A Crippled Generation? — part 1 of 3

Everywhere I look I see a crippled generation. I don’t mean people with actual physical or mental disabilities, but those people who are crippling themselves.

young-woman-with-cell-phone 2 800I think that we’ve all seen young people with their smart phone grafted to their hand. They don’t seem to put it down for any reason, even when they are fumbling to accomplish some complicated task with only one hand, a shoulder, their feet — complicated tasks like opening a door.

They remind me of “The Ood” from Dr Who. The “Ood” are a species of aliens always have a sphere in their right hand which translated languages for them. They acted a servants and workers during one time period in the future on various planets. It seemed very odd to me that the Ood would handicap themselves by always having that sphere in one hand.

handicapping smart phone 1 800People in our society don’t need to keep that hand occupied by a smart phone. There are cases, pouches, and many other places to tuck that telephone.

Of course, in part the issue is that these smart phone users simply want to stay in contact with their friends via text messages or talking on that phone. “Texting” actually takes two hands to write messages, though to read them only one.

They also want to be be entertained. So they have music, videos, games and more there in their hands.

living_with_a_cell_phone_08 800What cripples them is that they want to stay in touch and be entertained all the time. I’ve seen a young mother walking across a cross-walk at a fairly busy intersection pushing a stroller, walking a dog, and texting, or simply holding her smart phone. (image is not of that lady) Can you imagine taking care of a toddler and being in control of a dog, all with one hand?

It’s quite sad really. That is especially when there are people who would dearly love to have a second hand they can use, but only have the use of one hand — not because they are holding a phone.


See part two this coming Thursday. In the mean-time have a look at a cartoon I did that is related: The New Handicap — Wheel Tales of Willow City

The New Handicap

The New Handicap by DWPenner

 

Not a Glass Act

Recycle-get this...

Recycle-get this… (Photo credit: practicalowl)

We want to make it easier to recycle after all.

You have these big bins that are easy to roll to the street with everything going into just three bins. Everything organic goes into the first bin; metal, plastic, paper, and cardboard go into the second bin; and everything else goes into the third bin. Oh, what was that about glass? Oh, we used to put that in the second bin, but they don’t allow us to do that anymore.

English: glass and plastic (bottles) recycling...

English: glass and plastic (bottles) recycling in Poland Polski: powtórne przetwarzanie szkła i butelek plastikowych – segregacja odpadów (Szymbark, woj. pomorskie) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems that was inconvenient for them. They say it contaminated the paper and plastic. Now they say they want us to keep the glass separate from the other recycling. They say we can take it to special depots at grocery stores and transfer stations. In interviews of a number of people they say it wasn’t so bad in places where they have done it for years. Of course these are people who were depositing their glass in the special bins for glass. They were the people of course who have no problem getting to these special depots.

Recycle for Greater Manchester

Recycle for Greater Manchester (Photo credit: The Laird of Oldham)

Something the bureaucrats forget is that there is a large segment of the population who do not have access to cars — they are the people that take public transit to get places. Of course there are many people taking public transit that have cars at home, but there are many who don’t.

There will always be people who won’t take an extra step to do things. A little extra work and they won’t become involved in a project like recycling — they will just toss the glass bottles and jars into that third bin for general garbage. It’s a shame that many of them actually have cars and it wouldn’t be too much trouble to take a bag of jars and bottles to a recycling depot.

Glass jars

Glass jars (Photo credit: dliban)

On the other hand there will be people that have problems getting to the depots. These people without cars will end up with jars and bottles stacking up; perhaps tossing them into the general garbage bin. Many will be poor people and some of them will be disabled people.

Consider their alternative — washing their garbage and taking it on public transit to a transfer station or recycling depot at the grocery store. Perhaps it’s not too much to take glass bottles and jars back to the grocery store, people already do with their empty bottles — but I know of many people who don’t take back their empty bottles even though there is a deposit on them. Instead they donate them to charity or to people who pick them up off the street.

Oakridge Place Shopping Center, Metairie Road,...

Oakridge Place Shopping Center, Metairie Road, Metairie, Louisiana. Grocery store, view from parking lot. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think quite often the bureaucrats that make the decisions forget about the people who don’t have cars. Those bureaucrats probably have their own cars. A few might take public transit, but I believe they’re in the minority and I believe that they have access to cars if they wish.

The problem is more widespread than just this recycling issue. I’ve noticed quite often with parking lot designs that while it seems the designs are good for pedestrians at first glance — this is only true for people coming from parked cars into the establishment. For people coming off the street the design is not quite as good.

You often find the pedestrian entrances to the establishment from the street are less than desirable. As a pedestrian I have often found myself going very far out of my way to get the pedestrian entrance. They are distances that if you were in a car are not very long, however on foot they’re quite large. It all seems geared to people who have parked their cars and are going to the establishment.

Road Construction

Road Construction (Photo credit: ahhyeah)

Shopping centres are just a nuisance. It gets very dangerous sometimes around construction sites. Building construction sites often rip up sidewalks and create large obstacles for pedestrians. They require you to walk on the opposite side of the street from the side that you require. If the city blocks are short and there are pedestrian crossings nearby it is not too bad — however if the blocks are quite long or if not every block has a pedestrian crossing and the street is busy with traffic, it can be not only inconvenient, but dangerous.

Car Park

Car Park (Photo credit: chrisinplymouth)

In fact sometimes they leave no options at all for the pedestrian and they are left to figure out their own way to merge with traffic and get to the destination. Sometimes it’s not too bad on a dry sunny day, but if you get any precipitation the mud, gravel, and water can make for an adventurous walk. And then there are the issues for people who are not on foot. I have seen where they’ve made it nearly impossible — make that impossible for a person in a wheelchair or mobility scooter to pass. For that matter there are people with baby carriages, strollers, and grocery carts. Not everyone drives or rides. Not everyone has two sound feet.

Overloaded baby carriage

Overloaded baby carriage (Photo credit: craig1black)

Bureaucrats have to remember that not everyone is as mobile as they are. This is strange considering how locally we have had a number of politicians who have been disabled and even in wheelchairs.

In a day and age when we are trying to encourage people to use public transportation and to remember people who are disabled — we can’t forget them when we plan the other facilities and systems in our cities and towns.

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Technology Marches Onward — Fruit Salad

blackberry

blackberry (Photo credit: arrayexception)

Technology marches onward.

What’s the fruit of the day? I was just listening to a news story on the new Blackberry smart phones. Can we really still call them phones?

I know some cynics really dig at the idea of so many things being in so many devices. Having cameras and music players and video players all in the telephone makes him think that there’s just mediocrity in electronics. They say if you want a camera get a camera because a camera built into a phone just won’t do a good job. I say that it’s all fine and good to have a great camera that takes great pictures, but if you don’t have that camera with you you won’t be taking that nice picture. It’s a picture taken at the spur of the moment that tends to get the awards. That is unless you’re one of these great National Geographic photographers whose job it is to take photographs. Of course they always have a huge camera bag with them wherever they go, but do you wander around with a 40 pound bag of cameras and lenses?

Comunicando 114 ¿Qué móvil prefieres? iPhone, ...

Comunicando 114 ¿Qué móvil prefieres? iPhone, BlackBerry o Android (Photo credit: jagelado)

In any case I rather like the fact there’s some competition between smart phone manufacturers. I like that Apple had the competition of all those Android phones. I mean I like the iPhone — I don’t have one, I’ve got an iPod touch, but it gives me a good idea of what the iPhone can do. From what I’m led to understand the Android phones do as well or better. Actually I have good friends who take every chance they get to take a dig at Apple and hype Android. Things seem very partisan to me. I would be very happy if Rimm and their Blackberry do well. I like the idea of more competition in the market.

I wonder how the new Blackberry would interface with my MacBook?

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This Air is My Air, This Air is Your Air…

Where do your rights end and mine begin? Where do my rights end and yours begin?

English: Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis s...

English: Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis shop at 970 Lincoln Street, Denver, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here we can use legal marijuana. You can get a prescription for it in capsule form and a license to grow a small amount for personal usage. You can even get a license to grow it for others that have a license to use it.

I’ll not get into the medical conditions which are eligible for consideration for treatment with medicinal marijuana — it’s not the point of my article here, nor are recipes for brownies or that you can get it in the form of capsules or candies. The point is a matter of personal space and respecting it.

I could say I am for medical marijuana, I could say I am against it — I could say I am for the decriminalization of marijuana, I could say I am against it — I could say I am for the legalization of marijuana, I could say I am against it — but regardless, what I can say is that even though I might be eligible to get a license for medical marijuana, I react badly to it. I’m not saying I am morally against it, but that I have a medical reaction to it that is negative.

Results of allergy test

Results of allergy test (Photo credit: dathan)

I couldn’t say at this moment, pending more medical testing, whether it is an actual “immunoglobulin type E (IgE)” allergy reaction or some other sort of chemical hypersensitivity, but it is real and severe. It started with a feeling of anxiety and mood swings mixed with nauseousness and headache. However with each exposure — and I am referring to “second hand smoke” from people nearby, smoking it, like over 10 metres (35 ft) away in a park or in some other suite in an apartment building on their balcony — it has gotten worse until now, a strong exposure will knock me off my feet literally.

The last strong exposure, I walked around the corner of a house I was visiting and into a “cloud” of it that a breeze has wafted down between the houses from the far end. I only had time to note, “Oh the guy at the far end is toking up I had better go ’round the oth….” and the next thing I knew I was laying on the cement and gravel beside the house with a bleeding elbow and knee and the house owner’s son — worried — just having gotten there asking if he could help. It was him who had been smoking up and he had gotten rid of the roach already before approaching — most likely in case his Dad came out. I explained to him about the strong reaction I had to pot and he was sympathetic. He’s a pretty good kid and has been careful enough when I’ve been visiting that I’ve never had a problem since.

Exposure had started to make me shaky an a bit dizzy – seeing stars, before, but never so extreme. I did recall that with my allergy to feathers, when I was literally faced with a goose down pillow — I was sleeping over at a friends and rolled over from one pillow to the next to discover one of the pillows was down — it felt like my breath was sucked out of me. For some reason I just could not breath in when I faced the pillow. I don’t think it was because my throat swelled shut becaus as soon as I turned away from the pillow I could breath again. I still can’t say that allergies work this way.

cigarette

cigarette (Photo credit: Fried Dough)

The last exposure I had to pot smoke however is what spurred me to write this. I was approaching a nearby bus stop the other Sunday an two fellows were sitting on the bus stop bench talking. I could see they were smoking and so I gave the bench a bit of a wide berth not caring for cigarette smoke to stand by the pole near the street. It was there I thought I smelt a hint of skunk… We live in a part of Surrey BC that is next to an “Urban Forest” which the highway goes through so occasionally skunk and man occasionally encounter each other. It can leave an odour.

However I figured the odour wasn’t from a skunk… I looked over at the bench and noted the two fellows nearly head to head sharing a cigarette. Well, two guys on a very low budget who were “close” might share a cig, but… no they were sharing a joint. It has taken me much longer to type this and perhaps you longer to read it than for this to take place. I’d already started reacting to the “skunk” smell… which was another giveaway. I don’t really have that much reaction to real skunk!

I was starting to feel anxious and a bit nauseous. I realized it wouldn’t be good if I were to just collapse at the bus stop and nobody know why. So I told the fourth person there at the bus stop, a woman, that I had an allergy to pot and the fellows at the bench were smoking it and if I were to collapse, to tell the paramedics that was why. Now this is a bit of an over-reaction, and probably this very over-reaction part of my reaction to the pot. The guys at the bench thought I was talking about calling the police and started talking about having a license to legally smoke pot for medical reasons.

allergies

allergies (Photo credit: jfl1066)

Of course they just had to show me their license… one between the two of them, ahem. Number 76## Actually the number was somewhere in the seventy-six hundreds, but am not 100% on the last two digits and wouldn’t post them here in any case. I am just posting that so that you don’t think that there are tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of those licenses issued by the federal government. Either that or he printed his up on his Kodak photo printer at home for anyone other than the police.

They said they had every right to be smoking it because they had medical reasons. I told them I had no problem with medical pot, but I was allergic. They said I should just stand further away. Further away? How do you catch the bus if you don’t stand at the bus stop? Their ears mostly went deaf when I mentioned their license was only for smoking in their own residence until one had the bright counter argument — “What do you want? For me to live like a hermit and just stay at home?” He couldn’t figure out the difference when I asked if I should live like a hermit and just stay at home? He had a choice when he smoked. I find that I am always having to breath.

He just couldn’t see that for some reason he might imbibe in some other way than smoking it if he wasn’t home. He wasn’t waiting for the bus either. He was just using the convenient bench. Perhaps it isn’t fare that I mention we were within a block or so of a “half way house“. I am all for half way houses as well. People who are struggling need all the help they can get.

Now I didn’t collapse on that encounter. There was a fairly strong breeze in the right direction. But, by the time the bus came my arms and hands were trembling like I was suffering from a nerve disorder and my legs trembling so I had problems walking. The bus driver lowered the bus so I could step up and I needed the hand rail. I didn’t want the driver to think I was drunk so I told him I was getting over an allergic reaction. I said “getting over” a reaction so he wouldn’t worry about picking me up. My head did clear over the 10 minute trip too.

In any case, whether my reaction to the pot is allergy or chemical sensitivity — or even psychosomatic — don’t I, or anyone else, deserve the right to walk down the public sidewalk and breath air that is not perfumed with tobacco or pot smoke?

There are now laws limiting where you can smoke cigarettes. It is true that you can smoke cigarettes walking down the sidewalk, though now, at least in Vancouver you aren’t allowed to smoke in public parks.

I know that people have grand discussions on how pot smoke does less harm than tobacco smoke to smoker’s lungs. But, they miss the biggest point. If “you” are smoking they are “your lungs”. If “I” am stuck at the bus stop with “you” they are “my lungs”. Truly, I chose to be at the bus stop. I could chose to be elsewhere. Maybe I would rather be at the zoo? But wait, I’d have to take the bus.

With regards to legalities — I am no lawyer, pot advocate, anti-drug person, etc. — there are three things: medical marijuana usage, decriminalizing marijuana, and legalizing marijuana.

One can have legal medical marijuana usage where it would be a controlled substance still and available only by prescription or from a licensed grower without it being decriminalized or legalized. It would be similar to heroin where people can be taking it medicinally by prescription — though in this case I think most often in hospital, but there are other medications that more likely fit that model.

Decriminalization would mean that you don’t go to prison if you are found with a certain amount of marijuana in your possession for your own use. You might be allowed to grow up to a certain amount for that personal usage or it might simply mean that you are put into jail and fined for possession but not thrown into prison and given a prison record. That would be much like a minor traffic offence — too major for just a ticket, but not such that you face judge, jury, and prison time. Here in BC we have decriminalization.

Legalizing marijuana, I would believe could put it in the cigarette and alcohol sort of category… perhaps. though I think harder to control… I guess it is easier to grow pot than even make wine or beer. Growing and curing tobacco is harder, distilling whisky or other alcoholic beverages.

I’m not sure what I would do if it became legalized. I’d be like a kid with a peanut allergy with all the kids running around the playground playing peanut butter sandwich tag.

Note: Since I wrote this, Marijuana is legal in Washington State and a number of other places in the US — though I believe isn’t to be used in public places.

 

 

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Occupy Canada!

Occupy Canada chalkboard sign.

Occupy Canada might sound a bit odd considering all those “Occupy” protests in the past year or so. What I am proposing and talking about is a bit different, though perhaps every bit as radical.

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day (Photo credit: Anirudh Koul)

In some ways we have stopped actually occupying Canada. Oh, we live here — but do we occupy this land? I mean do we occupy it as the people who are in control of this land of ours. Let us for the moment forget native land claims and forget issues of immigration.

Did you vote? Not just in the Federal election; not just in the Provincial election; but how about in your Civic elections? Do you take part in town hall meetings? Do you know belong to a strata development or live in an apartment and are their any issues pertaining to it? Do you take part in strata council meetings? Do you know the issues pertaining to your community on the small scale and on the large scale? Do you know the people running for all parties as well as the independents. Do you belong to any political party?

English: Pic for WikiProject Political parties...

English: Pic for WikiProject Political parties and politicians in Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you don’t know the issues concering your small corner of the world or the larger part — do you truly occupy the country you live in? Or are you just a passenger on an amusement park ride.

I know we can’t be experts in all the issues. It is just like a politician can’t be an expert in all the issues. That is why a politician — if the politician is any good at all — will have a network of people they depend on for advice when it comes to making decisions. I don’t mean “yes men” or “puppet masters” or people to make decisions for them. I mean people that understand the specialized fields who can give advice and explain the issues. They do have to be trustworthy and it would be advisable to have counsellors on all sides of any issue.

In any case, it is good to be educated and have good sources.

It isn’t easy to have a say in government today.

Sometimes it seems like everything is polarized. You are faced down with a boiled down version of a few issues and told that you have only to chose between option A and option B. Of course one side says the other is the road to ruin. If Side A gets a majority, then Side A gets to make all the rules. If Side A doesn’t get a majority, then Side A has to be a bit careful and moderate least Side B has a chance to vote them out and have a new election. That all gets a bit messy.

Image of a list of the major political parties...

Image of a list of the major political parties in Canada. The date is October 14th! Canadians, go vote! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps it is less messy in more polarized places where politics has been filtered to just two choices. Here, in federal and provincial politics, while often it seems, or the major parties like to think it is a two party race each “go round” there is a lot of jockeying around. Quite often the party in power finds itself there because the other parties have split the vote.

Unfortunately, although your elected official for your riding is supposed to be representing you — the almost always will vote the party line. I think there are more upsets in municipal and provincial politics than federal.

Canada

Canada (Photo credit: palindrome6996)

However that being said, if a party in power, is unpopular with the majority of the population for most of the time — how come, come election time, it still is voted back into power?

Perhaps people just aren’t remembering to a time before the election was called? Perhaps they don’t like the alternatives? Perhaps it is time they joined a political party and helped put a good alternative into place that people might want to put into power?

Perhaps they might want to occupy their place in Canada? Perhaps people should simply take part?

But! There is more to taking part than voting! More to Occupying Canada than voting — and I do not mean parking in a park or protesting in a public square.

More later!

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What We Have is a Failure to Communicate!

It is 5:32 AM and you are woken by your spouse. They are shaking you and in distress. They are strangely quiet. Even in the half light of early morning their face looks strange and you realize only strange sounds are coming from their mouth — slurred sounds.

As your own mind wakes to full alertness one word bursts into it — “Stroke!”

Please Listen For Dial Tone

Please Listen For Dial Tone (Photo credit: Tweygant)

Trying to calm your spouse you reach to the phone at your bedside and as you try to dial those three digits you never hoped to dial for your family you realize… 911! No Dial Tone! Frantically you check the cords. Everything is plugged in. You rush to the phone in the kitchen, the older one that isn’t cordless and doesn’t have a plug in power adapter. Not only is there no dial tone, there is no light on the dial, and it is strangely dead to your ear. Normally there is a faint echo of your breath.

Luckily you have a cellphone charging on the counter and you can call for an ambulance. You give the operator your address describe the problem and while trying to explain why you aren’t using your regular phone they explain that you aren’t the first — Someone has ripped out a chunk of phone line and stolen it during the night rendering a whole suburban neighbourhood without telephone or internet service. Cable theft

It is something that perhaps you might have expect out in the country but this is something happening in the city and though perhaps you, your friends, your parents, grandparents and aunt Sue have cellphones, many people don’t. These sorts of thefts are becoming more common. Thefts from constructions sites of copper piping and household wiring as well as other metal household components — all sold for scrap metal prices to scrap yards. Recently a whole block in Vancouver had the front garden gates stolen at night as residents slept! At another time extreme damage was done to a charity when water pipe was stolen resulting in flooding and water damage to the offices and stored supplies.

A heap of scrap metal.

A heap of scrap metal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, when telephone lines are cut to a subdivision, then lives are immediately at stake. No telephone means no protection by Fire, Police, or Ambulance. No paramedics will be coming to resuscitate heart attack victims, no utility company to come for a downed power-line — though the utility company would probably notice through other means.

A few times a year now, we hear of someone found electrocuted when they tried stealing metal at a power station — unsuccessfully. Sometimes they are successful of course.

In the “wild west” they used to hang horse thieves. The reason for that extreme form of punishment was that to steal a man’s horse could too often mean that you were stranding them under circumstance that could lead to their death. Perhaps metal theft, in particular theft of power lines, telephone lines, or other utility equipment that renders that utility inoperable should have a commensurate penalty to the potential loss — that being endangerment of human life. I am not speaking of the inconvenience of not being able to surf the web or gossip with your neighbour or watching TV, but being denied access to emergency services.

Something has to be done.

We might start with increased penalties to repel crime and perhaps prohibit the buying and selling of scrap metal except by licensed tradespeople. Increased penalties might deter some, but licensing mostly only deters the honest person and is a complication for the honest trades-person — like a truck mechanic trying to dispose of worn out brake drums once or twice a year.

Still… when the phone falls silent, even in the City of Surrey, the second largest city in British Columbia

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A Step Back

Ford E-Series photographed in New Westminster,...

Ford E-Series photographed in New Westminster, British Coumbia, Canada. Category:Ford E-Series busesCategory:TransLink (British Columbia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

British Columbia’s Metro Vancouver public transit system is run by Translink; and they announced recently, that they are going to scrap a system by which people entitled to “HandyDART” access — which is a door-to-door minibus service that seniors and disabled folks can book — can  buy coupons to pay for 50% of taxi fares to supplement the service.

HandyDART

HandyDART (Photo credit: paulkimo90)

Translink feels that improvements to the HandyDART service — increasing it to 18 hours a day which includes evening until midnight — as well as the fact that nearly all public transit buses as well as other modes of transit are “accessible”, renders the TaxiSaver program unnecessary. The money saved by scrapping the program will be used to increase usage of taxis used to supplement the HandyDART service. Taxis are used when HandyDART vans aren’t available and using a taxi won’t compromise client care.

They expect to save $1.1 Million over the next 3 years and will be reinvesting $200,000 into the supplementary taxi service. (Facts from The Vancouver Courier)

Columbia Station

Columbia Station (Photo credit: DennisSylvesterHurd)

This might seem reasonable at first. A person in a wheelchair or using a walker can book a ride on the HandyDART to travel from doorstep to doorstep with an attendant for the price of bus-fare basically. They also can ride any transit bus and all the elevated rapid transit trains — SkyTrain — or cross harbour passenger ferry — Seabus — or the commuter rail — West Coast Express — as they are all “accessable” now. Of course I guess taxis are still an option, though at full price.

English: SeaBus crossing Burrard Inlet. ‪中文(繁體...

English: SeaBus crossing Burrard Inlet. ‪中文(繁體)‬: 海上巴士橫渡布勒内灣。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the other hand…

As I am led to understand, you can only take the bag or two you can carry when on the HandyDART. On public transit of course you might take a two wheeled grocery cart, if you can manage it with your wheelchair, mobility scooter, walker, or cane. Mind you, There is limited space on those accessible buses for scooters and chairs … and strollers, walkers… and once those are taken, there is no more room. The buses I take often have those spots filled. A driver might not take on someone with a grocery cart when someone on board has a baby stroller.

English: TransLink West Coast Express trains a...

English: TransLink West Coast Express trains at Waterfront Station in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even then, a person can only put so much in a two wheeled grocery cart. When you take a taxi you might do two or three weeks grocery shopping. That means only one trip every two or three weeks which makes a difference to a person who can’t get out much.When you are taking the bus things just might not work out — you might not be able to get from here to there.

For instance, you might walk 250 metres to the bus stop and take a bus 500 metres before transferring to another bus. which will take you 1 or 2 more km to where you get off and walk another 250 or so metres to the store. Then you still have to get the groceries before reversing the process on transit — With the groceries in that two wheeled cart. Of course since you can only get 1 week of groceries — if you can fit in a weeks worth or carry that much — you have to do it again each week. This is not so easy when to start with you have health issues and probably stamina issues.

TransLink Bus

TransLink Bus (Photo credit: nathanpachal)

The HandyDART won’t allow you to take enough on to do your groceries You also can’t bring other larger purchases that might fit into a cab. Public transit also just won’t work for many due to stamina issues and the complexity of handling a cart or grocery bags on a bus. Taxis are expensive and the TaxiSavers helped a lot. What else is there really?

Then there is the issue of needing to book the HandyDART in advance. Some things are just not bookable. Also from what I hear, people are unable to book rides because HandyDART is overbooked already. Perhaps the influx of more money might help, but then also there will be more need.

The TaxiSavers only paid half of the Cab-fare. The client paid the other half — so I figure it likely wasn’t abused.

Removing it seems a step back.

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Are YOU Prepared for Big Brother?

Big Brother 1984So, are you prepared for Big Brother?

I’m not referring to any conspiracy theory or any TV reality show. I am considering things I have seen in the news and in science magazines and on the web. While some of the things are speculation, or were speculation 25 or 30 years ago, many are happening now.

That sounds like the start of a conspiracy theory type article — I am sure. However, even as I write, the Province of British Columbia, Canada is in the process of swapping out  the decades old analogue electrical metres from domestic households to replace them with new electronic digital ones.

These digital metres have been very controversial. There are the factions who are against the increase in microwave background — the metres use WiFi to send and receive information to the electrical power company on power usage in the household a number of times a day. (Even a number of times an hour.) While with my education in electronic engineering, electronic communications, and Animal Biology I have concerns over the general increase in microwave radiation in our environment — I am not overly concerned over the metres from this environmental point-of-view. I’m more concerned about overuse of cell phones, personally. My concern has to do with intimate personal monitoring of the usage of electrical power.

This monitoring is in part — they say — to help do things like catch electricity theft, quickly respond to power outages and developing safety issues in the power system. Officially BC Hydro says:

Once smart meters are  fully operational they will:

  • Help get the lights back on faster during  power outages;
  • Keep rates low by helping BC Hydro operate more efficiently  and help to reduce  wasted electricity
  • Provide customers with new tools to conserve energy and money.

BC Hydro – Media Centre , “BC Hydro Smart Metering update” May 4th, 2012

Advanced Metering Infastructure meter

Advanced Metering Infastructure meter

Part of the conservation is encouraging people avoid using power during “peak hours”. Also to be aware of “power vampires” — ie items that drain power even when apparently turned off.

Being aware of your power usages does sound wise. Having the utility company too aware of every Milliwatt of electricity I use bothers me a bit. With a bit of logic they’d almost be able to tell if I were home or cooking or when I went to bed, turned my computer on or off, my TV…

Water metres are very sophisticated too. From one metre on the outside of your house they can tell which faucet or fixture is being used for how long. Combine this with other smart metres available and inherent abilities to monitor such things as telephone and cellphone usage and Internet usage or even cable/telephone/Internet TV usage… we are or will be “very” monitored soon.

surveillance-camerasWe are already visually recorded many times a day whenever we go out. Our picture is taken when we go into the bank or past any automatic bank machine — at least when we use them. While there are some shops that have fake cameras, the video surveillance is now so cheap that perhaps fake cameras are more expensive. Even without actual public surveillance cameras our images are caught by “Red Light Surveillance” cameras and where they exist Radar Cameras. We also are caught on the many “Traffic Cams”.

Recycling?Those things are not conspiracy fodder or “things to come”. Nor are cameras mounted on “garbage” trucks which record the material dumped from rubbish bins at each house to enforce recycling bylaws by recording if there is an excessive amount of recyclables going into the trash waste stream. Those cameras keep track of the address each bin’s contents come from and while they don’t audit every piece of garbage, they do take a video of all the trash going into the truck. I wonder how long that information is kept for?

Ten or more years ago people were proposing that smokers be charged more for health insurance than others. That sounded almost fair until a friend pointed out that if that was fair, then it should also mean that people who skied should pay more and people who did anything to excess should  be charged more as well. Along those lines, there is a movement that parents of obese children should have them removed on the theory that they are unfit parents.

Where does Big Brother come into this? A “smart toilet” might be able to tell many things to do about your health. That smart toilet combined with monitoring a person or family’s purchases might give health officials a very intimate view on a person’s lifestyle. Are you getting enough fibre? Too much fat?

When I recently was asking the pharmacist at the local area pharmacy (it just happens to be in a major grocery chain, but it is “my” local pharmacy) about the wisdom of a particular product on the shelves and if it would interact with my prescription medications — after checking my records and the medications I was on he gave me my answer. The answer included a tidbit of information I didn’t know. The pharmacist also knew what over-the-counter medications I purchased! Granted, in this case I am pleasantly surprised. The pharmacy record of my medications is available to emergency service providers and hospitals. Whether I am coherent or not when I reach an ER they will know what medications I am on.

But it is in part what got me thinking about this whole “Big Brother” issue.

I do watch what I eat. I’m diabetic an have a few other issues. I a lucky… a fluke of genetics perhaps …and have low cholesterol and low-normal blood pressure. I even have had a carotid Doppler and among other things they discovered that I have little or no plaque in my arteries and veins. That doesn’t mean I am in perfect health. Though I have never smoked and rarely drink, I was quite heavy and though I have lost 50 Kg or more I could stand to lose more.

But, I do sometimes like to have “Hint of Lime” Taco Chips with low fat sour cream. I also like to sometimes have a square or two of unsweetened semi-sweet baking chocolate. (The sort you buy in the baking section.) I also keep some regular Pop on hand for when I feel down. What of a time when there might be “smart fridges” or “smart cupboards” that will record what comes and goes through their doors based on the bar-codes?

I know a few people who live lives that are nearly that structured already. Their lives are measured and weighed. Every “movement” every morsel… unless they go out …is recorded and every time they go out of course is recorded. Even when they go out, “it all comes out in the end.” They have few choices in their lives. I know that most people would like more choice, but have to punch a time-clock — literal or not.

But when the time-clock becomes automatic and as non-invasive as it is invasive, will life ever be the same. Non-invasive, as in we won’t have to write anything down or punch anything; but invasive as in, it will pervade every intimate detail of our life.

Some people argue that if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to worry about. But do you want to worry about how everything looks? What if the author of that book you picked up on the shelf is unsavoury? Perhaps you didn’t recognize the author or what they stood for — but the person looking over your video feed might. Is your garbage pristine? Do you want someone knowing if you “do it” with the lights on? If you are unmarried and are “doing it” or if it is with someone of the same sex? Perhaps it might provide an alibi when you tell the judge were at home alone.

Big Brother 1984Perhaps we should stop saying “Big Brother” and start saying “Santa Claus”?

He knows when you are sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake!
He knows when you’ve been naughty!
So be Good!
For Goodness Sake!

But I like Santa. :-(

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An Artistic Crunch! Big Bang?

Indika Ball PenI think we are coming to an “Artistic Crunch” or perhaps “Big Bang”?

When you consider the options open to budding authors and writers, singers and song writers, animators and film producers, and even software developers — there are so many venues that a person really has to either shine like a super-nova or be incredibly lucky to be successful in this new age.

When i entered my teen years, I could look at the school library — which was fairly decent — and reasonably decide to read every science-fiction book in the library. There simply were not that many science-fiction authors around — including classical ones. I was a bit in the dark regarding the genre of fantasy or horror. Now, not only are there whole sections in bookstores and even whole bookstores which cater the fantasy, science-fiction, and other speculative fiction, but so many new books and authors come out that I know I don’t recognize many.

With the Internet, there are very many more options for creative endeavours and these are not just fiction and art. There are whole periodical news sites and reference sites and quite professionally done. In fact it can be difficult sometimes to tell the fake from the real — the well researched from the off the cuff flights of fancy. Musicians and film makers have so many ways they can express themselves they can easily get lost and even gems can get lost with oly one or two viewers or people as an audience.

Even while major publishers and retailers are having problems adapting to this electronic age, they also have a glut of material to select from. There are also very many talented people desperate to be read or heard that they are nearly giving their material away for pennies.

The time where the Internet may have made it easy for an artist to come out into the open — I think — are gone. Now it is a new struggle to be noted. At least there is plenty of space to practice practice practice.

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Siege Warfare in the 21st Century

colchesterWho cares about them, they’re only peasants!

When two great forces fought in the dark ages, often it came down to “siege warfare” — where one side or the other or more rarely both would hold up in their fortress and lob stones at each other. They’d wage a war of attrition. The people within the walls living on what supplies they had brought or stored within and what water they might have access too. The people without the walls living off the land which perhaps had been put to the torch by the castle defenders before they closed their gates.

You might wonder where I am going with this short history lesson — we have modern sieges happening all the time around us. Two opponents digging in their heals and waiting for the other side to break… or to break the other side. In the meantime, in the once fertile valley between the fortresses are the peasant farmers — now unable to farm due to the armies trodding upon their fields or burning them. The warring armies often paying lips service that they are doing it all for “the country” “the Crown” “the people” “for God” or some lofty purpose are mostly doing it for themselves in the end, but the people paying for it are the peasant farmers, slowly losing their livelihoods and slowly starving.

ARUNDEL CASTLE SIEGE AND GARDEN (2)Who are the warring armies? Who are the peasants? They aren’t distant armies or nations or starving rabble. I am talking about government and public service workers. I am not talking about whether the workers have a right to bargain or negotiate. I am not talking about whether the government in power has the obligation or right to protect the public interest in the negotiations or whether they are making wise decisions in their budgets. I am talking about the peasants being treaded upon in the meantime with the posturing and the siege warfare while all the so called bargaining and negotiation doesn’t happen.

It is very rough when education is the battlefield of choice. Teachers, or whichever public sector involving the education system happens to be in dispute with government may have legitimate reason for complaint. Government also most likely is having a tough time balancing the budget with many hands grasping for money for shrinking funds and growing needs. But, though in the long run these arguments must play out and solutions must be found, students “live in the now”. I don’t mean that they don’t plan for the future or that they fiddle and play rather than work. Rather, that each year is important.

When I was in my graduating year — grade 12 for me, the year before starting university — there was a “janitor’s strike”. which lasted for a good chunk of the school year. They did keep the schools open for most of that year. I did graduate. But I know many students were hurt by the shortened half days of classes, the loss of any non-class activities that might take place on school grounds. There was also destruction caused by increased vandalism due to many who thought it might be interesting to either accelerate things or perhaps get a day off.

However, I don’t know if it hurt my own education.

I don’t know if it hurt my own education because, I only took Grade 12 once.

ARUNDEL CASTLE SIEGE AND GARDENMost children only take each grade in school once. Even those who might repeat a grade still are only taking that year uniquely and the year they repeat is unique unto itself and taking it a year older is very different from the previous year.

Each year to a young student is important and a priority to that student.

So, “working to rule” and cutting back on non-essential activities really do change the lives of the students in school. The peasants are having their fields stomped on. Perhaps they might still take in their crops. The the crops will have some degree of damage.

True, teachers might be fighting for limits to class size and similar things “for the students”. But, that is for students to come and harming students that are here. Even parents are another army on the field. One of the first things I heard when schools were to be closed for a week was “What will I do about daycare?” — not “How is this effecting my child’s education?” It isn’t every parent or all the time, I am sure, but it was the first thing out of all of the parents’ mouths when asked for comment on the news. I know that daycare is important. But.. although finances are important, shouldn’t the first question be about the child.

Perhaps I am too harsh there as looking out for the well being of the child and worrying about where they will be cared for is important. But it did rub me a bit wrong the way the parents worded it — the wording felt like they were looking at how it inconvenienced them, not their children.

I don’t know the solution. The naive solution was mediation. But, that doesn’t work when both sides pull into their castle and close the drawbridge. IE. Neither side is willing for any compromise.

The only thing I can see is, sadly, looking at the rights of the students first. Saying, “When election time comes, you can encourage the voting population to vote for another party. For now you have to keep teaching those we have entrusted to you.”

Or are there other solution?

colchesterI come from a family of educators with  3 school principals and 3 or more additional teachers numbered among close relatives, not to mention perhaps a half dozen more who have been to teacher’s college. In arguments on whether teachers are overpaid, I normally take the side that they are not overpaid.

But, I feel that the fields are being trampled into the earth and the peasants are starting to hunger.