Friday, May 11, 2018

Save It

The house next to us is being torn down. The developer has already cut down several trees on the lot. We are hoping to keep the two trees that stand smack dab in the middle of our property and the lot being developed. Our backyard fence actually goes around the two trees in question!

The developer wants all the trees to come down and, last fall, was hastily cutting branches off the two shared trees before I went out to speak to him.

I contacted the city in hopes someone there would be able to help us protect the two disputed trees from destruction. The pair of trees provide our yard with shade, a bit of privacy and they serve as a perfect perching place for birds eating at our busy feeders. 

A city urban planner agreed to meet me at our home during lunch hour Monday April 23rd so that the situation could be assessed firsthand.

On the date of the scheduled meeting, I was running late. My punctuality could potentially be called into question! I was supposed to meet the urban planner at 12:10. Driving to our house, I was caught behind a slow motorist who, annoyingly, preferred doing 40 in a 50 zone. I tailgated, to get the driver to go faster, so I wouldn’t be late for my appointment.

Finally, the driver turned on their left turn signal. Since I was going straight at that corner, I pulled alongside the slowpoke. I looked at the woman who was driving and before she made her turn, she made a face at me.  She made the turn. I kept going and turned left at the next corner.

I got out of my vehicle in the driveway at home, on time, and a minute or two later, lo and behold the slow-driving woman pulled up at our house. If she recognized me and/or my vehicle, she graciously never showed it.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m just as sure I don’t want to hear it.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

I'll Take A Mile

ICMYI - the Parti Quebecois last month was pushing the Liberal government to boost speed limits on Quebec highways to 120 km/hr. The PQ says, if that happened, police would be required to strictly enforce the raised limit. They argue that to leave current limits at 100 km/hr is “hypocrisy” because that speed limit is not enforced by police.

The PQ insists it’s widely known that Quebec motorists can routinely drive at 115 to 120 without worry of getting a speeding ticket.

I’m fine with that. In fact, I’m great with that!

When I drive at 115 or 120, which I have been known to do, I feel like I am one reckless renegade, pushing the limits of the law to their breaking point. I suddenly have wind in my thinning hair, dark sunglasses, a black leather jacket, with Steppenwolf blaring from the radio as I scoff, grittily, in the direction of authority.

I know full well that if the posted speed limit were 120 km/hr, I’d stupidly, and inevitably, go faster than that. That’s just the kind of idiot I am.

I know me.

Give me an inch and I will take a mile, please. Here is a case in point; even the 75 mph speed limit in Montana wasn’t good enough for me. I was cruising along at 94 mph when the state trooper pulled me over. Even now, as Montana debates raising the speed limit on its interstates to 80, I know when I visit that state, I will be compelled to drive just a little faster.

Here in Quebec, it’s perfect the way it is; the 100 km/hr speed limit has reasonable discretion built-in for police and I get to wallow in the illusion of being a rebel of the most rebellious sort, a non-conformist conforming.

Driving at 120 in a 100 km/hr zone, I am living on the edge with virtually no uncontrollable itch to drive at 130. Change the speed limit to 120, however, and my neatly stacked pile of speeding tickets is liable to get bigger.

Far better to leave well enough alone.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Neanderthal Knuckles

I can’t do the keyboard that came with my Apple computer. The touch is too soft. I tend to hammer keys when I type and the corresponding clatter acts as confirmation that I’ve clobbered the targeted letter! I’m fairly certain I would batter the slim little Apple keyboard into oblivion, which is why, in my home office, I keep my more cumbersome keyboard connected.

I type with two fingers at breakneck speed. If you require reams of news copy written, I’m good to go! I can handle stacks of television scripts, mounds of commentaries and piles of email correspondence. If I need to write editorials, speeches, releases, statements, stories, articles, memos, notices, columns, posts, blogs or lyrics, rest assured, my Neanderthal knuckles can make it happen.

Whenever I arrive at a new workplace, there is a “peer amazement period” during which people gasp and gawk at the speed of my two-finger typing. In newspaper, television and radio newsrooms, my uncouth technique does the trick. I get the copy written by deadline, without breaking a sweat.

I learned to type on clunkers and plunkers; manual typewriters with ink ribbons on spools. They were no luxury! In fact, I can remember in one newsroom, watching a manual typewriter fly through the air behind me, as an exasperated colleague cursed loudly. The typewriter landed with a rattling thud on the linoleum floor, leaving a fairly impressive gash. I promised I would not reveal the name of the woman, man, or cyborg responsible, so that’s all I have to say about that.

Electric typewriters were impressive when they arrived on the scene and word processors were something out of the distant future, seemingly developed and perfected on the deck of the USS Enterprise.  

Where I am currently working, the “peer amazement period” apparently continues, with people still making comments almost every day about the speed of my two-finger typing. Even the painter on hand to finish office renovations came over to my desk to remark on the speed of my typing. 

Normally, colleagues get used to the speed and the noise. My latest workplace has proven to be the exception. Newsrooms are generally busy places with considerable bustle. My current workplace tends to be much quieter which, unfortunately, draws more attention to my loud typing. I came into work Monday to discover my keyboard had been changed. Apparently, colleagues working nearby had complained about the volume of my typing. I asked that the original keyboard be put back.

What do you want from me? I am a child of typing’s Mesozoic period, when the typing of words necessitated serious plunking on serious clunkers. In the newsroom where I worked, journalists had to type hard enough on manual typewriters that the copy was legible on three sheets of paper with two sheets of carbon paper in between. Neanderthal typing skills were required.

The pad that could save the day
Today, from where I sit, the manipulation of graphemes and words on devices is in its glorious phase. In the future, people will need only think words to have them appear on paper or, even eerier, minds will be linked telepathically. I’m not sure I want to go there.

For the time being, I have my keyboard back. The IT people at my current workplace searched high and low for some kind of foam, rubber, or sponge cushion to put underneath my keyboard. They found one, and now the hope is that this pad between the underside of the keyboard and the surface of the desk will reduce noise resonation.

I will fervently object to any suggestion that I modify my typing style on the grounds it would seriously compromise my productivity and, in all likelihood, my mental health! I couldn’t possibly keep reminding myself to tread lightly. It’s inescapable; when it comes to typing, I’m a Type A typer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Convection Sucks

In 2014, the Library of Congress deemed it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. For me, its significance was established long before that! “Luxo Jr.” came out in 1986. I vaguely remember seeing the two-minute animated film in a movie theatre. What I remember most was being surprised that a desk lamp could convey emotions and stir them in me! I’m not sure whether it disturbed or fascinated me, but, either way, I never forgot it.

“Luxo Jr.” has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. With its hopping desk lamp, it revolutionized animation techniques and earned Pixar an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film. It managed to convey emotion in inanimate objects. I think experiencing that convection of emotion messed me up! I’m almost certain I did not have a tendency to attribute human characteristics to inanimate objects before watching that film!

Sure, I’m sentimental; I have always been sentimental. I was teary when I traded in my 1984 vehicle for a 1990 model car! The question is, was I teary because “Luxo Jr.” brought a desk lamp to life, prompting me to project human emotion onto objects in my own life, such as an exhausted Jamaica Blue Hyundai Pony?

Much as it sounds highly implausible to you, it sounds highly plausible to me.

On Saturday, we took delivery of a new stainless steel, convection range. That wasn’t really the problem. The problem was when the two delivery guys lifted our old oven from the spot in our kitchen where it had stood for 26 years, reliably cooking our favorite foods for our favorite people. The oven had shared in so much of our lives, and contributed so much to our lives as new homeowners, newlyweds, new parents, accomodating hosts and curious cooks.

There are plenty of objects in our lives that we associate with emotion. Even though they are objects and devoid of emotion themselves, there are times when I imagine they feel what I’m feeling. That’s convection. To complicate things, our oven was with us a long time and the food it created for us and our significant others, played such an important role in our lives. It conveyed love.

Our new range
Will our new convection range be able to convey love?

Using personification or anthropomorphization for the convection of emotion in inanimate objects is troublesome. Where does it end? Given that I have managed to get rid of old lawn mowers, smelly sponges and used tissues without getting sappy, I’m somewhat consoled that my sentimentality hasn’t taken me completely over the edge.

As he lifted our faithful oven, one of the delivery guys asked whether it was broken. Feeling guilty, I rather sheepishly answered, “no”.

They placed our old oven on the street as they took the new range from the truck. I held the door open as they carried the new convection range past me into our home, but I just stared out at our old oven alone in the street, unwanted and facing rejection. I know, that’s convection at work; my mind conveying emotion in our oven. Even writing about that moment of convection now, gives me the blubbers.
Our faithful previous oven
Am I a lunatic? Out to lunch? A couple of slices short of a full loaf? There’s enough sadness in the world that I don’t need to manufacture it in manufactured goods!

Maybe I should have asked what happens to our old oven. Perhaps it will go to a family somewhere, where it will continue to cook and create happy moments. Many of our discarded objects could do with recycling.

Yes, indeed, the name “Luxo Jr.” could very well come up in future therapy.

I can tell you that even though I loved the “Toy Story” films, I never watched the last one after people told me how sad it was. I know my limits.

Convection sucks.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Round and Round

The amount on our latest municipal tax bill included one penny. To illustrate, let’s say it was $1234.01. I prepared a check for $1234.00. My wife suggested I include the one cent. I scoffed outright, and with generous bluster, pointed out the rounding rule.

Off to city hall I went. I slid the check across the counter to the clerk, who began entering the name, address and amount into her computer. Very casually, she announced there would be an “amount due” of one cent in our account. Almost, but not quite incredulous, I pointed out, with generous bluster, the rounding rule.

When it ceased production of the penny in 2012, the Royal Canadian Mint explained the rounding rule to Canadians. The rounding rule, pointed out the city hall clerk, completely blusterless, applies to cash only.

Oh, fine.

I asked if I could pay the penny now. She said, yes. So I took out a nickel and slid it across the counter. She smiled and explained that because of the rounding rule, she was unable to give me four cents change. In a cash situation, four cents would be rounded to five cents, meaning we would have sat there all day, me handing her the nickel to cover my one-cent debt, and her, handing me back the same nickel after rounding off my four cents change!

I muttered, “Keep the nickel.” Would I get a credit of four cents in my account? Nope.


Normally, I do not practice penny pinching. Still, I prefer not to think of the moral of this story as “listen to your wife”, but, instead, “pay in cash next time and save the penny”. Either way, to me, it makes absolutely no cents.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

What's In Your Wallet

It’s all the rage. Tailgating. No joke, they are right on my bumper, like a primed pimple. Lately, the people I loosely refer to as motorists, are driving obnoxiously close to the rear of my vehicle. It’s not happening on the highway as much as it seems to be happening on secondary roads, such as residential streets and boulevards. 

It’s been about six months since I first noticed this irritating new trend. Believe me, I’m not driving too slow!

I understand government greed. It’s about keeping the coffers as full as possible. The province has a lot of bills to pay. Purely in the name of raking in revenue, the government went ahead and quietly created the IC driver’s permit, but, truth be told, it’s a decision that’s coming back to haunt us.

There are no cognitive criteria whatsoever; the controversial driving permit is granted to anyone who can, more or less, walk upright. By handing the IC driver’s permit to anyone who wants one, the government very conveniently collects piles of money from permit fees, vehicle registrations, taxes on tires, gasoline, car parts and insurance. It’s a mega-cash cow! There are, however, considerable compromises to safety.

With all the dunces and dopes on the road holding IC permits, there are more accidents and injuries, which pushes up hospital costs and work absenteeism. There is more road rage and general stress. Court costs are skyrocketing. More damaged cars are rusting away in junkyards, which is harmful to the environment.

Judging by the proportion of stupid, discourteous drivers I encounter on Montreal roads, I’m prepared to estimate that only 3 percent of all drivers sitting behind the wheel have driver’s permits that are legit. The other 97 percent of people I loosely refer to as motorists were, ever so cavalierly, handed the IC driver’s permit.

Quebec’s IC permit was thoroughly ill-conceived. Drivers with IC permits are running rampant, and routinely running red lights and stop signs. They are lane hogs, refusing to budge from the passing lane, they weave, cut-in, tailgate, and cannot master merging. IC permit holders also toss cigarette butts from their car windows.

Please, someone, enforce the basic rules of the road!

You IC permit holders, know this; there’s no way on earth any examiner in their right mind would have granted you a real driver’s permit! For many Quebecers, it may be shocking to hear that Transport authorities have been hiring driving examiners who are not of sound mind, but there it is. The system feeds itself.

As for the few examiners still in their right mind, they have been ordered to pass you because the government needs more of what’s in your wallet. Do not think for a moment you have been granted a permit because you can actually drive! In fact, don’t think for a moment at all, because thought is far beyond the capacity of the typical IC permit holder.

Get off my bumper and go get a real driver’s permit, if you dare. Your IC driver’s permits should all be revoked!

Take a moment right now, if you will, to check your driver’s permit. Have a look; maybe you are part of the problem. I’m curious to know whether your permit is Imbecile Class, or not.

What’s in your wallet?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Excuses Galore

It’s like this; I do a lot of different stuff, but I never do enough memorizing of songs, even my own. I know the lyrics to jazz standards off by heart, but when I sing jazz standards in public, it's usually me, singing. Just singing. I'm not playing guitar at the same time. If I were performing full-time, I would very likely have more time to perform songs and learn them by heart.

Playing guitar for popular songs means memorizing chords. I'd have to play the songs crazy often to memorize lyrics and chords! Even now, working as a full-time communications specialist while hosting a television show focused on Montreal current events, I don’t play songs often enough to learn the chords and lyrics off by heart. Consequently, I have to read them off a sheet. To read the sheet, conveniently, I now need glasses! That is the reason why I’m wearing glasses and reading the music when I performed on stage in May! Several people have asked the question after seeing the YouTube videos I posted.

To make matters even more complicated, sweat on my face while I was singing and playing guitar caused the glasses to slide down to the tip of my nose, completing my Ludwig Von Drake impression. 

Hey, if you don’t mind the glasses and reading on stage, I’d love to do more shows! 

Here is an Eagles song we did at the May show. 

Those glasses are alive!