Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Relax - It’s Only an F2

Last week six tornadoes hit parts of Ontario, Canada where few tornadoes have gone before. Two twisters hit two suburbs north-west of Toronto, they have been confirmed by the nation’s weather watchers - Environment Canada - as F2 on the Fujita Scale which classifies Tornadic activity by wind speed.

The Fujita Scale, or “F-Scale” named after it’s inventor, Ted Fujita who introduced the method to measure the violence of wind storms in 1971, has six le

F4 damage exampleImage via Wikipedia

vels, the least severe of F0 with wind speeds from 64KM/Hour to 116KM/Hour (approximately 40 to 72 miles/hour) to storms where nature’s fury is at it’s worst, an F5 tornado, which has wind speeds from 419KM/Hour to 512KM/Hour (approximately 261 to 318 miles/hour).

For comparison, the weakest tornado at F0 leave light damage to the surrounding area, such as branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over; sign boards damaged and so on. While an F5 tornado is nature’s ultimate killing machine, resulting in total damage to anything in it’s path, including houses lifted off foundations and carried great distances, large tractor-trailers and other cars and trucks picked up like toys and flung through the air creating large and extremely dangerous missiles, debris from houses, cars, trees - anything and everything sucked up by the funnel cloud - shredded into a deadly combination of flying woods, metals, glass, and bodies.

F3 damage exampleImage via Wikipedia

The biggest tornados to hit of the six in Canada’s largest province were F2 - which comes clocking in at about 181KM/Hour to 253KM/Hour (about 110 to 250 miles/hour). Classified as causing considerable damage, roofs are ripped off frame houses, large trees snapped or uprooted; light-objects become flying missiles crashing into buildings, cars and people.

The City of Vaughan, just north of Toronto where these two medium-sized twisters struck declared a state of emergency. The province’s premier and Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper both made statements of hope, and promises of help from their respective governments. The media sent their anchors to cover the devastation live, and everyone made a big stink about it.

Though we got off lucky. Not that I have no empathy for those whose homes were smashed, cars crushed, people that were hurt, and the family of the one who lost an 11-year-old son.

But F2 tornadoes are pretty tame compared to some of the massive twisters which have hit far poorer communities in the States. The area the tornadoes did their most damage in Vau

One of several tornadoes observed by the :en:V...Image via Wikipedia

ghan is a pretty affluent one, and although people’s lives were literally uprooted, they have the political and financial means to get back on their feet.

Most people, aren’t so lucky. In the so-called Tornado Alley of America, (from northern Texas, northward through western Oklahoma and Kansas, through eastern Colorado, up through Nebraska, and into southeastern South Dakota, southern Minnesota and western Iowa) much more powerful twisters have ripped through areas of extreme poverty, where those with next to nothing, lose everything.

There have been numerous F5 killer twisters in Tornado Alley - from the first such classified one on May 11, 1953 in Waco, Texas, with 114 lives lost, to March 3, 1966, in Jackson, Mississippi with 57 confirmed deaths, to the more recent F5 tornado on May 3, 1999, at Bridge Creek, in Moore, Oklahoma, with 36 deaths.

The only F5 tornado confirmed in Canada was on June 22, 2007, in Elie, Manitoba, and no lives were lost. Information is scarce from the 1920’s, so the tornado which hid Frobisher, Saskatchewan on July 22, 1920 has never been officially declared an F5, but many believe it to be one. Four people lost their lives in Frobisher’s twister.

Canada’s second deadliest tornado occurred on July 31, 1987 in Edmonton, Alberta, with 27 fatalities, though this tornado was officially classified as a strong F4.

The majority of tornadoes landing in Canada are F1, with the odd F2 and F3. Which is a far cry from the more severe average of F3 and F4 tornadoes to hit the American mid-west’s Tornado Alley.

Tornadoes are dangerous, violent storms, but we Canadians are lucky - we don’t have it as bad as some other places ‘round the globe.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Amber Alerts Don’t Work in Our Information Society

You’d have to be living under a large rock not to know the age we live in is the information age.

We’re all “wired” and completely connected everywhere, to everyone, all the time. From cell phones, smart phones, BlackBerrys and other mobile devices ringing at all hours of the day, to always on email, online chat sites, remote access to work and home networks, there is no escaping the world in which we live.

Television and radio broadcast useful - and more often these days useless - information all day and all night as well. And if you miss your favor

Image via WikipediaSeveral mobile phones

ite broadcast, often you can catch it onDemand, or via a time shifting channel on digital cable or satellite television. Don’t have those, you may not be out of luck, with Podcasting becoming popular, you can download many shows directly to your mobile device.

With all these levels of technology, it is hard to believe that sometimes, no matter what the information, or how noble the intent of the messenger spreading that information, communications breakdown.

Take a recent case, where police in Canada’s largest province failed to issue an Amber Alert for a missing child. An Amber Alert is the new electronic buzz-term to indicate a missing or lost person, usually a child. Police issue these alerts to the media, and instantly all communications channels screech to a halt, screaming a description of who is missing, where they last were seen, who with, and contact information, in the hopes that someone seeing this will help law enforcement find the missing soul.

In big cities, major highway signs will flash the Amber Alert message, as do most major media outlets on their television, radio and Internet feeds. Print media will run the story in the next edition.

And the Internet - ah yes, the ultimate form of instant communication - becomes the equivalent of a broken telephone.

When I was a kid, I remember being amazed when I was given two Styrofoam cups tied together with string, and hearing the other person’s voice in my coffee cup.

The Internet, for all its awe and power in bringing us closer together is the high tech equivalent of those Styrofoam cups and string.

Every time an Amber Alert occurs, people everywhere take it upon themselves to share this information with their online social networks. People, completely unattached to the actual event, repeat the Amber Alert message to their social networks.

Amber AlertImage by bobster855 via Flickr

In theory, the more people who receive the message, the better the chances of a missing person being found.

But as with everything online, the more removed someone is from the actual events as they unfold, the more garbled the message, until very little of the original message exists.

It is all too easy to just copy and paste whatever someone sends you online, and re-send it to all your friends. But have you ever stopped to think whether the message you received was right, wrong, or even out of date?

I’m on a handful of online social networks, and I’ve seen the same Amber Alert repeated several times - and each time the wording of the message was different. In one instance, I received an online message about an Amber Alert, just as I heard on the radio that local law enforcement had cancelled the very same Amber Alert.

Maybe it is my old school journalistic thinking, a remnant left over from when I was a journalist many eons ago, but whenever someone sends me any sort of news bulletin, I always stop to think about the source of that information. Who the hell is this person, why are they sending me this, and how reliab

USPS AMBER Alert postage stamp.Image via Wikipedia

le a source for this particular information is the sender?

Needless to say, when I receive an online instant message from someone named “HotBlonde75432” I’m not going to take much notice of a news bulletin from this person, even if it really is an Amber Alert. This person may have directly cut and pasted the information right from a legitimate news outlet’s website, or typed exactly what they read, heard or saw in their local newspaper, radio station, or television broadcast.

But so long as the anything, anyone, anywhere, anytime Internet is just that - I will usually chuckle at the wanna-be journalist’s attempt of spreading the news, mumble something under my breath about “wondering what ever happened to the news business, don’t these people have better things to do with their lives,” and move on.

So much for spreading the message.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

America’s Heathcare Fight Isn’t About Healthcare

The Obama love in has ended, thanks to the American president’s plan to bring government-run, universal healthcare to his citizens.

U.S. President Barack Obama was sworn in amidst the pomp and circumstance afforded no other world leader. Being the first black leader of the most politically powerful country in the world earned him a spot in the history books, before even creating a single policy.

He made a trek up here, visiting Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper - his first foreign visit - to rock star-like crowds. He was just as warmly received when he went to other distance lands - with throngs of fans, surrounding his every move.

Then President Obama announced one of his promises made during the election - to bring affordable, accessible healthcare to every American.

Almost instantly the flowery love of adorning Americans vanished, replaced with angry, frustrated citizens, calling for his resignation.

GRAND JUNCTION, CO - AUGUST 15:  Prostesters d...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Many in the States don’t believe their politicos can run universal healthcare, even more are afraid their taxes will go up, for poorly run health services. But the real reason many Americans fear President Obama’s healthcare plan is no less American than warm apple pie served under fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Anti-Communistic sediment, left over from years of being beat over the head with rhetoric about “pinko Commies” is the real reason many Americans are on the war path against government run healthcare. Though most probably don’t know that fully themselves.

As long as there have been socialistic countries, there have been anti-socialistic countries - that’s the nature of political systems. America’s Vietnam War - one of their biggest gaffes - was based on stopping the spread of Communism. The Cuban Missile Crisis, and America’s constant hate for all things Cuban is purely based on anti-Communistic bigotry. The Cold War between the Americans and the then-Soviets (aka “the Ruskies”) was based on anti-Communistic feelings.

One could even say their current War on Terror has at its very roots, a basis in their anti-Communistic stance. The Muslim-based world of Iraq and Afghanistan is a far cry from socialistic thinking. But it is also a far cry from the way the American political system runs - and anything political that doesn’t hum along quite like the American way, is automatically grounds for going to war. Or so it would seem, at least if you read

An EXCOMM meeting during the Cuban Missile Cri...Image via Wikipedia

up on your recent American history.

Canada isn’t a Communistic country - but we do embrace the ideals of a society where even the government will look after our most vulnerable, by providing welfare and universal healthcare for all - both highly socialistic in nature.

That’s why many campaigns against President Obama’s universal healthcare system are picking on us Canadians. They claim our Canadian healthcare system isn’t as good as the American one. They show line-ups lasting over 10-hours in our emergency rooms; patients being turned away for necessary medical services; after hours clinics closed; and nurses and doctors tired and disillusioned about the whole thing. They show everything wrong about Canada’s ailing healthcare system.

This really catches the average Canadian off-guard. Although our healthcare system isn’t perfect, it certainly isn’t sick. I’ve lived, worked and played in Canada all my life, and I have never had to wait 10-hours in emergency. I’ve never been denied health services, and I don’t know anyone who has.

Interviews with doctors and nurses is problematic, because no matter how good or bad the system really is, just as in any profession, you’re bound to find a handful of people that hate their jobs, their boss and will vent given the opportunity.

That is the magic of the digital video era - anyone can write, shoot and edit anything to be exactly the way they want it. Go into a hospital hoping to interview someone who’s been waiting for 10-hours, and you’ll find him or her.
But then, you’ll probably find people who were in and out as well. They never ask why the patient was waiting for 10-hours - maybe he filled out the forms wrong, didn’t come when called, or could have even fallen asleep - we’ll never know - thanks to editing to specific viewpoints.

If anything, it is all but too easy for non-Canadians to get access to our medical safety net - and on this one front the anti-Obama healthcare groups have reason to worry. Even though most provinces have photo ID health cards, it is still far too easy to get healthcare for non-Canadians.

Some go to extremes, as Michael Moore showed in his movie

Michael Moore while trying to get access to Gu...Image via Wikipedia

Sicko. They even marry us Canadians, not for our dashing good looks, northerly climate ruggedness, politeness, or even for our Canadian values, but instead just to become a Canadian to qualify for our government-run, universal healthcare.

Makes you think - some people will actually tie the knot with a complete stranger, just to enjoy the benefits of something, many Americans are all up in arms against. What gives?

Many of these protesters are angry because their American values are being stomped on. When anyone proposes to allow the American government to run anything free for the public, many Americans instinctively believe it is the first step towards socialism, which is just a hop-skip-and-jump from Communism.

And no American wants that - even if it means paying out of their own pocket for necessary medical treatments, or failing that, suffering debilitating injuries that could cost them their jobs, social lives, and even their own lives, just because they couldn’t pay for their own healthcare.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Elitism of Pro Sport

It’s said the higher up the corporate ladder one travels, the easier life becomes. So a president and CEO of a large corporation has an easier working life than say, the receptionist answering calls at the front desk.

It appears this holds truest for professional athletes - only difference, they get paid big bucks to play kids games.

I was at the Rogers Cup this past weekend, and saw first-hand just how spoiled professional athletes are. The Rogers Cup is one of the biggest professional tennis tournaments in the Canada, and the world. It isn’t Wimbledon, or the French Open, but it still draws the big name tennis players from all over the world.

The Rogers Cup runs all week, but began on the weekend. Tennis is a very demanding sport, causing you to have to run, jump and swing. But if y

The US OpenImage via Wikipedia

ou’re a pro athlete, you can sit in the shade, no matter where you are - they have people that open up big umbrellas during sets, just you. Need a towel to wipe off the sweat - no problem, they have people that will toss you a towel whenever you want - they’ll probably even sponge you off if you asked them too. Hit a ball past the line? Don’t worry, they have people that will pick those up for you, so you don’t have too. Just about the only thing they don’t have for you is someone to actually play the game - you still have to do that for yourself, even at the pro level.

This elitism holds true in many professional sports. In the major leagues of baseball, when the umpire calls for more balls, he doesn’t have to go to his gym bag to get them, a ball boy will come running out with a handful of freshly minted ones.

When a ball player breaks his bat, that same ball boy - now called the batboy - will bring out a brand new bat.

Must be nice to have those perks at the professional level. I’ve played the odd tennis match a while back, and although it was a long time ago, no one ever brought out an umbrella to cover my head from the sun, and there certainly wasn’t anyone offering me a towel.

I remember many years ago, when professional baseball players walked out and went on strike, complaining about pay, job security, the usual suspects in a labour dispute. As the strike went on, and forced the cancellation of

Major League BaseballImage via Wikipedia

the All Star Game, many fans lost interest - and rightly so.

Baseball is just as much a sport as any - it involves quick reflexes, strength and endurance. But it is also a fun and enjoyable game - one that even kids play. So when some older kids stop playing, because the millions they make to play this kids game just weren’t enough - understandably many fans will disappear in disgust.

When that strike first happened, that was my thought process - that they were overpaid spoiled brats. Now I see the world differently - thanks to the elitism of sport.

Oh they are still way overpaid to play that kids game, but it is the professional sport industry which breeds that attitude and fuels the fire wanting more.

By constantly doting on professional athletes like Gods, we’ve created monsters that expect to be treated like royalty, or else they throw a temper tantrum like a spoiled kid. And that is what they really are - just overpaid spoiled children.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

The Great Recession - What a Load of Hooey

Last month we told you how despite the continued faltering of the global economy, Canada’s national fiscal regulator, The Bank of Canada, boldly declared the recession over. At the time, we disagreed, because of the lack of supporting evidence presented by the nation’s bank.

Last week, the Canadian and American governments released their unemployment figures July - and just as we told you last month - the so-called recession isn’t over yet, at least not in Canada.

Statistics Canada said there was no sign of economic recovery last month, with a loss of over 45, 000 Canadian jobs, despite the Bank of Canada’s previous claim.
Though the American economy did do a tad better, showing a slight i

Money Back GuaranteeImage by Roby© via Flickr

ncrease in jobs - the first such increase in over 15-months.

This whole economic meltdown has government deception written all over it.
Instead of declaring it what it really is - a depression - economists at major private and public financial institutions continue to refer to as a “recession.”

This is because technically, it hasn’t lasted long enough to be a depression. But the affects of the current economic crisis are far worse than they were during the Great Depression of the “dirty thirties,” so doesn’t it make sense to call this fiscal mess what it really is - a depression?

Some clever financial analysts have come up with ways of describing the astronomically bad nature of the current economy, without using the “d”epression word.

I heard one the other day call it the “Great Recession” linking it to the nature of the Great Depression, but without using the word “depression.” Some just refer to it as the “worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression.”

Far more just talk about the effects on jobs, people’s homes and saving instead of actually talking about what we really are in. They talk around the issue, describing the situation, without actually defining it. Clever - and possi

Schoolchildren line up for free issue of soup ...Image by State Library of New South Wales collection via Flickr

bly scary - would you want this type of person responsible for your finances?

Truth is, we are in something far worse than an economic depression. It’s so bad, economists don’t have a word to adequately describe it. The economy will never be the same - we’ve lost jobs that will never come back, companies that were fiscal powerhouses in their business and industry sector have disappeared completely, more people have lost their jobs, their homes, their cars, and in the most literal sense of the word - their way of staying alive - than at any other point in history worldwide.

Governments have had to bailout mega-big businesses including the auto sector and various airlines. People have cut back on once thought normal, every day activities, like going to the movies, eating out, or having that morning coffee, just to scrounge up enough savings to have some money for the basics.

More people go without the basics everyday than ever before - things like food, clean drinking water, clothing, and a roof overhead.

The economy will get better, it has too, that’s the nature of the Capitalistic system. But we are far from out of the worst economic . . . or f*ck it - we are far from being over this global economic depression.

Before it is a distant memory, more people will lose their jobs, millions more will lose their cars, and homes, and governments will continue to forecast the end.

Well, eventually they will get it right. If you keep calling the cars passing by a “bus” eventually, when a “bus” passes by, you’ll be right.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

When Public Employees Do Wrong

Environmentalists and urban planners (many of whom are environmentalists) urge us constantly to find alternatives to gas hogging automobiles, in our daily commuting lives. For millions of people around the world, that alternative is public transit - local run buses, streetcars, subways, trains, and in some places mule and cart.

When we take public transit, we’re putting out lives into the hands of the persons responsible for making the system work - the ticket takers, drivers, even the janitors.

So when news broke about a Canadian bus driver being arrested for drinking and driving while on the job, it quickly spread throughout the city, the province, and the country.

Yesterday, Brian Lyons, 54, was charged with impaired driving, after a passenger on the Mississauga Transit Bus he was driving complained that something was medically wrong with the driv

Official logo of City of MississaugaImage via Wikipedia

er to police. Turns out, Lyons wasn’t ill, he was toasted - having three-times the legal limit of alcohol in his system.

Lyons isn’t new, he’s been a bus driver for over 25-years - though even if he were a recent hire, he should have known that drinking and driving isn’t just plain dumb and dangerous, but it is also quite illegal.

No one was hurt, this time - though if one driver is working drunk, who knows how many more are - and one day, one of those public employee

Toronto Transit Commission streetcar by nightImage via Wikipedia

s could kill themselves, a passenger, or a helpless victim that just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This isn’t the first-time a public transit worker in the Greater Toronto Area - Mississauga is a city to the west of Toronto - has been caught drinking on the job. A couple of years ago a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus driver was charged and later convicted of having more than the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, while he was driving the bus.

There have also been incidents in other North American cities and towns, where public transit workers have been charged and convicted of driving their public transit vehicles while under the influence of a controlled substance.

What is the world coming to when those public employees whom we lay our precious lives out for respect and keep safe during our travels, go on a bender not just before work, but during?

How many more public transit workers must be charged and convicted of putting their passenger’s lives in harm’s way, before something is done? How many passengers must die before public transit operators take steps to ensure those who depend on these methods of travel are treated with no less respect, dignity and above all else, safety, as any other person in our society?

Steps have been taken in recent years to protect the operators of our transit systems. Closed Circuit Cameras have been installed on all the buses and streetcars in the TTC, and most other transit vehicles in the Greater Toronto Area - and on other systems around the world. They have even begun installing secure doors on TTC buses, so that the driver is behind a Plexiglas shield, protecting him or her from passengers.

Although the safety of the driver is never at question - he or she shoul

Trasantiago in Chile .Image via Wikipedia

d be able to work in a safe and comfortable professional environment, just as anyone else - what is being done to protect passengers from civic employees that are operating under the influence of a controlled substance - such as alcohol?

Without such protections, getting onto a public transit vehicle of any kind maybe better for the environment, but not necessarily for you.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

No More Rock Star Status Obama?

When American President Barack Obama was announced winner of the last federal American election, he instantly was propelled into rock star-like status. Everywhere he went, he was greeted with throngs of adoring fans, chanting, singing, dancing, there were even people hawking Obama t-shirts, ball caps, and other merchandise with the American leader’s face and catch-phrases.

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 10:   U.S. President Geo...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Maybe the love affair with America’s first black president is over.

Usually, everything Obama touches turns to gold, he can do no wrong - whatever policy he put forward, we the people were behind him 110 percent.

Not so over his latest big proposal - healthcare reform in America.

Here in Canada, we’ve enjoyed the benefits of having free, universal healthcare to all for decades. Thanks to the Tommy Douglas, the first leader of the New Democratic Party, we Canadians never have to worry about basic healthcare costs. Douglas, known as the father of healthcare, put through similar policies to those U.S. President Obama is now trying to do now.

Douglas had to fight to bring us the universal healthcare we have in Canada, just as President Obama did. But that’s where things turn - Douglas never had a rock star-like status.

That’s why the tides may be turning for American politics - as Americans get used to having President Obama in the White House, growing comfortable

Moore's most recent film, Sicko, released in 2007.Image via Wikipedia

with his speaking style, his image, his slogans, and his way of running the Oval Office.

And that comfort may be costing the American leader some of his clout, because, for the first time, he’s being seriously questioned and opposed on his healthcare reform policies.

Prior to President Obama’s healthcare reform, even those who don’t wear the same color political stripes dared not oppose the Obama Many sweeping the nation.

Not so anymore, or at least not so over President Obama’s healthcare reforms, which are an attempt to ensure every American has access to free, universal, healthcare, as we have here in Canada.

Many look to Canada’s high taxes, and fears that they will encounter the few and far between horror stories, of Canadians having to come to the States, paying big bucks out of their own pockets, to get life saving treatments that just aren’t provided, or provided in time, up here in Canada.

Little do Americans realize that those horror stories are rare, as are the diseases and ailments which they are about.

For the average Canadian, the Medicare system works. We don’t worry about breaking a bone, and having to pay an ambulance attendant cash up front to rush us to the hospital - as we’re rumoured to hear occasionally happen in the States. We don’t have film makers like Michael Moore making documentaries about big American companies, intentionally preventing people from getting the medical attention they need, because it costs too much. We don’t hear about millions of people dying from preventable illness, because they weren’t insured.

Canada’s healthcare system isn’t the best, but it does work.

It would work in the States too, that is if it isn’t used as a political positioning tool to lower President Obama’s clout. Or maybe President Obama has suffered what many put up high on a pedestal suffer - when we realize they are just normal human beings like us, they suddenly fall out of grace, and we don’t value them as highly.

Either way, it looks like President Obama has lost that rock star-like status - which is okay. Now maybe he can get on with being president, instead of having to always act like a celebrity.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Mayor Miller’s Lastman

After over a month without many of the services major urban centers take for granted, Canada’s largest city is slowly starting to resemble what it once was.

The public parks are gleaming clean of trash, the lawns are being trimmed. And once again line ups are forming at the various city-run permit and licensing offices.

On June 22, all 24,000 inside and outside workers for the City of Toronto walked off the job, as both their respective unions called a legal strike. Until late last week, that meant there wasn’t any garbage collection, parks or recreation services, even emergency medical services were on a work-to-rule campaign, delaying ambulatory care across the city.

Much has been said in the press about how the long and brutal labour disruption has created a rift between the city, its unionized workforce, and the union leaders.

Toronto Strike - Garbage out of serviceImage by nyxie via Flickr

But the real victims during all of this are on an even bigger war path - and rightly so. We’re talking about the over 2.5 million residents of Toronto, whose lives were put in disarray for over a month.

Without garbage collection, residents had to haul their own trash to temporary dump sites, only to be met by angry striking workers, who had setup picket lines and intentionally were blocking their access. Some of these confrontations even turned violent, with picketers jumping in front of moving vehicles, or simply attacking innocent residents with their signs.

In this world of two income families, many had to suddenly find someone else to take care of their kids, as all of the city’s daycare centers were immediately shut down due to the strike.

Even celebrations for our nation’s birth, Canada Day, on July 1 were cancelled due to the strike, because there was no one around to manage and run them. I guess Canada’s largest city employs people that just aren’t real Canadians - because if they were, they would have been patriotic enough to put aside their differences for their country for a couple of days. It wasn’t as if we were asking them to put their lives on the line, as we do our soldiers - who are among the most patriotic Canadians. Our city’s employees can learn a thing or two about patriotism and being Canadian from our military members.

Paramedics cut their services in half, as they worked-to-rule. An investigation is already underway as to whether their own arrogance has cost the life of a Toronto man, who may still be alive today, if the ambulance had arrived a few minutes earlier.

And just as the strike began, conveniently just as schools ended for the summer, all the public parks, playgrounds, splash pads, and community centers were forced to close and cancel all of their summer programs, leaving thousands of kids out in the street.

The real victims during the civic employees strike are those who live, work and play in Toronto, which is sad, because the residents of Toronto had no say whatsoever in the whole collective bargaining process.

Or maybe they do.

Last time the city’s staff went on strike, back in 2002, none forgot, especially when it came to the municipal election. Toronto’s Mayor at the time, Mel Lastman, was the running favourite, but he lost the election. Although many things contributed to Lastman’s outing, the strike was probably the biggest sticking point which ultimately pushed him out of the mayor’s chair.

History has an unfortunate way of repeating itself, and we’re bound

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 19:  Chair of C40 Cli...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

to see current Toronto Mayor David Miller take some heat from this strike during the up-coming municipal elections in 2010.

If history repeats itself as in the past, Mayor Miller won’t be the mayor of Canada’s largest city after the next election.

Is this fair? Is this right? Is Mayor Miller to blame?

Who knows? We aren’t privy to what goes on in the backrooms during the negotiations between the city and its staff.

But what we do know is this year’s summer was a washout for the 2.5 million people that call Toronto home. Not because of the weather, and not just because of the economy, but mostly because the city where they choose to live, work and play wasn’t there when they needed it.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Social Networking Or Socially Absent?

A couple of months ago I launched a new project to drive more readers to this blog. I re-designed the site, added some rich media content, and ventured into the world of social networking.

It wasn’t all that long ago, where the term “networking” either meant a series of computers linked together, or in a more social context, “networking” was getting out to business-related functions to hob-knob with colleagues in your field or work sector.

Back then, networking was limited to professionals, usually involved wearing suits and ties to bland corporate functions, and having to endure h

Water cooler sceneImage by dpwolf via Flickr

ours of meaningless small talk just to get a business card so you could call them later from the office and really talk shop.

These days, everyone is on the social networking bandwagon - from kidsbarely out of diapers, to seniors looking for their next bingo hall run, and everyone in between.

Social networking is the act of surfing the web for sites which connect you to other people with similar interests, hobbies, employment, or histories. These websites are online communities, where you can share your thoughts, pictures, videos and just about anything else you want too - with complete strangers. The most common social networking sites are Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Prior to trying to tap into the social networks for expansion of this blog, I already used Facebook - it is kind of cool to reconnect with people from your pa

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

st, and to keep in touch with others far away. Though I try to keep my Facebook time limited to no more than an hour a day, as it can prove quite addictive - with the ability to chat, play games, or even just poking someone, it can be quite a time sink.

Little did I realize just how much of a time sink social networking could be. I created a Facebook Fan site, joined Twitter, and started using Digg and StumbledUpon to drive readers to this blog.

Previously, to all my new social networking, when I posted a blog, it would take no more than 30-minutes. I could write the thing in about 20-minutes, proof it in about five, and then post it and do one final proof-read in another five-minutes or less.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

Now that I’m using various social networking sites, posting a blog takes over an hour! I still only need about 25-minutes in total to write and proof-read my work, but then it takes forever to market the thing online.

Not that I mind - social networking is very social, which makes it fun. But it is too easy to get caught up in all the social activity. From chatting with strangers about whatever the current topics are, to just finding someone interesting to follow, to trying to make sure you have a good ratio of friends and followers, to filtering out “bots” which just want to sell you crap you don’t need . . .


Where indeed?

There are some that seem to live on these social networking sites, they never sleep, eat, and quite possibly have a tube attached to their naughty-bits, so they don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom.

Some people appear to always be on - and I know they aren’t “bots” automatically sending out messages, because I’ve talked with some in real-time, and the conversation was just too real to be a computer algorithm calculating what to send next.

Some of these even have people have multiple accounts on multiple social networking sites, but have many of the same online friends and conversations.

We’ve all heard about the balding middle-aged science fiction computer geek, living in his parent’s basement, spending all of his time online and eating.

Whether that image was ever true, it appears anyone can quickly become a prisoner to the world of online social networking. I’ve encountered men and women that are obviously addicted to the online world - some with high end jobs, and some beautiful women that are probably forever single not because they can’t get a date, but because they never leave their home.

Technology can and does amazing things for humanity. It has closed geographic distances, building a truly global village, as instant communications are now possible with anyone, anywhere in the world at anytime.

But that has also created a technological boogie man of sorts, which allows us to evade and avoid the real world around us, living in the perfect fantasies we create in our online social networks.

Online, it doesn’t matter if you are fit or fat, wealthy or starving poor, have a successful career, or are struggling to find a job. All that you need is a computer, an Internet connection, and a bit of imagination and know-how, and you too can escape reality, and make your own world anyway you want it.

I don’t know about you - but although I enjoy being social online

Image representing Digg as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

, I prefer the real world of life, to that of the artificial world of the web.

Oh I’ll still partake in the online world - it is too pervasive in our culture to avoid, and it has grown readership of this blog, which was the ultimate goal.

However, I don’t want to be that dateless guy, surfing the net and ignoring my real friends in the real world because I’ve become enthralled with some complete stranger that I’ll probably never really meet or really ever know online.

And you never really know - that hot babe halfway ‘round the world that flirts with you online, could very well be your overweight, unemployed next-door neighbor - because anyone can pose as anyone online. Or worse, it could be your boss trying to figure out how far you’ll go online, to see if you’re a normal person with a healthy lifestyle worthy of that promotion, or some sick nut that should actually be let go.

Time to get a life - or at least get back to the life of the living.

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