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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Filtering by Category: history

24 Years of Vegetarianism

Chris Campbell

I became a vegetarian 24 years ago. It's not a milestone that I usually celebrate, but that's a long time to stick with something and it is also a good opportunity to reflect on what it means to me and how what I eat has changed over the past few decades. The dining options for vegetarians and vegans are a lot more plentiful now with vegetarian food available at most grocery stores and restaurants. With the large number of cooking web sites (and apps) it's also possible to quickly find great recipes for cooking too.

My vegetarianism grew out of discussions (often over meals) with my good friend Errol Williams as we were working together on films and video projects. Errol was vegetarian and we often would go out and eat and that usually involved figuring out which restaurants had good vegetarian choices. As I thought about what I ate more and where my food came from I decided I didn't want to eat animals any more, so on March 11, 1992 I stopped eating meat. Becoming vegan was in my mind, but my love of cheese and eggs kept me away from that.

At first it was a challenge as the routines of eating, cooking, and what you order at restaurants becomes a habit you barely notice. One of my favourite fast food meals was a bacon cheeseburger at Wendy's, so that was off the list of possibilities right away. For many years I did substitution with veggie burgers (and I was so glad that Harvey's had a solid veggie burger option), veggie dogs, veggie bacon, and veggie ground round. So the diet was similar to before with a lot of tofu. Bread and cheese also were part of my regular diet as well.

One staple of my earlier vegetarian diet grew out of a fantastic cookbook, The Well-Filled Tortilla, with their recipe for black beans. It's something that I've been cooking using the same recipe for over 20 years (along with their method for fried potatoes). While that has been part of what I've cooked for a long time, the rest of what I ate wasn't always that healthy (pasta and cheese and bread and fake meat products were the staple of my diet). Then a few years ago I started biking which made me feel better and then I started cooking more.

This came together even more in the last few years when I started to take more of an interest in my health and the great local produce around me in the Annapolis Valley. Signing up for a CSA box filled with local organic food was amazing. So much good food all grown within minutes of where I lived made me see the area around me differently. Now I'm not part of a CSA, but buy mostly local stuff at the farmers market or local markets (and the grocery stores now feature much local produce as well). So many of the meals that I now make include mostly local ingredients (I can get local tofu, eggs, milk, wheat, and beer easily).

The addition of a rice cooker (thanks to Roger Ebert's blog post The Pot and How to Use It and book of the same name) made cooking rice easier and my morning routine changed to cook oatmeal in the rice cooker which I have every weekday along with some local yogurt. Now there is a lot less processed food in my diet and there is a lot more cooking happening. Getting the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day got me started on baking bread which lead to also using the dough for pizza and buns. My favourite source for vegetarian recipes now is the wonderful Minimalist Baker which is overflowing with vegan and delicious recipes that are easy to make.

Now I eagerly prepare meals and look for local ingredients whenever possible. With an improved diet and being more active (walking every day and biking in the warmer months) I've been able to lose a bit of weight and I feel a lot better. Taking the time to cook and eat is a lot of fun and I'm glad that it's easy to combine that with being a vegetarian as well.

Early Days of Online

Chris Campbell

With the electronic world we're intimately connected to each other and everything has shifted, so that's what appears normal to many of us. It can be a challenge to remember what we did before as the simplest things from meeting someone to remembering or sharing things are mediated electronically through our screens. For me Twitter is the primary social media connection now and it gives a personal, human connective tissue between people and the things that are on my screens.

The best things are the small, personal connections that we make. If you focus on the positive and stay away from the comments it can be quite special. Something as small and simple as favouriting a tweet can give a nice little boost in the day. It's validation, recognition, a virtual nod or smile at someone. I still get a small thrill when I see something I've written is noticed by people I admire. The usual hierarchies flatten and for a brief moment we're connected.

While listening to Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything podcast miniseries of The Dislike Club (divided into parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and a finale). I remembered the days before pervasive social media and thought about the first time I was entranced by a computer screen. It was in the Fredericton Public Library and it was a terminal using a system called Telidon. I don't remember the date, but I think that it had to be sometime in 1981. Every time I would go to the library I would look at it and use it and I don't remember seeing anyone else at the terminal.

You could look up information using the simple interface. It was slow and didn't have a lot to it, but I remember the graphics which were colour and slowly drew on the screen. Mesmerizing and the idea that it connected to the outside world was even more amazing. It showed what was possible. A couple years later I graduated from high school and went into Computer Science at the University of New Brunswick and was in the final class that used punched cards in the introduction to programming class. The cards and fanfold paper were a pain, but the electronic terminals were what was really exciting.

The first screen-based terminals I used had blue CRT screens, then some green ones, and amber. But the terminals that I loved were the big and heavy IBM 3270 terminals that had multicoloured screens (mainly green, red, white, and blue). The keyboard was big and solid with metal springs that made great, clicky sounds and gave your fingers a good workout. The programming assignments weren't as interesting as looking up books in the library and the information on USENET and I eventually dropped out of university for a bit before returning in the late 80s to complete a degree in the Faculty of Arts in English Literature. You had to ask for approval for access to the computers if you weren't in Computer Science. Apparently only graduate students were approved, but the English department thought I was a grad student and gave me access.

Connecting with other people was tentative and slow. Initially I'd connected through people I knew in the real world and had all of the information written down in a notebook. So many numbers and letters to connect through different servers and computer systems. During my brief academic foray into an MA in Communication Studies at Concordia University had me using my Toshiba T1000 to connect to USENET and other computer systems and email through an external modem connected to the phone line. In the 90s I had fun in the Postmodern Culture MOO and took an online course offered by Diversity University in their MOO where I collaborated with people from around the world using only text. I'd used IRC a bit, but loved the ways that MOOs created an imaginative virtual space with words.

Thinking about education online now, it's remarkable that people were doing so much innovative stuff with the tools back then. Using things like Slack remind me of the power of text to collaborate and connect with people. Simplicity and reduced friction are important to be able to construct safe and supportive online environments, and now the need to go to a computer to read, and write, and connect is easier as the computers are everywhere and things just connect in easier ways.

But now that everyone (or almost everyone) is able to be there, the small, outsider communities that were like secret places that only a few like-minded people knew about are rarer and rarer. That could be why some of us keep looking for new or old things like electronic secret handshakes that are a combination of retro-nostalgia with small technical barriers that provide a way to construct small spaces for shared memories. It's part of growing up and growing old as remember the things we did when we were young with fondness. We're able to reconstruct and reconstitute parts of our childhood and adolescence through the code that still exists and cheaper hardware that can put a whole Atari VCS into a joystick.

Everything is faster now and you don't need to study much to be able to use a computer or your phone. It's just there and is part of what we do. But the preservation of what we've written and created is important. Things can go away quickly, so backing stuff up is important. I'm so glad that I have my blog and that I've been able to migrate it through many systems (Blosxom, Typo), Wordpress, and now Squarespace) keeping it mainly intact. I'm also glad and thankful that the Internet Archive exists to preserve many things too, as I've been able to recover many things that I have written there from sites that have closed or disappeared.

As formats and storage media change there are things that disappear. I have all sorts of video and photos on old disks and tapes that I may never get back. Copying and maintaining an archive can be a lot of work. There are so many things that we write every day in replies and comments and email. I've got many email and social media accounts and move around between them. Sometimes it's a challenge to find something you've shared or found or commented on. It all blurs together into our days filled with small, casual interactions.

I avoid sharing things on Facebook and other relatively closed systems that don't give you an archive or the ability to get things out of the place once you put them in. With text it's relatively easy to back things up, but for photos and audio and video, it's more complicated as the files are bigger. I'm glad I've been using Flickr for so long and that it remains active. Now I have tens of thousands of photos there and it's even better now with automatic archiving of my photos, so while I've fallen way behind in sharing my photos there publicly, all the photos I take get backed up there.

But now I'm trying to figure out a good balance with all of this. I don't need to save everything as I don't have time to go through it all. I want to be present in the world and to consciously share things by going through them and picking out what is significant. It's good to let things go and to make memories both with technology and without it. For every generation this is part of what they are thinking. Whether it is someone thinking about how the telegraph changes the pace of life and changes how people write letters, to someone texting or people photographing their food, our technology changes who we are and what we do, but it's been that way for a very long time.

What do you remember from your early days of connecting online?

A Decade of Flickr

Chris Campbell

While I was in Sackville for Sappyfest I was taking pictures with my iPhone and while taking a walk I remembered how the first photo that I posted to Flickr was taking in the same spot where I was standing. In looking at that photo again the date was just over 10 years ago. I joined Flickr in August of 2004. A decade is a long time and it's neat to look back at photos from the past and to think about how technology has changed.

The latest photo in that location from me is a panorama taken with my iPhone 5s. Panoramas are relatively effortless now as they are built-in. The stitching happens in the camera and you don't need specialized software to make them. I do like the way some of the panoramas made with a series of photos look. With the faster camera I should do some more of those as it is a neat retro way of creating images.

There is still something great about film and I have had a series of film cameras that I've used. There is the medium format Holga (with black & white and colour film) and the 35mm Zenit camera (also with colour and black & white photos). I need to take some more photos with them as many of the filters we apply to digital photos are trying to get back to the filmy looks from them. I've also taken some low-res photos with a Digital Harinezumi which is a tiny camera that creates images similar to the ones from toy plastic cameras.

While the first photos I took were film-based, the vast majority of photos on Flickr from me are digital. The first digital camera I had was a really lovely little Canon PowerShot A60 with a 2 megapixel resolution. Small and powerful, I carried it around with me a lot. Then upgraded to the even smaller and more powerful Canon SD600 with 6 megapixels of resolution and kept taking photos and posting them. Later that was upgraded to an SD1200 IS with a 10 megapixel resolution. The most recent digital camera is the Canon G11 which is another solid camera with a decent zoom lens and 10 megapixels of resolution.

But with me having an iPhone 4, it meant that more of my photos were being taken and posted with my iPhone since it was always with me. There was the Instagram phase with all sorts of square and low-res photos and then with the iPhone 5s it resulted in not doing much at all with the digital camera as the camera of the iPhone is quite amazing. So that's what I take photos with now and they go to the computer as a backup, but now they begin and end on the phone.

With the new iPhone app from Flickr it's even easier to upload photos as they go automatically, so there is an archive there. They're also backed up to iCloud, so they are in a few different places. Now if I want to have some processing or effects on the photos I'll use the VSCO Cam app and then upload those processed photos from the camera. If there is some more serious processing to do, that will happen on my MacBook Pro with Acorn and then I'll upload it.

The community that was part of Flickr was amazing and in the same way that you put lots of energy into different communities and interests, it's been the same there. My online energy seems to have moved more towards Twitter, but it's good to look back and remember what made something special. It's great to have a visual archive and I need to reach back into it every now and then to share more from there.

Over the past decade Flickr went from an independent company to being purchased by Yahoo. After the acquisition they were ignored a bit and many people left them and as things moved to my phone I was using it a lot less. But they've been steadily improving things on the site and the new app is quite great, so now I'm coming back and adding a lot more photos to the collection that I have there. Some things do seem to stick around as the world and technology changes.

Preserving the Past

Chris Campbell

As we share more of ourselves online on various sites, it's important to think about preserving it. Unless you have things backed up on your own, it's not permanent. These things become significant when a site closes down. The good ones will let you export your data, but sometimes sites just go away. With the upcoming closing of 43 Things it made me look back through what I had written and some of those entries started me looking back at other sites and finding things that I had forgotten.

Luckily with the blogging systems I've used, moving from one to another has kept most of my writing. I started with Blosxom, then moved to Typo), then Wordpress, and then to Squarespace. The earlier versions were self-hosted and now I'm happy to concentrate on the writing. While I have all the entries (and I think that I have a backup of the static version of the site somewhere), not all the links in the entries work and the images don't show up. While the Internet Archive Wayback Machine has the entries, the images are not saved. Someday I've got to get that fixed up a bit.

With the disappearance of Textdrive where I had my sites hosted for years, it made me lose the Bad Metaphor site that hosted the podcast that my son and I had produced a few years ago. The podcasts are all thankfully preserved in the Internet Archive and I have the original files too. But it's scary when things disappear. I'd moved this blog over to Squarespace earlier, but kept the archive there and didn't get a warning of the site going away until my son noticed that the site was down. My plan now is to set up the archive of the podcast in a section on this site.

The possibility of losing things makes you think about the value of them and it made me start to look through other things that I had written in the past. I love trying out new things and sites, so every now and then that is where my online energy will go. When the Vox blogging service) was introduced by Six Apart I liked it and started blogging there with shorter and more frequent things (like an early version of Tumblr now that I think about it). When I was writing about past Sappyfests, I realized that I didn't have blog entries here, but there were some scattered on other sites. Now with those sites gone, the question is how to share what was there. I'm thinking of retroactively posting them here with the original dates from the post. They'll become part of the archive.

The good thing is that it should be relatively easy to do this, but it makes me want to make sure that it is all backed up. If a site doesn't let you export your content, you should be careful. We rely on the kindness of others when we don't take responsibility for what we create. Most of the time it is ok, but when that breaks down we're left with nothing. So now I've got a routine where I'll export my content from sites where I can (Pinboard, Squarespace, Twitter, Medium) and think about whether I should post to sites where I can't get my archive or set up things like IFTTT to archive stuff somewhere.

So every now and then I'll check to make sure that things get backed up. Then maybe do a bit of curating and highlighting of things from the past. This blog has been around since May of 2002, so there is a lot here and looking through what I've written also gives a glimpse into the sites and services that have changed or disappeared over the past decade. We can learn from the past and it's good to save it and look back every now and then.