Monday, July 28, 2008

Absurd... Our Canada?!

Now, I love a good bit of absurdity. I love SCTV, Carry On movies have always amused me. Some British series like the Vicar of Dibley and Man About the House amuse me. They are absurd.

But sometimes real life is absurd too. Let me set up the scene for you.

Canada has issued a couple of series of bills which are embossed with raised dots - our $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills in a new series of bank notes.

I think this is great. Larry has a bank note reader, that on more than one occasion will regretfully inform him that it "cannot read" (imagine the downward inflection of disappointment in the reader's voice). He once got a rather surprising reading that a bill was a 50 - which he didn't know he had, to only find out it was a 5. I can just imagine the argument in the store over that one.

So here's something I found at the Bank of Canada's website re our newest bank notes. I quote the following from their site:

Several features in the Canadian Journey and Birds of Canada bank note series are designed to help blind and visually impaired Canadians recognize bank note denominations either by touch, by sight, or by electronic signal. These design elements are not security features and should not be used to authenticate bank notes.

The tactile feature is located in the upper right corner on the face of Canadian Journey series notes. It consists of a series of symbols formed by groupings of six raised dots separated by a smooth surface. Each symbol is composed of two columns of three raised dots. These dots are embossed and back-coated to enhance their durability. These symbols are not Braille: they are a system developed in consultation with blind and visually impaired Canadians after research indicated that not all potential users read Braille.

The number and position of these symbols vary according to the denomination. The $5 note has one symbol, the $10 note has two symbols separated by a smooth surface, the new $20 note has three symbols separated by two smooth surfaces, and the $50 note has four symbols separated by three smooth surfaces. Like the $10 note, the new $100 bank note has two symbols, but the smooth surface or space between them is wider.

Now if you know anything about Canada, one has to appreciate how difficult this country has made something that should be so simple. The absolute absurdity is that instead of some people having to learn new symbols - heaven forbid that those who can already read braille could just have one up on those who don't read it, and those people who don't would just have to learn it. But how hard could it be to learn a total of 5 symbols.

So what we have is an entire population of blind people trying to read money, but haven't a clue.

Larry's seen these bills, and in fact had no idea what until tonight what these dots represented... shouldn't someone have told him? Keep it a secret from the blind guy, and don't tell him what the secret code is?

Or how about this for a forward thinking idea... there are 5 different denominations - a $5 has 1 dot... a $10 has 2 dots... well you get my drift, all the way up to the $100 bill, which would have a grand total of 5 dots.

Amazing. Gotta love progress. Gotta love Canada.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Keep it cool & do your homework

I've written today's post to inspire some thought.

In this morning's paper was a headline, Are Sewage Fertilizers Safe? , about the biosolids, or "natural" fertilizers that are used by most farmers in Ontario and around the world. Although I do agree with the article, that it is something to be concerned about, I am a believer that one also has to consider a whole picture. As we all know, newspapers have papers to sell, and sensational stories involving food and sewage in the same sentence will always elicit a rather emotional response - and paper sales. It is a worthwhile article, and an eye opener, at least worthy of discussion, and perhaps action.

It also brings up some big questions for me.

We are encouraged to support our farmers by buying locally, but do we know what crops are fertilized with? According to the article, 80% of farmers in Ontario use these fertilizers. But when we go to the grocery store, we will never know what they are fertilized with. How can we make an informed decision if we have no idea where our food comes from and what the farmers are using? What about crops from other countries? What about processed foods?

At present there is no way to measure the impact on our health. But one thing comes to mind - Walkerton.

Those of us in Ontario will remember Walkerton where E. coli contaminated their water supply. What if these contaminates - or any others such as heavy metals enter our food chain? How do we know they won't? How do we know that they aren't already? It's not like you go to the doctor and be tested for cholestrol, blood glucose, mercury and lead levels. I don't know, it's just something to think about.

Personally, I do think that until we know more about these fertilizers, there is no place for them in our food chain. But that is this furball's opinion. I always encourage some research and critical thinking, so you be your own judge. In the meantime, I will continue to buy foods from the grocery store. I am not in a position to be growing crops in our little backyard in my limited amount of free time.

That being said, I stumbled across the following article today. It is worth reading to the end.
Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide!
The Invisible Killer

Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted
thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage.

Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.

Dihydrogen monoxide is also known as hydroxyl acid, and is the major component of:
  • acid rain
  • contributes to the "greenhouse effect
  • may cause severe burns
  • contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
  • accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals
  • may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes
  • has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients
Contamination Is Reaching Epidemic Proportions!

Quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today. But the pollution is global, and the contaminant has even been found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the midwest, and recently California.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
  • as an industrial solvent and coolant
  • in nuclear power plants
  • in the production of styrofoam
  • as a fire retardant
  • in many forms of animal research
  • in the distribution of pesticides
  • even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical
  • as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products

Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal. The impact on wildlife is extreme, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer!

The Horror Must Be Stopped!

The American government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its "importance to the economic health of this nation." In fact, the navy and other military organizations are conducting experiments with DHMO, and designing multi-billion dollar devices to control and utilize it during warfare situations. Hundreds of military research facilities receive tons of it through a highly sophisticated underground distribution network. Many store large quantities for later use.

And, what is this "evil" chemical? WATER. (H20)

So, this is your thought for today. Just think about what you hear and what you read. What looks really bad can really turn out to be something (like Walkerton), or nothing at all, like Dihydrogen Monoxide.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Take a Pill!

It's been a while since I've posted. Well, I can only say that things have been busy - the kid has graduated, clothes for her new job have been purchased, Penny has been fasting because her condition has flared up again, and now Rocky is on antibiotics for some injury he has sustained.

The vet gave us some pointers about how to give a pill to a cat. He suggested that we wrap him tightly in a towel and just force it down. Now, anyone who has given cats pills would know, that is not a viable option.

We did try wrapping Rock in a towel to get the pill in, but let's just say that was not an option. I then tried hiding it in some tinned chicken (both Rocky's and Petey's favourite). After carefully removing all remnants of the chicken from around the pill, he left the pill untouched in the centre of the plate.

I now have an elaborate system of grinding the pill to a fine powder, adding the juice form the tin of chicken, adding some of the chicken pieces to cover up the wet pill powder. I also have to make a plate up for Petey (no pill in his), only then will Rocky entertain the idea of 'taking' that pill. I then supervise them both to make sure all goes down, and the right cat gets the medicine.

But this whole process of giving Rocky this pill reminds me of a joke that has been circulating for a number of years. I first read it many years when Rock was just a Little Rock. I thought I would share. I have taken some literary license to edit the original a little, tailoring it more to Rocky's disposition. For example, the original suggested that you cradle the cat - our autistic Rocky will never ever tolerate being cradled. He is either needs to be held on to firmly, or he's not having anything to do with it.

How to give a cat a pill

  1. Pick cat up and hold it firmly. Take your forefinger and thumb and apply pressure where the jaw opens. Use your other hand to place pill at the back of his tongue. Shut cat's mouth firmly, and wait a few moments for cat to swallow.
  2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind couch. Hold cat in left arm and repeat process.
  3. Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.
  4. Get a new pill, hold cat again with left arm, holding his paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten. This time gently massaging cat's throat from the top to bottom. This will force the swallowing reflex.
  5. Retrieve pill from fish tank and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from yard for assistance.
  6. Get out another pill, kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while prying mouth open (being very careful to avoid the gnashing teeth). Drop pill into mouth and rub cat's throat vigorously.
  7. Check label and call Poison Control Centre to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink glass of water to take taste away. Apply bandaid to spouse's forearm. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Throw shredded clothing away and get dressed again. Treat blood stains in rug with some carpet cleaner.
  8. Retrieve cat from curtain rod, and get another pill. Make note to buy new curtains and rod. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.
  9. Wrap cat in large towel as you would swaddle a newborn, and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible. Imbed the pill into a piece of steak, and shove the steak into the cat's mouth, and squirt in water with a turkey baster to help wash it down.
  10. Dry off and ask your spouse to drive you to the hospital for some stitches.
  11. Call vet to ask for replacement pills, and pay for them. Relax, you've only got another 4 days to go.
  12. Seriously consider getting a hamster the next time you are thinking about getting another cat.

How to give a dog a pill:

  1. Wrap it in bacon.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nothing Wrong with a Protest Song

As a child of the 60s, I grew up surrounded by music that challenged us to look beyond mediocrity, to take a good look at a bad war and to stand up for what we believed. Music helped to begin the process of pushing aside a colour line that was all too visible, It shook out some old values, hung them out in the breeze and asked us to wonder how valuable they really were.

This tool of audible inspiration was known as the protest song, a form of expression that almost became a musical genre in and of itself for a time. Then one day it just sort of went away or that’s how it seems to me when looking back. In reality, I don’t think it really just happened all it once, but as the late 70s met the 80s, protest began to sag off the charts.

I suppose some would blame disco. It seems disco got blamed for everything. Personally, I never liked disco, but I didn't blame it either. At any rate, time passed and passed some more, and gradually much of our music morphed into rap tracks which often advocated the very violence that any of us who had anything at all to do with the peace movement condemned.

During much of the past 25 years or so, I’ve found myself listening to a lot of oldies and classic rock, not because I was trying to recapture another time, but because the music of the past 25 years had little to say to me. Yes there have been exceptions, but in general, not so many.

That brings us to the other day when I happened to hear a song on the radio. In 7 minutes or so, an artist named James McMurtry offered us a glimpse at just about every social injustice known to the western world and told us that we had just about reached the time in our history when, “We can’t make it here anymore.”

It’s not a brand new song, not even on Jim’s latest album. But it is new enough to be current and current enough to be new. Its point is strongly stated and I don’t agree with the depths of its conclusions. But what it does is to lead me to the conclusion that complacency is a tranquilizer that we, as Canadians or Americans or citizens of any national persuasion, cannot afford to embrace.

This week as we celebrate Canada Day, and folks south of the border celebrate Independence Day, I hope we will offer more than an expression of patriotism. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting patriotism down, but I think we should also pause to consider those who can’t make it here anymore, as the McMurtry song suggests.

Manufacturing jobs in both Canada and the U.S. are hopping planes for distant shores. Do those of us who live in Canada know what our provincial and federal governments are proposing to help change the picture? I haven’t heard about much. Maybe for me, part of patriotism is doing my best to find out.

Blue collar workers and others are learning the hard truth that they can’t make it to work anymore. Who can afford to drive to work? Who is our government holding accountable and what should we expect them to do when it comes to lending a hand?

Our once-proud public health system isn’t so proud anymore. Too many sick people are staying sick or getting sicker because they can’t find a doctor anymore. And if they can’t find a doctor anymore, some will face the reality that they can’t stay alive anymore. Who is doing anything about it? Lots of rhetoric, but where are the solutions?

When James McMurtry sang “We Can’t Make it Here Anymore”, he was singing about the United Sates, not Canada. An in either case, I’m not prepared to agree with his ultimate conclusion.

Still, if this and other McMurtry songs are signaling even a token return of the sometimes loved, sometimes hated, occasionally condemned protest song, I welcome it. If it can awaken the social consciousness in ten of us then maybe those ten can bring awareness to a hundred, who can maybe bring awareness to a thousand. Is it time for another Woodstock? Hmmm, maybe I’m just an idealist who spent too much time with too many hippies 40 years ago or so.

At any rate, as you enjoy Canada Day, or celebrate the special day set aside for whatever country you call home, by all means, pause to reflect on how your country came to be what it is and where it is today.

But don’t stop there. Give some thought to how your country could and should grow into something better. Are there any among us who don’t believe Canada possesses the opportunity for vast improvement? Is Canada Day the wrong day to pose that question? If you think so, that’s ok. Just ask yourself my question tomorrow. Then, as the next election day nears, ask the question once more.

Are the major parties who garner all the attention advocating improvements while practicing politics as usual? Is it time to give one of the lesser parties a crack at it? Do we refrain from voting for minor parties because we believe no one else will do so? Do we not vote at all because we feel it won’t make a difference?

To me, the most important resolve that you can set in place on the day set aside to honour your country is the resolve to vote. And all of us can do that. I sincerely believe that we can make it here.

The question is, how should we go about it?

Happy Canada Day. Happy Independence day. Please celebrate your heritage by making a difference.

You can find several unofficial videos of "We Can't Make It Here Anymore", by James McMurtry on YouTube. Please note though, the images are powerful and they illustrate realities of life for many. However, given their very nature, these images may offend some. After all, it is about protest and sending powerful messages to powerful people.

Contributed by Larry Naessens