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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Buttering Up Mayor Ford

The Canadian National Exhibition opened in Toronto this past week. One of the perennial exhibitsis the large butter sculpture. In years past it has been of a cow or a moose or some such critter, as I remember. This year is a sculpture of Toronto's controversial low brow mayor. (I am not a fan. The great city of Toronto deserves better. Calgary elected an outstanding mayor. . .why, Toronto!)

Toronto's Mayor Ford in Butter

I think this sculpture is perfect. It is his Honour resting his elbow on a steering wheel, with his cell phone pressed to his ear while reading a book by Margaret Atwood. While the mayor is more of a margarine kind of guy, always looking to do something on the cheap, the challenge was to depict him in butter. It is perhaps not totally in appropriate, the mayor is slimness challenged. One of the few things I admired him for doing was to publicly try to lose weight. I know how hard this is. He had a weekly weigh in for the press outside his office. Initially he made progress but as he failed to slim down there were excuses to miss the weigh in. Of course, he was publicly caught cheating on his diet coming out of a fast food joint. ( we do live in the age where everyone has a camera) In the end, he did not reach his goal of losing 50 pounds. I hope he tries again.
I have refrained from referring to him as Toronto's butter ball mayor (that would be cruel)

These days he is most talked about because of his driving his own car,. He has been caught on camera by citizens talking on his cell phone while driving and reading papers at 70 miles an hour on the expressway. He makes no apology but declaring, "I am a busy guy". The police and his brother, Doug, the city counselor, and the other half of this Ford political tag team, want him to have a driver. This is too upscale for the mayor, always looking to save the taxpayer's money.

It was Doug who claimed he had never heard of Margaret Atwood during the struggle to stop the money saving closing of some of the 100 branch libraries in Toronto. Margaret Atwood, Canada's best known writing and resident of Toronto, spoke up in defense of the libraries, which are well used, particularly by the new immigrant communities. As a result of this controversy there was an informal "Atwood for Mayor" campaign. How appropriate it is that the car driving, phone chatting mayor should be reading up on Margaret Atwood as part of his busy day.

I am sure this sculpture will be enjoyed by those visiting the CNE who have some knowledge of the political events in the city.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Distraction and Frustration

I have not been up to posting any blogs lately. I have been tired out a lot from watching the Olympics in the middle of the night, mostly. I have also had a frustrating week of trying to set up my new toy, a Blackberry Playbook. This took up a lot of my days for a week.

I found the Olympics increasingly frustrating watching how the Olympic Committee denies people's human rights and no country protests. I think it is a scandal. Some brief example. A Greek girl was sent home because she posted on a social media source, some what mildly offensive, possibly racist remarks. Then there is the Caribbean athlete who was sent home because he spent the night in a hotel with his wife. (I can't explain that) There was also a German woman who was barred from the Olympics for associating with a neo-nazi leader of a legal German party. There was also the South Korean athlete barred from the medal presentation because they made some public political statement. There were others that don't come to mind at the moment. Most western countries recognize the rights to freedom of speech, protest, association etc. What gives the Olympic committee the right to deny these fundamental rights we hold so dear. Worse still, why is there no protests from the countries that claim to defend these rights.

We are still waiting for the Canadian soccer athletes to be punished for having an opinion over their loss to the US team. I thought their comments we restrained. There was no shouting or profanity. The have a right to their opinions and a right to express them.

All of this pettiness by the Olympic Committee spoils the show for me.

Fortunately, I had the distraction of my new toy.

I have wanted to have a Blackberry product for some time. I was tempted to get a phone but I really have no use for a phone. I do not like getting calls on a phone and I certainly do not want to be reached when I am not home or at some crazy hour. I feel no need to be always connected with others. I have thought a Playbook would be interesting. I think it is a useful size, unlike the over sized iPad. Apple seems so too, as they are now about to bring out a mini-ipad the size of the Playbook. They seem to see a market for this size of tablet. I also think RIM makes good products. The Playbook was reduced in price and upgraded so that it is the very best buy for the money for a tablet.

I have been trying to set aside the funds for some time. A few times I had them but some more important expense came up. Finally, I decided I could afford this device.

Long ago, I opened a Paypal account and only used it once. I got Lynne to purchase something for me on it using her charge card. When I paid for my Playbook it was charged against her charge card!!! Apparently, they listed her card with my Paypal account when she paid for the small item I wanted some time ago. This surprised me. Thanks Lynne! Apparently, when I opened this account I did not properly set it up so that funds would be drawn from my bank account, as I do not have a charge card. I have since corrected this and will remove Lynne's card information.

I guess I should say upfront. I am not as technologically savvy as I need to be. This becomes more evident shortly.

Finally, my new toy showed up. While it was in new condition the former owner had loaded his information. After a day of fiddling with it I managed to do the security wipe to clear off his information.

It won't be long now I thought. I started the start-up program, only to move three panels and it would not work. I spend five days at least two hours a day talking to RIM's technical persons. Not only did I talk to the front line people, I was passed through to a more technical person. At one point I thought they were going to reprogram the start-up program through my computer which I could connect the playbook to by a cord.

We finally suspected my router was not working right. I had bought it from the Hock and Shop store as used. In fact it is the second one I purchased as the first one I burnt up when I plug the cord from my modem into it by mistake, when setting it up. Back to the store and bought anther used one. This is the one I had when I got the Playbook. I was not totally a novice with the router as it was the same kind I installed a few years ago when I had friends and tenants who had wireless devices.

The RIM tech person asked me to contact the Dlink tech person to get some information on the router. It turned out the router I bought was too old and was no longer technically supported by Dlink. They put me in contact with a company who would help me for a fee. As I said, I have no charge card.

Finally, after going back and forth, I decided to go and purchase a new updated router also a Dlink. The box said it could be installed in about 10 minutes. Three hours later I was still on the phone with the Dlink tech person, after he had twice asked my to get in touch with my server AOL for information. AOL never wants anything to do with routers. They apparently have to wireless technical service. I knew this having been a frequent user of the technical help from AOL over the nine years I have been a client. I often lose the signal here particularly it there is a rain or electrical storm. After the AOL tech person, in Roumania, has me do many things to my computer, he reports the issue to the Bell company,( as my DSL signal comes over the telephone line.)
Eventually, the connection is restored and I get a friendly call from the Bell tech person; so you see I have experience with AOL. I could not tell the Dlink tech person this. Not so he would listen! AOL did finally give me a little information that I thought would satisfy the Dlink tech person. I called. I got a new guy who started to asked me my name and how I spelled it. "Wait I said, we do not have to start at the beginning. I have information to give to the guy I was previously speaking to. Here is the account number he gave me." Mercifully, the tech person went off script and took my information and said he could help me. A hour later, after setting up the settings for the router, it work! Lord be praised! This was 8 days after I first got my playbook. I could feel myself becoming unravelled and about to lose my cool. What a relief the new router was working.

I started the start-up program of the Playbook and had no problem setting it up. I had a sense of relief and joy. I have been playing with it ever since, installing and uninstalling apps to try them out. Some I kept. I would have liked to install the app for the Toronto Blue Jays but they want $9.50 for that so I can do without it. I listen to the games on the radio and follow along on the free animated Gameday program on the teams website . This is good enough for me.

Oh, did I mention last week I lost my analogue signal for the CBC, TVO and TFO. I do still have CTV and a very snowy Global channel. This is good enough for now. It seems progress is passing me by. Have you ever tried to get tech help with a rotary phone., which I have, of course. That is another frustrating story.

I am glad I have a Playbook. Perhaps it will work when I travel south on the bus. (They claim to have wifi). I do realize I have little use for many of its features. I do not belong to any social network so I only have use for the email function. I may use the video chat but of all my friends only one has a blackberry I could connect with. I also do not collect music or videos, but I might some day. So email writing, visiting news sites, researching items, and viewing the occasional free movie will be how I use my Playbook, much as I do with my desktop computer. Perhaps, I really do not need a Playbook after all!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

August 6. . . . .August 9

I may have trouble remembering my grand children's birthdays but these two days I never forget.
These are the dates of the anniversary of the single largest war crime within my lifetime. These are the days the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The World largely ignores the days as the events fade into history. And yet, they cannot fade completely for these events changed to World forever. They ushered in the nuclear age. For me, I am part of the generation that has lived under the threat of thermonuclear war in which to die instantly would be the most human even for such a war would unleash suffering beyond comprehension. The first protests group I ever joined was the "Ban the Bomb" movement of the late 50's and early 60's. The insanity of the Cold War saw the continual stockpiling of nuclear weapons in great numbers and in increasing destructive force as the US and the USSR faced off in mutual fear and insanity. We lived with the possibility of the weapons being used even though any sane or humane person or nation would never do that. And yet it had happened before by the nation I grew up admiring as a idealistic, humane and responsible country (my grasp of history was not as good as it is today.) I largely accepted the propaganda history that was talent from the day the bombs were dropped on Japan until today.

The propaganda view begins with viewing the "Japs" as fiendish people who did not share our value for human life. The use of the bomb was necessary to save many more lives which would be lost if the allies had to invade Japan to end the war. We did not fully understand the destructive effects and after affects of the atomic bomb. (that was true perhaps of bombing Hiroshima but less so for the bombing of Nagasaki). Was it not justified when the Japanese surrendered? You cannot argue with success.

What we were not told was that the Japanese were human being as worthy of living as us. Also, there was wide spread opposition among military and political people in the US, who were in a position of influence, against using the atomic bomb. Furthermore, the Japanese were prepared to surrender. They had made efforts to set up some kind of negotiation. The Americans would not accept anything other than unconditional surrender (although in the end they left the Emperor in place).

It is hard to understand the real reason the bombs were dropped. Truman was a relatively unsophisticated man from mid America. He was persuaded by that who forcefully made the case to use the bomb. Apparently, to his dying day he had not regrets although I wonder if he slept all that well some nights. From what I think is that the argument was that we have this new weapon that we have gone to great lengths to develop and yet not fully tested, and that we should use it. It may help to terrorize the Japanese into surrendering. There seems to have been a political reason. The war was over in Europe and it seems the Soviets wanted to move east and participate in defeating the Japanese. The Americans did not like or trust the Soviets and did not want them to develop a sphere in influence in the East. Therefore, it was necessary to end the war with Japan in a hurry. All of these views you can find in the literature, unfortunately the original propaganda view of the use of the atomic bombs persists in the history taught in our school.

We continue to live under the threat of thermonuclear war. The club of Nations that have such weapons has expanded. There are those who now say the bombs could be used in "limited" ways so it is no longer unthinkable that they would be used. There have been efforts to reduce the threat of overt use of an accidental use of theme but not nearly enough. We need a major nuclear country to say they will dismantle all their bombs before others may be persuaded to do likewise. Which country has the courage to demonstrate a commitment to peace?

Some countries have moved on to less destructive warfare and yet fiendish all the same. We have seen agent orange used in Vietnam and depleted uranium used in Iraq that leave you wondering what other fiendish weapons are being develop that some would argue, "We have developed them and have them so we should use them."

Let the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki be a warning and a lesson for us all.