1. Grocery store workers and the pandemic

A person's hand rests on a green grocery basket while they wait in line to pay at a check-out in a grocery store.
Photo: Flickr

Well, I was happy to read this news. On Tuesday, Yvette d’Entremont interviewed Dalhousie University professor Haorui Wu, who, along with another investigator at the University of Calgary, is launching an online survey to see how grocery store workers are being affected by the pandemic. Wu said the idea for the survey was inspired by hearing the stories from his students who work in local grocery stores. Wu said:

They told me all kinds of things like how at-risk they are, and also about the awful behaviour they were receiving from some customers.

At that point, I realized, OK, there’s something we need to do in order to support them.

The online survey will be launched in the new year, and Wu told d’Entremont they hope the results will be used to help shape policy and public health to support these workers. He told d’Entremont: “We really need to build some research capacity to understand what their vulnerabilities and their challenges are so that we can support them.”

For the story, d’Entremont also interviewed Janet, who works in a grocery store, about her experiences in the past year. d’Entremont writes:

She said one ongoing issue is customers yelling and cursing at her because of the province’s mask mandate.

“The worst is when they scream at you for no reason because they’re upset and frustrated,” she said. “Guess what? I’m upset and frustrated too but I’m not treating you like garbage.”

I wish there wasn’t a need for a survey on this. Please be patient and kind to these workers, pandemic or not.

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2. What’s at stake as Halifax heads to Supreme Court of Canada over Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes

Three people are seen in a grey canoe on a calm lake on a sunny day. There's a rock protruding from the water nearby, and in the background, granite dots the shoreline, with green and yellow trees and red huckleberry growing just behind. The water is calm enough for the trees to reflect in the lake.
Caitlin Grady and Reanne Harvey, conservation coordinators for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Nova Scotia Chapter, along with Hunter Stevens, a CPAWS volunteer, paddle a canoe between Quarry and Susies Lakes in the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area. Photo: Zane Woodford

In February, Halifax Regional Municipality and property developer Annapolis Group Inc. are heading to the Supreme Court of Canada next year over a battle about Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes. And as Zane Woodford reports in this story today, there will be a lot of people watching the potentially precedent-setting case, including eight intervenors. This is what Woodford wrote about the case — which involves 965 acres of land on the east side of the provincially-protected Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area — back in January:

Most of the land was zoned urban reserve in 2006 — meaning it couldn’t be developed until 2031 without a significant council process.

Annapolis Group and another developer hoped to build a sprawling subdivision through the lakes and wilderness anyway, and applied to develop the land in 2007. Their plans cut into the municipality’s conceptual park boundary, and the two sides hired an independent facilitator to try to come to an agreement.

The facilitator, Justice M. Heather Robertson, sided with the developer.

Robertson’s report, tabled in June 2016, was not well received, with more than 1,400 people writing to council in opposition. Following a staff recommendation, regional council voted in September 2016 to refuse to start the development process and move ahead with the park as planned.

In January 2017, Halifax developer Annapolis Group Inc. sued the municipality for “alleged de facto expropriation, abuse of public office and unjust enrichment,” seeking $119 million in damages.

That claim of de facto expropriation, central to Annapolis Group’s case, is an allegation that, by not allowing the company to develop its land, Halifax took it from the developer without paying.

Lawyers for the municipality sought in 2019 to have that portion of the lawsuit thrown out, applying for partial summary judgement to dismiss the claim as without evidence and unworthy of a trial. Justice James Chipman ruled for Annapolis Group in November 2019, writing that the company’s claim “raises genuine issues of material fact requiring a trial.”

In January, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal unanimously overturned that decision. Then Annapolis appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Woodford reported on that in June. The court agreed to hear the case and the date is set for February 16, 2022.

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3. COVID update

Illustration of a red coronavirus, with distinctive spikes, surrounded by syringes arranged in a circle, with the pointy tips aimed at the stylized virus.
Photo: Jeremy Bezanger / Unsplash

A man in his 50s who lived in Nova Scotia Health’s Northern Zone has died from COVID-19. He is the 111th person to die from the virus. Tim Bousquet has the full COVID update.

And the province announced 537 new cases on Wednesday. Here’s the breakdown by Nova Scotia Health zones:

• 434 Central
• 36 Eastern
• 44 Northern
• 23 Western

There 10 people in hospital with the disease; three of those patients are in ICU.

Bousquet also included details on outbreaks at hospitals and nursing homes. Here are those details:

• Dartmouth General — there is now an outbreak at Dartmouth General Hospital. Fewer than five patients have tested positive.

• St. Martha’s Regional Hospital (Antigonish) — There is one additional case, but still fewer than five patients are positive.

• Halifax Infirmary — There are no new cases

Nursing homes

• Parkstone Enhanced Care — another resident has tested positive, bringing the total to two residents and one staff member. No one has been hospitalized.

• Parkland Antigonish — another resident has tested positive, for a total of three residents and two staff members. No one has been hospitalized.

• Ocean View Continuing Care Centre (Eastern Passage) — No new cases. A total of three staff members have tested positive. No one has been hospitalized.

On Wednesday afternoon, Nova Scotia Health tweeted out this news about testing:

A tweet from Nova Scotia Health that says If you test positive on a take-home rapid testing kit, do not book a PCR test. You need to assume you have COVID-19, assume you are contagious, and you and your household must self-isolate. You must inform your close contacts.

Click here to read Bousquet’s complete update.

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4. Bowden “disheartened” by decision to drop charges against New Glasgow mayor

Left Photo: Headshot of Nancy Dicks, a white lady with shoulder length blond hair. Right photo: Angela Bowden, a Black lady with her dark hair tied up

Matthew Byard interviewed author and poet Angela Bowden after last week’s news that assault charges against New Glasgow mayor Nancy Dicks were dropped. Byard writes:

The charge against Dicks stemmed from a Black Lives Matter event in New Glasgow in September 2020. African Nova Scotian author and poet Angela Bowden said that while sitting down after the event, Dicks approached her, became verbally aggressive before physically grabbing her leg, squeezing it, and saying “Now, you listen here.”

Bowden said she immediately got up and removed herself from the situation. She said there were several witnesses present including Bowden’s mother. Bowden said that earlier in the day at the event, she and Dicks had a verbal disagreement around the organizing and painting of one of the streets.

Bowden detailed her version of events in a vlog post on Facebook in May. In August, Cape Breton Regional Police charged Dicks after investigating the allegations.

Last Monday, the morning the charges against Dicks were dropped, Bowden attended the appeal hearing into Kayla Borden’s complaint against members of Halifax Regional Police as a support person to Borden. Bowden said Bill Gorman made her aware that the charges would be dropped prior to Monday.

“If it came down then — and quite often it comes down to your word and the person you accused — then that’s for the judge to decide,” Bowden said. “Because clearly the police believed me, and believed there was enough evidence because they set the charge.”

“So what I’m disheartened at is that we didn’t even have an opportunity to allow the wheels of justice to move because they stopped it midway.”

Byard made a few attempts to contact Gorman about why the charges were dropped and also learned through Hansen that internal consultation took place with an equity and diversity committee. You can read Byard’s complete story here.

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5. The Tideline, episode 59: In Review, in conversation

The logos for Screen Nova Scotia, Music Nova Scotia, and Theatre Nova Scotia.

In this week’s episode of The Tideline, Tara Thorne and her guests talk about the highs and lows of film, music, and theatre in Nova Scotia in 2021.

Here is the show’s description:

Amidst an auspicious and downtrodden record week in Nova Scotia, the leaders of its arts sector organizations drop by the show to discuss 2021 in full. Screen Nova Scotia’s executive director Laura Mackenzie has perhaps the best news of all — a record year in the film industry. Music Nova Scotia’s ED Allegra Swanson returns to report on her first Nova Scotia Music Week, and what musicians will need to make it in 2022 and beyond. And Dr. Cat MacKeigan, brand-new executive director of Theatre Nova Scotia, discusses the highs and (multiple) lows of the year in theatre, which has just been handed another shutdown. It’s not fun exactly, but it IS informative!

Click here to listen for free.

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6. “A joyous, humble kid”

A tweet from Quentrel Provo that says I’ve been doing Stop the Violence for almost 10 years, every killing over the years has hurt me deeply, but this one has broken me in a way I’ve never thought possible……My little cousin “Marmar” was ONLY 8 YEARS OLD, full of love & life. Heartbroken beyond word

Taryn Grant at CBC spoke with relatives of young Lee-Marion Cain who was killed in a shooting on Tuesday in Dartmouth. Grant interviewed Miranda Cain, a community advocate and CEO of the non-profit group, North Preston’s Future. Cain is also Lee-Marion’s cousin, who said the young boy was a “joyous, humble kid.” Grant writes:

Every summer, the Halifax-area community crowns a king and queen at a local celebration called North Preston Days. This year, Lee-Marion, who was also known to those who loved him as LeMar, was crowned king.

“He died ‘King Mar Mar Cain.’ He died being the king of North Preston,” Cain said in an interview Wednesday, a day after the fatal afternoon shooting in Dartmouth, N.S.

The boy was in a vehicle with a 26-year-old man when shots were fired at them from another vehicle near the intersection of Windmill Road and Waddell Avenue. The man suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

On Wednesday, Halifax Regional Police held a news conference in which they said the shooting was not a random incident.

Miranda Cain told Grant the community is supporting Mar-Mar’s parents and younger siblings. This part of the story is so heartbreaking:

“His mom, she didn’t spoil the kids, but she worked hard to make sure her kids had everything they wanted,” said Cain.

Cain said there are already Christmas gifts under the tree, with one section for each of the children.

“I’m just feeling sorry for them,” she said. “Christmas morning, to know that that one section is probably going to be left there. It’s going to be hard for [Cain’s mother] to remove that.”

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A calendar with red thumb tacks on a few dates. The 30th of the month is circled.
Should you schedule your social media around your cycle? Suzanne the skeptic wanted to find out. Photo: Towfiqu barbhuiya/Unsplash

Periods, productivity, and posting on social media

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to this Be Flawsome podcast hosted by Anita Kirkbride, a local social media expert, and her guest, Ashley Margeson, a naturopath with Cornerstone Naturopathic. Here’s the description of the episode:

Have you ever thought about aligning your schedule with your cycle? Anita chats with Dr. Ashley Margeson in this episode about using your natural energy to help plan, create, and execute your social media strategy. In addition, get inspired to show up in ways that are authentic!

Just reading the show description I had questions, and all of this seemed odd to me. And unrealistic. Planning your social media strategy around your period?

I sent the link to a friend and said, “Have you ever heard of such a thing? What if you’re menopausal?”

She replied half-jokingly, “If you’re menopausal you just don’t matter anymore.”


So, I listened to the show — the part about the periods and social media is in the first 10 minutes or so — and Margeson said women are designed to work on a 24-to-39 day cycle while men are designed to work on a 24-hour cycle. “Both are valid, both are real,” Margeson said, adding the typical 9-5 day doesn’t work with the cycles of people with periods.

Now, this episode wasn’t just about designing your social media strategy around your period, but designing your productivity around the cycle. So, how do you do this? Track your cycle — Margeson suggests using an app. And if you’re on an IUD, had a hysterectomy, or are on birth control, you can still track your month, just in a different way (Margeson didn’t elaborate).

Then she said you can start to figure out your day-to-day work based on your energy levels during your cycle. Margeson admits that this is not a perfect system and “shit just happens” — like you get an amazing client, for example, and you just do the work. But she broke down the work planning based on the three phases of your cycle:

Follicular phase: This is when your estrogen is rising. Time to brainstorm!

Ovulation: You’re at your peak! Margeson said this phase is “the time to get stuff done.” So, pitch ideas, make cold calls, do a presentation because you’re friendlier and your skin is vibrant and your hair is fuller.

Luteal phase: Margeson calls this “your get shit done phase.” So, you schedule social media, put the hashtags on, pull data on previous month’s work, and so on.

I don’t track my cycle… well, not with an app (this is TMI, right?) And I can’t imagine how this would work in my professional world. While I am not a social media strategist, I do have my own social media accounts, I’m the admin for a couple of others, and, of course, I help Tim and Iris with the Examiner social media. Do I just say, “You know, I am in my follicular phase now, so I won’t post to the Examiner Twitter account. Wait until I am ovulating or in my luteal phase.”

And how does this work if you’re a full-time social media strategist for a big company and not a self-employed social media expert who likely has more flexibility? Even Margeson admits in the podcast she’s only on social media for five hours A MONTH. That makes for some easy planning around your cycle.

Still, I had questions about this, so I wanted to find out if there is any science behind this. Are people with periods more productive at certain times of the month? And is there any science to scheduling your social media around your cycle?

But first, I’d like to point out two things:

I am not an expert on social media. Like I said, I have my own personal accounts and help manage some professional accounts. I know very little about data, analytics, scheduling, and so on. Kirkbride is incredibly knowledgeable about social media and I follow her accounts and have learned tips on social media scams and how to make social media more accessible. And unfortunately, social media manager is one of those jobs that some companies expect people to do for little pay (or even for free.) We need more social media literacy, not less, these days.

And second, I am not an expert on hormones or even periods, except for my own. Some people with periods have a lot of challenges with their cycles, and I don’t want to speak to anyone’s productivity at any time of the month. I won’t be scheduling my work around my cycle because my deadlines are all over the place. So I contacted some experts to ask them about this.

(And I know some will say I didn’t interview any female OBGYNs or other experts, but I certainly tried! I couldn’t find anyone available this week for an interview.)

I reached out to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), sent them the podcast, and asked if they had a member who could speak on this topic. They set up an interview with Dr. Yang Wang, an OBGYN in Kingston, Ontario, who did his residency here in Halifax and is also a ​Contraception Advice Research and Education (CARE) Fellow at Queen’s University. He also works with patients on how to manage their menstrual cycles.

Wang told me he couldn’t find any definitive evidence that the menstrual cycle influences productivity and he didn’t look at its effects on social media.

“But in terms of productivity itself, I didn’t see any evidence that fluctuations of hormones on a month-by-month level really alter productivity,” Wang told me in our interview. 

Wang told me he wished Margeson would have spoken about her references on the topic and said he’d be interested in reading that. But based on his own literature review, he didn’t see any evidence this was the case or there was anything definitive. 

There’s probably a lot of anecdotal evidence that individuals who are specifically sensitive during their menstrual cycles do experience fluctuations, but on a science data collection level, I don’t think there’s a lot of well documented evidence of this phenomenon.

Some people do have challenging cycles, of course, which may mean they are less productive during those times. Wang said what he sees a lot in his practice are patients with painful periods/heavy bleeding or dysmenorrhea, which can severely impact your quality of life. Wang said in those cases, people may not be able to go to work or school because of that pain.  

And then there’s pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) where people can experience fluctuations in their mental health. Those patients may have anxiety or mood swings. A more severe form is PMDD or pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder, in which people have suicidal ideations. Wang said,

Whether or not this was tying into what the podcast was speaking to, I don’t believe so, but again these are the experiences I see in the clinical practice I work in.

I do wonder how much of it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are more aware of your cycle, you’re more aware of your time, and you make yourself more active in your productivity around that time. But this is all just me rattling thoughts in my head. But there’s no great evidence that productivity changes on a week-to-week basis during the menstrual cycle. 

So, is there any harm in scheduling your social media schedule around your menstrual cycle? Wang didn’t have specifics, but he said he already has patients who schedule their work around their cycles, mostly around the bleeding periods.  

I have a lot of patients who are coming to me for the first time who already doing that month-to-month changes in their work schedules just because they know what to anticipate. Most of the patients I deal with are trying to work their way through it, which is not something women should be forced to do.

I always tell patients if your cycles are affecting your quality of life, whether it’s pain or bleeding, then that’s not normal and you should always seek help, whether it’s through a family doctor or a gynecologist. There are always ways we can help you through it. It’s not something you should be forced to bear. 

Margeson is a naturopath, and I admit I am suspicious of naturopathic medicine. Some of the treatments used by naturopaths — like homeopathic remedies — have been debunked many, many times. So, I contacted Timothy Caulfield, who is the Canada Research Chair in Health Law & Policy, a professor at the Faculty of Law and School of Public Health, and research director at the Health Law Institute, University of Alberta.

On Twitter, Caulfield is well known for fighting misinformation about COVID-19, but he’s been fighting misinformation about the wellness industry long before that. He had a Netflix special A User’s Guide to Cheating Death that ran for two seasons. And he’s written and been interviewed about naturopathic medicine many times, including here and here.

I will add here that naturopathic medicine is not fully regulated in Nova Scotia. According to the Nova Scotia Association of Naturopathic Doctors, they’re “working diligently toward the implementation of full regulatory legislation.” The current legislation for the industry is the Naturopathic Doctors Act (2008).

Anyway, Caulfield emailed this response to me:

Ugh. Gave a listen…

First, naturopathy is an alternative med approach that is built on pseudoscience. It is NOT a science-informed profession. Naturopathy is based on magical thinking, like vitalism. Her clinic offers science-free (and potentially harmful) services like “IV vitamin therapy”. The website is full of evidence-free claims.
The interview is a good example of “scienceploitation” — that is, real science and science-y terminology and ideas to inject credibility. It is an ironic strategy as naturopaths reject what the science says about their profession but LOVE to use science-y terminology to make their message sound more persuasive. They want it both ways! That is, they don’t want to be held to a scientific standard, but they want to use science-y to sell product and brand their clinics!
Sure, there is evidence about the role of hormones on cognition, etc. Can you take it as far as this naturopath does? Questionable. Is there good and robust clinical evidence to support her claims to the point that she should be building an entire practice around these ideas? I can’t find any. Interesting speculation, etc., in literature (not a lot of point…  See this article in pop press My friend and colleague, Dr. Jen Gunter would be a great person to contact on this point…
In this age of misinformation, I find it frustrating when noise like this gets exposure in popular culture.
Note: I did reach out to Dr. Jennifer Gunter, who I follow on Twitter, and whose book I own, The Vagina Bible. I plan to get her latest book, the Menopause Manifesto, as well. Her assistant said Gunter was too busy with her work schedule and deadlines for the manuscript for her latest book. I’d still love to hear what she has to say on this topic.
What I am more interested in, though, is how workplaces are supporting women during menstruation and menopause, whether their jobs involve social media or not!
But also, for those readers out there who have periods, are you more productive certain times of the month? And can you connect that with your period? And do you schedule your social media around your cycle? Or are you like me, and just wing it?

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The book cover for Power of Fun. How to Feel Alive Again by Catherine Price

It almost seems inappropriate to talk about fun right now. But I listened to this interview with science journalist and author Catherine Price on CBC Sunday Morning last weekend about how finding fun should be a priority in our lives.  

Price wrote the book How to Break Up with Your Phone and her most recent book, the Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again, came out of researching that book.  

“Once you create better boundaries with your screen, you find yourself with more time,” Price told host Piya Chattopadhyay.

So Price decided to learn how to play guitar with that extra time. Her grandmother played guitar and she gave Price money to buy a guitar when she was in college, but she never really learned how to play beyond a few chords. So she signed up for an adult guitar class, and she said,

I started to notice when I was going to the class I felt this sense of buoyant energy, this sense of joy that buoyed me through the whole week.

Those lessons became the highlight of Price’s week. She tried to put a word to that feeling she experienced and the most accurate word she found was “fun.”  

Price gathered what she called a “fun squad” of more than 1,000 volunteers from around the world who shared with her their own anecdotes of what they called fun. She learned that for these people, these stories were some of the most treasured moments of their lives.  

Price crafted a definition of “true fun” — the confluence of playfulness, connection, and flow, which she describes in the interview.  

That’s very different than what Price calls “fake fun,” which are activities that are marketed to us as fun, like social media or bingeing on Netflix, which can be bad for us.  

You know, I think I learned to have more fun when I had a kid. Of course, kids are so good at fun! And it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Price shared a story about a man who recalled one of the most fun times had had was with a young nephew. The two sat on a park bench during an autumn day chatting and catching leaves falling from the trees.  

We forget this as adults. And as Price said in the interview, fun lowers our stress levels and is good for our mental health.  

But also, there’s so much pressure to monetize everything, including hobbies in which you may excel, but just enjoy for the fun of it. There’s no need to be producing all the time. You don’t need to turn your hobby into a side hustle.  

It’s a good interview. Listen here and the go find your fun. It’s okay and you need it.  

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No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

11:00: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
11:30: MSC Kim, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
12:30: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
14:30: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 42 for Saint-Pierre
17:30: ZIM Monaco sails for New York
18:00: Oceanex Connaigra moves to Autoport

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures


I’ve been chronicling the destruction of my fake white Christmas tree by our 10-month-old kitten, Donovan, who we now call Donovan the Destroyer. The tree is beyond saving. On Friday, I tried to fix its wire branches, to no avail. So, I bought another fake tree — a pink one my kid found in a flyer. It was on sale. We just put it up yesterday, and I’m not sure what to think of it. It’s the colour of cotton candy. And the lights on it are very bright. Like, blazing bright. I bet it’s visible from space.

But while I don’t have the “perfect” tree with ornaments set just so in the perfect spots, I don’t think I ever laughed as much as I have watching and photographing my hilarious kitten enjoy himself while jumping in and out of that now-wrecked white tree, and posing while building a nest in there. And in these days of where we take laughs where we can get them, I took every single one here.

Rest in peace, fake white tree. I know you never knew what hit you.

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Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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  1. RIP fake White Christmas Tree.
    We’ll all miss you and all you’ve done for making the readers giggle.

    to the new pink tree with blarring lights..ask your owner to spray you wit citrus scents..apparently felines hate that..