Tuesday 26 August 2008


It seems as if every media outlet is spending a lot of time interviewing the people around me.

No longer do we speak to those who have information, facts, ideas and a carefully crafted political, social, intellectual opinion. We have to listen to how people 'feel' about an issue, an event, traumatic events, and cannot explore the causes and how to prevent it.

I would like to speak to the journalists, the media barons, and my friends. Do not listen to these people. They do not necessarily speak truth! Everyone comes with a bias. It requires data and research to understand an issue. I do not want to hear a rant by someone whose bias is unclear. I want logical arguments, held by informed participants.

I loathe 'talk radio' for this reason.

Monday 25 August 2008

Olympics debriefing

It is my feeling that CBC owes Canadian athletes a huge apology. From that horrid “Are you disappointed?” question to athletes who managed to finish in the top 4th, 5th or 6th of the world. It is said by the COC that our previous conversion factor of medal hopefuls to medals was 30% and in these games we converted 50%. If you examined the Sports Illustrated website they predicted medal winners in all the sport. They predicted 16 of our 18 medals. These were medal contenders who were in reach of a medal, proven through their hard work and effort. For a country whose big deal is hockey, and winter sports, we need to keep all this in perspective. We must specialize rather than do moderately well in everything.

It is a different point of view of achievement in Canada, or it should be. The Chinese wanted medals at all costs. They train children far from family and friends, in school built for this purpose. This is not the Canadian way. We want our athletes to learn to live while participating in their sports. So many who compete in their youth do not go on to achieve Olympic medals, but learn a lifetime message of hard work, dedication and learn not to excuse but to take responsibility for their education and their actions.

CBC needs to take responsibility for the downer it created, as well as other media perpetrators, supported by journalists who bemoaned out lack of medals early on the in the competition. The CBC coverage did a disservice to out athletes. Their ignorance of the sports they covered was revealed during the basketball as the Spanish player who plays for The Raptors was never mentioned. Those doing commentary, as well as those responsible for showing the men’s volleyball teams for hours, neglecting other sports of interest to amateurs, really need to rethink their programming standards. Not all comments and professional blogs were negative. Randy Starkman honoured the spirits of the athletes and parents and coaches. It is such a shame that those posting to media articles could not similarly honour this spirit.

We spent hours looking for our synchronized swim top ten team, as well as our rhythmic gymnastics, while surfing through hours of American track athletes, boxers and other events that were flooding airwaves. I saw way too many butt cheeks with those obviously uncomfortable outfits in beach volleyball and track. The wardrobe malfunction of one of the female athletes as she bounced her way through her exciting finish, was quite a shock. Many such surprises, like the Australian team coming into the lane of the Canadian 8's in the heats, were surprising.

With 10,000 participants and 287 medals some were bound to go home without the prize. Many more appreciated and defended themselves in sorry excuses for an interview, on camera in front of a national audience. How much better would it have been to take some of those Canadians who achieved in the top 20 or 10, and have them analyse their events as the top ten competed in finals. This happened in some sports, but we failed to exploit these top performances, broadcast them, support the personal bests that the swimmer achieved

If we invest in sport, as the media seems to demand, then these questions must be posed to politicians. A political campaign is no time to create policy, however. What will we cut if we increase Olympic funding? Who will benefit? A group of elite athletes and a Canadian public that can take some pride. Is this what Canada is all about? Is it worth investing $8, 16, and then 24 million a year in national pride?

I apologize to the parents and the coaches, as well as all of our athletes. How diminishing it must have been to read the negative comments. You did well. You improved your international performances and achieved a great deal. Good work.

Friday 22 August 2008

principles of design

Guidelines or rules and laws?

It seems to me that governments are afraid of controversy and government bureaucrats and the 'power-that-be' would rather err on the side of caution rather than coming down on the side of truth and justice. Those in charge are fearful of pissing off the public. From local problems (drinking, driving, noise and environmental pollution), to municipal issues of propane supervision, right up to Health Canada's lack of supervision for SARS, Mad Cow disease, and this new listeriosis crisis, to International issues around the Chinese government cheating on many levels, including altering public information to falsify the age of participants.

Firstly, we had a big accident here in Muskoka in which a young driver, with citations on his file, is not called to task and he and two of his friends perish. Despite violations of his G2 license, he continues to drive badly and no one calls him to task. We are all accountable for this: his parents for not supervising his actions, the vehicle license bureau for not suspending his license after demonstrating his poor driving habits, his friends for preventing him from drinking and driving on the day in question, the bar for not taking his car keys.

With neighbours drinking and yelling, going out on the lake in boats, blowing up pyrotechnics at all hours of the night, the police arrive, give them a warning and leave. The same thing happens with other neighbours in town and nothing is done. What is with these warnings? It does nothing and violators perceive that they will get away with being a public nuisance and mock the OPP.

The huge propane blast that created chaos in Toronto could have been prevented if people had done their jobs and ensured that proper protocols and procedures were followed. It is important that everyone does their job, no matter how (apparently) small.

When SARS hit Health Canada was incredibly uncooperative. The same is true of the Mad Cow disease that struck the world. By erring on the side of caution many have suffered. With this meat processing plant crisis, I suspect the same thing is true: there were violations and no one wanted to shut down the plant because of the economy and interference by politicians. Listeria is a deadly pathogen. I am sure that White Hat Hackers can find government documents that will demonstrate that they knew about it long before this. More deaths are likely and plant closures will affect workers.

The Chinese government, with a medals at all costs mind set, are inventing of-age athletes. The Olympics is not without controversy, even here in Canada.
"Age falsification has been a problem in gymnastics since the 1980s after the minimum age was raised from 14 to 15 to protect young athletes from serious injuries. The minimum age was raised to its current 16 in 1997. Younger gymnasts are considered to have an advantage because they are more flexible, and are likely to have an easier time doing the tough skills the sport requires. They also aren't as likely to have a history of injuries or fear of failure." Retrieved August 22, 2008, from Globe & Mail.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Olympic deception

Olympic Comments

Lots of talk online about CBC coverage! It has been most enervating trying to follow particular sports as CBC flits about from sport to sport. TSN covers one sport at a time, which is a relief. CBC pops in and about and appears to let the ads govern the timing.

CBC headlines announce the semi-final achievements of our synchronized swimmers, and viewers complain that they are unable to watch it. CBC provides in-depth coverage by Sook-Yin Lee of the music scene in China. She was interviewing musicians, a couple of whom appeared stoned and/or drunk. I am unsure the purpose of kind of coverage. I would love to see more of the ancient culture of the country, and really feel more could be added. The antics of Shaun Majumder are simply puerile.

I admit to being quite disturbed myself. I am quite fed up with the prancing of Usain Bolt, and agree with IOC president Jacques Rogge that it is disrespectful of other competitors. What seems to be happening is that even 2nd place finishers take the flag and strut around the field. This does not seem to be the Olympic Spirit of competition. I agree with him. When will this stop? We see repeat after repeat of one event, and give little attention to our Canadian athletes.

Media coverage ranges from in-depth analysis of the 100 and 200-metre events, to the ignoring of other sports. Retired track athletes Ms. Edah and Mr. Bailey's CBC shot-by-shot commentary means very little to Olympic sports fans like myself. At the time this was broadcast there were other sports going on and we see little of these. I do not understand the focus.

The judging has been difficult to watch. I think that the only thing an athlete can do is understand that s/he did the best job possible and some things are out of control. Corruption is a symptom of the lack of Olympic ideals. If only we could simply watch the sports in which we have some interest, turn off the sound and forget the medal count.

Monday 18 August 2008

Idle Free Zones

To sit and idle in a parking spot has been traditional in Muskoka. There is much discussion, some laws, and little enforcement. I plan on printing these free images from Natural Resources Canada.

Bracebridge is an idle-free zone. Print a flyer and pop it under a windshield wiper! You can make a difference!

I am finding some stores posting these in their front windows, and I hope it has an effect.

But until we all participate, and educate those who are ignorant of environmental issues, we will continue to breathe these poisons. In Muskoka we must drive many kms to work, errands, to access health resources, but we can do our part.

This man sat in his white convertible car in a parking lot and as I walked by I could feel cool air coming from the vehicle. Such citiots need to understand the fragile nature of Muskoka's ecosystem.

CBC Olympic Coverage

Olympic coverage seems uneven to me. CBC traditionally have not been known for anything but hockey coverage. I love listening to Ron McLean, whose analogies only seem to arise from hockey, not a sport I follow! He has been a decent manager, despite his hockey focus. Most announcers have made great efforts to pronounce the wide variety of international names, as well they should (Mark Tewksbury being the exception!). Perhaps athletes interested in becoming announcers ought to be auditioned for the process. There is a wide variety of skills or lack thereof in those paid to do this.

The convenience of having CBC TV cover the Olympics means that we have the opportunity of hearing 'updates' at five minutes before the hour on radio. It is too bad that Matt Galloway does not seem to focus on the games as a whole, but on sensational topics. For example, he interviewed Mr. Katz, CBC sports, who was in the stadium when the Chinese track athlete, Liu Xiang, admitted to an injury and withdrew. Rather than asking for details or information we have to find out 'what was it like in the stadium?' Fairly predictable reactions from the Chinese in their win at all costs push to impress the world.

Then Mr. Galloway goes on to interview another Canadian athlete, whose husband convinced fellow OPP members to hijack an OPP vehicle in order to rig up a dramatic wedding proposal. Is this Olympic coverage? Is this a good use of airtime? I think not. I would prefer hearing a summary of the latest action, what we can expect today, and then a highlight or two about particular events.

TV footage has been difficult to watch with either directors or camera operators must cover sports with which they are unfamiliar. The extreme close ups of crying 'disappointed' athletes revolve around some sense I have of intruding on their moments. The close ups of the gymnasts, for example, while they hover waiting for a score, are painful in that the other cameras get in the way. I would love to see more crowd shots. The diving participants we must see showering as THEY await their scores. Broadcasters run out of things to say. The close ups of the beach volleyball women involve crotch shots that make me uncomfortable.

Traffic Accidents in Canada

I saw the reports on the O.P.P. website. It was a rough Labour Day W/E weekend in Muskoka, the Central Region. Traffic accident death rates are down by 52% * over the past 25 years, 71% of those involved in traffic accidents are male. There are many reasons for the lowered rate: anti-lock braking, airbags, consistent use of seat belts and child restraints. The enforcement of speed limits, better legislation, and more vigilance protects all of us.

While the good news is that deaths are down, just one is just one is too many. The summer months are the worst. The impact on family is profound and obvious. The impact on friends is tremendous. Rural areas account for 62% of all collisions. I know that those in Muskoka seem to neglect simple things like turn signals, checking their blind spots, and driving sensible. The other day our family spotted two seperate incidents of drivers turning left across the road, while another drove to their left around similarly turning left. Road rage, driving while stoned, improperly installed child safety seats, the use of cellphones, and other technologies (i.e., GPS) while driving, contribute to the statistics.

On behalf of all residents and some visitors I say to our EMS crews: thanks for being there. When I see the OPP helicopter overhead I shudder. I know the recent Bala accident proved an especially difficult situation. Keep up the good work - it is not easy. Such accidents (on the railway tracks) have happened before - the last time I recall it happened I was a teenager, but I know it it happens too often.

We are all accountable: friends, family, bartenders and society, can help prevent such an incident, but ultimately it is the individual who is responsible. Social norms are changing, but we must help those who are vulnerable to addiction.

Motel room theft, drunk driving, assaults, all have some amount of alcohol involved. It is such a preventable problem. Let your friends know when they have had enough. Be strong and help them take responsibility. Their families will thank you.

*"Motor vehicle accident deaths, 1979 to 2004."

Saturday 16 August 2008

Friday 15 August 2008

Power Failures

In Muskoka, with power lines susceptible to rain, snow, sleet, hail and BIG winds, it behooves the cottager to be prepared. I lived through the 30 hours without power in August, 2003, Ice Storm '98 in Osgoode, S. Ontario, and the tornado in August, 2006.

There are some things cottagers ought to have with them on trips north.
  • Bottled water (1 gallon per person per day; three-day supply ideal)
  • Cash (ATMs and electronic cash registers may not work)
  • Cell phone (with nonelectrical charger)
  • Warm clothing, jammies and rain gear
  • Extra blankets/sleeping bags
  • Documents
    • driver’s license, passport, birth certificate
    • Contact information of friends and family (in a waterproof container)
    • Financial inventory (a list of bank and investment accounts, mortgages, and loans, including account numbers and location of original documents)
(Alternately, leave the above information with a contact person, or on a CD as the troops do, with directions to make calls if they do not hear from you at prearranged dates/times.)
  • Emergency numbers of EMS (OPP= 1-888-310-1122 & HydroOne=1-800-434-1235) both numbers will give you information in a non-life threatening emergency
  • First-aid kit
  • Extra batteries for ALL flashlights and radio, or a solar-powered radio
  • Canned food and nonperishables (e.g., trail mix)
  • Masking tape, duct tape, pocket knife, matches and typical camping equipment
  • List of your medications and names & addresses/contact info of health care practitioners
  • Sufficient medication for a three-day supply of all daily medications—be sure to check expiration dates periodically
Bring along magazines, books and other items for those lovely quiet times! Back in the old days, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I was a youngster and we did not have wireless laptops, we found much to do at the cottage. (I do remember the year we packed up the desktop computer in a filled-to-the-brim station wagon and forgot the power cable!) We built tents from towels and had tea parties under blankets. With the near-daily rain we have been having in this 2008 summer, it is wise to be prepared.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Olympic Games

Canadians have complained with the lack of medals, despite 28 Canadian personal bests in performances. I am tired of couch potatoes critical of our Olympic results. It boils down to money, training, facilities, and taxpayers. The loathsome criticism and cynical comments by non-athletes in blogs and in reader's comments boil my blood. Since when did 'man-in-the-street' interviews become news? The internet and news outlets have given civilians a place to rant and vent with ignorance and abuse. We are basing news on personal opinions, not the reporting of information and events. Uninformed negative comments become increasingly vitriolic and sometimes racist in tone. I am embarrassed to read them.

We need to get all this in perspective. Do we want our young people being professional athletes, and do we pay them to train? Or do we teach them to be hard-working, dedicated human beings. A medal is a fine goal, but there are many who face war, poverty, and fail to get their basic human needs met. At some point you must change your dream and find a bigger purpose in life.

I think the athletes should be no older than age 25. That would prevent some countries from simply producing professionals for the purpose of the Olympics. Universities are great places to train athletes. Once you graduate you ought to be on your own and earning a living. Many families sacrifice all their lives for the Olympic Dream.

If we limited athletes to those under age 26, we include many young people who will benefit from the life lessons of being an elite athlete. The work done can be studied for health purposes, i.e. Participaction. With very many obese children we must direct our energy to helping more members of society.

The Olympic dream has been tarnished by those who make a living in a sport. They take time out from professional baseball, basketball or tennis, for example, to try win a medal. I think it inappropriate to reward an athlete with the promise of a car if they improve their times. As a teacher I loathed parents who rewarded 'A's with money or gifts.

The Olympic Dream is tarnished by people like Canadian fencer Sherraine Shalm, who cannot deal with losing, or the American gymnast, Alicia Sacramone, who bravely fought tears with a TV camera thrust in her face. These people provide perhaps the best lesson of these games for most of the many athletes who participate and the young people who watch them. We learn more by losing than winning. The arrogant screams of people, like American swimmer Phelps, rattle my brains. Athletes, like Kyle Shewfelt who overcome injuries and pain to compete again worry me as a parent. Are there lifelong injuries that will haunt them later?

There is much work to do in this world. Great for those who can spend their time on taxpayer's dollars being athletes, but it is a selfish way to live your life. There are several athletes participating in their 4th Olympics, for example, who could be making a contribution to society rather than pursuing double-digit finishes.

We provide funding for artists, who give something in return. This, I believe, to be a different story.

Monday 11 August 2008

The Olympic Games

The relative quiet of a wet, cool summer has been assuaged by the 2008 Olympics. It is interesting to note new developments in the sports. The changes in scoring, rules, and new events provide some challenge to keep up. The new faces, and old, and the challenges faced to get to Beijing. Some, like Anna Rice, are balancing personal and sports lives.

At the age of 51 I have watched a few Olympic games. It strikes me that there is more to learn in losing than in winning. How painful it is to hear over and over again in painful interview after painful interview from journalists who do not seem to be able to find a new question other than, "How disappointed are you?"

Surely, they can find something positive. Surely they they can let these athletes know how proud we are that they are 10th or 20th IN THE WORLD. Family members have given up much to ensure that these athletes have managed to find the energy, the willpower and the financial means to go to the Olympics. I want to learn what they have learned, not to visit a trite question of disappointment. With all the wisdom and expertise of those who have covered Olympic Games have we not learned something about that? Life is a journey, not a destination. Our Canadian Olympic Team is a great one.

Is it just me, or does Mr. Majumder, in our CBC coverage, seem trite and diminishes the spirit of the games? We are spending big bucks to see an otherwise clever comic trivialize the 29th Olympic Games and diminish the culture and spirit of China?

Monday 4 August 2008

Fireworks in Muskoka

Cottage life sure has changed. We walked into town and saw a view of Lake Muskoka. The boat traffic is significant, but on a large lake it is diffused across broad shores. On our wee lake the noise, smell and irritation of the day at the marine end of things ever larger boats, or smaller boats with larger engines, and PWC that can carry a passenger, spotter and a couple of kids on a tube, life is crazy. One PWC seemed to race another while dragging kids around.

Yesterday, as I quietly paddled along the shore, I came across a van parked by the water. The doors were wide open and the radio continues in the night. With cranked up in order for the young people to hear the music 300 m away, out in the middle of the lake. Now, I am not opposed to rock music, but there is a time and place for it. I do resent others thinking it their right to create an explosion of sound in a place where the deafening noise of the city is our escape. The noise by-laws apply all day, something of which most people are unaware. The fireworks continued in the evening. Literally.

Our former renter/partiers were much quieter their final night, thankfully, except that there were other folks on the lake who do not seem to realize that this is where some of us live. We have need or want to go to bed before 11:00 p.m. , sometimes even at 9:30 when they run fireworks on a nightly basis. The peculiar thing is that it is not just adults running fireworks for children. The renters I wrote about the other day appeared to be late 20-somethings, wannabe teenagers, with no respect for neighbours. Setting off fireworks on municipal property on our mutual road. So much for one's ecological footprint. All of our pets shudder in fear under beds; cannot imagine how the wildlife feels.

The Me-Generation has raised a segment of their generation who believe it is their right to blow things up at night, to use the lake as their playground, burn damp wood dumping hydrofluorocarbons into the air, and generally do what they want in the freedom of nature. What is with this? I once offered my cottage to a dying friend as a place for some respite care and peace and quiet of the county. That would have been a mistake. I wonder, when our (light-sleeper) infant granddaughter arrives for a holiday whether this will have an impact on *her* sleep patterns. There are several neighbours on our lake who live and work in this area and have to rise early for this purpose. It is a long drive to their employment.

Taxpayers fight for reduced taxes, in an ever more crowded tourist area, and the privilege of allowing their 20 and 30-somethings scream around lakes at all hours, dumping gas, as well as septic system waste, into at-risk ecosystems. The precious balance of humans and nature is one I will watch closely. There are those, apparently filthy rich young people, given the freedom of staying in the cottage for the weekend, who expect that they can drive a couple of hours up here from Toronto, throw all manners to the wind, and behave as if their Muskoka property is party central. I look forward to the shoulder seasons, when there will be peace and quiet again. In fact, rather than being a snowbird, I would like to be sunbird, and escape to the city while city-folk pollute the air, water and soil.