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Sunday January 30, 2022
A group of men, all over 70, meet by Zoom every Monday to solve the problems of the world. We call ourselves the Golden Guys.
Last week, we realized that we have more in common than age. Of the six Golden Guys present, every one of us had at least one child, grandchild, or close family relative with some kind of intellectual, physical, or emotional challenge.
Some of our young ones have been officially diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Some are in excellent physical shape, but have emotional handicaps. Some will never be able to read or do math above a Grade 4 level. Some have physical malfunctions.
I’m deliberately being vague, because this column is not, and should not be, about them.
It’s about us.
And about the Olympic Games, now less than a week away.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: autism, Olympic Games, competition
Thursday January 27, 2022
When Canadians have nothing else to talk about, they talk about the weather. (Or , being Canadian, they apologize for talking about the weather.)
Recently, a family of four froze to death in a field near Emerson, Manitoba. News reports say they had warm winter clothes. But they still succumbed to wind chill and minus-35 Celsius temperatures.
Apparently they were trying to cross the border, illegally, into the U.S. They died within yards (metres) of the boundary. A few more steps, and they’d have crossed into warmer climes. Where it would have been only minus-31.
Fahrenheit, that is.
That’s a joke, although it’s no joking matter.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: winter, Celsius, Fahrenheit, measuring
Sunday January 22, 2022
There was a time in this fair land when commercials did not run (with apologies to Gordon Lightfoot) on the vast majestic airwaves of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Back in those days, in my first full-time job, I wrote commercials for a private radio station in Vancouver. I saw how advertisers knowingly distorted the truth to make a sale; they cared little about the well-being of their customers.
I submitted an article to Maclean’s Magazine for their now-defunct “For the Sake of Argument” section, contending that advertising needed a rigidly enforced code of ethics.
Maclean’s – which of course relied on advertisers for its revenue -- didn’t print it.
These musings were prompted by a recent email from the David Suzuki Foundation, and by a research report on the carcinogenic qualities of alcohol.
Tags: CBC, commercials, advertising
Thursday January 20, 2022
“My wife keeps getting younger,” friend Bob bragged the other day. “Since I married her, she’s had a new hip, a new knee, a new kidney, and a new shoulder.”
He was joking, of course. But it’s no joke. Most people my age have replaced some of our original equipment with spare parts. I have a titanium elbow. Another friend walks on two artificial knees and two artificial hips.
And almost all of us benefit from eyeglasses, hearing aids, and enhanced teeth.
I read an essay, years ago, that wondered what the boundary was between human and artificial. How many parts of the body can be replaced before we lose our identity as individual human beings?
Tags: Renewal. cells, human
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?
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.
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