Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

This is not news.

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Reading other blogs can be a sometimes painful mission. You do it to see what others are writing about, to study their style (or lack thereof) and to see what answers they offer. Mind you, after each experience, I come away with the feeling that the social experiment of the Internet is akin to the compost heap I had at the back of my garden.

The good compostable material was rare and you had to help it along with some well rotted materials and the right bugs. Churning it occasionally also helped. Like the Internet, there are good smells and bad smells and you have to deal with them.

But a news medium, the Internet is not. (I will make a small exception for the Internet edition of England’s Guardian. Only because there is no speedy print edition availability on this side of the pond.)

It would probably surprise the Toronto Star, who send me their daily digital edition and newsletters for free, that the price is right. It is their newsletters that I consider more valuable. These are arranged in a linear form that allows me to self-edit and read more of what interests me, without getting trapped in endless trees and missing items of interest.

But who ever told these Internet browser companies that users want their ridiculous versions of news on their opening screens? Thank you, I do not want Microsoft or any other software company determining what is news for me!

Though I do feel badly for the legitimate reporters who have to read the twits from the Twitter King in the White House. Making sense out of that juvenile crap seems like a fate worse than death for a serious reporter.

Just consider yourself lucky you do not have to follow Trump on Facebook. That Internet phenomenon was designed originally to get more college kids sexually active and it never has grown up.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The Dutch have no lock on sex.

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Contrary to the opinions of tourists by the canals of Amsterdam, the Dutch did not invent sex. It is more likely that they are just more open about it. As I recall last time I was in Amsterdam, they had still not taught their residents about the value of scooping the pooping of their over-sized dogs. I might have looked at some of those ladies in windows, if only I had not had to watch where I stepped.

But that is no excuse for the blue-stocking Toronto Star using staff writer Heather Mallick to write an opinion piece about shutting down Amsterdam’s red-light sex windows.

And where she got her ‘informational’ revelations on the ‘gangster-run, money-laundering and exploitive’ business of sex work in beautiful Amsterdam is beyond me. She certainly did not seem to have much information on the very thorough and quite competent police in the Netherlands.

But Mallick is pandering to the typical attitude of feminists that it is all the fault of men. Women have been trading on the sexual interest they can draw since long before King David got the hots for Bathsheba.

And if you have been puzzled by the misogynistic Incel movement that led a young man to go on a rampage with a truck down Yonge Street in Toronto in April, 2018, you need come to an understanding. A very big part of it is the same reason that North American tourists gawk at the women in the windows of Amsterdam. The repression of sexuality in North America denies our natural instincts. This leads to mental health issues on this side of the Atlantic.

The sooner we accept prostitution for what it is—a safety valve and natural, the better. In the same way, we need to accept the human body with all its faults for what it is. We need to have a better understanding of our needs, urges, and desires while being more accepting of failures to meet some impossible standards of beauty and/or handsomeness. By accepting ourselves first, it makes us better prepared to accept others.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The weariness of being elite.

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

It is tough to be an elite. While we bandy the word about, we are really complimenting the people we deride for being elite. And yet we get defensive when we are accused of being one of those elites. Maybe those who think elitism is a state of mind are right: If you think you are, you might be.

I had always assumed that the elites were people most of us looked up to. Mind you, we look up to different people for different reasons. The athlete who makes an accomplishment is only king until his or her best is bested. The person with all the money might be elite until he or she is indicted for fraud or some other skulduggery. Actor, author, barkeep, communicator, doctor, engineer and the list goes on, but the elites can be variable. It is not just that they are better, or richer, or talented or erudite, or smoother, but they stand out in the crowd.

I remember when young and impressionable, I met John George Diefenbaker, whom, as prime minister of Canada at the time—was soon to be replaced by Lester B. Pearson—whom I also met and liked. I considered them both elites.

When I met John Wintermeyer, who once led the Ontario liberals, I was meeting a man from an old Ontario family. He was a true gentleman. I determined then that political leaders should be, and I emphasize the ‘should be,’ someone you can look up to. Oh, has that ever changed!

After having an interesting chat with Justin Trudeau over dinner one time, the wife and I spent considerable time discussing our thoughts. We were both convinced that he was far more like his mother than his father. We both thought highly of his father. Watching him later in action with a crowd, I realized he had something of an on/off switch, a handy item for a politician.

Listening to populists such as Doug Ford in Ontario and Donald Trump in the United States, railing against elites, I tend to be defensive. Yet if railing against real elites, they would include the Brit royals who are bred and trained to that aura of superiority.

I guess it is all in the attitude. Elites do make good subjects for whipping up images of privilege.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Does distaff determine Democratic destiny?

Thursday, July 4th, 2019

An unwieldy field of two-dozen potential candidates is vying for the Democratic nomination next year in the United States. Luckily, there have been surprises. The key surprise is that two women have been determined to be in the top four. To no one’s surprise, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is holding strong, as are former vice-president Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The surprise new leader and odds-maker favourite is Senator Kamala Harris from California.

This gal is sharp. Google her and you will find a web site that is a good balance between reasons why and requests for funds. There is a professionalism there that says she did not decide to do this yesterday. There is also a freshness.

Many believe Joe Biden did a bang-up job as vice-president for Barack Obama. He should be satisfied with that success. He did more than most VPs and yet he suffers from some of the Obama era errors. I think he should retire a winner.

The same seems to handicap Bernie Sanders. I love the way that guy thinks but he is like the guru on the mountain top. He has been breathing in that rarified air too long. Sure, America certainly does need to be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Bernie is just not up to doing it.

I think Elizabeth Warren’s story is one of remarkable achievement. She seems to have lived more than one lifetime already and is working on a third. America needs that fine mind of hers in the Senate.

The problem is that Americans have had the opportunity to see Biden, Sanders and Warren in action for a number of years. Kamala Harris is the new kid on the block. Americans need someone such as her to really reform the American political system.

Canadians will find some interesting similarities between former attorney general of California, Kamala Harris, and Canada’s former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould from British Columbia. The difference is that Harris is one very smart politician.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The airplane that fell to earth.

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

The original Boeing 737 narrow-bodied airliner was introduced in 1968 and was a short to medium range two-engine jet aircraft favoured by regional airlines. More than 10,000 737s were built by Boeing over the years as the company took it through various upgrades, including the 737 Classic, the 737 Next Generation and finally the 737 Max that could hop oceans and continents. In its final versions, it was a US$100 million plus aircraft.

By early 2019 almost 400 of the 737 Max aircraft had been delivered by Boeing and today, they are all grounded. They might never fly again.

Experienced commercial pilots are often delighted to express an opinion about the air worthiness of the aircraft. It has been test flown by experts without a problem. There are those who think it should be put back in service and there are also those who think it should be sent to the scrap heap. The arguments continue.

The facts are that there are basic design flaws that were accentuated over the years by the conflicting desires to improve the aerodynamics and reduce fuel consumption while adding distance and space for more revenue-paying passengers.

What is even more serious is the fact that many of the numerous computerized systems on the aircraft are using forty to fifty-year old software programs. Why update something that works, is the usual rationale. There are always new software modules to write with every version and ‘fix’ of an aircraft.

But there has been little changed in how we design and write software after all these years. Strangely enough there has been little concern for the advancement of software design. Other than questions being asked periodically during Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) meetings and discussions, and left unanswered. Software seems to be the forgotten science.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The Summer doldrums start early.

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

It is a fixture of fixed elections. It is not the beating of the war drums in the distant jungle but the sudden silence that creeps across the land. It sends a chill down the spine. It is a time of introspection.

And there is much to think about. There is no spot on the ballots to mark: None of the above. We have to compromise. We have to weigh the dangers, the possibilities, the opportunities. Whom do you trust? Whom do you distrust?

Yet it is discouraging for the writer to see the usual drop off of regular readership at this time of year. Readership is your challenge, your raison d’etre. You are not doing this for the bucks! This is just during the time in North America when good weather, road trips and holidays interfere with keeping tabs on politics.

But we know, come September, that readership will again trend upwards, with spikes of hundreds of readers. I am reminded of the old Starch studies of newspaper and magazine readership. ‘Read most’ was the goal of most writers and I like to think I stay in that race by keeping the daily commentaries within 400 words. Keep them short, breezy and provide a few thoughts worth considering.

Not that this writer is a slave to his computer. The wife and I will be travelling about over the summer. We have places to go, people to visit, events to attend. I always have some back-up commentaries to let run while away.

Wherever we travel, we will be questioning, postulating, listening and noting. Many of the people we will be seeing will be regular readers and they hardly hold back on their opinions and objections. They love to note contradictions from one commentary to the next. They make it known when bored with a particular subject.

But consider the writer. And how many times can you write a commentary about writing commentaries? Not too often, I would expect you to say.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The Donald loves Conrad.

Monday, May 20th, 2019

This is priceless. After serving just three and a half years of his sentence in the United States for fraud and obstruction of justice, Lord Black of Cross-the Pond (or whatever) has been fulsomely pardoned by the U.S. president. There you have it. All is forgiven. Conrad Black is no longer an ex-con!

Do you think he will now come out of his modest semi-retirement in Toronto’s palatial Post Road area? Will he be lionized once again on the Toronto cocktail circuit? Will his darling wife be once again displaying her magnificent figure in her haute couture gowns for the ogling lenses of Canadian paparazzi?

Or do you think Lord Conrad will hie himself to the Brit consulate in Toronto and get himself a renewed passport to his native England. We Canadians should not forget our intense relief when he gave us all the figurative finger, told us to stuff our Canadian identity and got himself declared a Brit and appointed a British Lord.

You would even hope that the Canadian Border Services people would do their job and make sure he has not overstayed his visitor status. If he was not reputed to have a couple hundred million squirreled away somewhere, premier Doug Ford would probably demand he be sent packing before applying for welfare.

Mind you, Conrad’s pretentions, remind me of a wonderful 1949 British movie from the Ealing studios called Kind Hearts and Coronets. It was a fine example of British black comedy starring Dennis Price and Alec Guinness. Maybe Conrad did not need to use his political pull to become a lord. He could have checked those ancestor sites on the Internet to find if he was just six or seven deaths from a title and fortune.

Mind you, according to the States Attorney in U.S. District Court in Chicago in 2007, Conrad Black got his money the old-fashioned way. He defrauded his companies. The court found him guilty and the judge fined him and sent him to jail. His buddy U.S. president Donald Trump (the real estate developer) found him innocent. Who do you believe?


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Is M’Lord Bored?

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

Lord Cross-the-Pond must be bored with his visitor status in Canada. It is not as though he does not have a suitably palatial estate in Toronto’s Bridal Path area for his retirement. I think Conrad Black gets bored easily.

Many would accuse me of being jealous. I am, a little. I will even admit that Conrad is a good writer. The ten-dollar words simply fly off his fat fingertips. He does not seem to write to inform. He writes more to impress. He also must have some rich friends willing to publish his erudite tomes.

He does not bother to have anything as mundane as his own website. I would suspect that he would consider such enterprise to be beneath him. And, after all, even Karl Marx had his Friedrich Engels to pay the publisher’s bills.

But Conrad has eschewed his epic biographic tomes recently in favour of writing his manifesto. He calls it, somewhat presumptively, The Canadian Manifesto. While I could come up with a reasonably long list of people, I would consider knowledgeable enough to discuss Canada’s constitutional needs, Conrad would not make the list.

And when he let the media have a go at chapters from his book, I went into shock at his solution to poverty in Canada. His solution bears a striking resemblance to Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.”

Black actually thinks the very rich Canadians can solve the needs of the country’s poor.  I cannot think of people less well equipped.

He proposes a wealth tax that would actually be credited to the wealthy person’s income tax—if the wealthy person did something to help the poor. Now is that not a dainty dish to set before the hoi-polloi?

Conrad seems to think that when politicians take money from the rich and give it to the poor, it is merely as a bribe to vote for the politicians who gave them the most. I wonder if he thinks corporations that pay stockholder dividends are bribing the stockholders?


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Best BSers in the English-speaking world?

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Though it is a rare occasion that I read Edward Keenan’s commentaries in the Toronto Star, I had a good laugh at his column the other day. It was not that his column was really intended to be funny. I was laughing at his problems with getting the word ‘shit’ past the Star’s editorial censors.

Obviously, he does not have the freedom enjoyed by his colleague Rosie DiManno. That woman is allowed to write any vulgar word she wants. I think the editors are all afraid of her. Keenan must now think that the proper spelling of ‘shit’ is ‘s—.’

But the story becomes clear when you find out that he was quoting information from an academic study by some Aussies and Brits. They obviously meant to ‘take the piss out of’ their friends the Canucks. (Taking the p— out of somebody in Australia or England is the same as taking the starch out of their shorts and bringing them down to your level.)

They told everyone that this was a serious academic study to determine which of the English-speaking peoples in the world were the best bullshitters. They said that the Canadians won. How we managed to edge out the Americans, we will never know.

Mind you, I can hardly argue against the conclusion. Deciphering bullshit is a common chore in writing speeches and literature for politicians. It is also fair to say that as a public relations professional, people assumed that I always wrote bullshit. I just made it as difficult as possible to prove.

But when you found out the people being tested in this study were 15-year old boys in each country, all the results are questionable. While 15 is a wonderful age, there are different levels of maturity experienced at that age in different countries. In England, they seem to be referenced as young gentlemen. In Canada you would think they are all eager to get their driver’s licence, so they can drive themselves to their hockey games. I guess the Aussie kids are all busy experimenting to see how much of their parents’ beer they can drink.

But our Canadian guys had us fooled. Bullshitters all!


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Delay of Game.

Monday, April 15th, 2019

There could be a serious family squabble in the offing. I might not have mentioned it in the past but the wife is the sports fan in this family. Not that I ever object to cold beer and a Blue Jays game on a warm summer afternoon but I am no fanatic.

And we are Torontonians and devotion to the Maple Leaf hockey team is in both our gene pools. Even living here in Barrie, we are ‘at home’ with all the other Leaf fans.

What is concerning me lately is the increasing mumbling across the breakfast table as the wife scans the statistics for all the Toronto teams each morning. I have explained endlessly that the paper was probably printed before she went to bed the night before. She is gradually getting the idea that it pays to check with the Internet.

But what is troubling me is the growing number of teams in contention for fan attention. There are the rambunctious Raptors, the fabulous FC and the traditional Toronto Argos already out there making Toronto famous at the same time as our hockey club has once again made it to the early stages of the Stanley Cup.

What I will not agree to in this cornucopia of sports is to support the greed of the broadcasting tsars. To be fair though, I am looking forward to the CBC continuing its tradition of bringing us Hockey Night in Canada. That was a smart decision.

But I was absolutely amazed when I saw the proposed monthly charges to the consumer to stream those hockey broadcasts through the Internet. With the costs of Internet service, with sufficient bandwidth for streaming video, constantly climbing, who can afford to watch sports.

There will be other households across the country that are going to have serious discussions about how to pay for all the specialty channels that people want to watch.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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