There is going to be a lot of mis-information recorded about Covid-19, that much we know. But post-pandemic, we can also be certain there will be books written about good and bad calls made by those "in control". Nadav Ziv, an undergrad at Stanford University, and Sam Wineburg, a professor at the same institution and author of "Why Learn History When It Is Already on Your Phone", have already issued their first piece of advice: "Distrust Your Eyes – They're Easily Deceived".
Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of a group of local dog owners, I'd like to introduce information about a bad decision made by a group supposedly concerned with Covid-19. How disappointing it has been to see what the Midland SPCA has become. We had thought the organization served animal welfare. Clearly, this is no longer the case. There is no logic to support not opening the off-leash park that we and our dogs have been sorely missing for well over two months. Especially when all the other facilities have opened up. It is very sad and disappointing to learn what really guides the Society: for sure, it's not the animals.
After the virus hit, and before the park closing, there was no abuse of "rules". We'd love to see any evidence that dog owners were abusing the social distance laws. They weren't. And they won't. We're not teenagers, nor Trinity Bellwood Park Neanderthals: why, then, are we being treated like them? This is Midland, folks, with our measly population of 17,000 souls, not Toronto, with it’s millions.
On a number of occasions before the park's closing, I was the only person present with my two rescue pups. Other times, there was merely a handful of people there. And guess what: every one of us kept at least 2 metres apart, wore gloves and were responsible. None of us has the virus. This is not an unruly crowd. It is unfair that we should be treated like one. But then, as we've discovered, the Midland SPCA no longer cares about animals , or their owners, and that is tragic and sad. Who the hell knows what their focus is: likely insurance mitigation or something silly. In response to my emails pleading with them to re-open the park, they replied "There are no plans to re-open the park at this time." Gosh, how forthcoming of you! Thanks for nothing. But what can we expect from a group that parades themselves as being in favor of animal welfare, but whose acts clearly depict the opposite: they don't give a damn about animals!
There have been various veiled references to wanting to be safe for their staff. Swell, what a noble calling. But sorry folks, that just doesn't wash: the SPCA staff are never there when the public is. (I have been at this park literally hundreds of times, and there has never once been anyone there from the SPCA. Which is fine: why would there be?)
Now, I should tell you that there are a couple of other off-leash facilities we dog owners can use. They're open again, of course, because the groups behind them (the town and the Rotary) care about animals. Trouble is, both parks are small, flat and boring. As opposed to the park the SPCA refuses to open which is 8-10 acres, hilly, wooded, etc.: a paradise for dogs and their owners.
And here's the sad part: I used to support the SPCA financially (I've also bought 3 rescue dogs from them). But I will no longer donate to a charlatan aggregation who are clearly and an animal-disinterested group. And I'm not alone.
Talking with friends recently, I found myself expressing gratitude for the good things in life. It's too damn easy to focus on negativity during this pandemic.
For me, I'm thankful I'm no longer responsible for employees, clients, suppliers, etc. In my former life, I ran a marketing agency and if that were the case now, I'm not quite sure how I’d be handling the ability (or lack, thereof) of being able to carry on despite the Covid-19 virus that has virtually shut down so many businesses. Pretty sure marketing would not be declared an essential service, so that would leave me fretting about addressing client needs online, keeping employees engaged while they work from home, paying the rent, and generally hoping everything works out well. Truth is, life in the pandemic world is crazy enough without having business pressures added on. So I'm happy – and grateful – not to have those challenges to worry about.
Another positive thing these days is that, on balance, I recognize how lucky I am. Ever since taking up writing full time, I've worked from home, so this whole self-isolation thing is not too foreign or too onerous. (It was Allan Fotheringham who told me when I interviewed him at his charming Toronto home for my book "Why Being Happy Matters", "Writing is the loneliest profession. It's the only job you do totally on your own.") Sure, I miss being able to see my family. And yes, I miss being able to take Molly and Macy to the off-leash park and let them run around and burn off doggy energy. And yup, sure wish I could get together with the lads who comprise The Midlandaires band and sing with them on Fridays at The Legion… (or at least, we used to: hopefully we'll do so anew once the virus disappears.) But again, on balance, I have very little to complain about.
So, here's to being able to say goodbye to Covid-19 soon… And here's also a toast to the good things in life. Let's not forget 'em. And remember to count your blessings during the pandemic.
P.S. Think you'll like this: in a time when we miss being close to each other, 1,000 people from 18 countries around the world found a way to observe social distancing yet be...
“Close To You”... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HezxInuN1YA
There's been lots of talk about the post-pandemic world and how things will change. No less than Warren Buffet, the 89-year-old CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, wonders if the future of offices will be different. “The supply and demand for office space may change significantly,” he surmised the other day. He added: “A lot of people have learned they can work from home.”
Well, yeah, under the "any-port-in-a-storm" reckoning, I guess we can all do what’s required when the gun's pointed at our head. Yet, while I’m not ready any time soon to pit my undernourished investment knowledge against the king’s, I will point out something Mr. Buffet may be unaware of: the importance of community in sustaining happiness across a nation. And that plays right into his thought.
Here's a poser for you that's directly related: what country is the happiest in the world this year?
And for the 3rd year running.
#2: Denmark. And #3: Norway.
Where's Canada? #9.
The UK's at #15.
The USA's at #19…
Wait a minute! What’s going on here? Whey are we so far behind a country like Finland?
Dr. Robert Putnam of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University thinks he knows. In his book "Bowling Alone", he surmises: "We used to be joiners, now we’re not. We don’t embrace bowling leagues the way we used to. Church attendance is off. Book clubs, investment clubs and other gatherings of people into ‘communities’ have lost their allure as we replace pleasant pastimes with helter skelter lives aimed at achieving things, not enjoying things. The simple act of joining and being regularly involved in organized groups has a very significant, positive impact on individual health, well-being and happiness.”
That's a point I make in my book "Why Being Happy Matters" (whybeinghappymatters.com) The lesson we can learn here is that yes, companies may argue they can save rental dough by telling their employees to work from home, but I'm pretty sure this will turn around and bite them as those laborers start feeling downcast because the community they used to be part of has vanished. And with those feelings will come a decrease in productivity and innovation.
So yes, I'm sure there will be changes in the post-pandemic world… just not sure Warren's prediction will be one of them.
May I just say to all you lovely, charming assault-style gun owners out there who say we shouldn’t ban ownership of these killing machines because collecting them is your hobby...
FIND A NEW #%€$&ing HOBBY!!
You know, something like stamp collecting, or knitting, or cooking, or photography, or gardening, or... something that does not involve an appliance that kills people. I’m sick to death of your pathetic, childish complaining about your hobby! Get over it! Find yourself a new obsession. You’ve got this. You can do this! And if you won’t do it for you, do it for the rest of us. We’ll be eternally thankful.
In a time when we miss being close to each other, 1,000 people from 18 countries around the world found a way to observe social distancing, yet be “Close To You”...
It was a lady being interviewed on CBC Radio who said, “If you have talents, please share them with your fellow man during this lonely pandemic. People need sunshine in their lives - both literally and figuratively - and if you can help put a smile on their face, that’s huge.”
Well, not sure if I’m talented or not, but I am a singer and I’ve been told I’ve got a decent voice. And I’m a writer who’s written a book about happiness called “Why Being Happy Matters” that friends say people should be reading right now. So, I’ll go with the request of the lady on the radio. Here are two links to my You Tube channel:
The first is for a video about the immortal Frank Sinatra including my renditions of 6 standards from the Great American Songbook
The second is a link to my CD featuring several more standards.
It ain’t Justin Bieber but if you like the music we call “easy listening”, I do hope you’ll enjoy this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVvwL1U9LLo
Both links are free for the taking.
The other link I’m posting is for my book “Why Being Happy Matters”
(I’d love to be able to give it away for free but there are too many direct costs involved for printing, packaging, mailing, etc.)
Must say I’m impressed with the folks at the District of Muskoka and the Town of Ajax. They want seniors in their communities to stay aware and involved, so they’ve asked me to participate as a Keynote Speaker on the telephone. That’s right: rather than appearing live, supported by PowerPoint, as I normally do, I’ve had to rely on my old on-air radio experience of “painting audio pictures” by engaging with dialers-in via a 1-800 interchange. I speak conversationally about people I met while conducting interviews around the world for “Why Being Happy Matters”. And at the end, I open things up to Q&A and observations listeners may want to make about happiness. So far, this format has been deemed a “great success” and I’m pleased to be able to help.
I’m also mentoring a lady online who’s writing a fiction-based-on-reality book and have been able to make some valuable suggestions for her.
So, there you go. If my “talents” can brighten your day during the pandemic lock-down, I’m only too happy to do my bit. Enjoy!
And stay healthy and well.
NBA All-Star Center/Power Forward Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers has been quoted as saying, "Acts of kindness can be a form of therapy to feel better during the pandemic.". I agree. Fact is, the PhDs I interviewed for my book "Why Being Happy Matters" (whybeinghappymatters.com) agree too, having told me that volunteering to help out always contributes to making you feel happy.
I was raised in a family that believed in giving back. Volunteering was the norm, under our Latin family motto, ut prosim allis. I was such a fabulous Latin scholar back in the day [not!] that I even know what that means: To put others first. This standard remains in force for me today. And you know what: happiness does increase when you volunteer to help others through acts of kindness. You just feel that much better about life knowing you're helping other people who may be less fortunate than you in one way or the other.
So, Kevin Love is right: acts of kindness will increase your positive vibe.
Why not volunteer today: I'll bet your community can use your services and skills in lots of ways to help out during this pandemic. And if you do reach out to help, take it from me: your acts of kindness will make you feel happier. And isn’t that what we all need at this challenging time?
I know lots of people are feeling frustrated by the pandemic because they can't get out and socialize the way they'd like to. But then there's Dr. Eva Olsson. She too is exasperated, but for a different reason. You see, Eva can't talk to classes of school kids, and that's got her in a funk.
Eva Olsson's 95 years old. She'll be 96 in October. And what does she speak to kids about? Hatred. And bullying. And appealing for tolerance. And the importance of putting an end to name calling. She offers a strong message that bullying, racial slurs and standing by and doing nothing should never be tolerated.
Now, where does Eva Olsson get off speaking abut this? Well, Eva was born in Hungary back in 1924. As a Jew, she was one of millions of people rounded up by the Nazis in World War II where she went on to experience horrid, soul-destroying conditions in well known concentration camps like Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. It was from the latter site that she was liberated by British and Canadian soldiers on April 15th, 1945. Listen to Eva telling her story of forced incarceration…
"We were ordered to pack our bags and we were told we have two hours and that we have to march to the railway station that was seven kilometers away from where the ghetto was. We were shoved into the box car, approximately about a hundred people, like sardines in a can. With two pails, one had water in it for drinking and the other one was for use as a toilet. We cannot imagine unless we had been there the smell of human waste. This pail was flowing over and you're standing in it. And people were crying and people were praying. And I see the images of my mother squatting down in a corner hugging her grandchildren. I was very close to my mum, I asked her, 'Why are you crying, mum?' She said, 'I'm not crying for me, I'm crying for all of the children. I have lived.' She was 49. Hell was in those box cars where people died from lack of oxygen. And to see young mothers not being able to feed their infant. This was a four-day hell."
Eva continues, "They told us they're taking us to Germany to work in a brick factory. The sign said Auschwitz. And we have never heard of Auschwitz before, although people had already been dying there for two years. When this cattle car's opened from the outside, some people had a sigh of relief, 'Now we are going to have fresh air and we are going to have water.' Except for us, there was no water and the air was nauseating. We couldn't relate it to anything we have ever... it was worse than the box cars. There was smoke coming out of the chimney, high towers, machine guns. I turned to my mum and I said, 'This doesn't look like a brick factory.' No, Auschwitz was not a brick factory, it was a killing factory. The smell that we smelled was the smell of human flesh burning."
Now you see why Eva Olsson gets to speak about the power of hate and the need to stop it wherever it occurs. She focuses on bullying in society when she speaks to kids in schools, the importance of not being a bystander when bad things are going down. "Evil thrives when good people stand back and let it happen," she tells them. "People must stand together to oppose evil."
I'm proud to call Eva a friend. I spoke to her on April 15th, the 75th anniversary of her liberation from Bergen-Belsen. There, overcrowding, lack of food and poor sanitary conditions had caused outbreaks of typhus, tuberculosis, dysentery, etc. which lead to the deaths of more than 35,000 people in the first few months of 1945, just before and after the liberation. Eva told me she saw Anne Frank die there, a mere two months before the troops arrived to set them free. Eva herself nearly died from typhus, but she told me she was absolutely determined NOT to die there! If she had to die, so be it, but it wouldn't be there! She's made of stern stuff.
I talked again with Eva a few days later, on April 21st, this time to recognize Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Indeed, I've also been chatting with her about a friend of mine who wants to interview her for a book about her grandfather, a member of the British and Canadian forces that liberated Bergen-Belsen. And we've talked about Dr. Stephen Smith, who I learned about from a "60 Minutes" story, who is doing work with Holocaust Survivors and the Visual History Archive in California.
So yes, for those of you frustrated because you can't socialize with your pals, take heart: this too will end. But as you have that celebratory beer to mark the occasion, I hope you'll take a moment to think of Eva Olsson who once again will be free, speaking to students, sharing her words of tolerance and the importance of avoiding bullying. It'll take more than a pandemic to clam her up!
Day 46 of the Lock-Down-Blues. Time for a little stock taking…
- I think most of us are wondering how the hell this thing came from out of nowhere, so quickly. I have friends who, back in early March, had just returned from being in Mexico for several weeks, and I invited them over for drinks so they could tell me about their adventures. That was on a Wednesday. Thursday morning, the reality hit. And I've been at home since! How'd that happen?
- Out walking my dogs this morning, a bicyclist was headed our way so we pulled to the side of the Trans Canada Trail where we trek to let him go by with lots of social distancing between us. "Happy COVID!", he called out with a genuine smile as he passed. What!? Happy COVID!? Is he nuts? But then I thought about it. You know what, that's not so bad, is it. As serious as this pandemic is, you have to keep your "happies" alive. And if that means wishing folks "Happy COVID", well, then, why the hell not!?
- Got to say I'm proud of the fact my adopted town of Midland is doing really well. Since the beginning of the outbreak, we've had just five cases of COVID-19. All travel related. Each of the victims self-isolated. The first four have overcome the virus while the fifth is well on the way to "recovered" status. You know, we’re a community with lots of seniors residences and hospices which are the locales where this virus seems to run rampant. And yet, we’re stemming the tide, dodging the bullet.
- Have to ask why Midland might be a beacon to other not-so-well-off communities? What are we doing right? Well, to begin with, people are being really serious about the 2 metre rule. When I'm walking Molly and Macy, everyone respects the others along the trail, standing aside, giving way, etc. All the people I talk to are washing their hands religiously. They're staying inside and avoiding contact with others where possible. They're avoiding touching their faces. They're ordering online and having groceries delivered. I guess we're a community that's taking this thing seriously. As a result, we're being spared.
- Mind you, some of my friends and I have been getting together in the driveway - 2 metres apart and never more than 5 of us - for a "Covid Cocktail" or a "Quarantini", just to ensure we're all still "with it".
- Man, but hasn’t this been an opportunity for jokesters, punsters, composers and singers to shine. From clever one-liners to jokes about various politicians and how they’re handling the pandemic, to knock-off songs, there's more "entertainment" skipping about the Internet than ever before. Some of it's even good! For all that, though, I can’t understand people who love to laugh at videos of people being maimed. Guess these clips making the rounds are from America's Finniest Home Videos or something like that, but I fail to see the humour of people falling down stairs, being hit by cars, slipping on the ice, walking into glass doors, etc. I do have a sense of humour, dammit! But when people are being hurt, I just can't see what's funny about that.
- My granddaughters (age 7 and 9) put on a show recently of singing and dancing and my son Zoomed me and others in so we could see it all (they’re about 2 hours away from me, and I miss being with them). It was great fun, inventive, creative and lively! Next up: a virtual piano concerto they’re planning!
- I had a birthday the other day and prepared to commemorate the event without fanfare. But my kids would have none of that. First thing in the AM, they FaceTimed me with singing Happy Birthday to kick start my day. Then presents started being delivered to the front door, including a gift basket of lovely delights and 6 iced cupcakes "in lieu of a cake". At dinner time, my son Charlie FaceTimed me again, this time with the four of them at the table and Happy Birthday signs and balloons all about, as if I was there celebrating with them. Megan even brought in a cake with candles that the girls blew out for me ("Sorry Peter, we'll have to eat it for you, but we'll be thinking about you.") Wonderful!!
- Still wondering about closing the off-leash dog park here in Midland. Was it a mistake? My two pups, Molly and Macy, so miss running around free. There's just nowhere else where they can do that so I end up taking them for several walks each day on leash, and they don't like it much. Neither do I! They want to run!
- Guess I ought to count myself lucky. I've worked from home for some time so this staying put is nothing new. I'm also retired from the marketing agency I used to run so I'm not stressed about keeping staff members working and paid or ensuring clients are happy. Count your blessings, PJ!
OK, that's all for now. Keep staying safe and remember: it’s better to be 6 feet apart than 6 feet under.
I received a message from a friend recently that featured some musings by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on the current virus crisis. His thesis is 15 or so points about what the COVID-19 virus is bringing to mind (you know, like "It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another." That kind of thing.)
Now, let's be clear: I think it’s a swell idea to consider any positive attributes that may flow from this health disaster (if, indeed, there are any). But here's the thing: I've always found it interesting how we idolize people who have excelled in one particular area… and then assume that makes them brilliant across the board. Doesn't hold water, does it?
Bill's obviously a bright guy. As you know, he and his childhood pal Paul Allen had the smarts to get together and develop a basic computer operating system, MS-DOS. They aligned themselves with IBM. And then they had their software adapted to become Windows. Both became billionaires as a result. (Paul's wealth could not help him escape an early death a couple of years ago: he died of septic shock related to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.)
While I take nothing away from Mr. Gates – indeed, another friend turned me on to the Netflix series "Inside Bill's Brain" which convinced me the man's a polymath and I do respect his brilliance – my point is that he should not necessarily, be deified and defined as brilliant about viruses. Should we accept his area of expertise being computer software, and not necessarily everything else? Sure, when you have a "bully pulpit" because of your renown, you can wax poetic on just about anything you want. After all, Donald Trump built a real estate empire (albeit, with bankrupting hotel and casino businesses of his six times!), so that makes him brilliant enough to be President of the U.S., right?
I rest my case.
I don't mean to besmirch Bill Gates. But to say, in relation to COVID-19, "Life is cyclical and this is just a phase in the great cycle. We do not need to panic; this too shall pass." is just under-selling the severity of the situation. To me, anyway.
Frankly, for my money (a buck and a quarter), it's Melinda Gates, who came from nowhere, who's the brilliant one in the family.
I'm jest sayin'…
Hi there. I've written 6 books so far and am working on others. Feel free to comment