline staff moved into the brand-new school, specially wired for computer and internet connectivity in 1998, every teacher’s desk had a computer, connected by intranet to the school server. The district had initially gone big: that server had a full, hard-at-the-time-to-imagine, 20 Gigabyte capacity! (My present phone has 64) Anyway, there were about 80 such teacher desktops in the building, and it took less than a year before all 20 gigs were fully-used and people had to be told to remove personal stuff like photos and music. And of course the server had to be upgraded pretty-much every year, which was a pain because, predictably, the district had provided the initial tools (capital budget) but neither the technical support nor the money to maintain the system (operating budget).

While most of us took to the new system enthusiastically, predictably some of our colleagues were reluctant users of the technology at best: one colleague never did master the compulsory task of sending in the attendance for the period; he got a student in each of his classes to do it.

I still remember the joy when I discovered that I could get “Open Office” to run on the Windows machine at school and also on my Mac at home, so that I could, using a “floppy disk”, transport my files to where I needed them. Bonus! I no longer needed to get into the school at night or on weekends.

I still have some of those cases of “floppies”, even though I no longer have a way of looking at the contents. Pure laziness, or maybe nostalgia for an already-bygone era? (Thank goodness my desktop Mac still has a DVD “superdrive”; the three newer ones don’t, and our subscription to the BBC Music Magazine comes with a monthly CD of music from the BBC’s archives.)

Speaking of CDs (which are, in their turn, rapidly going obsolete, replaced by streaming services) we literally own several thousand. Of course we own a CD player, but almost never use it: I’d been fantasizing for years that one would be able to own and afford a storage system that would hold all of them, until, suddenly, there it was, an affordable one terrabyte drive. Shortly after I had loaded our music library onto it, it became possible to replace the wired connection without loss of fidelity, and nowadays we select the music we want on our music server and hear it played on our household speakers. An iPhone or iPad can even access the system remotely. 

I’m still boggled, every time I think about that.

Going further back:

When the use of technology came up in class, I sometimes indulged myself by regaling students with stories of technology when I was their age, in high school. Did all the science nerds carry slide-rules? You bet they did. And were we issued log tables in Grade 12 Math? Count on it! And what kind of phones did we have, or cameras, or stereo systems?...etc. Did my students really believe me? Doubt it!

When I started my career in 1969 attendance was done in a register, which had to be “balanced” at the end of the year. At the end of my first year that process took so long that one of the secretaries finally took pity on me, said she’d do it, and sent me home for the holidays. Obviously, I’ve never forgotten that act of kindness, or the frustration of not getting the figures to match. Bless first the secretary, then the calculator and subsequently the computer for changing that bookkeeping task.

Also at the beginning of my career I was introduced to the BCTF publication of a list of numerators and denominators translated into percentages: if your gradebook shows 64/106, what percentage do you report? At the time, an era before the hand-held calculator, a lifesaver.

So that when, in the mid-80’s, my colleague Dan showed me the first, primitive, mark manager that would run on a Circle 128, like him I was an instant convert. 

Obviously I could go on. Our teacher daughters, even when they’re not required to teach remotely, operate in a digital world I couldn’t operate in any longer, and I’ve only been retired for 15 years. And that statement doesn’t even consider their students, who are, for the same reason, already not the same as the students I taught.

And change is speeding up.

Events frequently conspire to lull us into a belief system that suggests we’re still largely operating in a society we recognize from our youth, with added technology. We’re not, and if you are reluctant to believe me, pay close attention as we reopen schools and make our way through the pandemic!

It’s going to be a fascinating, if bumpy, ride. (Assuming we survive it.)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

A brief reflection on ageing

You know you're past your "best before" date when:
It used to be, when I went into a store in Campbell River, often someone who recognized me from school would greet me: "Hello, Mr Havelaar! Remember me?" And sometimes I did, though often he or she would have to remind me, and then I would know all sorts of by-now irrelevant details about the person. But that hasn't happened for some time.
Today the bike I hardly ever ride lost its front brake. It's a disc brake, and Jay, who is our bike expert, pronounced its repair beyond his ability. So I rode it to "Pedal Your World", our local bike shop. "What can we do for you?" asks one of their bike-mechanic youths. "The front brake doesn't work, and my son says he can't fix it". "That's Jay's dad!" says Garrett, who sometimes works there and who grew up in the house across our street.
And now everyone in the store suddenly knows exactly how I fit in.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


I met "TMoist" in September, 1973, when we both started at Carihi, having missed meeting him in Esquimalt, the RCNR (where we both became commissioned, if very junior, officers), and in Quesnel, where he worked one summer for an environmental organization of which Sandy and I were active members.
We have been friends ever since, and our paths have crossed and re-crossed regularly, so it's curious that the only photo I could find of him was from the summer of 1976, when he invited me to go sailing with him.
In the last few years we talked about another, but to my regret never managed it.
At my age one gets a bit numbed by the number of deaths among people we know, but this one is different: closer, and more personal: I'm really going to miss him.

Friday, July 10, 2020

letter to the Globe

Re Province To Stop Streaming Students Into Academic, Applied Tracks