Archive for January, 2011

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Friday, January 21st, 2011

Premier McGinty will not be deterred

In a quest to be the voters’ preferred,

Rejects all histrionics or super bionics,

He just ambles along singing his song:

I’ve Timmy on my right, Andrea is left

And neither one has any political heft.

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Babel is back on the ice.

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

A feature of life in Babel each year is the annual migration out onto the ice of Kempenfelt Bay.  The movement is gradual.  First one hardly soul tries the ice cautiously and if he does not go through and need the help of the Babel fire department’s airboat to be rescued, another foolhardy fisherman joins him.  Soon the ice is crowded and small shelters are dragged out onto the ice to accommodate the less invincible of the ice fishermen.  Within the first weeks of the lake freezing over, the daily population on the ice of the bay starts to rival that of a small town.

And people keep devising new ways to increase the crowds.  In the past two years there has been a fishing derby that attracts thousands of people who want to stick a line through a hole in the ice to see what they can catch.  Most just catch a cold but some get sufficient fish for their efforts to bring them back.  From our angle the long lines of holes in the ice for the derby should have the words along them: ‘fold here.’   You would think that all those holes would weaken the ice.

Another worrisome trend we see is the increasing size of the ice huts.  We saw four men wrestling with a very large structure on the shore the other day and the next thing it was out on the ice.  It is the first two-storey ice hut.  We checked and we found it had a playroom for the kids in the attic.  That was sweet.  They said the family that fishes together, freezes together.

Mind you, there is more than fishing going on out there.  The parachutes pulling skiers and snowboarders along at breakneck speed are quite fascinating.  The fast moving snowmobiles are less attractive, noisy and more of a menace.  Others routinely defy death and go for a Sunday walk on the ice.  They dare the ice-boaters, snow-mobilers and other sports enthusiasts to run into them at their peril.  The fishermen just hunker over their hole in the ice and await a few more fish.

We keep waiting for the construction trailers next door in the water pollution centre to be pulled out onto the ice to be used as group homes for the fishermen.  With flush toilets, and electric heat, some of those doublewides could accommodate up to 30 fishermen at a time.  Mind you, we only make this suggestion in the hope that there is an early break up of the ice this year and the trailers disappear into the murky depths of Kempenfelt Bay.

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Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

We read today in the Toronto Star

They’ve 10,000 complaints so far.

About all those Bell telemarketers

Now tell us how the CRTC deters?

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Hon. Keith Davey – 1926 to 2011.

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

An era has ended.  It was the time of Lester Pearson.  It was the time of Pierre Trudeau.  The political strength of those men was that of Keith Davey.

Keith was a mentor, a friend and a fellow conspirator.  He was a playmate that I missed as a child.  We reveled in the sandbox of politics, theorizing, scheming, arguing and working together to build our sand castles of the political left.  We earned our enemies, our detractors, our supporters and followers.  Our trust was such that one could make the bombs and the other would throw them.

You never knew when Keith would call.  He played the telephone as a virtuoso.  His voluminous lists of contacts across the country kept him in constant touch with the opinions of the party and the nation.  He recorded it all each day in small crabbed handwriting on a single sheet of paper.

Keith hated hypocrisy.  This led to one of our greatest failures.  After writing about the politics of city hall for years, I was convinced that city politics needed to be openly based on party politics and accountability instead of the covert system then in place.  To my surprise, Keith told me he agreed and he wanted to help.  Keith took more of the blame for the fiasco when the party took the plunge than he deserved.

Lost to us in the veil of Alzheimer for his last years, Keith’s understudy, Hon. David Smith took the political reins for Jean Chrétien’s years as Prime Minister.  Keith was unaware of the sorry state of his party under Paul Martin and the ensuing regime of Stephen Harper.

Canada is a better place for Keith having been with us.  He is missed.

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We are going to have an election, tra-la!

Monday, January 17th, 2011

The chattering classes, the talking heads, the bloggers of note and the political pundits have all decided that Canada is going to have an election.  Who can argue?  The truth is that MP Dan McTeague told me the date of the election over a beer, more than a month ago.  And as sure as the price of gas at the pump will rise tonight, Dan has proved himself a reliable forecaster.

And that is the good news.  Canada needs this election.  Prime Minister Harper certainly wants it.  His only concern is to not look too eager and to manoeuvre the opposition into pulling the plug.  Opposition leader Michael Ignatieff is ready to do his part in ranting and roaring and demanding the election.  It is an opportunity for Jack Layton.  It is if he could just understand the opportunity.  His caucus is the problem as they just see lost seats no matter what way Layton turns.  Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc can only lose in this election as both Conservatives and Liberals target specific seats in Quebec.

The bad news is that it is Stephen Harper’s last chance to win a majority.  He will leave no rock unthrown in his determination to remake Canada as the extreme right wing country he believes it should be.  His Canada is a cold and bitter place of Old Testament judgement and survival of the fittest.

And this election is Michael Ignatieff’s only chance.  He needs the ‘Hail Mary’ play in this one because he has just the one chance to prove that he can lead the Liberals and the country.  He used the first eight of his lives as leader in two years of marking time, unable to retaliate against those attacking him from the rear.  In this election, he goes for broke!  Not winning a majority, under the circumstances, can be forgiven.  Not winning the government cannot be countenanced.

It should be Jack Layton’s last election as leader of the New Democrats.  It is not that he has been ineffective as leader of the NDP.  He just never proved there should be an NDP.  His party needs to join the socially conscious left wing of the Liberal Party.  With the Liberals, he can help form the concerted centre-left force needed to block the right wing viciousness of Stephen Harper.

And that leaves Gilles Duceppe, a leader with no future.  Separatism in Quebec is a failed ideology.  It is just not a winning proposition.  Quebec can ill afford to continue to let the world pass it by while it drowns itself in the jingoism and tribalism of a language ghetto.  It will soon celebrate fifty years of separatist foolishness when it so desperately needs leadership to build partnerships and a strong future in a united and equal Canada.

This will be a watershed election.  Canada will not be the same afterward.  Hopefully, Stephen Harper will be gone from the Conservative Party and the extremism of its right muted.  The NDP will see the renewed strength of its future as part of a more socially conscious Liberal Party.  The Liberals, with their new allies, will have settled the leadership question for the near future.

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Sunday, January 16th, 2011

We were young and we thought,

Maybe we’d give Arizona a shot.

First of all, it was too bloody hot,

But the extreme politics were not.

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Surviving the communications age. Part 11.

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

When addressing the concerns of the communications age, we sometimes omit simpler technologies.  That can be a mistake.  Some of these supposedly easy-to-use technologies can trip even the most wary among us.  Take technology such as the entry telephone at your apartment building.  ‘What could be simpler?’ you say.  Hah!  Even an entry phone can be a challenge for foolish users and the cause of many frustrations.

It was only after about six years of trying to let visitors come up to our suite that it became automatic to press the number ‘9’ on the telephone that would activate the switch that allowed the visitor to open the door.  Previously many of our visitors were required to call twice.  The second time, they would plaintively ask: ‘How do we get in?’

Then we would remember to press ‘9.’

But that does not work for the people stymied by the entry phone.  We have always been bedevilled by people who call us at random and ask if we will please let them in to see people we have never heard of.  And then there are the pizza and Chinese food deliveries.  They are so used to dialling our code anyway.

The greatest challenge is the person who is so unfamiliar with entry phones that they use their cell phone to call you to ask you to let them in.  You use up their cell minutes with a blow-by-blow lesson on how to use entry phones.  Most of the time is spent trying to explain that unless they call you on the entry phone, you cannot press ‘9’ to let them in.  When all else fails, you go downstairs to let them in.

Of course, when you are getting an elevator to go down 15 floors to let them in, some kind soul has let them into the building and they pass you in the elevator taking them up 15 floors.  You can lose friends that way.  Literally.

Mind you, even companies that sell entry phone systems can forget to mention things that can cause confusion.  They want to make a sale.  Why cause buyer concern.  Like what they forgot to tell the joint facilities committee that currently looks after ours and a sister building.  The two condominiums share a gate house.  The committee decided to put the gate at the gate house on the entry phone system.  The system was installed before anyone was told that the two building’s unit codes could not be integrated. 

People in the two buildings could not explain to their visitors how to use the gate house system as it used entirely different codes and, of course, took about twice as long to scroll through and find the number for the person being called on.  Concern about similar names in the two buildings was also another late thought.  The installation was a mess and nobody was happy except the entry phone company.  They got paid twice; once to install it and then again to make it work.  We now tell our visitors to eliminate frustration and come to the back door and forget about the main entrance.  At least we know how the entry phone at the back door works.

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Friday, January 14th, 2011

Dalton tells us Ontario’s got it,

Tim tells us Ontario will get it,

Andrea tells us come an’ get it.

It’s the political season isn’t it?

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Report No. 1 from Babel City Hall.

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Your Reporter: (breathlessly) “Reporting in boss, we just covered our first city council meeting of 2011.”

News Director: (stuffily) “Well, what’s the report?  What happened that our readers, listeners or viewers will want to know?”

Y.P: (dejectedly) “Nothin much.” (a glimmer of an idea) “Just a minute.  I got a good shot of the mayor without that surprised grin he’s had on his face since election day.  I think he’s trying to look more magisterial.

N.D: (huffily) “Big deal.  In four years, he’ll look like he’s got a chronic ulcer.  Like me.  What else, ya got?”

Y.P:  (cheerfully) “We got a shot of three senior cops.  I’ve never seen so much metal on cop uniforms before.  They were patting themselves on the back for doing their job when that tornado went through Midland last year.  The Midland chief of police gave our chief a plaque.”

N.D:  (peevishly) “That’ll run on page 50—if we have enough advertising for 50 pages.”

Y.R” (perkily) “And guess what?  City council is gonna spend $65,000 next year slowing down traffic.  Well, they are if the budget item passes.  Every ward councillor is going to have cushions to put down on the road that their constituents complain the most about.  Ain’t that great?”

N.D: (wearily) “Cushions?  What the hell good will they do?

Y.R: (thoughtfully) “Wul, they’re kinda like temporary speed bumps that if you speed over them, they can damage your car’s tie rods and send you out of control into the nearest pedestrians.

N.D: (unbelievingly) “And council agreed to killing pedestrians?”

Y.R: (laughingly) “Of course not.  It’s a known fact that people don’t want to damage their car, so they slow down for them.  I don’t think they’re  out to kill pedestrians.  Yet.

“And the city also got some speed boards that they put up on problem streets to tell people how fast they are going.  The boards can also be redirected so that local skate boarders can have speed trials.”

N.D: (grumpily) “But what’s happened to the new, fresh, open council that the new mayor promised us?”

Y.R: (musingly) “Gee boss.  Nothing, I guess.  Nobody wanted to talk to council about anything last night.  I think it was just too damn cold and nobody wanted to come out just to complain about something.  Give ‘em time.

“Mind you, if the new mayor thinks that council is open and transparent for Babel citizens, he’s in for a surprise.  He does it in a friendlier way but he seem’s just the same as that last mayor—sitting there with all that metal around his neck, talking about things that people at home aren’t supposed to understand  unless they have an agenda.

“You know boss, our new mayor should take a page from the experience of great mayors of the past like that guy Fiorello LaGardia of New York.  When the newspapers in that city went on strike, Mayor LaGardia knew just what to do and he went on radio every day during the strike to read the comics to the people in New York.  That shows that a good mayor knows what it is that people really want.”

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

President Obama is heading to Tucson to give the eulogy,

If to preach for gun control, should he waste the energy?

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