Archive for the ‘An Alternate View’ Category

Affordable Care vs Canadian Universal Health Care
September 30, 2017

I grow weary of the news stories about Affordable Health Care (Obama Care and the repeal of…) featured in the news from the United States these past months. I just cannot understand why the US Federal Government cannot find a way to provide affordable universal health care for all of its citizens. Especially, when as of 2009 there are “…58 countries in the world with legislation mandating Universal Health Care, along with > 90% health insurance coverage…” upon which the US might use as models.

My guess is that none of the models is perfect. There will always be those in a society who attempt to take advantage of whatever system is put in place. And regardless of the coverage, for some it will never be enough. Yet, the good of the society’s health in these countries is the motivational factor. So, what is the problem with the leaders in the US Federal Government?

The Toronto Star recently reported, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence blasts ‘failings’ of Canadian health system. Comments made by the Vice President on the “failings” of the Canadian Health Care system were made to the listeners of a radio broadcast in Alaska. It reminded me of a recent conversation I had with some visitors from the US to northwestern Ontario, Canada this past summer. Our conversation turned to health care to which I responded with a comment about my sadness for the American people who cannot seem to convince their leaders that this is a basic need of all citizenry. I shared in our conversation that I cannot remember the last time I had a bill for any medical procedure including the birth of our children and all of the various medical attention required for the cuts, scrapes and broken bones that appear to follow active kids in judo, dance, acrobatics and foolish play. This would include the 12 hours we spent in Emergency at the hospital in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec when my son was injured during the Ironman competition in Mont Tremblant.  Or, the number of times I have had to go to the nearest hospital while away from home and have always received exemplary and immediate care (and no bill for service).

It is easy to focus on the negative comments. It seems that those comments are always the loudest and the ones that ‘make the news’. I have no doubt that the stories we hear about the ‘failings’ of our system are true, yet I hasten to add that I believe they are in the minority. I live in a small, rural northern community, 3.5 hours drive from the nearest urban hospital. I see my family physician (in community) and my diabetes nurse at least twice a year. I receive notice of the need to get my flu shot each fall from Public Health and from my local Health Clinic. When I am not well, and believe I need to see a physician, I have always been seen in a reasonable length of time either at Emergency, or by appointment at the local Health Clinic. I have had few delays in getting appointments with specialists in what I deem reasonable time. Other than producing my current government health card and a list of current medications, I need nothing else to receive health care in Ontario.

In Canada, everyone pays into our Health Care through taxation. The pool of money, managed by Federal and Provincial Health Agencies, while not infinite is available to support the needs of the population. Money I pay is available for those in need at times when I don’t need the care. At those times when I need professional health care the funding is available to cover my needs. That we share in ensuring one another’s well-being on a national scale, speaks to our concern for one another and helps strengthen  what some like to call the Canadian identity.

So, Vice President Pence, with respect I ask, before you denigrate the Canadian model of  Universal Health care again to your citizens, I would appreciate you engaging in both sides of the Canadian picture of public universal health care instead of focusing only on the negative aspects. It is always easy to dwell on the negative!

Success isn’t just a seven letter word…
April 13, 2016

Recently, I posted a rant about the problem associated with living in a community that does not have home delivery of mail. I fairness I need to share with you a success story.

I found I was a bit low on necessary spices while preparing stock for Vietnamese Rare Beef Pho. This recipe requires spices that aPho-Beef-Noodles-2008re difficult to find in the rural community in which I live nor was I successful in finding them is the nearest city to me (some 3.5 hours drive away). The obvious solution was to see what was available on the web.

I found a Canadian company named The Silk Road – Spice Merchant in Alberta, Canada (http://www.silkroadspices.ca/). To my delight, they have all of the spices I required immediately and more. I placed an order. My order arrived today, in less than a week and unpacking it convinced me that this was a company who wanted my business and worked at meeting my needs. They also took the time to ensure that I would return and that I would likely tell my friends about the experience. I have many friends who share my passion for good food and the joy of spicing beyond salt, pepper and garlic. AND! They shipped to my Canadian Post Box Address! Hurrah! I immediately wrote a note of thanks.

Here are my thought shared with The Silk Road – Spice Merchant:

Thank you very much for this order. It is my first-time purchase from your company but certainly not my last. Let me tell you why.
  • Your web presence is delightful, well laid out and easy to manoeuvre around. I particularly appreciate the explanation and the suggestions that you have for each of the spices/blends.
  • Your service is prompt. Living in a rural/remote northern community, this is especially important.
  • Your pricing is fair. By that I simply mean that I truly feel I received value for my dollar.
  • The gift of Panch Poran you added to my package is a welcome treat. Thank you. I’ll be certain to try this with hash browns the next time I make them.
  • The crowning touch is the personal note written on my receipt thanking me for my order.
Your business is bound to success if this is how you treat all of your customers. Ten stars from me along with my gratitude. I will pass your web site on to all of my friends who share my passion for food preparation and the use of great spices. Feel free to share these comments in any way you wish if they serve to promote your business. Regarding the companies who were the subject of my rant about not delivering to Post Box addresses, take note. You could learn much from this on-line company and improve your opportunity for S-U-C-C-E-S-S.        GRB

How Would You Like That Delivered?
April 13, 2016

Canada Post, in its wisdom, has chosen to phase out home delivery of snail-mail and mailbox-messreplace that system with curb-side Post Office boxes. While I believe it is an ill-advised change it will have little effect on me. I live in a community in Canada that has never had home delivery of mail. It is a comfortable walk (wasteful to drive) to the Post Office to check the mail each day. That’s what I’ve done each day for the fifty plus years I have lived here. Other than the obvious, what’s the problem?

As with many people these days, I have become an on-line shopper. This came about because at the best of times I dislike wasting the time to go in and out of stores. I recognize in today’s ‘consume more’ society I might be seen as some form of throwback; a consumer Neanderthal. Yesterday, I placed an order for coffee through a Canadian on-line company that I have purchased from frequently in the past. I processed everything in the same manner as before. The difference this time was that an error message came up indicating that they could not deliver to a Post Office box. Yet, they use Canada Post to deliver their products and my “correct” mail address is a Post Office box. As has happened in the past when companies do not include my correct mailing address I receive notification from the post office to update my personal details with the company from whom I make purchases. At issue is the Post Office could refuse delivery without the proper address on the package.

I called the company to let them know that there was a problem with their software not accepting postal box numbers as legitimate addresses. The response was that they knew about this and that they just could not ship to a post office box.

Does this make any sense in a country that is moving away from home mail delivery and forcing everyone to use a post office box for mail? Canadian business get with the program. Especially if you expect to do mail order business or Internet business and ship by postal service.

My second call yesterday was to an on-line company based in New York from which I recently did business and they shipped to my mailing address. As before, I placed my order only and again was told that they were shipping by US Postal service and couldn’t deliver to a post office box. I called the store’s  help line to explain that my mailing address was a box number; they accepted it on my previous order; where is the problem?

For some strange reason their on-line software no longer will allow delivery to Postal Boxes. What a dilemma! In Canada, many of us have two legal addresses–our street address and a mailing address. They are not necessarily the same. Perhaps the solution is to go back to wandering in and out of stores as I used to do when I wanted to buy an item. If that’s the case, I’ll save a lot of money by not shopping unless necessary. Problem solved!

 

 

Abandoning Social Media…
March 14, 2016

I’ve done it! I’ve dumped my Facebook account. It has been on my mind for a long time that as a tool for connecting to those whom I care about, Facebook was not the best choice for me.

Mostly I lurked. It was a place to go to check in and see what family members were up to in their individual lives. Seldom did I interact; it was an opportunity to reassure myself that all was well with the people I care about. I didn’t comment because I really didn’t want to have to connect with anyone other than the few I chose to follow. I am developing into a modern day hermit I guess.

I’ve discovered that I really do like to be alone and private. Heh! What a strange statement for one who is currently writing a post for a Blog. My paranoia with Social Media has been developing for over the past 37 years. In 1979, I was given the opportunity to attend a science and technology symposium in Toronto that became a moment of “foreseeing the future”. I recall leaving the symposium with a friend in a state of shock at the amount of meta-data already being tracked without our being aware. And, I became afraid. It was the beginning of living into the Big Brother world of Orwell’s 1984. And I was afraid!

In 1979, personal computers had just come onto the market. Remember the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor)? It had about the same computing capabilities as the early computers used in the American Gemini space program. Prior to that I used a mainframe computer at university in 1972 keying in fortran commands on a keypunch machine. It was great fun to send a boxed love letter to my wife typed on keypunch cards in the computer lab. How far we have advanced! Sigh.

The truth is we have bought into the idea of speaking about needing privacy and keeping the government our of our private lives but have been lulled into a time and life-style that tracks everything we do, say, write in a effort to convince us through ads that we need to consume more. So we blithely download and install apps on our cell phones, tablets and computer that must have access to our contact lists, our cameras, our microphones, our call logs, our text logs, our e-mails. This we do, without thinking about or wondering why it is, that an apparent cute app that does such simple stuff as letting us do jigsaw puzzles electronically needs to know so much about us.

More and more I am thinking that living a hermetic Howard Hughes lifestyle is appealing. Think aboutit! Disconnecting from the grid. Pass up the need for a cell phone that we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we cannot live without. No more texts and distracted driving. No more e-mails. No more reality TV! I could go back to journalling with a pen and a journal. Give up debit cards and credit cards and once again pay cash for what we can afford. Now isn’t that a frightening thought?

It may be the only way that we can once again achieve even a modicum of privacy. Watch out Google +; I’m thinking that you may be the next to go.

GRB

So, You’re Electing a President…
March 14, 2016

It seem months have gone by with Canadian news stories about the upcoming Presidential elections in the USA. The fact is we have almost as much coverage of the American electoral system as we do the Canadian system at election time.

Of course, the biggest story is of the rise of Donald Trump as possible Republican candidate for the Presidency. What a fiasco that has turned out to be! I have been waiting to hear, from Trump and any of the other candidate hopefuls, something about their hopes for the nation. What economic policies do they hope to introduce? What foreign policy will cement relationships between the US and other world nations? How will the “American Dream” be lived out under the watch of any of the candidates leadership? Sadly, if there are any policy statements in all of the rhetoric, they are lost in the fall from grace that has taken place over the last months. All I see are a bunch of boys on the playground shouting one another down and name calling.

So, here I sit in Canada, smug in the knowledge that we are somehow better than that. Thank God the process is not so complicated as in the States. OH! Wait! Canada has just come through a federal election where the Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper was soundly trounced by the Liberal Party. As memory serves, this was a long campaign, longer than ever before in the history of Canadian elections and was replete with rhetoric not dissimilar to that we are now hearing from south of the border. And suddenly I find I need to apologize to the people of the United States for my smugness.

I am sorry that you are having such a time in this election with representatives who, like many of ours in Canada, have forgotten that they are elected to serve the populace; not just the moneyed powerful, but all of us who elected them into power in the first place.

I am reminded that we, too, have our Donald Trump waiting in the wings for the Liberal Party to falter. Rumour has it that Kevin O’Leary is being touted as a possible candidate to lead the Conservatives in Canada. Take a look at the person and compare O’Leary to Trump and see how you assess that against what is currently happening win the Republican party of the US. Listen to Kevin O’Leary on CBCs “Dragon’s Den” and the language he uses when talking to his peers and to those who approach seeking financial assistance to take their dream to the market place. Count the number of times you hear O’Leary tell us the he is most interested in that which will make him wealthy. Wealthier!

To our American friends, I apologize for my smugness and in doing so thank you for reminding me that as the electorate it is our responsibility to be well informed and knowledgeable on the electoral process and about the people we charge to work for us in public office. We need to remember that not all of us are interested in doing the work of elected officials in our societies and that those who do choose to serve as elected and/or elected wannabes, deserve our respect for wanting to attempt to make a difference.  I am reminded of the number of people in the world who are not allowed to choose their leaders and weep for those of us who treat the process with too little respect.

GRB

Help! I’m Drowning in Ads…
January 5, 2016

We went to the movies this week to see the newest release of Star Wars. As movies go it was OK but really was an old story with a new cover and enhanced graphics. I was more affected by the blatent adversiting that occupied the first 20 minutes following the start of the show.

No, I’m not referring to the usual promotional stuff about buying snacks and popcorn or the game to get me to turn off my cell phone or stuff about upcoming movies (previews). Those I expect. They are the enticements to return at some time in the future to see another thriller. I’m referring to the ads for Lexus, and Bell Canada, travel to sunnier locals and the list goes on.

Let me see; 2 seniors, 1 adult and 1 youth went to the theatre that night. With the cost of entrance and snacks we spent $90.00 (huzzah, we didn’t have to pay a babysitter). For that price we paid for the privilege of watching  20 minutes of commercials cleverly hidden amongst previews of upcomng movies prior to the main feature.

Had I wanted the commercials, I might have waited until the movie came out on DVD. Oh, wait! That dosen’t work any longer–DVDs now have advertising at the beginning.

So back to books. So far they don’t have any embedded ads…do they?

GRB

Baffled by Social Media
December 29, 2015

I checked my Facebook page this morning as is my habit every week or so and spent more time attempting to let its creators know that they are way off the mark  meeting my interests. I live in Canada. I estimate that 90% to 95% of the stuff down the right side of my Facebook page has to do with items/issues/sports/news from the United States. Please don’t label me as anti-American because of my thoughts on this, but, most, if not all of the items I see as trending are of little or no interest to me because they are from the US. Were those same stories directly related to me as a Canadian, perhaps I might find them marginally interesting. Mostly, the stuff down the right side of my Facebook page is visual trash that I am unable to lose.

Let’s see. In that right-most column is stuff that is trending (blah!), Pages I might like to follow, People I might like to Friend, Pages I might like to Like, and Games that I might want to play. To date I have found nothing in any of those elements I care to use. The trending stories are ones that I might already run across when I choose to go and read the news on my choice of news providers. I would never choose to link to someone from the friends lists, rather, if I am looking for someone specific, I’ll take the time to search them out at a time to my choosing not because Facebook thinks I need to do it now in order to have a fulfilling life. I don’t like any pages regardless whose they are, what the contents is,  or who has created them. If ever you see my name beside a Like it is probably because I have been careless handling my mouse and has no bearing on whether or not I like what I see. I never–NEVER–play games and I think I have finally done something to block invitations to play games.  In order to be clear, let me repeat, I really NEVER play games on Facebook

Then there is all that stuff down the left-most column that has no apparent relevance to me and cannot be removed. Suffice to say, most of what I experience each time I log into Facebook is visual noise. I think I really have to give some thought to whether I need to even bother with it at all. I suspect I am one of the dinosaurs who still appreciates being in conversation with a warm body immediately adjacent to me in real-time and space that doesn’t involve a keyboard or Siri or Cortana or, …

GRB

Truth in the News Media…
July 1, 2015

Last night I watched a YouTube video clip titled “The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER” posted by James Bouder. ( http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=16K6m3Ua2nw&feature=youtu.be ) It is an excerpt from the beginning of HBO’s The Newsroom Season 1: Episode 1 and, in my opinion, is a wonderful rant on why the USA is no longer the greatest country in the world but can be–once again. I’m not certain that it really matters which country is the best in the world. Persons who are happy where they are living will likely choose their country as the best in the world. Regardless, I encourage all to watch the whole of the first episode. It speaks to me of what the news media once was but has lost somewhere along the way–reporting the facts.

It strikes me that we have become societies of thrill seekers in north America. We look to the news media to report on current happenings and to develop opinions about the story because we are unable to do so ourselves.

Societal Madness #1…
January 13, 2015

I was listening to CBC radio, while driving home the other day. The banning of toboggans and toboggan hills in Hamilton, ON was one of the lead stories. To say my jaw dropped would be understatement. We are becoming, if not have become, a society ruled by insurance companies and asinine court rulings. It strikes me that common sense has gone the way of the Dodo bird. At what point did individuals abdicate their responsibility for their own actions?

Tobogganing is a case in point. Sliding down hills at breakneck speeds is not a  recent phenomena. Courier and Ives illustrations have depicted these themes since 1813 (mq-zGHitf–zn1Mt4xNmH9w.jpg). The thrill of the wind and snow in one’s face while careening downhill toward trees, and hillocks and God knows what has been a part of the challenge since time immemorial. No one makes anyone go down the hill other than the innate challenge to feel the thrill. We, regardless of age, make the decision.–slide of not to slide; toboggan or jet ski; snow suit or cardboard box.

And down we go!

I don’t ever remember saying to my parents may I slide down the Chapple’s Hill at breakneck speeds and possibly hit the building and maim myself, or, slide into on-coming traffic on Steven’s Avenue or on to Woodson Street. As kids we just did it because a. the hill was there; b. it was winter; c. the thrill was there; law? What law?

Sure some of my friends were injured in the activity. Fortunately, I don’t recall anything more serious than some of the guys straddling trees and coming too wondering who it was that kicked them in the groin and why!

At issue here is, as I see it, WE CHOSE! I don’t ever recall thinking it was someone’s fault other than my own. I saw the tree at the bottom and CHOSE to challenge it. The town wasn’t responsible for my stupidity; I was! And I accept it fully!

Madness rules! A court rules that an adult male slides down a hill ignoring the signs that there are dangers present and the municipality is fined  a large sum because they were negligent because there were not sufficient signs. What about the responsibility of the individual to explore and examine the terrain prior to going down the hill? Does the same rule apply to a military person crossing a minefield? Whose fault is it that the soldier is blown up? Does the same rule apply when one steps off the curb to cross the road at a legal intersection? How does this explain the deaths that have occurred in Toronto this year at legal crossings. Who’s fault is it? Ultimately it is our own. It is a reasonable expectation that we will look all directions to cross the street before taking the step from the curb. Likewise, it is reasonable to expect that we will, regardless of age, determine the risk associated with the sliding down a hill.

Living is a risk and no one is more responsible for the decisions we make than ourselves.

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