Wednesday, 27 January 2021

The Enemy Within

COVID-19 has been with us for over a year now, and in spite of promising new vaccines, it still doesn't appear that it will fade away anytime soon.

Stringent isolation protocols are still in effect in most jurisdictions and while that, along with wearing face masks, has had some impact, the numbers are still too high according to some government health agencies.

And the effects to society are really starting to show.

Even the most amiable of folks are starting to become irritable, resenting that they can't go anywhere beyond their immediate surroundings (government members apparently excluded).  Even worse are the sacrifices these same folks are making by not visiting friends and family.

So what do we do?  Do we continue down this isolationist road?  Businesses, including mine, have taken a huge hit.  Will we continue to survive?  At this rate, some of us will be presented with two choices: close up shop, or open up on the sly hoping we don't get caught.

Or there might be a third way:

Target and isolate the most vulnerable to ensure their safety and open up the rest of society.  

This was an idea proposed by Emergency Expert Lt. Colonel David Redman (

Is this controversial?  Is it THE answer?

Society is ill right now, not only with just COVID, but also with the effects of constantly being at home and away from other people.

What do the numbers need to look like before we are given the "all clear" by government? Will we ever be totally rid of this pestilence?

So what is the answer?  Should we isolate the few most at risk and open up society once again, accepting COVID as a part of life like we do the flu or the cold?  Or do we stay the course for however long?

Something has to change.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Why I Will No Longer Recycle

Some time ago, I watched CBC's "Marketplace," a rather unusual occurrence for me since I normally avoid "Canada's broadcaster."  But in this case, I made an exception and I'm glad I did, because what I saw not only surprised me, but it also caused me to re-think about something I thought was under proper government control.

For years and decades, I felt I was doing my bit by recycling.  When the blue bins were introduced and my monthly City bill went up, I grumbled because now I was paying for something I was already doing.  Nevertheless, I had no choice, so every week the usual paper and plastics went into the bin.

But no more.

Paper is still fine but leftover plastics now go into my regular garbage.  Why?  Because it's not recycled, or at least not very much of it.

According to "Marketplace," only 9% (NINE PERCENT) of all Canadian plastic is recycled.  The rest is either tossed in with the landfill (surprise!), incinerated (ick!), or...

It is sent via boat to Malaysia where it clutters their forests.  Piles and piles of it.  Just one storage area of plastic was two stores high, about 50 feet wide and 100's of feet long.  In amongst the plastic were shopping bags from Superstore, Canada Safeway, various Co-ops, and Canadian Tire.

Not all the plastic in these dumps are from Canada, but it angered me to see that we were well represented.

In Malaysia, much of the post-consumer plastic is illegally obtained with false permits and bogus shipping labels, and of course, corrupt businessmen on both the shipping and receiving ends.  Burning the plastic, which is common in that country, causes horrible conditions for the workers and the surrounding population.  Toxic gases and sicknesses abound and workers are often denied basic safety protection when working.

Honestly, I don't what Calgary's record is on this issue, but I'm taking a small stand.  No more plastic recycling me for.  But if we are to continue to keep using plastic instead of alternatives, then it's at least going to stay in Calgary where it belongs.

It's not going to Malaysia.

Friday, 23 October 2020

The Unwelcome Shadow

The times of freely consorting with your fellow human being seems so far in the past now.  Gone are the days, for many of us, of dropping in on family and friends without the special accommodation of wearing a mask and keeping about six feet apart.

The shadow of COVID-19 is now a part of life.

Governments have, in varying degrees, tried to cope with this menace.  In addition to social distancing and masks, many businesses have either voluntarily or been mandated to restrict access to their premises.  And in some cases, the result has not been a pretty one.  Small businesses, large businesses, and even iconic businesses who we all thought would be around forever have shuttered their doors for good.

Locally, it was August 1st, 2020 when the government decided to make masks and social distancing mandatory in public spaces.  A bit inconvenient perhaps but for the greater good.  And this seemed fine to many provided we could stamp this pestilence into a manageable part of our lives.

But what has happened?  As of this date, October 23, there are still over 3500 active cases with 427 new cases reported.  And there will be more to come.

How can this be?

Even with the minority failing to adhere to any regulation, it was thought the masks and social distancing would help.  Yet the numbers seem to suggest that very little has changed pre-mask to present day.  Are these two measures actually doing any good?

Don't get me wrong.  I have no problem with the government-imposed regulations (in this case!) and I am happy to follow them provided they really do make a difference.  But are they?  Are we going about this the wrong way and if so, what is the right way?

We have turned our economy on its head with record unemployment; we have also accepted self-isolation as our new religion.  There is depression, loneliness and even hopelessness.  

If we have to do these unpleasant things to our society, at least let the measures taken show that they are making a difference.

Because right now, the numbers don't bear this out.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

The (un)JOY of MUSIC (I)

Have you ever heard a wonderful piece of music, performed to near perfection, that left you emotional?  Perhaps it made you happy or even sad, but sad in such a way that you'd happily go back for seconds if you could.

Such is the wonder of music.  It has the ability to move you.

And a good deal of credit goes to those practitioners who have developed their art to allow the listener to experience such emotions.

But let's look under the hood.  What will you see?

You will see the dedicated artist.  He or she will spend the majority of their available time attempting to master their craft.  If they are a performer, they will spend countless hours working on their instrument trying to achieve a mastery and fluency that few achieve.  And it's not exciting.

Hours are spent on technical exercises; numbing, and often boring, but necessary nonetheless.  More hours are spent on repertoire that can be so complex as to be discouraging, yet the performer carries on.

And like I said, it is BORING.

But that's the thing about music.  It's not about instant gratification for the performer.  If you want an instant music high, listen to the radio where the work has already been done by someone else.  There are no shortcuts.  If you wish to be a master of your craft, you have to put in the time.

I have encountered folks who think there is a shortcut.  However, in every successful music circumstance there is someone who has "done their time," whether they are out front performing or behind the scenes calling the shots.  And music in particular is a harsh master where near perfection has to be the goal or it doesn't fulfill the listener.  Think of how many lousy performers are out there.

Music is an endeavor that will seem to be joyless at times, especially in the learning phase.  It will frustrate as you try to master the nuances.  It may even cause you to pace restlessly as it did Chopin when he was writing some of his finest works.

But with focus, determination, and an openness to criticism, a performer can achieve an ecstasy and present a work of art that cannot be achieved in any other way.  And that is what music is all about.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

COVIS-19 Self-Isolation: A VERY Unfortunate Male Side Effect

The recent mandates from all levels of government to self-isolate due to the effects of the Corona virus, or COVID-19, has led to one particularly unsettling consequence.  Many men, especially those in the 50 - 85 year old range, are now sporting man-buns.

Guy Schroeder, a senior from Peace River, Alberta, thinks back about making this controversial decision:

"There wasn't much choice," says Schroeder. "It was starting to grow fairly heavy back there below my bald spot and I had to do something.  My barber closed down and I was desperate.  After the way my wife trimmed the hedges a few weeks back, I wasn't about to let her get close to me with no cuttin' tool."

Another senior, Abe Mollen from Medicine Hat, Alberta, tells a similar story:

"I just turned 76 when the pandemic really hit.  I was due for a cut, but my barber closed up. My wife left me about three years ago, so what was I going to do?  There was a beauty parlour still open, but I couldn't bring myself to going there.  It was so pink.  And they'd probably try and give me bangs."

Arnie Rochminster, current president of the "Alberta Man-Bun Optimists' Society" (AMBOS) is thrilled.  "It looks like we're going mainstream!" exclaimed Rochminster.  "After years of snickers, finger-pointing, and date-free weekends, men are now looking to us for support.  It's an exciting time for us here at the AMBOS. Our total membership numbers have recently soared to the mid double-digits."

But not everyone is happy.  Elsie Schroeder, Guy's wife, recalls seeing her man with a bun.

"I almost fell off my C-P (chamber pot)!  He looked so ridiculous, with like a moldy black-grey cinnamon bun stuck to his head!" She continued, "I think he also tried shining up his bald spot, but I'm not sure."

Elsie plans on taking action.

"I'm going to write Premier Kenney.  This should be illegal.  No one should be forced to see that thing every day, especially when you can't leave the house.  Besides, he didn't even try to do a comb-over."

Friday, 28 February 2020

New-Found Disrespect for the CPS

I never thought I'd write something like this.  It seems out of place for me.  But here it is:

I have little respect for the Calgary Police Service.

And I'm sure it's only temporary, but nevertheless.

So what is that has caused this sudden reduction in the CPS fan club?  

I got caught speeding by a multi-nova camera in a playground zone.

What?? A playground zone? Speeding?? Heavens to Betsy, Mr. Lorne, I can't support your rant on this! What were you thinking?  Is this (hopefully) temporary insanity?? You screwed up!  Admit it!  After all, who will look after the children?!?

And this is exactly what I'd say if it were someone else.  So what's my problem?

I got caught 2/3 the way through the zone while approaching a turning lane.   It has a natural downward trajectory and I let my car gradually speed up.  So I did 42 km/h instead of 30 for less than 100 m.  It was a slip that is now going to cost me $111.00.

Yes, I'm guilty.  

It was a lonely Sunday evening at 7:20 p.m. in a junior high school playground zone where no one was out because of the cold weather.  Kids most inevitably were getting ready for school the next day and I was literally one of perhaps three cars on that stretch of road at the time.  And I went 12 km/h or 7 MPH over the limit by mistake.  I should have put on my brake entering the turning lane.


I am all for traffic enforcement, but it has to make sense.  Up the hill from me is John Laurie Blvd where many a lunatic drivers can be found.  And they seem to have free reign up there; I can't tell you how many times I've been tailgated, sworn at (finger wise), and gestured at just for keeping within the limit.  That is one area that could use serious law enforcement.

Yet, instead, the CPS was found at a lonely stretch of road on a cold Sunday night with nary a soul in sight save a few diehards who have to get home from their daily travels.

I find this approach by the CPS to be mean-spirited.  I find it a cash grab. Worse, it can cause poor feelings between the public and law enforcement, and that's not good.  The CPS needs to build community support and not antagonize the nominally law-abiding.  

I reviewed my dash cam footage and by the letter of the law, I'm guilty, so I will pay.  But the ill will created by the CPS toward me will linger for some time.

That's too bad.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

The Case for Professionalism

Those who know me well, know that I have been a professional musician for about 35 years.  It hasn't always been smooth sailing, and there were, and still are, more than a good number of bumps that are encountered in the midst of exercising my career.

Nevertheless, one learns and carries on.  And those bumps add up to something that is called "experience."  And presumably, the more experience one attains, the more adept they become at their vocation; this above and beyond the initial pieces of paper one receives after graduating from higher places of learning.

So the combination of these two things creates what may be defined as a professional environment.  Doctors and lawyers have them and so do some musicians, including those who opt to open a studio or music school.

A lot of work has been accomplished behind the scenes.  At times, we may make it look easy, but we didn't get there by accident.  And the lack of acknowledgement to this fact by the lay person can be frustrating.

For example, a parent may want to sign up their child for piano lessons, but they want a "deal."  "Your rate is too high," I might hear or, "This other teacher down the street charges less than you do."  Sigh.  There are reasons some teachers are less expensive, the main one being lack of the aforementioned training and experience.  Another reason is that some folks shouldn't be teaching and do so anyway, muddying the waters for those who are specifically trained to specialize.  (I heard about an extreme case once, where a grade six piano student was hired by a commercial music studio to teach a grade seven piano student.  But at least the rate was cheap!)

During an initial conversation with some parents, I can try to insert my credentials into the conversation stream, but the same question of money comes up again and again.

And the result?  In two out of three conversations, if I don't pony up said lesson rate before said conversation ends, I will not hear from them again, even though I offer to discuss that very thing with them during a complimentary meet and greet.

Isn't experience, education, and success at least as important to discuss as how much I charge?