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Showing posts from August, 2005

As promised...

How to reform education

First of all, what I hope will be (but probably won't be) a succint statement of the problems with the educational system as it stands, teetering, today.

1) There has been a redefinition of 'education' since about 1990 that leaves little room for anything not strictly academic. I'm speaking here of music programs, visual arts programs, drama programs, even (in some schools) sports, all of which have been deemed expendable.
2) While some students, naturally, excel academically, others (also quite naturally) struggle. There is no longer any difference between the two: the struggling student advances through the system (and may graduate) every bit as easily.
3) In many respects, school fails to grab the imagination of its students. They are given no reason to learn material other than its purported intrinsic value, which is not readily apparent.
4) There is not enough value placed on the student and his/her opinions. School, in many cases, is where the …

Going through the alphabet...

Assorted items are cluttering up my mental desk of late. I think it's time to purge. To wit:


My feelings about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are decidedly mixed. They can be summed up in four words: radio good, TV bad.
CBC Radio is great. I may take issue with their constant search for minorities to profile--it's the Toronto Star in audio form!--but the documentaries, the music, the news, the music, the variety, and, oh, yes, the music, make listening to the radio a civilizing, edifying experience. My favourite programs include Richardson's Roundup, Definitely Not The Opera, and the Vinyl Cafe. What these share (and what separates CBC from most anything else on the dial) is near-total unpredictability, something I find exhilarating.
CBC Radio is also unifying. They do a national call-in called Cross-Country Checkup. Its host, Rex Murphy, seems truly interested in what listeners have to say. (When our local talk-jock on CKGL wants your opinion, he'll give it to …

The Great $1.00 Sale

That should be "g-r-a-t-e", as in what our teeth do every time we hear there's one of these suckers coming.

Look, people. They're chickens. That's all they are. And just because we have whole chickens on for $1 a pound doesn't give you the right to (a) snatch them out of other customers' hands; (b) run your cart into displays or customers out of sheer frustration that they got a chicken and you didn't; (c) engage in fisticuffs to the point where the police must be summoned.

I LOATHE these sales, the ones they put on every six to eight weeks or so, the ones that have some variant of "$1.00" in their titles. (The ones that have titles!) They draw new people into our store--which you'd think would be a good thing--but these new people are usually what we call 'cherry-pickers': customers who buy nothing but flyer items and thus cost, rather than make, the store money.
Even the cherry-pickers would be tolerable if they weren't so …

On guns

Those who know me know how strongly I feel about guns. If there were a National Stifle The Rifle Agency, I'd be its Charlton Heston. I've been forced to re-examine those beliefs in the bloody wake of all the gun homicides in Toronto this year.
Nearly every weekend the gunfire erupts, sometimes only injuring people, but often--31 times this year often--killing them. One death gets a mention in the papers; 31 seems to have had some actual effect on Toronto politicians and police officers.
The chief, Bill Blair, has taken steps: formerly deskbound senior officers will now be out walking a beat. Not sure what exactly that will accomplish: in the gang-banger mentality, they're just (pardon the crudity) more pigs to the slaughter...not to mention that five or ten years driving a desk can't be good for one's street sense.
Blair's 'community policing' initiatives involve such things as police-teenager basketball games in what used to be called 'slums' and…

Where were you when the lights went out?

I remember where I was.
I had just left work. A good thing for me, too: whenever the power goes out in a grocery store for more than a minute, everyone on hand scurries into action. The tills have just enough backup power to process whatever customer is in line: after that, we shut down, and everyone on hand scurries for huge sheets of plastic wrap to insulate the bunkers, the frozen deck, the dairy wall, the deli wall, and the produce wet cases. It's a lot of work, and I had unwittingly missed it by a matter of minutes.
I'd missed my bus, too, it turned out. No problem: I had to pick up some ears of corn, among other things, from Zehrs down the road on my way home. Groceries in hand, I was to take a cab home from there.
If decent ears of corn were to be had in my own store, I would have been in line at the express till when the dark hit. But our warehouse had (and has) an awful habit of sending us swill to sell, and our corn at that time was markedly substandard. So: Zehrs.
We do not inherit the Earth from our parents: we borrow it from our children.
--Saint Exupery

They scare me.
Well, they scare anyone sensible...or at least they should.
The skyrocketing price of oil has not affected us overmuch as of yet. Our Toyota Echo, at today's prices, costs less than $35.00 to fill from fumes. I saw this coming, you see.
Oh, but it will affect us. It will affect us all. If I'm right, you're going to see grocery prices next year that will turn your hair white. Because nearly everything is shipped by truck...and trucks use gas.
Why is oil going up so fast?
Oh, a whole variety of reasons--it seems they can manufacture reasons to line their pockets faster than they can manufacture oil itself. But this time, at least one of the excuses is a full-fledged reason...and a frightening one.
Iran has decided to restart their nuclear program. If anyone objects too loudly to that fait accompli, well, they'll just shut off their oil.

Our oil addiction: it scares m…

Is it really only Wednesday?!

Stop the world, I wanna get off!

Last Friday--only six days ago!--we got the call. Our air conditioner was FINALLY in.

Yes, I know, not all that long ago I wrote that the mere act of using an air conditioner smacked of selfishness. And it does. However, this summer has smacked us in the face...forty-seven times now. That's the number of nights the outside temperature has failed to drop below 20 degrees. And we've had about enough.
We have been waiting six weeks for this portable air conditioner. The demand is so high that they had to make more of them. In fact, we've visited Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire and even stooped so low as to go into a Zellers. No air conditioners. No fans, either, in two of those places.
The Brick had what looked like a good one online, so we went in to buy it. As the signature hit the sales receipt, we were informed of the (ahem) four week wait.


Four weeks passed, wiltfully. With two days to go and us sweating out the minutes, the call came: they …

It's do or diet...

It has begun.
For several years now, we've gradually 'healthied' up our diet. In my case, when Eva met me, it couldn't have been much worse. We took things slowly, figuring that a shock treatment would be actively unpleasant. First we eliminated white bread. After about a week, I no longer missed it; after a month I found myself preferring whole wheat (and try telling that to me as a kid!) Now, I find white bread pasty and tasteless.
We've veered back and forth on margarine and butter, following conflicting advice. Yes, butter is fattier, but at least there are only two ingredients in it (one if it's unsalted) and both of them are simple monosyllables that don't require a degree in chemistry to decipher.
I joined the crowd in stepping down from 2% to 1% milk. Ten years ago, 2% outsold 1% by more than two to one; now, they're nearly equal sellers. Then I took it one step further and tried skim. Well, one has to draw the line somewhere, and I draw mine at m…