Monday, July 30, 2018


Donald Trump is the focus of a lot of well deserved criticism, but another authoritarian figure has intruded closer to my home.  This past week Ontario premier, Doug Ford demonstrated that he too can force his ill informed opinions on the majority that didn't vote for him.  We were warned that  he, although believing in climate change would do away with any carbon tax and sideline some renewable resource projects, take sex education back a few decades, eliminate a $15 per hour minimum wage plus a few other retrogressive measures favored at best only by a plurality of voters. 

He failed to mention that he would use his power to change the Toronto Council.  As a former councillor himself he felt he understood it better and needed to correct a deficiency.  At the time only a few days from closing nominations for candidates and only a few months from election.    Individual commitments had been made based on existing rules and boundaries and in fact a lot of details had been formalized.  The disruption will be not only costly in monetary terms, but also in personal terms.

One commentator pointed that he not only had the legal power, but that he had the right to do so based on the election.  The election in fact only gave him a shade over 40% of the votes while three parties with the majority having many commonalities opposed to his platform.  In our first past the post election system the majority all too frequently lose their voice.  Not to get sidetracked I believe a proportionate system makes more sense and is fairer.  For those who like more thoughts on this:

One rationalization given was that with fewer councillors decisions could be made quicker.  No quarrel.  From that perspective it would be better to have a dictator.  Most dictators do seek advice as they can't be bothered with most items.  Some dictators will often ignore advice, for example Donald Trump.  Those in power tend to seek advice from those with similar philosophies and who profess loyalty.  History is full of irritating individuals who pointed out something different that eventually was recognized as better for everyone.  The more people engaged in the decision process the more understanding and commitment will result.  More thoughts on the importance of engagement:

Another rationalization was that it would save taxpayers money.  Again that could be true in many if not most cases.  Democracy is not cheap.  Aside from the expense of elections, millions have paid with their lives and their limbs.  Quick decisions are not always better or even cheaper.  Again, a dictator could help.  In more than a few cases they are better able to siphon off more than their share of cash flow.

Municipal matters have the most daily impact on citizens, but many of their concerns seem trivial.  Garbage, parking, snow removal, bus services, traffic lights and signs, librairies, recreation, schools, etc are often taken for granted, but a councillor who wants to get re-elected needs to be mindful of the details.  The details can be very demanding, and if too much for one elected official tend to be neglected.

Democracy is perhaps a mislabel.  What we really have is representative democracy.  No one person can manage all the affairs of a nation by themselves.  The average person has plenty enough to make a living and manage a household without added responsibilities of running a government.  Yes, there is a fine line between having too many decision makers and paying for them against a dictatorship.  Drawing the line requires a lot of thought and has to be reconciled with what the people really want. Mr Ford decided that he knows best and relieved the rest of us of that responsibility.  His decision that impacts literally over 3 million people was apparently made with little consultation.

Authoritarians like Donald Trump and Doug Ford like being in control and feel they know what is best.  In too many cases we let them.

The photo is of a dog fountain on Front St., Toronto which I assume must have been debated at one point.  I like it--good decision.

Friday, July 27, 2018

My Cystoscopy

Perhaps there is a bit of vanity in this post as I did survive what for many is a scary procedure.  But my motive is really to assure others that there is nothing to be afraid of.  What follows is my experience, and obviously each experience has some uniqueness.

Like many men of my age, awhile back it became quite noticeable that I was getting up multiple times to go to the bathroom each night and it became quite tiring.  Eventually I was encouraged to seek medical advice and was given a bunch of tests that assured me that I did not have cancer, but that I did have an enlarged prostrate.  I was given a referral to an urologist.

The first efforts were to try different prescriptions but they didn't seem to have any impact except for side effects.  The main effect was to make me drowsy which made me less functional both at work and at home and in between.  I also had some headaches, but I attributed them to being tired and needing new bifocals.

The original urologist moved and I opted to get another referral so I could keep my appointments within walking distance.

Dr. Marc Fischer looked over the various test results and asked a few questions.  He decided it was time to take a closer look at what might be causing my problem.  This was the first time I heard the word "cystoscopy" with an explanation.  Basically a tube with a camera is stuck up your penis.  My assumption that this would happen while anesthetized turned out to be incorrect as not worth while for such a very short examination.  On the surface it sounded pretty scary, but the doctor explained in some detail ending that most patients felt a little "disappointed" because it was relatively painless and over so quickly.  

Dr Fischer had a good sense of humor which serves him well to help relax his patients.  In his office he has a calming type of music that also helps.  An appointment for about one week away with not much time to debate.  Also a request for some more tests.  I took the tests early the next day to minimize time lost.

I checked out the location the weekend before so I wouldn't get  lost.  When the day came I drove up to the hospital before the surgical unit was open and ended up in a waiting area.  I haven't spent any time as a patient in a hospital since I was in grade 2 so the procedures were all new to me.  At the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton  everything was well organized.   I was guided to a change room and told they had two gowns--one the traditional one that is open at the back but also another one that covered your back. I was told to take off only my pants and underwear leaving me with my shoes and shirt.  My pants were where my wallet was kept, but I was given a locker to put my pants into and attached a key to my gown.

Next I found myself sitting in a comfortable chair while a nurse asked me some standard questions.  I had my blood pressure and  heart beat monitored and my temperature taken.   I had been confused about the request to come with a moderately full bladder.  It turned out they wanted me to urinate into a special bowl that measures and analyzes.  After that I was given a different sort of  ultra sound to test how thoroughly I had emptied my bladder.

A nurse led me to a surgical room and soon Dr Fischer came with his surgical clothing and humor.  I told him that I had done taken some requested tests last week and he went to check the results.  All this time he is telling me to relax and not rush.  He explained again what to expect.  Some sort of cold (but not too cold) jelly was put over my penis and somehow penetrated inside.  I was not too conscious they had inserted a tube, but the doctor warned when to expect a little extra pressure  and it was over soon.  All this time he had a screen he could look at and asked if I wanted to look at it.  My glasses had been taken off and although the nurse offered to recover them I felt it was more relaxing to leave them off and besides I wouldn't really know what I was looking at.

Fortunately the doctor did know what he was looking at and described some significant features.  He made it sound like nothing was too serious.  An option is always surgery, but Dr Fischer and the previous urologist leave that step until after they have tried prescription drugs.  Drugs can always be changed, modified or cut off, but it is more difficult to undo surgery.  I will confess that a concern of mine was if I could drink alcohol while taking a new drug prescription as the two previous prescriptions advised against it.  Dr Fischer told me that alcohol would not cause any significant side effects, but that if drunken after 6 p.m. would itself naturally encourage urination.

The actual procedure lasted less than two minutes.  I won't concede that I was disappointed, more like relieved.  Despite what I had been told I was surprised that what little pain there was and that I was immediately able to walk normally with no discomfort and no aids.

On the way home I stopped off at my pharmacist to get a prescription and was told it would take about 20 minutes.  I decided to walk around  a long block.  When I got home I ended up walking down town, about one kilometer and then back with no pain.   In the afternoon I was able make a few calls, email a few letters and sort through my data base at home.  The next day back to normal work pattern.

However I had also been warned that urinating would probably involve a burning sensation and I might even see a little blood.  I did deal with a sharp burning type of pain that lasted less than 3 seconds, but made me hesitate.  As the day wore on and I drank water as suggested the sensation lessened so that by night it was not noticed and there was no visible sign of blood.

It is too soon to assess the new prescription, but I am encouraged and confident that a solution will be found..

I wish I could say it would go as smoothly for everyone, but that wouldn't be fair.  The Juravinski Hospital is very professional and Dr Marc Fischer is very capable and confident inspiring.  Also you might have a more urgent or different prognosis.  It is better to find out sooner rather than put off the cystoscopy.

Today medicine has advanced tremendously and I suspect the future will be even better.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

World Cup 2018

Soccer, otherwise known as football really is the beautiful game, but perhaps inevitably such beauty attracts corruption. The selection of the site has a long history with bribery not unknown.  Russia is not really a major soccer power, but they wanted to show how they can put on a show.  By all accounts they did an impressive presentation.  Efforts have been made to clean it up, but I suspect it will be an ongoing battle.

A few days before the World Cup competition began it was announced that a joint bid to host the 2026 version will include Canada, United States and Mexico.  The NAFTA countries can work together for their mutual benefit.  Soccer is already strong in Mexico, but in The United States and Canada it is not quite really major league status.

Tension slowly builds.  32 teams are formed (partly seeded and mostly random) into 8 groups.  Within each group each team plays three opponents.  It sometimes is difficult to determine who will move on as only one half are left to advance.  Anyone can win the Cup even if they lose the first game, but if they lose unexpectedly or fail to score enough goals they might not advance.  Ties and goal differential count so every team is motivated to get more goals, but also to be defensive.  Games are arranged so that all four teams play at the same time for the third game so that they won't base their strategy on the results of the other two teams, such as resting key players or tightening up their defense.  The advantage of finishing first in your group is that you play the second finisher in another group, theoretically (but not always) an easier match.

For the first time in tie breaking mechanisms the nation with the fewest yellow cards advanced.  As it happened in low scoring games allowing ties, Japan and Senegal had the same number of points, the same goal differential and had tied each other, so the authorities moved to a fairness measure to decide that Japan would advance.

I was able to either watch on tv or track on computer part of most games as they happened.  Even watched part of one game in the dentist office.  Very addictive despite low scores.  Co worker rooting for Croatia.  We live in a Portuguese neighborhood and when they win they honk horns and drive around the block waving flags. Mostly favor the underdog, but love to watch outstanding players.

One good feature is that the games are spread over a month.   Initially there are four days between for any one team.  Soccer is the most physically demanding of the major team sports.  At the end the semi finals are held on the 11th.  The two losers have to play on the 14th while the better rested winners play the final game on the 15th.

In the second stage are all single knockout meaning ties do not end the game.  Overtimes and shootouts can be dramatic.  They still do not have sudden death overtime as in hockey.

It was pleasant to see Iranian women in the crowd cheering their team as back at home apparently they are still not allowed.  In the early games you could see Muslim players were recovering from their Ramadan fasting.

Technology is further helping to resolve difficult situations with VAR (Video Assistant Referee)  It has been used to determine if there was enough contact to award a penalty.  Goal line is sometimes needed to determine if the ball crossed.  Offsides can be very difficult to determine, but obviously important to decide if a goal should be allowed.  The technicians are rotated like the on-field officials and national conflict avoided.

Low scoring games may seem boring, but if you get to appreciate the skills involved there is much to get excited about.  Trapping, dribbling, tackling, defensive steals, precise passing and blocks and spectacular goalie saves.  My primary sports interest is basketball where there is a lot more scoring.  Each goal in soccer is precious and often bought with long term persistent effort.  On the other hand if you appreciate defense there is even more skill involved in both (all) sports.  Some views on defense from a basketball perspective.

In the early stages there were a number of own goals.  Some of them decisive for a game (which also means for advancing or not).   Bad luck and tragedies play a role in life.  I recall my son stretching out to stop a shot on goal and ended up deflecting it in during a playoff game.  In the World Cup were examples of a player extending themselves in what could have been an heroic stop, but ended up losing a game.  Still somebody did something to make it possible.  One particularly sad one was a veteran Russian defender pushing away a Spanish attacker inadvertently diverted shot into his own net.  Apparently he was the oldest player to score in World Cup.  Croatia had an own goal in the final making a total of 12 own goals.

Injury time seems to be unique to soccer.  The clock is stopped during injuries for other sports.  The injury time is to some some extent at the discretion of the referee.  I noticed one reference to "stoppage time" which would supposedly include set up time between goals, substitutions, VAR consulting and the occasional distraction.

Added in July 16/18:  One distraction was provided in the second half of the final when four demonstrators invaded the pitch and one of them high-fived Kylian Bappe, later awarded the best young player of the tournament.  Mildly amusing, but later learned they were representing Pussy Riot and  were protesting the Russian clampdown on democracy.  Thank goodness someone had the guts and the smarts to protest.

African/Asian teams (non Europe or Latin America) were eliminated by the end of the semi finals.    Japan did make it to the 16 and had the lead and only surrendered with the very last kick

The final four were all European--usually South American teams are more prominent.   Three of the four teams were colonizers which in turn meant many of their former subjects immigrated.  All three had critical players that originated themselves or their parents in the former colonies.  One commentator suggested that Britain for one had an integrated team, but parts of Britain was rejecting the idea.   The French team is mostly connected to Africa and play African music while traveling and in locker room.

Germany,  Argentina, Portugal, Spain exited early.  Because of the upsets it may seem that the two best teams are not the ones who meet in the final.  Some might say Brazil vs Belgium or Belgium vs France were the best teams.  One thing you can be sure of is that the two finalists have beaten some very tough teams and had that all important element of luck on their side.

Home town Russians were a surprise as they weren't expected to get out of group play.

Some (me) would say the final should have been the match between France and Belgium, but seeding is very complex and to be honest if you shake up the dice a little differently you might get an entirely different result. There is a time constraint that dictates the format.

France showed whey they deserved to win but Croatia put up a great display.  Their first goal in the final was one of the best.

There is an awful lot to take in so I welcome any comments from those who saw something different.