Canaan Connexion ~ Columns 

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~ Standing Pat! ~
( Past columns appearing in the Vision )
By Patrick Meikle
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( News from around the Canaan Road area )

(Standing Pat(rick) Meikle lampoons the definition every other week, 1: play's one's hand as dealt in draw poker without drawing; 2: opposes or resists change; 3: refuses to abandon one's opinion or belief; 4: holds firm, stands fast, stands firm. He writes the Canaan Connexion on alternate weeks.)
Dec. 17, 2004  #16 - Smokers: An excuse for their dimwit actions
Dec. 3, 2004  #15 - Bush-whacked and ex-massed all in one week
Nov. 19, 2004  #14 - Where the hell do I live?
Nov. 5, 2004  #13 - What to do with old pumpkins? Halloween Report
Oct. 22, 2004  #12 - Fall colours bring spectacular show
Oct. 8, 2004  #11 - A near-senior's loo visit etymologizes the “glad bag”
Sept. 24, 2004  #10 - Aggressive drivers should be examined
Sept. 3, 2004  #9 - It isn’t true of all teachers
August 20, 2004  #8 - Driving in Rockland can be a peeve
August 6, 2004  #7 - Landfills: a treasure, not a dump
July 9, 2004  #6 - A sad state in our schools
June 18, 2004  #5 - Election: Who do you trust?
Apr. 2, 2004  #4 - Values: This one's for my grandmas
Mar. 19, 2004  #3 - Dog owners! Don't doo it!
Feb. 6, 2004  #2 - Loose lips sink ships
Jan. 23, 2004  #1 - Balancing life - cigarettes and calendars

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#16 - Smokers now have an excuse for their dimwit actions
Gasing my car up last week I watched a man get out of his van, take a long, last suck on his cigarette, then casually throw it on the cement, mere yards away from the fuel pumps. “What a dummy!” exclaimed the attendant who was cleaning my windshield. My thoughts exactly.

Coincidental to this incident an item appearing the next day in the daily newspaper was entitled:
Smoking causes long-term decline in intelligence. In a new study by doctors at the universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen, the article states that “Smoking damages your intelligence...” The doctors aren’t sure why, but “the loss of intelligence showed up in tests that measure mental ability in five different ways.”

“Smokers risk damaging their intelligence, suffering memory loss, slower reflexes and impaired problem solving,” said another newspaper on the same study.

Smoking and mental health
In another article published two days before, the Mental Health Association in Delaware conducted studies that indicate that smoking may affect mental health. What was really scary was that “some other compelling statistics are that teens who smoke were more than four times more likely to develop highly depressed symptoms during a year's time.”

In a fact sheet put out by the British organization Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), entitled “Smoking and mental health”, the information shows how smoking affects the brain, how smokers exhibit higher levels of stress in their lives than non-smokers, how cigarette smoking is linked with a wide range of psychiatric diagnoses including anxiety, agoraphobia and panic disorder but especially with depression. There are other references to the ills of smoking, but too many to show in this short space.

Preaching to the converted
Before you smokers start ganging up on me, let
me just say that the object of this discourse is not to castigate smokers. Some of my best friends and family participate in the devil weed. When they do, it’s almost like they become Jeckle and Hyde. You can bet that anything we may say to them will not likely change their habits. And to those of us who do not smoke, we are “preaching” to the converted.

But the next time you see a smoker flicking his fag out the car window, just as a gas tanker is going by, or you see two or more smokers huddling against the wind in 30-below weather, chatting it up like they are long lost pals, or the obstinate driver dumping his or her ashtray at the first stop sign they come to, or in the parking lot of your local grocery store, or the patient standing outside the hospital entrance dragging on a weed in one hand, and dragging their intravenous bottle and stand in the other while people in health services who should know better are smoking alongside, just remember the Scottish research... smoking damages your intelligence, something that many of us knew already.

Are ex-smokers affected by past sins?
Doing this research made me wonder if ex-smokers still suffer the effects of past smoking habits, similar to 1960s drug flashbacks? I was never a regular smoker... one or two cigarettes a week on average over a year and I stopped over 12 years ago, but just last week during the heavy, wet snowfall, the frame to our deck tent collapsed in a tangled mess. Why? Because earlier in the fall I strapped a tarp to cover the top to prevent birds from landing on the frame and messing up the deck.

“Dumb, dumb daddy,” as my little daughter used to say when she was perturbed with me. Was that “smart” move due to smokers intelligence, or is it just old age creeping up. Where the heck are my glasses? “On your head, daddy!” I'm Standing Pat.
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#15 - Bush-whacked and ex-massed all in one week
Did you hear the abundance of aircraft activity overnight on Tuesday? We live on the flight path for inbound aircraft coming from the east, but the sound was unusual this week. My guess is the constant din of overhead jets was from surveillance fighters keeping the skies free of marauding terrorists. Gawd bless amurika.

How many of you were affected by the swave and deboner big guy visiting from Washington? Some were caught in traffic, some chose to stay home, while others suffered long delays getting back home. One way or the other we’ll all pay through federal taxes because the host country picks up the tab. And the hell of it is, early reports suggest that apart from trumpeting “a renewed friendship with Canada” the visiting redneck offered very little in the way of cross-border relief.

Happy holidays but don’t use the “C” word
Years ago one of the churches started a campaign to “put Christ back into Christmas.” Today it is now becoming politically incorrect in some circles to even wish anyone anything but “happy holidays” for fear that saying “Merry Christmas” will offend certain minorities.

In a news report this week, U.S. Macy's department-store chain is now the focus of a boycott campaign protesting its replacement of "Merry Christmas" with politically correct greetings. You remember Macy’s? They were immortalized in that 1947 X-mas movie classic, "Miracle on 34th Street".

“C” is for commercialization
It’s becoming a blur to me now but I believe I spotted the first neighbourhood X-mas decoration about the second week in November. The X-mas lights started going up about two weeks ago. The stores already had X-mas muzak with decorations and lights on sale even as the Halloween kids were walking the neighbourhood. I know it’s make or break and catch up time for merchants, but hey!
Every year we tell ourselves that we will not be sucked into the holiday hype, but as the day draws near the race is on to see what resource will be maxed out first – our bank account or our credit card.

Light up with prudence

If you are over forty, you probably remember the energy crisis of the mid-seventies. I can’t see that anything has changed. The Suzuki Foundation says that “On a per capita basis, Canada is the largest consumer of energy in the world and the second largest producer of greenhouse gases. We use as much energy as the entire continent of Africa, home to 700 million people.”

Time was Ontario Hydro campaigned for prudent use of X-mas lights. Now a call to Hydro One, if you are lucky enough to get a real human at the other end of the phone, will tell you to go to other environment or energy saving sights to get information. Our search for “Christmas” on their site found no tips at all.

X-mas lights and energy tips
Turn Christmas lights off during the day or when you are away or when you are asleep. Timers are a simple way to do this and also are a safety measure since lights can cause fires if not used properly. For safety's sake: Always unplug your lights before going to bed or leaving home.

If you are purchasing Christmas lights, look into the newer LED-based lights. They use much less electricity than conventional decorative lighting, and should last much longer.

All in all quite a week. Between being bushed, X-massed and fighting with computers, it’s been a challenge. Who said computers would make it a paperless society and improve the quality of life.

As Rufus says, when God starts making computers and software instead of Microsoft, maybe we’ll get it right! Until then, I'm Standing Pat.
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#14 - Where the hell do I live?
When we first moved into Blue Jay Ridge we wondered who the hell is looking after us?

We lived in Clarence Creek township. Our postal address was in Rockland. Our telephone number was in the Cumberland exchange, prompting Ma Bell to send our bills to Cardinal Crescent in Gloucester or to the Cumberland Post Office. Our electric bills and inquiries (Ontario Hydro) were directed to Vankleek Hill, our environmental concerns (septic systems included) went to Casselman and our property assessments were handled out of Cornwall.

It prompted well-known Citizen columnist Dave Brown to exclaim that we must own the record for the number of jurisdictions we answer to.

Things have improved somewhat with amalga- mation under the City of Clarence-Rockland, but other things have not.

Is that in Quebec?
Our distant neighbour Marie was expressing her frustration the other day after she had contacted Videotron to advise them that one of their cable boxes located at a nearby intersection had broken open and needed repair.

The person on the Videotron end asked her for her address so they could identify the location. But the location is not where I live, Marie explained, it is at the intersection of so and so. Not good enough, they said. We need an actual address. But it’s down the road, she said. All of this conversation was being carried out in my perfect French so they could understand, said Marie.

After several maddening attempts to explain the situation to the baffled person on the phone, Marie asked to speak to someone in English. No better. After several attempts to describe where the problem was located, the person on the other end of the line asked: Is that in Quebec? With that, our neighbour, using some choice words, hung up the phone.
Things are getting worse
Used to be you could call Videotron, Bell Telephone, Ontario Hydro, and get a warm body... and it was actually someone from a local office who actually knew where you were and what your problem was.

Got a problem with your Videotron Internet connection? Your call goes to some schmuck somewhere in Montreal who has absolutely no idea where Clarence-Rockland is and who is totally unaware of the fact that the problem may be for local maintenance, or as happened recently a downed cable line due to a traffic accident. Average time to get a problem resolved? ...60 minutes, give or take.

Ontario Hydro, or is it Hydro One? I’m confused! Just try finding the right department to report a power outage. When you do find an 800-number, and get through, it’s not your friendly-neighbourhood hydro lady from Vankleek Hill, it’s Paul, and Paul is working at a computer screen in Markham where all the calls are being directed. Paul can only imagine where you live as he looks up your address on the big screen map, and he’s about as enthusiastic to help you as you are about firing up your gas generator.

Want to call Ma Bell... 310-HELL? Press 1 for this. Press 2 for that. After you press the number... “You now have FIVE choices...” After that... “You now have THREE choices...” When you finally do get a live person... “Hi I’m Mary... and I’m just bubbling all over with excitement to help you in any way I can. How can I help you Patrick?”

It’s “Mister” to you lady! When you really know where I live and when you can really help me, then we’ll talk on a first name basis. Until then, I'm Standing Pat.
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#13 - What to do with old pumpkins? Halloween Report
Please don’t throw your old pumpkins in the garbage! They are compostable, biodegradable and besides you are just adding to the already over-taxed landfill sites. What to do?

If you keep the seeds and bury them with the left-over pumpkin, before the ground freezes, next year you will find a whole lot of small pumpkins growing on the spot.

The eve before Halloween
Years ago when I lived in Yorkton, Saskatch- ewan, Halloween night, October 31 was preceded on October 30, by "tic-tac-toe". All the pranks, soaping and outhouse tipping was done the night before.

Shades of Tic-Tac-Toe were evident on Blue Jay Drive and Cardinal Crescent early (Halloween eve) Sunday morning, when the remnants of Silly String were found all around the two streets, including the corner postal boxes and on one neighbour's driveway, where two vehicles were sprayed.

An effort was also made to spray what one might call graffiti on the pavement of Blue Jay Drive, in the way of a four-letter word. Although the perpetrators probably don't know it's the acronym of: "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge". (It looked like the same "handwriting" found plastered in mustard, on the postal boxes about six weeks ago.)

If anyone had any damage done, they should report it to the OPP, if for no other reason than it helps them to coordinate incidents, be they big or small. By-the-way, a call to the Rockland OPP told us that there were no incidents reported from Halloween.

Halloween around C.C. Headquarters
Around Cardinal, the evening started off slow, built up to a fever pitch when a crowd of about

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twenty kids swooped down our driveway all at once, then trailed off to two or three goblins at a time. By 7:30 p.m. there was nothing left but a large pile of chips and candies left inside our front door.

Cheney must have sent a mini-bus to Canaan, because every other kid at the door seemed to come from Cheney. There was even one from Orleans.

It was also good to see that many of the trick-or-treaters had collection boxes for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Thanks to Anabel barking each time a ghost or monster knocked on our front door, I was able to update a few Web pages in between visitors.

All in all about 50 costumed characters darkened our door and I was able to capture most of them on my digital camera. Looking for some really good pictures? Click here.

BJFH Community Association - Organizing Meeting
For those of you who have been offering to help with a Canaan Road area community association, a neighbourhood watch program and a possible block parent program, a meeting date has been set for Tuesday, November 16, in the evening.

The organization would encompass the areas bound by Canaan Road, Vinette, Joanisse and Baseline Roads, and include the Blue Jay Ridge and Forest Hill developments. We will announce a location (probably in a Rockland school) shortly. If you can offer any ideas or assistance, be there or be square. I'm Standing Pat.

(Standing Pat(rick) Meikle lampoons the definition every other week, 1: play’s one's hand as dealt in draw poker without drawing; 2: opposes or resists change; 3: refuses to abandon one's opinion or belief; 4: holds firm, stands fast, stands firm. He writes the Canaan Connexion on alternate weeks.)
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#12 - Fall colours bring spectacular show
I received an e-mail from my old pal Gene the other day. He is living in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean and doing something that he has always wanted to do, and something that most of us can only dream about.

He and his wife Katherine are operating a charter sailing company spending endless days navigating through the many beautiful islands and inlets, their days filled with calm seas and sunny, cloudless skies. Some of us may think it is the perfect life.

But you know, it turns out that it is just a job like anything else. The ocean may seem bluer on the other side, but Gene tells me he would just love to have a day without the sun and some clouds and he’s desperate for a Tim Horton coffee and a real newspaper.

We in Canada are fortunate that we have the four seasons to look forward to. The fall is one of my favourite, especially when the leaves start turning and this year is no exception. In fact according to an environmental report, the colours are particularly spectacular this season because of the recent mixture of weather... rain fall and sun.

You don’t have to go to Vermont or to the Gatineau Hills to see the changes. Just drive anywhere in the region and you will be overwhelmed by the richness of colours nature is providing.

I met a visitor from Toronto yesterday who drove up with his partner for a major exhibition and conference. They purposely drove up Highway 7, just so they could take in the fall colours, something they miss, living in the heart of Hogtown.
Thanks from Angels Odds & Ends
In last week’s Canaan Connexion we mentioned a worthwhile service, Angels Odds & Ends, a second-hand and discount store operating at 260 Water Street in Plantagenet. They work closely with the local food bank and will pick up anything that can be salvaged. They would like to thank the several readers who called to make donations. You can reach them at (613) 673-2167.

Drivers become Jeckle and Hyde
As readers of this column will know, one of my pet peeves are the brash and thoughtless drivers who pervade our local roads. There’s no limit to the material one could write.

In an earlier missive I quoted one friend who said “If you can’t see their license plate, you know they are following too close behind.” Absolutely true. I have almost been rear-ended on at least three occasions by drivers who were following too close to me – all of them coming from the neighbouring area. If I told you they were all women, I’m sure I would be called a chauvinist. It’s almost like they are Jeckle and Hyde, changing from ordinary folk to monsters behind the wheel.

By the way the speed limit along most of Canaan Road is 80 km/hr, and slows down to 60 km/hr at the ess-curve between Baseline and Wilhaven. When you are doing the speed limit and a car passes you and continues to pull away out of range, you know they’re over the posted limit. From one driver who continually has to remind himself, I'm Standing Pat.
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#11 - A near-senior's loo visit etymologizes the “glad bag”
As I progress farther into the 60th decade of life I find new factors of the aging process that challenge my living habits. Take for example the effects of drinking too much coffee or spirits.

A few years ago when I was more active and participated in several weekly writing oriented venues in the downtown (Ottawa) area, I could easily make it home in one swoop, without stopping. Now if I am not careful, I may have to stop a time or two before the car hits the old driveway. My colleagues must think that I sound like a broken record (notice I didn't use the terms CD or MP3 player) because before I head out on the trek chez-moi, I usually end the soiree with: "Well boys, I'd better make one last pit stop, 'cause it's a long way to Clarence Creek!"

In the past few years I've learned through sometimes desperate measures the location of every "pit stop" between Ottawa East and Blue Jay Ridge. And sometimes on a dark night between stretches... well you know what I mean. I have even made a mental list of several other "conveniences" that I may need to use in a hurry, in a number of stores, service stations, shopping centres and other public places.

The other day when I was visiting one of my regular stops I noticed that the local office of the Aids-Sexual Health centre had placed a reminder near the hand towel dispenser. It was a card with the picture of an extended condom, about eight inches high (certainly not for this old fart), with 47 alternate names for the device. Glad bag, candy wrapper, diving bell, life jacket, headliner, rubber duck and squeegee were just some of the monikers listed. The message was made clear: "No condom, no sex."
Now I am not about to moralize on the moral or religious debates about this contrivance, neither do I want to publicize it nor sweep it under the rug. Suffice to say, the shear numbers of bywords that have been coined in English alone, I though, was quite remarkable. So much so that I decided that I must have the list to add to my own collection of literary architecture.

Well I couldn't very well stand there in this not-so-quiet rest stop and copy the lengthy list. So I managed to memorize the Ottawa phone number of the AIDS & Sexual Health Info Line, long enough to reach my vehicle and write it down.

Once in the privacy of my own home I called the number and requested a copy of the plumber's helper etymology. After trying to explain to the young woman at the other end of the line what it was I wanted, (she seemed to think by my “mature” voice why “I” would want this information) she said she would pass my request on and have someone send me the card that I had described.

A package arrived in my mailbox today. It wasn't just one or two cards that I had suggested, but a pack of at least 100 8-1/2" x 4" post-cards originating from the Toronto "Talk Sex" resource centre. While the writing side of these cards would allow me lots of room to jot down contemporaneous notes if I stacked them beside my phone, I would much rather pass them on to friends and colleagues, or anyone else for that matter. I don't have that many (friends and colleagues), so if anyone else would like to sample the rich list of hard hat handles, send me a note, and I'll send you a prophylactic post card. I'm Standing Pat with my party pack stack.
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#10 - Aggressive drivers should be examined
Road rage and aggressive driving seems to be a phenomenon that has grown in the last twenty years. It has been made the subject of many a writer’s column and was just highlighted again this week on a local radio talk show.

The thin blue line, both OPP and Ottawa City Police, are doing their best, by carrying out regular blitzes to tag drivers who speed, drive erratically, change lanes without signaling, or who follow too close, but it’s a losing battle.

Just last week my friend Michele and I were commiserating over the tail-gating problem after one lumphead followed her driving east on Highway 174 through the Rockland “bypass” and on to Clarence Point, where said jackass gave her the one-finger salute as she turned off the highway and he speeded on.

“If you can’t see their license plate, you know they are following too close behind,” she said.

I agreed and said it gets worse – “if you can see the fillings in their teeth then you really know they are too damn close!”

The problem shouldn’t rest with the law enforcement agencies but should be dealt with by our legislators through a change in provincial regulations to the Ministry of Transportation.

If aggressive drivers were forced to be re-examined, they might think twice about committing the same driving offences. And think of the revenue that re-examinations would generate for the provincial coffers.

Let’s take it one step further, if everyone was re-examined every five years, even after every ten years, think of how much better our drivers would be, how much safer our roads might be, not to mention the millions of dollars the government would earn for a good cause, instead of taxing us to death as they do now, to make up and pay for their own spending mismanagement.
Follow-up: Rockland parkers
Judging by the number of people who park in disabled parking slots or who double park in fire lanes to be closer to the local store entrances, about ten per cent of the population is disabled... think about it. That would be about 2200 souls by today’s population count... duh! I don’t think so. Stupidity is no a disability.

Teach your children to recycle!
Here’s a message to all parents, teachers and childcare workers: Get, show or teach your kids to recycle. If a household does not recycle, chances are its future progeny won’t either. At any given time we are a family of three to five persons and between recycling and composting, we manage to keep our garbage down to less than half a bag.

There is a three bag limit imposed by our local (Clarence-Rockland) bylaw regulation, yet many homes consistently throw out four to eight bags of garbage, and often never recycle. You may have noticed in recent months that the refuse picker-uppers are finally starting to keep the three bag limits. Unfortunately they are rue to do so because they get crapped on by some of their complaining “clients”.

Some households recycle what the week calls for and throw out the rest. In other words, if it is a “blue box” week, they chuck out tin, glass and plastic, but the paper and cardboard goes into the garbage. On “black box” weeks they do the opposite – recycle the cardboard and paper but don’t keep the “blue box” material for the next week.

And so folks, if we can get our children onside and make them aware of the value of recycling because it will bode well for their future on this planet, then perhaps they will in turn make their households aware.

Remember, we may not be able to change the world, but we can change the world around us, and on that note, I’m Standing Pat.
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#9 - It isn’t true of all teachers
I remember a neighbour of mine once telling me ( we were two young couples living next door to each other and we had about seven children between us) after we had visited the children’s school how she hated talking to the classroom teachers because she felt that they were always treating you like they did their pupils... talking down to you and intimating how little you knew about schools, subjects and doing homework.

“And have you ever noticed that when they talk to you they talk in that ‘teacher’s voice’ like you are also a child?” “No,” I remember saying, “I hadn’t noticed, but now that you mention it...” And I realized for many years after that, for as long as we had children in school, some teachers would talk to me like I too was a child and really didn’t know anything about the subjects and wisdom that they were imparting on us. Now before you teachers start ganging up on me, I’ve since learned that what I just wrote may be an unjust generalization. I have the greatest respect for the teaching profession (having done some myself) and I often wonder in this day and age why with the way teachers are treated by everyone from the province, the school board, the parents, to the children, why anyone would want to become a teacher?

Just ‘cause you don’t know about it doesn’t mean it don’t exist
You know what I still don’t like? Incredulous people who think you are wrong or stupid because they either think they know more than you do, or they think you are inventing fantasy because they have not heard about something that you know to be true. And this really makes them the ignorant ones. Examples:

I recently visited three optician businesses looking for non-prescription bifocal reading glasses, you know the kind – clear glass on top and optical power lenses for reading on the bottom.

“Nope. Sorry they don’t exist. We sell reading glasses, but if you want bifocals like that you will have to get a prescription.”

“Bow-pukee!” I said to the last optician, who happened to be working at an in-store optician section of a big box store that rhymes with “roscoe”. Not only do they exist, but your store had a huge display of them behind the pharmacy
counter the last time I was in here about a year ago. Incidentally, that’s why I don’t shop at “roscoe” much anymore... they are constantly bringing in stock and specials that once they are sold out of, you can’t get replacements, refills or duplicates.

The “future” is in their hands
If you ever want to meet people who talk down to you, or who think you just fell off of the turnip truck, try visiting that big box electronics store that has the name that is opposite to “past” and where the teen-looking sales staff, “men in black” either look like, well, the “Men in Black” or that Christian group from Utah that do door to door missionary work... black suits and ties. If it has to do with computers, software or electronics, “fo-get aboudit.” I truly believe they have been instructed in the art of selling to three-year-olds (that’s anyone who walks into their store) and are destined for a life of tele-marketing.

A note on teenagers
I wish I was a teenager again and knew everything about anything. An old philosopher friend of mine had a saying that I thought was good about some kids... “bury them age 12, dig them up age 21!”

Ending on a serious note... turtles
My good friend, Michele André-St. Cyr, whom I affectionately call Rockland’s “Turtle Lady”, called me up this week to ask me to remind motorists to watch for turtles crossing the road. This is the time of the year when turtles return to their winter hibernation grounds. She has already found crushed turtles on Highway 174, near the construction site of the new grocery and tire stores.
Unfortunately workers and tradespeople who are parking on the gravel portion of the highway rather than the lots, may be unknowingly running over our shelled treasures. I call them treasures because many of the species are endangered and as we lose them, they won’t repopulate. When you are driving, please be aware not only of the turtles, but also the frogs, toads and snakes that are either crossing the roads, or seeking warmth on them as the evenings cool down. A little awareness goes a long way. More...

I’m Standing Pat till the next time.
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#8 - Driving in Rockland can be a peeve
Have you noticed any given day, driving in Rockland, some days are diamond, some days are stone? When you go into town you either meet the nicest people or you meet the dumbest? And you can’t categorize them – whether it’s men, women, young, old, good ol’ boys in their reverse ball caps and pick-up trucks, or the three-piece suiter in his high-end beamer.

Take last Saturday – I drove the strip from west to east, starting at the fast-food burger joint where the teen staff were fighting over who was the frontline supervisor and the flies were more plentiful than the customers... when one kid said he was the boss that day, the others said he had been voted down.

“What do you think this is,” he said, “Survivors?” And waiting customers are listening to all of this.

Later, as I drove east on Laurier at least two drivers cut me off and several more sped down the street so fast that I could not get out of the parking lots between speeding cars.

Double parking in fire lanes
My pet peeve in two of the main parking lots in town (GT/LCBO at one end and Independent at the other) are the dunderheads who park in disabled-only slots, or double park in non-parking travel areas or who leave their vehicles in the fire lanes next to the store. They are either sitting in the vehicle waiting for someone in the store, or just running in to pick up cigarettes or a six-pack (“I’ll only be two minutes.”)

Meanwhile other cars are lined up two and three deep waiting for the traffic to clear before they can get around the obstructing and illegally parked vehicle.

Pedestrian crosswalks
Another bug, the drivers who will not stop to allow pedestrians to walk across the stripe-painted crosswalks between the parking lots and the stores.
“Thank you very much!” I yelled to two people in a pick-up truck as they cut me off at the store crosswalk, along with a young Independent employee who was trying to herd a string of shopping carts back into the store. “Yes, thanks,” he echoed sarcastically. “It happens all the time.” And half the time the cars parked in the fire lane are blocking the beveled access curb so he can’t push the carts onto the walk.

Thanks to the friendlies
Thank goodness most of the drivers are thoughtful of others and bouquets to the many friendly merchants and employees who make up for the lame-brains.

Thanks to the devoted and neighbourly staff at the LCBO, the Giant Tiger, Home Hardware, Video Plus, Independent Grocers, and Jean Coutu, just to mention a few on my visit that day. Thanks also to Youssef Jomma at Chamberland Auto Care for his friendly welcome to a stranger... makes me want to return.

And a special thanks to Dan Beauchemin from Cumberland Village who earlier in the morning came to the aid of a young mother and two small children. She had a flat tire and her car was stranded at the intersection of Cameron Street and Highway 174. One kind soul was able to move her car into the Mr. Gas parking lot but couldn’t get the tire off.

In spite of her obvious need for assistance – holding her baby while the toddler, as toddlers do, was walking and climbing and constantly asking questions – couldn’t get anyone to help her, couldn’t find a roadside service (she didn’t have CAA), until Dan came along to help her and changed the tire by the time her husband was able to come into town to help her get back on her way. Thanks, Dan!

So bouquets to the friendlies and raspberries to the dunderheads. And on that note, I’m standing pat.
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#7 - Landfills: a treasure, not a dump
I take exception to the letter written by a Hammond resident (See: “Garbage pick-up” July 30, 2004).

Over the 12 years that we have lived in what was called the Township of Clarence Creek, then in the amalgamated “city” of Clarence-Rockland, we have learned to adapt to the slower perhaps less sophisticated pace than our Ottawa and Orleans experience. This means adjusting our expectations when it comes to physical services like garbage pick-up, street cleaning or ditch maintenance.

I particularly do not agree that “a dump is used to fill, that is why it is called a land-fill”. Landfill sites have a fixed capacity and in today’s world are to be treasured. They are way past the point of filling space to make a flat surface. That was okay in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Today there is a huge cost associated with landfill sites. They are expensive to maintain and it is difficult to find more capacity.

Toronto, for example is hauling its waste over the border to Michigan, and even to Moose Creek, which is relatively just down the road near Cornwall. If Michigan refused the service, Toronto would be looking at all the other landfill sites in Ontario. New landfill sites are no longer being approved by the province. This has been the practice for about ten years.

If our refuse is not being picked up, it is partially because our civic leaders must protect the capacity within our current landfill locations while at the same time balancing the expensive budgets associated with running a municipal government.

If you want to complain, start with the feds – Trudeau, Mulroney, Chretien, Martin – successive lines of governments, wasting billions of taxpayer dollars while giving themselves salary increments well above the percentage guidelines of the common folk. Their cutbacks are passed on to the province, another successive line of governments – Harris, Eves and now McGinty, who had the gall to run on an election platform of not raising taxes. So now the squeeze is put on the municipalities like Clarence-Rockland.
Like it or not, everything boils down to money and when you don’t have it you look for ways to save. Running a city takes money and what to spend it on takes tough choices. Some things we can’t do without, like fire, police, garbage, snowplowing – branches, clippings, tires, construction material, cleaning out ditches – yes these are an inconvenience when not removed, but not a hardship.

Look around your neighbourhood and see how many of your neighbours who do not recycle or compost, or who continually overstep the three bag limit. For years we were a family of four plus a dog and we kept our refuse down to less than half a bag a week. The rest went into recycling and composting and continues to do so. And the heavy stuff or non pick-ups, if we can’t store it until the spring or fall, we bring to the free landfill or compost sites, one trunkload at a time.

Clarence-Rockland isn’t Ottawa, and 2004 isn’t the ‘60s, ‘70s or even the ‘80s. We are privileged to have the services we do have. We are fortunate to have the compost site and the free days at the landfill site. And we have the information available to us on what to do, through the regular City Vox Populi inserts in this newspaper.

And if you think “we will be no better off than Ottawa has become”, we are already ahead in many ways. We still get to throw out all plastics and plastic bags. We have had a free compost site for longer than Ottawa, and our free landfill days, free for most items, along with our hazardous waste acceptance, long outweighs Ottawa’s. Be thankful.

So, when in Rome, do as the Romans. And on that note, I’m standing pat.
(Standing Pat(rick) Meikle lampoons the definition every other week, 1: play’s one's hand as dealt in draw poker without drawing; 2: opposes or resists change; 3: refuses to abandon one's opinion or belief; 4: holds firm, stands fast, stands firm. He writes the Canaan Connexion on alternate weeks.)
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#6 - A sad state in our schools

We had the opportunity to visit a local school on election day, where our polling station was. It happened to be he same school where one of our kids graduated several years ago. Pictures of all the graduating classes hang on the walls for all to see, and for visiting parents and ex-students to show their future generations. Problem is, the pictures are hanging almost at ceiling level, and unless you bring your stepladder you won’t see a thing.
When we asked the office staff why so high that it was useless to view, the answer was that if pictures were hung at eye levels, people would deface them. The school couldn’t even hang honour rolls and other items in the hallways for fear that they would be defaced or worse removed (read: stolen). Sad!

In another school I visited recently for evening classes, the washrooms were a complete mess... paper towels and toilet paper strewn everywhere, toilets full and unflushed, soap containers broken or missing and garbage thrown in sinks and urinals.

I know the school board has cut back on expenses and reduced cleaning staff, I lamented to the evening supervisor, but surely the school could talk to the students and discipline them, I asked?
Sorry, said the supervisor. If we speak to the students, even look at them the wrong way, they complain to their parents, who in turn whine to the school board, then it comes back to the school and the teachers. It isn’t worth the hassle so nobody says anything anymore. Sad!

The same kid who graduated from the Rockland school years ago, and now a recent graduate from university, found himself substitute teaching at a west end Ottawa school this past year. Remember the movie “The Substitute”? Well it happens.
The horror stories that came from our teacher-son’s experiences would be enough to curl even my hair. The students had no respect for authority, no motivation or reason to be there, talked back to teachers and many of the class members were high before classes even started. Sad!

Perhaps corporal punishment, like using the strap, was inappropriate, but in my day just thinking about it and the apprehension and fear that built up while waiting outside the principal’s office, was enough to deter all but the hardened of students, and in those days there weren’t too many of them.
Beware of phishing
The latest “Scoop”, the CS Co-op newsletter kicks off with “Don’t confuse “phishing” with a rod and reel”. Phishing is one of the latest buzz words to come from the Internet and refers to spam and junk e-mails and Web sites that are designed to lure you into giving out personal and/or financial information that could lead to theft of your identity. It’s another sad state that has entered our lives.
The perpetrators are smart. They use enticing e-mail subject lines that are more than believable and they actually steal corporate logos and colours that make you think that the Web sites you are visiting are legitimate. In some cases their messages really lead you to your bank’s Web site, but then a pop-up window, also equally enticing and legitimate looking, will ask you for your user name and password, or other personal information such as a driver’s license, date of birth, SIN or PIN to “verify” that your account information is correct.
Many people fall for the scam and once the information is offered, the schemers will use the data to their advantage, cleaning out your accounts or maxing out your credit cards.

Never give out sensitive personal information either over the phone or through e-mail, and if you have any doubts, call your bank or credit card company immediately. And on that note, I’m standing pat. (Related story... more.)
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#5 - Election: Who do you trust?

We received our local Liberal candidate election pamphlet in the mail this week. If you open the front and rear panels together you see the smiling faces of le grand fromage, Paul Martin, side by each with the little guy from Glengarry-Prescott- Russell, Don Boudria.

We call him the little guy because, well not only is he a slight man, but because he was also part to the real “little guy” from Shawinigate’s team.
It’s funny to see our little guy, smiling brightly in this posed for portrait, next to le grand fromage, the really big guy pearly Paul. He too is all smiles, and between the two of them, as the pamphlet says, they make up the local “Liberal L’equipeMartinTeam”, “Working Together For an Even Stronger Canada”.
Looking at these two smiling faces one might never know that dutiful Don was dumped unceremoniously from the cabinet, when king Paul brought in his cronies... perhaps if Paul had shown a little party unity and waited until after the election to make the visceral cuts that he did, the Liberal Party might not be in such disarray.
La-La-Londe wants the Con(servative) job
The local Conservative contender on the other hand was first out of the gate, in fact if I’m not mistaken, his election pamphlet came out before the official call. “Dear Friends.” he writes then jumps right in to lambast the Liberals “From steamships to sponsorships” and whatever other scandalous ships the Libs have navigated.
We might be tempted to vote for him if we couldn’t get the sopping, scandalous memory of the jaw that walked like a man out of our minds. Remember Brian? Didn’t he leave Kim a lovely legacy? After that boondoggle the party was able to hold its meetings in a phone booth.
And as for the current Conservative (ships) crew... are they really Conservatives? It took them a long time to come up with a party consensus, let alone a name... At one time they were called something like the “Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party Of Canada, which someone aptly named CRAP.

The debates
By and large fallout from the debates suggest that they didn’t do anything for any of the leaders, except for Gilles, who is going to take Quebec anyway.
The two hours were a raucous affair, like a mini-version of parliament where members try to outshout each other as if they were in contest to see who will be the next town crier.
One pundit called it an “out-of-control sandbox fight” where it left Canadians “two hours later as cynical, confused and detached from politics as they were when” the campaign began.

Signs ‘n sayings
What do the signs say? Well if you look at the road (over) kill along 174 it’s obvious that the main contenders, the red and the blue think that their pervasive pulchritude of panoramic pandemonium will win voters just by displaying sheer numbers of signs more than their rival.
But if you dig deeper, in the ditches and on the bathroom walls, you can get another sense of what some of the voters think. In Cumberland Village someone has altered one large sign to read “Boobria”. On the cubicle wall of one business bathroom, someone has scrawled “Liberals suck my... expletive deletive!”
In the end it may boil down to who do you trust. Locally, it’s hard to say. It won’t be the cakewalk that he has enjoyed before, but Donny B will get in as sure as the geese will head south in the fall. He may lose a vote or two... even a couple of thousand, but he’ll be back, even if in minority.
To vote or not?
One study last week looked at whether it was better to show your protest (read disgust) by spoiling your ballot, or simply not voting at all. The consensus was not to vote at all because a lack of voting numbers would show the political wags that we are fed up with the system.
Meanwhile back to the pamphlet... It begs the question... “Paul Martin and the Liberal Team can’t do it without you”, but maybe you can do without them! I’m Standing Pat.
(On reader feedback: lighten up folks, the tongue is in my cheek not yours. Don’t take life seriously, you’ll never live through it! Standing Pat(rick) Meikle occasionally lampoons life in column form. Catch previous missives on the Canaan Connexion Website:

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#4 - Values: This one's for my grandmas
Not so long ago someone censured my writing and criticized my values, insisting that I constantly complain and insult people every week. I had to ask myself.... Am I being overly negative in my writing? Have I turned into a curmudgeon, as defined by the dictionary, "a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man?"
After I thought about it for a while, I came to the realization that values are a generational thing. At sixty-plus, I don't consider myself to be an old man, especially since some of my best friends and colleagues are well into their eighties. But having many more friends and neighbours who are much younger than I, I can see where they might look on values differently.
I like to think that it's not so much that I complain, but that I have different values than some people do. I can't say that my values are better, goodness knows there is nothing wrong with many young people constantly spitting as they huddle around in groups smoking sweet grass, or using the "F" word in every second sentence, or daring drivers to hit them as they saunter across an intersection on a red light, or driving around in mobile ghetto-blasters with music so loud that the bass speaker can be heard through closed windows in a blinding thunder storm; or my personal favourite, wearing baseball caps on backwards, with oversized jeans hanging down below the cracks of their bottoms, wearing untied, three-sizes-too-big designer running shoes that clop on the sidewalk like a horse hoof on pavement and never removing said cap even at a dining table.
I don't see it so much as complaining as pointing out what I see to be a total lack of awareness or consideration for others. How often have you seen someone open the car door for a woman or a senior? How many times has a cell phone started to ring in the middle of a class, a conference or even at an NAC performance? And what is Southpark, the Simpsons or reality T.V. all about? Give me a break.
If you don't agree, you may want to pick up the latest issue of Maclean's magazine and see how one national institution deals with "the rude age."
We are the product of our families and our generation. I was born during the last great war of Scottish and French ancestry. I was greatly influenced by my two grandmothers, both entrenched in their values and beliefs. One was a staunch protestant the other a staunch catholic, both got along very well with each other, even though they could not converse in the other's mother tongue. They were dependable, reliable, devoted, affectionate and loving. I don't remember either of them swearing or even getting angry, even though I did my best to try their patience with childish misdeeds.
When they were both alive I used their values to judge mine. Whenever I did anything, whenever I thought about doing anything, like bringing a "dirty" book into the house or seeing a banned movie (remember the "legion of decency") I would ask myself if my grandmothers would approve. It didn't take much to come up with the right answer. Now, thirty years later, I may have lost some of the sheen off the values that Vera and Aline showed me, but I believe many today have never had the values given to them..
I appreciate the feedback I get from the many who agree with me and I particularly respect you readers who have the guts to identify yourselves especially when my words irk you.
But I have to tell you that me and many of my older peers often think that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. When I think that, I have to remember the words of former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson who was asked about the difficult task he took on as external affairs minister visiting the world's troubled spots and seeing so much evil and disparity. He said: "I like to think there are more good people in the world than bad." And so do I, and on that I am Standing Pat.
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#3 - Dog owners! Don't doo it!
I was talking to my "am-ego" Rufus the other day. He was in a dour mood.
"I think there are more stupid than bright people in the world," he said. "Why is that?" I asked.
"Well," he continued, " the other day I'm walking out of my front door when I hear the garbage guy yelling out in French. He must have been a religious man because he was calling out to Christ, referring to the chalice and the tabernacle. Then I realized he's picking up a garbage bag and it has spilled. Loose pieces of snow and dog s--t have spread all over his hands, boots and pants and he's furious. He shakes his fist at the house, continues to swear, and leaves the garbage bag at the end of the driveway.
I catch up to him, says Rufus, and he asks "Why can't these stupid people pack their garbage properly. We've had garbage bags full of dog crap burst on us as they go through the compactor and it has sprayed us all over. It's a hell of a way to start the day, we smell like dog s--t for hours.
"I wonder if these dog owners pick up after themselves at home?" Rufus ponders. I have visions of unmade beds, unflushed toilets, piles of soiled laundry and sinks full of dirty dishes.
"Rufus," I say, "maybe it's not that people are stupid, maybe they just need to be made aware of the rules." Clarence-Rockland has a "stoop and scoop" bylaw. It's the moral and legal responsibility of pet owners to pick up after their animals. It isn't pleasant, it smells and it's embarrassing cleaning up in front of a neighbour's window, but if you own a dog, you have to pick up after it. They are like children, and you wouldn't leave your child's feces lying all over the house. So why allow it on your (our) streets, ditches and neighbour's driveways.
We like to hope that most of us are concerned
and pick up. However with the thawing snow, it is obvious that many people do not pick up. Some walk their dogs under the cover of darkness, some walk them away from their homes onto neighbouring streets and fields. Non of us want to offend our neighbours or create a community row by reporting them to the bylaw department, or heaven forbid confront them with a friendly reminder to pick up after their pets.
One bylaw officer was telling us that they have had numerous calls about one neighbour that everybody knows (we all have one). They see him walking his dog, letting it squat, leaving its mess. They all complain about him, says the officer, but non of them will come forward to back up their complaint and testify if a charge is laid. We're helpless to do anything.
Years ago when I lived in a boarding school run by nuns, the good sisters would take the ashes and cinders from the furnace and put them in cardboard boxes into the garbage. It was against the bylaw to do this, so the nuns would cover up the ashes with potato peels and other kitchen scraps to hide them.
Now the garbage men were not stupid. They knew what the cloistered clerics were doing, but as long as the ashes were covered, the boys would dutifully haul the "scraps" away.
Dog poop in garbage also contravenes our bylaws, but everybody does it. (The City of Ottawa recommends that dog owners flush the droppings down the toilet – yeah, right!) Let's take a lesson from the good sisters. If you are putting the doggie dusters in the dustbin, at least make an attempt to hide it. But don't just hide it, double, triple, even quadruple the bag so it – a) won't smell (especially in the summertime) and b) won't burst and spray some hapless refuse collector who is only trying to do his job.
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#2 - Loose lips sink ships
For those of you too young to remember, the expression "Loose lips sink ships" was a popular Second World War slogan that reminded people to be mindful of security and to be careful about what they said. The theory being that enemy agents could be listening and something that was overheard in a conversation could prove to be fatal to our allies
We are all concerned about our personal security and most of us feel that our privacy should be held sacrosanct.
Apparently Geoff B. doesn't think so. I found a copy of his pay check record, either forgotten or discarded on top of the automated teller machine that we both use. Not a big thing to Geoff, but in the hands of someone collecting information the one-sheet printout says a lot.
Candy's dandy, but liquor's quicker
Years ago I played keyboards in a piano bar, providing quiet background music for the visiting patrons. The small hotel was on an off street in downtown Ottawa and was frequented by corporate and government employees coming to their capital headquarters. People thought their conversations were quiet and that the music was covering up their voices. They were wrong.
I tried not to listen but the many conversations held around the piano were easily heard.
On one occasion, two groups of intelligence officers had gathered after a post course meeting for the usual T.G.I.F. One party sat on one side of the piano bar, the second sat on the opposite side. At this point, neither knew who the other was.
As the evening wore on, and a number of song requests were played, the two sides struck up a conversation with each other. After they had engaged in small talk, one side asked the other what they did. "We're with the government," said one. "We're with the Solicitor General's" said the other.
As the "cocktails" continued to flow, the boys became even more friendly with each other and before long, all inhibitions were lost as one side admitted that they were with military intelligence, and the other side obliged with, "We're with the RCMP Security Service."
Although no identification was produced, both sides appeared to be who they said they were. But think about it, If I could hear what they were talking about, so could any "enemy agent".
Freedom of the press, or a police state?
The RCMP raid on the home of Citizen reporter Juliet O'Neill, last month, received a tremendous amount of publicity. Was it blatant invasion of privacy and the tactics of a police state jack booting over the freedom of the press, as some critics have expressed or was it simply the fact that the RCMP were only trying to do their job in tracking down the source of leaked information in an ongoing investigation, and the fact that it happened to a member of the fourth estate, created the furor that it did?
The cone of silence
How many of us have been involved in similar situations outlined above? I have one colleague who is so conscious of his privacy that he shreds every piece of personal correspondence before he recycles it. I know of many friends and colleagues who lose their inhibitions after a few drinks and casual conversations with strangers. And I have been involved in similar cases to the O'Neill incident. Perhaps it was merely a case where social discourse with seemingly non-threatening acquaintances may have lead to internal and external investigations.
The loss of personal freedom and privacy is most sacred. So the next time your lips start to loosen, do what Maxwell Smart did, use "the cone of silence!" I'm Standing Pat.
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#1 - Balancing life... cigarettes or calendars
It's December 23, two shopping days until Christmas and I am standing in line at the tobacco counter at Giant Tiger. Everyone's rushing to buy last minute presents and food stuffs to fill the festive table. G.T. is a great place to shop, even if you don't see too many caddies or BMWs. The goods are brand names and the prices beat the hell out of the superstores.
The man in front of me is only there for the tobacco. "This isn't for me," he says. "I'm buying this for my neighbour."
He has a written list. One carton of cigarettes, a couple of cans of tobacco and one package of cigarette paper. Jokingly I refer to the papers he has chosen and tell him that the "other" brand is better for rolling marijuana. He laughs, then his expression changes instantly when he is presented with the bill for his purchase. It comes to over $120!
"This can't be right!" he exclaims, "you must have made a mistake?"
"No mistake," says the cashier, and she itemizes the bill, pointing out the current price for each thing.
"I don't smoke and I don't buy cigarettes," adds the man, "I just didn't realize it was so expensive."

One carton, empties her wallet
The next day, Christmas Eve, and I am in the same line-up, with batteries for a gift toy. This time a young woman is ordering a carton of cigarettes. Nothing else. No gifts, no food, no clothes, just the cigarettes.
The cashier reaches for the carton, announces the price, and the woman quietly opens her wallet and empties it to pay for her cigs.
I wonder if that is how she is going to "spend" Christmas and it reminds me of another young mother I know, several children and virtually living on welfare. We'll call her Jane.
Jane has about a pack-and-a-half-a-day habit. She smokes king-size, so that works out to just over a carton a week, which is about $60 a week, or $240 a month. When Jane doesn't have any more money for food, she feeds her kids macaroni, and stays in bed for days at a time. She doesn't eat. She just smokes.
Free calendars
It seems like just a few years back. Remember? Everyone gave out free calendars around the holidays.
Then, like everything else, it became an expensive promotion and everyone stopped. The trend is coming back a bit and you can still find freebies if you know where to look, ie: J-C drugstore.
One of my favourite calendars comes from Home Hardware, because I like the Canadian art work displayed each month. Home sells their calendars for 99-cents, or free with the purchase of batteries.
I was in Home Hardware this week and saw that they had boxes of calendars which they were now offering for free. Why free, I asked? Apparently because people are too cheap to spend the buck for something they can get for nothing down the street.
So where's the priority... spending a fortune on a carton of cigarettes that will last one week, or a 99-cent calendar that you can enjoy all year long? And that is Standing Pat.
(Standing Pat(rick) Meikle lampoons the definition every other week, 1: play's one's hand as dealt in draw poker without drawing; 2: opposes or resists change; 3: refuses to abandon one's opinion or belief; 4: holds firm, stands fast, stands firm. He writes the Canaan Connexion on alternate weeks.)
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( Patrick Meikle is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Blue Jay and operates the Canaan Connexion Web site.
If you have an opinion or comment, he can be reached at:

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