Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Source of Humour

The upcoming Ontario Provincial election has brought to my door the usual assortment of candidate brochures. These are not usually items that I spend much time with. They tend to say the obvious, endorse goodness and light and be vehemently, even if politely, opposed to all other political parties.

Yesterday, in the midst of an idle moment, I picked up two brochures that had gotten trapped in the usual debris on the kitchen counter and began to read. I hadn't gotten far into the first one when I began to chuckle. This brochure proudly proclaimed that the candidate was the father of six children and then in the very next sentence proclaimed that "he was a man of action." The second declaration hardly seemed necessary. I began to wonder if his promo writer was perhaps secretly on the payroll of one of his opponents.

The second brochure also began with a declaration that eclipsed everything else that followed in the glitzy brochure. The candidate's opening declaration was, "Nothing is more important to me than representing the people of ... after October 10." Wow! Who says that winning isn't everything.

The intentional, or unintentional, disclosures in these two brochures prompted me to scuttle off to the recycle container to retrieve the brochure from the representative of the third major party in the election. Unfortunately it didn't offer anything to match the revelations of the other two. It just had two themes - the evils of those other guys and the absolute saintliness of the candidate. Other than sounding like it might be the first salvo in a beatification submission it offered no comparable personal revelations.

My, aren't elections fun?

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Common Affliction

Ironically, in today's newspaper, it was a movie review that offered the most insightful comment on the world. An Associated Press review by Christy Lemire of the movie "Music and Lyrics" was the source. The review states, almost as an aside, concerning one of the characters in the movie, "Cora takes herself very seriously but has no idea what she is talking about."

Eliminate the personal reference and you are in possession of a comment that surely has a broad application. Our world is one in which each individual's right to express their personal opinion is sacrosanct. And, ridiculous as that sometimes becomes, I have no desire to restrict it - even when people obviously do not know what they are talking about. However, it is often the arrogance and blustering that accompanies the expression of such opinions that causes them to lose their charm.

When I encounter such pronouncements in the future perhaps I can save a little stress on my blood pressure by just muttering "Cora" under my breath.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Authority of the Printed Page

I have just read another article by an academic lamenting the unreliable quality of much of the material on the Internet (“The New Literacy” by Rhonda Mullins, Concordia University Magazine, fall 2006, pp.12ff.). The article lauds a project Concordia Libraries have undertaken to create a “self-paced interactive online tutorial” to assist students in “finding useful information, evaluating it critically and using it ethically.”

Laudable, and necessary, as this project may be it begs at least a couple of questions. As an irresponsible smart mouth I might poke fun at this use of the Internet to avoid the evils of the Internet. However, being slightly more responsible than that, I must readily concede that those very skills were essential ones to responsible research long before the Internet was even a gleam in the eye of the military establishment. It is not immediately obvious to me that the challenge of exercising such discernment is any more difficult when applied to Internet sources than it is when applied to print ones.

Repeatedly I hear academics and voices from the academic community trumpeting caution. I would be more heartened if more of them were seeking more ways to distribute their peer reviewed articles and scholarly work via the Internet. The vaunted arguments about copyright and being paid for ones work are all ones that can be addressed equally well when it comes to publication on the Internet as when applied to print.

This is not a defence of the quality of what appears on the Internet. However, to merely focus on the unreliable quality of some Internet data is much like criticizing those who get their news from the tabloids - without doing whatever one could to establish a responsible press (but that is another story for another day).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Demerit Points for Attitude

One of the luxuries of retirement is the opportunity to linger over the morning paper, which would be a great experience if the daily press was a bit more reflective and edifying. But hey, who am I to complain, I am apparently easily fascinated with the curious and the mundane.

This morning, for instance, I read the whole text of a relatively inconsequential article reporting on the activities of the Ontario Provincial Police in ticketing drivers on the province's highways over the recent holiday weekend.

One anecdote caught my eye. It seems that a 50 year old grandfather was stopped for not wearing a seatbelt. Ticket #1. As it happened he was transporting an unrestrained six month old grandchild in a carseat. Ticket #2. Then, in a fit of rage, he tore up the two tickets that had been issued to him and threw them out the car window onto the ground. Ticket #3 for littering. Hats off to the officer for doing the right thing.

It's almost unfortunate that there is not a ticket for "Having a Bad Attitude." This fellow was obviously a case of road rage just looking for a place to happen.

On the one hand, this is just a story to read and laugh about. And, that's where I began in my response. But then I started to think about the six month old grandchild in the car seat. What did this infant do to deserve having an irresponsible grandfather. If he wants to risk his health and safety by driving without a seatbelt he is at least toying with his own destiny. What gives him the right to risk the child's destiny? The optimistic side of my personality hopes that perhaps the guy, when his passion subsided, would recognize and accept the error of his actions. The cynical, read "realist", side of my personality fears that he will simply be more determined than ever not to let anyone tell him how to live his life.

The one positive side of it is that hopefully the grandchild, who is only six months old according to the report, will not have understood or remember what went on and will not be moved to emulate the grandfather's attitude in the years ahead.

Seasonal Blogging Disorder

Every summer, round about early August, I get the urge to reactivate my blog. It is a very compelling experience. I try my best to dismiss it as unimportant to my life, but it keeps rising to the surface and demanding to be placated.

The experience of the past is that the only way to requite this urge is to give in to it and whip out a couple of posts. Ironically, unlike submission to other urges in life, capitulating seems to quell the pang. Oh, if consuming food would only do that for the compulsion to eat! Anyway, here I am again.

I am making no resolutions about constancy. In fact, I may only be attempting to still the demons, but here goes. Don't expect something consequential! Passing urges are not usually the inspiration for great craftsmanship and deep thought!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

All in the Interest of Justice or something ...

I seem to possess an almost unerring instinct for homing in on these kinds of stories in the daily press and it frustrates me. On the one hand they are trite and usually unimportant and yet on another level they scream out in protest with the absurdidty they represent. Yet our world seems to have acquired the ability to absorb almost any absurdidty without so much as a blink.

The most recent story to hit me between the eyes in this way was a short piece from Canadian Press that appeared in my local paper. It was the headline over it that caught my eye - "Pay equity case ending 28 years after."

If the story is accurate these are the circumstances: Apparently some 28 years ago (that makes it about 1977) some 2,000 Canada Post employees filed a pay equity complaint. The complaint ended up before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. At first I thought that the problem was that the documents had simply gotten misplaced in someone's filing system, but the truth is much stranger than that.

At least, if the complaint did get misplaced, it wasn't lost forever. No mention is made of the first 16 years or so of the complaints existence, but we are told that the case resulted in some 417 days of hearings between 1992 and 2003. The Tribunal has explained that the further two year delay in issuing its findings is due to the fact that two members of the Tribunal have had to spend time reading the documents following the hearings. However, do not fear an answer is forthcoming. A spokesperson for the Tribunal has just issued an assurance that the decision of the Tribunal will be released this fall (2005).

Now, I trust that you are curious as to what great principle in pay equity was so fundamental to the Canadian work force that it deserved 417 days of hearings and some 28 years of research and preparation. Well, you will just have to go on being curious! As though it was a mater of national security, the Canadian Press article declines to offer even a hint. The original complaint related to pay equity and beyond that the article allows only that the case is "complex." Well, it is hard to argue with that. If it wasn't when it started one can be assured that after 417 days of hearings and 28 years of cycling through through the hands of a myriad of bureaucrats it is guaranteed to have become complex.

But we are about to be rescued. A verdict will be issued. The world will be put straight and if any of the parties to the orignal complaint are still alive they can have the satisfaction of appreciating another benefit of longevity.

No hurdle is too great to prevent the working out of justice in the bureaucracies of our great land.

It is to be noted that there is a hint of confusion in the article about the actual duration of this ordeal. The headline clearly states 28 years though a spokeperson for one of the original complainants refers to waiting 22 years for a response. But what's six years when we are finally going to get the verdict of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

However, I am not considering the case to be finished just yet. The article doesn't go into it but I assume that there must be some appeal process available. After all, this is Canada!

In my spare time I am presently working on a paper that proposes a modified "Gladiator" approach to the resolution of a myriad of conciliation and labour disputes. Each side in such a dispute would be able to select a Champion from amongst their number who would seek to defeat their chosen opponent in a best of three tourney. The jousters could be offered a choice amongst such endeavours as darts, ping pong, tiddley winks and even such assertive activities as arm wrestling. The winner of the toss gets to choose the event. Within an hour or two, in a public venue, right under the eyes of all the interested parties, the whole matter could be resolved.

But it might not be resolved justly, you protest?

Well, at least it wouldn't take 28 years, I reply!

(The article in question appeared on page A12 of the Monday, August 29th., 2005, issue of the Hamilton Spectator.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Anybody for a Beer?

I feel like a real slacker. I just saw a picture in the paper of a fellow in Edmonton with this huge stack of crated beer can empties in his backyard. According to the caption the stack represents some eleven thousand plus cold ones. The proud owner of the empties, one Lonnie Rennie, is happy to have us know that he is a good guy who recycles and that he is just waiting for the truck to pick up the over 450 cases of empties from the beer consumed by he and his friends over the past year.

My first instinct was to look to see if there was any sign of a catheter tube or plastic bag hanging from his belt. But that was before I began to get scientific about the whole thing and actually work the math.

You see, I first saw the reference to one year and immediately, without even thinking about it, knew that represented 30.136986301 plus beers per day. However, objectivity began to filter in and I remembered the mention of friends. There appear to be five other individuals on the back porch of the house, way down at the other end of the long line of stacked up cases. Now with six consumers that brings it way, way down to only 5.0228 (again instantly computed) cans per person per day. Of course, that still means working at it seven days a week and no time off for holidays (though somehow I expect with these guys that consumption actually goes up on holidays).

Now I got out my magnifying glass and strained my eyes to try to tell what these guys were drinking. It's a newspaper photo so resolution is a challenge. However, I could read a few labels on the ends of the cases in the foreground. There seemed to be quite a few cases of Canadian, some Ice, some Coors Light (gotta watch the waistline) and at least one case of Kokanee.

I suppose that if someone insisted I could drink five cans of beer a day, but I am not at all sure that I would want to do it in the constant company of five other people who were also each drinking a minimum of five cans a day. Somehow I think that I would lose my party spirit by about the end of the first week.

It seems obvious to me that these guys are in desperate need of a change of brand. I love beer. I really enjoy drinking it. However, for me the pleasure is in savouring it not swilling it. It doesn't really get better after the third bottle - you just think that it does.

Anyway, if Lonnie or any of his friends want to e-mail me I would be happy to suggest any one of forty or fifty brands from around the world which have a capacity to satisfy before they stupefy.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Much Ado About Nothing

Unemployed Y2K alarmists may be on the brink of another 15 seconds in the limelight.

My recurring gripe about the way the media routinely tries to make alarmist news out of nothing has been triggered yet again.

A headline on page 11 of my local paper today shouts, "Technology worries over time change: Earlier start to daylight time could pose problems." Then about 25 column inches are devoted to trying to whip up concern about the dire technological consequences that may flow after President Bush signs new US energy bill adjusting the starting and ending dates for Daylight Saving Time.

Despite the bold headline the Associated Press article by Anick Jesdanun really fizzles. The five industry and technical sources quoted all fail to substantiate the headline. The bottom line is that come 2007 some poor souls who fail to manually reset their VCRs may, as a consequence, miss an episode of their favourite soap opera that they hoped to tape while they were out playing bingo. Big deal!

(This AP article was carried in the August 8th. issue of the Hamilton Spectator.)