"at your library" in the north island eagle: ahoy there, matey! you can learn how to talk like a pirate – plus lots of fun facts about real pirates – through free apps from your library

Can you talk like a pirate?

September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a bit of fun invented by two friends in 1995 and spread around the globe via the internet. Typical “pirate-speak” are growly phrases like Arrr Matey, Avast Ye Landlubbers, and the ever-popular Shiver Me Timbers.

What does this have to do with the Library, you ask? Good question! Pirate is one of 75 languages you can learn through Mango Languages, an amazing language-learning app. If you subscribed to Mango on your own, it would cost you $8/month for one language, or $18/month for access to all the languages – but it’s free with your library card.

There are several language learning programs online, but none compare to Mango Languages. On Mango, each language is taught by a native speaker. Lessons start very simple, and build gradually, so you can immediately see progress and gain confidence. There’s lots of repetition and review built in. There’s even a feature where you can compare your pronunciation to the teacher’s and see how it matches up.

I love Mango Languages because it’s designed for real life. There’s none of that “the pen of my aunt is on the table”. Mango knows the kinds of words and phrases that you need for traveling or living in another country, and helps you get there.

It even includes cultural tips. For example, in some Spanish-speaking countries, people will use the familiar – the tu – after they have been introduced and spoken a few times. In other countries, the familiar is reserved for family and close friends, and referring to people you have recently met as tu or ti is considered insulting. Mango will clue you in on these points of culture to help you succeed.

Mango includes English-language learning too, for speakers of more than 20 different languages. And you can use Mango Languages on a computer or any mobile device.

There’s more to pirates than Ahoy Matey. Kids who want to learn about real pirates will enjoy another free library app: National Geographic Kids. National Geographic Kids gives access to thousands reliable facts and fascinating concepts in science, nature, culture, archaeology, and space. The app contains every issue of National Geographic Kids magazine from 2009 to the present, plus searchable books, videos, and images.

National Geographic Kids is part of the National Geographic Virtual Library, also free with your library card. The Nat Geo Virtual Library contains a complete archive of the famed Nat Geo magazine – every page of every issue! This is a treasure trove of information – articles, images, even the advertising is enlightening, an artifact of earlier eras. And there are pirates galore!

You can find Mango Languages and these National Geographic apps by going to virl.bc.ca > learn > all databases. If you need help getting started, call or stop by the library.

Since International Talk Like a Pirate Day is meant to be humorous, I’ll close this column with a riddle I heard from a library customer.

“What’s a pirate’s favourite letter?”

To which I replied, “That’s easy: Arrrr.”

She said, “Some might think it’s arrrr, but a pirate’s first love will always be the C.”

september 28: international safe abortion day

Today is International Safe Abortion Day. Because without access to safe, legal abortion, women can never be free.

In North America, you can help ensure that women are able to access safe abortions by donating to abortion funds. The National Network of Abortion Funds (N-NAF) can show you how.



picket lines, pupdates, and the 51st parallel: 10 things on my mind

It's been a while.

1. Mom went home.

My mom went home two weeks ago, after spending seven weeks here. I was sad to see her go! We had a great time, and it got better as we went along and settled into a routine. The dogs must especially miss her. They loved to hang out in her room, and she adored them.

2. I took union training.

I was in Nanaimo this week, participating in some training with my union, the BCGEU. I had three days of courses, plus a full day of travel each way, so I was gone for the whole work week.

My workplace has an interesting union model. All the frontline staff are members of CUPE, and the professional staff -- librarians, senior librarians, and library managers -- belong to the BCGEU. This means I'm the only BCGEU member in all five of my libraries.

However, there are BCGEU members in many other workplaces in my area. It's a very diverse union that represents social workers, administrative staff, BC Liquor and BC Cannabis workers, correctional officers, and many others. I'll be available to assist members who want a representative from outside of their workplace.

3. My union is amazing.

The courses I took were excellent, but the best part of the trip was spending time with other labour activists, and getting to know the culture of my new union.

I had heard good things about the BCGEU, but it was wonderful to see this for myself. I learned that Stephanie Smith, president of the union, came up through the rank-and-file, as a new activist. Her election (and re-election) as the union's first female president, and as a former frontline worker, transformed the union from an old-boys service model to a progressive, member-driven organizing model.

I'm pretty sure this was the best part of the training!

4. Loggers are on strike.

Forestry workers from USW Local 1-1937 are on strike against Western Forest Products, one of the largest employers on Vancouver Island. The strike is going into its fourth month, and there's no end in sight. Our North Island communities are severely impacted.

I was feeling really bad that I had done nothing to help these union brothers and their families. When the strike was called, we were closing on our house, then we were moving, then my mother was here... My focus was elsewhere, but every time we saw a picket site, I felt guilty.

Yesterday on my drive home from Nanaimo, I bought major quantities of snacks and some gas cards, and stopped at every line I passed. I also stopped into a USW office in Port McNeill: I figured a staff rep would know which families were most in need.

I visited seven lines, and should be able to hit two or three more this week. I admit much of this was to make myself feel better, but when you're on strike, picket support visits mean a lot. Presumably it wasn't an entirely selfish endeavour!

5. I wish Cookie would go on strike.

Image from Etsy
Our darling Cookie is driving us crazy. We're dealing with multiple issues: she's chewing stuff (not teething, just destroying), she's an escape artist, she has zero recall, and she seems to have developed separation anxiety.

Our friend Dharma Seeker has been consulting with us on training ideas, and suggested setting up a webcam. I learned how to make a webcam from two cell phones -- and we learned that Cookie does better when she's not crated. This was scary! The two young dogs alone in the house, not crated, could literally destroy everything. But it worked. Now they are confined to one room. We've dog-proofed the room as much as possible, and they seem calm and happy when we're gone.

This has resolved one issue. We have a long way to go.

6. We need a new fence.

We've learned the fence around our backyard is falling apart. Cookie has gotten out of at least four places.

Allan keeps working on it, but dog-fence whack-a-mole is a losing battle. We need to replace what's there with professional-grade stockade fencing. We're getting estimates, and it's not pretty. This is one reason we never wanted to own a home.

Cookie's latest chew toy: a rug we bought in Egypt.
7. I am swimming.

After ten years away from the pool, I've started to swim again. It's going to take a long time to get back my aerobic strength! But I have time.

8. I am not gardening.

I've discovered that I have little to no interest in gardening, which includes upkeep on the lovely landscaping that was already in place when we bought the house. If I didn't work full-time and if my joints didn't hurt, perhaps I would feel differently. But here in my real life, I just don't care.

Now I have a big backyard, a sizable front yard, and a whole mess of raised beds -- and I don't want to do anything with them. I'd love to find someone who loves to garden but who doesn't have one of their own. And doesn't mind dogs crashing through their work.

9. Summer is ending.*

Port Hardy is not far from the 51st parallel, the farthest north we've ever lived.** Summer days went on forever; at 10:30 pm it was still twilight. Now, of course, we're about to experience the other side. It will be interesting to see how our habits change in winter. But one thing we know: we won't be shoveling snow!

* I don't watch Game of Thrones and I was sick of hearing Winter Is Coming.

** The farthest north we've ever been is Denali National Park: 63rd parallel.

10. I love my job.

I can't believe how much I love my job. It's the perfect mix for me.

Many librarians, as their careers advance and become more managerial, lament no longer leading storytimes. I haven't done those in years (except in an emergency) and I've never missed them! Storytimes are skilled work and very valuable to the community, but I didn't get a Master's degree so I could read to kids. To me that's a poor use of my skills and a waste of taxpayer money.

For me, my job is a perfect mix of administrative work, community engagement, and hands-on librarianship. I really enjoy the admin work -- which is good, because there's a lot of it! But I still have lots of customer contact -- which is good, because I love it.


"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.