Blogging, Boston, Canada, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Education, Internet, Media, News, Opinion, Twitter

Confusing Twitter Feeds

No wonder folks are confused these days. While scrolling through my Twitter feed today as I sipped my morning coffee I was pleased to see the breaking news from BBC about Scotland ending almost all COVID restrictions. Phew … some good news to start the day. I know Scotland is a long way from Montreal, but this has just got to be a great step in the worldwide battle against the virus.

Yet, as I continued on my virtual way around the world, I came across some significantly less positive news. Like Scotland, Wuhan, China is a long way from where I live, but the news of an outbreak and government orders for mass testing put the skids to my Scotland-induced good mood. Regardless of the much debated origin of the Coronavirus, the fact that China is being so cautious was unsettling at best.

Then came something a little too close to home. News from Florida that the current wave is the worst yet. In three Tweets we have gone from relaxing restrictions in Europe to a major North American tourism location claiming its worst outbreak ever. What’s a feller to believe?

The sources of this information, the BBC and Boston Globe, are well established and respected media outlets. I can only imagine what the fringe (non-mainstream as I believe they call themselves) is saying. I prefer not to check out these sites lest a cookie be deposited on my PC that will one day come back to haunt me. Paranoid? Who? Me?

Of course the onus is on us, the public, to use our sensibility to discern what makes a good news source. They used to say that the great Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the country. This was long before cable news outlets arose, and certainly well before the proliferation of information and misinformation on the Internet.

Why was Cronkite any more trustworthy than Huntley and Brinkley over on NBC? Were those guys making up stories from scratch? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong.

I often pondered the notion of Cronkite’s trustworthiness. Not that I thought him to be anything less than honest in his newscasts, but I figured no one, on any of the three networks, would deliberately lie about news items. Why was Cronkite any more trustworthy than Huntley and Brinkley over on NBC? Were those guys making up stories from scratch? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong.

But when the topic of the misinformation is potentially life threatening, it is incumbent upon readers to educate themselves from ‘trusted’ sources.

However, not only do we find ourselves with an essentially unlimited access to the publication of nonsense of all sorts on the Internet, we also find ourselves fighting a deadly pandemic. By all means, publish endless posts and articles about the flatness of the earth, the faked moon landing, and all the other conspiracy theories. But when the topic of the misinformation is potentially life threatening, it is incumbent upon readers to educate themselves from ‘trusted’ sources.

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Cycling, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, History, Montreal, Nostalgia, Opinion, Public Transit

Road Configurations Then And Now

It’s a popular topic on local radio talk shows, especially as this is an election year in Montreal. Of course, I refer to street configurations. Our current mayor, one Valérie Plante, is at best not a fan of cars. At worst she is downright anti-car. Since her election four years ago she has overseen the disappearance of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of parking spots in the city.

As she seeks a second term her project to make downtown Montreal’s main commercial thoroughfare a pedestrian mall is well underway. With any luck she will be defeated in November and her destruction of downtown can be aborted.

However, pedestrian malls are far from the only new use of roads. Many streets in Montreal have been re-divided to include bicycle lanes. Perhaps the most notorious of these rejigged streets is rue St. Denis. In fact, the merchants association threatened to sue the city over the issue.

But the plan went ahead. A very popular north-south artery, that was already dealing with significant traffic woes, went from two lanes of vehicles in each direction with parking on both sides, to one lane of traffic in each direction with parking on both sides and one lane of bicycles in each direction. Parallel parking a car now causes traffic delays all up and down the street.

But, it is one thing to reconstruct streets to accommodate both types of vehicle, and quite another thing to retrofit existing streets.

There are cities around the world with successful interactions between driver and cyclists. Bicycle lanes are not unique to Montreal. But, it is one thing to reconstruct streets to accommodate both types of vehicle, and quite another thing to retrofit existing streets. In many of the world’s cycling meccas the streets have been configured in a way that bikes and cars never, or rarely, interact.

Mind you, our current day politicians did not create ridiculous roadway layouts. In the photo above, my grandparents stand on the street where I live. They are going to, or coming from, an Armistice Day (now Remembrance Day), ceremony. It is believed it was taken sometime during the second world war, while their son, my uncle , was overseas. But the thing I want to point out is in the background. Not a bicycle lane, but fully grown trees smack in the middle of the street!

By the time I came to be, those trees had long been removed, yet I recall people talking about them. I hope they were taken down intentionally, and not felled by an unsuspecting motorist turning the corner to find a large tree in the street. Bicycles or trees, streets should be left to cars and trucks.

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Advertising, Bars, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Food, Humor, Marketing, Media, Montreal, News, Opinion

Navigating Downtown Montreal’s Pedestrian Maze

Last week I went downtown shopping for a gift for my wife’s birthday. As is my usual practice I had looked online first, found what I was looking for, determined that my local store had the product in stock, and made my way to the store to get it, pay for it, and get the hell out. Some would call this ‘male style shopping’, I just think it makes sense, particularly during what are, hopefully, the last dregs of a pandemic. I’m never one to spend any more time in a store than is absolutely necessary. I very much appreciate that some stores make it even easier to get in and get out by informing you online what aisle your item is in.

Being in the store was not a problem, as folks were well distanced and masks are still required. No, the problem was getting to the entrance of the store in the first place. The current mayor of Montreal is continuing with her plan to essentially turn a – if not the – main commercial downtown street into a pedestrian mall. (The election is in November, with any luck she will be ousted and this ridiculous concept can be scrapped before it has gone too far.) Add to this some major work just up the street on a light-rail transit station and the result is mayhem.

In an effort to rebuild their businesses, it is high time for Montreal’s hospitality industry to be … well … hospitable. All day happy hour prices?!?

Is it not bad enough that so many retail outlets along Ste. Catherine Street have succumbed to the pandemic? Shouldn’t we be focused on bending over backwards to encourage people to come back downtown? Why would consumers bother to go downtown, where they may or may not find one of the rapidly disappearing parking spots, only to have to navigate on foot a maze of closed and temporary sidewalks worthy of Hampton Court Palace to get to the store?

It’s almost as if a perfect storm of oddly-timed if not outright asinine decisions has transpired to push commercial establishments back down on their arses just as they struggle to get up off their COVID19-weary knees.

It gets worse: some downtown merchants recently floated the idea of going back to the pre-1989 era and not allow stores to open on Sundays. Is there any logic in suggesting that closing a commercial establishment would in some way help the recovery? Ideally the store owners should be lobbying the government for a change in the law that would allow them to keep their businesses open as long as they want in an effort to draw people.

Where are the ‘Welcome Back’ sales, ‘Post-Pandemic Savings’, and ‘It’s been tough, let’s help each other’ bargain bonanzas?

What is the reason cited for wanting to close on Sundays? A lack of workers. The staff is spread too thinly they claim. Did the pandemic take special aim at those who work in retail? Or did these people just realize that there are alternatives to minimum wage jobs? Forced to make career changes (or at least change jobs), many bar and restaurant staff, as well as retail workers are loath to return to the world of minimum wage.

No doubt restaurants and bars have paid a hefty price during the forced closure. But they can’t, upon reopening, hope to recover lost income on the backs of regular customers. In the same way that many employees realized during confinement that they could not just get by, but could in fact fare better, many regular patrons of Montreal’s numerous bars and restaurants found more dollars in their wallets when not visiting their usual watering holes.

In an attempt to rebuild their businesses, it is high time for Montreal’s hospitality industry to be … well … hospitable. All-day happy hour prices?!? Rather than going back to 1989 regulations, let’s go back to 1989 prices! That goes for retail as well. Where are the ‘Welcome Back’ sales, ‘Post-Pandemic Savings’, and ‘Thanks. It’s been tough, let’s help each other’ bargain bonanzas?

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Advertising, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Football, Hockey, Marketing, News, Opinion, Soccer, Sports

Replays Not Penalty Kicks

In the interest of clarity , let me point out that the following post is about football. Not the game we call football here in North America, but the Beautiful Game we refer to as soccer.

Last weekend Italy won the Euro Cup by defeating England. I can’t say I’m a big football fan, but I certainly enjoy watching it when played by the best. The tournament started in early June and the last two teams standing faced off for the championship last Sunday.

It seems a shame to me that the final was decided not by playing the game, but by using an element of the game, penalty kicks, to decide a winner.

It seems a shame to me that the final was decided not by playing the game, but by using an element of the game, penalty kicks, to decide a winner. I don’t like the idea that after all the matches have been played, and in the final match the two top teams are deadlocked after 90 minutes plus an additional 30 minutes, in an effort to break the tie penalty kicks are used.

What’s the rush? Until 1993, in the FA Cup Final, should the score be tied after regulation time and additional time, the entire game would be replayed several days later. Just imagine if the Euro Cup folks decided to give this a try.

Replaying the final match should it end in a tie after 120 minutes, would allow another sold-out stadium, fans buying souvenirs, food and beer. Television advertising sales reps could sell another broadcast’s worth of expensive spots. But most importantly, the chances of the Cup being awarded due to an error by an exhausted player in the shoot-out would be drastically reduced if not eliminated.

But now, instead of players who are dog-tired and prone to mistakes, two teams of fresh, rested world-class athletes would do what they do best – play the game.

The players would take the field a few days later and start all over again to determine a winner. But now, instead of players who are dog-tired and prone to mistakes, two teams of fresh, rested world-class athletes would do what they do best – play the game. (Yes, I do realize that if after two full games the teams are still tied some sort of tie-breaker would be called for – it can’t go on forever!).

This seems to me to be a win-win-win-win situation; with, of course one losing team.

Also, can we please change the concept of an own goal? Sometimes in hockey the puck goes in off of a defending player. The goal is awarded to the last attacking team player to touch the puck. The name of the poor player who inadvertently caused the puck to go into his/her own goal does not appear on the scoresheet. Although heartless television camera operators and producers make sure the regretful player is focussed upon.

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Canada, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Education, Football, Genealogy, History, Montreal, News, Opinion, Sports

McGill University And Cancel Culture

Recently the administrative powers that be at McGill University succumbed to pressure from cancel culture adherents and removed a statue of founder James McGill from the main campus. James McGill was not only the university’s founder, but was, like many wealthy folks of his vintage, an owner of slaves.

Does removing the statue erase this egregious past? Of course not. Times change, what is clearly seen as an horrific practice today was commonplace at one time.

So by all means let’s try to make that past go away by cleansing the current day. If we could go back in time and cancel slavery I’d be the first in line, but of course we can’t.

So by all means let’s try to make that past go away by cleansing the current day. If we could go back in time and cancel slavery I’d be the first in line, but of course we can’t.

Now that the statue is gone, what’s next? The school has already caved to the cancellers by changing the men’s sports team name from Redmen (referring to the school’s colour, not a derogatory sobriquet for indigenous peoples) to Redbirds (I hope the St. Louis Cardinals don’t take offense). Some people have suggested actually changing the name of the university from McGill to something less offensive. Like removing the statue, changing the name won’t alter or erase the past.

And if having the James McGill statue on campus and, in fact, calling the school McGill is so heinous, then I have to assume that those attending said institution must be absolutely abominable people.

And if having the James McGill statue on campus and, in fact, calling the school McGill is so heinous, then I have to assume that those attending said institution must be absolutely abominable people. What kind of folks would do such a thing? Especially if, as is the case with most students, they are actually paying tuition to this contemptible institution of higher education to be there. Forget about the high quality education, the state-of-the-art facilities and faculty, and the high international ranking.

Perhaps it should be suggested that prospective employers reject outright McGill graduates, such as myself, for being in any way associated with the school, albeit two centuries later.

Perhaps it should be suggested that prospective employers reject outright McGill graduates, such as myself, for being in any way associated with the school, albeit two centuries later. Should other universities refuse McGill diploma holders from their faculties based on the founder’s slave ownership?

The attempted erasure of previous ills is a recipe for disaster. Simply because they can’t be erased, clocks cannot be turned back. Rather, the recognition of such despicable acts needs to be ingrained in the minds of current population. Indeed, maybe the most loathsome example of racism in the last 200 years was the Holocaust. Yet survivors and their families don’t try to erase the past, but use it to urge people to Never Forget.

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COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Montreal, Opinion, Travel

Inform Restaurants If You Can’t Keep A Reservation

Bars and restaurants in Montreal are slowly getting back to business after the long pandemic-induced close down. It’s not a matter of lifting all restrictions, but enough that indoor eating can resume.

Sadly many restaurants couldn’t hang on until things started to reopen and have gone under. Even those establishments that have managed to survive COVID19 are not home free. A significant shortage of experienced staff is making reopening all the more difficult. Many restaurant staff, when faced with the loss of work due to closures, found other employment that they are not willing to give up.

It’s been a tough time; take a moment to let restaurants know if you can’t keep a reservation.

One of the other hindrances to reopening restaurants is no-shows. Part of the COVID19 reopening requires restaurants to insist on reservations. When a restaurant owner looks at his or her list of reservations for an evening, they can adjust staffing as required. However, when people who have made a reservation, but then don’t show up, the cost is borne by the restaurant.

In a former career, part of the service offered by our company involved luncheon meetings. Over the course of a decade or so, I probably made close to a thousand restaurant reservations at establishments right across Canada. It was not uncommon for these plans to be changed or cancelled.

I can’t think of one time when the person did not make a point of thanking me for letting them know.

I made a point of always contacting the restaurant to let them know that the reservation had to be cancelled. In addition, I can’t think of one time when the person did not make a point of thanking me for letting them know.

It’s been a tough time; take a moment to let restaurants know if you can’t keep a reservation.

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COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Health, Humor, Montreal, News, Opinion, Politics, Quebec, Travel, Wordpress

COVID19 In Our Rear-view Mirror

It’s so close you can almost touch it. But not just yet. I refer to the time when the COVID19 pandemic will be, like Lubbock, Texas in the Mac Davis song, in our rear-view mirrors. I can’t imagine what Mac had against Lubbock, but he was sure pleased to be leaving. Things are getting better but we’re not there just yet. However, many restrictions have been lifted, or at least eased.

There are obvious post-pandemic-return-to-normal things that people look forward to; perhaps the most popular being the ability to travel again. I’m not much of a traveller myself, but even the chance to take a daytrip somewhere will be welcomed. Nor am I a great one for socializing, but having groups of people gather in homes and backyards, without masks, distancing, or trying to figure out who is in what bubble will also be grand.

A return to normal sidewalk behaviour, where passing pedestrians smile and may even nod at each other rather than shunning each other as if they were lepers will be, like going maskless, a breath of fresh air to me.

The things I am looking forward to are more subtle. Starting with not having to wear a mask – ever – anywhere – anytime. I’ve never had any inclination to the medical profession, and the pandemic has shown me just how fortunate I am in that respect. In a word, I hate wearing a mask. As a wearer of eyeglasses, I find that a mask has one of two effects: either my glasses fog up, or fall off. Don’t get me wrong, I wear a mask whenever it is required, and have throughout the pandemic, but the instant I can take it off, I do so. The concept of an airgasm is not lost on me.

I also look forward to a return to normal sidewalk etiquette. In an effort to maintain proper social distancing, people have taken to giving each other a wide, often very wide, berth on sidewalks, often stepping completely off the sidewalk into the street, around parked cars then retaking the sidewalk once again. When the pandemic first struck my city posted ‘Share the road’ signs in an effort to let drivers know people would be encroaching on their turf. Under normal conditions this overt avoidance of approaching walkers may well be construed as impolite. A return to normal sidewalk behaviour, where passing pedestrians smile and may even nod at each other rather than shunning each other as if they were lepers will be, like going maskless, a breath of fresh air to me.

I fear that one of the long-term effects of this hand sterilizing practice will be the loss of required antibodies, the things that help us fight all sorts of things on a daily basis, leading to a variety of illnesses.

In Montreal we had a curfew. There were strong opinions both for and against it. However, it was really a bit of a paper lion. Between the hours of 8:00 pm and 5:00 am no one was allowed to be outside. Mind you, there were exceptions – many exceptions. Frontline workers, from medical staff to bus drivers were allowed to be out for work. Many other jobs were considered essential, including food delivery services. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of the now ended curfew regarding the spread of COVID, but I have to admit that on winter nights the serenity it provided was a nice change.

The incessant squirting of hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting stores, houses of worship, malls, banks, bars, and restaurants will be something I won’t miss. I fear that one of the long-term effects of this hand sterilizing practice will be the loss of required antibodies, the things that help us fight all sorts of things on a daily basis, leading to a variety of illnesses. But then, did I mention I’m not a doctor?

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Small World; Small Bookshop

To say I am a creature of habit would, at least when it comes to places of residence, be an understatement. My wife and I moved into our current apartment almost 18-years ago. Prior to that I had lived in another unit in this building for 18-years. To further illustrate my home-body trait, the building in which we live is located on the same street on which I was born. I guess I just don’t like to pack!

Over the years we have seen many neighbours, good and not so good, come and go. For the last several years our across-the-hall neighbours have been great. Common greetings, a smile, a nod, no prying, not noisy, ideal neighbours.

Situated on Ste. Catherine Street in downtown Montreal, Argo has been around since 1966. It has outlived countless businesses by providing excellent service.

Here’s where the ‘small world isn’t it?’ aspect arises. I recently read a post on Facebook by Montreal writer and historian Robert N. Wilkins regarding a burst pipe and subsequent flood at a long-time local bookstore called Argo Bookshop. Situated on Ste. Catherine Street in downtown Montreal, Argo has been around since 1966. It has outlived countless businesses by providing excellent service.

As I read the Facebook post I was struck by the reference to current Argo co-owner, Moti. No last name was mentioned. On a couple of occasions I have, in an attempt to be a good neighbour, brought upstairs packages addressed to my across-the-hall neighbour, so I knew his name was Moti. And the packages seemed to be book-like in shape. Hmmm…

An event at Argo Bookshop pre-COVID

A small bit of research revealed to me that my neighbour is, indeed, the co-owner of the famed Argo Bookshop! Not the original, but the current.

In the meantime, Argo Bookshop offers online shopping. Instead of going to a big box store, consider checking out their website.

I made a point of dropping by Argo yesterday and there was my neighbour. The damage to the inventory is substantial. Just what a bookshop needs during a pandemic; a flood. I wished Moti the very best of luck. Hopefully he and his partner will manage to survive this calamity and Argo will continue to be a favourite haunt for Montreal bibliophiles.

In the meantime, Argo Bookshop offers online shopping. Instead of going to a big box store, consider checking out their website.

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Media, News, Opinion, Sports

Pro Athletes And The Media

To talk to the media or not, that is the question. At the French Open, Japanese player Naomi Osaka has opted to give media interviews a swerve. She will not be talking to the members of the press during the tournament. Just one problem; according to the Grand Slam Code of Conduct, she – and all players – are required to “fulfil their media obligations”.

… according to the Grand Slam Code of Conduct, she – and all players – are required to “fulfil their media obligations”

Had Ms Osaka issued a statement indicating that the pressure of playing in a Grand Slam was too much for her, and therefore she would be no longer be competing in them if they require media appearances, that would be one thing. But to merely cherry-pick which parts of the Grand Slam she was willing to participate in and which she was not is, or should be, a no go.

But to merely cherry-pick which parts of the Grand Slam she was willing to participate in and which she was not is, or should be, a no go.

Ms Osaka is not the only professional athlete or coach to dislike the media aspect of her sport. Several coaches in the NHL and NFL reluctantly appear before the media after a game. Often their disinclination to be there is embarrassingly evident by their smartass replies to questions. Grow up, this is the big leagues.

Like it or not Ms Osaka, you signed on for this when you turned pro and entered Grand Slam tournaments. It’s a package deal.

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Education, Humor, Media, Montreal, Opinion, Overused words

So, Like, Can We Rein In The Use Of Some Words?

Some while ago I was having a discussion with someone about the ‘hidden’ elements of various company logos. For instance, the arrow in the FedEx logo. Like most people who live in an urban area the FedEx logo is something we see almost daily on passing trucks and drop-off bins. But for the life of me I could not recall an arrow in the logo.

But he warned me that from now on, I will never see the logo the same way. Once seen, it cannot be unseen

My interlocuter pulled up a photo of the logo on his smart phone and showed it to me. Nope. I still thought he was talking through his hat. He asked me if I wanted him to show me and I agreed. But he warned me that from now on, I will never see the logo the same way. Once seen, it cannot be unseen.

Deciding I could live with the change in perspective I asked him to please point out the arrow. He did. There it was plain as day, between the E and X. A perfect arrow that is now the first thing my mind recognizes in the logo.

In much the same way, my mind tends to get hijacked by certain words that become trendy and are massively overused. For several years that word was ‘like’. Those folks of a certain age salt their conversation with heavy doses of like.

On local radio there is a weekly foodie show on Saturday mornings. The host is a very pleasant woman who talks food, and conducts food related interviews, and of course shares recipes. As pleasant as she comes across on radio, she is also a prime example of one who abuses the word like.

“If you add in (not that one could add out), like some maple syrup, you will end up with, like, a sweeter cookie”

“But if you want, like, a chewy cookie” is one example. I don’t want like a chewy cookie, I want an actual chewy cookie. “If you add in (not that one could add out), like some maple syrup, you will end up with, like, a sweeter cookie”.

Enough already! When I listen to people who inject so many likes, it becomes the only word I hear. Much like the FedEx logo being reduced to an arrow in my mind, these folks’ statements become little more than a group of words surrounding the likes.

Lately I’ve been nothing short of astounded by the vast number of people who begin sentences, responses or statements, with the word “so” – a conjunction. So has at least a couple of meanings; it can refer to magnitude or size as in “It was so hot today”, and of course it connects phrases or sentences as in “It was so hot today. So, I wore shorts”.

Look, … so maybe I’m just being, like, cranky, and perhaps it’s just, like, the pandemic, but sometimes these things get under my skin. Yet, if this is all I have to gripe about, I guess I’m doing, like, okay!

But the current trend appears to be to start as many sentences as possible with so. “Will you be competing in the tournament?” – “So, I’ve been training for years”. What’s with the so? Or perhaps, “So, what’s with the so?”

So, as is the case with the FedEx arrow, and the misuse of the word like, I feel inundated with needless so’s used as the first word in a sentence.

Also, when an interviewer asks a question, it has become commonplace to start the reply with ‘look’ or ‘listen’. “Are you running for office next year?” “Look (or listen), I have a lot to consider…”. I’m not a moron, I understand that if I ask a question, part of the fun is to listen to the response. You don’t have to tell me to do so.

Look … so maybe I’m just being, like, cranky, and perhaps it’s just, like, the pandemic, but sometimes these things get under my skin. Yet, if this is all I have to gripe about, I guess I’m doing, like, okay!

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