Sunday, November 12, 2017

You Don't Need a Recipe For Tea-eggs

I’m a librarian, home again after working away for most of the past year. Re-establishing my place as parent in control of the personal realm, desperately Nordic-death-cleaning the helter-skelter of the house, and getting into a writing practice are the main activities competing for my time. My spouse, Jim, and our teenage son did a good job of holding down the fort, and they have convinced me they are glad to see me back. Son grew a foot while I was away and became even more of a picky eater. He waffles between being not-hungry and being famished, largely dependent on what flavour suits his changing, discriminatory pallet. Unlike in household chores, he eagerly offers assistance with my writing. A natural at storytelling and teaching, the last three summers he has spent a week a writer’s camp.

Recently, I wandered into the kitchen to find Jim, bent over a steamy stove, checking on a dark brown broth with lemon wedges poking amidst a stew of bobbing and bubbling boiled eggs. Owl-y from job stress, he takes refuge in the surety of kitchen work and the comfort it provides.  
“What the…?” I ask.
“Mom used to make these,” (anything his mom made is sacred to us both). “They’re tea eggs,” he says, tapping around the shell melodically with the back of a spoon.
“Where’s the recipe?”
“I don’t have her recipe so I’m experimenting. Tea-eggs are street food in China and other parts of Asia.”
“Have you tried the Internet?”
“No - I’m going to recreate what I remember about her making them. You don’t need a recipe for tea-eggs.”
“Ah ha! Tea-eggs sounds like a great blog topic!”

Son, overhearing our conversation, sails into the room, confident and eager to guide my writing with instructions. “Start the interview by asking the subject to identify themself with their name,” he blurts. “Proceed with questions. After the interview, find the focus and choose the details.”
Impressive. I’m convinced he learned much of this at writing summer camp in a seminar on journalism, held around a picnic-table at Kamp Kiwanis.

Jim gives historical context, “Mom used to make these before we even had soya sauce in the fridge, when Asian cooking was considered quite exotic. For ingredients she used eggs, tea bags, water, lemon, soya sauce, spices such as bay leaf, ginger, anise, or cardamom." Here are directions, but you don’t need a recipe for tea eggs.
1.    Boil eggs for 10 minutes.
2.    Drain and crack the shell lightly with the back of a spoon.
3.    Leaving the cracked shells on the egg, place in a broth with remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour or longer.
4.    Store in the fridge and enjoy as a snack.
Jim says, “You can eat these eggs when you get home from school. They will be in the fridge in this funny looking brown liquid.”
The rise of an eyebrow. Teen is curious…a good sign. Helping himself to a tea-egg, he smiles!

Try making tea-eggs yourself. They have good production value; lots of ingredients, flexible additions, time-consuming so you can get into a groove, a state of flow. They are easy to prepare and relatively healthy. You don’t need a recipe, but if you want more directions you can find online information here:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

UNESCO International Literacy Day at Maskwacis Cultural College

It’s been almost two years since the Government of Canada published the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools Recommendations. Since then, I see Alberta public libraries selecting more Indigenous resources and doing collaborative programming with Rotary Clubs or associations such as Community Adult Learning. Regional Library Systems have received funding from the Province of Alberta to address gaps in library services. Yet there is more work to be done to improve literacy outcomes and the indigenous/settler relationship. This fall I increased my understanding of reconciliation — on UNESCO International Literacy Day, September 13, 2017, I visited Maskwacis Cultural College where Learning Team Leader, Manisha Khetarpal, had organized a day of presentations. I learned that cross-cultural understanding of literacy is fundamental. Through storytelling and developing digital literacy skills we can exchange information to help with this learning. And libraries can provide the space, tools, expertise and opportunities for developing cross-cultural awareness.

The day opened with Dr. Claudine Louis urging students to reclaim knowledge that has brought us here. She said elders are wise and have a lot to share. How have you survived? What knowledge is embedded in language? Work to build relationships and make your own definition of literacy. “You are what your ancestors prayed for,” she said.

Voices of Amiskwaciy, Stories from Indigenous Edmonton, is an Edmonton Public Library initiative to create positive change through digital literacy. Carla Iacchelli and Lese Skidmore from EPL shared that the project is grounded in the values of collaboration, respect, sharing, learning and growing. People can make a 2 – 5 minute story, video or recording of a personal experience, add music or other multimedia, and publish it through the Amiskwaciy web site. EPL provides learning support for writing, publishing, technology skills, multimedia software editing skills, and ethics in storytelling. To participate you can borrow a digital storytelling kit, attend a workshop, or contact staff individually. Find out more at
Then Anishinaabe visitor, Ningwakwe George, gave a presentation: Reconciliation Begins with Me. She showed how individuals can do the hard work of moving forward with reconciliation. Putting positive energy into the world is a form of self-care, and an integral part of the process for her. We have to dig deep, uncover our gifts and share them. Her presentation was short but her message stayed with me throughout the day.

After lunch, Dale Saddleback taught about the importance of learning about the history and meaning of treaties today, and to understand treaties through a cultural lens. His presentation titled, The Spirit and Intent of Treaty 6, brought my attention to the learning resources on the website of the Office of the Treaty Commission based in Saskatchewan, and the book: We are all Treaty People. You can get a free download of the Saskatchewan Treaty Commission’s vision for reconciliation here:

After my day at Maskwacis Cultural College, I see that Alberta public libraries can work to close educational gaps and change mindsets by being more inclusive of Indigenous people, languages and worldview. The possibilities are endless for how we can work to create welcoming library environments. Libraries can provide more opportunities to learn Indigenous languages, and offer services and information to help people develop cross-cultural understanding. I hope more libraries learn from projects like Amiskwaciy and give access to physical and digital spaces, tools and expertise to help in information sharing. I feel grateful for this day of learning and I look forward to continuing to develop my understanding of the reconciliation process.

Summer 2014

Okay. It's blog posting season and it has been some time since I've posted. I just went back and found this challenge I did in 2014. The boys and I tried to post every week during the summer about something sporty. Here is the link to mud and star. The boys are tall the blink of an eye, in the blink of an eye, I've heard people say. Yes, I agree.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fibre Optic Nuts and Bolts

The Town of Drayton Valley is going the last mile. Every home, business or premise will have the ability to connect to fibre optic internet. This information superhighway allows citizens of Drayton Valley to be world leaders in internet connectivity, innovation and communication.  It will change the way we experience knowledge and access information. Marshall McLuhan said the medium is the message. When the medium is a fast, sleek strand of glass carrying bits and bytes of reflecting signals, Drayton Valley is a bold stepper.

Jack Mackenzie’s company installs fibre optic cable and the conduit pipe it rests in. He was working beside a back-hoe with a few guys installing kilometers of the four-inch orange plastic tubing from a six foot high roll, three feet underground. I approached gingerly in case he was too busy for conversation, it was nearing the end of the day and beginning to rain. Oh, the contrary. Jack went to his truck, grabbed a chunk of fibre optic cable and let me examine it. He showed how 144 glass fibre strands lie parallel in a hose with the diameter of a dime. He said be careful. If a piece of glass breaks off and gets into your body you could never find it, it’s so small. Jack’s crew from 4C Telecom Inc. will install the conduit. Then the fibre optic cable will be ballooned through the pipe by attaching a parachute to one end and blasting.

I asked David LeDrew, IT specialist at the Town of Drayton Valley, how fibre optic technology works. In fact, I asked him about four times, and he always patiently explained it to me. He said 10 gigabit Ethernet works fast because in Ethernet, the medium of transmission is light instead of electrical pulses. Theoretically, with no friction the maximum speed that the bits could travel would be the speed of light! The speed of light, people! The cable Jack gave me was made of 144 strands of glass. Dynamic wave division multiplexing (DWDM) allows the light to move on different wavelengths in each strand of fibre in the cable. The bits go so fast you can view content almost instantaneously. There’s nothing slowing the signal down.

So what is the last mile? The last mile refers to making fast internet available all along the network to reach people’s homes and businesses. This example shows the problem with not going the last mile: if internet going past your house is fibre optic cable, but from the node to your house the line is copper, information cannot get through to your house at as great a speed as on the fibre. Or take the example of fibre optic tv. If you don’t have fibre all the way to the house then the fastest the signal can go is as fast as your slowest connection. Slow internet is frustrating. Many rural communities notice the problem with retaining people and businesses if their internet is not satisfactory. An example is found in The Stettler Independent. It seems that the community is losing out on business and other opportunities as a result of poor technology infrastructure. Olds was the first community in western Canada to go the last mile, but their method of going about it was different than in Drayton Valley. In Drayton Valley, the municipal government and Telus have arranged for the infrastructure. Ensuring the town is completely serviced in fibre is a big step in providing the conditions that will allow community and business to thrive, innovate and diversify. 

What does the last mile mean to the Drayton Valley Municipal Library and our community of supporters? Right now there are not very many towns that are totally connected by fibre. Having complete fibre connectivity will offer great potential for research into physical and digital technologies, as well as research into understanding the social realities and limits of technology. For example, such research could include exploring the physiological changes which happen to the way our brains processes information in a digital world. Or what is the best way to mediate the digital divide between those with and those without information fluency? Or what is the best and most comprehensive way to make this technology accessible in the library? Or what programs and services could we offer in relation to technology and community?

The powerful tool of fibre optic connectivity to every premise makes the focus of Drayton Valley Library’s literacy outreach even more important. We still have to know how to read and write. We still have to maintain continuity of knowledge, even if our very brains change in relation to technology. Change is not bad, but adapting to change is a skill. Basic literacy must still be nurtured and enhanced with training and awareness of communication processes and the skills to know how to search for information, evaluate information and collaborate with others. A most logical role for the library in this is to ensure all people have access to information and information skills. We can foster training in information fluency through the library. We can provide physical access to those who are visitors or who do not have their own technology at home. Literacy is still key and we will make the most of the transformation in the way we learn and know.

The library can promote discussion about how to ensure that as a town, we support intellectual freedom and that we remain committed to ensuring all people have equal access to knowledge and information regardless of situation, income or ability. We might not even be having this discussion in Drayton Valley right now if fibre optic cable spools and the conduit tubes were not being dropped on every corner. As we speak the installation is soon to be complete. I hope that Drayton Valley Municipal Library, the first rural library in Alberta to provide dial up Internet access to the community in the early 1990’s, will continue to step boldly – continue to be on the forefront of providing access to knowledge and information, fostering community engagement and belonging, and helping promote literacy of all kinds. Drop by the library and ask to see my piece of 144 and watch for upcoming library programs that will help us learn more about how to make the most of all that digital media technologies have to offer.

By Gayle Sacuta, September 8, 2014

This article is my attempt to explain fibre optics in plain language. Please excuse any errors or omissions. Thanks Dave, Nesen, Jack and Sandy for helping with details. I referenced information in the post through the following sources:

Drayton Valley Library

Federman, Mark. What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?

Internet everywhere - Is Internet access now an essential service for all Canadians? Should it be free and everywhere? CBC Cross Country Checkup | May 18, 2014 | 1:53:00

Internet shortage frustrates Stettler-area residents, March 19, 2014.

Wavelength-division multiplexing. Wikipedia, accessed September 5, 2014.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

walk a mile, a poem in progress

walk a mile

place you come home to
home here amidst lichen
slow growing

the warming reveals
stones from snow
at the field’s corner 

the hill’s ethereal cover
blanket of snow

boots crunch in the trough
of the ditch’s morning ice
pit my toe on the studly
gravel-frozen road

sickle shaped gouges
pattern the slough
drained and dry
lose a wetland
for the extra acre

place you come home to

hums buzz along the power line
breath clouds my glasses
geese stand, alert as frost
hoarded on branches

black and yellow
the tip a flash
a goldfinch feather
the place you come home to

dirt peppers
the snow around shrubs
sprayed with poison
in the ditches

Monday, February 24, 2014

I co-authored an essay in the book Informed Agitation, from Library Juice Press. My copies are in the mail!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Okay. This is bad. I was sure I blogged last year. Oh well. It's a brand new year, a new month, even. Much happened last year. I graduated from library school. I got a job. I stopped playing fiddle and doing all that fun stuff like cooking. I drive a long way to get to my job. I love it when I get there. It's great to be a librarian.