"at your library" in the north island eagle: dreaming of streaming... at the library

If you have internet access at home, you are in for a treat. The Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) has several high-quality streaming services. You can listen to audiobooks, watch movies and documentaries, learn skills – and learn about the world – by streaming or downloading on your own devices. And since you access these services through the library, they are all free.


This is the premiere Canadian streaming service. Kanopy offers an enormous variety of independent films, foreign films, classic movies, and documentaries. It's one of those apps that you can get completely lost in.

Kanopy also has educational videos about a wide variety of subjects, including Indigenous Studies, Health Studies, LGBTQ Stories, Photography, Journalism, and much more. Check out the series called The Great Courses. These are classes taught by experts in a field, such as history, philosophy, ancient civilizations, and earth studies – too many topics to possibly list here.

Each registered Kanopy user can play six videos per month – except for The Great Courses. You can watch those as much as you want, and they don't count towards your monthly allotment.

You can watch Kanopy through a variety of streaming devices: Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire, along with iPads, iPhones, other tablets, and of course computers.

You’ve got to try it. You won’t be disappointed.


Hoopla, like Kanopy, was developed for public libraries. This app has something for everyone – movies, eBooks, eAudiobooks, comics, music, and TV for streaming or download on almost any device. Next time you're looking for something different to read, listen to or watch, give Hoopla a try.

RB Digital eBooks, eAudiobooks, Magazines & Videos

If you're a magazine reader, you'll want to get RB Digital on your phone or tablet. You can read online or download dozens of magazine titles, including back issues, with no limits. RB Digital also offers eBooks and eAudiobooks – all unlimited and always free. It works beautifully on all mobile devices. RB Digital also gives you access to two other streaming apps – IndieFlix and Acorn TV.


IndieFlix offers classic movies and TV shows, and films and documentaries from major film festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, and Cannes. You can find interviews with actors and directors, and quirky short films that are both fun and thought-provoking.

Acorn TV

If you like British TV, Acorn is the app for you. Murdoch Mysteries, Foyle's War, Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Vera – they're all here, all unlimited, and all free.

To access all these great options, start with the VIRL website: virl.bc.ca. Click or tap on “Read, Watch, Listen” and check out all the choices.

If you're not sure how to use any of these apps, call us or come see us at the library. We're here to help.


mlb rule changes: more disregard and contempt for baseball's core fans

I stopped following this baseball season a while back. The 2019 Red Sox are not very good, and I'm perfectly happy to enjoy my first summer on beautiful Vancouver Island without them.

But it's not just the lackluster Red Sox that are keeping me away.

I'm disgusted and deeply saddened by the rule changes that MLB instituted in 2017, and even more by those coming in the 2020 season. These changes damage the very foundation of the sport. And, worst of all, they are completely unnecessary.

Baseball America says the changes will "fundamentally alter the way teams construct their rosters, as well as change the roles players may be groomed for in player development". (I've listed most of the changes below, excluding how players are compensated for the All Star Game.)

Games are too long! Games are too long! (If we keep repeating it, we will make it so!)

Supposedly baseball games are too long. Supposedly baseball games are too slow. "Young people" aren't interested in baseball.

We hear these claims repeated -- ad nauseam. We've also heard that Barack Obama is a socialist, Canadians are governed by death panels, and no one reads anymore. (For the record: false, false, false.) Just because every baseball announcer gripes about games being too long, and the "too long" mantra has become accepted wisdom, doesn't make it true.

But whether or not these claims are true, changing the rules to limit and constrain strategy could never be the correct response.

Finding ways to quicken the pace of games isn't a bad thing, as long as it doesn't mess with the basics of the sport. But if the goal of these changes is to bring in younger fans, it's a useless response that is guaranteed to fail.

MLB flails around trying to appeal to some mythical demographic, imagining if they jump higher or spin faster, they can drive Millennials to baseball -- a project that can only fail. In the process, MLB alienates the people who most love and support the game.

Length of games and pace of games are two different things, of course. No one like when a reliever comes in and what should be an exciting game grinds to a tedious crawl. Make the pitchers pitch, make the batters step in, within a certain amount of time. That will help pick up the pace without altering the fundamentals of the sport.

But games are too long? Watch a different sport.

Baseball games are as long as they need to be. They are played until one team wins. Don't like that? Prefer a game that is played against a clock? There are plenty to choose from.

Games are too long? The most obvious solution stares us in the face after the third out of every inning: show fewer ads! But of course that can't happen. MLB is shaving off a bit of time between innings -- but that doesn't mean fewer ads. It means more onscreen ads during play. Ads during at-bats, and ads on two-thirds of your screen, with the game reduced to a small box. This is unconscionable.

Of course games were shorter in the mythical Good Old Days. But -- this should be obvious, but isn't -- we can only compare like with like. There are more commercial breaks, and the breaks are longer now. So we're comparing apples and grapefruits. This is reminiscent of that 21st Century stat "hits in the post-season". Wow, Derek Jeter has more postseason hits than Babe Ruth! Jeter must be the greatest player ever! (PS: Jeter played in an era with three levels of postseason play. Ruth's era had only the World Series.) (But don't let facts get in the way of your sycophancy.)

The automatic intentional walk. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

We're already living with one useless and destructive change that supposedly speeds up the game: the automatic intentional walk. Did those four pitched balls really take up so much time? Does MLB really think this will make a difference to Millennials who don't watch baseball? "You know, I used to find baseball really slow and boring, but now that fans don't have to suffer through four pitches during an intentional walk, I think I'll drop $50 on a ticket!"

Or maybe it's "I didn't grow up watching baseball and no one I know talks about it or cares about it, but man, that automatic intentional walk rule, that's the shit! I can't find a decent job that will let me move out of my parents' home, so I'll buy a streaming package that lets me watch every game! Whoo-hoo!

What really happens when the ump raises four fingers and the pitcher doesn't throw those four pitches? Fans -- actual fans, who already watch the game -- are denied an opportunity. Because while the pitcher is throwing those four balls, something might happen. Sometimes it does. Grant Brisbee calls it "the Church of Youneverknow".
But there's one thing that everyone shares, from the traditionalists to the nerds to the casual fans, and it goes something like this: Baseball is fascinated with the idea of the hyper-rare, the 1-in-1,000, the 1-in-10,000, the 1-in-a-million. It's why the purists insist that you watch every awful at-bat from every pitcher, just to feel rewarded when one of them gets a hit. It's why there are still people who know the name Bill Wambsganss. It's why we remember the squirrels on the field, the mitts thrown to first with baseballs in them, and the hitters who swing at a pitchout to protect a hit-and-run.

It's why baseball fans will take up arms if you try to take the freaks and the flukes away from them. Call it the Church of Youneverknow, and it holds that nothing is more sacred in baseball than the slightest possibility of a fluke occurrence. And this faction is currently angry because the rules of baseball are changing, and intentional walks are going away.
All the impending rule changes do this. Minimum number of batters a pitcher can face, limits on the number of mound visits, the active roster changes, minimum days on the injury list -- they all reduce strategic options. Paul Muschick calls it "legislating the strategy of the game," an apt description. Less strategy equals less interest.

I couldn't care less about the useless relic called the All-Star Game, but beginning an inning with a runner on second base is a ridiculous and truly horrible idea. This If the ASG is used as a wedge to bring this ridiculous rule into major-league play, the game will be in serious trouble -- trouble caused by MLB itself. [A commenter reminded me that this is already happening in the minor leagues -- another sign this is coming to the major leagues.]

MLB disrespects fans every day

These rule changes are more examples of MLB's contempt for its most loyal fans. That contempt begins with broadcasts. We're all so used to it now that we may have forgotten: games used to be shown for free on regular TV. Local fans could just turn on their TVs and watch the game. Forcing people to subscribe to expensive cable TV packages and then blacking out the games in the local market are the true measure of baseball's concern for real fans. Everything is organized for telco and MLB profit, without a thought for fan access.

We see baseball's disregard for fans in ways large and small.

Games shown only on Facebook. (And what a surprise, the tech doesn't work properly.)

Allowing ads to be shown during play.

Allowing ads to be shown during at-bats!

Resale contracts that squeeze regular fans for top-dollar prices.

At the ballpark, blasting music between innings so fans can't talk to each other without shouting.

The impending rule-changes are part of this same pattern. They are are all about marketing. MLB has turned our sport into a focus group.

What's really ruining the sport?

I'm so tired of all the hand-wringing about baseball. Remember the season we were supposed to care that African American youth weren't playing the game? Before that, there were too many home runs. (Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, while MLB tolerates steroid use because it brings in fans dollars... then blames the players' union.) Now we're supposed to care that there are too many strikeouts! I can scarcely think of something stupider to complain about. And of course, games are too slow, games are too long.

Meanwhile, the things that are ruining the experience of watching baseball -- the endless parade of corporate logos, every moment of the game being sponsored, ads during at-bats, split-screen ads, ads blasting in between innings at the ballpark -- are allowed to expand, because... you know why. It's the same reason MLB turned a blind eye to steroid use for so long. There is something ruining our beautiful sport, but it's not the length of games. Don't make me say The C Word.

We're Number Three! We're Number Three!

Once upon a time in North America, there were three professional sports that commanded national attention: baseball, horse racing (then simply called "racing" because that's the only kind there was), and boxing. Now two of those sports are marginal, and two different sports occupy the top spots.

If baseball ranks third in popularity, after football and basketball, why should fans care? How does it hurt us?

It doesn't.

The only people who should care if baseball has a smaller audience than football and basketball are the billionaires who pay the millionaires. If baseball is less popular, and the owners make less money, and player salaries decrease...? You'll have to explain to me why fans should care about this. Most fans would consider it an improvement.

Baseball is not for everybody. No sport is. No anything is.

Slightly shorter and faster-paced games are not going to affect a major cultural shift. Rule changes are not going to turn generations of young people into baseball fans.

Those who don't care about baseball will continue not to care.

Those who do will either grit their teeth and bear it, or give up.

In my lifetime (now approaching the 60-year mark), the only significant change in the rules of the game has been the designated hitter rule, which began in 1973. I have vague memories of people arguing about the DH, but I didn't grow up in a sports-watching household, and by the time I got into baseball on my own, the DH was all I knew.

Millions of baseball fans have come of age watching the game with a designated hitter. Maybe one day beginning the 10th inning with a runner standing on second base will seem normal. I won't know, because I won't be watching anymore.

* * * * *

Some of the changes insituted in 2017

- The no-pitch intentional walk

- Managers must decide whether or not to challenge (and invoke review) within 30 seconds

- One less inning for Crew Chiefs to invoke replay review, when managers have used all their challenges.

Changes instituted in 2019

- Single trade deadline that is final

- Inning breaks reduced by five seconds in local games and 25 seconds in national games.

- Reduction in number of allowable mound visits

-  If an All Star Game goes into extra innings, those innings will begin with a runner standing on second base.

Some of the changes that will be implemented in 2020

- Active roster limit will increase

- 40-man September roster will be eliminated

- Number of pitchers on active roster capped

- Position players may not pitch (with exceptions)

- Pitchers will face a minimum number of batters -- essentially the end of the LOOGY.

- Minimum number of days on the injury list increased from 10 to 15


what i'm reading: the nickel boys by colson whitehead

By now wmtc readers, at least those who read my "what i'm reading" posts, know that Colson Whitehead is one of my favourite authors. I was so happy that he achieved breakthrough success with The Underground Railroad, winning both the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the National Book Award.

I've been reading him since his debut novel, The Intuitionist, was published in 1999. So when I tell you The Nickel Boys is his best work so far, trust me, this is high praise.

It tells a simple story of one boy's journey into the irrational, omnipresent, terror and violence of Jim Crow. The principal setting is a boys' "reform school" (so-called) in the segregated American South. The conditions and their effects will remind Canadian readers of the residential schools that Indigenous children were forced to endure.

It's disturbing to read, as it should be. The violence is not graphic -- most of it happens offstage -- but it's not hidden. It's everyday violence, and it's brought to us in everyday language.

What I love about The Nickel Boys is its restraint. It's a short book. The writing is spare, and precise. No wasted words. Everything simple but laden with meaning. Nothing is avoided, but nothing is adorned. Unsentimental, unsensational, unshocked. It's like a drumbeat -- like a heartbeat -- demanding we listen.

And what I love about The Nickel Boys is how the author trusts his story to do the work. One boy's story becomes a microcosm of a monstrous world.

Most people know that the US was segregated. But Jim Crow was much more pervasive than segregation. Many people said The Underground Railroad brought them closer to slavery than they had ever gone. The Nickel Boys does that for post-slavery America.

There's some suspense involved, so I won't go into any plot details. But here's a sample, after the time shifts closer to the present.
Chickie Pete and his trumpet. He might have played professionally, why not? A session man in a funk band, or an orchestra. If things had been different. The boys could have been many things had they not been ruined by that place. Doctors who cure diseases or perform brain surgery, inventing shit that saves lives. Run for president. All those lost geniuses -- sure not all of them were geniuses, Chickie Pete for example was not solving special relativity -- but they had been denied even the simple pleasure of being ordinary. Hobbled and handicapped before the race even began, never figuring out how to be normal.
Whitehead does some amazing things with language in this book. There's a word: agape. I know the concept from reading Martin Luther King. The book's main character thinks about agape, and about its seeming impossibility. Then later there's a word: agape. The character's mouth is agape. It's a tiny detail. I hope there are other close readers out there who will appreciate this.

Similarly, I have a note to myself, a scribble from a small spiral bound memo book. A character in The Intuitionist is allowed "to pass" -- meaning she can go through, pass the threshold. But pass has another meaning in African-American history: the light-skinned black people who "passed" as white. A twist of language, small and offhand, but packing so much meaning into a word. I love this stuff.

Meanwhile just read this book. Take the journey.

* * * *

Wmtc on Colson Whitehead:

Quotes from The Colossus of New York, here and here (published 2003; post from 2004)

Apex Hides the Hurt (published 2006; post from 2010)

I read Apex and was like, wait, this is by the guy who wrote that elevator book? And those NYC essays I went so crazy over? So I went back and read everything I'd missed.

John Henry Days (published 2001; post from 2012)

Sag Harbor (published 2009; post from 2012)

Zone One (published 2011; post from 2012)

The Underground Railroad (2016; post from 2016)

(I haven't yet read the nonfiction The Noble Hustle.)

I recommend any and all of these books. My only partial disclaimer is for John Henry Days. It's a very good book -- I loved it -- but it's a bit more opaque, more conceptual than the others. The rest I recommend wholeheartedly, including the zombie novel. You won't be disappointed.

This New York Times review of The Intuitionist concludes: "Literary reputations may not always rise and fall as predictably as elevators, but if there's any justice in the world of fiction, Colson Whitehead's should be heading toward the upper floors."

I notice my 2012 post about John Henry Days includes wanting to re-read The Intuitionist. I never got around to it, so I'm going to do that now.


island day trip with mom: grant bay and winter harbour

As we enter the last week of my mother's extended visit, we took one last day trip, out to Grant Bay, on the west coast.

As I've mentioned, there are no paved roads to the Pacific coast in the North Island. In fact, only two roads on the whole island go to the Pacific coast. In the North, the west coast is only accessible either by backcountry hiking or on logging roads to a few isolated beaches.

We've been to San Josef Bay (Sanjo) several times, and I'm sure we'll go again, but we were very curious about Grant Bay. We heard it was a smaller version of Sanjo. This turned out to be true.

We also heard that the beach was a five-minute walk from where you park. This turned out to be false. It's quite a bit longer, but not so long as to be prohibitive.

So first there's the long, slow, bumpy drive on the logging roads -- about 2.5 hours, a bit closer than Sanjo. Then there's a short hike through a lovely bit of rainforest. Not knowing what we'd find, we had to go back for our stuff. I suggested taking turns staying with Mom and the pups on the beach, but Allan somehow did it all in one trip. Ouch.

The San Josef Bay park has a parking lot, picnic tables, and a port-a-potty, which makes it ideal for day use. Driving from Highway 19, by the time you get there, you're ready to eat your picnic lunch, then you don't have to carry anything on the 45-minute hike to the beach.

Grant Bay, on the other hand, has no amenities, so you're carrying whatever you want to the beach -- camp chairs, food, and so on. Next time we'll be a bit more prepared, and put our chairs in their carry-bags. We'll also pack a tarp, to create some shade in one of the campsites on the beach.

The beach is magnificent -- pure white sand, sheltered from winds by green mountains. There were some people scattered about in campsites, and many dogs. And no little fish! Both dogs did great. They ran and played their hearts out, and came back in our general direction (and sometimes right to us) when we called.

They had never seen waves before! Cookie got used to them, but Kai kept her distance. The only difficult thing was the total lack of shade for the dogs. Kai, with her dark fur, was overheated. The towels were in the car, or I would have soaked one for Kai to lay on, which would cool her down. She found a strip of shade beside a log of driftwood, which was better than nothing, but next time we'll do better.

It's a gorgeous beach, a beautiful spot. With a bit more planning, future trips there can be amazing.

On the turnoff to Grant Bay, we had noticed a sign announcing food in Winter Harbour. The tiny community of Winter Harbour was only 4 kms from the sign, so on our way home, we decided to check it out. We were so glad we did!

Be More Pacific is a terrific food shack run by a lovely local woman. She makes burgers, sausages, fish and chips, poutine, and such, served with a breathtaking view of the harbour and surrounded by plantings and flowers.

The food was fresh and delicious. Allan and I had smokeys (very large hot dogs) while my mother got an ice cream fix, a huge bowl for only $2. Allan couldn't resist a float -- a can of root beer and a cup full of ice cream for $5. I had the world's greatest homemade crispy rice square, one of my secret loves.

The food is very tasty, and the setting couldn't be nicer. The host even has an outdoor washroom: it looks like an outhouse, but is actually a complete and clean washroom. When you're driving out to Grant Bay, that is a great find!

This was exactly the kind of place we love to find. Be More Pacific has been in business for three years, and from what we hear, this was a great season. We'll definitely be back next summer!

And I almost forgot to mention -- we saw three bears (mama with two cubs) on the way there, and one bear on the way back. A few days earlier, we saw two bears (mama and one cub) on the way to dinner. So wonderful.

Here are some scenes from the day.

So beautiful, and so peaceful.

Cookie discovers waves!

Ha! No fish!

Food shack on the left, owners' home on the right.


three questions for readers: instant pot, green smoothies, golden milk

I'd love reader feedback on these three questions. I know most people will reply on Facebook, which makes it really difficult to save reader reaction. But there's no stopping that train, so... copy/paste/save.


Yes, I know it's an Instant Pot. I like to call it an Instapot. I think the Instant Pot folks missed an opportunity.

I'm late to the Instapot bandwagon, but I'm glad I waited before jumping on. I bought a huge 8-quart Ultra, which is big enough for the batch cooking I prefer, has all the features, and has more safety features than the early models.

I love making steel cut oatmeal in this thing, and also rice. It is so easy, and it comes out perfect every time.

Steel cut oats don't actually take less time in the Instapot than on the stove top. Factoring the time to pressurize and the natural release, it's about the same time on the clock.

But using the stove top, you have to stand there and stir. And if you don't pay attention, and sometimes even if you do, the oats will stick to the bottom of the pan. With the Instapot, you measure the water, measure the oats (2:1 ratio, water to oats), seal it, set it, and forget it. Then it's done, and it's perfect.

Same for rice. Measure (1:1 ratio, if it's only rice; 2:1 if there's chicken or other meat involved), seal, set, done, perfect.

When it comes to making meals, I've had some successes and a couple of failures, most notably overcooked chicken and rice that had turned to mush. This points to a drawback of pressure cooking: there's no turning back until you're done. With the slow cooker, you can check on progress, adjust the seasonings, decide it needs more or less time. With an Instapot, you eat your mistakes.

Many people rave about being able to saute or brown in the same pot. That is very convenient for onion, garlic, and whatever other vegetables are in the dish. But I find it very inconvenient for browing chicken or meat. The bottom surface of the pot is very small, and when cooking in large batches, it can take three separate rounds to brown. I've gone back to browning in my huge skillet -- breaking a sancrosanct rule of Instapotting -- so I can do all the meat at once. A nonstick skillet is very easy to clean. Even the person doing the dishes agrees.

I always brown meat or chicken before pressure-cooking or slow cooking. It makes a real difference in flavour. I totally understand why many folks don't. I just can't bring myself to throw raw meat in the pot when I know an extra few minutes will enrich the taste so much.

There are a gazillion Instapot recipes online, most littered with useless verbiage and ads. But there aren't a lot of recipes of things I want to eat. What are your Instapot favourites? I'd like to know.

Green smoothies

I mentioned that I had a consult with a registered dietitian. I eat very healthfully with the occasional splurge (which I think is healthy, too), but she did recommend adding two pieces that seem easy and worth doing: green smoothies and golden milk.

In general I don't do smoothies. I'm horribly allergic to any made commercially, from Jamba Juice or any other company. At home, I would always rather eat fruit drink it. The green variety happens in some other universe. I'm not vegan, I like eating greens, so I didn't get the whole drinking greens thing.

But now I've mixed up a batch of basic green smoothie in my food processor, to keep in a sealed container in the fridge. (I go bowl-and-spoon, rather than drink.) It's very easy, tastes fine, and gives a huge shot of fibre and nutrients with either breakfast or lunch.

So far I'm not eating the smoothie for breakfast or lunch, but with. It's definitely helping me be less hypoglycemic and hungry.

I got the recipe at Fit Foodie Finds, an excellent site which also also links to many other variations.

Do you eat green smoothies, and what's your favourite recipe?

Golden Milk

The dietitian also recommended trying golden milk to reduce inflammation.

Golden milk is all about turmeric, which to me seems like a nutritionism fad, something I normally ignore and avoid. But here's a health professional telling me turmeric and some other stuff may help me have less pain. The possibility of less pain is a good incentive.

There are many golden milk recipes online: here's a basic one. I bought a pre-mixed variety from my favourite vitamin/supplement shop. You add warm liquid and stir.

Do you drink golden milk? Do you notice any benefits?


my experience with bc (and small town) health care so far

So far, my experience with health care in our small BC town has been excellent. Limited sample size, anecdotal, non-scientific, yes. I'm just reporting on what I've experienced and observed in the past nine months, plus a few facts about funding.

Port Hardy

Our town of about 4,200 people has a primary health centre and a hospital. It's a regional hub for many tiny communities on the North Island. (There are also two other health units in neighbouring towns.)

The health centre is a bright, clean, thoroughly modern facility. The signs are all in English and Kwak'wala, the local Indigenous language. There is a big, affirming, trans-positive sign on the washroom.

I haven't been able to get a family doctor yet; all the doctors' rosters are full. However, we are always able to see a doctor, either whoever is on duty that day, or you can request an appointment with a specific doctor. So even though I don't have a family doctor, I make appointments with a doctor that I like, and everything goes in my health record -- so it's practically the same thing.

Routine lab work is done at the hospital next door, on a walk-in basis. You might have to wait 10 minutes.

In Ontario, lab services are almost all privatized -- so they're understaffed, overcrowded, and frustrating to deal with, as the for-profit, corporate providers try to squeeze every dollar for their shareholders.

In BC, lab work is part of the public system. I don't know what the facilities are like in cities like Vancouver or Nanaimo. But here, they are fast and efficient, staffed with competent union health workers.

One downside to living in a remote town: most specialists are three hours away, in the town of Campbell River. It's time-consuming and inconvenient. Some specialists visit the health centre on a regular basis, but most people who need specialists end up traveling to Campbell River. If you have good supplemental insurance through an employer, your costs may be reimbursable, and if not, they are tax-deductible. There is some public assistance specifically for medical-related travel.

Our health centre has a registered dietitian and a diabetes educator on staff. There are also prenatal and neonatal classes. Ontario has this, too. Hopefully all the provinces do.

BC has Pharmacare

The province of British Columbia has public Pharmacare! There's a means-tested deductible, after which all your drug costs are covered. The deductible is quite high, and if you have benefits through your employer, that is one of the things your insurance will pick up.

The current Pharmacare formula is controversial, and whether it's fair or progressive is a matter of public debate that I won't get into now. Here's the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' analysis. My point is this exists.

Monthly premiums are ending

Right now in BC, every resident pays a monthly premium for health insurance -- and everyone pays the same amount, regardless of income. Like all flat-tax schemes, this is inequitable and regressive. The monthly fee doubled under the last Liberal government, rising to $125/month per person, or $250/month per family.

Monthly premiums will end in January 2020, thanks to our NDP government. The Province will fund the difference with a payroll tax, which includes a small-business exemption. If BCers are paying attention, this should guarantee our NDP government at least one more election.

In our household, our health care premiums are paid by our employer-paid benefits, so we personally won't notice the change. But for everyone without supplemental benefits, it will make a huge difference.

Public health care is worth fighting for

Recently I had some questions about my blood-test results, and the primary doctor suggested I see the registered dietitian on staff. The dietitian was awesome -- super knowledgeable and progressive. She gave me a full hour appointment (and we ran over) and booked a follow-up. Free. Covered by our public health insurance.

Why would the Province pay for consultations with a dietitian? Because prevention. When health care is a shared public resource, prevention is key, and prevention begins with education. When health care is for profit, there's a disincentive for prevention, because more health care means more profit.

It's very simple, really. Tommy Douglas explained it to Canada and now we can explain it to you. Health care costs x number of dollars. Health care plus profit costs x+profit dollars. Get rid of profit and you lower costs.


pupdate: did i say progress? i spoke too soon

Remember this? Recall from canned salmon and dehydrated liver treats?

Worked once. Didn't work a second time.

On our next visit to Storey's Beach, both dogs were completely absorbed in harassing the little fish. Cookie had zero recall. And Kai regressed and had none either, no doubt learning from her little sister that crime does indeed pay.

Even worse, Cookie seems to have developed some form of separation anxiety. She busted out of her crate (a cheapy we bought second hand), destroying it in the process and went a ways towards destroying the nice new one we recently bought.

I recently emailed a dog-trainer friend.
Both dogs are crated when we're not home, and overnight. Both have always been completely fine with being crated. Cookie will wait until she knows she's getting a treat, but if we're holding treats, she'll jump right in, and once she's in, she settles right down. We go out to dinner or whatever, an hour here or there, and both dogs are calm and fine. No crying or yelping as we leave, happy and excited when we get home, but not insane, not stressed at all.
But two or three times, Cookie has gotten destructive -- ripped up her bed, tore at the bottom of the crate, bent the door -- and also peed in the crate. Recently we left the house in the morning, both dogs were calm. Our dogsitter came over about 1.5 hours later and all this destruction had taken place. Later in the day, dogsitter leaves, we come home 45 mins later, and it's way worse. 
Poor girl. She's freaking out about something but we don't know what. It's very puzzling. But she must be crated when we're not home. So we're working on more positive reinforcement for crating, plus trying to catch what's happening on video.

On the plus side, she has not peed in the house in weeks, and now clearly tells us when she needs to go out. Hooray for that.

Kai, who was 100% housetrained when we adopted her, recently pooped in the house, hiding it in an empty room. Cookie taught her well.


island day trip with mom: whale watching cruise from telegraph cove

The pictures tell the story this time -- all Allan's. It was an amazing experience, far better than I expected. We also learned a lot about whales. It was such a privilege to be around these magnificent animals.

We weren't out 10 minutes before we saw orcas, humpbacks, and porpoises.

Once we learned to identify their blows, we saw humpbacks everywhere!

Our guide identified each orca by markings on its dorsal fin.

This is a Humpback surface feeding.

Several times we saw several whales at once, all around the boat.

Steller sea lions -- very big!

A whale and the sea lions in the same shot.

We saw an epic battle over a salmon.

I hope he was able to keep it.

Prince of Whales Tours: highly recommended!


"at your library" in the north island eagle: come play and learn!

We're celebrating Christmas early here at the Port Hardy Library – and Port McNeill, Port Alice, and Sointula Libraries, too. We're so excited to unwrap wonderful new supplies for the community to enjoy in our libraries.

For children, we have a new selection of wooden puzzles, showing animals, shapes, "things that go" (always a hit), and the alphabet. Kids love puzzles – and parents and caregivers should love them, too. It's amazing how many skills children develop when they play with puzzles.

Puzzles help children develop physical skills, such as hand-eye coordination and motor skills. They help children learn about the world around them, through shape recognition, tactile (touching) skills, and memory. Puzzles teach problem-solving, patience, and – if we're lucky – sharing and collaboration. And of course there are the pictures on the puzzle itself, teaching children to recognize letters, animals, colours, and shapes.

Playing with puzzles builds your child's confidence, too. If you're a puzzler yourself, you know that sense of satisfaction you get when you watch the images emerge, and when that final piece is in place. Very young children playing with simple wooden puzzles feel the same way.

When you help your child play with puzzles, talking about what the pieces show, or what sounds the animals make, you are helping them learn language – which means you are helping them learn how to read! Is it any wonder why we want puzzles in the library? So don't just watch your children play. Put down your phone and get involved!

Along with puzzles, you'll find new puppets in the library, too. Playing with puppets helps kids learn language, understand stories, gain confidence in speaking, and even build important emotional learning such as empathy and self-expression.

Our new supplies aren't only for pre-schoolers. For older kids – ages 9 through 99 – we have classic board games like Monopoly, Clue, Connect 4, and Uno, and a game set that includes chess, checkers, backgammon, dominoes, and more. Port Alice has a new Mahjong set for its avid tilers.

To top it all off, you'll find a colourful, new, magnetic building kit. Building kits are great STEAM activities, taking in design, engineering, and problem-solving, and building confidence and creativity.

Guess who paid for all this fun? You did.

These supplies were all funded through our used book sales. When you buy our old books, you accomplish two pieces of community service: you help create space for new books and you help enhance our libraries with new options for all to use.

I hope you'll stop by your library to sample these fun (and educational) activities. What better way to brighten up a rainy afternoon or answer that dreaded whine: I'm bored! "Let's go play games at the library!"


listening to joni: #9: don juan's reckless daughter

Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, 1977

I discovered I didn't own Don Juan's Reckless Daughter either on LP or CD -- which means I don't know the music from it, except for anything performed live or on compilations.

This means I have only my current opinions and impressions, and no earlier thoughts to compare them to. I can conjecture that I wouldn't have liked this album when it was released in 1977, or in 1987 for that matter, because I wouldn't have understood it. I hope by 1997, when I was beginning to explore jazz, I would have been ready to listen.

It is jazz. And it is Joni. I like it a lot, and I can tell that repeated listenings will yield more meaning.

On DJRD Joni works with a group of jazz artists, including four members of the Weather Report ensemble -- Jaco Pastorius (who was already Joni's friend and collaborator), Wayne Shorter, Manolo Badrena, and Alex Acuña.

The first track, "Overture," is played on six guitars in different tunings for a shimmering, echo-y effect. On the first vocal track, "Talk to Me," we hear the unmistakable rhythms of Joni strumming over a jazz backdrop. Joni's vocals have the talk-singing quality that she used on Hejira, but more so, almost as if she's reciting a poem. "Talk to Me" is marked by Joni-style humour -- which critics may think is an oxymoron.
We could talk about Martha
We could talk about landscapes
I'm not above gossip
But I'll sit on a secret where honor is at stake
Or we could talk about power
About Jesus and Hitler and Howard Hughes
Or Charlie Chaplin's movies
Or Bergman's nordic blues
Please just talk to me
Any old theme you choose
Just come and talk to me
Mr. Mystery talk to me

. . .

Is your silence that golden?
Are you comfortable in it?
Is it the key to your freedom
Or is it the bars on your prison?
Are you gagged by your ribbons?
Are you really exclusive or just miserly?
You spend every sentence as if it was marked currency
Come and spend some on me
Shut me up and talk to me
I'm always talking
Chicken squawking
Please talk to me
"Paprika Plains" is a 15-minute piano and orchestral piece, reminiscent of Court and Spark, with some lyrics printed on the album cover but not sung. The lyrics are widely open to interpretation, as poetry often is.
Restless for streets and honky tonks
Restless for home and routine
Restless for country safety and her
Restless for the likes of reckless me
Restless sweeps like fire and rain
Over virgin wilderness
It prowls like hookers and thieves
Through bolt locked tenements
Behind my bolt locked door
The eagle and the serpent are at war in me
The serpent fighting for blind desire
The eagle for clarity
What strange prizes these battles bring
These hectic joys these weary blues
Puffed up and strutting when I think I win
Down and shaken when I think I lose
There are rivets up here in this eagle
There are box cars down there on your snake
And we are twins of spirit
No matter which route home we take
Or what we forsake
We're going to come up to the eyes of clarity
And we'll go down to the beads of guile
There is danger and education
In living out such a reckless life style
I touched you on the central plains
It was plane to train my twin
It was just plane shadow to train shadow
But to me it was skin to skin
The spirit talks in spectrums
He talks to mother earth to father sky
Self indulgence to self denial
Man to woman
Scales to feathers
You and I
Eagles in the sky
You and I
Snakes in the grass
You and I
Crawl and fly
You and I
Those last lines reference "Down to You," the Court and Spark song with a long instrumental bridge -- "you can crawl, you can fly too". Here again, Joni contemplates her own duality and the duality of human potential.

"The Tenth World" is an extended Latin percussion piece: congas, bongos, surdo, cowbell, shakers, and whatever else, with some vocals in Spanish. Joni shares writing credits Don Alias, Manolo Badrena, Alejandro Acuña, Airto Moreira, and Jaco Pastorius.

"Dreamland" is the most well-known song on DJRD, because it's been captured on live albums; Joni was performing it live before Don Juan's was released. It's the most accessible song on the album. Joni sings about all of us here in the first world, in the global north, using other cultures as vacationlands, insulated in the national identities that we carry with us. She might also be musing on we Canadians using our own national identity as a defense against accusations of imperialism.
It's a long long way from Canada
A long way from snow chains
Donkey vendors slicing coconut
No parkas to their name
Black babies covered in baking flour
The cook's got a carnival song
We're going to lay down some place shady
With dreamland coming on
Dreamland dreamland
Dreamland dreamland

Walter Raleigh and Chris Columbus
Come marching out of the waves
And claim the beach and all concessions
In the name of the suntan slave
I wrapped that flag around me
Like a Dorothy Lamour sarong
And I lay down thinking national
With dreamland coming on
Dreamland dreamland
Dreamland dreamland
The title track is a poetic self-portrait. The music has clear links to Hejira -- you can hear strains of "Coyote" -- but the poem is unique in the lexicon of Joni's self-reflection.

On the whole, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter is a complex, layered, textured, somewhat challenging album. It has a hypnotic quality, almost dreamlike. It's not a collection of songs; it's a work that needs to be heard in its entirety. Those who enter into it and spend some time wandering through will be richly rewarded.

Racism and Islamophobia? 

One song on DJRD makes me cringe -- at least one line does. It stands out so much that the man who runs jonimitchell.com has added an asterisk and some news stories by way of explanation.

Apparently the song was written after a terrorist attack in Washington, when a group of people identified as Hanafi Muslims held hostages at Washington's B'nai B'rith offices, an Islamic centre, and some local government offices. Apparently the incident had nothing to do with Israel or Palestine. Nevertheless, these lines -- repeated as a refrain throughout the song -- are so jarring!
They've come for sun and fun
While Muslims stick up Washington.
Considering the US's relationship to Muslims and Muslim-majority countries, this line is more than a bit strange.

Racism, well... that's the cover story.

Bad critic comment of the album

Is there ever a lot to choose from! This album was called "remote," "bland," and "weird".

For worst, I'll take this entire review from People magazine:
Tedious and morose melodies - conveyed by poetic histrionics - fit perfectly with Mitchell's funereal delivery. A downer.
The album cover

This is the only album cover of Joni's that I dislike. It's awkward and graceless, and seems beneath her.

More importantly, the album cover is controversial. There are images of three people, who are all Joni, in costume -- including the African-American man in the stereotypical 1970s pimp outfit. Yep, that's Joni in blackface. Apparently this is one of Joni's alter-egos, named Art Nouveau. Much has been written about this, from writing off Joni as a racist, to downplaying it as "things were different then".

An interesting analysis is here on the BBC website. There's more explanation in this excellent long piece from The Cut: Joni Mitchell, Unyielding. That piece includes some funny lines about Taylor Swift playing Joni in a biopic.

What do I think?

I don't know what to make of either the blackface or Joni's answers about it. I find the "Muslim" line in the song much more disturbing than Joni's dress-up -- although both are puzzling.

Do I think Joni is racist? No, I don't. If we're going to label someone as a racist, there should be more evidence than this.

Has she ever had a racist moment -- a thought, a comment, a misstep? We can assume so. We can assume that everyone has had racist moments. We live in a racist world, and none of us is completely unaffected by that.

Joni dressing as a pimp for a Halloween party is an odd choice, but also funny.  Using that same costume on an album cover is seriously tone-deaf. I don't get it. But I don't think that one act makes her racist. I do think it's interesting that these images are always discussed as blackface, and never (that I've seen) as cross-dressing.

I see no evidence that Joni Mitchell is a bigot, and plenty of evidence that she is not. I hope she's not Islamophobic. But either way, I don't expect her to be perfect. It's one line on one song, one image on one album. At worst, it's one minor misstep in a very long and rich career.

Cacti or stockings?

I haven't found any cactus, stockings, or nylons on this album. Those images have been replaced by Indigenous imagery -- eagles, serpents, feathers, braids, drum beats -- and to being a settler, a foreigner, or a tourist. There are also repeated images of Blackness, and many references to dreams and dreaming.

Other musicians on this album

Bass, Jaco Pastorius
Drums, John Guerin
Bongos, Snaredrum, Sandpaper Blocks, Don Alias
Congas, Don Alias, Manolo Badrena, Alejandro Acuña
Shakers, Alejandro Acuña
Surdo, Airto Moreira
Cowbells, Jaco Pastorius
Congas, Manolo Badrena
Soprano Sax, Wayne Shorter
Electric Guitar, Larry Carlton
Vocals, Chaka Khan
Piano, Michael Colomber
"Paprika Plains" orchestrated and conducted by Michael Gibbs


island day trip with mom: alert bay

This week's day trip was fascinating, meaningful, and so much fun. We went to Alert Bay, toured the U'mista Cultural Centre (us for the second time, my mom for the first), and participated in a traditional salmon barbeque through Culture Shock.

Know before you go: residential schools and the potlatch ban

On the drive down to Port McNeill, where we get the ferry to both Sointula and Alert Bay, we gave my mom some context for the U'mista exhibits -- both the residential schools and the potlatch ban. We have talked about it before, but I felt a review of sorts would make the day more meaningful. After taking the Indigenous Canada online course through the University of Alberta, I feel more confident summarizing the issues -- a concrete benefit of the course.

If anyone reading this doesn't know about these two horrors of colonization, I encourage you to learn about them both. I'll briefly summarize the issues at the bottom of this post.

U'mista Cultural Centre

The U'mista Cultural Centre is an amazing museum and learning centre. It's so perfectly done, I honestly can't think of how it could be improved. In fact, I think I'll quote wmtc from our first visit there, lightly edited, then add a few notes below.
U'mista is a small treasure trove of First Nations art, beautifully curated and displayed, and especially notable for how it was acquired. All the objects have been reclaimed and repatriated from museums and private collections. From the late 1800s until the 1950s, as part of its genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples, Canada outlawed potlatch.

Tlingit Potlatch
(Image: Sheldon Museum)
Potlatch is a ritual re-distribution of wealth, practiced by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada and the US. About the Coastal peoples, you will hear it said: the wealthiest family is not those acquire the most, but those who give the most away. In a celebration of food, song, and storytelling dance that goes on for days, the wealthier families give food, clothing, other necessities, and also luxuries, to the rest of the community.

At potlatch, ritual masks and robes would be worn for dances that told stories. When the ceremonies were outlawed, the Canadian government confiscated all the regalia. Indigenous scholars and activists have spent decades tracking down and attempting to acquire the stolen objects. Over the decades, too, potlatches were held in secret, and the U'mista Centre honours the courageous individuals who were determined to keep their traditions alive.

The U'mista Centre stands beside the site of St. Michael's, one of the notorious residential schools. When the school -- which closed only in 1974 -- was demolished, survivors and families gathered for a ceremony (good article at that link).

Modern Potlatch
U'mista has information about the residential schools, which I assume many visitors wouldn't know about -- considering up until 15 or so years ago, even most Canadians (from non-Indigenous backgrounds) didn't know about them. It's incredibly painful and incredibly important to learn about. I felt like I did after visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC (although the U'mista Centre is quite small).

I have read about the residential schools, and have learned about other similar situations -- for example, in Australia, depicted in the brilliant, heartbreaking film "Rabbit Proof Fence". I thought I knew how horrifying and disgusting both the schools and the policies were. Yet, when I learned more about them in the online course I'm taking, as bad as I thought it was, it was so much worse. It's painful to contemplate these injustices, but we are obligated to bear witness.

At U'mista, there are also beautiful photographs and displays about Indigenous activists and other community leaders. In the summer, there are cultural tours and sometimes the opportunity to see dances performed. There's also a fantastic gift shop, where everything is most things are made in Canada and Indigenous artists are credited (and, I presume, paid).

The U'mista Cultural Centre is a must-visit if you're on the North Island.
New to our second visit

We watched two excellent videos depicting a modern potlatch. One was fashioned in standard documentary style, with a voice-over narrator. It was very good, but I especially loved the more recent update. This film had no narration, and scenes of the natural world were intercut into the footage of potlatch dances. This style gave a deeper understanding of the connectedness of the people to the natural world; the nature scenes provided context for the dances. I loved it.

Both videos were created by members of the Cranmer family, who also operate Culture Shock. One of the Cranmers is consulting on a project I'm working on. (More on that soon.)

Also new to us at the U'mista was an exhibit called The Story Box, about the historic collaboration between Franz Boas, who founded modern anthropology, and George Hunt, his Indigenous research partner. Their work together was groundbreaking, and Hunt continued it after Boas' death. George Hunt was from this area, and the surname Hunt denotes a well-known and influential Indigenous family on the west coast.

As it happens, the reason we hadn't seen this exhibit on our first visit brings us around to the Cranmer family again. "The Story Box" was being shown at Bard College in New York City, and the Cranmers were among the delegates -- dancing, teaching, and participating in the celebration. Corinne Hunt, a formidable Indigenous artist and the great-granddaughter of George Hunt, designed the artwork for the exhibit.

This beautiful brochure from the New York exhibit includes an interview with Corinne Hunt. Here are some photos Allan took of The Story Box exhibit.

And here are some images from the U'mista's permanent collection.

Chilkat is an extremely difficult type of weaving. A Chilkat ceremonial blanket of this size represents
seven to twelve months of full-time work -- and months of preparation before the weaving can even begin.

We love petroglyphs! This one shows that the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw
have been in this area for thousands of years.

A button blanket, worn for ceremonial dances.

Carved cedar chest. The Indigenous peoples of the Northwest are
intricately connected to the cedar.

Detail of above chest.
Tlubukw: traditional salmon barbeque lunch

We had booked in advance a traditional salmon barbeque. Gwantilakw Cranmer walked us through the preparation, talking about the significance of the salmon to her people, both pre-contact and today. Gwinty has been working with salmon all her life and she was an excellent guide. I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Sockeye Salmon. There are many Kwak'wala words meaning salmon,
depending on the type and its age (i.e., where it is in its life cycle).
The word I've seen most frequently is k'utala.

I took a turn cutting one side of the salmon open.

The wood is cedar, of course.

A cedar fire burns very hot.

We were cooking the salmon in a little grassy area near the water, where a boulder served as a windbreak. A small crowd of tourists gathered on the boardwalk, looking down at us and asking occasional questions. When the fish was done, we were wondering (to ourselves only) where we were going to eat it, and would we be eating only salmon?

Suddenly out came a table, tablecloth, plates, and a huge amount of food! There was potato salad, a green salad with kale, cabbage, and cranberries, a tray of freshly baked buns, and bannock. Bannock has the consistency of cornbread and is so delicious! There was far more food than we ever could have eaten, and (happily) spoiled our plans for dinner.

If you visit Alert Bay, this is a very special experience. It may seem a bit pricey, but if you can afford it, it's well worth the money.

The gift shops!

The gift shops at both Culture Shock and the U'mista Cultural Centre are among the best I've ever been in. If you love Indigenous art and design, don't miss them.

Interesting note: your admission to the U'mista Centre is good for two visits.

* * * *

A bit more on the issues

Canadian Residential Schools

In Canada, "Residential Schools" refers to the system of federally-funded, church-run schools that operated throughout Canada for more than 160 years.

Children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to live in these "schools" -- more aptly called camps. They were forbidden to speak their language, to use their given names, to wear their hair in their culture's typical ways. The stated goal of the schools was "to kill the Indian in the child".

The children were forced to perform manual labour, which was supposedly their education. Conditions were horrendous. Thousands of children died. Mass graves have been uncovered.

Abuse was rampant: physical, psychological, sexual, social.

More than 150,000 children lived in these schools. The last one closed in 1996.

There were also Indian Day Schools. I don't know why some children were forced into those rather than residential schools, but the day schools were similarly horrific.

One of the characteristics shared by almost all Indigenous cultures is an emphasis on family, usually extended family. In oral traditions, knowledge transmitted directly from generation to generation. Skills -- hunting, gardening, cooking, building, healing, everything you can think of -- are learned by observation and participation. Values, morals, and ethics -- all the guideposts of life -- are transmitted through storytelling and observation. From birth to death, every aspect of life is shared communally, and done for the benefit of the new generations, to build for the future.

Now imagine a culture such as this with no children. Villages where all the children have been stolen. The trauma and grief and shame left behind. The despair, the helplessness.

At the same time, imagine generations of children who have never been exposed to familial love, or at best that love was a distant memory. Generations of children who have been raised institutionally, with harsh discipline, meager food rations, minimal health care, forced lessons intended for wage-slavery, and of course, rampant abuse. Generations of children who have been forbidden to speak their own languages or learn anything about their cultures -- and who are indoctrinated to believe that their original cultures are dirty and shameful.

When these children become adults, how can they know how to raise families of their own? They have not seen normal parenting. They lack the supports of their culture and communities. They know only shame and abuse.

These entwined conditions are at the root of the intergenerational trauma that echoes through Indigenous communities in countless destructive ways. The wonder is how people and their cultures have survived at all -- a testament to the determination and resiliency of the human spirit.

Canada participated in a Truth and Reconciliation process that focused on the Residential Schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada set out 93 Calls to Action. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is the permanent body that came out of the hearings.
As the permanent home for all statements, documents, and other materials gathered by the TRC the NCTR will ensure that:
- former students and their families have access to their own history;
- educators can share the Indian Residential School history with future generations of students;
- researchers can more deeply explore the Residential School experience;
- the public can access historical records and other materials to help foster reconciliation and healing; and
- the history and legacy of the residential school system are never forgotten.
Every Canadian is or should be actively involved in Reconciliation. Reconciliation takes many forms, both institutionally and individually. All Canadian schools must now include the Residential Schools in their history curriculum. Similarly, as a librarian, it is my responsibility to participate in Reconciliation through the library's collections, programs, and service. It's also my job as a human being.

The Potlatch Ban

Potlatch is the ritual redistribution of wealth, both a cultural ritual and a form of social welfare. Viewed through a socialist lens, potlatch is decidedly not capitalist. It may not be anti-capitalist, but it's certainly counter-capitalist. Is why it was banned? Or was it simply part of the Canadian project of aggressive colonization and assimilation -- the quest to "kill the Indian"? I suspect it was both.

You can learn more about the potlatch ban and its insidious effects from these excellent sources.
The Umista Centre's virtual museum
The Potlatch Ban - The Bill Reid Centre at Simon Fraser University
Colonialism and the Potlatch Ban - blog of the University of Alberta's Faculty of Law
The "Potlatch Law" and Section 141 - Indigenous Foundations at UBC