Walking the Wires

Nik and Delilah Wallenda

Like most people in at least Canada and the US, I watched with interest the lead-up to Nik Wallenda’s walk across Niagara Falls. Since the actual walk was scheduled for 11:00 pm, and I figured there would be a lot of preamble, I opted for bed and checking in the morning.

I don’t know if I would have been more enticed to watch had he not been dragging a rolling box connecting him securely to the almost two inch steel cable. His worst-case scenario was that he would fall off the wire and end up dangling about five feet below it until they managed to pull him off, perhaps with the aid of a helicopter. That would have been embarrassing, but not fatal to more than his pride.

The tether was apparently mandated by his main sponsor, the ABC Network. They indicated they didn’t want responsibility for any mishap.

I’ve been told that Wallenda kneeled once along the way, but other than that performed no unusual acts on the wire, and finished the walk in about half the expected time. Looking at the news reports the next morning, I had to feel it was a bit of a non-event. Skill was certainly there, but for a Wallenda a bit of routine work. Though I would doubt I could make more than ten feet down the wire, I might have been willing to give it a try myself (for significant compensation), knowing that at the worst I would fall off a few feet and dangle until rescue.
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No Respect

Like most Canadians, I reacted in shock on July 25 when Jack Layton held the news conference where he announced, “I have a new cancer…” His appearance, compared to the Jack Layton we had seen in the spring election only weeks earlier, looked like twenty years down the road: eyes sunken, cheeks hollow, obvious significant weight loss—we all could see the signs and we knew he was in very big trouble.

The raspy voice spoke of fight, of optimism, but few of us felt it. I gave him until October. It was a second shock last Monday when the news came that he had died. Fast. It scares us all. Continue reading

Ok, I will predict …

Though I don’t mind giving out my opinion on elections while sitting at Tim’s, I’ve always tried not to put thoughts into print—the danger there is that event- ually people vote, unfortunately too soon for people to forget what I forecast, and in the morning after I can be proven definitely wrong.

So I’ll make some comments, probably enough for you to get an idea of my leanings—I was about to add, “but I won’t make any prediction”, but as you probably know by now, I don’t have that kind of control.

It’s an interesting election, ignoring the issues of the tremendous cost and whether we really needed one or not. There are some interesting personalities in the mix. I think more than many elections, the focus is on the national leaders, and a lot of local ridings will tilt from the desire to have one leader over another.

I have to say that I don’t like Stephen Harper, and my voting might end up as more of an “anything but Harper” than the real supporting of another party. I think that if he gets the majority that he desperately wants, it will only happen the once. Harper, under minority conditions, only lets us see glimpses of his true personality and true agenda. Under majority conditions, he can basically push through almost any piece of legislation he wants (particularly with a senate stuffed with his choices, all of who have realized by now which side of the bread has a lot of butter). I think we will see a lot of movement to the political right, a huge amount of control, and very little input from parliament other than as a clearing house formality. Members of other parties will be the nuisances he has to put up with, and members of his own party will toe the line or find themselves dispatched to a political Siberia.
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Dangerous Land

Call me overly cautious if you like, but while I might spend wait time reading a magazine in a dentist office, an optometrist office, or even the offices of most medical specialists, I will not touch one with a barge pole in the waiting room of a GP. I don’t think I have any unusual aversion to germs, and seem to have pretty good immunity, but when I glance around to all the people sniffing, snorting, sneezing, snuffing onto hands and newsprint, I can’t help but think that the out-of-date magazines, particularly in the humid weather of this summer, might make ideal camping ground for all kinds of sub-visual critters.

If you want to see the worst side of automobiles, visit a repair shop, or even the extreme of a junkyard. If illness, human damage, and just general germs are your passion, let’s face it, that stuff is in abundance in medical facilities like doctor’s offices and hospitals– our locations for salvation from illness and damage, but many times dangerous places to be in, particularly as the patient.

Many wonderful things take place in our hospitals, many dedicated people work there, fantastic technology makes breakthroughs that never could have taken place even a decade ago, but danger unfortunately lurks in the long tile corridors as well.
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The Cost of G20


Canadians are divided on many issues of the day, but one thing they seem to have found close to unanimity is the senseless cost of the G20 Summit later this month. Surveys indicate that over eighty percent of Canadians think the cost is far too much for what is largely a three-day meeting of leaders of twenty countries. The Canadian government seems to feel it’s time to show the world that we are in the big time, whether we can afford it or not. $1.2 Billion is the current figure being thrown out, and some officials are indicating this as just the “taxpayer cost”.

That would be you and me.

One-point two billion, for what is mainly a three day meeting. With a security budget exceeding the weeks of the Vancouver Olympics. Although just the sound of over a billion dollars is apparently enough to trigger anger in Canadians, the numbers are large enough that we can’t even grasp how that equates in real terms. Spelled out, it is $1,200,000,000.00.

Even my calculator doesn’t like it—runs out of digits before I can get 1.2 billion in the window. Fortunately the little calculator in Windows is capable of handling that kind of number (Bill Gates needs the capability), as long as you’re careful with your zeros. Continue reading

With Glowing Hearts

I had a good time watching the Vancouver Winter Olympics. A lot of exciting competitions, many inspiring athletes, a thousand and one stories.

Often during the competitions, in the early morning hours when CTV was repeating the events of the day before, I would switch over to NBC’s American coverage. It was good to get another view of things, and I was frequently amazed with the attention being paid there to Canadian athletes. As was happening on Canadian television, the US reporters often related the human interest side of our athletes, such as the story of Moguls Gold winning Alex Bilodeau’s brother Frederic. Frederic is Alex’s strongest supporter and his inspiration, while living with a severe handicap of cerebral palsy. US reporters were enthralled with the story of Joannie Rochette, competing in figure skating and winning the Bronze Medal despite her mother’s unexpected death only days before. Despite NBC’s understandable desire for the American team to win the men’s hockey gold, they often spoke with great respect about the Canadian team and about the unbelievable way Canadians were behind them.
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Own the Podium???

I’m an avid Olympics watcher, summer or winter, but I’m having trouble. As cute as Nikki Yanofski is, and as beautiful as the Olympic song may be, I’m starting to struggle with Believing.

We’ve been the source of humor on the American talk shows for our $113 million “Own the Podium” campaign– how un-Canadian of us! Pushy and confident. It’s our podium! Try to take it at your own risk! Under the big bucks of the OTP campaign, they’ve helped athletes, studied the science of the sports, supplied the most high-tech suits and equipment, done everything known to man to assure victories.

Doesn’t seem to be working out that way. Canada now has 8 medals, falling overnight to fifth place, far behind the US, which is having a great Olympics and has a present medal count of 23. Korea, which has largely owned the speed skating tracks, moved ahead of us in the medal count.
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Policing the Police

The findings of a report released last week into the tragic Taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski in the Vancouver Airport didn’t surprise me. Most of us had seen the video taken by a bystander, and could appreciate that the response of the RCMP Officers on the scene was inappropriate. Perhaps more significantly, we were aware that their inquiry testimony about the event differed strongly from the facts in the video.

One news commentator indicated that as far as public support, the RCMP has been “bleeding” badly over the last few years. It’s unfortunate that the force, long an iconic symbol of Canada, peaks in its support by Canadians only when some of the members are killed. “Inappropriate response” was a common phrase in the report on the Dziekanski incident, and that labels most difficulties the RCMP has gotten into over the last decade.
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Hysteria?

The hysteria is even getting to me. I came at this article with half a notion of revising my position on the H1N1 Swine flu, and probably urging all of you to stampede your way to the nearest vaccination center, shove a few hundred people aside, and demand to be immediately jabbed.

So… I did a little research. While it doesn’t seem to be human nature to let facts get in the way of “feelings”, I like to back up my all too ready opinions with at least some foundation.

We’re going nuts. The last couple of days saw hundreds of clinics open across the country to provide vaccinations. A couple of months ago, surveys indicated that a great many Canadians were less than excited about getting vaccinated for H1N1, in fact it was of great concern to health officials that interest in the shots by the general public didn’t mirror their hopes for coverage. That seems to have changed– no doubt due to the media attention, and the accidental or intended messages that health officials have been sending.
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Too Civilized?


My articles have been few and far between lately… busy time.

I had written a draft of a column immediately following the discovery of the body of Tori Stafford, a follow-up to my last column (end of May—where does the time go?). I thought I should complete the column, perhaps as a way of getting things rolling again.

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Too Civilized?

Reporters at the time of the discovery of Tori’s body described the situation accurately as one of intense but mixed feelings for the family. I don’t think anyone in the situation of a missing person, particularly a child, abandons all hope until a body is finally found. Despite indications that the child is likely dead, as with a person lost at sea somehow a sliver of hope remains that the impossible happened and somewhere, somehow, the person is alive. Could Victoria be somewhere else– perhaps transferred, sold, whatever, to another person or family, and the indications of her being killed only a story to divert attention? Unlikely, but an anguished family clings to this faint hope. When a body is found and confirmed to be the missing child, that hope, however unreasonable, is extinguished.

The only positive, if one can twist the mind in that direction is, as Tori’s aunt described it, “at least we won’t be spending the rest of our lives watching for her, scanning every crowd, looking in every car that passes.”
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