Doug's Blog

We have a new addition

I realise it’s been a while since I posted, but numerous things were going on and numerous irons are in the fire. I am in a touring company for a play in Alaska this fall, a multitude of around the house projects finished, and I have finally set a retirement date at the college. There has certainly been enough going on to justify posting; however, getting around to it has been an issue.

However, there is a good reason to put up a new blog post. We had a new addition to the family. A bit over a week ago, we got a new kitten.

kitten2

We named her Belle, short for Sprinkle Belle. The previous owners named her Sprinkle, so we kept the first name and shortened it to Belle at their request. The name needs changing since, after her first visit to the vet today for the traditional shots and de-worming, two vets have declared that Belle is actually a Bill. We still haven’t confirmed a new name.

For what it’s worth, we were told he was a she and I never bothered to look. It does seem a bit personal, after all.

He is adjusting to the house, although he seemed to accept things much more easily than the other cats. Eventually, Furball has succumbed to his charms and thinks the kitten is pretty great.

furball kitten

Darcy, however, is a bit more reticent, although she is showing occasional signs of warming to the little fluff ball.

He is rather active, chases his siblings constantly, and other than being another sex than we were expecting, is otherwise perfectly normal and healthy. And, he possesses the amazing talent that most kittens have: the ability to go from pure terrorism to angelic in under 30 seconds flat…

kitten1

 

My Playwriting Competition Entry

Well, this year’s 24-hour playwriting competition has come and gone. I didn’t win any prizes this time, but I still have a lot of fun every year doing this.

This year was a lot of fun, since I did something on a character that I’ve always wanted to do, Paul Chartier. He’s an important figure from Canadian history, although most people will answer, “Who?” if you mention his name. I figured it was time to do a one-man, multimedia-assisted approach to his story.

As part of the festival, I did a short reading the other night, so here’s the excerpt I read. Note, of course, that this is a draft and still needs a bit of work.

CHARTIER

Nakai 24 Hour Playwriting Challenge Cabaret

2017

 

SETTING

In 1966, Paul Chartier wrote the Speaker of the House of Commons asking to address Parliament. He was refused and died shortly afterwards. Now, he has been given his chance to address Parliament more than 50 years after his death, from the afterlife. The section being read takes place when he first appears before the House. The stage itself is empty, other than a projection screen with a slide of the floor of the House of Commons showing. He turns to the audience and begins his address.

 

PAUL

Hello. My name is Paul Joseph Chartier. I was born in Fort Kent, Alberta, near Edmonton.

I don’t know where I am now, or how I know things that have happened since… since I died in 1966.

I wanted to speak to you on that day. I wrote a letter to the Speaker. The clerk wrote back and said that only members of parliament could speak here. I am glad to have this opportunity to do this after all this time.

Please. I’m very nervous. I wasn’t given any time to get ready.

(Paul stares at his speech in his hand for several seconds.)

I have this speech. I was going to give it that day. But, I think I should explain what happened.

I was angry. After all the things you have done to me, I had no way to tell you. You wouldn’t have listened anyway.

So I went to a hardware store in Newmarket. I bought ten sticks of dynamite. I opened six and put the explosive in a copper pipe. I had about two pounds of explosive in it.

I’d also bought detonators and some fuse. And then, I went to the parliament building. I had three fuses on my bomb. I had a short one, a medium one, and a longer one. I didn’t know how long to make the fuse, since I had to find out how long it would take to get from the bathroom back to the gallery so I’d know how long it should burn. I didn’t want it to burn for too long, or when I threw it on the floor, someone might realize what it was and put the fuse out.

I couldn’t sit in the visitors’ gallery that day. It was full. There was 900 school students there. I thought I would have to wait for another day to do it.

But the Commissionaire let me sit in the Lady’s gallery. They do that when it’s crowded. I was right above the centre of the floor. Right above Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker. And, they were the two main people I wanted to kill, although I really wanted to exterminate as many of you as possible.

So, I went out to the bathroom. I counted how much time I would need to get back to the gallery. Then, I went into a stall and lit the middle fuse. And, before I could even open the stall door, it went off. I died.

People laughed at me! And, it wasn’t my fault. It was that bitch at the hardware store.

I’m sorry…

I figured I needed about 20 seconds of burn time for the fuse. Twenty seconds. And I thought I had calculated it correctly. She told me it burned at 1 minute a foot. Twelve inches! One minute! I needed about 3 or 4 inches of fuse. So that was the one I used.

But, she sold me the wrong fuse. It wasn’t 60 seconds a foot. It was 40 seconds a foot. It burned for less than 10 seconds. I lit it, put it under my coat to hide it when I brought it into the gallery. I’d walk down to the railing, throw it down, and I’d give you a blast to wake you up.

But, I never even got out of the bathroom stall.

This is my legacy now. I wanted to change the country, to make it better. I wanted parliament to care about the people who make this country run.

And, all I succeeded in doing was to blow up the third floor men’s room in Centre Block of the Parliament Building. And myself. I died in a fucking toilet stall.

And it’s not fair. It should have worked.

 

Electoral reform

In the last year, electoral reform has been a frequent political topic. I think that this is a topic that should receive constant review, rather than the occasional consideration. I will throw in the fact that my ideas of electoral reform probably don’t match of lot of those who use the term.

For example, I personally have nothing against the First Past The Post (FPTP) system. We live in a country with a Westminster style parliament and the purpose of our federal and provincial/territorial elections is to select the candidate who will represent our riding. We don’t elect a prime minister or premier. Selection of that position lies with the party that holds the confidence of the house. In the case of a minority, that party does not necessarily even hold the most seats.

“Parliament” came from English common law, although the word is derived from the French verb “parler,” or to speak. (Upper middle and upper class people in England at the time would have spoken the language of court, Norman French.) It was a body of representatives who spoke among each other to determine laws that would benefit the people… although at the time, that would be upper middle and upper class people only.

From those early bodies came our current parliament, where we elect a person to represent our riding, and hence, our concerns.

The current concern with electoral reform stems largely from the increase in people voting for other than the two main parties, and that confidence in the house or winning a seat both lay in winning a plurality, rather than a majority, of either seats or votes. A rule of thumb commonly used is that a 40% popular vote total should win a majority government in a federal election.

With additional parties in the mix and garnering support, there has been some call to deal with so-called “false majorities” leading to “wasted votes.” For example, 3.45% of the popular vote went to the Green Party, yet this resulted in 1 seat in parliament, or 0.3% of the seats. In contrast, the Liberal Party gained 184 seats, 54.4%, with a popular vote of 39.47%. This has led many to call for Proportional Representation (PR) in one of several models, where seats are distributed on the basis of earning the popular vote.

I strongly disagree with this for three reasons. First, in my own opinion, there is only one type of vote wasted and that is one that is not made in the first place. I understand that many are dissatisfied with the system and the results and don’t feel the desire to vote. However, I have difficulty with the idea that your vote for a candidate that did not win is a “waste.” With every election, as with every hockey game, there will be winners and losers. With a multiparty system, there will be more losers than winners, and more potential for your vote to not be for the winner increased. I tend to view PR as the participation trophy of democracy.

Secondly, where do we cut off the percentage of popular vote that would qualify for a seat? There were 19 political parties in the last election. Should each one that had members receive votes get a seat, or should there be a minimum percentage of popular vote required to qualify? Some countries use a minimum of as high as 10% as a cutoff, meaning no seats would be given to those parties not reaching that percentage of the popular vote. Most use 5%, meaning that neither the Bloc Québécois nor the Green Party would be eligible for seats at all.

My biggest complaint, though, is through how we would have to distribute seats based upon the popular vote. Remember that we are supposed to be electing our representative who will carry the concerns of our riding to government. In a federal election, popular vote can easily be skewed by geography. People in Atlantic Canada may well vote substantially differently from another region. Should their choice for picking their representation be biased based upon the popular vote from another region? Should a preponderance of votes from there be overruled by a preponderance of votes for another party in Quebec or Ontario, where there is a higher population? Using this formula, by the way, would give the Bloc Québécois 16 seats in the commons, rather than the 10 they won.

I also suspect that, given the potential to shift the choice away from individual representation by a full version of PR, essentially changes the very nature of our parliament. Such a change should have to be dealt with using the formula for a major change to the constitution, itself. A shift to this form of election may result in a concerted challenge under the Constitution Act.

That’s not to totally write off electoral reform. There are other voting alternatives, such as preferential ballot. In this case, you would list first, second, third choice, etc., on your ballot and a when a candidate who did not get a clear majority, 2nd place ratings would also be used to determine an eventual winner. I could tolerate this since we would still be voting for our own representative; however, I would wonder how these would be reported. For example, does coverage list the alternative choice votes as well as the first choice ballots in ongoing coverage? Unless someone was winning with some of the margins John Crosby was used to in St. John’s West in the 1980s, it may be very hard to follow.

There is also the concept that this could work to the benefit of a centrist party over left or right wing ones. The line of logic behind that is that it is unlikely that someone who supports a far left party will list their second choice as a far right one. The alternative choice would tend to more support a centrist one, giving the advantage to them over the others. It is a viable worry.

There are other aspects that electoral reform could concern. For example, online voting would probably appeal to a broader range of voters. This might help cases where people may avoid voting due to the problems of mobility, or other aspects that prevent going to a poll. Younger voters may be more inclined to participate using a technology they are familiar with. There are security issues involved but this is mostly a case of details, rather than having the technology available. If you can be protected banking online, why not voting?

My biggest suggestion for electoral reform is the following. Maybe, to avoid your party losing, press them for policies that match the electorate. Insist they work together to achieve results, rather than partisan infighting. Make them recruit good candidates.

And remember, your vote may not win, but it does count…

Cat speak

Animal behaviourists has determined that, while a cat meow is a quite common thing, it’s not used by cats to communicate among themselves. Meowing is used by adult cats for communicating with people.

After a year and a half, I’ve found that Darcy and Furball both use distinctive meows for certain situations.

For example, Darcy goes “meow-wow” when she wants something not food-related. Usually, it means turn on the tap so I can drink from it or play with the drips. Another common one is a “mrrrrow?” with a very obvious question mark on the end. You often hear this one at about 3 AM and it seems to mean “Are you awake because I need a cuddle and if you aren’t, I’ll head butt you until you are.”

Furball has his own unique meows, too. A short meow apparently means “I want treats.” A longer, drawn out one that follows ignoring the former is, I suspect, “I’m dying of treat deprivation.” He also has a short meow with a question mark on the end that also means, “I want to play with the water from the sink.” And, if I go to bed before he does and the downstairs lights are off, you’ll hear this long drawn out mournful wail. “You left me all alone!!” Calling him is instantly followed by the sound of feet running up the stairs and the thump of him jumping on the bed.

There are few non-verbal ones, too. Darcy will lay on her back and using her claws, pull herself on the floor around the bed. I’ve come to learn that this means, “I want you to play fight with me.” (She’s a scrapper, to say the least, as her long suffering brother has learned. Being about 3 pounds heavier and about 10 inches longer hasn’t helped him in the least.)

She’ll also climb up on your chest with her front paws on your shoulder. This definitely means, “I’m standing here so you can rub my belly.”

Furball’s most distinctive non-verbal clue is what my sister-in-law, Dianne, refers to as the “drive by.” If you head to the kitchen, he’ll run in front of the cupboard where the aforementioned treats are stored and just fall over on his back.  Treat deprivation is a terrible thing to live with.

The other thing to understand about meowing, by the way, is that different cats have different meows with different meanings. There’s really no cat-human language. Nope. No cat speak.

The main takeaway from this is that it is true that cats really do have servants.. And, in the case of my cats, one that seems to have been easy to train…

A win for me

While it took a lot of frustration, and probably cost more in terms of what I’m paid per hour than the cost of the computer, Dell has accepted the laptop for refund. I sent it back yesterday.

It was perfect timing to get the email on their decision, since I got it when I got home and my first after dinner plan was to put together a charge complaint to the Competition Bureau for failure to live up to a promised warranty. This probably would have resulted in more time, but sometimes I might see principle as being more important than other things.

So, that’s over with a happy ending…

The end addendum

I just received a phone call from Dell that, since I live in a “remote area,” they cannot provide the next day warranty service that came with my new computer. They tell me that they are willing to repair my computer. I refused, brusquely, but not impolitely.

I posted the following in the Dell community forum this morning:

After more than a month of trying to get warranty service, I surrender. This morning, I purchased a new laptop computer. I can no longer wait for service. I teach for three colleges online and functioning without one has been a nightmare.

And, no, it was certainly not a Dell.

Your warranty and service support is non-existent. Your “techs” and social media are useless. How you can function as a business, selling products for which you can’t even provide the warranty you sold me, is unconscionable.

I suspect that you will not refund my purchase, and that is just a further indication of what a fly-by-night organization you run.

I doubt that I will get anything more out of this. But, I also doubt I will ever buy one of their products again…

The end

I suspect I have decided to do what Dell has been trying to get me to do all along. Give up. And, I have.

I need a computer to function, and it’s been more than a month of waiting to have my new one fixed. I can’t wait any longer. Last week I ordered a new computer and picked it up this morning.

laptop

Therefore, I surrender. Sort of. Now comes the unmitigated pleasure of trying to get a refund, but, that’s bound to be a completely different, and equally frustrating, story in itself…