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!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Batten Down the Hatches

I’m not used to seeing the Senators look consistently hapless, but that’s what I’m unhappily looking at these days. Their generally poor play has led to unsettling trade talk, none of it helping my state of mind as an Ottawa fan. I certainly don’t want the team to lose Erik Karlsson. In terms of disillusionment, a move like that would rank with Alfie’s dastardly dash to Detroit.

What crazy fun to watch Karlsson last season! He was the epitome of hockey talent, leadership and intensity. In previous seasons, he often appeared too casual, rarely looked like he was hustling and, with his smirks and smiles after botched plays, he often looked like he didn’t care. Last season, he was pure beast, and the fact that he didn’t win the Norris throws the credibility of the trophy selection process into question along with the very stability of the entire hockey universe! You get my point. I hope he can get back to 100 percent because his play astonishes. His selfless and high-flying approach to the game inspires teammates and, may I say, breeds confidence and thrills in fans!
I like Dzingel, Pyatt, Pageau, Brassard, Borowiecki and Smith; they seem to put in an honest effort every shift. That was certainly the Chris Neil way. Nearly every game that we didn’t see him on the bench, my wife and I would wonder, “Where the heck is Chris Neil?” We missed him every game he wasn’t in the lineup and we’ll miss him more knowing he won’t be back in the lineup. I sent him a tweet thanking him for staying with the team his entire career. That kind of loyalty in a puck business that’s become more of a buck business, is a rare and much appreciated thing!

Burrows is a bust and while Duchene and his quick hands appears to be working hard, his lack of production does not justify his sniper’s salary. Move on, Matt. Former Leaf , ugh, Dion Phaneuf looks like he’s walking out there; even if his interviews are refreshingly cliché-free, let him walk lazily somewhere else. To me, Oduya and Dumont are downright disposable.

As coach, I would have told Bobby Ryan “just go out there and have fun Bobby, don’t worry about the goals, we already appreciate the big body checks you throw. Your assignment is to come back to the bench after every shift with a smile on your face.” I have a Senators T-shirt with Ryan’s name on the back and the number 6, before he switched to number 9. I’ve always rooted for Bobby, who is clearly a highly skilled hockey player, but the injuries and lack of confidence are getting old. It was nice to see him finally score one Wednesday night. 

Use the money we save by getting rid of Phaneuf, Ryan, Duchene and Burrows to pay Karlsson more. It would be nice to keep other exciting and gifted players like Hoffman and Stone as well, but some of the more impatient Senators players must be thinking there’s gotta be more for me out there. Both Condon and Anderson have the potential to be far better than they are right now. We’ve all seen it. Both goalies can be brilliant, but their play has been as uninspired as the rest of the team.

I blame Guy Boucher. It’s all well and good to say the players are professionals and should play to their maximum every night. In an ideal world that happens, but even in our own jobs, the human beings we work with, for, and around; their attitudes, behavior and policies inevitably influence our work performance as human beings ourselves. It’s clear to me Boucher’s not saying the right things the right way. Happy players are confident players and, as the loop goes, confident players are productive, they get it done on the ice. The team looks lame, not as lame, mind you, as that Patrick Kane television commercial I keep seeing, but floundering atrociously. The players seem to be overpassing and choosing not to shoot when shots are obvious. There are even more turnovers than usual.

Speaking of turnover, batten down the hatches, the trade winds threaten to gust as ominous clouds loom.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rediscovering Super Sardines

My travels along the boulevard of “Healthy Eating” have hardly been fast, focused and smooth. Instead, you’ll find patches of burnt rubber, skid marks, lots of tire tracks leading off-road, along with countless, rather shameful detours into the parking lots of such unspeakably delicious destinations as ice cream parlors, cake stores and donut shops. My GPS confirms I am, indeed, on the boulevard, but, to most people speeding past, it appears I’ve stalled, or broken down.

Here’s my reality; I like eating healthy food I like and will not go out of my way to eat healthy food I do not like. I am also exceptionally lazy when it comes to cooking! I’ve been doing decently with the fish thing. The suggestion is that we eat fish twice a week. I’m on it. They are a lean, healthy source of protein and they come with heart-healthy and brain-healthy omega-3 fats.

When my former morning television co-host, Camille, told me I could place a filet of salmon on aluminum foil, sprinkle on pepper and be done, I thought, “sold!” Peppered salmon on a bed of brown rice has been part of my weekly diet since then! I’ve been devouring tuna since I was a child. I used to enjoy kippered snacks, smoked herring, right out of the can. They are packed in oil, which now deters me. I must say, the Pacific mackerel I’ve been eating, canned in China, doesn’t always look that appetizing when it slides out of the tin. Thinking it’s a healthy option, every now and then, I treat myself to a shrimp stir fry in the Montreal Trust food court.

Websites will tell you that when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, not all seafood is created equal. It turns out the unglamorous sardine is way out in front! Who knew? It packs more omega-3 per 3 ounce serving than salmon, tuna or any other food! It’s also naturally high in vitamin D, which is great for bones because it helps increase the absorption of calcium. Sardines, I’ve learned, offer phosphorus, also good for bones. On top of all that, the tiny, inexpensive, sustainable sardine is a good source of vitamin B12, which promotes cardiovascular health.

How can you argue with that?

The canned version only has about 400mg of sodium, which is not much at all. I’m in the process of rediscovering sardines and I’m buying them packed in mineral water. I can’t remember why, but I stopped eating sardines years ago. Now, not only do I see them on lists of healthy foods to eat, they are being hailed by some experts as an outright superfood! Oh, sardine superfood, my apologies for the snub and, by all means, let’s spend some time together.

On the boulevard of “Healthy Eating”, that's got to be worth a lurch forward.