1. Parents worry about wildfire evacuation plan for middle school

A gate blocks a gravel road, with a house on the background. On the gate, a sign reads, "EMERGENCY ACCESS ONLY."
The new emergency exit from the Highland Park subdivision to Hammonds Plains Road is seen on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023. Credit: Zane Woodford

Parents of children attending Madeline Symonds Middle School are concerned about an apparent lack of an evacuation plan for the school, which has over 500 students enrolled for the coming year.

Zane Woodford reports on worries about evacuation in the event of another wildfire, and about the Halifax Regional Centre for Education’s somewhat incoherent response to those concerns.

Woodford speaks with parent Julianna Davies, who wants to know if there is a wildfire evacuation plan, and worries about how hundreds of children would get out, given there is only one route out of the school’s neighbourhood:

“I know there’s any number of drills they do from lockdowns to deal with active shooters to fire within the school … but I’ve never heard of anything to do with a fire outside of the school,” Davies said in a recent interview with the Halifax Examiner…

 She asked the principal at MSMS about the plan to evacuate the school in the event of a wildfire. He didn’t share one.

“I don’t believe there is one,” Davies said. “But if there is a plan, what is it and how can you have a viable evacuation plan in a situation like this, without another exit at the back of the subdivision?”

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education, meanwhile, tells Woodford that the school has an emergency management plan, but won’t share it for “a variety of confidentiality and privacy reasons.” HRCE claims parents know the “pertinent details” of the plan, but Davies says in five years she has never received them.

This is ludicrous, and reminds me of when Halifax Water refused to provide a map of hydrants because it might help terrorists.

Click or tap here to read “Hammonds Plains residents raise alarm about fire evacuation plans for middle school.”

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2. From too few students to too many

The front facade of a grey school building with grey steel doors and slightly damp sidewalk concrete.
Bay View High School in Upper Tantallon. Credit: @BVHigh_School/Twitter

Hey, remember when some of us were, not all that long ago, fighting to keep small schools open? And remember when we were told we were being unrealistic because Nova Scotia was about to fall off a demographic cliff, etc?

Well, guess what? The province now does not have enough school capacity to meet the needs of growing numbers of students.

At CBC, Aly Thomson reports on the challenges teachers and students are facing, as student numbers outstrip school capacity, both in terms of the number of staff and facilities:

The Halifax regional centre has added 8,000 students to its schools in the last five years alone — enough to fill 300 classrooms, according to its regional executive director. This year, enrolment is expected to exceed 58,000 students over 135 schools.

The rapid growth has meant a need for new schools, six of which are either newly built, under construction or slated to open September 2024…

The province also has mandated classroom caps, which vary by grade level. The lowest grade levels have a “hard cap” — the stated cap plus two — of 22 students, while the highest grade levels have a hard cap of 32.

Last school year, at least 28 classrooms in the Halifax school system exceeded caps, but the number may actually be higher, since the caps are in place by Sept. 30 and don’t account for students who arrive in classrooms after that date.

The story quotes substitute teacher Crystal Ellingsen on the struggles she and her colleagues face in dealing with larger classes, and more students, and more students who don’t speak English or French. Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Ryan Lutes describes teachers communicating with these students using Google Translate, or by asking classmates to translate.

Thomson goes out of her way to make it clear that the problem is not immigration and too much diversity, but I fear there will be people who will come away from the story thinking we need to let fewer people into the province.

Also, I was stunned to see an actual teacher quoted in a story and speaking critically. The regional centres for education do not like this.

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3. Halifax police finally release use of force policy

A Halifax Regional Police officer with no name tag pepper sprayed protesters who were sitting on a wall helping others who’d already been pepper sprayed on Aug. 18, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Regular readers will know that the Examiner, like other media outlets, has long decried the fact that Halifax Regional Police would not release their use of force policy. Well, they finally have, as Shaina Luck reports this morning, at CBC Nova Scotia:

The use of force policy was first issued in September 1996 and it has stayed the same since, except for the addition of the section on Tasers in 2011…

Erick Laming is an assistant professor of criminology at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., and was part of a federally funded, Canada-wide study on police use of force in 2021.

“That’s a huge problem when you’re almost 30 years without a proper overhaul of use of force,” Laming said.

Luck notes that there is little on de-escalation in the policy, but that it does say officers should use “effective communication skills and patience” to reduce “fear and anger.” I tip my hat to the person at CBC who followed up this quote with a photo of an angry-looking cop in riot gear pushing back with his shield on what appears to be an elderly man.

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4. New standard shuts out Nova Scotia-made batteries

a person in black shirt holding a solar panel while standing on the roof
Photo by Kindel Media on

Over at SaltWire, Aaron Beswick writes about how new standards for battery backup systems in Nova Scotia are preventing a man from moving into his new off-grid home in Chester Basin.

The issue is that new standards intended to cover increased fire risk from lithium-ion batteries are affecting systems using much less fire-prone lead-acid batteries, including ones manufactured in Nova Scotia.

Homeowner Chris White has a CSA-approved solar system, and an approved battery backup. But that’s not good enough.

Beswick writes:

The issue is that the approved batteries and approved charging system have not been independently lab tested working together.

Now, pretty well everywhere else (and up until recently in Nova Scotia, too), this wouldn’t be an issue.

People were allowed to hook up any approved lead-acid battery to any charger approved for use with that kind of battery.

But then, in response to the increased fire risk posed by lithium-ion batteries, UL Solutions updated its certification for residential battery backup to include that the charger, battery management system and batteries all need to be lab tested to work together.

This makes sense for lithium-ion batteries, for which the computerized battery management system is critical to the safe charge and discharge of electricity, along with maintaining battery life.

The thing is, lead-acid batteries don’t have a computerized battery system and are a much lower risk. Beswick gets into the weeds a bit on standards and certification, but manages to do it in a light and breezy style. My favourite sentence:

When you buy a computer, woodstove, dishwasher or just about anything else theoretically capable of bursting into flame and killing you in your sleep, somewhere on them you should find a plate with a bunch of letters and numbers on it.

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1. Fake obituaries

A young bearded man of Indian origin stands in front of a wall, looking up and away from the camera.
Screenshot from a YouTube video featuring this person reading a fake obituary.

Last week, a member of our family died completely unexpectedly, after falling down a flight of stairs in her home.

This, as you can imagine, was completely shocking, and not what you expect to happen to someone barely into their fifties.

There was another shock a couple of days later, when another family member said they had read the obituary. What? At this point, there had been no forensic pathology report, and, because of a complex family situation, it wasn’t even clear who would write an official obituary. So, I went online and discovered the world of fake and likely AI-generated obituaries.

For obvious reasons, I am not going to link to these, but take my word for it. Obituary-writing can tend to platitudes, understandably, but these fake ones were 100% platitude, with, again, for obvious reasons, nothing specific about the person. Apparently the City of Toronto is mourning the passing of our family member, who was “a beloved individual.” Her name “evokes warmth, kindness and a vibrant spirit” and her death “has left a void that can never be truly filled.” There is also stuff about her philanthropy and commitment to various non-specific causes. Blah blah blah.

In my default search engine (Startpage) the first hit for her name is to a video with a thumbnail of a casket. Not her casket, because the body had not yet been released by the coroner’s office. So, a generic stock photo casket. The video itself (and there are now a couple of these out there) feature a guy welcoming you to his YouTube channel, ostensibly about tech, and reading what I asssume is another of these fake obituaries while mispronouncing the name of the deceased horribly.

This is ghoulish.

I have seen sites before that harvest info from online obituaries and use them as clickbait for their own scammy sites. “The world is mourning the passing of…” etc. But these at least, bad as they are, either scrape or link to an actual obituary. These newer sites are even worse, in that they can fool you into thinking you’re reading an actual obituary, when it is just garbage. The end game, as always, is some kind of clickbait scam. I visited the fake obituary site with a very privacy-forward browser, and ignored its call for me to turn off my ad blocker. An Examiner colleague went to the same site without an ad blocker and said it was filled with “very intrusive” scammy advertising.

Even in death, the internet scammers exploit us.

Public service announcement: I knew that injuries from falls are common in elderly people, but I had not realized how many young and middle-aged adults are severely injured or die in falls down stairs every year. You can lose your footing and fall to the bottom of the stairs in less than a second, apparently. Traumatic brain injuries and death are not uncommon outcomes. So, hold on to those banisters, don’t leave clutter on your stairs, and don’t be distracted when you’re heading down to the kitchen, or whatever.

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2. Language matters: “Cyclist” vs “person biking”

man in yellow long sleeve jacket and denim pants walking on a grass field
Photo by Thirdman on

A week or two ago, someone on Mastodon suggested rethinking use of the terms “pedestrian” and “cyclist.” I can’t remember who posted this, and Mastodon’s search functions are — deliberately — limited.

The argument was that these terms evoke very specific types of people and activities, whereas phrases like “person biking” or “person riding a bike” and “person walking” evoke something completely different.

I realize Google is most people’s search engine of choice, and that Google results can vary based on all kinds of opaque factors, so I tried a Google search for “pedestrian” on my computer and on my phone. The results were very similar. Here is the computer version:

Thumbnail images of people crossing streets at crosswalks.
Google image search results for “pedestrian”

A pedestrian is seen almost exclusively in the context of cars. You’re crossing at a crosswalk, you’re walking past big cars, you’re being urged to not be distracted, and so on. This has a tendency to take one of the most normal and natural activities you can think of — walking — and reframing it in the context of car culture.

Next up: “person walking”:

Images of people walking, mostly on beaches with dogs.
Google image search for “person walking.” I’m not sure, but I think it is possible to walk without a dog.

Do you have to walk on the beach? Interestingly, not a crosswalk in sight here. The results on my phone were somewhat different:

Thumbnails of people walking. Only one is in a crosswalk.
Mobile search results for “person walking.”

Here, walking is a thing you can (mostly) do without reference to cars.

How about “cyclist”? No surprise here. You will mostly get your cliché Spandex dude:

Montage of serious-looking mostly male cyclists in full spandex gear, with helmets.
Google image search results for “cyclist.”

A cyclist is a guy with a lot of money to spend who takes up the whole road, or drives so fast he’ll likely mow you down. He’s probably an asshole. Mobile results are very similar. Cyclists may also be women, but in either event they will be super-fit. Cycling is not for you, normal person.

“Biking” on the other hand, might be:

Thumbnails of a variety of people on bikes:, including a young woman, Black men, and a white businessman. They ride on roads, city streets, and in the mountains.
Google image search results for “person biking.”

Look at these folks, just out having a good time, wearing casual clothes, or business suits, or maybe even Spandex. Something for everyone!

Obviously saying “person biking” all the time is a bit awkward, but I found this little exercise illuminating.

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Fool’s Gold Loaf

Recipe ingredients in a book. Recipe is called Fool's Gold Loaf. Ingredients; 2 tablespoons butter, 1 loaf Italian white bread, 1 pound lean bacon, 1 large jar Skippy smooth peanut butter, 1 large jar Smucker's grape jelly
The legendary Fool’s Gold Loaf recipe, as it appears in the book The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley. Credit: Philip Moscovitch

In a recent installment of the Notable Sandwiches newsletter, Talia Lavin delves into the legendary Fool’s Gold Loaf, supposedly Elvis Presley’s favourite sandwich:

We’ve written here before about one of the banes of the researcher: the “orphan fact,” an unverifiable detail that, nevertheless, is repeated at infitum in all subsequent accounts of the given subject (in our case, sandwiches.) The Fool’s Gold Loaf is a case in point. Despite a surfeit of published material about this sandwich, its actual history is so patchy and poorly sourced that I question if the recipe actually predated the legend. Like Robin Hood, this cardiovascular time bomb made for such a good story that it’s actual existence seems to have been retconned into reality.

There are two things about which all sources agree: the sandwich’s composition, and its association with Elvis Presley. The Fool’s Gold consists of a hollowed-out loaf of white bread filled with the entire contents of one jar of peanut butter, one jar of jelly, and one pound of bacon. Some sources drill down on the specifics: the loaf of bread should be Italian, the peanut butter should be creamy, the jelly should be grape, and the whole mess should be deep fried. If the resulting monstrosity feels more like a dare than an actual dish — where the goal is a story to tell your friends rather than a meal to enjoy — well, that’s basically what it’s become.

This particular sandwich is close to my heart because it first appears in the book The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley by David Adler. I reviewed the book for the Montreal alt-weekly Hour (RIP) and it was one of the first pieces for which I was ever paid, helping launch my career of worldwide media domination.

As always, Lavin is worth reading, so I encourage you to check out the newsletter.

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Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda


Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, online) — agenda


No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

06:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
08:00: GPO Emerald, heavy lifter, arrives at IEL from Aviles, Spain
08:15: Maersk Kaya, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
10:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
22:00: Augusta Luna, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Vilagarcía de Arousa, Spain

Cape Breton
08:00: Silver Shadow, cruise ship with up to 466 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Saint-Pierre, on an 11-day roundtrip cruise out of Quebec City
09:30: Blue Moon, Dead Dick Duchossois’s yacht, moves from Dundee to Baddeck
14:00: Derrick #4, barge, with Sandra Mary, tug, sails from McNally Construction (Sydney) for sea
15:30: Silver Shadow sails for Woody Point, Newfoundland (Gros Morne National Park)


Remember when we were all going to die prematurely because we spent too much time sitting in chairs? Fun times.

Also, kudos to me for doing only a cursory search on who “Dead Dick Duchossois” was, and carrying on with writing this Morning File, instead of spending half an hour reading up on him.

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Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer, audio producer, fiction writer, and editor of Write Magazine.

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  1. Thanks for the bit on language matters. Funny how pedestrians don’t have to walk to get to those crosswalks, isn’t it?