Monday, November 26, 2007

Oodles and oodles of anchors

My family gets BBC World News on the satellite over here. I've watched it as much as everyday for a week staight, and I have never seen the same news anchor twice on that channel. The BBC seems to have a never-ending supply of new anchors. Ditto with their weather people. Where do they all come from? And where do they all go to after they finish their one shift at the BBC World News desk?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Stupid tobacco laws

I noticed something that I think is pretty stupid at the grocery store today, related to tobacco sales laws, and to tell you about it (if you're one of my non-Canadian readers) I might as well start from the beginning with what it's like in Canada, and PEI in particular.

Some years ago, the government started cracking down on tobacco sales to try to prevent people from starting to smoke and to encourage those who do smoke to quit. The same as most Western countries, I presume. Cigarettes are taxed and taxes got raised to try to discourage people from buying them. Then taxes would be lowered because it would become profitable to smuggle in less-taxed cigarettes from the United States and sell them here. Then taxes would be raised again once the smuggling had died down. Then repeat. I'm not sure what the story on smuggling is now, as I haven't heard much about it recently - with the Canadian dollar being so high, it might be profitable again, I don't know. But then the border is more tightly controlled now then it was years ago.

Another thing the government has done to discourage smoking is to put warning labels on all packages of cigarettes. If I recall correctly, these started out much smaller than they are now. At present, the labels have to cover one-half of the cigarette package. Unlike the UK, the warnings have pictures as well - of diseased hearts, of pregnant women, of children, etc. My favourite is pictured below. It's the only one that is remotely funny.

At the start of 2006, laws were passed to prevent pharmacies (i.e. chemists) from selling tobacco, and from any supermarkets that have pharmacies within them. Tobacco could only be sold on these premises from shops that were attached to the buildings, but had a separate entrance. Now, the supermarkets on PEI that had pharmacies (Sobeys, Atlantic Superstore) already had separate smoke shops (that also sell lottery tickets), closed off from the supermarket, but the entrance was just inside the main doors to the building. So they moved their doors to the outside, and all was well. As for the pharmacies, I don't know of any on the Island that built separate tobacco shops; they just stopped selling tobacco products.

Apparently that wasn't far enough. The problem now was that tobacco was still on display in convenience stores (i.e. newsagents), in supermarkets without pharmacies, and apparently children seeing these displays would want to start smoking from the sight of them. So the so-called "shower-curtain laws" were passed in several provinces, including PEI, that required retailers to keep tobacco hidden from sight. The picture below depicts what convenience stores now look like - the cigarettes are behind all those beige screens.

I find that law pretty silly. But the thing that I really find stupid, and that I mentioned in the start of this post, is that the special, dedicated, smoke shops at the supermarkets that I mentioned - the ones with separate entrances, that sell nothing but tobacco products and lottery tickets - the ones that kids aren't allowed to enter on their own, because the products are age-restricted - well, those stores are required to hide their cigarettes out of sight as well. Who exactly are they protecting? The people who go into that store are there to buy tobacco, or lottery tickets, and they're all legal adults who can make the choice about whether to smoke or not. It's like if you went to the liquor store (all alcohol is sold from government-owned shops in PEI) and they had all the bottles hidden behind screens - kids aren't allowed in the store unless they're with their parents, so they can't be influenced by the sight of the products unless their parents allow them to come in. Like anyone ever started smoking because they saw some cigarettes on a shelf. They smoke because their friends do, or their parents do, or both.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Le snow and the maladie

I like Franglais.

It snowed here earlier in the week: this is what it looked like Wednesday morning in the front yard, before it melted later in the day (note that it's unusual for there to be so many leaves on the trees this late, or the grass to be green for that matter).

I didn't see much of the snow as it came down on Tuesday or Wednesday morning as I was laid up in my bed sick for much of it. On Tuesday as well our furnace quit, which meant that I was the only one who could tolerate staying in the house, as I was under a heap of blankets. To make a long story short, I was pretty miserable with what seemed to be a stomach flu, had a nice mental-freak-out experience with horrific (at the time) geometry-based hallucinations on Tuesday night (presumably due to fever - fevers seem to bring out mathematical-related thoughts in me ever since I was a kid), and by Wednesday was still having pain in my abdomen and lower back. A trip to the doctor resulted in a diagnosis of a possible kidney infection (test still to come back), but I got put on antibiotics and feel the better for it now. And as a bonus, the drugs are clearing up the chest cough I still had left over from the sinus-cold/flu that I had during my trip over here. So far my visit to the Island has been two illnesses.

I got to try welding for the first time today, playing with my Dad's new arc welder. Didn't actually weld anything to anything, just playing around on a bit of metal learning how to control it. I like it better than soldering, although I can't really say why.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's snowing!

It's a wet, sticky snow, but snow nonetheless!

Glasgow to New Glasgow

It may seem hard to believe, but until I was driven past a sign indicating New Glasgow on the way back from the Halifax airport on Monday evening, I had never realized that New Glasgow is the "new" version of the city of Glasgow, Scotland. I'd never separated the two words when hearing of New Glasgow in Nova Scotia, or the one on PEI either.

Arriving on Monday was like landing in an oddly familiar foreign land. It was cold, the cars drove on the wrong side, the people spoke differently, the bank notes were smaller and the coins were thinner, land that once seemed hilly was flat.

All that seemed unfamiliar was only strange to my conscious mind - my subconscious never forgot the place. Once I started driving, muscle memory, or whatever you want to call it, took over and I have no problems so long as I don't think about which side of the road I should be on too much.

The accents don't catch my attention anymore (I picked up my own old one straight away), and I'm now appreciating the subtlety of the landscape once more (it sure seems like a hill once you rollerblade up it against the wind - I finally got to skate for the first time in over a year!).

My nephew was the biggest change I saw coming back - he was 21 months old when I left, and now he's a month shy of 3 years old. He's gone from a baby to a talkative little boy. I was introduced to him as "Megan, Daddy's sister", to which he kept asking "what one?" I don't think he has the concept of sister down yet. After some initial shyness of a few minutes we were playing cars, so I've been accepted into the flock and now have the role of re-building the train tracks when they get knocked apart.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Last week in Kyleakin

I'm leaving Kyleakin tomorrow, taking the bus to Glasgow airport and then flying from there to London Gatwick airport, where I'll be spending the night before flying to Halifax on Monday morning (on flight 111 - it sounds suspiciously like a flight number that could crash off of Peggy's Cove and have a made-for-TV movie done about it). Sounds like fun, I know. So a travel-weary Megan will be arriving on the Island sometime Monday afternoon.

This past week I've been doing some extra work doing deep-cleaning of the hostel with Alysha. And then there's been a succession of small parties and just hanging out with folks.

Jamie, Alysha, and I went up to Broadford on Tuesday evening to join Rob and Caroline from the Uig hostel, and Gareth and Tina from the Aberdeen hostel (who were visiting) at the Broadford Hotel for their pub quiz. We had to split into two teams, and the boys decided that it would be boys against girls, despite our protests that all of us girls being foreign would give us a disadvantage on a Scotland-based quiz (Caroline is from France and Tina is from Switzerland). So we named our team "Rob, Gareth, and Jamie Suck" (Tina's idea). I believe that their team was named The Knights, refering to the Monty Python Holy Grail film. Anyway, we ended up with 21.5/39, whereas the boys had 28/39 I believe. Us girls may not have beaten the boys, but their reactions when the team names were all read out with scores at the end was quite funny when the entire pub heard the words "Rob, Gareth, and Jamie suck".

After the quiz we had intended to stay in the Broadford Hostel, but we got Gareth to drive us all back to Kyleakin (in two trips) where there was more booze. We spent the rest of the night talking and playing games on Jamie's Nintendo Wii (it has a cool controller that has motion sensing, so if you're playing bowling, for example, you move your hand as though you were throwing a bowling ball).

Halloween was Wednesday, and the official day of our end of season party, which basically ended up involving all the above-mentioned people (minus Tina, who had to go back to Aberdeen) plus our manager Pat, since none of the other hostels that we invited could make it. So instead of sticking at the hostel entirely for it, we went to the King Haakon bar first, after having gotten dressed up, where we found that we were the most in-costume people there. Alysha was a ghost, using an old hostel sleep sheet, Caroline was some sort of monster involving wearing cling film on her head, Rob was sporting a leather gimp mask and borrowed leather jacket and gloves, Jamie had a Scary-Movie-stoned-guy-from-Scream mask (the best I can describe it) and a pair of handcuffs for some reason, Gareth had a hat that makes him look like Pete Docherty, and I was painted green and in a dress with homemade wings attached to look like a woodland fairy. So needless to say, some of us attracted attention. We later headed to Saucy Mary's, where at least the staff were all in costume, and some other people as well.

Thursday and Friday were just sort of hang-out days, doing some cleaning to finish up the hostel. Gareth headed out, and Jamie packed up all his stuff and got picked up by his dad. I went up to Uig with Rob last night and chatted with him and Caroline until the wee hours. Caroline headed off to her new job in Argyll today, and I came back to finish up my packing in preparation for leaving tomorrow. Alysha's planning to be away to visit folks in Aberdeen tomorrow as well, so that's all of us staff save Pat away (who is still on managing groups who rent the hostel until January).

So that's my Kyleakin phase to an end. I'd have to say it's been fun. I've liked my job, and the people that I've worked with, and I've certainly made some friends out of them. I've gotten to see some more of Skye, though still not as much as I'd like. All in all, it's been a good few months, and far too quick.