Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chained to your Cell Phone


Do you know someone, maybe quite a few someones, that always seem to have their cell phones close at hand?   Like a Wild West gun slinger, it perches at their hip, in their pocket or even as far away as a purse.  Always accessible, the owner is vigilant for a chirp or whistle, musical notes or a vibration that signals that someone, somewhere has thought of them.    

I've been at meetings where the cell phone is placed on the conference table; face down apparently is deemed more courteous.   During a lull in the discussion or if everyone's gaze is fixed on a flow chart on the wall, the cell phone is surreptitiously flipped over, scanned and entries are thumbed through.  The phone may then be dropped into the lap for some discreet texting.

Many jurisdictions have passed laws against texting and driving or talking on your cell phone while driving.   I'm not sure having a blue tooth phone in your ear helps with the distraction factor because the person you are talking to doesn't realize why you are pausing in your dialogue.   I have been engaged in interesting conversations while driving with the person in the passenger seat but when I pause, it is apparent that I am trying to make a left turn in a busy intersection or that something else on the road needs my total attention.   I can easily say, 'just a sec,' without feeling I need to explain.   This just isn't the same when your conversational partner is absent.

Some people feel the need to always have their cell phone within arm's reach.  They lay it on the bedside table at night and beside them when eating dinner.   If it is silent for too long, it seems necessary to check if something has been missed or isn't working.   This article in   U.S.A. Today informs us how many times a day people check and/or use their cell phone.   Guess.    Apple advises that their cell phone users unlock them eighty times a day.

But why?   The article states that frequent phone users, addicted phone users, get a little thrill, a little hit of dopamine, the happy brain hormone, every time their phone gives a little beep or shake.   And like any addiction it's not a positive thing.     No one would call it as harmful as cocaine or heroin.   It's a little closer to what propels a slot machine user to keep pushing the button when their wiser self knows they should stop.

It is probably also difficult for employees, some of whom are expected to be on call 24/7.  You used to have the excuse that you were on the road or visiting friends but no more.    Cell phone companies have no difficulties in increasing rates monthly and the cost of the cell phones themselves seems beyond what is reasonable.   It seems for many people it is one of life's necessities.  Maybe if it still looked like this:

or even this:

things would be different.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Negativity, drama or real life?

Upon a recommendation I started watching a British police program, Line of Duty.    There have been a lot of cop shows over the years.  Dragnet  and  Barney Miller were surely well wide of the mark in terms of realism although many found them entertaining.     I can only hope the recent addition is unrealistic as well, although in a different way.    The characters were deceptive, even corrupt and generally unpleasant people, and those weren't the criminals.

The opening scene had a British version of a SWAT team of at least a dozen heavily armed officers storm an apartment and shoot and kill  the man inside who was holding a baby while his wife looked on in horror.    It wasn't long before it was discovered that apartment 56, the target location,  was a few doors down.   The apartment they had entered was Number 59, but the second digit on the door was missing a nail and had swung down, therefore appearing to be a 6.

This was all bad enough  but before the van containing the police team had left the scene the officer in charge gave them all the version of events that they were to swear to at the upcoming inquest.   As long as they all stuck to that they would be exonerated.   They would swear under oath that the father was holding an incendiary device, not his baby, and threatened them with it.   It was rationalized that since apartment inhabitants were illegal immigrants there would be no one to say otherwise and the wife wouldn't be believed.

The plot line continued on with more examples of infidelity, deception, and just plain nastiness.  At some point I started to feel that my mood, my perception of the world, my hope for the future,  a good night's sleep  . . . would not be improved by continuing to view this program.     Also, I can't bring myself to believe that modern police forces operate this way and are populated by people like the characters in the show.   Maybe I'm naive but since there is nothing I can do about it, or most of the major world events, perhaps my state of mind would be improved by avoidance.    Maybe the Think globally, Act locally  mantra should be amended.   Just do your best in your own world and act with thoughtfulness and kindness not to mention foresight.   

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Are Studies Preferable to Action?


If you follow a particular issue that has meaning to you, do you get the feeling that a never-ending stream of studies is the preferred route of action?   Yet another report by university researcher, Nigel Raine, on the risk of extinction of bees is once again putting the blame on the pesticide class known as neonicotinoids.    One unfortunate result is that Bumblebee queens are 26% less likely to lay eggs.  

We need bees.   They do not exist to sting you but as this article in the National Post points out:

Bees are crucial to agriculture. Published reports suggest about a third of the crops eaten by humans depend on insect pollination, with bees responsible for about 80 per cent of that figure.

How many studies are necessary for the tipping point to ensure and actual action is taken?    Those who have other concerns and causes of interest, likely find similar patterns.  Why? 

BBC News

No blog post next week;   I'll be on vacation.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Lives of the Rich and Famous


Many of us might admit to a vicarious fascination with the lives of the rich and famous.   Television programs have focussed on this, whether real or fantasy lives.  This article in the National Post by Brandon Presser makes interesting reading.    Are the filthy rich really so different from you or I?   I recently watched The Butler which gave some insight although it's mainly about the era and the racism.

Butlers are not just present in Downton Abby and The White House.    They live and apparently exist to serve you at the Plaza Hotel in New York.  Some requests are mundane:   more ice is frequent.  But, relax,  millionaires and billionaires have some quirks.    Have you ever thought of bathing surrounding by oysters on the shell, sharing the water with you?   The potential pleasure in this ritual has never occurred to me.

Some butlers are asked to perform bizarre tasks.   Unusual food items are  requested:  tarantulas?    A butler must be able to be ever present but rarely seen and certainly not observant of anything that should be private.    If by chance something titillating is viewed, it must never be mentioned or discussed with anyone.   Discretion is all.

When you have everything money can buy, it must be difficult to come up with new desires.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What's Cooking?


I've been reading several books by Michael Pollan and watching some Youtube videos made from his speaking appearances, for example, here, where he discusses how cooking can change your life.  You may have heard of his brief list of food rules:   Eat food ; mostly plants, not too much.   In the video he postulates that the key determinant of the health of an individual is if a person, not a corporation, cooks their meals.   A brave statement, for sure.   I don't recall nutrition being written and talked about so much in previous decades.   When I was setting up my household, collecting recipes and trying to learn to cook, nutrition took a definite back seat to taste.  I remember my mother-in-law giving me a favourite recipe of hers:   a chicken casserole that included both a cup of mayonnaise and a cup of sour cream.   I'm certain it was delicious at the time.

Both the United States and Canada have long had food guides.   These are recent iterations.   It seems important to remember that food industry and agricultural  lobbyists  promote a particular perspective.    The American version comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

  The Canadian government's recommended plate looks very similar with perhaps a slightly smaller portion of  what is termed meat and alternatives and the inclusion of a glass of water.   The other beverage is called milk and alternatives.  The fruits and vegetables (green) are combined  and there is a drop of oil representing fats and oils.


There proliferation of books and videos and even Netflix movies on the topic of our food supply and nutrition habits recommending a change of habits considerably different from either country's recommendations.  Paleo, Low Carb, Intermittent Fasting . . . Once you go down that rabbit hole, you are more likely to start cooking.   That's probably a good thing.

Sunday, September 3, 2017



It seems that quite a few people do not love their work and not just because they are shovelling manure all day, literally or figuratively.   It doesn't help that an onerous commute is required at both ends of the working day for many.   But other factors contribute.   Do you need to be on call all/most times by means of your cell phone or e-mail?   Those things didn't exist twenty-five years ago.   Your weekend was your own. Salaried employees may work long hours without additional renumeration. Two people are laid off and their work is added to yours, often without additional compensation.

Wages/pay rates have been almost stagnant for twenty-five years or more. Many people are earning less, taking into account mandatory deductions from their wages.   Discretionary income has declined and many carry credit card balances which require at least minimum payments.    It's hard to feel motivated to go to work when it is a struggle to pay bills, never mind have a few treats.

Are lay-offs are regular part of your work life?   Some trades seem to have seasonal/unexpected lay-offs on a regular basis.  These can play havoc with your personal life and finances.   Do you work irregular hours or shift work?   Your circadian rhythms have a difficult time with this way of life.   Are you on what is called zero time hours?  This type of work contract does not guarantee you any hours of work at all.   Your employment is at the pleasure of your employer and living life on this kind of knife edge does not make you love your job.

Some aspire to Early Retirement.    This blogger makes it look relatively easy.   His current interviewee became wealthy in two years as an early AirBnb hostess.  Most of us find out about get rich quick schemes long after the early adopters have retired.    There's a whole community out there looking to save twenty-five times their annual frugalized expenses which are then invested  securely.  They are able to safely withdraw four percent a year and live on that pursuing sports, hobbies, travel or generally enjoying life.   Sounds tempting, doesn't it?

Life as  a cubicle worker can make you long for escape. Do you feel like a pencil pusher, or more likely, a keyboarder?   Years ago it was thought that modernization and automation would shorten the work day to four hours.   What happened?  Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian has some thoughts on the topic.

There must be a reason that no one on their death bed wishes they'd spent more time at work.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Being a Celebrity Probably Isn't so Great


There's been a lot written lately, or rather re-written, about Princess Diana and her untimely demise.   In case we had forgotten what happened, the twenty year anniversary of this event is upcoming at the end of the month and it seems to have been decided, probably by the press,  that it is time for a re-visit.   Often in the case of such an unexpected and public death initial press reactions offer some discretion.   The grief is too new, there must some some semblance of respect.

After twenty years the gloves come off.   Old theories and reports are dusted off and new ones are considered.  Anyone who had the remotest connection gets a chance to have their moment of fame or at least a line in the British tabloid newspapers.    At the very least, a tragic event like this serves to prod change.   In the same way that a traffic death at a vehicle intersection leads to the installation of a traffic light or stop sign, the information and details that came out about Diana's life as a member of the Royal family have led to change for the next generation.

It must still be difficult to be someone famous, whether Royal or Hollywood A list star.   Photographers clamour to take your picture and you have to be on guard against scratching your nose or yanking on your underwear in public.   The Duchess of Cambridge must always have a smile ready and never look bored.   You can keep track of her commitments here.  Then there are the blogs and articles that observe and report on the clothes, the children, the activities, the jewellery . . .   You would need to get used to always being watched and on display.

Are there still many young women who dream of being princesses?

Sunday, August 20, 2017


Do you expect special treatment when you travel to foreign countries? Admit it now, it is a little frustrating when the direction and location signs are in a language you are not familiar with or, even worse, in an alphabet that is not the one you know.  

Tourism is the number one industry in the world. Do you feel a little self-satisfied to be contributing to other countries' economies?   London may not need your piddly contribution but other places in the world are very reliant on tourism for jobs and foreign currency.    It is natural to want to feel welcomed, perhaps even a little appreciated.    After all, you have emptied your savings accounts to be here, not to mention endured a lengthy and gruelling flight.  It seems unfortunate that some admission prices are outrageous, not to mention the queues:

The Louvre, Paris

Suzanne Moore writes in the Guardian here that not only do some locations not love and embrace tourists, they downright dislike them, including you and me.    But it must be other people who litter, engage in raucous yelling late at night, and generally behave badly.  Besides, they're just having a little fun; isn't that what vacations are for?   Probably they are only embarrassing themselves and will think better of the photographs when they get home and delete them from the Instagram account without delay.

In the months of July and August especially, traffic can become impossible and tourists driving rental cars down unfamiliar streets might cause frustration and annoyance without intending to.   Rental housing disappears, lost to vacation by-the-night accommodation that nets the landlord considerably more by way of profits.     Parisians have long had the custom of taking their vacation in the month of August, the better to leave the city to visitors.   

Stonehenge had to resort to putting a wooden boardwalk some distance from the ancient stones.   Some tourists wanted to take a piece of history away with them or at least leave their mark.   Some places are considering limiting tourists.  Are any of these on your bucket list?

Altogether, I am pleased I visited many places in Europe twenty-five years ago.   Perhaps I beat the crowds.   

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Don't Take it for Granted!

CTV News

It is easy to take for granted some of the most precious aspects of life.  We would only survive three minutes without air, three days without water and thirty days without food.   More or less.    Even if these commodities are available, we have come to expect a certain quality.   The air should be fresh and unpolluted, the water potable and cold.   As far as food is concerned we expect the government to monitor the safety of anything that is allowed to enter our borders or served to us in restaurants.   We are responsible for our own cooking skills when we eat at home.  To paraphrase Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.   He probably inferred that this society would include the basics listed above.

British Columbia has had a surfeit of forest fires this summer, something that is becoming alarmingly regular.     The seriously reduced air quality, even in areas far removed from the fires, is a reminder of the winds that swirl around our planet on a regular basis.    Some people have difficulty breathing, others find the air stale and smelly, views are substantially diminished and tourists are disappointed.  But nothing can be done.   We are not as omnipotent as we like to think.   Advice is given to stay indoors and avoid exertion.

A hazy skyline is not a natural disaster, but it serves as a reminder to be patient, to be prepared, and to be appreciative when eventually normality returns.   We can spare a thought for those evacuated or made homeless and bear our lesser complaints with good grace.   It wouldn't hurt to treat the planet better then has been our wont in the past hundred years or so.   Gaia may be getting annoyed.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hanging on financially


I was interested to read  The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans in The Atlantic about the prevalence of people who would have great difficulty in finding $400 for an emergency.  Who could live like that?    Emergencies come around regularly, if by that is meant a car repair, painful dental problems or your hot water tank expiring.     Forty-seven percent of Americans surveyed by the Federal Reserve would have to borrow or sell something to find the money.  

The subject. Mr. Neal Gabler,  chose his profession, writing, for love not money.   He's published five books, hundreds of articles and television scripts.   He's won awards and describes a respectable reputation.   Unfortunately, writing has never been a well paying career except for an exalted few.   In addition, as a self-employed person he must engage in the annoying and time-consuming task of chasing payments.   Anyone who works for themselves will know what this is like.   The work has been delivered but a finely tuned dance must be commenced to pry payment loose without offending the payor and cutting off a future supply of work.   

There was good money at times.  Neal Gabler describes years of a solid middle class and even upper middle class income.   I suspect the more prosperous years were in the past, or at least before the internet was well established, with sites like Fiverr providing writers for amounts that would just about buy latte at Starbucks.   When you have to borrow money from your adult children to pay for heat in the winter, there's a particular kind of shame attached.

It may be that Mr. Gabler did not manage his money as well as he might have.   Saving in the years of plenty for the years of want.   Creative types of people don't seem to manage their finances well as a multitude of rock stars who end up destitute have described.  You can meet Mr. Gabler on Youtube here.

Some Americans end up in financial straits because of medical bills.   The Canadian health care system is far from perfect and a middle class person will have to cope with  many expenses considered non-emergency, like glasses or root canals.   But hospital and doctor visits are covered, albeit with payment of a monthly premium of $75 for the middle class individual.

In the past, families managed on one income.   What's changed?   Wages have remained stagnant, good union type jobs with benefits and pensions are a dying breed.   There's so much more to need or at least want.   It's hard to imagine living without a computer and internet connection and many people are attached to their cell phones.  

Gabler is relieved to come out of the shadows and admit his problems.   Sharing doesn't solve his problems but finding out that half the people around him are in the same position offers some solace.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Both hands take away

If you have somehow forgetten you have money in a bank account and move away, you will be relieved to know that your money does not go into the bank coffee fund.   There's a process set up to attempt contact but eventually the governing body for banks, The Bank of Canada here in Canada, receives the funds.   Here are some details.   You can check on-line if yu have been remiss in keeping track of all your funds.

A news story on the topic prompted me to check and lo and behold it appeared somehow in our youth $40 had been left behind.   The on-line form is reasonably quick and easy to fill out but then you wait.   Remember, the government only works quickly and ruthlessly when you owe them.   Long since forgotten as a momentary impulse, a couple of months later the Bank of Canada letter appears in the mail.   We may have been hoping for a cheque but, no.

There's a four page form, densely written, to read and blank lines to fill out.  The Bank of Canada had helpfully filled in the line indicating one balance of $40 was being claimed.  But although the government tax department is happy to receive a large cheque from me paying my income tax bill and even credit card payment for the medical services premiums of $150 monthly, this $40 return of my own money requires a statutory declaration before a Notary or Commissioner for taking Oaths.   The cost of a lawyer or notary visit would eat up most if not all of said $40.   Then there is the request for an account passbook/cheque book/statement that matches the account number.   Would it be facile to suggest that were I in possession of this I would be aware of the money and would have made arrangements to have it sent to me long ago.

At this point I was relieved to discover that the offending bank account resided in Ontario where we have never lived and apparently belonged to someone with the same name.   We forget that such people exist, no matter how special and unique we think our name is.

Let him work for the forty dollars.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Walking Computer Chips

In A New Premise, written a few years ago now, I describe a future where all residents have a small computer chip, called a grain, implanted.   The device has various purposes, including paying for purchases.   I was interested to read here about a firm that has something similar implanted in their employees.   The stated reason is to gain access to company files, copiers and even snack machines but like I wrote in my book, this would be easily adapted to other purposes.   

I wonder if I can claim royalties of some kind?

Sunday, July 23, 2017



A lot of information, articles and posts available these days seeks to access our outrage.     Presumably once this goal is achieved, the reader's outrage will lead them to take some sort of action such as writing a letter to a politician, sending donations, changing their lifestyle and generally spreading the word.  That is the main goal in generating the indignation or even fury.   It can seem that increasingly disgusting stories are required as time passes.

Even if no direct action is taken, sometimes the forcefully expressed opinions can be intimidating.  We say nothing on the topic in the interests of not disagreeing.   Various 'cards' could be shoved in our face:   we are accused of being racist, sexist, carnivores, or just plain stupid  . . .  who wants to be that?   Saying nothing means only one point of view is presented.

News media is controlled by a few corporations and those that own them have a point of view.   They may have business interests that do better under certain political parties or policies.  There was a former Canadian prime minister whose newspaper photographs always showed him in a poor light:   he was tripping down airplane steps, he stumbled on a curb or his face was somehow contorted in conversation or while eating. It was pointed out by a more independent writer that media sources have hundreds of images to choose from and the ones they pick said more about their editorial slant than about the prime minister. He was shortly thereafter defeated but I've never forgotten that lesson.

Be attune to the photographs used, the language and even the placement of articles.     It is a truism that scandals receive front page coverage, apologizes for errors are on the last page.   Somehow politicians, and news organizations, seem to thrive on doom and gloom . . . and they are just the ones to solve it.

But take heart, despite what you read things are getting much better in the world.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


I read an interesting blog post here by Margaret Powling about her annual tradition of re-reading a book which she first read as a young girl and which had a great impact on her.  In some ways, the books that touch us significantly tell a great deal about ourselves and even as we get older and change, re-reading a treasured novel can provide us a hint of the person we were that we had almost forgotten.

That's a gift.

This practise isn't something I have done myself but it makes we wish I had.   Ms. Powling kept the book, originally filched from the local library, for over 60 years.    You would have to own the book as most library books could not survive sixty years of wear and tear not to mention frequent necessary culls that libraries engage in.

The post is fascinating to read because Ms. Powling eventually met and interviewed the author, the well known Rosamunde Pilcher and she signed the tattered novel which, being of the author's earliest writings was never re-printed.   Having lived in the area where the novel, entitled April, was set made it all the more poignant.

I have enjoyed re-reading books that I have enjoyed in the past.  For example, see here. Sometimes, there is nostalgia and the recall of an age and stage where a genre or plot of a book was particularly meaningful, other times the location is one that I visited or lived in and hearing those familiar names mentioned and framed in the story's setting adds personal involvement.

It is likely better than re-watching an old movie or television show as you come to realize how stilted the acting was or how unrealistic the sets.   I was shocked when I realized that the Ponderosa home on Bonanza was a set with painted backdrops.  We must have been easily distracted by the action.   Although I was recently told that real fires are no longer used in movies and television programs since it can all be added after filming by means of CGI (computer generated imagery)   For safety reasons I will have to let that pass.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Environmental issues, large and small.

There's an enormous chunk of ice waiting to fall off the Antarctic ice shelf.   It's the size of Prince Edward Island (or Manhattan), 5660 square kilometres.   There are unknown dangers but there are definite consequences when a chunk of ice this is size reaches shallow depths of ocean and scrapes its heft along the ocean floor.  Penguins and their chicks have difficulty traversing around something this large and entire colonies become unviable.    Scientists seem to be uncertain as to long term, less localized consequences but the sheer size adds to the drama.

Then there is the matter of the much smaller honey bee whose appearance is much less dramatic but the importance of this small insect is difficult to overstate.

This article in The Guardian details how despite years of research and warnings we are still setting ourselves up for the catastrophic consequences that would arise from the death of bees.

You can start small and in doing so save yourself a tedious task.   Let dandelions take over your lawn.   This article in The Guardian makes us aware that in addition to bees, beetles and birds benefit.

The BBC is hosting a series The Wonder of Bees  which should be worth watching.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

What are we entitled to?


There are regular news stories and articles about the cost of housing in Vancouver and Toronto.   In Britain, housing and accommodation is even more expensive.   I came from a poor immigrant family but grew up in Vancouver.   But that was then and this is now.   Is there an entitlement to live in the location one chooses?

A large cities has many amenities, sources of entertainment, easy access to top medical facilities and good rapid transit.   These are all things that are either lacking or present in much smaller quantities in small towns and rural areas.   I imagine that their presence is part of what drives up the cost of urban housing.    Perhaps only one or even no vehicle is required in the city;   a considerable cost saving.   Vancouver has an ever increasing number of bicycle lanes, lovely to use when the weather cooperates but can't be pleasant from November to March.   

Of course, one must accept the crowds, the traffic jams and the cost of paying for parking so there are trade-offs.   Some people love the big city atmosphere -- the buzz.   There's always something happening, there's something for everyone.   Alternative ways of living are more easily accepted and there's more privacy as it is easier to become lost and faceless in a city.  This can lead to more loneliness, paradoxically.


If you grew up in a big city like Vancouver or even if it is everything you want in your choice of personal venue, are you entitled to live there?   Assuming you have the correct immigration status, the answer is yes.  But don't leap for joy yet, there's that small matter of the cost of housing.   You can't live in Vancouver unless you either:

a)  bought a place to live years earlier and can afford the mortgage;
b)  have a GOOD paying job.   I would estimate $100,000 annual salary for a       single, $150,000 for a couple, maybe even with 1 child.   This is to own or rent.
c)  still live at home with your parents
d)  Are exceedingly frugal, clever and original in your thinking about housing.

You may be wondering about what is meant by the last option.    It means you are prepared to think outside the box in terms of housing and live in a tiny house in a place that permits it, share a 5 bedroom house with 5 like-minded people, or do the usual climb the property ladder game with great patience, buying a $250,000 studio condo, making double payments on your mortgage and moving up each 5 years or so until you can buy a fixer-upper in an undesirable neighbourhood.   Your children will thank you as they will likely be the ones to move to the home you always wanted after you depart this life.   Housing becomes a generational thing.

People protest about housing costs;  does it help?   Everyone wants the maximum they can get when they go to sell their house.   Should landlords subsidize their tenants?   If you are not employed, do you need to live in Vancouver, much as you might like to?   Some people live in a tent city in a local park;   the residents generally protest vociferously.     But everyone should have a roof over their heads and those unable to provide it must be looked after by others.   Switzerland requires that all relatives, older and younger provide assistance first, before the state will invest tax revenues.  So both grandparents and children could be required to assist parents and so on.   Does this obligation extend to second cousins, twice removed? 

Governments promise subsidized housing built by the taxpayers as they have difficulty persuading developers to lose money.   Or adding cheaper housing to more upscale units becomes a condition of receiving a development permit at city hall. 

Young families contribute life and atmosphere to a city.  Without them schools close and playgrounds wither.   A city of retirees who were fortunate to buy when housing was cheap is not desirable from many perspectives.   Vancouver has put a tax on non-resident purchasers, something already present in other locales.   Does it help?   Starting this month, July, a tax is to be levied on homes that are not occupied at least six months of the year.   I imagine enforcement will be onerous.   As was done with illegal basement suites, the city ends up relying on neighbours calling to complain.   Is that the right approach?   I imagine there will be work available for companies to supply individuals to make the rounds of empty homes,  turn on the lights, crank up the heat and leave the faucets running, all in aid of raising utility usage to acceptable levels.   Since government agencies provide these services they provide a means to track owners' presences.    Do we want this type of intrusion into our lives?   What if you follow recommendations to conserve energy and save the planet by using less power?   What would be an acceptable level to avoid suspicion?

We could start by looking at how other countries have dealt with this issue.  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Waste not . . .

The streets of Cairo are strewn with garbage, something that doesn't figure in tourist brochures.    A still developing country, it might seem that Egypt shouldn't have enough left over to discard.   Perhaps the brochure photographs make use of the same apps that can be used to remove the other tourists from your scenic shots to remove the detritus.   Similarly, selfie seekers need to be avoid certain angles where the heaps of garbage detract from the historic splendour of the Taj Mahal. 

Times of India

Partly, it is just habit.   In some neighbourhoods litter is rarely seen, despite the presence of public litter boxes.   Tossing trash can be contagious;  once there is one item, more easily follow.   A former mayor of New York worked wonders by dealing with matters like litter, graffiti and broken windows under the belief, proven correct, that reduction in crime is a by-product.   We take our weekly garbage pick up for granted, but where does our garbage go?

This article in The Guardian describes a convenience culture.   Food packaging is a major source of waste, much of it plastic based and not bio-degradable.   Even poisonous.   It might be a radical suggestion, but what about unwrapping the excess packaging and leaving at the checkout is mentioned in the article.

Think about starting small.   This blogger, at Going Zero Waste has a plethora of ideas.   Surely one will be easy to incorporate into your lifestyle.   Start small.

It is also important not to get discouraged about the world; that makes it easy to give up and just toss that wrapper on the ground.   Have a look at Professor Pinkers' article in Guardian and statistics here.  Things are getting better;  the least we can do is pick up the trash.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Saying those words can be difficult but they open the path to change.   It doesn't have to be phrased like that unless you just hit a baseball into someone's front window.   (You did stick around and make arrangements to cover the cost, right? ).  You might have said something like, 'I could have done better,'  or 'I think next time I'll try it this way," or even 'I'm going to start writing down my appointments so I don't forget them.'    Any of these phrases, or something similar, all have something in common:   You are taking ownership for your actions.

It's interesting how people like taking credit for something they did that turns out well, even if success was also a surprise to them.   But admitting that what happened was a direct result of your actions is not so easy when the outcome is negative.    Perhaps society, in the form of parents and teachers, must bear some responsibility.   We could see errors, bad choices and poor behaviours as teachable moments, suggest ways to improve and then --this is the important part -- hold children accountable for improvement.  But sometimes we choose to rain down criticism and punishments without future solutions that leave the child/student deciding to avoid future similar events at all costs.   Thus, is blame someone else born.


Some children/adults will lie -- if they think they can get away with it.  Even with the chocolate cupcake icing smeared on their face they will deny that they took one after being told not to before dinner.   In a two year old it's almost comical.   Some people get good at lying, straight-faced and with righteous indignation that someone else was to blame.   The problem is there is this thing called credibility.   The courts rely on it a lot to decipher the truth and most of us develop a sixth sense about it even though it is not reliable.    But once you have categorized someone as a liar or at least prone to fantasy or wild exaggeration their future veracity is in doubt.   Kind of like the boy who cried wolf.

I think there is an inherited component to it.   Young children who never acknowledge that there are areas of their education they need to work on - like not habitually losing assignments before handing them in will often have parents, who at parent/teacher interviews, will tell me that relatives came to visit or that the child had to go shopping with them or that Johnny wasn't feeling well as the reason homework was undone.   How many times do excuses work before they don't?    Children grow into adults and hang onto their habits.   It's always someone else's fault  that they can't hold onto a job, get into a financial bind, smoke and abuse prescription drugs.   I don't know if by now they believe their own excuses but I sometimes notice that they seem to check to see if the person they are talking to has bought into their excuse or do they need to work on honing their pitch.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Keeping Track of Characters

This morning I picked up an ordered book from our local library, my favourite place to find books to read (but don't let that stop you from purchasing mine!).  It might have been a donation because on the inside cover someone had written the characters names with their occupation next to it.   At first I thought, 'what a shame to disfigure a book' but when I started to read I found occasion to check back as to the significance of a name.  I was aware of the name of the main character as it had been given and explained on the back cover as a Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, but there was no mention of the other character in the opening scene.    I felt a little guilty as if I was validating the desecration but suspected I might have need of the information further on.   I've written before about the occasional difficulty in keeping track of a multitude of characters and that wasn't even about War and Peace.    

I will give the name of the book:  A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch.   I found this title when reading an on-line blog.   I've formed the habit of immediately going to my library account and ordering a book that strikes me as something I would enjoy whenever I come across an on-line recommendation.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Ah, MIllennials . . .


If you are anything like me, you will find yourself going down an internet rabbit hole -- or is it following a trail of  bread crumbs --  on a topic that has caught your imagination.   Recently it was all about how millennials (which is is not a group I am a member of) are thumbing their nose at what the establishment thinks they should be doing.   If I were an old hippie, which I am also not, I would be fist pumping, 'Yeah, go for it!' But I am silently cheering them on in their rejection of what the mainstream marketers think that age group, presently about 18 to 35 years, should be doing to keep the present business model going.

How are they not cooperating?  Why they are not buying diamond engagement rings? I can remember the ad that oh so helpfully advised young men that two months' salary was the right amount to spend.   Not working anymore, it seems.   I find many past (and present) advertisements degrading to women.   Is it just me?

They are also not so interested in buying cars.   Too much pollution, fracking, unstable oil prices, exploiting companies and workers and so on.   They are not interested in staying in the same job for thirty years, slowly working their way up the corporate ladder, hoping their loyalty will be matched by the corporation.  Millennials tend not to play golf;   takes too long and costs too much.   Not much exercise either.   Shopping in malls?   Not so much.   Nightclubs with expensive, watered down drinks and cover charges.  Not much fun to be had there.  Even car and home ownership seem dubious goals.

But, but, but say the baby boomers.   They should want these things.   We did . . . eventually.   Plus we need them to buy our million dollar+ homes and finance our retirement.     We need them to keep old industries afloat, pay a lot of taxes and finance our healthcare and relaxing retirement.    

Frankly, I don't blame the millennials one bit.   Wages and salaries have been stagnant for decades; prices and taxes have gone up.   Whereas a new immigrant, one income family (my parents) could buy a house in one of the most expensive cities in the world for housing (Vancouver) within 18 months of arriving, it would be more realistic now to suggest 18 years of saving plus help from the bank of mom and dad to buy a small condominium.

I'd rebel, too.