Friday, August 19, 2016

Look Before Flocking

Those of you who bravely subject yourselves to the ramblings contained in this blog, already know we have bird feeders ("Goldfinch Gold Mine" May 3, 2016).

You likely already know, too, that after resisting the idea of acquiring the feeders, I am the only one who looks after them ("Feeder Fodder" November 30, 2010). I have been the only one who *&%$#@*!~ looks after them for many, many, yes - that many - years!

Four seasons a year, sometimes every second day, I fill them with seed!

At considerable risk to my sanity, I fight tooth and nail with greedy squirrel intruders to protect the feeders, and my wallet, from bottomless rodent appetites.

Hey, the birds are depending on me.

Our neighbours have moved away. They never wanted a fence between our houses and, in the beginning, that was fine. After we bought dogs, however, we always wanted a fence, so the beasts could have their very own dog run.

This week, we got a fence installed.

The delighted dogs run themselves silly, even in this heat! Their kingdom has expanded, although they eat way too much of its grass!

The new reality
The birds that know our feeder are not used to factoring in dogs when they visit, and yesterday, the second day we could let the dogs run around the yard, Bear, our Australian Labradoodle, pounced on something and then picked it up in his mouth. My wife and son pried open his mouth to find a little swallow inside.

We scolded giddy Bear, but I could tell he was oblivious.

The bird flapped, rose for a short distance, and then landed back on the grass, her breast heaving.

We called the wonderful people at Le Nichoir, the rehab centre for songbirds.

They agreed to stay open until my son and I got there with the swallow.

We were instructed to put the bird in a covered, dark box, with something like paper, or a towel, on the bottom.

After arriving at Le Nichoir, my son filled out a form and we waited to hear whether the bird would be ok.

Catherine gave it to us straight, telling us its femur had been broken and because bird bones are hollow, there would be no way to heal it.

She told us the bird would be put down.

We asked, reasonably we thought, whether it could survive with one leg and she explained that perching birds, perch.

With one leg, it would lack sufficient grip to perch where it wanted, fall to the ground, and break its wings.

On that rather somber note, we thanked Catherine, made a donation, and left.

Our new reality, and the new reality for birds visiting our yard, is that our dogs want to swallow swallows.

My son vowed to stand by the feeders when we allow the dogs into the yard.

I suggested we hang a gong on the back deck and then bang it, to scare off birds and squirrels, each time we let the dogs into the yard.

Birds of a feather can flock together, I just hope they have a look around before they flock here.



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Citius. Altius. Fortius.

When health officials are warning athletes not to go into the water with open sores, not to swallow the water, and to shower immediately after exiting the water, you know those athletes probably shouldn’t be competing in that water!

That very same news report quoted experts as saying the water quality at some of the Olympic venues in Rio was consistent with “raw sewage”.

That’s among the warnings I saw reported by the media leading up to the Rio Olympics. Then, there’s Zika, the social strife, and the ongoing political crisis in Brazil.

How could the IOC allow the Games to happen under these conditions?

Ch-ching!

How could the IOC allow such rampant doping in previous Games?

Again, I shake my head in sympathy with disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson. He paid with his Olympic gold medal for being caught, likely at a time when so many others went undetected.

Citius. Altius. Fortius.

For so many reasons, I had decided I wouldn’t watch the Rio Olympics but, here it is, Day 2 - and I’m hooked! I especially enjoy watching the sports you don’t see televised very often; those include judo, badminton, wrestling and water polo.

On the other hand, watching the Olympics, I’m still irritated by the “sports” that are, incomprehensibly, included in the Olympic Games, like synchronized diving, synchronized badminton, synchronized uneven bars and synchronized timepieces.

Why? (Courtesy: Wikimedia)
Why is there beach volleyball, when there is no beach Frisbee, beach soccer, beach bobsled or beach campfires?

I refuse to see these as legitimate Olympic sports, but if I reach way down deep, I might be willing to recognize them as completely arbitrary Olympic sports.

There are other Olympic sports I’m genuinely thrilled to have discovered and which I can’t get enough of, including ski cross, snowboard cross and thanks to Rio, women’s rugby sevens.

Lots of sports should be included in the Olympics, many of which currently fall under the heading, “extreme”.

Faster. Higher. Stronger

While we’re on the subject, I also have a problem with multi-millionaires competing alongside amateurs. I don’t want to see NHL’ers, NBA’ers, PGA’ers, or WTA’ers at the Olympics. 

Go roll around in all the money you make for doing the same thing Olympic caliber athletes do solely for the love of sport. Let the Olympic caliber athletes compete against other Olympic caliber athletes, not unionized big business advocates whose motivation centres around their bank accounts.

A couple of months ago, the AIBA, the amateur boxing federation, voted to allow professionals in the ring with Olympic amateurs. The reaction was overwhelmingly negative. Not just mine.

Moneyius. Speakius. Loudius.

Whoa! Gotta go! The rugby sevens quarter-finals are about to start…

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Dreading Driverlessness

Who in tarnation, or outside of tarnation for that matter, would want to ride in a driverless car?

Then again, if there are as many nervous drivers as there are stupid ones, I’ve answered my own question.

At this point, I'm not even sure I want to be on the same road as driverless cars!

Authorities are now suggesting Tesla was dangerously hasty in its aggressive marketing of driverless technology.

For some people, owning a driverless vehicle seems to be a “prestige” thing, but, so far, that hasn’t worked out so well for everyone.

When it comes to driving, my "prestige" thing is being able to drive competently.

I think good drivers enjoy driving. I enjoy the fun of operating a machine. I enjoy being able to operate it competently. Of course, there’s the inherent challenge, as daunting as it is, of trying to anticipate the actions of the multitude of stupid drivers around us.

There must be a lot of rich auto insurance board employees out there because 92.7 percent of the motorists I encounter on the roads, surely bribed examiners to get their permits!

The 92.7 percent figure I mention is based on irrefutable empirical data collected as a result of decades of wholly subjective longitudinal observational study.

Be that as it may, I like driving.

Courtesy: Wikipedia
Still, I can’t even imagine the dangers and hassles that come with components breaking on a driverless car. The “rear park aid” sensors on my car won’t even work properly; they work for a while, and then don’t work anymore.

It’s just annoying.

What happens when sensors on a driverless car malfunction? If you’re lucky, you live to bring the thing into the shop for repairs!

When the sensors that trigger “automatic emergency braking” in a driverless car fail, making an appointment for a repair may be a case of too little too late.

Neither the “automatic emergency braking” or “forward collision warning” functioned properly when a Tesla Model S slammed into the side of a truck in May, killing the former Navy Seal who was its passenger/driver. Tesla said autopilot failed to detect the white truck against the brightly lit Florida sky.

That’s very possibly one of a gazillion unlikely scenarios that can never be anticipated by ambitious designers.

The most recent crash of a Tesla with its autopilot engaged was in Cardwell, Montana last weekend, when a Model X swerved and hit two wooden rails. The car issued alerts in English, but the driver spoke Mandarin. He wasn’t injured.

Already, stupid drivers can’t drive safely; how in tarnation, or outside of tarnation for that matter, will they learn to operate technologically sophisticated vehicles responsibly?

Duh.

More bells, whistles, alarms, chimes, warnings and alerts are not what inattentive or inexperienced drivers need. By definition, gadgets won't help them respond safely.

I certainly hope driverless vehicles whose occupants are watching movies instead of the road, don't eventually become a danger to good drivers out there.

Drivers are not ready for the technology and the technology is not ready for our roads.

There have been a few other collisions involving vehicles with autopilot engaged. All of them are under investigation.

Today, safety advocates, including Consumer Reports, have called on Tesla to disable "auto steer" until the technology is re-programmed to require the driver's hands remain on the steering wheel. It's also calling for more stringent testing and certification by independent third-party bodies of any and all self-driving features.

As time goes on, we seem to relish doing less and less for ourselves; less walking, less talking, less driving, and less thinking.

I absolutely would like to own an environmentally friendly electric vehicle that does what I’d like a car to do, but only when I tell it what to do. Hold the self-driving gizmos, please.

A recent report by HIS Automotive predicts that between 2025 and 2035, sales of self-driving cars will climb from 600,000 to 21 million.

No one's as eager as drunks and texters. 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

#BOE

Growing up and being a developing drummer myself, one of the greats I followed with zeal, was Buddy Rich. He endorsed Bose speakers and I used to keep the magazine ad up on my wall.

That was the first time Bose came to my attention. I eventually discovered their acoustic expertise firsthand, and not that long ago, Susan bought me my first a pair of Bose headphones.

Soon after starting an account on Twitter, I began tweeting lists of songs I was listening to with my Bose headphones. I began using the hashtag #BOE, which means Bose On Ears when I start each playlist, and Bose Off Ears, when I end it.

Last Christmas, my son was kind enough to get me the noise-cancelling version of the headphones! 

Sweet.

It's always great to hear from Twitter followers who are music fans and who "like" certain tweets containing certain songs, or suggest other songs I should listen to. 

I get a lot of "likes" from fans of artists who run Twitter accounts that pay tribute to those artists.

For the first couple of years on Twitter, I would just tweet out the name of each song and its artist. Then, a few months ago, curious to see whether I might get any response, I began tagging artists who had Twitter accounts.

I’ve had “likes” from all sorts of amazing artists, including Meghan Trainor, Lyle Lovett, Kansas, Monster Truck, Jon Bellion, Serena Ryder, Burton Cummings, Whilk and Misky and Everything Everything.

I’ve had “retweets” by artists such as Sass Jordan and Matt Dusk, who I had the pleasure of interviewing a few years ago (October 30, 2013 blog - "Fun Times Baby").




I've had several local artists I've interviewed "like" tweets in which I mention their songs, such as John Jacob Magistery, Bud Rice, Florence K, Made Them Lions, and Steve Hill. 

John Waite began following me. I followed him back.

One cool experience was hearing from the awesome band, Sola Rosa, who I first discovered in a television beer commercial. They’re a New Zealand group that blends rock, urban, latin, funk, jazz and electronic. Through tweets, I got to engage a little bit with Andrew Spraggon, the artist behind the band. 

My listening sessions are most often at night, with me listening to a song that leads me to another song, which leads me into a mood that conjures up a melody, that makes me think of an artist, and so on.

Not all artists are on Twitter, and not all artists on Twitter, respond.

Current American presidential hopefuls can attest to the power of Twitter. I got my own little taste, incidentally, when I interviewed Justin Bieber's musical director (April 29, 2014 blog - "Look Me Up"). 

Who knew that for an avid musician and music fan, Twitter could be so much fun?  I’m not tweeting songs just to see if I hear from artists on Twitter, but when I do hear from them, it’s the #bombdiggity!



Monday, May 30, 2016

Application Denied

Friends have asked me many times over the years, how often I had to jump down from the lifeguard chair for an emergency.

Thankfully, there were very few occasions.

One of the incidents I tell them about was when a baby, barely walking, fell, face-first, into the lake near the base of my chair.

I looked around and saw no parents approaching the baby, so I jumped down, lifted the baby out of the water and waited for the parents to show themselves.

I remember telling them lifeguards were not babysitters, then, like all well-equipped, negligent parents, they offered an excuse.

Negligent parents are not big on vigilance; they are big on excuses.

During my radio news shift Sunday morning, I wrote and read the story of Harambe’s killing several times. Off the air, it infuriated me that such a magnificent animal had been shot to death because of negligent parenting.

My feelings on the value of zoos are for another blog, another time, but whenever we went to Granby Zoo, I always spent more time at Mumba’s enclosure.

He was a fascinating, impressive and magnificent creature, and I was saddened to hear, in October 2008, the 48 year old silverback gorilla had died.

His death of natural causes was nowhere near as upsetting as 17 year old Harambe’s death Saturday at the Cincinatti Zoo.

Harambe (Photo courtesy: cincinattizoo.org)
Did the zoo make the right decision? Is there another way zoo staff could have handled the situation? None of those questions matter because none of those questions would have come up, had the boy’s parents done what parents are supposed to do.

Is it the zoo’s fault for failing to make the enclosure child-proof? It’s the first time a spectator breaches the enclosure since 1978, and no one would be talking about the issue had the boy’s parents done what parents are supposed to do!

I wonder how long it took the boy to work his way into the enclosure; 15 seconds, 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 15 minutes?

I bet his parents don’t even know, since they weren’t doing what parents are supposed to do.

The child’s parents ought to face justice, charges of criminal negligence; they are solely responsible for Harambe’s death.
I saw this on Twitter today

An online petition is circulating, demanding the parents be held responsible. I hope it leads to some kind of justice. Too often, negligent and blameworthy parents are excused, and everyone else pays.

It’s nauseating.

I’ve always liked the idea that parents should be licensed.

Years ago, two Nova Scotia academics argued children have rights and parents have responsibilities. Brian Howe and Katharine Covell of the University College of Cape Breton declared anyone who hadn’t finished high school and a parenting course, shouldn’t be having kids. Covell pointed out there are a lot of parents having children who have no interest in raising them.

I often see those parents.

The position suggested by Howe and Covell was prompted by the same steady stream of child abuse and neglect cases still making headlines today.

Prospective parents, suggested Howe and Covell in 1999, should have to complete a certified course on early infant development, and sign a contract agreeing not to abuse or neglect their child.

If, at any point during the licensing process, a prospective parent referred to the credo of the negligent parent, “Accidents happen”, the same words used by the mother of the boy who fell in Harambe’s enclosure, it would be - application denied.


Monday, May 23, 2016

No Apology Necessary

Pierre Trudeau answered to no one. As Prime Minister and party leader, he led. Canadians followed. He led with fierce conviction, inspired vision and heaps of attitude.

Much of that made him our greatest Canadian.

There was no question of polls, pundits, or pals; Pierre Trudeau was guided by Pierre - and Pierre alone.

Like the very best and worst of us, he answered only to life, with all its impossible joy and heartache.

He burst onto the scene in 1968, flamboyantly sliding down banisters! In February 1971, there came “fuddle duddle”, and no apology.

He pirouetted behind the Queen in May 1977.

He did only what he believed, whether it was passing controversial Wage and Price Controls in 1975, or invoking the ominous War Measures Act in 1970 with the words that dripped with defiance, “Just watch me”.

Even in 1988, he said it the way he believed it, and let Canadians know Meech Lake terrified him.

No apology necessary.

Justin’s already had moments of flamboyance; one of them would have to be when he unexpectedly won the Liberal candidacy for Papineau riding on the first ballot in 2007.

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)
In 2012, in support of cancer research, he boxed against a senator. He’s had his own “fuddle duddle” moments.

Justin’s leadership is already attracting the attention of the world.

Now everyone’s clucking about the “Justin Jab”.

Is it acceptable for politicians to belittle parliamentary process by playing games and blocking fellow politicians from getting to their seats in the Commons?

I don’t think so. There’s work to be done and the dollars of hard working Canadians to account for.

That would tick me off, too.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau was accidentally jostled and, in the half-second that followed the initial contact, she appeared to dramatically amplify the jostling.

Judging by his performance in the playoffs agains the Raptors, rest assured, the headmaster and instructors at the LeBron James Acting Academy are beaming.

Please.

If Justin feels he must apologize, just do it once.

In 1993, Pierre Trudeau yanked the fake beard off an annoying comedy reporter, gave him a light slap and aimed a kick at his groin. A year later, at the commissioning of the frigate “HMCS Montreal”, the former prime minister gave a heckler in the crowd the single-finger salute.

If you ask me, when push comes to shove, Justin’s on the right track.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Freedom of Choice

Count me among the 86 per cent of Quebecers who, according to a Leger-Le Devoir-Journal de Montreal poll released over the weekend, approve of medically-assisted death.

If, at some point, I am doomed to suffer irreversible, intolerable physical or psychological pain, and I am completely unaware of loved ones and oblivious to the beauty of life as I once cherished it, it’s pretty safe to say I would not want to go on living and I would choose to, as humanely as possible, end the game.

We recently made that decision for our beloved dog, believing in our hearts it was right. Certainly, humans are entitled to the same humane consideration, especially if the decision is, ultimately, their own. I fully realize the sanctity of human life takes the inherent issues to another level entirely, but some common principles apply.

Beginning June 7th, patients with a “grievous and irremediable condition” will be able to request a doctor’s help to end their lives. I believe the legislation, as it is, though a valiant first step, falls grievously and irremediably short.

Bill C14 states a person must be a consenting adult of at least 18 years of age and “suffering intolerably” to be eligible for medically-assisted death. Furthermore, natural death must be “reasonably forseeable” and individuals must be in an “advanced state of irreversible decline” to be eligible.

Supreme Court of Canada (photo courtesy Flickr)
What constitutes "intolerable suffering", a "grievous and irremediable condition", "reasonably foreseeable", or an "advanced state of irreversible decline"? Many precedents will be set, broken and tested before allowable limits are legally defined.

There are no provisions for those who seek to die due to mental illness, or dementia. At the very least, the proposed legislation must be amended to include those competent individuals who choose to establish advanced directives for assisted suicide, or euthanasia, in the event they become no longer mentally competent.

The Netherlands was the first country to formally legalize medically-assisted death. There, as I understand it, the patient must be conscious and in either unbearable physical, or psychological pain. More than one person must be involved in the decision and the death request must be voluntary. The patient must be given alternatives to consider and there must be no other reasonable solutions to the problem. The patient’s death cannot inflict unnecessary suffering on others.

The Dutch decision to allow medically-assisted death is mostly about respecting an individual’s inalienable right to autonomy. That principle grants a competent individual the sole right to control their destiny and to choose to commit suicide if, in their considered judgment, they ought to do so.

The principle of human worth does not reconcile suicide except perhaps to argue that if, because of suffering or loss of coherent thought, a person is unable to live life to their fullest capacity, with a quality of living reasonable humans would value, then, as a morally worthy society, we ought to respect the voluntary choice of the individual to end their life.

The principle of utility takes into consideration the interests of all parties involved - the person seeking medically-assisted death, their caretakers, loved ones, relatives, dependents and others. If everyone concerned believes death would be a merciful release, then individuals should be free to determine their fate in the moment, or, in advance of the moment.

On the show I host, “Montreal Billboard”, I recently interviewed the Executive Director of the West Island Palliative Care Residence and, last month, accepted an invitation to visit the facility. I was impressed by the facility itself and the unwavering dedication of the staff, but it was explained to me that medically-assisted death is not an option there. Palliative care, by definition, does not hasten death.

I am unshakably pro-choice. In the name of dignity and respect, competent, but suffering Canadians, ought to be given the right and power to choose their end.

What gives government the right to control the final fate of a responsible and reasonable individual? People are dying to know.