Sunday, January 31, 2010

Illegal Guns in Bars to be a No-No

Just when you thought it was safe to go to a bar with your buddy's and enjoy a few bubbly pops, when someone pulls out a gun. And, not just any 'unlawful' gun. You'd probably think that must be illegal. Certainly the law must be prevent such a thing from happening...yep, me too!

In response to a shooting on December 10, 2009 (and I'm sure others), Chief Government Whip Mike Colle (Liberal MPP Eglington-Lawrence) has thought it was about time illegal guns were banned from bars with the introduction of Bill 238. That's right, we're paying our Provincial representatives to debate the merit of an amendment to the Liquor License Act making licensed bars responsible for ensuring preventative measures are taken to ensure unlawful guns (weapons) make their way into the establishment. This includes: CCTV, metal detectors, presence of 'appropriately' trained security guards, and/or cooperation with the local law enforcement.

Without stating the obvious (the weapons are already 'unlawful' and shouldn't be on anyone's person anyways), and recognizing the intent of this Bill (I'm going to make my Constituents know that I care about their safety), I can't help but wonder if we're developing our political representation which does 'make-work' or reactionary legislation projects. The 'using a sledgehammer to kill a fly' phrase fits very nicely into this particular Bill. Colle is responding to recent shootings in Toronto, and appears to feel that added measures are required to the Liquor License Act to remove the danger from bars. I am concerned about any unintended consequences that could come from such legislation. On the surface alone, it would appear that the bar owner is at fault for preventing a punk from bringing in an illegal firearm into his/her establishment...thereby making the bar owner liable for any potential civil liabilities.

Without taking away the seriousness of individuals who choose to carry illegal weapons, I can't help think that the particular Bill is going to change anyone's particular actions: "Hey Bob, after we rob the store up the street, let's say we go to the bar and down a couple of beers?" "Yeah Joe, that's a great idea...but we'll have to leave our guns in the car. It's illegal now to bring them in." Somehow, I don't think that conversation is going to occur!

While I'm all for restricting illegal firearms, I'm somewhat dismayed that honest folks are being held hostage in the process. If a bar owner is supporting illegal firearms in his/her establishment, then nail the sucker...but don't make the majority of honest working bar owners held accountable for thugs who may happen to walk in to their establishment. After all, I doubt owners are lining up to start a bar with the intent of attracting the ill-repute of their community.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Apple Unveils the New iEdsel

It's not too often that you'll see a company invest so much of it's time and resources into one specific sku (stock keeping unit) as we've recently witnesses with the unveiling of the iPad earlier this week. The announcement followed probably one of the worst-kept secrets on Apple's latest introduction, as numerous blogs posted 'leaked' pictures of what was dubbed the iTablet. Rumours have gone as far to indicate that Apple has stopped making OS (operating system(s)) for their Mac computers, in favour of focusing on the OS for the iPhone and most likely the iPad. It would appear that Apple is banking on the future of mobile devices to preponderate the computer industry.

However, I have to wonder if Apple didn't just recreate the infamous Edsel that his predecessor Henry Ford and Co. had developed in response to "having more YOU ideas". (There's a good chance that there are a few of reading this are not aware of Ford's blunder with the launching of Edsel, and I would encourage you to read more about the famed automobile.) Like the Edsel, the iPad delivered a punch that really ended up being more like a slap.

The iPad is supposed to deliver all the benefits of a laptop, but with the added value of entertainment included. Yet when you look at the comparative numbers, the iPad just doesn't quite fit into a specific category (just like the Edsel).

Consider this: the iPad's hard drive is a disappointing 64G, versus a comparatively sized Netbook, which come with as much as a 250G hard drive. And, while you can't pinch and pull items on the screen like you can with the iPad, at least the Netbook comes with a cover so that you don't have to purchase a screen protector to keep your monitor free from scratches. Which brings me to my other concern - portability. Perhaps Apple is being mindful of the economy with the launch of the iPad, simply because of what will be a whole new category of accessories which will need to be purchased to protect the iPad.

Finally, the name iPad has garnered an incredible amount of chatter and snickering on blogs and Tweets around the world. Really, Apple? Couldn't you have gone with the iTablet instead?

Personally I'm in the market to purchase a new laptop, and thought that Apple may have the 'better' alternative, however, what they do have now is an iEdsel with no real category. I guess I'll continue shopping...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Living With an Unhealthy Lifestyle

On Monday, January 25th the Heart & Stroke Foundation released their annual report on cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Canadians…calling our current situation the "perfect storm" looming in the horizon. The report reinforced earlier findings that we are putting ourselves at increasing risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. The situation is so bad, that prognosticators are stating that parents will out-live their children.

Maybe we are reticent in responding to 'advice' on how to live our lives when we're not one of the 'statistics' identified, and maybe we just think that we're immune to troubles later on in life because we tell ourselves that we'll change. In either case we cannot dismiss some of the statistics in this and previous reports, including:

  • CVD accounts for 17% of all hospitalizations
  • Up to 80% of premature CVD is preventable
  • 9 out of 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one of 10 'risk' factors (overweight, inactive, hypertension, hereditary, et al), 30% have at least 3 factors.
  • We know how to prevent CVD, and we also know how to manage CVD
  • Over $22 Billion is spent annually in health care and lost productivity (2000)
  • Shave 4 ½ years off your lifespan if you have heart disease

Despite the statistics, generally speaking there remains a reluctance to change behaviour towards living a healthier lifestyle. We know that eating a Whopper® will provide 39 grams of fat, (that number jumps to 64 grams if you add the cheese) while eating a homemade burger gives you…well, quite frankly I don't know how much fat…it would depend greatly on how you prepared your meal; what kind of meat you chose; and whether the size was comparable. The one fact I do know is that homemade burgers taste a heck of a lot better than fast food burgers…the problem is that they take way too much time to prepare.

But choosing to consume 'convenience' foods is only part of the concern. In February 2009, the Heart & Stroke Foundation released its Annual Report outlining the striking price variances not only between healthy foods and 'snack' foods, but also pointed out the geographic variances. Examples included:

  • 6 apples purchased for $0.90 in Peterborough, Ontario would cost $7.64 in Rankin Inlet, Nunavet.
  • A 4L-bag of 1% milk was noted being as high as $15.70

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for 'snack' foods. Pop, chips and other 'convenience' foods failed to demonstrate the same price variances as their healthier counterparts. The pricing variance impacts Canadian consumers so much that as much as 47% of Canadians surveyed stated that they'd occasionally go without items like fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, whole grain products, meat, and fish due to the high cost.

Couple the ease of attaining less than healthy foods with a sedentary lifestyle, and you've created some deadly base ingredients for a shortened lifespan. In the HSF 2006 Annual Report, heightened concern was noted on the propensity for inactivity among baby boomers. What disturbs me most about this particular study was that of those surveyed, 81% cited "more funding for projects that would encourage me to be active instead of driving my car" as a factor for changing behaviour. Forget that it is the 'right' thing to do…nope…make sure we're rewarding good behaviour. No reward, no change.

To summarize then…we know that leading an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle, including consuming unhealthy foods and beverages leads to a higher risk of contracting CVD in later years. We know what behavioural changes we need to enact in order to minimize that risk. The question then remains: "What are YOU doing to ensure you live a healthy and long life?"

February 1st signifies the start of Heart Month. Continued research and advocacy is obviously still required to reach a consensus on what efforts are still required to change our behaviours. Through the generous support of your contributions to HSF initiatives, over $73,500,000 was used for research and health education in Ontario alone.

Selfishly speaking I need you to adapt your lifestyle so that more those funds can be spent on research into congenital heart defects. HSF has assisted in the much-needed research geared to heart surgery techniques, and required lifestyle changes post-operative, as well as developing ways to detect heart defects at an earlier stage in life. I've had three open heart surgeries due to a birth defect in my heart…and my only goal in life is to live. For those of you born with healthy hearts, make the necessary change and continue to support the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

To read more on the Report, visit

Monday, January 25, 2010

Life in the Social Media

Social Media is rapidly becoming the new 'norm'. And, if you're like me, you've got yourself a Facebook profile, a LinkedIn profile, and a Twitter account...not to mention a blog.

I'm often asked how I use each of these social media identities...and, for me it's rather simple: Facebook is my social network comprised mainly of friends and acquaintances; LinkedIn is my business network wherein I connect on work matters only; Twitter network connections offer me an opportunity to market my skills and musings; while my Blog offers me an opportunity to hone in on writing skills. I've gotten feedback from City Councillors and Staff, friends, family, and others on my Tweets, Status updates, and blog posts...both positive and negative. For me, these have provided an opportunity to hone in on what really matters to me and the community in which I live.

However, being in the social 'eye', you can't help but feel a little exposed. You must be conscious of what you opine about, as this area is a public place...and being at risk of liable or misrepresentation can be a word or phrase away. For my part, I will attempt to research as much as I can on a particular topic I am looking to blog...If it's a simple status update or post, I try to be respectful of those who may read it...either directly (a friend/family member) or indirectly (Google search).

The social media is rapidly changing our entitlement to current events and opinions. Newspapers (who I believe will always continue to publish in hard copy) are recognizing this by offering 'paid-for-service' updates. Municipalities and large corporations are rapidly developing methodologies for ROI in a web presence, while smaller companies utilize social media as a primary tool in seeking business. Confidence in social identity is shifting to wherein one almost seems archaic if they don't have some sort of web presence.

I'm working on keeping up with the 'Jones's' of the web world, while not getting too buried in spending every waking hour on preparing the appropriate words to publish. Hopefully I'll pick-up a regular writing gig one day...but until then, I'll continue to live a part of my life in the social world.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

There’s Something Floating in my Drink!

If you have a weak stomach, you may want to exercise caution before reading this particular post. As a matter of fact, if you have a weak immune system, you may want to think twice before you fill your cup with your favourite soda at your local fast food joint.

Apparently someone from Hollins University in Virginia, USA must have thought their cola tasted a little off and figured that perhaps the fountain might be a bit unkempt. So a team of scientist went on a mission to see how clean those self-serve fountains really are, and to serve as a comparative analysis, they looked at a few 'behind-the-counter' fountains as well. Now keep in mind, this study was done in the US…so you can either assume that we Canadians are a fickle (not fecal) bunch, or you can assume that our cleanliness habits are similar to those of our friends south of the border. And not to perpetuate any inaccuracies or misprints, I got my hands on the actual study…so what you'll see here is from the study itself…not a story about the study.

For the purposes of this blog, I'm going to refer to those self-serving fountains…you know the ones…they sit in the lobby area of the restaurant; you order a drink, and the cashier hands you a cup for you to go and fill yourself…I'm going to refer to these as Pop-Overly-Polluted, or POP. The 'behind-the-counter' fountains…the ones that only paid staff can access, and when you order a drink they do all the work and drop down a filled cup of your requested beverage…lid and all…I'll call these POP2.

When you hear the phrase "gathering around the office cooler", it would appear that bacteria mimic our desire to hang out in groups. More than 11% of beverages collected from POP and POP2 contained Escherichia coli, aka E-Coli. If that wasn't a good enough 'ick' factor for you, the report shows that over 17% of the beverages collected contained Chryseobacterium meningosepticum, or loosely translated means: bacteria which causes meningitis. While I'm not sure which is worse…the ickiness of the POP surroundings, or the fact that most of the identified bacteria "showed resistance to one or more of the 11 tested antibiotics".

Like any scientific study, strict controls were set in place and a tonne of documentation was completed. The samples included sugary drinks, diet drinks, and water. To test the contamination against a sample of (what should be) a controlled compliment, they purchased bottled drinks of the identical make up from a variety store. They conducted studies on POP and POP2 to see if there was any contamination difference between the fountains. After they collected their samples and followed a set process for testing, they found virtually no microbial growth in the bottled drinks, however over 70% of POP and POP2 samples had bacterial growth. And, if you thought there might be a difference in the amount of bacteria between POP and POP2…well, you'd be wrong. If you were looking to know which was safer, you may want to consider the time you decide to visit your local eatery. Apparently early morning soda drinkers are exposed to higher bacteria opportunities than those who chose to eat later in the afternoon.

So the next time you make that trip to your local fast food joint, maybe this could be a good argument for getting your drink in a bottle. After all, how many folks do you think lined up at the fountain to re-fill their cup before you took your turn? You'd probably be safer just to kiss everyone in the place instead. (Please don't follow this advice, as there has not been a study to prove whether this is the case or not J)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Blue Box Blues, Part Two: Garbage Disguised As Recycling

The Blue Box has become the household symbol of something good: the presence of a Blue Box in the home of business sends a message that the homeowner or business owner is doing their part to divert waste from a landfill. As a consumer, we feel a sense of worthiness as we deposit our empty bottle or can into a blue box or another receptacle that is labeled accordingly.

Despite the Blue Box format being around for roughly 30 years in Ontario, not all items are recycled, nor do all Municipalities operate a fully comprehensive recycling program. As a matter of fact, not all Municipalities collect blue boxes in the same manner…some have two-stream (fibres such as newspapers and cardboard in one; and containers like cans and bottles in another) blue box system; some have single-stream (everything in one box or more…no separation required) collection; while others have variations of a two-stream system. But how do you know that everything you're putting into the blue box is actually being recycled into something else? After all, that is the true meaning of recycling…having an item (plastic bottle) be transformed into something else (bag) which prevents it from ending up in a landfill.

A statistical term rarely shared in public domains is 'contamination'. In a report published in December 2009 by the Container Recycling Institute, residents who place all of their recyclables in one 'blue box' or single-stream, see the highest portion of their recyclables end up in a landfill versus their two-stream counterpart Municipalities. As an example, on average 40% of glass collected from single-stream collection Municipalities ends up in landfill, compared to nearly none from Municipalities that offer two-stream recycling. Another variance is the contamination of collected fibres, which hit about 15% from single-stream collected Municipalities, versus virtually no contamination from two-stream Municipalities. The statistics are overwhelming…if you're putting out 10 newspapers and 10 glass bottles/jars a week, 1 ½ newspapers and 6 bottles/jars are ending up in a landfill; maybe not your Municipally owned/operated landfill…but a landfill nonetheless.

So why do Municipalities choose single-stream over two-stream collection? Simply put…cost. Less blue boxes to purchase. And, because they don't see all of the wasted recyclables, they don't factor end-user contamination experienced by the factories that process recycling materials. Communities like Hamilton which currently offers two-stream curbside collection will review single-stream collection as an alternative because of the costs…not necessarily because of the efficacy of the collection options and the life-cycle of the collected item.

While the Municipalities sort out the hows and what's of curbside collection, the IC&I sector (Industrial, Commercial & Institutional) continue to be the worst offenders in terms of offering recycling options to their patrons, partners and users. Currently the lowest diverters of waste, sitting somewhere around a paltry 16 – 20% diversion rate, they have the least incentive to provide diversion options. It's more costly to offer a diversion waste stream; collection is performed by an outside company, and sent to a private landfill; waste doesn't ordinarily contribute to the revenue line; and, no one is actually monitoring their disposal practices. Consequently, retail businesses that 'pose' offerings of multi-stream waste collection containers may not actually be recycling…yes, this does happen. And, because the IC&I sector deal with similar companies as the Municipalities, there stands a good chance that items being placed in the recycling bin are ending up in the landfill.

So while you take your time to sort through your garbage, or deposit your waste in the appropriate bin at the Mall, know that while progress has been made to divert waste from landfills, we still have a long way to go to get it right. And don't automatically assume that just because it's in a blue bin or a container marked with the recycling symbol, that your item you're disposing of will be recycled. Studies show that the best measure to ensure complete 'cycling' of recycling is to utilize deposit fees on all bottles and cans. Removing these from the collection streams will go a long way to reducing the contamination of collected fibres.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Welcome to the Next Decade

Ten years ago the fright was on as we were crossing over into a new Century. Y2K became a household term, and businesses spent an inordinate amount of money taking inventory of their electronic inventory, and tagging everything that had a plug. Well we all know how that turned out…

Technology has vaulted our intelligence and accessibility of information to never seen before heights. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (among others) provide instantaneous gratification on current events, trends, tragedies, and infamy. Everything is changing faster than our generation is able to understand the consequences, both intended and unintended. Add to this, we've embraced the new 'greening' of our environment, our homes, work, and any other area where environmental change could be implemented, have seen significant impact of change.

The good news is that we've been given the resources to reach the most distant remote areas of the World. We've been able to contact with family members with relative (no pun intended) ease. I know I have certainly taken advantage of this one, as I have amassed 2,230 names of family members stretching across the globe so far. And, I have also been able to connect with them either electronically or through the old-fashioned phone-line.

We could also say that having the latest news stories at our disposal has empowered us to become more interested in the world in which we live. Unfortunately, this also allows for embellishment and sensationalism, as we were able to witness with the 'balloon boy' incident. That story alone demonstrated how vulnerable and gullible we can be when exposed to too much information too quickly. We also were able to immediately share the immediacy of Michael Jackson's death, and feel that we were actually in attendance at his funeral.

Now as we enter the second decade of the 21st Century, news of constantly changing 'smart' phones, computers, and electronic devices continue to arrive in my News Reader, telling me that we've not quite hit our learning potential on how far we can go with the technology available to us today. Without appearing to be a worry-wart, I have to wonder when the other foot is going to drop, signaling the downside of our technological progress. Small examples of 'unintended' consequences have started to creep out, none being tremendously harmful…yet. Because we've yet to go through a generational experience of this technological period, there has yet to be a true measure of our new hi-tech era. We measure each generation through a culmination of years, and currently we are in the supposed Information Age until 2025…although given the speed in which we've progressed, I wonder if we'll hit our target sooner.

Regardless of all we've done, and what we're about to do (technologically speaking), one can only hope that we don't lose our faith in faith, and our 'personability' in being personable. So to that, we should take a moment and write a letter…that is…write with a pen a paper, not print…and mail that letter to a friend or family member. I know it might be a bit nostalgic and maybe a bit immature…yet we need to take a break from the daily intake of change and settle in for a dose of time. Welcome to 2010.