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Thursday February 17, 2022
Editorial note: I’m feeling mentally lethargic these days, so rather than try to write about an entirely new subject, I thought it worth repeating last year’s column about “Pink Shirt Day,” which is coming up next Wednesday
Anti-Bullying Day started in Canada. I’m proud of that fact, as proud as an apologetic Canadian can be about anything.
Two teenagers in Nova Scotia, David Shepherd and Travis Price, objected to another student being ridiculed for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school. So they bought 50 pink shirts and handed them out to other students, to wear in solidarity with the bullying victim.
Because their act coincided with the school year, Nova Scotia first set Anti-Bullying Day in September. The day moved around a little, as other provinces climbed on the bandwagon. The government of Canada now defines the last Wednesday of February as Anti-Bullying Day.
So when I took the dog out for her morning walk yesterday, I was wearing a pink T-shirt.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: bullying, Incarnation, Pink Shirt Day
Sunday February 13, 2022
I’m trying to find impartial and unbiased words I can write about the convoys of trucks and truckers who have occupied Ottawa, blocked the border at Coutts in Alberta and Emerson in Manitoba, and snarled traffic at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit.
And I can’t find any.
I have no sympathy for them, or their cause.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: freedom, Convoy, Blockade, Ottawa
Thursday February 10,2022
I wonder if anyone will send me a Valentine’s Day card next week.
I haven’t actually made a Valentine card since I was in school. Back then, a card from Dorothy meant only that she had drawn my name out of a hat.
In reality, I’m sure, Dorothy thought of me as a boring math geek. True love was not on her mind.
Tags: love, Valentine's Day
Sunday January 22, 2022
Let’s set the scene, first.
A country long considered a satellite state, almost a colony, of a nuclear superpower changes its government. The new government rejects its former connections with the superpower, and tries to build an alliance with an opposing superpower.
The first superpower feels threatened. It masses its armed forces close to the offending nation. It threatens to restore the previous status quo by force.
Meanwhile, the other nuclear superpower ships heavy weapons to its new ally.
Nuclear war seems imminent.
You probably think I’m writing about the current situation in Ukraine. I'm not. I’m describing the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Tags: Russia, Cuba Missile Crisis, Ukraine
Thursday February 3, 2022
Welcome to February. In our calendars, February is the odd month out – although it has an odd number of days only every fourth year. If months had feelings, February would surely feel discriminated against. The shortest in class, for example. The exception to the rule. The lonely one.
Thirty days has September,
April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one
Except for February alone…
That simple rhyme is a mnemonic – a way of helping people remember.
Tags: Mnemonics, February
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.
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.
Tags: winter, Celsius, Fahrenheit, measuring
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