I’m Suzanne Rent and I’m filling in for Tim this morning. You can follow me on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

News

1. Here’s a tip: Be nice to your servers and bartenders

Alpaca it in after a night working in a bar.

Oh, how I can relate to this story.

Vanessa Myers, a psychology graduate student at Saint Mary’s University, is researching how customer interactions affect the blood pressure of servers and bartenders in Halifax. Yvette D’Entremont has the story in The Star.

Myers worked in the industry and has experienced those interactions first-hand.

I’ve been yelled at by customers. Some people become sarcastic, others grumpy or angry. For example, if food is not coming out as fast as they’d like because you’re understaffed and the kitchen is tied up.

Her research will focus on the “emotional labour piece” of the work, which includes what Myers calls the surface acting and deep acting servers and bartenders use in interacting with customers.

The 40 to 50 participants will wear blood pressure monitors for a day and including their shift of work. Participants will also fill out two-minute diaries.

Myers hopes to have the data collected by the end of May. I’m looking forward to reading the results.

Serving and bartending are mentally and physically tough jobs. I worked at both for 23 years, leaving the industry four and a half years ago. It paid me well during university, for sure, and well beyond. You learn and use a lot of skills, including multitasking and memorizing all those menu items and drink orders.

But customers, especially when they drink, can be belligerent and violent. I certainly remember a lot of fights, being followed home, and customers leaving behind glasses filled with vomit.

Fortunately, most of the places I worked had good policies of supporting staff, particularly the bars. But I can’t go to a bar for very long now; my blood pressure would definitely go up if I tried.

I always tip my servers and bartenders well when I do go out. And let me tell you, the customer isn’t always right.

2. Searching for genetic connections in bipolar disorder

Researchers at Dalhousie are looking at genetic connections to bipolar disorder, reports Jennifer Henderson at The Chronicle Herald. Dr. Martin Alda has been researching bipolar disorder for 30 years and says there is hope and treatment for those with the disease.

The risk of suicide is high for those with bipolar disorder. But Alda says early treatment is key.

Early treatment cannot only reduce the risk of suicide, but there are data to suggest that if you can treat early, people will do better and live well.

Alda’s research has found 30 genes connected to bipolar disorder. People whose parents who had bipolar disorder are at a 20 to 30 per cent greater risk for developing a mental illness themselves. Alda’s research over the next three years will look at the combinations of genes.  Tracking those combinations will help them shorten the trial-and-error period for effective treatment.

Henderson also spoke with Johanna Begin, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her 30s. Two of her children were diagnosed with mental illness, but both are now thriving after getting effective treatment.

Alda says he’d like to develop a clinical screening tool that would include details on family history of mental illness.

Treating (bipolar disorder) with long-term medication can be effective. However, no two individuals are alike, and choosing which treatments work best for individuals can take months and even years of trial and error. With the right genetic screening tools, we can more accurately predict which treatments are most likely to work for certain individuals.

3. Cop’s gun stolen from vehicle

A police release from yesterday:

Investigators with the General Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division are investigating the theft of an RCMP service pistol from downtown Halifax.

On March 9 between 7:40 p.m and 9:30 pm, an off-duty RCMP officer’s firearm was stolen from their personal vehicle in the 1700 block of Granville Street in Halifax. Also taken were three magazines and ammunition.

The firearm is described as a silver 9 mm Smith & Wesson model 5946 pistol with an RCMP logo showing “RCMP”, a silhouette of a horse and rider and “GRC” inscribed on the right side of the slide. The magazines are also silver.

4. Cases of bedsores on the rise

The number of incidents of bedsores in patients in Nova Scotia hospitals is on the rise, according to this report from Tom Ayers at CBC.

The worst cases of bedsores are reported quarterly on the Department of Health and Wellness website. In the third quarter of 2018, there were 26 cases of bedsores reported. That was up from 10 cases in the first quarter and six in the second quarter.

But Colin Stevenson, vice-president of quality system performance for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, says the number of patients has gone up, which means the ratio of patients getting bedsores is on the decline.

I guess you could say [more patients] could increase the risk that you could have something go wrong, which is why we are feeling quite positive about the fact that our overall rate has been decreasing.

While the report doesn’t include cases of bedsores in patients in long-term care, there has been focus on those cases, too, after two bedsore-related deaths in the province. Police are investigating the death of Chrissy Dunnington who developed a bedsore and later died in long-term care. And John Ferguson of Sydney died from septic shock after developing a bedsore while living in a nursing home.

4. Grandmothers want to evict Alton Gas

The Shubenacadie River, site of the Alton Gas project.

Four grandmothers are sending an eviction notice to Alton Gas, the company that plans on using water from the Shubenacadie River to create underground caverns where they will store natural gas. CTV had the report yesterday.

Elizabeth Marshall was one of the four Mi’kmaq grandmothers who spoke at a treaty teach-in at Saint Mary’s University on Monday.

You can’t have reconciliation one way. I’m sorry. Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, whatever they do and then move on. For us, that’s just words and words don’t mean anything. Mi’kmaq language is verb based, we are action based.

The grandmothers haven’t yet received a response from Alton Gas.

Meanwhile, Alton Gas did get approval on its construction extension. The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board approved the company’s application, which was submitted in November, adding it didn’t have jurisdiction to look at the environmental issues surrounding the construction of the underground caverns.


Views

1. Basic income in Nova Scotia

I’ve written about living wages on past Morning Files, here and here. During recent research, I came across the group Basic Income Nova Scotia. Like a living wage, the purpose of a basic income is to help people live in dignity and meet their basic needs. But unlike a living wage policy, a basic income program is not tied to employers and work.

Elizabeth (Mandy) Kay-Raining Bird is a professor at the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Dalhousie and also the chair of Basic Income Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia chapter got its start about four years ago. The push toward a basic income comes at the time when there is less stable work, fewer union jobs, and people are living paycheque to paycheque or they can only find part-time work.

A basic income would be provided to anyone to keep them above the poverty line. There’s no requirement to work or prove need, and there’s no oversight in distribution. It’s a safety net for those living in poverty or close to it.

Basic Income Nova Scotia has six principles:

  • Autonomy
  • Universality and unconditionality
  • Dignity
  • Universal Responsibility: Funded through a progressive taxation scheme
  • Economic integrity
  • Social Integrity: It would not replace all extant social assistance or welfare programs.

A basic income certainly could have positive effects. People receiving a basic income could have better health, lower rates of incarceration, and better academic achievement. Kay-Raining Bird says it would require the support of several departments, including health, education and early child development, and justice.

“It’s much broader than community services,” she says.

The amount would be about $20,000 per person, adjusted for where you live. That amount is what is required to have basic needs met. The funding for the program wouldn’t just be a provincial responsibility because the province can’t afford it, Kay-Raining Bird says.

And it would be tied to an individual, so there’s no need to prove a relationship status to receive it. If that relationship ends, the status of the basic income doesn’t change. That would give those in abusive relationships, for example, a safety net when they leave that relationship.

“Basic income takes away a lot of the stigma under the program as it currently exists,” says Kay-Raining Bird.

A basic income project called Mincome in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s saw some health benefits, including an 8.5 per cent reduction in hospital visits and positive effects on mental health. Kay Raining-Bird says when people have access to a basic income they can make choices in safer housing. But a basic income reduces “toxic stress,” which not only affects how you feel, but also how you participate in life.

“People living in poverty have high levels of toxic stress,” Kay-Raining Bird says. “That affects adults and the children growing up in poverty.”

And Finland recently released results on its two-year basic income pilot project. This article outlines that the participants were healthier and happier. One participant who was unemployed while receiving a basic income under the pilot project opened a business. The Finland pilot project offered a basic income only to the unemployed. But a basic income in Nova Scotia would be provided to those who are employed as well.

What’s more interesting about the basic income concept is that it can reshape our concept of work. Kay Raining-Bird says providing a basic income could give a value to those who contribute to society through volunteer work in their communities or through pursuits like the arts.

“There are all sorts of things people do that are valuable to society that are not paid work,” Kay-Raining Bird says.

Basic income also creates choice. A new parent might decide to stay home with their children longer if they had a basic income and didn’t need to worry about returning to work within a year. Students in university can decide to focus on studies rather than also working a job while in school. Artists can focus on their art instead of working one or two other jobs to pay the bills. And it would give new entrepreneurs a cushion while they get their businesses off the ground.

“It would allow people to make decisions and treat work as much bigger than paid work we now value as a society,” Kay-Raining Bird says.

Kay-Raining Bird says Basic Income Nova Scotia is looking at a feasibility study on how a basic income program in Nova Scotia would look. It would require the provincial and federal governments and all political parties be part of the discussion.

“We believe this is something all parties can get behind,” she says.

And a basic income program would decriminalize poverty.

“People living in poverty are policed and incarcerated more than any other portion of people,” Kay-Raining Bird says. “This would be a move that would decriminalize the poor.”

This is something to think about and I’ll be looking into it more. If you want to learn more, Basic Income Nova Scotia is hosting a conference at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 27 at the Halifax Central Library. In the spirit of access, the conference and lunch that day are both free. Find details on Facebook here and at Basic Income Canada.

2. Ending period poverty

On the weekend, CBC published a story by Richard Woodbury about two women in Halifax working toward menstrual equity. Dalhousie graduate Lucy MacLeod opened a Nova Scotia chapter of PERIOD, The Menstrual Movement, after watching a YouTube video about the need for menstrual products for the homeless.

It just sparked that, ‘Wow! I never thought about that before. Maybe this is something I should look into.’

The overall idea is that menstrual hygiene is a right and not a privilege.

MacLeod teamed up with Dalhousie student Claire Sethuram. Together they distribute pads and tampons in brown paper bags to those in homeless shelters. They also include an inspirational or funny note in the bag.

Period poverty is very real for many. People who menstruate shouldn’t have to make the choice between food and menstrual products. At least we no longer have to pay taxes on pads and tampons. But for many it’s not nearly enough.

There are other local initiatives working to end period poverty. Suzanne Lively at Friendly Divas started fundraising in the fall of 2017 and distributed 642 menstrual cups in the past year. According to Lively, the average woman spends $84 to $225 a year on menstrual products.

Lively tells me they just distributed 100 Diva Cups to organizations in Cape Breton, but they need more.

“We have had requests from organizations, including local high schools, and do not have cups to send them,” Lively says.

You can donate online and $30 buys one menstrual cup.

The United Way hosted Tampon Tuesday earlier this month. And, of course, you can always donate products to Feed Nova Scotia and organizations like Alice House, Adsum House, and Byrony House. Please let me know if there are others.

I’m glad people who get periods are finally talking about it. Social media has certainly been an effective way to reduce the shame and stigma about something that is a natural process. Accounts like Weekly Period have menstruating people share their experiences each week. Of course, there are people like this guy who knows nothing about periods or basic math. Nine periods a year? Seven tampons a cycle?

Let’s hope the days of being embarrassed by those commercials in which they pour a mysterious blue liquid (is it window cleaner?) on pads to show their absorbency are long gone.


Noticed

One of my favourite accounts on Twitter is Small History Nova Scotia (@smallhistory). The account is run by Sara Spike, a historian from the Eastern Shore. Spike shares small bits of daily news from rural and small-town Nova Scotia as it was shared in community newspapers in the late 19th century. As she says on her pinned tweet on the account, Small History grew out of her ongoing research into the rural history of Nova Scotia.

I once thought the account was automated, but reached out a few years ago to learn more about the background behind the account. In a small-world Nova Scotia connection, I already knew Spike: she wrote a few stories on sailing for me. She told me the bits of news she shares were the tweets of their day!

All of the tweets come from newspapers on microfilm Spike researches at the Nova Scotia Archives. She says in the late 19th century there were more than 50 newspapers around Nova Scotia, most in small towns and rural communities. Most of the tweets come from the local news columns.

Those one or two lines of news share small-town and rural announcements about strawberry socials and visits from out-of-town residents. If you follow the account on a regular basis, you can see the seasons reflected in the daily lives of rural and small-town Nova Scotians.

What I especially love about Small History is how it demonstrates that some things never change. And at times, it seems the account is subtweeting us all from the past.

Check out this tweet from Feb. 8 about the conditions of street crossings in Dartmouth. Take out the date and that bit of news could apply to the city the last few weeks.

Or this one from January 9, 1901 about the streets in downtown Windsor. There was a storm in Nova Scotia Jan 9, 2019 that closed the schools across the province. And yes, the streets were a complete mess.

And people in the past really did walk to work in lots of snow.

And I don’t know what was going on this night in 1894, but this tweet could apply to any old night downtown.

In her pinned tweet on the account, Spike says she doesn’t tweet out sad news of death or disease, choosing instead to focus on everyday events that took place into rural life. “There is so much crappy stuff on Twitter already. People often tell me they like the levity of this account. We all need a break,” she says in a tweet.

It’s a gem of an account and I think it demonstrates the interesting bits of daily life that probably connect us all through time.


Government

City

Tuesday

Public Information Meeting – Case 21971 (Tuesday, 7pm, Rockingham United Church) — Linda Liao, who owns three existing child care centres under the “Future Stars” name, wants to open a child care centre in Clayton Park; it’s not clear to me if this is a relocation or consolidation of some of the other ones or a fourth operation. Liao was profiled in this 2013 Chronicle Herald article.

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9am, City Hall) — agenda

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Wednesday, 5pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — agenda

Youth Programs Community Information Session – Spryfield (Wednesday, 6:30pm, 4 Cranberry Court, Spryfield) — facebook page here.

Province

Tuesday

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — as of Monday, there’s no topic for discussion listed.

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

PhD Defence, Microbiology and Immunology (Tuesday, 9:30am, room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Eric Pringle will defend his thesis, “Translational Efficiency Of Herpesvirus Messenger Ribonucleic Acids.”

The Development of Specialized Modules for Recognizing Faces, Scenes, Text, and  Bodies : What You See is What You Get (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room 238, Life Sciences Centre) — Margaret Livingstone from Harvard Medical School will speak.

Healthcare Systems Engineering @ Industrial Engineering, NWU, South Africa (Tuesday, 12pm, MA 310) — Fanie Terblanche from North-West University, South Africa, will speak.

Campus Budget Session (Tuesday, 5pm, Room 1110/1111, Mona Campbell Building) —  More info here.

Hope and Despair About Democracy (Tuesday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Eli Diamond will speak.

Wednesday

Bicentennial Common Pop-up Event (Wednesday, 10:15am, Killam Library entrance) — from the listing:

Embrace winter with a free hot beverage and the latest information about Bicentennial Common​!​

Bicentennial Common is an ambitious reimaging of the high-traffic area stretching from LeMarchant Street up past the Killam Library to the beginning of the upper portion of Studley Quad​. This new public space will honour the legacy of the university’s bicentennial in the years ahead.

As the design continues, Dal is trying out various elements, including furniture and four new patio heaters. The heaters will be officially turned on at the event, but they will remain in place from now on. Take a look at the latest design and let us know what you would like to see in the space.

More info here.

Campus Budget Session (Wednesday, 12pm, Room 1004, IDEA Building) — more info here.

Hot Topics in Nature and Science (Wednesday, 2pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate students will present their work.

Campus Budget Session (Wednesday, 6pm, Council Chambers, Student Union Building) — more info here.

Three Minute Thesis (Wednesday, 6:30pm, McInnes Room, Student Union Building) — graduate students get 180 seconds to present the complexities of their research.

Soleiman Faqiri. Photo: justiceforsoli.com

Who Killed My Brother: The Tragic Death of Soleiman Faqiri (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Yusuf Faqiri will talk, and El Jones will comment and contribute a poem. From the listing:

For more than two years since Soleiman Faqiri’s death in a Lindsay, Ont., jail cell, no one has been able to tell his family how the 30-year-old man with mental illness died while imprisoned and suffering from schizophrenia. At this public lecture, Yusuf Faqiri will talk about his brother’s death. Through Yusuf’s efforts, an investigation into Soli’s death has been reopened. Yusuf will speak about deaths in custody, the journey to justice for his brother, and the treatment of mental illness in Canada.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

Canadian Conscripts & the Great War: Myth and Legacy (Wednesday, 7:30pm, Room 225 in the building named after a grocery store) — Patrick Dennis will talk about his book.

Atlantic School of Theology

Wednesday

Grad Project Presentations (Wednesday, 10am, Saint Columba Chapel) — students in the Graduate Project & Seminar class will present their research. Info here.


In the harbour

05:00: Hoegh Manila, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from New York
10:30: Viking Conquest, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
11:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 36 from Portland
11:00: Hoegh Manila sails for sea
16:00: JPO Aries, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Lisbon, Portugal
16:30: Skogafoss sails for Argentia, Newfoundland
16:30: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
16:30: Budapest Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Norfolk
17:00: CMA CGM Chennai, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
23:00: Viking Conquest sails for sea


Footnotes

It’s only Tuesday. Sigh.


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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. “Wow! I never thought about that before.”

    Exactly what I thought about the menstrual products story.

    A great example of why diverse voices are necessary in journalism and government (and everywhere). Would love to see a legislature discussion on this subject with our 3 white male party leaders. I won’t even mention city hall.

  2. The saloon business is indeed the one business where the customer is not always right. The taverns of my youth were much stricter about not tolerating abuse – any kind of lip at all, and you were out, often literally on your arse.

  3. It is no surprise to me that servers have blood pressure spikes and suffer associated health risks. People who work in bar service are without a doubt the most abused working class we have. Customers treat them like crap and are frequently verbally and emotionally abusive. Some employers are also abusive towards staff in many ways, such as forcing them to wear certain types of attire which has nothing to do with actual performance of duty. It is time to create more awareness about the fact that servers are people too and should be treated with dignity.