Friday, August 28, 2009

Canada Line...a nice ride, lame name

The other day I rode the Canada Line, Vancouver’s newest rail link, and had lunch at the airport. The trip took less than 20 minutes, which is a vast improvement from a few months ago when I last went to the airport from my office. Then I had to take three buses and it took more than hour.

The Canada Line though seems like an odd choice of name. Is Canada the only country in the world that would think to name a rail line after itself? I can’t see the Mexicans building a subway line and calling it the Mexico Line, or the British calling the Heathrow Express the United Kingdom line. Or what about the Congo Line (isn’t that a dance or something)? Equally ridiculous would be a subway line called the Brunei Darussalum Line or the Equitorial Guinea Line, or the Peru Line.

Logically, it should be called the Olympic Line, as the city’s two other SkyTrain routes are aptly named the Expo Line, because it was built for Expo 86, and the Millennium Line, because it was supposed to open in 2000, though it was late by a year or so. But politics often trumps logic. And to have named it the Olympic Line would have invited the whiny Olympic naysayers to add the $2 billion price tag for the train line to the cost of hosting the Olympics. Safer instead to call it the Canada Line. Who would argue with that? A little lame I think.

When the initial plans for the rail link to the airport and Richmond were first proposed, I remember Burnaby mayor, Derek Corrigan, saying something stupid--suggesting that the RAV line (as it was known before we got all vain) is a waste of money, because the only people that will ride the train are airport workers and backpackers, everyone else will take a cab.

When I rode the Olympic Line to the airport, I did see a few backpackers and maybe even some airport workers, but I also saw people with luggage (and a throng of “transit tourists” like me). How presumptuous to assume that the only people that would be inclined to take the train into the city would be workers and backpackers.

And yes, it is possible to travel on the train with luggage. In fact, I once travelled from London’s Heathrow Airport on the Tube with my family and 11 bags of varying sizes. I remember it was 11, because as we got off of every train in the UK and the Netherlands, we counted the bags to make sure we had them all. In fact, I have taken the train to and from the airport in the following cities:

Washington DC
New York
Hong Kong
Kuala Lumpar

Sure some people will continue to take a cab from the airport. It has some very real benefits, but most travellers want to make their travel dollars go further, and as such will opt for the train. While it’s still early to trumpet the success of the Olympic Line, some taxi drivers are complaining that they are waiting longer for fares at the airport, because fewer travelers are hailing cabs, since the route opened.

Back to the train itself. On the station platform, an automated voice announced the destination of inbound and outbound trains, and signs displayed the waiting time of the next train. Large picture windows at the front of the train offered up excellent views for passengers. And as we zoomed beneath the city streets, one young girl said it was just like riding a roller coaster. And that's my kind of roller without the steep drops.

Name aside, when I arrived at the airport I thought to myself that with this one line Vancouver’s transit system had just grown up, and Vancouver itself had matured.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A stallion no more!

Like an old gelding standing in a field of green grass and wildflower, swishing the flies away with its tail, my breeding days are over. A stallion, no more.

I'm not sure what it means when your father-in-law accompanies you to get a vasectomy. I guess after knocking up his daughter twice, he'd had enough, so he dragged me to the clinic. The small waiting room was full of similarly aged men, and one woman. Perhaps a sympathetic wife. Turns out most of the guys were back for a quick follow-up check. I tried to see if they walked any differently when they left.

As Dr. Rich (an appropriate name, I suppose for a guy that has performed more than 15,000 vasectomies in the last 15 years), was looping an elastic band around my penis and clipping it to my shirt--sounds like a fraternity prank gone bad--I asked him how he got into the business of population control.

"It's a dirty business, but someone has to do it," he replied dryly.

Turns out he used to be a GP, delivery babies and the like, but I guess he delivered one too many crying baby and decided to curb that nonsense.

"The people that really need this procedure, aren't the ones that come here" he went on, "they're too busy thinking about recreation than procreation."

With the political statement aside, and penis firmly secured to my shirt, the rich doctor used his handy jet injector to penetrate (no pun intended) the scrotal skin and freeze the vas and surrounding tissue. On the ceiling above was a picture of some happy sperm swimming along with the words, sorry, boys! printed on it. At least he has a sense of humour.

After a minute or two to let the freezing take, he punctured the skin, grabbed one vas and cut it, then the other; forever severing my ability to sire any children.

"You'll smell some smoke," he said. Actually I could see it. I thought maybe he was etching his name, performed by Dr. Rich.

Then he patched up the small hole, put a few inches of gauze padding on the wound, and off I went, with my instructions to rest and a bottle of Ibuprofen.

I swear I saw the guys in the waiting room watching to see if I walked any differently.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It takes an American to expose our arrogance

Given all the jingoism that we often hear from Americans about theirs being the best country in the world, some might find it ironic that it takes an American to point out our arrogance. After a recent visit to British Columbia, David Rich, of Glendale Arizona, was gobsmacked (his words) by BC's slogan, The Best Place on Earth. And so should we all. What began as a slogan in some slick ads for Tourism BC, somehow morphed into the official provincial slogan. Who thought this was a good thing?

British Columbia is indeed a beautifully diverse place, but to suggest that it is the best place on earth smacks of a smugness that is unbecoming and embarrassing. A little humility is a good thing.

And what does the rest of the world think when they see that slogan? It's laughable and dismissive of other places, which in some cases are more beautiful than British Columbia. Ritch suggests that British Columbians who subscribe to this best place on earth nonsense (my word) may fall into the trap of being too insular, like some of his fellow Americans. And he says that they need to visit Pakistan's Karakoram Mountains, Nepal, Chile's Torres del Paine National Park or Iguazu Falls.

We've all come across braggarts in our lives, and they aren't always pleasant to be around. As a person, as a business, as a province, or a country, never believe that you're the best. You'll stop striving to be better, and everyone will pass you by. And by the time you notice, no one will want to play with you.

The sooner we get back to being Super. Natural British Columbia, the better

Friday, August 7, 2009

A dog by any other name

According to a UK analysis of 12,000 dog names, Max, Jack (no, we did not name our sons after dogs), Molly, and Charlie, and other human-sounding names are the most popular. Similar findings in North America echo this trend. One anthropologist suggested that it only natural that we (that’s the collective we) would give names traditionally reserved for humans, reflecting the new status that dogs, and other pets, have as family members.

Just 13 dogs in the U.S. Veterinary Pet Insurance database had the name Fido. And Rover, Patch, Spot, and Lassie were only nominally more popular. For the 6th consecutive year Max was the top name for a dog--at least by those purchasing pet insurance.

All of this doesn’t surprise me considering that Americans spend more than $40 billion each year on their pets. In the past all one needed was a bag of dog chow, a food dish, and a couple of squeaky toys. Now we've gotten a bit goofy with doggy spas, bottled water for dogs, organic food, clothing, and accessories. In some circles dogs have become status symbols. In China, dogs used to be food, but now in fashionable cities, such as a Shanghai, people carry about miniature dogs as a sign of their material wealth.

In a recent Maclean’s magazine article titled, The Case Against Kids, I found it interesting that one couple talked about their decision not to have children, yet they admitted to doting on their dog. A child still, just a different kind of animal.

Now back to dog names. A colleague and her husband named their little mutt, Perro, which may sound unique, but really it means DOG in Spanish. Now that’s original. And I know of someone else who named their dog, Puppy. It’s kind of like calling your kid, Human or Baby.

My wife did say that with a dog you can always send it to the Kennel if you want to go away on vacation. Can’t really do that with the kids, I suppose. Though maybe an idea for a business opportunity. We could call it a Kiddel.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Hosted by Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby, Kids Say the Darndest Things aired on television from 1996 to 2000, and was named, because, well, sometimes kids say the darndest things.

Below are a few recent examples.

At dinner the other night, my four-year old son, Jack, said with certainty, “I want to go to Chicago!” This surprised us. Not that he would like to visit another city, but because we haven’t talked much about Chicago. New York, yes, Chicago not so much. My wife then asked, “why do you want to go there?” "Because I want to know what’s there," he said, sounding very grown up. Sounds reasonable enough, I suppose.

I have a friend who has travelled extensively through the United States, and Chicago is his favourite city. Maybe we'll get there some day.

To further illustrate how Jack has picked up his parent's love of travel, my wife asked him the other week where he wanted to go this summer. "Fiji would be nice," he replied matter-of-factly. Indeed, Fiji would be nice, but I think his mother was thinking of somewhere a little closer to home.

Yesterday Jack and I went grocery shopping while his mother and brother had a nap (lucky them). As he always does when we come to the bakery section, Jack eyed up all the decorated cakes. After examining each in detail, he pointed to one and said,"I'll have that one for my 5th birthday and that one (Sponge Bob) for my 41st birthday, and I'll have a Cars cake for my 65th birthday." Wow, nothing like being organized and doing a little pre-planning. I then started doing the math, and figured that if I'm still around, I'll be 100 years old when Jack digs into that Cars cake.

As we were driving to the grocery store, I turned a corner and then heard Jack say:

"Daddy, you didn’t do the click click."

The what?

"The click, click," he said again, his voice rising.

The what? I replied in that tone that all parents have when they have no idea what their child is trying to say.

"The lever," he said, in that tone that all children have when they can't understand why their parents don't know what they are trying to say.

Right, I forget that his mother has been teaching him about levers.

Ah, the turn signal. Right, the click click. The lever. (His mother has been teaching him about levers) Of course, I forgot to put the turn signal on. It makes so much sense now.

"Yes Daddy, you forgot to do the turn signal."

Nothing like your kids keeping you honest.