Sunday, August 20, 2017

ARE TOURISTS ANNOYING?

Do you expect special treatment when you travel to foreign countries? Admit it now, it is a little frustrating when the direction and location signs are in a language you are not familiar with or, even worse, in an alphabet that is not the one you know.  

Tourism is the number one industry in the world. Do you feel a little self-satisfied to be contributing to other countries' economies?   London may not need your piddly contribution but other places in the world are very reliant on tourism for jobs and foreign currency.    It is natural to want to feel welcomed, perhaps even a little appreciated.    After all, you have emptied your savings accounts to be here, not to mention endured a lengthy and gruelling flight.  It seems unfortunate that some admission prices are outrageous, not to mention the queues:


The Louvre, Paris


Suzanne Moore writes in the Guardian here that not only do some locations not love and embrace tourists, they downright dislike them, including you and me.    But it must be other people who litter, engage in raucous yelling late at night, and generally behave badly.  Besides, they're just having a little fun; isn't that what vacations are for?   Probably they are only embarrassing themselves and will think better of the photographs when they get home and delete them from the Instagram account without delay.






In the months of July and August especially, traffic can become impossible and tourists driving rental cars down unfamiliar streets might cause frustration and annoyance without intending to.   Rental housing disappears, lost to vacation by-the-night accommodation that nets the landlord considerably more by way of profits.     Parisians have long had the custom of taking their vacation in the month of August, the better to leave the city to visitors.   

Stonehenge had to resort to putting a wooden boardwalk some distance from the ancient stones.   Some tourists wanted to take a piece of history away with them or at least leave their mark.   Some places are considering limiting tourists.  Are any of these on your bucket list?

Altogether, I am pleased I visited many places in Europe twenty-five years ago.   Perhaps I beat the crowds.   



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Don't Take it for Granted!


CTV News

It is easy to take for granted some of the most precious aspects of life.  We would only survive three minutes without air, three days without water and thirty days without food.   More or less.    Even if these commodities are available, we have come to expect a certain quality.   The air should be fresh and unpolluted, the water potable and cold.   As far as food is concerned we expect the government to monitor the safety of anything that is allowed to enter our borders or served to us in restaurants.   We are responsible for our own cooking skills when we eat at home.  To paraphrase Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.   He probably inferred that this society would include the basics listed above.

British Columbia has had a surfeit of forest fires this summer, something that is becoming alarmingly regular.     The seriously reduced air quality, even in areas far removed from the fires, is a reminder of the winds that swirl around our planet on a regular basis.    Some people have difficulty breathing, others find the air stale and smelly, views are substantially diminished and tourists are disappointed.  But nothing can be done.   We are not as omnipotent as we like to think.   Advice is given to stay indoors and avoid exertion.

A hazy skyline is not a natural disaster, but it serves as a reminder to be patient, to be prepared, and to be appreciative when eventually normality returns.   We can spare a thought for those evacuated or made homeless and bear our lesser complaints with good grace.   It wouldn't hurt to treat the planet better then has been our wont in the past hundred years or so.   Gaia may be getting annoyed.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hanging on financially

   



I was interested to read  The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans in The Atlantic about the prevalence of people who would have great difficulty in finding $400 for an emergency.  Who could live like that?    Emergencies come around regularly, if by that is meant a car repair, painful dental problems or your hot water tank expiring.     Forty-seven percent of Americans surveyed by the Federal Reserve would have to borrow or sell something to find the money.  

The subject. Mr. Neal Gabler,  chose his profession, writing, for love not money.   He's published five books, hundreds of articles and television scripts.   He's won awards and describes a respectable reputation.   Unfortunately, writing has never been a well paying career except for an exalted few.   In addition, as a self-employed person he must engage in the annoying and time-consuming task of chasing payments.   Anyone who works for themselves will know what this is like.   The work has been delivered but a finely tuned dance must be commenced to pry payment loose without offending the payor and cutting off a future supply of work.   

There was good money at times.  Neal Gabler describes years of a solid middle class and even upper middle class income.   I suspect the more prosperous years were in the past, or at least before the internet was well established, with sites like Fiverr providing writers for amounts that would just about buy latte at Starbucks.   When you have to borrow money from your adult children to pay for heat in the winter, there's a particular kind of shame attached.

It may be that Mr. Gabler did not manage his money as well as he might have.   Saving in the years of plenty for the years of want.   Creative types of people don't seem to manage their finances well as a multitude of rock stars who end up destitute have described.  You can meet Mr. Gabler on Youtube here.

Some Americans end up in financial straits because of medical bills.   The Canadian health care system is far from perfect and a middle class person will have to cope with  many expenses considered non-emergency, like glasses or root canals.   But hospital and doctor visits are covered, albeit with payment of a monthly premium of $75 for the middle class individual.

In the past, families managed on one income.   What's changed?   Wages have remained stagnant, good union type jobs with benefits and pensions are a dying breed.   There's so much more to need or at least want.   It's hard to imagine living without a computer and internet connection and many people are attached to their cell phones.  

Gabler is relieved to come out of the shadows and admit his problems.   Sharing doesn't solve his problems but finding out that half the people around him are in the same position offers some solace.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Both hands take away







If you have somehow forgetten you have money in a bank account and move away, you will be relieved to know that your money does not go into the bank coffee fund.   There's a process set up to attempt contact but eventually the governing body for banks, The Bank of Canada here in Canada, receives the funds.   Here are some details.   You can check on-line if yu have been remiss in keeping track of all your funds.

A news story on the topic prompted me to check and lo and behold it appeared somehow in our youth $40 had been left behind.   The on-line form is reasonably quick and easy to fill out but then you wait.   Remember, the government only works quickly and ruthlessly when you owe them.   Long since forgotten as a momentary impulse, a couple of months later the Bank of Canada letter appears in the mail.   We may have been hoping for a cheque but, no.

There's a four page form, densely written, to read and blank lines to fill out.  The Bank of Canada had helpfully filled in the line indicating one balance of $40 was being claimed.  But although the government tax department is happy to receive a large cheque from me paying my income tax bill and even credit card payment for the medical services premiums of $150 monthly, this $40 return of my own money requires a statutory declaration before a Notary or Commissioner for taking Oaths.   The cost of a lawyer or notary visit would eat up most if not all of said $40.   Then there is the request for an account passbook/cheque book/statement that matches the account number.   Would it be facile to suggest that were I in possession of this I would be aware of the money and would have made arrangements to have it sent to me long ago.

At this point I was relieved to discover that the offending bank account resided in Ontario where we have never lived and apparently belonged to someone with the same name.   We forget that such people exist, no matter how special and unique we think our name is.

Let him work for the forty dollars.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Walking Computer Chips







In A New Premise, written a few years ago now, I describe a future where all residents have a small computer chip, called a grain, implanted.   The device has various purposes, including paying for purchases.   I was interested to read here about a firm that has something similar implanted in their employees.   The stated reason is to gain access to company files, copiers and even snack machines but like I wrote in my book, this would be easily adapted to other purposes.   

I wonder if I can claim royalties of some kind?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

ADDICTED TO OUTRAGE


   



A lot of information, articles and posts available these days seeks to access our outrage.     Presumably once this goal is achieved, the reader's outrage will lead them to take some sort of action such as writing a letter to a politician, sending donations, changing their lifestyle and generally spreading the word.  That is the main goal in generating the indignation or even fury.   It can seem that increasingly disgusting stories are required as time passes.

Even if no direct action is taken, sometimes the forcefully expressed opinions can be intimidating.  We say nothing on the topic in the interests of not disagreeing.   Various 'cards' could be shoved in our face:   we are accused of being racist, sexist, carnivores, or just plain stupid  . . .  who wants to be that?   Saying nothing means only one point of view is presented.

News media is controlled by a few corporations and those that own them have a point of view.   They may have business interests that do better under certain political parties or policies.  There was a former Canadian prime minister whose newspaper photographs always showed him in a poor light:   he was tripping down airplane steps, he stumbled on a curb or his face was somehow contorted in conversation or while eating. It was pointed out by a more independent writer that media sources have hundreds of images to choose from and the ones they pick said more about their editorial slant than about the prime minister. He was shortly thereafter defeated but I've never forgotten that lesson.

Be attune to the photographs used, the language and even the placement of articles.     It is a truism that scandals receive front page coverage, apologizes for errors are on the last page.   Somehow politicians, and news organizations, seem to thrive on doom and gloom . . . and they are just the ones to solve it.

But take heart, despite what you read things are getting much better in the world.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

ANNUAL TRADITION






I read an interesting blog post here by Margaret Powling about her annual tradition of re-reading a book which she first read as a young girl and which had a great impact on her.  In some ways, the books that touch us significantly tell a great deal about ourselves and even as we get older and change, re-reading a treasured novel can provide us a hint of the person we were that we had almost forgotten.

That's a gift.

This practise isn't something I have done myself but it makes we wish I had.   Ms. Powling kept the book, originally filched from the local library, for over 60 years.    You would have to own the book as most library books could not survive sixty years of wear and tear not to mention frequent necessary culls that libraries engage in.

The post is fascinating to read because Ms. Powling eventually met and interviewed the author, the well known Rosamunde Pilcher and she signed the tattered novel which, being of the author's earliest writings was never re-printed.   Having lived in the area where the novel, entitled April, was set made it all the more poignant.

I have enjoyed re-reading books that I have enjoyed in the past.  For example, see here. Sometimes, there is nostalgia and the recall of an age and stage where a genre or plot of a book was particularly meaningful, other times the location is one that I visited or lived in and hearing those familiar names mentioned and framed in the story's setting adds personal involvement.

It is likely better than re-watching an old movie or television show as you come to realize how stilted the acting was or how unrealistic the sets.   I was shocked when I realized that the Ponderosa home on Bonanza was a set with painted backdrops.  We must have been easily distracted by the action.   Although I was recently told that real fires are no longer used in movies and television programs since it can all be added after filming by means of CGI (computer generated imagery)   For safety reasons I will have to let that pass.