Real world vs. Facebook’s world vs. Google’s world — Updated

Black Island Kempt Head

Facebook continually pesters me to entrer the “city” where I live, but rejects Kempt Head, Ross Ferry, Boularderie, and Cape Breton all of which are more-or-less accurate. It will allow me to enter Halifax, Sydney, or Baddeck, none of which is accurate.

Contrast this with Google, which embraces locations with admirable granularity. Google effortlessly adopts islands, villages, hamlets—even micro-locations like Frankie’s Pond and Parker’s Beach—as long as it sees real people using them.

This may seem a small thing, but it strikes me as a profound difference in the cultures of the two organizations. One constantly cajoles you into ill-fitting pigeonholes. The other looks at what you and those around you are actually doing, and continually updates and adjusts to this new information.

(Photos: Above: Black Island (in Gaelic, Island Dhu), Kempt Head, in the real world. Below: Black Island, Kempt Head, on Google Maps.)

Black Island


Marla Cranston points out the Purcell’s Cove dies not exist in Facebook World.

If Calvert, NL, native Jenn Power were so inclined, she could list Ferryland as her home town, but this would be like asking her to accept Big 8 in place of Diet Coke. Far worse, actually.

Newly minted Margaree Centre resident Stephen Mills cannot list that village as his current residence, but Facebook World does allow “Margaree,” a community that, as Mills points out, does not actually exist.

There is no plain “Margaree” —— just the directional or topographic variations: North East Margaree, Margaree Valley, etc.

Interestingly, Mills contends that

[A]ll the Margarees were a bureucratic decision at some point. Names like Frizzelton and Fordview described the locations at one point.

About that tetrahedral kiss: Was it really Mabel?

Yesterday I posted a photo from National Geographic’s new Tumblr feed showing Alexander Graham Bell leaning in to kiss a woman who was holding herself inside one of his iconic tetrahedral kite frames. Both the National Geographic and I identified the women as Bell’s wife, Mabel Gardiner Hubbard.

Not so, writes Contrarian reader Donna Johnson, who works at the Bell Museum* in Baddeck:

NGS Picture ID:114038This is one of my favourite photos. Also a favourite of the visitors, who are sometimes a bit disappointed when we point out that, contrary to popular opinion, this is actually Bell kissing his daughter Daisy, not Mabel. If you take note of the date and the age of Bell vs. the age of the woman, considering also that Mabel was never without her glasses, you’ll see why it couldn’t be her.

Still a lovely photo though and an indication of how much his girls loved their dad!

Always grateful to have Contrarian readers set me straight on matters of fact, I was about to publish a correction when I did the math on the dates. Mabel was born on November 25, 1857. She would have been six weeks shy of her 46th birthday on October 16, 1903, when the photo was taken. Marian Hubbard Bell, aka Daisy, born in 1880, would have been 22 or 23. To my eye, the woman in the photo looks closer to 46 than 23. (For what’s its worth, Bell would have been 56.)

Fortunately, Contrarian lives in sight of Beinn Bhreagh, the Bell estate outside Baddeck. I called two acquaintances who are grandchildren of Daisy’s, and great-grandchildren of the famous couple. Marian Weissman had never heard the claim that the woman in the photo might be Daisy. She thinks the woman is too old, and adds, tartly, “He wouldn’t have kissed his daughter that way!”

Marian’s cousin Hugh Mueller reports “a lot of controversy” about the identity of the woman in the photo, adding, “I think it’s Daisy.” But when I pointed out the respective ages of the two women in 1903, Mueller demurred. “I’m just not sure,” he said.

Finally, Baddeck historian Jocelyn Bethune, a rich source of Bell lore, believes it’s Daisy. “Oh how I wish it were Mabel,” she writes, “but I am pretty sure it is Daisy, and pretty sure it was taken at Beinn Bhreagh.”

I have a feeling we’ll hear more about this topic.

– – –

* In Canadian federal officialese, the Baddeck facility dedicated to A. G. Bell is a National Historic Site, not a Museum. Museums fall under the purview of Canadian Heritage, whereas the Bell Thingamajig falls under Parks Canada, which designates it a National Historic Site. So say the bureaucrats. Any fool can see it’s a museum.

Revolving into light

March Sunset

Around this time of year, I like to dig out You May Know Them as Sea Urchins, Ma’am, Ray Guy’s 1975 collection of newspaper columns, and re-read the last essay in the book: “This Dear and Fine Country (Spina Sanctus).”

Well, we made it once again, boys! Winter is over.

Oh, but there is still snow on the ground.

So what? It hasn’t got a chance. It is living in jeopardy from day to day. We should pity it because it will soon be ready for the funeral parlour. It is only a matter of another few paltry weeks and we shall see it disappear into brown and foaming brooks; we shall see the meadows burning green and spangled with little piss-a-beds like tiny yellow suns. Winter is over.

Oh, but there is still ice on the water.

So what? The globe is turning and nothing can stop it. We are revolving into light.
The fisherman tars his boat on the beach and is heated by two suns, one in the sky and another reflected from the water, and the ice on the cliff behind him drips away to a poor skeleton.

It is only a matter of a few more paltry weeks and we shall see the steam rising from the ponds andfrom the damp ground behind the plow; we shall see the grandmother sitting out by the doorstep for a few minutes watching the cat; we shall see the small boats a’bustle, piled high with lobster pots in the bow, and the days melting further and further into the night.

Winter is over now.

Praise God and all honour to our forefathers through generations who did
never forsake this dear and fine country.

Ray Guy is a Newfoundland writer. The joke underlying the book title is that sea urchins are sometimes  called whore’s eggs on The Rock. The Latin phrase Spina Sanctus (sanctified by the thorn) was a motto used by George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, an early settler on Newfoundland’s Southern Shore.

The photograph shows the sun setting over Baddeck at 5:54 p.m. today, itself a sign that winter’s goose is cooked.

Contrarian and friends on blogging

Contrarian will be at the Inverary Inn‘s Thistledown Pub in Baddeck this evening to lead a discussion about blogging sponsored by the Cabot Trail Writers’ Festival, the group that organized this event last fall. In addition to an annual fall festival, the group plans a series of satellite events, of which tonight’s discussion is the first. I’ll be talking about the writerly (journalistic, aesthetic, ethical) aspects of blogging; Mike Targett will be on hand to backstop me on those issues, and to add his technical smarts to the discussion.

The pub serves supper from 5:30 to 8; The fireside blogging discussion, upstairs in the lounge, will begin at 7, followed by live entertainment at 8. So come any time before 7.

H1N1: Baddeck breakdown

For a process that has (or should have) undergone intensive preparation for months, the Cape Breton District Health Authority’s first public H1N1 vaccination clinic, Wednesday in Baddeck, was an organizational disaster. Here’s how one Contrarian reader described it:

I gathered the kids after school and navigated our way through the car-lined streets to the Masonic Hall. We grabbed a spot at the end of the line, several car-lengths back from the corner of Queen & Grant streets. It was typical Cape Breton gathering—lots of chatting and laughing between neighbours, and new friends made with unfamiliar faces.

Many of us who arrived after 3 were parents and we had our kids with us. My kids played “Where’s Waldo,” by finding teachers in the line up. Ahead of me were a young couple with their 15 month old daughter. After an hour, we had inched our ways forward several steps.

Behind me were several older people from the community, including at least one with a walker. We all stood, shoulder to shoulder, four in a row, many doing a two-step to keep warm. By the 1.5 hour mark, the sun had slunk low in the sky, and the wind was much colder. A young mother, who had spent the last hour and a half chasing her toddler, fainted. She was carried inside, while someone held her baby.

While I didn’t mind waiting two hours for the shot, I do wonder if asking people who have young kids, are old and infirmed, to stand outside for two hours, is wise. I also wonder if a clinic like this could not have been set up at the school. There would have been facilities for kids and it would have captured kids, parents and teachers in addition to other members of the community. And those waiting would have been warm inside.

Baddeck is Contrarian‘s county seat. Having been warned about the long wait and the cold, I bundled up in layers and made the hour’s drive to Baddeck, arriving an hour before the clinic’s published closing time. A security guard refused to let me join the lineup. It had been closed, even though the clinic hours had been extended until 7. Contrarian spoke with people who arrived at 10:30 a.m (90 minutes before the scheduled opening), at 3, and at 4:30. All waited in the cold more than two hours. Among other things, they reported that the “informed consent” video all were supposed to “watch,” was hard to see and impossible to hear.

Is there a better way to do this?

Douglas Shenson, associate clinical professor of epidemiology and public health at the Yale School of Medicine, thinks there is. In Monday’s New York Times, he suggested using federal polling stations for rapid, mass vaccinations:

There are about 186,000 polling places in the United States, in schools, centers for the elderly, churches and fire stations in every community. Federal law requires that they be accessible to people with disabilities, many of whom may be particularly vulnerable to influenza…. Public health officials must soon decide how and where to deploy health care personnel to administer the H1N1 vaccine. If the pandemic becomes more severe, they will need to deliver the vaccine to large numbers of people while avoiding crowds that would increase the risk of infection. Sites that are universally available and dispersed across all neighborhoods would be ideal.

Shenson and some colleagues piloted the idea in last fall’s US presidential election on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Vote and Vax initiative.

Would this work in Canada? By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, we have roughly 200 polling stations per riding, or more than 80,000 across the country. That’s about five times as many, per capita, as the US (which may be one reason why our paper ballot elections work so much more smoothly than their machine-assisted votes!). Realistically, it may be too many venues for public health officials to staff.

But for anyone who wrangled toddlers or aging parent for two hours in the cold yesterday, having more, smaller clinics, and having them in accessible buildings that can handle a crowd, seems at least worth considering.

Annals of (anti-vaccination) humbug – feedback

A Contrarian reader who is also a public health nutritionist responds to our post about Fralic’s foolishness:

This Globe and Mail article convinced me of the importance of getting the H1N1 vaccination.  There is so much misinfomation out there, and I hold health reporter Andre Picard’s coverage in high regard.

Nova Scotians can find the location and schedule of immunization clinics in their District Health Region here. [On the map, click on your DHA.]

I plan to take [my children] to the Baddeck clinic and get us done before the rush.

Contrarian expects tomorrow’s Baddeck clinic, the first in Cape Breton, to be a madhouse. Some physicians will offer ‘flu shots in their offices.