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Sunday January 16, 2022
I got a phone message the other night. A very nice voice reminded me that I had not paid my last electricity bill. So, of course, I called the company the next morning. And I got, of course, a voice menu.
“To confirm that you are the authorized representative for this account, enter your birthdate…”
“That information does not correspond with our data,” the robot voice informed me.
I got through, eventually, to a helpful woman who explained that the computer couldn’t recognize my birthdate, because it had never been entered. Now, wouldn’t you think that a computer smart enough to handle millions of accounts could have told me that?
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: algorithms, intelligence, Computers
Thursday January 13, 2022
The only channel where I can watch Jeopardy is a U.S. channel out of Seattle. So, in addition to the contestants’ wit and wisdom, I get to listen to ads for U.S. pharmaceutical products.
The first few lines urge you to try the drug. Followed by a full minute – or, in magazines, a full page, or more -- of warnings about possible risks and side effects.
It got me thinking that maybe other human institutions should be equally up-front about potential consequences.
The most obvious target would be religion. So I’ll chose the one I know best-- Christianity.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: satire, Christiaanity, caveats
Sunday January 9, 2002
Canada finally seems to have recognized that the original inhabitants of this continent have had a raw deal.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced a “historic agreement-in-principle” worth $40 billion to “compensate young people harmed by Canada's discriminatory child welfare system while reforming the system that tore First Nations children from their communities for decades.”
The discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School, plus another 1,000 or so at other sites, shocked Canadians out of centuries of complacency.
It shouldn’t have come as a jolt.
For seven years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission exposed story after story of persecution and discrimination.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls provided further evidence.
Did we listen?
Tags: Indigenous, aboriginal, invisible
Thursday January 6, 2022
I’m turning into a sentimental old fool. I find myself unexpectedly moved to tears, or at least to sniffles, by some act of kindness or caring.
It could be anything. A video clip about a group of people working together to extricate a moose from a mudhole. An anonymous donation to my church’s Thrift Shop that prepays purchases for a dozen or more shoppers.
The very best present I received this past Christmas was a letter from my granddaughter Katherine. “Is it okay?” Katherine asked, when I looked up from reading her letter. I couldn’t answer; I was too choked up.
Tags: aging, Tears. sentiment
Saturday January 1, 2022
Long ago, I read an article about doing a year-end review. It said that if you could look back over the last year and find three good things to celebrate, you’ve had a good year.
As I recall, that had not been a particularly good year. I felt more inclined to focus on all the things that had gone badly. No need to go into details.
Every year since then, I have deliberately and consciously made the effort to list the good things that made the year memorable.
This year, one good thing particularly stands out for me. I became a plasma donor.
Tags: blood, plasma, donor
Thursday December 30, 2021
There should be a day for celebrating lost causes.
My little hummingbird didn’t survive the cold snap after Christmas. She showed up here after all the other hummingbirds had migrated south. I assume that the “atmospheric river” swept her up from the coast and dumped her in an Okanagan winter.
I had not bothered taking down my sugar-syrup feeders when all the other hummingbirds had fled south. So there she was, one day in December.
Temperatures dropped to minus-6 Celsius. And still she came back, every day.
Tags: hummingbirds, cold, St. Jude
Thursday December 23, 2021
I call myself a Christian (though I’m sure some would consider me a humanist at best, an atheist at worst). Certainly, I come from a Christian tradition. And Christian tradition has asserted, for centuries, that God was born as a human baby. We call him Jesus. Other cultures call him Jesu, or Yeshua, or some name that I don’t know.
Think about the sheer audacity of that claim. God became human! God didn’t just pretend to become human. God didn’t put on a human mask and go around in disguise. God became a human. A very specific historical human.
The Incarnation makes my faith much simpler. If I want to know what God is like, I need only look at Jesus.
Tags: God, Christmas, Jesus, Incarnation
Sunday December 19, 2021
I had trouble doing my Christmas decorating this year.
Last year, I found the bins of Christmas decorations Joan had put away in our basement the Christmas before. I set them up as I remembered what she had done.
This year, though, I couldn’t remember all the details anymore.
This Christmas, I realize, I’m not decorating for her. I can now only decorate for me.
Tags: Christmas, Blue Christmas, lonely
Thursday December 16, 2021
A few years ago, my daughter invited three temporary Jamaican workers for Christmas dinner.
As the oldest male in the family, I got to carve the Christmas turkey. Of course, I served the guests first. “White meat or dark meat?” I asked.
The three women looked at each other. Then one of them ventured, “Dark.”
The other two agreed.
When plates were emptying, I offered seconds. This time, all three of the Jamaican women asked for white meat.
It turned out that they had made an assumption. They thought that references to white and dark related to their skin colour, not the meat.
Tags: racism, Prejudice
Sunday December 12, 2021
Things were just starting to get back to normal. Restaurants and drive-ins were open again. Sports events could have fans in the stands. People trapped in Canada for the last 18 months were booking flights to exotic locations.
And then the Omigod variant appeared. (Sorry, the OmiCRON variant). Some old rules were re-instated. Some new rules were imposed.
Suddenly, a return to “normal” -- whatever that is – looked a lot farther away.
I suggest that we’re kidding ourselves if we expect that the world is ever going to go back to whatever we once considered normal.
On a personal note, I know that, since my wife’s death last year, going back to any former “normal” is impossible.
Tags: normal, Omicron, mutations