Thursday 28 June 2012

Working in Ottawa today --celeb du jour

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Ottawa today.

Hey!  Ever wonder why some people gush and wail at the mere sight of celeb du jour and others have a more meh attitude?

It seems that our buddy the orbitofrontal cortex is likely to blame.  That's right kids, it's time for another lesson on you and your brain.

Although it is early in the research there appears to be a linear relationship between grey matter volume in a particular region of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the tendency to express desire for objects owned by other people, and just before you think, "Hey, the envy section of the brain", it also results in the owner placing value on what everyone else thinks, from political candidates to teen idol.  Yes, even now I am sure the pharmaceuticals are working on a new drug that will fuel this area, but the drug will be marketed of course as everything from an anti-anxiety drug to a appetite suppressant.

Wow.. where did that bit of cynicism come from?

Ahh. There is a tempering part of the ole' OFC as well, this counter check area is developed through personal experience and independent decision making.

Why the interest in what makes celebs so gosh darn exciting to gaze upon?

The answer lies in Sharlene's and my mini vacation to PEI.  We stayed at a historic house turned inn, and during a bit of an exploration of the house..

Sidebar here.  From the outside Sharlene and I observed windows where we knew there to be fireplaces inside, and the 4 chimneys appeared to be constructed of a different brick than the rest of the house.  We looked for photos from the 1800s and early 1900s to explain the observations. Yes, the chimneys had been replaced but the windows were always false windows, this is consistent with the Georgian architectural style that demands symmetry.

And then we saw it.

Tucked away on a short wall near out of view. The photo.

It was 2006 and Michelle Jean had still not chowed down on a raw seal heart, and the Parliament Restaurant had no seal on the menu.

And Paul McCartney was here.  There that is, in the photo, in PEI, during a protest of our seal hunt.  Of course you may recall that during the Larry King Live interview McCartney thought that he was in Newfoundland.  Not quite as funny as George Bush waving at Stevie Wonder, but amusing none the less.

Back to the photo.  It was taken in front of the fireplace in the front room.  McCartney had stayed at the Fairholm Inn.  We were staying at the Fairholm Inn.  We were in the Master Suite.


Did Paul stay in the Master Suite?  All of the possibilities raced through my mind..  I said to Sharlene in a hushed tone.., "Sir Paul McCartney used the same crapper as us."

It was the best that I could come up with.

Have a good day.

Friday 22 June 2012

Slept in Montréal --Aft a-gley

Good morning folks,

Robbie Burns once accidentally destroyed a field mouse' home while turning over the soil in a field.  It was a bit troubling for both Burns and mouse in that it was late fall and the mouse would not have time to build a new home.  The poem, Tae a Moose (To a Mouse) is an apology to the mouse and a suggestion to us all that despite our best plans, some external force may play havok with them.  Or more precisely, "The best laid schemes o'mice an' men, Gang aft a-gley."

I left the Montréal office yesterday at around 3:40 P.M. With the express intent of catching the 5 P.M. flight back to the Big Smoke and have a bit of an earlier evening than my usual Thursday expeditions allow.

I could recount the traffic, long lines, weather, waiting, computer glitches and other sundry components of force majeure but suffice to say that after sitting on the tarmac for 2 1/2 hours, changing flights 3 times and hanging about YUL until midnight, it was clear that my plans to get home early yesterday were overruled by the universe.

7 A.M. To Toronto.

I need a shave and change of clothes.

Have a good day, roll with the punches.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Working in Montréal today --Drink up

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Montréal today.  Tomorrow in Toronto.

Hey, consider this.  Should our social committees abstain from selling water in the lunch rooms?

This is the moment that many of you may be thinking, "Say what?! .. has the lad lost his mind?"

If you have not considered the ramifications of the commoditization and privatization of water, then this would be a surprise to you.

Let me wander around a bit and explain.  I belong to two gyms.  One I play Squash at, and one I play Racquetball at.  I also own a set of golf clubs that I rarely have the opportunity to use, but when I do, I like to rent a cart and I buy beer from the beer gal (there is occasionally beer guys, but they don't earn as much in tips).  Not everyone can afford two memberships or golf cart rental, but that does not bother me from a moral and conscience point of view since I consider neither a fundamental human right.  Want some free exercise?  Throw a snowball at a cop car and run like hell, turn it into a sport, have your friends join in, keep score.

But water I do consider a fundamental human right.  The U.N. agrees with me, Canada... dragging its heels, but we'll see.  I also consider water in Canada to be a public resource that should be managed in manners that are in the public interest.

Since I do, and I hope that you do as well, allowing a private firm to draw off our public water, run it through the equivalent of a large Brita filter, package it and sell it back to us creates a number of problems.  I'll also mention that up to a few days ago, we would buy bottled water by the flat, and I would drink it.

Like the gym membership, the cost of the bottled water fit into my budget.  So drink I would.  That meant that I have not been paying attention to the taste of the Mississauga public utility water (it's actually indistinguishable from the bottled) and more importantly, if someone asked me as a Mississauga rate payer if I wanted to spend more taxes on better filtration I may have not been especially interested.

If fact if all persons that could afford bottled water collectively voted for less public spending on public water utility and incidentally Nestlé and the other water bottles would prefer that, then it is those individual's that can't afford bottled water that would be subjected to substandard filtration.

This would good for Nestlé, but bad for social equality.  So I believe that we should not support the water privatization business, but instead drink from the tap.  If we detect funny tastes or quality issues, then the affect us all, and people with cash can bitch real loudly.

One more tidbit on that, public water is subjected to rigid controls and testing.  The public servants that look after public water effect testing around 30 times a day to ensure safety and quality.  Bottled water on the other hand is not subjected to mandatory testing or quality levels, there is no central repository of statistical data and no government body ensuring the safety.  

Consider that as you read words like pure, fresh, clean, spring (largely bull), crystal clear, etc, on a bottle of water that is sold back to you for more than the cost of gasoline.

Have a good day, seek social justice.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Working in Ottawa --Damned poets

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Ottawa today as will be fellow Toronto office staff member Dalton Calford.

Last night whilst playing Racquetball, I believe game 4, Larry and I took the serve against John and Brian and as I served to John and called out the current score of, " 1 - 2 ", John retorted with, "Buckle my Shoe!".

What the hell! I thought to my self, "Buckle my Shoe?!".

I dropped the ball and walked very deliberately over to John, stopping just short, nose to nose.  looked steadily into his eyes and said, in a very dry monotone voice, "What have I told you about poetry in the Racquetball court?  My ace serve shall not serve as your afflatus and I not your muse, you keep your archaism and anapest stress to your self mister.  Buckles on shoes indeed! We will not speak of this again, clear?"

It's not a metrophobia that I have, but rather the very specific odimetrointraarena Roughly translated to the loathing of poetry within the sand of combat.  Yes, I just made that up, the Latin term that is, although it should be fairly correct, at least as correct as 8 A.M. On flight Latin can be.  The court banter, yeah fairly close to what I actually said to John.

Now in contrast to this very irrational odi or phobia, I do actually Have a very real fear of spiders, yes our friend, arachnophobia.  So it was extra special this morning as I tied the laces on my shoes, no buckles here, thank you very much, and stepped out my front door.

Now right outside my front door to the left is a hydrangea tree and on the right is a row of boxwoods and sometime during the night or very early morning some enterprising spider saw it fit to spin a web across the 8 feet or so running diagonally down from the tree to the low boxwoods.

This web had perhaps 100 strands of silk that intersected at my head height right at the point of the walkway.  It's strange, English has no exact words to describe the sensation of the consecutive snapping of spiderweb strands across your face accompanied by the slight tug on your skin and hair by sticky silk.

English also cannot adequately describe the very peculiar dance and twist - step - motion and the flailing of hands in an attempt to rid oneself of the web and no doubt, evil spider.

Have a good day, watch out for bad poetry and crafty spiders.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Working in Montréal today --oooo ghosts!

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Montréal today.

If you were clairvoyant then you would have already known that.  That's right kids, it's the parapsychology episode of my Thursday email!

Last night some program of T.V. was on about some haunted winery.  I think that was it, was not really paying attention.  But this was some kind of para-normal exposé show with a band of pseudo scientists that having given up their prior career as town animal control officer and patio deck builder turned reality T.V. stars.  Yeah.

As the program progressed they claimed that many many of their tour guests have experienced encounters with apparitions and heard voices.  "Mass Hysteria", I commented to Sharlene.  "Yes, but very good for business no doubt", she commented in return.

A business rep of the winery explained that on one occasion a foreman and his men were loading wine casks into a storage room, when the foreman heard a disembodied voice tell him to "Get Out!"  He quickly ordered his men to flee, just prior to the a collapse of a stone wall that would have killed them all.


One word about that.  Amygdala.

If you were to remove the skull cap of the person sitting next to you and gently lift out their brain and then examine the underside, gentle now.. easy.. toward the center you will find an almond shaped part called the Amygdala.  Okay, sure.. you can just take my word for it .. geez what a bunch of squeemish readers.

The Amygdala is the Fight or Flight commander.  When you are in moments of peril, this guy takes charge, essentially rallies the other centers of your brain and endocrine system to jack up the adrenaline, dilates your pupils, preloads muscles, and GO!  Your are ready to fight the tiger or run from it.

Back to the stone wall.  He probably observed some indicator that the wall was tipping and the voice he heard was his own.  But it does make a good ghost story.

Hmm..  Sorry, thought I had more to write about that.  Do you suppose that real nervous, jittery people have over-active Amygdalas?  Or maybe they are actually just in a room of tigers.

Have a good day.   Watch out for ghosts.