1.17.2022

we movie to canada: wmtc's annual movie awards is retired, replaced with best-of list

Last year, I realized that the new format of my annual movie awards was problematic. 

Beginning with 2018-19, rather than grouping movies by rating (all the 5s together, all the 4s together, and so on), I started listing all the titles alphabetically, showing the rating for each. 

As a personal list of what I've been watching, this is fine. But as a potential guide for readers, it's less than helpful. Most people I know are always looking for their next great series or movie. With an alphabetical list, they would have to go through the entire list, reading every description or comb through to pick out the top ratings.

I realized this last year, and it's been bothering me ever since. I was actually planning on re-organizing the three movie posts that I had done this way. This morning I sat down to that, and realized... no. Too much work without much payoff.

Looking ahead, I've decided to use a new format.

First, I'm realigning the viewing list with the calendar year. There was a reason my movie awards were geared to the baseball season, rather than the calendar, but that reason hasn't been relevant in many years. I'll now post in January about what I've watched the previous year.

In addition, I'm going to post a best-of instead of an exhaustive list -- basically the 4s and 5s from the former system. I'm still going to track everything I watch, but I won't post the complete list on wmtc.

Stay tuned (or don't!) for the best of 2021 list. To avoid repetition, the 2021 list will be what I watched from April to December, then future lists will take in the full year.

most useless and annoying advice ever: it's cheaper if you make it yourself

I did not make this myself.
Ever since moving to Canada, people have been telling me how I could make something myself for less money than I paid for it. Curtains, chair coverings, scarves. Kitchen gadgets. Dog needs. Skin care products. And food of all types. 

You can make that yourself, so much cheaper. 

I've heard this so often and from so many people, one might think everyone in Canada was crafting everything by hand. Which would not explain the crowds buying cheap merchandise in Canadian Tire.

Similarly, in certain Canadian circles, there is disdain for hiring someone for any personal or home labour. Snow shoveling, house cleaning, dogwalking, lawn care. Oo-hoo, look at you, throwing money away instead of picking up a shovel! It seems I am finally old enough for people to give me a pass on this one. The hidden joys of aging!

I find this "you can make it cheaper yourself" mentality annoying on so many levels. One, it's my money. I can spend it however I want, and I'd rather do so without your judgement. Two, isn't your time worth anything? My time is more valuable than money. Money can be earned, but time is a nonrenewable resource. (Yes, I know this is a privilege.) Three, mind your own business!

Perhaps this is not a Canadian thing at all. I don't know if people dole out this "advice" throughout the rest of the US. But I can tell you no one does in New York City! 

Long before the pandemic forced everyone inside, New Yorkers had everything delivered to their apartments. Since everyone walks or takes public transportation everywhere, deliveries are a way of life. So is paying for convenience. New Yorkers eat at restaurants or takeout almost every night of the week. They drop off their laundry. They hire dogwalkers. They rent car shares. And most of all, they have everything delivered. It's not an easy city to live in. Everyone who can afford to buys every convenience possible. And nobody ever tells you how you could make things more cheaply yourself.

Like Elaine Benes, I love a "big salad". In fact, one of my favourite meals are salads with lots of different ingredients. I love chopped-salad restaurants, and happily spend $16 or $18 to choose 10 different ingredients tossed in freshly-made, creative dressing. I am not often in an area with these restaurants, but when I am, I enjoy this very much.

Big salads are something I will never make for myself. I cook a lot, and I do quite a lot of other food prep. We do sometimes have a protein salad for dinner, but it's much more simple: lettuce, tomato, mini cucumber, chicken, cheese. I'm the only big salad fan in the house, plus, it's just too much effort.

In our previous suburban home, there were no restaurants that offered big salads. The closest we came was when Whole Foods opened a Mississauga location, but a salad bar is not the same. And of course there is nothing like this in my tiny little town now.

But now big salads have come to supermarkets! This has been a great development for me. I take a packaged salad kit, add a hardboiled egg and some grated cheese, and I have the perfect dinner. If I have some leftover grilled chicken or salmon on hand, I throw that in instead of the egg. 

This is one of my favourite meals and it helps me eat more vegetables -- more raw vegetables, which is even better. The only downside is there is a lot of plastic waste. This disturbs me... but not enough to stop buying the salads. 

But salad kits are expensive! 

In my experience, if you mention salad kits -- or if a busybody sees you buying a few in the supermarket -- or if you look for information online about a salad kit... You can make that cheaper yourself! 

Is this even true -- can you make the salad more cheaply yourself? I don't know. I haven't tested this claim, because I don't care. But some years ago, I wondered if Whole Foods' delicious, expensive tuna salad would be less expensive to make at home, and discovered it was only slightly more expensive to buy than to create. Sometime after that post, the store's prices went up, and later I started using less expensive tuna (for environmental reasons), so the balance would have changed. But the assumption that the prepared tuna salad was vastly more expensive than homemade was incorrect.

The salad kit I ate for dinner last night contained: white cabbage, red cabbage, kale, romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, cilantro, crispy noodle strips, and slivered almonds, and dressing. I added an egg and a bit of grated cheese. 

  • If I had made this myself, how much cheaper would it be? It's not a $6.00 salad versus a free dinner. After I'm done buying all those ingredients, what have I spent? 
  • Unless I used two entire heads of cabbage, an entire head of lettuce, and an entire bunch of kale within the upcoming week -- which I won't be able to do -- some of the vegetables will go bad. I would be wasting money and wasting food.
  • I can buy all different flavour combinations of salad kits, and eat different ones whenever I like. Having variety helps me maintain a healthy diet.
  • And finally -- but most importantly -- making this salad myself is too much effort for the end result. Everyone has (or should have) a personal time vs money formula. I would much rather spend $6 than make this complicated salad myself, and if I had to make it myself, I wouldn't eat it.

In short, it's a no-brainer: healthy, convenient food that I enjoy is worth the price of the kit.

I don't care if I could make it cheaper myself! 

1.16.2022

welcome to the world, asher

 



This beautiful little human is Asher, the newest member of our family. 

Asher joins Sophia in the next generation, the child of one of my nephews and niece(-in-law)s. My brother and sister(-in-law) now have two grandchildren, and my mom has two great-grands! 

Asher was born on January 13 in Berkeley, California. When I texted with the Dad this morning, he said: "We are deliriously happy. He is the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

1.13.2022

sidney poitier, rest in power

Sidney Poitier was one of my favourite actors. He starred in two of my favourite movies that I watched as a child: "A Patch of Blue" and "To Sir, With Love". Of course I loved him in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "A Raisin in the Sun," and "Lilies of the Field", but it was those two early films that imprinted him in my heart.

Both those early movies led me to books, and I watched and read both, several times. 

I have a personal memory connected to Patch of Blue. The story revolves around the friendship between a Black man, played by Poitier, and a young woman who is white -- and blind. Selina is isolated and uneducated; she lives with her drunk, abusive grandfather and her mother, who is a sex worker. Through a chance meeting, the two become great friends and fall in love. Of couse Selina doesn't know that her friend is Black. Their friendship, let alone their love, is forbidden.

When I was 10, I spent the summer with my grandparents and great-aunts in Brooklyn. They were wonderful to me and I have only happy memories of them. They were also horribly racist. One night I watched A Patch of Blue on TV, not for the first time, and was telling them about it. They thought the movie was very sad, because "they loved each other but could never be together". I said, "Because he was so much older than her." They all gasped in horror, and fell all over each other correcting me, "No! They can't be together because he's a Negro!" They were genuinely concerned that I didn't understand this very important life lesson.

A Patch of Blue is about racism, about the unnecessary cruelty that keeps these two good people apart. But to my relatives, the movie was a tale of star-crossed lovers: how sad that she fell in love with a Negro and didn't realize it. Not how unjust and ridiculous it was that these two people should be apart. I always associate the movie with that conversation; I look back on it with amusement.

(A Patch of Blue was also part of the beginning of my interest in disability, along with a children's book called Follow My Leader about a boy who is blinded and his guide dog.)

I loved A Patch of Blue, but when I saw To Sir, With Love, I fell in love with Sidney Poitier. He was a great actor, a steadfast activist, and an incredibly important figure in film. I'm thinking a Sidney Poitier film fest in chez Kaminker-Wood is in order.

1.08.2022

"at your library" in the north island eagle: goodbye for now, see you at the library

Goodbye for Now… See You at the Library

This is my final At Your Library column. I'm grateful to Kathy O’Reilly, indefatigable publisher of The Eagle, for giving me this opportunity. When I came to Port Hardy – exactly three years ago – I didn't know a soul, and now I feel so much a part of our community. This column has extended our library's reach into that community, and I hope you have enjoyed it.

To stay in touch with what's happening at the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL), consider subscribing to Well Read, VIRL's monthly newsletter. It will keep you up to date on new services, special events, and highlights from our collection. To subscribe, go to virl.bc.ca > news > Well Read. You can read it online, or click on "Sign up for our e-Newsletter" to receive it by email every month.

Another great way to stay in touch is "Meet Me in the Stacks", a podcast presented by a group of VIRL librarians. You can find "Meet Me in the Stacks" wherever you subscribe to podcasts, or you can listen online through the VIRL website. Go to virl.bc.ca/podcast or to listen online, go to virl.bc.ca/podcast/listen-now/.

Your favourite VIRL branch is also on Facebook, and you can follow the branch page for news and updates. 

To review and sum up, here's everything you need to know.

* Reading is great. 

* Read to your kids and grandkids. Help them read on their own. It's super important to their healthy development.

* The library has so much more than books. Check out our e-resources!

* Everything at the library is free of charge.

* Everyone can have a library card.

* We are here to help you.

To stay in touch with me, email me at lkaminker@virl.bc.ca. Hope to see you soon!

"at your library" in the north island eagle: we heart your small or home-based business

Small or Home-Based Business? Your Library Can Help

So many people in our North Island communities have been opening new businesses lately! It seems like every edition of The Eagle features at least one story about a new business in one of our towns. Some are "bricks and "mortar" businesses that we can physically visit, while others are home-based operations that reach potential customers through Facebook and other social media. 

Everyone in our towns wants to support local businesses – including your library. If you've ever considered starting your own business, or if you're currently developing a fledging business of your own, your library can help. Check out our "e-resources" – powerful databases available to you, free of charge, with your library card.

Wherever you are in your business development, we have e-resources to support and assist you. Whether you're writing a business plan, researching the competition, launching a marketing plan, creating a logo, learning how to keep your books – and so much more – your library can help. 

* Business Plan Handbook is a huge collection of actual business plans created by entrepreneurs who were looking for funding for their small businesses. There are sample business plans from all sectors – manufacturing, retail, and service industries. You can learn what makes a successful business plan and begin to create your own.

* Business Source Premiere is a comprehensive collection of articles and guides on every area of business, including marketing, management, accounting, banking and finance. You can use this e-resource to research company profiles, research markets, conduct SWOT analyses, even read papers from world-class business schools. Another great plus: you can use Business Source Premiere to access trade publications in many fields. These publications are quite expensive to subscribe to, but our e-resource lets you browse and read them for free.

* LinkedIn Learning (formerly called Lynda.com) is an amazing platform for self-education. This e-resource contains thousands of video tutorials on hundreds of topics. All the videos are professionally made, very high quality, with no interruptions for ads or the questionable content that you'll find on YouTube. Learning how to use social media to grow your business, beyond just having a Facebook page? Need to learn about spreadsheets to track your marketing contacts? Designing a logo? Hiring an assistant for the first time? LinkedIn Learning can help you get there.

To find these free e-resources, go to virl.bc.ca > learn > all databases. The e-resources are listed in alphabetical order. What you'll find may surprise you.

* Books! The library has a huge selection of books on all these topics, too. We can help you find and request whatever you need.

It all starts with your library card. Stop by your local branch to get one today, or apply online at virl.bc.ca > get help > get a library card, or virl.bc.ca, then scroll to the very bottom, and click on "get a library card". 

"at your library" in the north island eagle: build early literacy with storytimes

Build Early Literacy with Storytimes – Every Day in Port Hardy

In a year when we desperately needed good news, the Port Hardy branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) had the best news: a huge increase in hours. And one of the best things about those new hours is the daily storytime. 

At 10:00 every morning, Tuesday through Saturday, you can come to the Port Hardy Library and participate in a storytime. There’s no need to sign up in advance or even let us know you're coming. Just take your little one – your own child, a grandchild, or a group of little ones you take care of – and show up at the library. 

Storytimes are fun for kids, but the reason to attend goes way beyond entertainment. 

By the time a child starts kindergarten, we want them to have "reading readiness". Reading readiness is closely tied to early school success, and early school success is closely tied to increased life chances. This means when we help children build reading readiness, we are helping them succeed in life! And hearing stories read aloud is one of the best ways to build reading readiness.

When a child listens to a story, they learn a huge array of language skills. They build vocabulary and reading comprehension, learn how to pay attention and to follow a story, they learn the sounds and rhythms of language.

Storytimes engage children's imaginations, which is one of the most important ways they learn about the world. It introduces children to new ideas and new fun things, like dinosaurs, whales, and trains. 

Hearing stories help children cope with their feelings, and navigate scary things that all children go through, such as conflicts with siblings. It helps them learn about how other people feel, which builds empathy and compassion.

Stories teach about culture, from Halloween and Thanksgiving to cedar weaving and the Big House.

Attending a storytime at the library is an opportunity for your child to build social skills, to interact with other adults, and even to learn a little patience.

Plus, storytimes bring families to the library, where they can borrow books to read with their children at home. It helps children associate the library with a fun and happy activity, and you know we love that.

Thanks to our dedicated library staff, and to the Mount Waddington Family Literacy Society, we're able to offer this amazing opportunity, every day that the library is open, for free.

And all you have to do is show up. 

1.02.2022

not a resolution part two: habit tracking and 85% thinking

If there's a universal truth about getting older, it must be that we need to take better care of ourselves. Habits -- or the lack of habits -- that we could get away with in our 20s become more difficult in our 30s, barely possible in our 40s, and downright self-destructive in our 50s and beyond.

Like many people, as I've gotten older, I've been more motivated to take better care of myself -- physically and mentally. To that end, I have found two indispensable tools: habit tracking, and something I call "85 percent thinking".

The whys and hows of habit tracking

Random habit tracker I found online
Habit tracking is the practice of tracking how you're doing with various habits that you're trying to work into your life. Habit tracking is:

- focusing: it provides a daily reminder of your goals,

- motivating: ticking the box or tapping the green square is a form of mental reward, and

- factual: it provides visual evidence of what you've been doing or not doing. In other words, it keeps you honest.

The format you use to track your habits should be whatever is easiest and most natural for you. 

There are dozens of habit-tracking apps, or you can treat yourself to a special notebook, or use your favourite pen on graph paper. I avoid the fancy stuff -- try googling bullet journals -- because I don't want the tracker to become an end in itself, a cute time-waster of limited value.

I use a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet is:

- convenient: I keep it open on my computer's toolbar. 

- flexible: I can easily add new habits or gray-out columns that I'm no longer tracking. 

- tidy: if I used paper, I'd be annoyed at erasures or cross-outs. 

- easy: dates on the vertical, habits on the horizontal, and you're good to go. Excel (or whatever program you use) can insert the days and dates, saving you from repetitive writing.

There are dozens of habit-tracking apps that you can use on your phone. I purposely don't use an app, because:
- most have ads and other distractions,
- I like to archive all my past trackers, so I want files I can save independently,
- I don't want to obsess: with an app, I'd be likely to check it throughout the day, and
- I want fewer reasons to pick up my phone.

Using a spreadsheet works for me, but many people find a notebook is easier.

The content of the habit tracker is also totally personal. 

My tracker includes health goals, such as minutes per day of exercise and meditation, stretching before exercise, plus any simple habits I'm trying to get better about -- things like caring for my dry skin, wearing my mouth guard at night (apparently it doesn't protect your teeth if you don't use it, go figure!), or having a mug of herbal tea when I feel like eating but I know I'm not hungry. I also track days I read, and days I blog, because both of those are important to me. 

My 2022 tracker has 17 habits, some daily, and some weekly. If you're new to the idea, it might be better to start small, with five habits, or even three. When tracking itself becomes a habit, you can add more variables.

I also find it helpful to have a mix of "gimmes" -- goals that you are doing anyway and unlikely to drop -- and more challenging goals that you might do less frequently, but are cause for a bit of self-congratulation when you meet them.

I usually use one tracker for a full year. Boxes either get an x for "yes I did that", or a number, such as minutes spent doing something. Every morning, with my first cup of coffee, I open the tracker and record how I did on the previous day. At the end of the year, I archive the file and start a new tracker.

The important thing, of course, is finding what works for you, then using it. And if the first format you try doesn't fit, you can try something else.

This year I'm experimenting with a section for weekly habits. There are five or six habits I'd like to do on a weekly basis, and I'm seeing if attaching a day of the week to each one helps me do them more consistently: this on Monday, this on Tuesday, and so on. 

Based on the popularity of books like James Clear's Atomic Habits, Make Your Bed by William McRaven, The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma, and a zillion other, similar titles, it would appear that many people are striving in this direction. The sheer number of books and apps and advice can be overwhelming. I think it's best to keep it simple. Grab a notebook or open a spreadsheet and let the tracking begin.

However... the goal is not to check every box, every day. 

85 percent thinking

One of my biggest pitfalls, something I've worked hard to recognize and reduce over years, is All Or Nothing thinking. All Or Nothing says that unless you do something all the way, it's not worth doing at all. All Or Nothing recognizes only two possibilities: on or off. But real life is seldom so simple. If we recognize only two possibilities, we're setting ourselves up for failure.

In my mid-30s, when I was writing professionally, I had a run for a while writing about eating disorders. It was through those assignments that I first recognized my own disordered thinking about food and dieting. I reached out to one of the therapists I had interviewed, and worked with her for some time. It was difficult work and it had an enormous impact on my life.

This therapist taught something she called 85 percent thinking. Whatever you're doing, whether it's eating healthfully, getting more exercise, or any other goal, if you're doing it 85 percent of the time, you're doing well. 

We're not machines that can be programmed to perfection. We're humans, with real lives, full of things we cannot control. That accounts for the other 15 percent.

To do anything well, especially to learn new habits, we need discipline and commitment and inner strength. But to be humane, we also need compassion, and flexibility, and forgiveness -- and we must extend those to ourselves. That, too, is the other 15 percent.

Habit tracking + 85% thinking = compassionate and realistic success

Habit tracking keeps me focused and motivated, and helps keep me honest. 

Eighty-five percent thinking keeps me sane. 

Eighty-five percent thinking does not come naturally to me. My natural tendency is obsession. But I want to reject obsessive thinking, reject beating myself up, reject the rigid, unrealistic confines of All Or Nothing. I consciously choose 85% thinking, a little bit, every day.

1.01.2022

not a new year's resolution part one: precepts and generalities for 2022

A few years ago, I wrote in this blog:

I don't do New Year's Resolutions, but I do enjoy using the revolution of our Earth around the Sun as an excuse to take stock in where I am and think about where I'm going.

This is not a Big Promise To Do Something; it's not even goal-setting. In my ongoing work to free myself from a strong tendency towards All Or Nothing, to not paint myself into a corner, to not create Rules which I then use to limit my experiences, I don't even set concrete goals.

My thinking takes the form of general precepts that I'm trying to remember.

My guideposts for 2022 are pretty simple.

* Continue to work only the hours I am paid, to take breaks, and to work at a human pace.

* Continue ongoing digital minimalism: less social media, breaks from texting, enjoy analog pursuits.

* Pay attention to my important long-distance friendships.

* Spend time outdoors when weather and time permits.

* Continue doing what I can to stay healthy physically and  mentally. (New post coming soon.)

I am looking forward to several things this year.

* Seeing my mother and other family if at all possible.

* Zoom dates with close friends on a regular basis. (This is new.)

* Being active in my union.

* Allan and I have been working on financial goals, and I'm looking forward to those advancing.

* I'm more physically fit than I have been in many years, and I'm looking forward to maintaining that.

I hope you're being kind to yourself and looking forward to 2022 with at least cautious optimism.

happy new year from wmtc

 


Peace, Love, Good Health, and Solidarity to all.

Here's to a peaceful and healthy 2022.

12.30.2021

an analog breakthrough: in which we play tabletop games and this makes me very happy

In a few recent posts, I mentioned two details of my life that seemed to be in direct opposition to each other. 

One, I want to move further down the path of digital minimalism, spending less time on social media, more time with long-distance friends, and more time with analog pursuits.

And two, I love games of all kinds, especially board or tabletop games* -- but my partner does not. The resurgence of the popularity of board games, and the explosion of new games on the market, has been a source of frustration for me, because of Allan's total lack of interest.

Suddenly, this has changed! Allan has agreed to a games night! Hooray!

At the time of this momentous announcement, the only games we owned were backgammon, Scrabble, and Trivial Pursuit. I did some research to find a selection of games we might like. They needed to be:

- good for two players,

- not super difficult to learn,

- not involve free-form storytelling or lookup tables, and

- last no more than 60 -- or at most 90 -- minutes for a typical game.

After researching online and soliciting ideas from Facebook friends, I purchased:
- Ticket to Ride (European edition)
- Pandemic (original edition)
- Bananagrams
- Qwirkle
- Sherlock Holmes (Baker Street Irregulars edition)

The most-recommended game by far was Ticket to Ride. Pandemic was particularly appealing to me because it's cooperative, rather than competitive. We've played each of those once so far. Both games seemed very complex and were a little daunting at first, but we were able to figure them out and get into the rhythms of play during the course of one game. I'm really looking forward to the Sherlock Holmes game, too. Each edition comes with 10 cases; players search "foggy London town" for clues.

In addition to these analog pursuits, I've also re-instituted Music Night, which we used to do regularly, but fell out of the habit many years ago. Our work schedules give us three nights together each week. My plan is to use one of those for either music or games, alternating every-other week. The plan is also flexible: if we're very engrossed in a series and don't want to skip a night, no harm will be done.

If you have a favourite tabletop game, please feel free to leave it in comments. I probably won't buy any more just yet, but I'm sure I'll want to expand our choices at some point.

------

* I want to stay away from videogames: I find them unbelievably addictive, and am looking for less screen time, and fewer opportunities for repetitive strain injuries.