23
Feb 20

Chess fallen queenChess is a game of extraordinary—sometimes infuriating— complexity.

Sixty-four squares, thirty-two pieces: it seems simple enough, on the surface.  But after just four moves, more than 288 billion different positions are possible.

To play the game well one must look seven or eight moves ahead, mentally mapping out the consequences of each possible move while weighing the potential responses and strategies of your opponent.  Placing a single piece in error can lead to disaster.

The best chess players—the grandmasters—craft opening moves with endgames already in mind.  Like top field generals, they hold the entire battlefield in their minds with perfect clarity.

Each piece on the chessboard plays a vital role.  But by far the most versatile piece, and hence the most critical to success, is the queen. (The king, technically the most important, exists only to be protected.)

Unlike chess, health care administration is not a game.  But like chess, it is extraordinarily, sometimes infuriatingly, complex—requiring careful deployment and coordination of numerous pieces. Read the rest of this entry »

18
Feb 20

Anarchy

Rail lines blocked.  A provincial legislature shut down.  The nation’s economy crippled.  Mob rule crowding out the rule of law.

Like many Canadians, I’m aghast at what is happening to our country.

Never have we been so fractured.

Never has our federation been at greater risk of coming apart.

Province is set against province, industry against industry, citizen against citizen.

Even before the current brouhaha over B.C.’s Coastal GasLink project, Canada was battling unprecedented division.

The cracks that appeared soon after Justin Trudeau was elected prime minister in 2015 have widened steadily into yawning chasms, notwithstanding Mr. Trudeau’s fulsome pledges of sunny ways and healing reconciliation.

Last October, inconceivably, Mr. Trudeau was rewarded for four years of dithering, divisive, corrupt non-leadership with a second term in office, thanks largely to the voters of the Greater Toronto area, aided by a hefty boost of political interference from Barack Obama and the Greta Thunberg propaganda machine.  (Maybe the GTA could become a country unto itself and let the rest of us get on properly with our business.  I dare to dream.)

Canadians are now reaping the full harvest of what Mr. Trudeau has sown.

Today—thanks to his incessant, inept, virtue-signaling twaddle—we have reached rock-bottom. Read the rest of this entry »

4
Jan 20

poison ivy

Festive jingles brightened every nook and cranny of Calgary, it seemed, during the recent Yuletide stretch.

My house was no exception.

Practically vibrating with excitement and anticipation on Christmas Eve, my nine-year-old son belted out one carol after another.

His Christmas mix didn’t include restful, time-honoured melodies of yore. 911 Song, set to the tune of Jingle Bells, went something like this:

Dashing through the snow, on a pair of broken skis
Over the hills we go, crashing into trees!
The snow is turning red, I think I’m almost dead,
I woke up in the hospital with stitches in my head, oh!
9-1-1, 9-1-1, Santa Claus is dead!

That gem led on to a gleeful rendition of Deck the Halls With Poison Ivy, followed by Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, all delivered at 110 decibels.  A Silent Night was not in the cards, musically or literally.

My ears were still ringing as 2020, fresh and clear-eyed, took over from a worn-out 2019.

It struck me that Alberta’s pediatricians and family doctors might relate to poor old Grandma., seeing as they got run over by a health minister just before Christmas.  They were caught every bit as flat-footed as the old lady trampled by those reindeer.  After all, they’d had reason to feel secure: Premier Jason Kenney publicly guaranteed that his government would not cut access to care. Read the rest of this entry »

3
Nov 19

Canadian bananas

Imagine if Alberta was famous not for its prodigious oil reserves, but for its banana plantations.

It’s a bit difficult to picture banana trees carpeting our northern prairie, but it might have been possible once.  Forty million years ago Alberta was a tropical paradise, rich in ferns and fauna.  Giant sequoia trees stood watch as dinosaurs roamed.

Then the climate changed.

Imagine, for the purposes of this essay, if it had not.  Imagine that modern-day enterprising Albertans took advantage of the fertile environment to grow bananas.  Not just ordinary bananas, but the most succulent and delicious of fruits, and organic to boot. Read the rest of this entry »

28
Oct 19

Black Swan

Everybody knows that snails don’t run.

But no one told Sam.

Sam arrived in our household along with Soda, a colourful betta fish we picked up from the local pet shop as replacement for Ollie.  (Ollie succumbed to fishy old age and was transitioned ceremoniously into compost in the garden, under the grand epitaph: “Here Lies A Good Fish”.)

The pet-store guy threw Sam, a finger-nail-sized “mystery snail, in for free.  Selecting companions for betta fish can be a bit tricky: otherwise known as Siamese fighting fish, they aren’t known for their affability.  But betta fish aren’t threatened by snails, we were assured.  Plus, snails keep the water clean.

All seemed well, at first.  Soda simply ignored the tiny striped mollusk meandering around his space.  The only thing he attacked was his food.  Until the night he drove Sam clean out of the bowl. Read the rest of this entry »

19
Oct 19

Behind bars“The truth shall set you free,” advises the old canon.

Unless you’re a criminal, that is.  Then the truth will land you in prison.  That’s how the justice system works, most of the time.

Roughly 40,000 convicts are presently locked away in the fifty-three federal and provincial prisons scattered across Canada. The vilest of the perps (the murderers, the rapists, and the pedophiles) are punished with lengthy consignments to the most secure of these institutions; eight federal maximum-security prisons are needed to house them all – and almost all of them are men.

Women commit crimes too, but at far lower rates and attended by much less violence and predation, a fact reflected by the lower security and gentler living conditions typical of female prisons (there’s not a single dedicated maximum-security institution for women in Canada).  The Institutional Mother-Child Program even allows incarcerated mothers to raise their children in prison until the age of four. Read the rest of this entry »

16
Oct 19

splintersWhen “hanging chad” popped up in the headlines in November of 2000 I assumed, at first, that a hardened criminal named Chad was about to be strung up for murder or some other heinous crime.

But the chad in question wasn’t a convict; it was an innocent circle of paper meant to be punched from ballot cards by Floridians voting in the 2000 presidential election.  Sun-baked citizens encountered some difficulty popping those bits of paper free, however: thousands of chads were left “hanging”.

Seniors were to blame, I’ll bet.  Retirees make up a higher percentage of Florida’s population than in any other state.  Imagine Mildred and Ernest, frail and bent, vision dimmed by cataracts, ballots clutched in arthritic, trembling hands, vainly stabbing at the paper circles. Read the rest of this entry »

14
Oct 19

monkey assBefore legendary Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens died on September 11 at the age of 91 he penned a farewell letter, to be shared after his death.

In it, this advice:

“Be humble.  I always believed the higher a monkey climbs in the tree the more people below can see his ass.  You don’t have to be that monkey.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, perched at the pinnacle of Canadian politics, has become that monkey, sadly. Read the rest of this entry »

6
Oct 19

Choose I’m a very tall man.

That short claim will elicit a chuckle or two from those of you who know me.

But it’s really just a matter of perspective.  The key to tall-hood, according to the Ordinary Man – found amongst the pages of that timeless classic The Phantom Tollbooth - is to surround myself with midgets:

You see, to tall men I'm a midget, and to short men I'm a giant; to the skinny ones I'm a fat man, and to the fat ones I'm a thin man.

Speaking of perspectives, some time ago my daughter joined debate club.  A host of volunteers are required to run regional competitions, and in the democratic way in which these things are decided at my house I was informed that I would be a judge. Read the rest of this entry »

4
Oct 19

Birds of a Feather

I’ve taken to watching TED Talks, lately, in my little home exercise room, to stave off the boredom of staving off the middle-aged bulge.

I ran out of interesting things to watch on Netflix long ago.  I talk intermittently and bravely of canceling it, since it’s no longer of any use to me, but there’s zero chance of that happening.  My kids won’t let me.  I’m the boss at my house, but my children make all the decisions.  I’m all hat and no cattle; or, to put it in political terms that non-redneck Canadians will understand, I am to patriarchy what Justin Trudeau is to feminism – we’re both faking it. Read the rest of this entry »