Archive for March, 2010

Cellular revisited…
March 5, 2010

About a year ago I wrote a rant about Cellular service and as I recall decided the best course was to do nothing until my contract time was over. It’s over! It ended in December 2009. I decided to be cell free! I feel … I feel… I feel a sense of freedom! Getting there was fun!

Last spring (2009) I made the discovery that my cell phone was text message capable. That is it had the feature for sending and receiving text messages turned on. The truth is I had no idea that I was the proud owner of such services mostly, I suppose, because I don’t text. As it happened, I was standing in a long line-up in a department store waiting to cash out when my phone rang. Dutifully I opened the phone, brought it to my ear and said hello. There was no answer. I pocketed the phone and continued my wait in line. But the phone was insistent. It rang again! This time I happened to look at the tiny screen as I brought the phone to my ear and it read, “Papa r u coming 2 lunch“. To which I responded out loud, “No!” and hung up the phone. I had no idea how to respond other than saying “No!” out loud. I turned the phone off and put it back into my pocket.

You can only imagine the trouncing I took from my then 12-year-old granddaughter for not answering her message. She was less than impressed when I told her that I did answer her message by saying, “No!” She then proceeded to give me lessons in texting. I watched and listened intently and the very next day went to TbayTel and asked them to disconnect the text feature on the phone. They said they had done so and I left happily knowing that I would never again have to deal with another text message.

The reality is I really don’t want to talk to people on a phone all that much and especially by typing cryptic messages on an undersized keyboard. It all seems pretty inefficient and impersonal to me. I was a happy man.

Fast forward to October. Same year. I’m sitting in sanctuary chatting (face to face, live, warm body type chat) with family. My son was over and we were catching up on his most recent adventures when my cell phone rang. That was unusual in itself because I didn’t often have it turned on. But I digress. The cell phone rang. I opened it up, put it to my ear and said hello. There was no response so I glanced at the screen to see if a number showed that I might recognize. Nope! There was a … you guessed it! … a text message. It read, “…Larry get over here. Melissa is on top of James and I am getting peed off… lol“.

OK. I am certain you will understand my perplexity because 1. I am not Larry; 2. I don’t know Melissa or James; 3. I don’t care what Melissa is on top of, and; MY PHONE DOESN’T SEND OR RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES! Sorry! I didn’t mean to shout! My son waded into the moment saying that he would respond and did so telling the sender that the message arrived at my phone in error…there was no Larry at this number and signed it, “George”.

I put the phone away and within seconds it rang again displaying the text message, “Who the f@%k  (they wrote the real word) is George?” And again my son texted, “The owner of this phone.” and again I hung up the phone and put it in my pocket.

But the phone was insistent. This time the message read, “Don’t you want to know who this is“. I thought “No.” and put the phone away. It rang again. “Aren’t you curious” I thought “No” and put the phone away. It rang again. “I’m legal” the message read. OK! OK! Too much information. I turned the phone off and determined next business day to call TbayTel and have this feature deactivated once again.

Heh! Heh! You thought the story was over! I called TbayTel and got a very pleasant young sounding male voice on the phone. I explained that I had earlier requested the texting feature be deactivated on my phone and apparently it had not been done. Could he please check and see if that was the case. “Yes” he replied. “You have texting on your phone and it is active.”

“Would you turn that feature off, please.” To which he responded, “But its free and it is part of your package.”

“Yes,” says I. “But I don’t want it.”

“Why?” he queried.

Surely you see where this is heading, don’t you? “Because I don’t text”, I said.

“Why?” he asked again.

“BECAUSE IT IS MY PHONE AND I DON’T WANT TO SEND OR RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES!” my exasperation breaking through. (Sorry, I know I am shouting again.)

“OK”, he replied. “Its done. Have a great day.”

Now I can’t help but wonder about the conversation that went on in his office after we disconnected. Probably something like this:

Customer Service Employee: (to his colleagues) Hey you guys will never believe the call I just had…some old guy who wanted me to disconnect his texting service…”

The last month of my relationship with my cell phone was blissfully quiet. No texts. No phone calls. Hmmmm? I wonder if it was turned on?                     –GRB

Dilemma of Olympic Proportions…
March 5, 2010

We recently returned from a trip to British Columbia to visit our eldest son and his family. The opportunity to be with our son and his partner and our granddaughter was the draw. Neither of us was really excited about being in B.C. The last two visits were disappointments; it was cold and damp and grey most of the time; it was crowded and noisy and had far too much traffic. There are certain expectations and images one has of Canada’s “Lotus Land” and those have yet to appear for me.

Our first two visits–one in november and another in January–three and two years ago respectively left me longing to return to Ontario; the need was for the winter sun that is usually in abundance in January and February at home. Those first two visits aided in the formulation of my opinion about “lotus land”.

The November trip was wet and foggy most of the time. I recall disappointment at not being able to see the mountains. There was one day in the fourteen we were there that the rain stopped and the Golden Ears in all their majesty shone forth. All-be-it viewed through the sieve of buildings, overhead wires and the general clutter of humanity. It was cold. It was to the core damp and cold and I found it difficult to warm up even while sitting in front of the radiator and asking my son to turn up the heat.

The following year saw much of the same. Great adventures with family but the weather left me disappointed. Eight days of sunshine out of 21 and temperatures hovering around the freezing point. It snowed the night we landed in Abbotsford. Another disappointment to be sure–mostly based on preconceived expectations.

This year’s holiday was, to my surprise, an improvement over the previous two visits. It didn’t rain nearly so much. At least part of the mountains were visible most days and the temperatures were on average about 8 C. It made for comfortable walking and actually made me want to be outside most days. And it goes without saying that time with family was wonderful. Especially after a two-year absence.

No, the difficulty I came away with this year was the Olympics. The cost of hosting the Olympic Games appears to me to beyond excessive. I was staggered by the announcement that $900 million was being spent on security alone. That was reported on the same day as the Vancouver Sun reported many lower mainland school boards were having difficulty funding their school systems. The decision was to lay off teachers and increase class size.  A no-fly zone was in effect that encompassed much of the lower mainland. Air security was such that flying schools chose to shut down rather than take the chance of students accidentally entering the no-fly space. It will be interesting to see if any of them have had to go out of business as a result. There were parking restrictions that affected retail outlets thus reducing the number of people who had access. Instructions to employers within security zones were to create flex hours for employees or allow work from home. The homeless were considered an eyesore; there were excessive cost overruns in the construction process. Don’t get me started on the gouging for tickets and rooms and food and … And the list goes on… All in the name of sports.

So I wonder what ever happened to sport for the sake of sport? To game? When did we get to the point that all of this needed to be so big. After all we are talking about sports–games–play. I am dumbfounded that we equate our excitement for sport with patriotism. That one truly baffles me. Does the fact that I don’t support the olympics or that I cheered for all the competitors when they did something spectacular make me less patriotic than my friends who are really into the Olympic thing? The events that I watched were great and I rejoice in the skill and dedication of the players. But they are games. People playing games.

In my opinion the time for the olympics is past. Our tax dollars would best be spent on other things. Like a $58 billion deficit that our government has gotten us into.                                  GRB

March 5, 2010

We live in a resource based community. The two major industries are pulp and gold. Mining, because it is an extractive industry has a finite life. When the gold runs out, the industry is gone. Our  community has been anticipating the decline of the gold mines for some years now. Little did we realize that our forest industry was in greater jeopardy.

The truth is that the forest industry has been under seige for some time now and we have been slow to recognize the signs. As with most industry today the world price of a product aids in the determination of life expectancy; in this case the price offered per ton/tonne of pulp has gone down; the price of gas and diesel to deliver raw materials has gone up; the distance from the harvest has become greater; past practice of not replenishing the natural resource–replanting regularly, deliberately; all culminate in the closure of many mills in Canada and more specifically here in north western Ontario.

I find myself looking at the displaced workers from our mill. Many are people I taught in either elementary school or secondary school at some point in their lives. Memories of conversations with some of them frequently pop into my head as I observe the changes in the rhythms of the community and its inhabitants. “Hey, Sir!” said one of them in a Gr. 12 Law class 25 years ago. “I’m going to graduate at the end of this semester; go to work in the Mill and buy a new TransAm!” And he did; he did; he did. I know because the following year that same student brought his new TransAm to the school to show me. So much for attempting to convince them to stay in school and get their Gr. 13 and go on to College of University. And I thought then, “How do I argue against this?” If only I knew then what I am seeing now!

That student was one of many whose attitude was that the “Company” would always be there; the money is great–I will always have enough; I don’t need more education, my life is set.

For the past year, many of those who saw the mill as a way of life; as a way through life, are finding that they cannot get jobs elsewhere because they have insufficient education to fill the expectations of current employers. Those same people are struggling to go back to school to get high school equivalency or to get sufficiently upgraded so that they can go on to higher education in order to be retrained. All are struggling to do this now on Employment Insurance along with paying the mortgage, put food on the table, heat the house for a six or seven month winter, and on and on… The Insurance should run out shortly.

It says something to me about the need for all of us to become life-long learners. Deliberately! Take a course of some kind every year of your life. Become used to the skill of learning. Make learning a habit! Wake up each day determined to learn one thing new today that will help one grow in one’s life. Plan for the future…for the unexpected. Know that nothing in our lives is carved in stone.                      –GRB