Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Parental tutorial #1

Where does a parent's responsibility end?

I have a friend who thinks that his two daughters were poorly prepared for the vicissitudes of marriage because their parents never fought.

(Note that, while the latter claim challenges the limits of credulity, personal observation indicates that it may actually be true in this case. Guiness has been alerted.)

My friend muses that, if the girls had witnessed some parental spats while growing up, they might have been better able to understand that the arguments that surfaced in their own marriages were not inevitable precursors to the end of the connubial state.

As it happened, both daughters' marriages ended in divorce.

This may be instructive for those of you with children.

Behave accordingly.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Field test

Friday, April 26, 2013

Gender shift in Canadian politics

Down through history, there have been women who have run tribes and countries.

Boudica, Cleopatra, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, and Julia Gillard are among the best known today.

While still under-represented in the ranks of MP's and MPP's, women are now governing many of Canada's provinces and territories. Premiers Eva Aariak in Nunavut, Kathy Dunderdale in Newfoundland and Labrador, Christy Clark in BC, Alison Redford in Alberta, Pauline Marois in Quebec, and Kathleen Wynne in Ontario are current incumbents.

In the past, Northwest Territories, PEI, and the Yukon have also chosen female leaders.

As this got rolling with BC's Rita Johnston in 1991, we can hardly claim that it just burst upon the scene, but there has been little fanfare. Imagine the media hoopla if half the state Governors in the U.S. were women.

Maybe that's a good thing, indicating that Canadians don't see it as a big deal, but just something that is long overdue.

Does the shift to women in the top jobs mean politics will change?

Some think that estrogen brings with it more integrity, more morality, and less ego-driven conflict than does testosterone. Maybe better interpersonal skills, too.

We'll see.

One thing we won't likely see is lack of toughness. Think Margaret Thatcher dropkicking Argentina out of the Falkland Islands, and giving unsolicited advice to Ronald Reagan, or Angela Merkel laying down the law for the distressed countries of southern Europe, or the original "iron lady," Golda Meir.

Amazingly, I'm not hearing much resistance to this, even from the old white men who usually grouse about any change.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A temporary interruption

No blog post today, my friends. Geezer is working on his income taxes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Code red

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The joys of travel

International travel is so broadening, isn't it? Seeing new sights, sampling foreign cuisine, experiencing other cultures, meeting the inhabitants of far away places?

Well, maybe not, based on these comments received by Thomas Cook Holidays:
  • "I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."

  • "It's lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons.

  • "I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time - this should be banned."

  • "On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all."

  • "We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels."

  • "The beach was too sandy."

  • "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white."

  • "Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women."

  • "No one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."

  • "There was no egg slicer in the apartment..."

  • "We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish."

  • "The roads were uneven."

  • "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It only took the Americans three hours to get home."

  • "I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends' three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller."

  • "The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation'. We're trainee hairdressers - will we be OK staying there?"

  • "There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners now live abroad."

  • "We had to queue outside with no air conditioning."

  • "It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel."

  • "I was bitten by a mosquito, no-one said they could bite."

  • "My fianc√© and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."
Bon voyage.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Long may she reign

Whatever your views on the monarchy, surely you will agree that Queen Elizabeth has performed her duties with diligence and grace since inheriting the crown in 1953.

So, on her 87th birthday, here she is, as she was and as she is.

Can't view the video? Click here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The curse of interesting times

"May you live in interesting times."

The Chinese curse.

Frankly, I've had enough of it.

I grew up in the 1950's.

Those were wonderfully boring times.
We were called "the silent generation."

There wasn't much to talk about.

Louis St. Laurent was Canada's Prime Minister.

"Uncle Louis" gave us peace, order, and good government,
without excitement, and without upsetting the Americans.

He built highways.

Canadians were feeling pretty good.

Better times after two decades of poverty, joblessness, and war.

The future looked bright.

The Americans elected Dwight Eisenhower.

After winning World War II, "Ike" wanted to play golf, which he did.


He built highways.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ruled.

The future looked bright.

People sat on the porch,
waved to strolling neighbours,
relaxed in a backyard hammock.

There were picnics,
and church socials,
and baseball in the park.

There were Sunday drives.

There was a calm over the land.

Then the 1960's broke out, and things got noisy.

Fifty years later, threats, attacks, explosions, gunfire, gangs,
someone with a cause, a grievance, a grudge.

Always some idiot somewhere, making trouble.

Mindless violence and deliberate violence.

Now bombs at the Boston Marathon.

What the hell?

Interesting times? No thanks.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Paper is not dead

[Thanks to Ross of Brampton, Ontario, for sending this along.]

Can't view the video? Click here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Could Facebook become radioactive?

Facebook is ubiquitous, the operating system for modern life, with more than 1 billion members.

So far, people seem happy to trade off their privacy for the delights of the world's largest network.

Could that change?

People have been seduced into sharing an amazing amount of information about themselves via Facebook. A click to "Like" a post or a product seems such an innocent act. Sharing photos of a party, or an adventure, seems harmless. By the next day, you probably will have forgotten those clicks.

But Facebook never forgets.

Where you go, what you buy, who you know, what you like and dislike, who you voted for, whether you're gay or straight, whether you're religious or an atheist, whether you're a meat lover or a vegetarian, whether you live alone, where you work, where you've traveled, which organizations you belong to, whether you're poor or affluent, whether you're a gun owner, or a racist, or an illegal immigrant.

It's all there, and a whole lot more. Even when you are not posting explicit statements about such things, they can be deduced from comments, photos, friendships, and so on, not only on your own page but on those of your friends, too. All of that can, of course, be aggregated into a profile of you.

People are watching.

Some are just interested in selling you something. They're looking for clues to help target their ads more accurately. Although a bit spooky, this is relatively benign, maybe even desirable if it helps you find a product or service you need.

But some of those people work for police departments, insurance companies, prospective and current employers, government agencies, and others who can affect your life in more consequential ways.

As I mentioned in a recent post, the New York City police are attempting to prevent youth from leading a life of crime by making them "radioactive." The detectives use Facebook, and other social media, to learn about these teenagers. Then they create a dummy Facebook page with a fake profile of an attractive teenage girl, and bait the young men with “friend requests” to get around privacy settings. The goal is that they become "alienated" by those who would recruit them into gangs.

Surreptitious tactics used in a good cause, but how would you feel if similar tactics brought you to the attention of the authorities as they were investigating someone you had "friended?" Perhaps you just happened to be in a group photo that also included this person, or had been at the same party, or had happened to meet them while traveling, and now the police are scrutinizing everything you ever posted online? Things you wrote in jest may now be interpreted as "suspicious," even "dangerous."

Improbable? Perhaps.

Then consider that an insurance company may check you out on Facebook to see whether you have health problems, or engage in risky activities. If you have filed a claim for long term disability due to a car accident, they'll be looking to see whether you are out jogging or kayaking.

A prospective employer will take a look at your Facebook page to see who is in your network, what you're doing, and what you're thinking, that makes you a suitable, or unsuitable, candidate.

Did you mention that you and your family will be away for two weeks on a cruise? Did all of your Facebook "friends" wish you bon voyage? A perfect time for a burglar to visit your home.

What might an identity thief or a stalker learn about you, or your children, from Facebook?

Once you have "friended" someone, you are part of an exponentially expanding network that includes their friends, their friends' friends, and so on, most of which is largely beyond your control.

Now consider that other databases, maintained offline by governments, banks, credit card companies, and others, have lots of information about you. If you come under suspicion, despite being completely innocent, some of those databases will be searched, too, and when authorities are asking for information about you, that raises a red flag. If there's a police cruiser in your neighbour's driveway, your curiosity is piqued, isn't it? Same thing here, but with much greater consequences.

It's not just Facebook, it's Big Data. But Facebook is the easy place to start investigating, because it's easily accessible and everybody uses it.

Amazing technology, using powerful computers, is being developed to make this kind of thing possible. They can deal with exabytes of information, sifting it in seconds to suggest connections that may be further investigated. Exabyte is a term meaning "more data than you an possibly comprehend."

There is a profitable market in collecting and reselling Personally Identifiable Information (PII). PII is industry jargon for information that alone, or in combination with other information, can identify you, locate you, and contact you.

So, here's my question.

May we expect that when the mainstream media eventually latches onto this, and the headlines are full of regular folks who have been robbed, raped, killed, denied insurance, deported, arrested, sued, and fired, due to their use of Facebook, will it become like Chernobyl --- something that was once useful and valued, but that got out of control, caused massive damage, and was forever abandoned?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Primed for power

Four Canadian prime ministers appear in this 1967 photograph. From left: Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, Jean Chretien and, PM of the day, Lester Pearson.

After decades in power, the Liberals had been defeated in 1957 by the Diefenbaker Conservatives. The Liberals reached out to Pearson to return them to power in 1958. Canadians said, "No," awarding 208 seats to the Tories and just 48 to the Liberals.

But in 1963, Pearson's party came roaring back to form a minority government, and repeated in 1965. That cabinet included Trudeau, Turner, and Chretien, all of whom would take a turn as prime minister.

In this photo, Trudeau, born of privilege and educated at Harvard, the Institut d'√Čtudes Politiques de Paris, and London School of Economics, appears to be sharing a joke with Turner, alumnus of UBC, Oxford University, and the University of Paris.

Pearson, former diplomat in London and Washington, Nobel laureate, and now Prime Minister, is obviously in a good mood.

How should we interpret the fact that Chretien, who came from humble origins, and styled himself as the "little guy from Shawinigan," stands alone, observing? A bit awed by all these worldly, sophisticated gentlemen, perhaps? He would win three mandates and serve as "the boss" for 10 years.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Big vs. BIG!

So, you think the Titanic was a big ship? Here it is, compared with the cruise ship Allure of the Seas.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Signs of the times

In news from south of the border:
• The majority of Americans now favour legalizing marijuana.

• A new study found that, in 42% of companies, low performers actually report being more motivated and more likely to enjoy working at their organization than middle and high performers.

A non-profit group plans to hand out free shotguns to residents in crime-ridden neighbourhoods of Tucson, Arizona.

• As recently as 2009, it was the world's fastest computer. It cost $120 million, covered 6,000 sq. ft., and used 55 miles of fiber optic cable. It was shut down last week, out-gunned by faster supercomputers.

• The New York City police are attempting to prevent youth from leading a life of crime by making them "radioactive." Joanne Jaffe, the department’s Housing Bureau chief, says “And we are going to learn about every bad friend you have. And you’re going to get alienated from those friends because we are going to be all over you."

• The first cellphone call was made 40 years ago, on April 3, 1973. Now, according to Pew Research, 87% of American adults have a cell phone, along with 78% of American teenagers ages 12 to 17. 44% of adult cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed; 67% find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls even when they don’t notice it ringing or vibrating; and 29% describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A cheer for the amateurs

Martha, who writes the blog Plowing Through Life, mused recently about the joy she experiences when taking photographs.

While not a professional photographer, her work is often very good. She has the "eye" to see the opportunity when it presents itself, the talent to compose the picture well, and the technical skill to capture a good image. She says she has been captivated by photography since receiving her first camera in her early teens.

I commented on her blog post that, while I greatly enjoy looking at good photography, I have no talent for doing it myself, nor any inclination to spend time learning to do it.

There is a sharp dividing line that separates the enjoyment of creating a thing from the enjoyment of the thing, itself.

For example, I enjoy making music with my guitars, composing tunes, experimenting with techniques to get a particular tone, and so on. This gives me much more pleasure than listening to recorded music.

My wife is, among her many talents, an excellent, gourmet cook. For her, cooking is an art, and her adventurous experiments in the kitchen have produced many memorable dinners. I am happy to be the beneficiary.

A neighbour showed me a finely crafted rocking horse that he had built for a grandchild. The joy of creation for him, a child's delight, and a future heirloom.

A volunteer in our Florida condo community has beautified our neighbourhood with plantings of flowers, shrubs, and trees. She has acquired the requisite knowledge, has a design sense that combines these elements in pleasing ways, and possesses the passion to drum up the necessary support.

Cabinet makers, sculptors, painters, gardeners, winemakers, jewellery makers, woodcarvers, poets, weavers, glassblowers, potters, candlemakers, aerobatics pilots, car customizers, and all the rest, doing it their way.

What good fortune to be surrounded by talented amateurs, to enjoy the fruits of their creativity, perhaps to discover our own gift, and to have the opportunity to pursue it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Golf magic

[Thanks to Ross in Brampton, Ontario, for sending this along.]

Can't view the video? Click here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Parents drug daughter, effects are lifelong

[Thanks to Libby in Caledon, Ontario, for sending this along.]

Monday, April 8, 2013

Have wine, will travel

[I came across the winebulance, thanks to Corinne in Vancouver, BC. Looks like a worthwhile public service.]

Friday, April 5, 2013

Signs of the times

A list of the countries that allow gay marriage:
  1. The Netherlands (2000)
  2. Belgium (2003)
  3. Spain (2005)
  4. Canada (2005)
  5. South Africa (2006)
  6. Norway (2009)
  7. Sweden (2009)
  8. Portugal (2010)
  9. Iceland (2010)
  10. Argentina (2010)
  11. Denmark (2012)
Legal in some jurisdictions:
  • United States (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
  • Mexico (Mexico City, Quintana Roo state)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bubba's hover

Man, I would love to have one of these! If you're having this much fun, who cares what score you're shooting?

Can't view the video? Click here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kings of the world

Nine European Monarchs attended the funeral of Britain's Edward VII.

Photographed at Windsor Castle on May 20, 1910 were, standing, from left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, King Manuel II of Portugal, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, King George I of Greece, and King Albert I of Belgium.

Seated, from left to right: King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King George V of Britain, and King Frederick VIII of Denmark.

Absent: Czar Nicholas II of Russia.

In addition to these, 76 other members of various royal families were part of the funeral procession.

Just 4 years into the future, the guns of World War I would destroy their world.

The magnificent Prussian stallions that pulled the funeral hearse had been a gift from Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II to his uncle, Edward VII. The horses were destroyed at the outbreak of war in a wave of "Germanophobia.".

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Opening day

As our beloved Blue Jays start a new season, expectations are high that a 20-year drought might be over. Hopes for the 37th opener are pinned on our new knuckleballer, R.A Dickey, who goes against the Cleveland Indians at 7:07 pm.

The Jays played their first game on April 7, 1977, with a small snowstorm sweeping over Exhibition Stadium just before game time. The new expansion team beat the Chicago White Sox 9-5, perhaps the high point of a first season that saw them finish in the basement of the AL East.

It took a while to reach the glory days of the back-to-back world championships in 1992 and 1993. Since then, fans have seen promising seasons repeatedly vanish but, as Canada's only major league baseball team, the Jays have an optimistic fan base that stretches from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland.

Backing up Dickie will be Bautista, Lind, Arencibia, Rasmus, Encarnacion (DH), and newcomers Reyes, Cabrera, Bonifacio, and Izturis. Canuck fan favourite Brett Laurie is on the DL and will likely be ready in about a week.

So here we go again.

OK, Blue Jays,
Let's Play Ball!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pride in the job #6

Source: theCHIVE