M.B. Williams – The Woman Behind Parks Canada

With my free Parks Canada 2017 pass in hand, I have been looking forward to visiting a few favourites and a few new treasures this summer. Right now, though, I sit at home waiting for the weather to warm up and the flowers to bloom.

I was pleased, therefore, when I saw the University of Calgary Press had a book on the history of Parks Canada that was Open Access. It was through this book, A Century of Parks Canada, 1911-2011, that I discovered the fascinating history of M.B. Williams, the author of the first and most definitive series of guidebooks about Canada’s national parks.

MB picnicking in the Rockies, 1920s. Photo Credit: mbwilliams.academic-news.org


M.B. (Mabel Bertha) Williams began her career as a file clerk in Ottawa where she spent her days cutting press clippings. When her boss at the Department of Interior, J.B. Harkin, had the opportunity to start a new department in charge of National Parks, he asked her to come to the Dominion Parks agency with him.

Within a decade, she was in charge of almost all the promotional material for the parks and had authored an amazing series of guidebooks that could be found in tens of thousands of Canadian households.

When the depression hit, her entire female staff was laid off. Even though her job was secure, M.B. quit in solidarity.

She struggled thereafter to find success as an author, publishing the first history of Parks Canada, Guardians of the West, with Thomas Nelson in 1936.

Looking through an archive of her work is amazing. I recall leafing through a well-worn copy of Jasper Trails as a child. It’s still a wonderful read today.

The audio clip below is an interview with MB much later where she explains how she went from clipping newspaper articles to writing the guidebooks and promotional material for Canada’s parks.

You can read all of the available guidebooks online at mbwilliams.academic-news.org, and the University of Calgary Press title is free to read here. Or just grab the chapter on MB Williams. It’s a short and fascinating read.

5 jQuery Plugins for Manipulating Table Data


If you’ve ever been given a nasty looking CSV file to turn into an easily readable table, you know what a pain it can be… even if you automate much of the process. This jQuery plugin takes all that pain away.

Data Tables

This plugin does everything — filtering, sorting, pagination, editing, column manipulation — with client side or server side processing. The beautiful thing is, if you just want some simple filtering and sorting, it is really, really easy to set up, and the result is gorgeous with almost no effort.


I started playing with this when I was developing an admin area for a directory site. This can give a plain old HTML table superpowers, or at least spreadsheet-like abilities.


Wholly doesn’t filter, sort or page. What it does do, and do well, is highlight table rows and columns in response to mouse movements. If you’ve got complex tables your visitors need to sift through, this makes them beautiful and far more functional than simply shading every even or odd row.


Back in the day, if I wanted an ‘export to Excel’ function on my tables, I’d have to code it. With this plugin, I can better spend that time doing important stuff like watching cat videos.

Forwarding Important Email to Your Phone As A Text Message Using Gmail

I learned something new yesterday. I was waiting for an important email to arrive, but also had a great deal of other work to do.

Generally, what happens if I am waiting for email, is that I open and check Gmail every ten minutes or so. Most of the time there’s something interesting there to see or read, and before I know it, I’ve blown away a good hunk of work time.

So, as I waited for this email, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could ignore my email and just have that particular message sent to my phone as a text message?”

It turns out that I could do just that.

The first thing you need to do to accomplish this is to find out your phone’s email address. Yes, it has one. Generally, it’s your ten digit phone number @ your carrier domain, but the fastest and most foolproof way to find out the address is to start a new text message on your phone, and put your email address where the recipient phone number or contact name usually goes. This will send an email from your phone, and it will reveal your phone’s email address when you receive it.

Once you’ve got the correct email address, you can set that address up as a forwarding email in Google. Click the Gear icon on the top right hand side of Gmail, choose Settings, then pick the Forwarding and POP/IMAP.

Right at the top of that screen is the place to choose a forwarding address. You might get squeamish at this point, thinking you’re forwarding all your mail to your phone, which would be a mess, but as long as the “Disable Forwarding” checkbox is ticked, you’re safe. Add your phone’s email address and confirm.

Once it’s added (and forwarding is still disabled!) use the link at the bottom of the forwarding tools to create a filter. Choose to filter either by sender email, or by a word in the subject line, or both to make sure you only get the important email sent to your phone, then click, “Create Filter With This Search.”

The next screen will let you choose what to do with matching messages. Choose the “Forward to” checkbox, and choose your SMS email from the drop down select box beside it.

Click the submit button to create the filter, and you’re done! You can stop checking your mail constantly, because you’ll be instantly alerted on your phone when the urgent message appears.