April 23rd 2003
Every so often we get a “storm warning” broadcast on the local media.
This falls into two categories. That of the “normal” storm, and then there is the “winter” storm. The winter storm obviously heralding the arrival of snow or ice rain. Lot and lots of it!
There is however the small point of interest as to what constitutes a storm warning.
Normally you get wild hysteria about a storm warning which turns to out to be a damp squib!
Lightning that wouldn't even raise an eyebrow on the Highveld, thunder that can be drowned out by the dog's farts and not enough rain to let the ladybugs have a full bath for a change! In other words a normal rainstorm.
Those of you who have lived through the normal summer afternoon thunderstorms up in the Transvaal will be amused at what passes for lightning and thunder here in Ontario. The last time I heard a “lightning” storm warning I was waiting to see what transpired when I realised that the flash of light that I thought was a traffic camera at the intersection was in fact the lightning. The only reason that I twigged this was because there was another flash shortly afterwards, followed by what sounded suspiciously like a train passing but which I later worked out to be thunder.
In other words this wouldn't have made anyone stop braaing never mind go inside!
I will admit that having lived on the highveld for a while I have probably become blasé about what constitutes a true “storm” and shouldn't really be unkind to the locals when they start to panic.
So having this blasé attitude and cynical outlook, thanks to my past experiences when the warnings were broadcast, it came as a bit of a surprise last week to get hit, and hit hard, with an “ice rain warning” that was really understated for what took place later.
For most of the week we had been told that ice rain was on its way. This wasn't really sent out as a true warning until maybe Wednesday night and it was for Thursday.
Ice rain is an interesting phenomenam. It is a cross between snow and hail and while it lasts as long as a snow storm it also comes down like millions of miniature hailstones.
In the end it builds up on the ground and looks like snow but is much more treacherous. Depending on quite a few factors you get a thick layer of ice on the whole snow/ice bank which is extremely slippery when walking and downright dangerous when driving.
There were hundreds of accidents in the first night.
On the Friday there was supposedly a lull in the weather before we had another ice storm hit us. Which was fine by me. I had to drive to St.Catherines to pick up my son and this break was at just the right time for the trip!
Like all good weather forecasters they were just a little off so that when I set off it was already coming in, in fits and starts. It was also Friday afternoon when the traffic toward the US starts to pick up so that there is even more out on the highway.
On the way there most of the accidents seemed to have occurred on the Toronto bound side of the highway. We had the odd slow area but for the most part it was smooth at least.
Until the Burlington Skybridge that is.
This was where an interesting slalom of cars, trucks and ice slicks began to add an exciting aspect to the drive!
Just past the Skybridge at the Centennial Parkway off ramp a truck did a slow jackknife ballet in front of me and proceeded to block all three lanes of the highway totally!
Total chaos as the traffic began to back up. Up and over the bridge as well.
It was a half hour before I could get off the ramp there.
At the light at the next on ramp I noticed that most of the traffic was going straight along the slip road while there appeared to be no traffic on the highway. A few of us took the opportunity to get back on the highway and for a few minutes at least we had a reasonably unimpeded and fairly fast drive.
Which is when we discovered why most of the other traffic had gone for the slip road instead.
They had obviously seen the snow ploughs getting onto the highway as well and were trying to by pass them as fast as possible.
Unfortunately everyone had the same idea and so the service roads were choc-a-bloc full of people backed up at traffic lights.
We however were still going forward. Very slowly. Very, Very slowly!!
I am certain that they wait for this type of day so that they can drive four abreast at 20 kilometres per hour laughing at all the fools they have strung out for miles behind them.
These machines work with the plough in the fast lane being out in front and plowing the snow to the inside lane. The next truck is positioned at the rear of the first truck in the middle lane and plows the snow onto the slow lane where the next plow, slightly astern of this one plows it into the emergency lane, where the last plow supposedly sends it all onto the kerb.
I think they also have a perverse need to plough the snow/ice to the right side so that when there is an exit it is covered with a good four-foot bank of freshly ploughed snow!
Every exit that I passed for miles had a huge bank of ice that made getting off the road almost impossible.
This normally has a 4x4 stuck in it where some fool has believed the adverts for their particular make and had decided that following tracks is for wimps - lets try the big bank eh!? I actually saw not one but three 4x4's get stuck doing that!
Not to mention the one fool who launched himself into the air and over the bonnet of a car who had taken the wise action of going along the only tracks earlier. It was one of those times when you can see this taking place, you know what is going to happen and yet you cannot do anything about it so you just have to watch with a sort of morbid fascination as the whole stupid act unfolds before you!
It's a pity that money can buy you everything except intelligence!
So from Centennial Parkway to Jordan Harbour took me two hours. A trip that normally takes half an hour. In fact the whole trip from home to Brock University took three hours.
And the same to get back. Although this time I at least had someone to talk to.
He did not need to keep me awake either.
There is nothing like terror to keep you awake and alert at the wheel!
Next time I may just take these warnings a bit more seriously.
April 16th 2003
The current hysteria in Toronto about SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome to give it its full title, is puzzling to say the least.
Last year 13 people died and thousands were infected here in Ontario with West Nile Virus
A virulent virus that mainly seems to affect the aged and young.
Aside from a few articles about West Nile there was nowhere nearly as much terror as there is currently gripping the Greater Toronto area.
And most of Southern Ontario for that matter.
Actually given that Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S, have handed out travel advisories, maybe that should read the rest of the world as well. These travel advisories inform travelers that there is SARS in Toronto and unless they really need to go to Toronto they should avoid coming here!
So to start off perhaps we should point out that at the moment six people have died of SARS here in Canada. Yes they are all in Toronto and there are also 129 cases of SARS reported, but let's go back to that West Nile Virus for a moment and then ask why the hysteria is suddenly so acute?
It just seems strange that's all.
I will admit though, that I believe the very quick action of the local health authorities has contained what could have been a potentially far worse outbreak.
That they acted so quickly is commendable.
Hospitals were quarantined. As were people who had been in contact with other infected persons. Including hospital workers and as many coworkers as possible.
And a campaign to inform the local populace about what SARS is, how you get it, and what the symptoms are, was in place and in the media within days.
Which is probably why the level of hysteria increased as well.
For all my remarks on how few people are involved, Canada has the third highest infection and fatality rate in the world at the moment!
Given that this has all taken place within a week or so it is certainly not an infection to be trifled with.
Still it is strange to see so many people wearing facemasks to work on the trains and subway or even while walking in the city.
Torontonians are particularly prone to panicking in a big way. Which means that there was a run on surgical masks throughout the city.
This being Toronto there was also the usual marketeering taking place with the price of a box of these masks rising from the normal $20 or so to $30 or $40 or even higher in some cases. The wonders of a capitalist system sometimes!!
The really sad thing though is that despite all the advice on hygiene, I still notice people coughing without covering their mouths and, even worse, spitting all over the place.
Given that this is particularly prevalent amongst the Chinese community, and that this is where SARS started, I am very interested to see whether any form of education on this aspect will ever take place.
Perhaps for the first time Torontonians will overcome their dread at having to address a “cultural issue” and actually point out that spitting is NOT tolerated in Western society!
Don't count on it though, because I was astonished to hear a nurse actually state that they couldn't admonish anyone for spitting because it is “part of the cultural heritage”!!!
Quite cheerfully “Cultural Heritage” se moer when it comes to life and death!!
Which is why I pointed out to a young guy sitting next to me in a meeting yesterday that I would appreciate him actually covering his mouth when he needed to hawk up the copious quantity of phlegm that apparently infested his throat.
Although to be honest I didn't quite put it that way!
He did get the gist of my meaning though!
SARS started in the Guangdong Province of China and seems to have spread to Hong Kong and Singapore, which are the three areas other than Canada that have had the most problems.
Apparently the first person to get the disease in Toronto was in Hong Kong on a seminar and picked up the disease there. Once back in Canada friends and family were infected and then, when he was hospitalized, some of the staff and, latterly, other patients, and even visitors, contracted it.
This led to the closure of two hospitals and, in a case of supreme stupidity, that of a third when one of the victims was transferred to a different hospital.
When the local Health Authorities started putting people into quarantine for 10 days at a time it also led to the hysteria that I have mentioned.
Here in Ontario we have Telehealth Ontario, which is a phone in help line womanned by Nurses who provide advice to patients. The lines were jammed by everyone who had a cough, or had been within two miles of a Chinese person!!
Given that the authorities were particularly good at tracking down all those who may have come into contact with suspected cases it was a bit silly for people from as far away as Sault St Marie to panic.
And the symptoms were clearly spelt out as well:
Muscle aches and pains, severe fatigue, severe headache, dry cough and shortness of breath.
Which when coupled with a visit to China, or one of the Hospitals, or contact with one of the infected people, meant you may have SARS.
Otherwise you most probably didn't!
But try telling that to people who won't let their children play barefoot in case they pick up an infection!
Personally I am hoping that when this whole outbreak is contained and eradicated, that the Health Authorities will do something about the whole hygiene aspect.
I would like to see far more education in schools and communities taking place about spitting and the need to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze.
They could do no better than to start with those bloody baseball players!
April 5th 2003
By the time you read this the war in Iraq may, or may not, be over. I don't know!
Well actually I do know. I don't think it will be over at all.
Nor will the political fall out that has occurred as a result of the actions of many here in Canada.
It's not that the Canadian Government is necessarily wrong in keeping Canada out of fighting on the side of the coalition forces. It is merely the way they have gone about it. Or rather the lies, deceit and anti-American hatred that has emanated from various members of the Government as they dance on eggs trying to placate all and sundry.
It became apparent fairly early on as the deadline drew near that Canada was divided on the issue of war in Iraq. I would put that division at roughly fifty percent at the time.
Of course a poll undertaken on behalf of the Government found that almost three quarters of the Canadian electorate were against an American invasion.
Suspiciously convenient that finding.
Especially when it appears to have been mainly done in Quebec. Not to mention the interesting way that the questions were worded. Rather like asking someone if they had stopped beating their spouse! You can make whatever facts you want when you load the questions.
Of course while everyone was waiting to see what the Americans would do, one of the Liberal geniuses in Parliament opens her mouth and utters that famous remark: “Damn Americans! I hate those bastards!”
When this is reported, and the anticipated furore occurs, she then has the unmitigated cheek to blame the press. Standard Liberal tactics apparently. That and the belief that they can get away with this type of action.
Well actually they can! Because she wasn't censured at all! Apparently a Liberal MP can insult a nation and our Prime Minister sees nothing wrong with that!
After the war had begun we have one of the Ministers opening his fat yap to make a comment about Bush not being a “Statesman”. Apparently the irony and hypocrisy in that
statement passed him by completely!
As did any form of censure again!
Chretien becoming fairly conspicuous by his absence whenever one of his morons suffers foot-in-mouth disease!
His smug announcement that Canada was not going to support their former allies was met with the honking approval of the trained seals behind him in the House. It was nauseatingly embarrassing to watch the puppets applauding en masse on the Government benches like that.
When challenged on his actions, Chretien thundered on about “being a Sovereign nation” and not much else. And the sheep bleated in unison.
Personally I agree with him about keeping Canada out of the war. For two reasons.
The first being that I just don't think it was right! Yet!
I just feel that there is something wrong about why the need to invade now. Ironically I do believe that something must be done to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. A typical dichotomy of most people in this country!
The second is because Chretien and his cronies have so decimated the once proud Canadian Military that it would be embarrassing to send over what amounts to a rundown ill equipped force. No matter how much pride and élan they might have.
It was bad enough that HMS Iroquois had to return to Halifax when the Sea King helicopter crashed on take off a few days out to sea. This ship supposedly going to the Gulf to run anti terrorism operations. Of course the Sea King is the helicopter that was supposed to be replaced by the Mulroney Government and which was scrapped by the Liberals. Now flying death traps they soldier on with no replacement in sight.
In fact the joke doing the rounds at the moment is that in fact the Americans turned down the initial Canadian offer of military assistance because they felt that a goose, canoe and two beaver did not constitute an Army, Navy and Air Force
So Chretien took great pride in standing up and telling Canada that he was sending troops to Afghanistan to aid in the war against terror but not in the War against Iraq.
And of course the trained seals honked and clapped!
But the most interesting part of the whole circus in Parliament Hill has been the revelation that actually Canada has got troops and equipment taking part in the war.
In fact even unofficially Canada has the fourth largest contingent of troops actively involved in the Iraq theatre.
Not bad for a country that has told everyone that they are morally superior to those “American Bastards” and won't get involved in their war!
This, of course has led to all sorts of typical Liberal flip-Flopping, retractions and that good old Liberal standby: “the actual explanation “!!
Seems that they aren't there except in an unofficial category on “loan” or as part of a “swop”. Even better is that the three Canadian warships currently in the Gulf, and incidentally in command of a task force there, are “not searching for Saddam and any of his henchmen trying to escape” but only” searching for terrorists”!!
Even Canadians are having a hard time swallowing that one!
Sadly the major effect of the imbecilic actions of Chretien and his cronies has been a schism between the United States and Canada.
When the Ambassador stands up and makes some pointed remarks about “friend” and being “hurt by the way Ottawa has acted” you know that that the US Government is really pissed off!!
Of course the trained seals barked their disapproval. The far left wing bigots in the NDP demanded he be expelled! Even Chretien looked hurt that the insults and opprobrium of his sheep should produce such a result.
After all Canada is a sovereign nation and can be as hypocritical as they like. Just don't point that out to them.
But the most disgusting part of all this is that I still have to hear an unequivocal, clear condemnation of Saddam Hussein and his tyranny.
That says a lot more about the current Government than anything else.!