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...

My granddaughter Kate's first birthday provided an opportunity to sample the newest addition to Nova Scotia's craft beer landscape. Big Spruce Beer, brewed on the Yankee Line in Nyanza, is perishable, and must be refrigerated. It is sold only at the brewery, and only in these 1.89 l. (2 US quart) jugs (which ensures its status as a sociable drink). It has a mild, hoppy edge, and compares favourably with the best offerings from Propeller or the Granite Brewery. Well done! UPDATE: Big Spruce will have launch parties at Governors Pub in Sydney on April 12th, and The Wooden Monkey in Dartmouth on...

A couple of deft touches in Monday night's swearing-in ceremony for CBRM's new mayor and council hint at Cecil Clarke's potential to be a transformative mayor for the island's predominant municipality. [See update below.] [caption id="attachment_11065" align="alignleft" width="150"] Clarke[/caption] The first is a small thing: the musicians Clarke has chosen for the event are (1) young and (2) non-Celtic. This marks a departure from the cliched tartanism that usually dominates such affairs. Check out headliner Kyle Mischiek's rap-remix of "We are an Island" on YouTube and iTunes. The freshening up of a slightly dowdy Cape Breton chestnut will bring welcome symbolic value...

A German friend who has lived in Cape Breton for the last two years took a short swim Easter Sunday afternoon at Dingwall Beach, on northern Cape Breton's Atlantic coast. Water temperature: 3 degrees.  ...

  CBC Radio's Joan Weeks follows up suggestions arsonists have intimidated residents and civic officials in northern Cape Breton into silence, while insurance companies are declining to cover homes in the area against fire damage. True on both counts, she reports. Previous instalments here and here. [audio:http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/cbnsinfomorn_20120217_79179.mp3|titles=A_Burning_Issue]...

  On December 12, Harvey Morash and Michael Gerhartz went diving at Grand Narrows, Cape Breton, where the two great basins of the Bras d'Or Lake* converge amidst the treacherous currents of the Barra Strait. Those currents make the water in this video disturbingly murky, but the fecundity of the sea life—the profusion of urchins, anemones, not to mention perch, lobster, and cod—is something to see. The aerial photo at right shows the two bridges, highway and railway, that span the strait, from Iona on the left to Grand Narrows on the right. * Lake? Lakes? An eternal argument. The Bras d'Or Lake Biosphere Reserve...

Perhaps this post deserves elaboration. By any measure, dredging Sydney Harbour is a dubious use of public funds. It may yield modest increases in commercial shipping, but dreams of a container terminal here are but a fantasy. Despite the massive boom in world shipping that characterized the 2000s, the two container piers in Halifax continue to limp along at half capacity. Plans for a third pier at Melford are years ahead of those for Sydney, where a putative terminal proponent seems to have vanished. Yet the Cape Breton public has been massively oversold on the concept as the only possible salvation of...

This is the eulogy Irving Schwartz's eldest daughter Margo delivered at his funeral September 20, 2010, at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre: I speak today on behalf of all of the children of Irving and Diana Schwartz, with sister Joanne at my side and brother David and Sister Stephanie with our dear mother, Diana. For as long as I can remember, I have been in awe of my father, Irving Schwartz. I have often reflected, with gratitude, that by some lucky accident of birth I found myself to be his daughter. I adored and respected my father and cherished every moment we had together. Our father, Irving, was a great human being, a mensch, and he was a great teacher – one who taught and led by example. Growing up with Irving as a father was an exciting adventure. Just getting in the car with him was thrilling! We always knew that he would take us somewhere interesting and that we would get there quickly. He would regale us with stories of all the exploits the Schwartz brothers had gotten up to in their youth and sing one of his favourite songs “In a quaint caravan, there’s a gypsy”- at the top of his lungs – famously off-key. Dad worked a lot and he loved it. He never really stopped – he was too full of positive energy, creativity and a stunning ability to get things done. But we knew the importance he placed on family too.

Cape Bretoners are accustomed to coincidental connections because their homeland offers such fertile ground for them. The combination of summer residents, occasional visitors, and the vast Caper diaspora has seeded the planet with people eager to rekindle their connection to the island. The late Whitney Pier ship chandler Newman Dubinsky made a point of wearing a Cape Breton tartan ball cap on his frequent travels overseas, because of the conversations it was sure to spark. For different reasons, blogging can have the same effect. My ex-sister-in-law, Myra Barss, is in New York, clearing out her parents' house. She emailed a dealer...

Estonian travel buff Ahti Heinla used the distribution of photos on Panaramio to create a world heat map of touristiness. Yellow indicates high touristiness, red medium touristiness, and blue low touristiness. Areas having no Panoramio photos at all are grey. The analysis takes account of both the number photos and the number of authors in a given area. Here is a lo-res blowup of the Nova Scotia section. Note that despite the Nova Scotia Government's decades-old policy of promoting boring and exciting parts of Nova Scotia equally to tourists, visitors still flock to Cape Breton. ...