Happy Birthday To Me

Well, here I am making it to seventy-one years old.

Considering my life experiences and my health issues it’s a bit of a surprise that I made it this far. I’m becoming more aware of my own mortality given that my Dad made it to eighty-one and my mum made it to eighty-four. I don’t feel like I have a lot of time left and this virus situation sure isn’t making it any better. 

As I’ve done in posts before on my birthday I reflect on my life such as it is. Before writing this post I read some of my earlier birthday posts and it seems like I’m always in some turmoil and not very happy. In a way I wish I had been able to start this website earlier in life. Maybe I would have been able to have some happier thoughts. 

Getting old isn’t great but at least it’s a privilege denied to many so I need to be thankful. I hate that I am alone and I’m still suffering from losing my fiancée in Mexico because she was certainly my true love. If I reflect back to before the breakup it was a time I could not have been happier. I was so thrilled to being able to stay in Mexico, get married to a girl that I adored and live happily ever after.  That sure all fell apart and nearly killed me.

Living back in the transitional home I was in before is a giant step backwards. I think back to all the homes I’ve owned in my life and the many great places I’ve lived in Canada and various countries, some better than others, but all of them better than this place. I’ve been hoping that I will at least manage to get a place of my own but despite being on the emergency housing list it can take a very long time to get something. Even if I find a place of my own it will mean staying in Belleville, the last place I ever wanted to be. 

No shortage of health issues right now. I still haven’t managed to find a doctor and it looks like that might take at least a year. Not great when you are diabetic. The coating on my years old glasses started breaking up back in Mexico and has only gotten worse. Trying to work on my computer fourteen hours or more each day has become very difficult and my eyes are very sore and tired. I did recently go to an optometrist here and my new glasses will be about ten days so that’s progress.

My years old bridge did finally fall out and that has left me with no front teeth. Eating is a real challenge. My photo face mask is now doing double duty because I still had teeth in the photo that’s on the mask. I have been approved under the new Ontario Seniors Dental Plan for all the work I need, so that’s great. It will still be about two months before I get my dentures and have teeth again.

I was first diagnosed with diabetes back in 2004 and I’ve sure had some challenges with it over the years. I collapsed in Ecuador with low blood sugar. I collapsed in Progreso and was rushed to the hospital. When I was on my way back to Canada I collapsed in the airport in Cancun and was rushed to the airport doctor. Nearly missed my flight to Toronto. When I finally got back to Belleville I spent five days in the hospital because my blood sugar was out of control. My sugars have been okay recently and I’m using the new FreeStyle device so I don’t need to prick my finger all the time now. Much better.

My mental health is not so great. If you’ve been following my life you know that I came all too close to ending it all twice. Once when my fiancée dumped me, and once when everything fell apart on me in Mexico. After getting dumped so shockingly I wanted to just swim out in the lake far enough to not make it back. When I lost one of my pensions, was running out of my meds and the landlord from hell put my rent up two thousand pesos a month, something I could not possibly afford, I wanted to just take the sleeping pills and lay down in my bed. The move to Chelem then being forced to come back to Canada have proved to be even worse. 

So it is far from a happy birthday this year. I can only hope that I manage to hang on and that my next birthday will be much brighter.  

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LottoMax

Some time ago, pre-virus, I had the most detailed dream about winning 50 million on the LottoMax. Obviously I hoped that after thirty-nine years of playing the same number but not winning a dime my dream would turn out to be a premonition, not just a dream. In my dream not only did I win but I had incredibly detailed things that I did after winning, all of which were based in the realities of my life.

Every time that the LottoMax shows as fifty million I rush to buy a ticket, and some times, tickets. Again tonight is fifty million so I bought my regular, so far useless, number and four more just in case. I thought if I won it would make for an amazing story that I had predicted winning in my dream so I thought that I better record it before winning or no one would believe me, so here goes, again pre-virus.

First was collecting my money. I lived in Belleville and had to go to the lottery office in Toronto so I called a local limo company, told them that I needed to go to Toronto to collect my cheque and that I would pay them as soon as I deposited the money. Off I went the same day. In my interview with the lottery corp I remembered the lady who won many years ago and in the interview she referred to her recently divorced husband and said "sucks to be you". I had the same thoughts when it came to my kids who abandoned me years ago, my daughter, Heather, twenty-seven years ago. Hasn't contacted me since and I have no idea why. I connected briefly with my son, Christopher, back in 2009, but not since. I did think that my five grandchildren hadn't done anything so they would certainly get something, mainly to help with university when they came of age. 

When I came back to Belleville when I went to the bank (BMO) to deposit my big cheque I asked for a money order for a hundred thousand dollars payable to All-Together Housing who have helped me so much over the years. I had spent many hours working in their office on Victoria Street when I lived there so my memories of meeting with Bob Cottrell, the President, were very clear. He was very happy. 

Next I found a corporate jet company near the airport in Toronto and booked a flight to Kelowna for the next day. I arranged the trip with the same limo company because I was going to pay them for the trip to Toronto, along with a generous tip. When I arrived in Kelowna I had booked a penthouse suite at the Delta Grand Hotel on the waterfront.

After checking in I contacted a Facebook friend who I had chatted with offering her a job if I won the lottery and she had agreed. She's a gorgeous blonde so there was more to it than just the job offer. She responded agreeing to meet me at the hotel. We had coffee and I offered her fifty thousand dollars a year if she worked for me, but I made sure that she understood that I meant really full-time. She would have to travel with me everywhere and be my personal assistant. I knew that she was divorced and had kids but they were older so she would need to find care for them when she travelled with me. I even remember that I told her that I expected her to dress in business attire, not jeans and a halter top, because she would be meeting with business people on my behalf and with my friends. 

For my many, many friends that I made in the fourteen years that I lived in the Okanagan I called the local BMO branch and told them that I wanted fifty envelopes each with ten thousand dollars in hundred dollar bills in them. Then I booked one of the large conference rooms at the hotel for the following Saturday night. Somehow I also booked one of my favourite bands, the Foster Martin Band, offering them twenty grand to play my party. Then I did a post on Facebook telling anyone who knew me to contact a new email address about an upcoming party. Then I had my new assistant track down and contact every one of my friends that she could find, get their address and telling them that a limo would be picking them up for the party at the Grand, and that they would get a nice gift when they came. Everyone accepted, but asked what this was about? I told her not to tell them. Just come and they would find out.

My dream got a little weird at this point because I also had her track down some very famous actresses that I liked. First was Teri Hatcher for whom the invite included her teenage daughter, Emerson, offering her ten thousand dollars in addition to paying for her flights plus a week at the hotel for her and her daughter. Next was Sally Field who I always wanted to marry. I knew she was single and hoped for more with her. Next was Melissa Benoist, who plays Super Girl. Then there was Diane Lane, yet another woman I fantasized about marrying. Quite fittingly there were no men invited. Wonder why? 

The night of the party came and everyone was curious as to what was going on. They also wondered why there was a security card standing next to a bunch of envelopers piled on a table beside the stage? With great fanfare my assistant announced my arrival. I'm not real clear on what time of year this all was but I think it was summer. All I know is that I was wearing a new powder blue suit so it must have been summer. The band was on stage behind me and I may have embarrassed them a little when I asked if I could play the drums with them in a song? No answer, although I doubted that I could drum anyway.

After the usual hellos I thanked them for coming and knew they all wondered what this was about. First I introduced my special actress guests, telling them to give them space and not to bug them for autographs, but that they were willing to take photos with them later. I then told them that I had won the fifty million dollar LottoMax and that was what the party was about. But there was more. I called out the name of my first, and best, friend, Wade Silver and asked him to come to the stage. I gave him a hug and one of the envelopes that were beside the stage. I asked him not to open the enveloper until I said so. Then one by one I announced the name of each of my friends and gave them an envelope, again telling them not to open it. When all the envelopes were given out I asked Wade to come back on the stage. I again warned everybody not to open their envelopes for security reasons, but to write their names on the envelopes if the names were not already printed on them and give the envelopes back to the security guard so that they could dance, eat later and enjoy the party. I asked Wade to open his envelope and tell everyone what it was and how much was in the envelope, which he did, to delighted gasps from the crowd. My twisted sense of humour came out when I told the crowd that their envelopes could have much less money or be stuffed with blank sheets of paper, again to gasps but not happy ones. After the laughter subsided I told them that I was kidding and that they all got ten grand. The reason it was in cash was so that they did not have to pay tax on it which they would have if I gave them cheques. The security guard would give them their envelopes when the limos arrived to take them safely home. I also told them that I had booked a number of rooms if they wanted to stay. My assistant had told them to come prepared if they wanted to stay free in the hotel. 

That's pretty well where the dream ended. Since the night of the dream I've added a lot of things I would do now, such as fund the projects in Mexico that I detailed on my website, JustADollar.com.mx. I planned to buy a house in Ajijic, Mexico and one in Kelowna, figuring that I would spend the winters in Mexico. My buddy, Wade, has his marine certification so I planned to get some sort of big party boat, better than the monster one he owned for a time, so we could all party on the lake all summer. I would also try to resurrect my affordable housing project, Heritage Homes, that I had worked so hard on, but that Rich Coleman, the provincial housing Minister at the time, had destroyed. I would invest five million dollars of seed money to encourage the others to invest as they had agreed originally.

I would hopefully also find somewhere to build one of the homes that I designed. I also hoped that the land on the far side of the lake was still available to build the four housing units I had planned back when I was in the Okanagan. One of the units in each was for Wade, Mike and me back when we were all single. The one on the beach was all for vacation rentals. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now if only my dreams could come true.       

  


COVID - Central Canada's nightclub king scrambles to salvage his empire as social distancing pulverizes profits

Premium content Vanmala Subramaniam, Postmedia News Published: a day ago Updated: 22 hours ago

Within the first 48 hours of Canada slipping into a pandemic-induced lockdown, Charles Khabouth had to close more than 20 bars, clubs and restaurants he owns in Toronto and Montreal, lay off 2,600 employees, pull the plug on multiple construction projects and cancel some of the most popular summer festivals in both cities.

He alternates between sounding stunned, dejected and hopeful when talking about the plight of Ink Entertainment, a company he founded 36 years ago that has, to a large extent, been responsible for crafting the sleek, exclusive, corporate-but-fun, ritzy-but-arrogant vibe of Toronto’s entertainment and clubbing districts.

“Shocking, sad, draining, straining: I don’t have a good adjective for this, let’s put it that way,” he said over the phone from his penthouse unit in Bisha Hotel, the company’s “crown jewel” in downtown Toronto that opened just two years ago.

“We’ve been moving very fast lately, we’ve had a lot of projects in the works and for that to come to a halt in just a few days is just sad. I’m sad.”

In an attempt to gain some respite from the dark cloud hanging over his entertainment empire, Khabouth has kept one of his properties open: French Made, a high-end coffee shop of sorts attached to Bisha that has now morphed into a takeout-only restaurant, the business model hundreds of other restaurants are clinging to in the hope that they’ll somehow miraculously survive the coronavirus lockdown.

“I wanted to keep French Made open for my mental health and just to have some sort of activity in the building where I live so I don’t feel so depressed,” he said. “Honestly, the cafe is not making money, because we have to pay for labour, supplies, things like that … but I just wanted to leave some life in the building.”

For a company whose entire identity, ethos and business model is built around mingling, mandatory social distancing is effectively a death sentence, and if a company such as Ink Entertainment that has several diverse revenue streams — bars, clubs, restaurants, festivals and a hotel — is bleeding out, the pandemic is likely even more crippling and far-reaching for the hospitality sector than many thought already.

Khabouth’s first love is nightclubs. He grew up in them, built a number of them from scratch during the past three decades, and still owns some of the most popular ones: Dragonfly in Niagara Falls, Rebel in Toronto and its summertime counterpart Cabana Pool Bar.

He has also been innovative over the years in turning them into versatile spaces — Rebel can be a club, wedding venue, concert venue and corporate gathering spot, all in one week, he said — but they are first and foremost traditional clubs, home for those who get a thrill out of dance, loud music and closeness.

It’s impossible not to feel that clubby overtone even at some of Khabouth’s restaurants, such as Patria, Kost, Byblos and Weslodge, to name a few. Some of them turn into club-like dance spots after dinner. In the pre-pandemic days, you would have to plan weeks in advance to get a Friday night reservation at any one of Ink Entertainment’s establishments.

What now though in an era when two people can’t be within two metres of each other?

“Nightclubs are gone. Gone. One million per cent. Until a vaccine is found. Maybe,” Khabouth said. “You cannot space people out in a nightclub. That’s not a nightclub. I can’t make little cubes six feet apart, get people to pay a cover charge, then tell them to go and stand in a cube. No, no, it just doesn’t work.”

Nightclubs are gone. Gone. One million per cent. Until a vaccine is found. Maybe

Charles Khabouth
Khabouth won’t fully disclose the extent to which his business is suffering, beyond that it has been a financially draining two months, but the casualties are quickly piling up in the restaurant and bar space and spreading beyond just independent or small-business owners.

This week, American restaurateur David Chang of Momofuku fame announced he had to permanently close two of his New York restaurants. In Toronto, Murphy said that he’s been fielding calls from both restaurant owners “handing in their keys” and landlords struggling to find new tenants to set up shop in even the most sought-after parts of the city.

Anthony Oliver, chief executive of Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality Inc., which owns almost 40 restaurants and event spaces in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton, said he’s had to lay off 3,500 employees and his revenue has dropped by about 98 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

“If a business like mine and a business like Charles’ can’t survive, I don’t know who can,” he said. “The (Restaurants Canada) data says that 70 per cent of restaurant owners say their business is not going to be able to make it through this. I say it’s going to be more like 90 per cent.”

In the five weeks ending April 7, the full-service restaurant space across Canada lost $2 billion in restaurant sales and 200 million customer visits, according to data by market researcher The NPD Group. Delivery channel orders, however, grew by 22 per cent in March, compared to a year prior.

“We can’t make money just with delivery. We can make some money. But that’s not the experience we are here to give,” Khabouth said. “We want people to come in, gather, socialize and have fun in our beautiful restaurants, bars. That’s the company I built.”

Khabouth has spent the past few weeks on various Zoom calls with his 30-odd remaining employees. He has laid off 98 per cent of his staff, but plans to begin rehiring when Ontario’s reopening plans become clearer. As of now, with a case-rate curve that is barely flattening, the province is maintaining its ban on gatherings of more than five people until at least June 2.

One summer idea percolating is turning Cabana Pool Bar, a Vegas-esque day club at Toronto’s Polson Pier, into a large, fancy restaurant. With 65,000 square feet of outdoor space, Cabana could be reconfigured to seat 450 people, each table six to eight feet apart. As a regular day club, it can house up to 3,000 people.

“We’ll open seven days a week. Everybody will book in advance, and we’ll take people’s information in full when they come in. Then we’ll know, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., for instance, who is sitting at the immediate tables around you,” Khabouth said. “Everything will be done in a safe manner.”

Cabana’s only real competitor in Toronto is the much smaller Lavelle, which sits on the rooftop of a downtown Toronto condo building and has been converted into a day club of sorts. There’s a reason for that lack of competition: the profit margins on day clubs are razor thin, given that they are only open for four months of the year, at most.

“Last year, we spent $1 million to reopen Cabana. Everything gets beaten up by the snow and the ice, so you have to fix your wood, redo your pools. I bring all my plants in on an 18-wheeler from Miami because we really beautify the space with the best greenery,” Khabouth said. “Obviously, we can’t do that this year.”

In normal times, the festivals and concerts organized by Ink Entertainment would more than offset the cost of running a vanity project such as Cabana. Khabouth said his company rakes in tens of millions of dollars each year from sponsorship money and festivals (VELD, Dreams and Solaris are a few of the big ones), creating thousands of both permanent and temporary jobs in the process.

But festivals, along with nightclubs, are perhaps the last entertainment options that will return in the foreseeable future. South Korea had the counter-productive experience of allowing nightclubs to open up as soon as it believed it had the virus under control, only to discover one super-spreader, who visited five different clubs in a night, had infected close to 11,000 people.

The only real source of revenue companies such as Ink have for the next few years will come from restaurants, even though they will operate at less than capacity.

Khabouth is somewhat okay with that idea, given his portfolio of properties has over the years moved towards the high-end restaurant and bar space and away from nightclubs.

He admits there were “one or two sick babies” in his collection of restaurants even prior to the pandemic, and that he has “left no stone unturned” in terms of figuring out which spots to keep open or which ones he’ll have to hand in the keys on.

“You’re asking me how long we can go on for, as a business, and I just don’t know,” he said. “It depends on so many things. How much is the city going to help us? Are they going to be lenient on taxes? Are landlords going to be nicer?”

In the meantime, he has stopped paying rent on all his spaces, simply because he barely has an income.

“I’m a tenant in all of my properties, so I’m dealing with landlords,” he said. “Some amicably, some through legal channels.”

Ink Entertainment does not qualify for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program announced by the federal government in April because it generates more than $20 million in annual revenue. It is a point of annoyance for Khabouth, who otherwise approves most of the other government support programs, especially the wage subsidy.

“Some of the policies are great, and some sound better than they actually are,” he said.

For the hottest neighbourhoods in downtown Toronto, commercial rents have skyrocketed of late, said Stephen Murphy a longtime realtor and investor in the restaurant and bar industry.

Murphy has helped negotiate leases for many of Khabouth’s restaurants and estimates that rent in the most lucrative intersections (for instance, the clubbing heart of King and Portland streets) prior to the pandemic could be as much as $100 per square foot per month.

“Leases are being renegotiated all over the place right now,” he said. “That’s going to plunge by maybe even 50 per cent.”

It adds up then, that after labour, rent is Khabouth’s biggest cost.

“Three months rent could be about $2.5 million for me,” he said. “Where am I going to get that with zero income?”

Three months rent could be about $2.5 million for me. Where am I going to get that with zero income?

Charles Khabouth
Over the past few years, Ink has also expanded internationally, including four restaurants in Miami that were all about to open before the pandemic hit. One possible avenue for companies such as Ink is to move away from jurisdictions that are slow to reopen or struggling to gain control over the pandemic, but it’s tough all over at the moment.

“Miami is not in a better place than Toronto, I can tell you that,” Khabouth said. “That city relies on tourism and there’s only so much money locals will spend.”

But he’s adamant that those four Miami restaurants — Byblos and Amal are two that already have existing branches in Toronto — will open up in 2020, because Ink has heavily invested in the city, and he still sees “big opportunities” down south.

“I checked the weather and it’s 31 degrees down there right now. Look at it here,” he said.

Nevertheless, his heart is set on expanding the Bisha Hotel brand, which he calls a lifestyle hotel. Indeed, two imposing golden lion statues flank the entrance of the hotel, which feels like you’re walking into a club, including bouncers to boot. Unlike a traditional hotel bar, Khabouth has Mister C, Bisha’s club-like lobby bar which is almost always noisy and at capacity.

He tells a rather amusing tale of how his staff simply could not figure out how to lock the towering gold and black doors of the hotel when they were forced to shut down, because those doors had literally never been closed since it opened two years ago.

“Bisha is never closed. We have our bar, restaurant, it’s a residence too and we have about 100 rooms,” he said. “Our revenue in that building is split 50-50 between food and beverage and the hotel itself. So I want to expand that concept, build out the Bisha brand.”

Then reality sets in, and Khabouth admits it might take years for any of his pre-pandemic growth plans to bear fruition.

“2020 is a write-off,” he said. “I’ve never been for this kind of shutdown because Canada’s (virus) numbers are not that high. I’m not saying I blame the government for doing this, we have to be careful,” he said. “But it’s time we try to come back before we have a complete breakdown of people’s mental, emotional and financial health.”

Financial Post


Has the business world just gone stupid?

Remember the great line from the 1976 movie Network - “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”  Over forty years ago and it's still just as relevant today, maybe even more so. The new frustrations of dealing with various businesses seems to suggest that they are all being run by idiots now or, in fact, no one with any semblance of a brain is in charge. The days of visionary CEOs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have given way to leaders whose only concern is the almighty dollar and forget about paying any attention to their customers. Ever since the days of automated phone answering systems, which claimed to be in response to customer needs instead of just another way to lessen service, layoff thousands of workers and save a buck, like we just couldn't wait to press one for English, business has dumb downed service.

PLEASE feel free to share your own stories. These are just a few of mine:

Banks

As evidenced by the recent inquiry into all the charges being levied by banks customers are tired of all the charges, like paying for paper statements, promoted by all the big banks as their green motive, yet they send all kinds of junk mail out which goes against the grain of any real green movement. More frustrating for me is how pathetic their online message format is. My bank allows youo to login and send them a message, but their answers if I can call them that have nothing to do with the questions you ask. My bank also has the dumbest message system where you can't respond to the messages they send. I recently got a response that was little more than boilerplate answers that had nothing to do with my question. Instead of being able to reply the only option is to start a whole new message, repeating everything you already said. Really dumb!

Expedia

For the last few weeks I've been researching flights trying to get the best fare. It unleashed a torrent of alerts from various online flight companies promising me everything from two-day sales to last-minute offers. Last week I suddenly learned that all the fares had jumped almost a hundred dollars in one day so I panicked to book my flights hopefully at the lower price. Expedia was the only one still showing the lower price so I tried to book the flights I needed. When I got to payment and put in my credit card information I got a message that there was an issue with my payment. I had just received an increase to my credit limit on my credit card so I had no idea why there was an issue. That is until I checked my credit card and saw that although my credit limit was increased my available credit was zero. I didn't want to lose my flights so I changed my credit card info to my debit card info as was shown on the Expedia payment screen. Again I got that there was an issue. No idea why so I called Expedia and was informed that despite the fact that the field on the screen clearly showed debit/credit card they don't accept debit cards. When I asked why they did it show debit cards she had no answer. Finally, it was solved by the credit card issue shown below.

MasterCard

My card is with CTC Bank and has an interesting history. I've had a good record with them ever since getting my first card with a two hundred dollar limit to now having one with thousands of dollars limit, not that I will ever use it at nineteen percent interest. It's been hacked twice needing replacement cards, but other than that I've had no problems. Recently I got yet another letter from them saying my credit limit had again been increased by several thousand dollars. When my payment to Expedia was apparently declined I called MasterCard to question it. A very nice lady answered me and said she would check with a supervisor. After only a couple of minutes, she came back telling me that everything was fine now. Sure enough when I went back to Expedia this time my payment was processed okay. Relieved to say the least.

Dell

My history with Dell goes back almost fifteen years to when I bought my first laptop, a Vostro 1500, which lasted me far more years than expected, all without a single issue. Eventually, it became just too slow for the work I was doing so I decided that it was time to upgrade. I went to Dell's site and built the model I wanted, but the price was more than I could afford some fourteen hundred dollars. That was when I first came into contact with Kyle Ross, a sales guy in Toronto. He came back and asked how was eight hundred dollars instead? Needless to say, I jumped on it and placed the order. Little did I know at the time that it was going to be the start of a long and agonizing journey with Dell. From techs coming to me to replace parts to getting replacement computers, all of which meant I had to transfer all my data and reinstall all my programs every time it took three laptops to finally get one that worked.

Fast forward to this year. After a horrible experience buying a Lenovo from Costco and returning it I went back to Dell, this time ordering an Inspiron, their latest model. The very first time I booted it up I couldn't log in. That was just the start of a host of issues with this laptop, all of which cost me hours and hours of work and lost time working on my websites. Given my previous experience, I immediately asked for a replacement but got nowhere and they insisted on fixing it, to no avail. At one point they asked me to do a complete restore which meant I lost all my programs and had to reinstall everything. Although this did solve many of the earlier issues I still had keyboard errors where I would get characters that I hadn't typed. Again I asked for a replacement but instead they sent a tech to replace the keyboard.

It took the tech at least two hours to take the laptop all apart to replace the keyboard. No sooner had he replace it than he had no power and no battery. After conferring with Dell he said he had no choice but to put the original keyboard back in. With the original keyboard back in he now had no power and no battery again and no clue as to why. The decision was to send the laptop to the Dell service depot in Toronto. After being without my computer for two weeks I finally got it back. The minute I started it up I again had the same keyboard issues. I then learned that the service depot had not replaced the defective keyboard and had done nothing but reassemble the laptop. Nothing was fixed and they just sent it back to me.

While I was struggling without a computer in decades I wrote out a long letter to Michael Dell giving him all of my history. When I got my laptop back I typed the letter, which turned out to be nineteen pages long. I sent it off not really expecting a response. In the meantime, Dell had decided to again send the tech to replace the keyboard and had refused to send me the replacement I asked for months ago. Although I had no choice but to agree with this, I said that if he replaced the keyboard and we again had no power or battery that was it. I was done. I wanted my money back and I would buy something else. The next day, coincidentally enough, I got a call from Dell corporate thanking me for my detailed letter to Michael Dell and offering to replace the laptop as I had been asking for months. I agreed but the takeaway on all of this is why would Dell choose to spend thousands of dollars trying to repair a dud computer, not to mention the countless hours I had lost, instead of just replacing it in the first place? Makes no sense to me.

Bluehost

This is a hosting company that I had previously used for over ten years. Although their prices were not competitive with the likes of GoDaddy their technical support was unmatched. They were simply brilliant and answered you very quickly. My first issue was when they suddenly with no approval started charging me five dollars a month to backup my sites, something that had always been included in the hosting fees.  Their hosting fees were also becoming less and less competitive approaching five times as much as other companies were charging. The final straw for me was when I contacted technical support and waited forever for somebody, they couldn't even pronounce the name of the person who came on. Then it became obvious from their lack of English to how little they knew that I was now dealing with an offshore company instead of the brilliant techs I had before. I started looking for other hosting companies for my sites.

After a less than satisfactory experience with two other hosting companies I came back to BlueHost. I did do a lot of research on the company to find out why things had changed so much with them. I learned that there had been some changes in management who had significantly destroyed their previous excellent reputation. I tried to find someone in charge of BlueHost, who was now just one of the many companies they owned but couldn't so I just wrote a detailed email to their press address. Surprisingly I got a call from someone in only a couple of days and we had a lengthy conversation about the good old days at BlueHost. He explained that his position was to restore this previous reputation ad he said he had management approval to do whatever was required. We'll see.

ehost.com/domain.com

These were the two hosting companies I tried to use before returning to BlueHost, but they both proved equally inept. Their technical support was again offshore and in twenty or more chats I could not recognize a single name, pronounce it or have any idea whether it was male or female. It didn't really matter because they were all pathetic. None of them had a clue how to solve the many issues I had after transferring my sites to them and my sites were all down for weeks.

 


Leaving a mark after you're gone.

Everyone likes to believe that they somehow left their mark on the world. Some people certainly deserve it, like Einstein, Lincoln, Mandela, Mother Teresa and many more, all of whom had a huge impact on the peoples of the world. Others like Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden, Manson and many more left their mark because they were such despicable people.

Common folk like me were never famous for anything and the mark they leave is minimal in a worldly sense. They hope, as I do, that they have had a positive effect on family and friends. In my case this isn't true. My family have abandoned me in a time of urgent need. My children, Chris and Heather, disconnected with me years ago for reasons I have never understood. I only chat with one of my grandchildren, Mackenzie, who doesn't chat with me very often. There is much I would like to share with her to help her to avoid the mistakes I've made, but she's not interested.

Being a thoughtful and supposedly more intelligent person than most, I have always studied the crazy things that go on in the world and formed opinions. Never in my life have I felt that world is crazier than now. All common sense has disappeared and incredibly stupid things happen more and more every day. This has all left to what I am calling my manifesto covering several different topics. It's certainly not all inclusive because that would be a book. The basic reason for this manifesto is that I am close to death. Complicated circumstances have left me without my critical diabetic medications for more than a month now. My blood sugars are hovering around an incredibly dangerous level of thirty so I am at great risk of lapsing into a coma and dying. I hope no one believes that I just gave up because I have been trying everything possible to get my meds, but failed. So be it.

So here's my manifesto. At least I hope it gets people talking.

By Gary C Jones, Canadian Citizen, November 2018

BACKGROUND

The world has often been a crazy and cruel place. Decisions made by leaders often seem totally lacking common sense and will do more harm than good. Just one example would be the invasion of Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction which, in fact, never existed. Good people lost their lives in a failed war and today that country is in even worse shape than before the invasion.

THE GOAL HERE IS TO PROPOSE COMMON SENSE SOLUTIONS

  • In this document I just propose what I consider to be common sense solutions, but they are more for debate and input from other clear-thinking people.
  • Obviously open to any intelligent debate; however, I will not accept or tolerate any hate speech, lies, political promotion or insults to others. Always be respectful to others or you will lose the privilege of posting your thoughts.
  • I am not supporting any political party anywhere in the world, primarily because no party offers what I consider a common sense platform. Also, the very structure of political parties in the free world is so corrupted by money and influence that any claims of civility are fraudulent.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Animal Rights  
Crime and Punishment  
Education  
Environmental Regulations  
Equality  
Government  
Guns  
Healthcare  
Housing  
Immigration  
Indigenous People  
Military  
Personal Identification  
Seniors  
Sex Workers  
Taxes  
Voting  
Workers’ Rights  

ANIMAL RIGHTS 

Hunting simply for sport is banned. Killing any endangered species would an automatic twenty thousand dollar fine and one year in jail. Poaching, for example, rhinos for their tusks, would be an automatic fifty thousand dollar fine and five years in jail.

Domestic animal abuse of any kind would carry an automatic ten thousand dollar fine and a minimum one year in jail. Any animal threatened with abuse will be confiscated.

This includes commercial production such as puppy farms, chicken farms, breeding companies, and any company caring for animals of any type in any manner.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT 

For time immemorial crime has existed. Study after study states that for the most part money crimes exist because people have no other choice. They cannot survive on what little they earn and they have to turn to crime to make more money.

Violent crime on the other hand has deep psychological factors. What causes it? Humans being the way we are, gives us not just psychological reasons as to why we turn to crime but also societal. Psychological can be anything from complete parental neglect to just being brought up in a twisted environment, not being taught the rules of the world or being psychologically damaged from mistreatment.

Statistics on imprisonment clearly show that it is not an effective solution to combat crime. Recidivism rates remain high despite attempts to change the prison environment. Punishment has been replace by treatment in an attempt to change the person’s behavior for the better.It has become clear that the right treatment is a more effective option. Giving prisoners the right to work, learn, and feel worthwhile provides a much better chance for them to be released back into the community with more skills and a better attitude to better fit into the community.

Another factor in imprisonment is the cost. In many countries, especially the United States, where much of the prisons have been turned over to for profit businesses, the cost to imprison far exceeds the cost to rehabilitate them in society. They could be provided with housing, work and a decent income at less cost than to imprison them.

Punishment for a crime should entail a loss of freedoms. Prisoners are limited to the facility they are in. Prisoners cannot enjoy the luxuries they had when they were free, like movies, television, entertainment and relationships. They can still be provided with the necessities of life, like food, shelter and the ability to do paid work, particularly with training to do work they enjoy and can continue to do when they are released.

There must be punishment that fits the crime. The Victorian era where people were hanged for being homosexual are long over. There needs to be a clear definition of what is crime, for example, it is not a crime to hold different political or religious views.

In any case where a gun has been used an automatic five years is added to the sentence.

EDUCATION 

All public education through universities and trade schools would be provided regardless of income. Charter schools would continue to operate for those who can afford them.

Standards of education would be established that meet or exceed any private school standards and teachers would be paid on performance. Tenure would be eliminated.

ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS 

CLEAN AIR AND CLEAN WATER ARE DECLARED TO BE BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS

Any persons or companies found to be polluting the air or waters will be held criminally responsible for cleanup. They are required to demonstrate that they are using every available technology to limit or erase any environmental damage. If no effective solution is available their activities will be prohibited.

Any company producing any consumer product deemed harmful to the environment will be given a limited period of time to find alternative safe products, failing which the production of these products will be prohibited. Examples would be non-biodegradable plastics.

Any company proposing any process that is potentially threatening to the environment must post a bond equal to the costs of cleanup. They must also clearly demonstrate that they are employing every possible technology to minimize any potential harm to the environment. This would include projects such as pipelines, mining, transportation, manufacturing plants and off-shore drilling.

EQUALITY 

All persons are treated equal regardless of color, creed, country of origin, sexual preference, gender, religion or political beliefs.

This applies in all situations. Examples would be equal pay for work of equal value, the right to vote, access to housing, medical care, education, the right to marry including equal benefits, legal rights including justice, freedom of expression, free speech and equal opportunities to earn a living wage. Those seeking asylum for legitimate reasons of threats and violence are granted.

GOVERNMENT 

A group of people that governs a community or unit. It sets and administers public policy and exercises executive, political and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state. A government can be classified into many types--democracy, republic, monarchy, aristocracy, and dictatorship are just a few.In the US with the passing of the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution the payment of income tax first became permanent to finance the government. Before that any form of taxation on income was only to pay for specific things, such as the cost of wars.

As has often been quoted, a democracy is supposed to be, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, back in November, 1863, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people’. This rarely true today.

This principle has been decimated by the way elections are run today by the influence of money, interference by the elite, lobbyists, the enormous costs of running for election, and even the ills of social media. The sheer elongated and expensive campaigns make it impossible for all but the rich to run.

Even when the various campaigns at all levels are over the results often lead to totally impotent legislatures, with more time spent in political squabbles than in actually governing.

It’s time for a radically different form of government that respects the true “will of the people”.

First, campaigns will be limited to sixty days before Election Day. Any televised debates can only take place during this time period. Incumbents for any office must resign prior to this sixty day period to run their campaigns.All donations must be made anonymously and are limited to a hundred dollars or equivalent currency in the specific country. Corporations are exempted from donating. Executives of any corporation are only allowed to donate personally like everybody else, so they will not have any undue influence on the outcome.

Lobbyists of any kind are deemed to be illegal, thereby further reducing the influence of special interest groups.

Under previously stated freedom of expression any political party may be formed but it will not be recognized until it has a minimum of one hundred thousand members or a specific percentage of the country’s population, as applicable. Once officially recognized the government will fund an office and allow funding based on a specific dollar amount based on membership.

Term limits of any kind will be abolished. If the electorate is satisfied with the job that’s being done there is no reason to arbitrarily end the term. This does not mean that an elected official cannot be terminated for illegal acts or social impropriety such as sexual abuse; however, any such claims must first be proven in a court of law.

All representation is by popular vote only. Any artificial system such as the Electoral College in the US are abolished.

Any legislation entered into law is subject to the same legal right to challenge and will be subject to the ruling by the courts, ultimately to the Supreme Court level.

No governing authority has the right to enforce executive orders of any kind without the express authority of the applicable governing body.

GUNS 

The issue here is not whether to allow or ban guns. Those in favor cite the need for personal protection, to participate in the popular sport of target shooting and for hunting.

None of these require assault rifles and these would be banned, including all forms of rapid fire bullets, for anyone except the military. Anyone caught in possession of any assault weapon would face an automatic two thousand dollar fine and a two year federal prison term. Anyone caught committing a crime with an assault weapon would have an automatic five year term attended to their sentence.

Personal protection firearms and hunting rifles would require registration and a criminal record check, plus a thirty day waiting period.

HEALTH CARE 

Medicine – all prescribed medicines would be provided through a national Pharmacare program with prices established by the national government.Medical Care – all doctor, clinic, specialist, hospital, assisted living would be provided through a national private insurance program paid into equally by employees and employers, similar to unemployment insurance and pensions. Self-employed persons would contribute on in an equal manner.

The single payer system would require a payment based on income. All persons under a preset minimum annual income would not pay for care.

Funerals would be provided for anyone based on minimum income. All persons under a preset minimum annual income would not be required to pay for a basic funeral.

HOUSING 

Government/Private organizations would be established to build public housing at below market rents and rent controlled. These communities would be created under the Land Trust concept on government owned or donated land. Prices would not reflect any ownership of the land; however, participants could do a rent to own or purchase outright with a vested interest in the units.

IMMIGRATION 

First, any person currently classified as “undocumented” can apply online, with help from a government worker conversant in their native language if necessary, to become a citizen of the country. They are required to make available all forms of identification from their native country, such as passports, identification documents, driver’s licenses and so on, including medical reports. They must declare any criminal record under threat of deportation if they lie. Once approved they obtain equal rights and obligations of citizens by birthright.

All countries will remove any physical impediments to entering their countries, for example, the existing wall between the US and Mexico would be torn down. Persons entering the country by any means would be granted a temporary visa and be required to go through the immigration procedure within a set period of time and before their visa expires.

As is the case with current permanent visa applications in many countries the applicant must demonstrate that they have sufficient resources to live without assistance. They must demonstrate that they have sufficient skills to find work. They may also have a domestic sponsor.

Immigrants who are fleeing unacceptable conditions in their native country, such as escaping war or the threat of death, may apply for a special short-term visa, one which will require assistance with housing, medical needs, access to education for their children, language training and assistance finding work. This support will be limited to one year and the applicant must go through the normal visa application process during that period or they will not be permitted to stay.

There will not be any artificial quota on immigration.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE 

Although covered by the same rights as all citizens, native people have always been treated differently, more often poorly. Many live in squalid conditions with no access to clean water, for example. They face extreme racism and are denied access to services available only to non-indigenous people. They face increased risks of drug dependency, alcoholism, suicide and discrimination.

In many countries they have been decimated by genocide, killed, tortured and enslaved.

Indigenous Peoples worldwide number between 300-500 million, embody and nurture 80% of the world’s cultural and biological diversity, and occupy 20% of the world’s land surface. The Indigenous Peoples of the world are very diverse. They live in nearly all the countries on all the continents of the world and form a spectrum of humanity, ranging from traditional hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers to legal scholars. In some countries, Indigenous Peoples form the majority of the population; others comprise small minorities. Indigenous Peoples are concerned with preserving land, protecting language and promoting culture. Some Indigenous Peoples strive to preserve traditional ways of life, while others seek greater participation in the current state structures. Like all cultures and civilizations, Indigenous Peoples are always adjusting and adapting to changes in the world. Indigenous Peoples recognize their common plight and work for their self-determination; based on their respect for the earth.

In countries like Canada indigenous people have been treated particularly badly. They live in conditions demeaning to humanity with no access to basic services. Their rights have been trampled on with projects like pipelines that cross their lands.In many countries, again like Canada, they are forced to become more military in their approach. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada made hundreds of recommendations, few of which have been acted on.

These were all people who originally occupied their lands with no interference from the countries that invaded them. They need to be restored to have the rights they had originally. Any condition imposed upon them by invading forces need to be removed.

MILITARY 

All countries will reduce their military presence in foreign countries to what is required to train local military and with specific time limits until they withdraw completely.When military forces are removed foreign aid will also be terminated.

Any and all intelligence agents will be removed from the countries involved. No attempts will be made to interfere in the politics of any other country, including attempts to impose democracy on countries where that goal has proven not to work.

All returning military personnel will be reassigned to domestic projects such as firefighting, security and infrastructure improvements. They will also be paid a living wage subject to the normal conditions. Any injured military personnel will be provided the necessary unique medical care they require, particularly mental health assistance.

PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION 

At birth an application for an identification card is automatically generated. It includes a name, gender, place of birth, eye color, retinal scan, blood type, photo, DNA, and birth parents’ names.

When any changes are made and every five years an application must be made to update the information and receive a new card.As age appropriate additional information is added to the card, such as driver’s license, a change in marital status, a gender change, passport number or change in citizenship.

If the person is convicted of a crime this information is added to the ID card to warn prospective employers, potential partners and custom officials. If a pardon is issued the criminal record information is removed from the card.Any information contained in the card record is private and secure and may never be divulged to anyone. If a card is lost or stolen a new application must be made in person and the original card will be cancelled to prevent ID theft.

Upon notification of the death of a person the card will be so noted and cannot be used again.

SENIORS 

No segment of society has been more mistreated and abandoned than seniors who have worked their entire lives and paid dearly in multiple taxation. The government pensions they have contributed to their entire working lives are woefully inadequate to provide for a decent living. The cost of living in many countries have left seniors far below the poverty line. Many seniors are forced to give up on independent living and stay with their children because they can’t afford the basics. Seniors eating cat food because they can’t afford food are all too common.

In far too many countries immigrants who have never paid a dime in taxes receive far more financial assistance than seniors. At the very least seniors deserve pensions above the poverty level.

SEX WORKERS 

The profession will be legalized subject to all normal conditions such as the payment of income tax and health care benefits to workers. Clients will no longer be subject to arrest or prosecution. Workers must be above a set minimum age and must work only at a legal facility. It will still be illegal to live off the avails of prostitution and be a crime.

TAXES 

All levels of taxation would be eliminated. A tax on income would be the only tax to fund government. It would be a flat twenty percent tax on ALL income regardless of how it is earned, legally or illegally and applicable to all type of organizations based on where their income was earned. Banks, churches, corporations (regardless of domicile), internet companies, foreign companies, stock markets, charities, lottery winners and anyone earning an income from any activity would pay a flat tax on their total stated income with no deductions.

Anyone failing to report their correct total income and paying their tax would be subject to an automatic ten year prison term and would forfeit any illegal gain to the government.

VOTING 

The process starts with getting your voter ID card when you turn legal age to vote in whatever country you live in or whatever country you are eligible to vote in based on your citizenship. This could be done at places like passport offices or driver license offices. Wherever they can take a photo and verify your other ID, ideally with a passport or any recognized photo ID. You would also need a valid credit card because you are going to be charged a fee for your voter ID just like you are with a passport. Also just like a passport it is good for five years.

After applying in person and providing all the required ID you would be sent a photo voter ID card along with instructions on how you register online, just like with a credit card activation. You would be provided an ID number and allowed to select a password which needs to be updated at least annually. You will receive a reminder email or text message to update your password. Because the card is a permanent voter ID information such as address, marital status and anything else that could change frequently would not be required although you can update your registration online at any time. For anyone whose marital status changes their legal name, they would need to go to the appropriate office to update their information and receive a new card with the proper legal name. Their new card would be valid for five years from the date of the changes.

Qualification for a voter ID card would not be automatic. Each country would develop a test based on their accepted values. The application would have conditions similar to filing an income tax return with the same sort of penalties. Basically, you could be fined or charged if you lie. So, a question such as are you now a member of a recognized terrorist organization would automatically disqualify you. Do you have a criminal record could also disqualify you conditional upon the type of conviction. Other questions would deal with the specific values of the specific country and the responses would be rated on a scale of importance. No questions related to sex, discrimination or politics would be allowed.

On voting day you simply log in on your computer or smartphone and vote. Although your vote is duly recorded it is anonymous so there is no record kept of how you voted. It also does away with voter lists. A related system could be added so that you can use your voter ID to donate to a specific party. These donations are recorded both for income tax purposes and to ensure that your donation meets the legal standards for making donations. A corporation would not be allowed to donate if the chief executive does not have a voter ID.

You would still be allowed to vote in person on Election Day as long as you show your ID card. Those overseas, such as military personnel serving outside the country would also vote online.Would this totally eliminate voter fraud? Probably not but it sure would make it a lot harder. Once you have voted online that is recorded for your voter ID and the system does not allow you to vote again. If you make a mistake you would be allowed to void or change your vote until you make a final submission. It would be very difficult to fraudulently come up with all the ID documents required for your voter ID, but nothing is impossible. Regardless, producing documents such as a birth certificate, social insurance card, passport, government photo ID card or driver’s license would need a lot of effort for a simple voter ID card.

Is this big brother? It’s a question of the ends justifying the means. In most countries, the voter turnout is pathetic, often less than fifty percent. Does the elected government truly reflect the will of the people? No. In some countries it is a legal requirement that you vote. If this system were adopted there is no valid reason why every single citizen could not vote. Although maybe a bit heavy-handed, your credit card could be charged a fine for not voting.

With the rapid advances in technology, things like fingerprint ID and taking a photo when you vote could be added. The voting process could also allow clicking on a candidate’s name and getting a brief summary of their positions on the issues before recording your vote. By voting online you can take all the time you want to be informed before voting.Also, in some countries, employers are required to allow their employees paid time off to vote. This cost would be eliminated completely.

WORKERS’ RIGHTS 

All persons working for someone else are covered by safety committees paid for by their employers. Unions are abolished in favor of employee associations to protect workers and negotiate contracts in a non-adversarial environment. All contracts are negotiated on the base premise of a living wage based on a minimum set annual by the government based on the latest poverty index, or salary based on a set number of hours worked per week, with overtime compensation for those who work in excess of the minimum hours.

Additional income plans such as commission, profit sharing, stock options and additional benefits such as company paid trips and entertainment are negotiated based on the structure of the business.

Limits of ten percent of the companies after tax profit are imposed on any chief executive and senior managers combined. No individual person is allowed to earn more than one half percent of the companies after tax profit.

All persons can earn a legal wage with the associated protections, pay their tax and live free from persecution based solely on their tax and live free from persecution based solely on their implied differences.

Animal Rights 3
Crime and Punishment 3

Men of War

This is not the first time I’ve dealt with this subject. Years ago on one of my many drives back and forth between Brampton and Westbank (now West Kelowna) I used my personal recorder to talk about my trip but, more importantly, to just express my thoughts on a number of topics. It was more than a forty hour drive and I love to talk, so it got pretty deep at times. One of the subjects was why men go off to war.

Although I had, thankfully, never experienced war, both Dad and my Granddad had. My grandfather had served and had been left with a plate in his forehead. I remember talking about it when he visited us at the farm in Streetsville one time, but I don’t remember how he got it. My Dad served in the navy in the second world war. He lied about this age and signed up underage, which was one of the things I did not understand at the time. His ship, the HMS Skeena was lost in a vicious storm in October, 1944. For some unknown reason my father said the ship had been torpedoed. He ended up in the freezing cold water off the coast of Iceland, watching his buddies around him die. Somehow he ended up on shore where he was stung by a rattlesnake, eventually losing one of his fingers because of it.

When I returned to BC I went through the lengthy process of transcribing my voice recordings to my computer then printed out this massive document, called My Body Time because that would be the preamble every time I started recording as I traveled across Canada through different time zones. My Dad actually read it and said he learned a lot about me. Whatever happened to that manuscript I don’t know. What I do know and regret is that the Word doc didn’t follow me to other computers. Given the mess I am in now I don’t know if reading it would help or make things worse. At least back then I had a future.

An entire chapter in the novel was about war. At the time I was still married and had two kids. I wondered if I was called to duty, first, would I go and, second, how could we survive being separated possibly for years? The very possibility of being killed was enough to make me question why I would go. I can only assume that the threat of losing your freedom would convince you to fight and risk your life. That so many women suffered through every single day wondering if their men were coming home is just unbelievable.

With so many nutcase leaders in the world today how would we react to that same threat of war? The entire technology of war has changed a lot. Pushing a coupe of buttons would wipe us all out.  No need to fight it out in the trenches like previous wars. What if there was an imminent ground invasion though, say Kim Jong-Un of North Korea? Given his military strength as compared to the US it would be more of a minor skirmish solved quickly. Hypothetically he decides to invade Mexico to get closer to threatening the US. I am a Canadian but would I sign up to defend Mexico? Well, luckily I am far too old to sign up for anything in the military so it’s academic. If I were a younger man, in all honesty, I don’t know.

Much of my confusion about war has always been, and will always be, how so many wars are based on religion. Admittedly I have never been a religious person but if I understand anything about faith I don’t understand why so many of the world’s wars are all about religion.


As the saying goes, "Is that all there is?"

Unless you are Albert Einstein or Bill Gates it’s probably not a good time to summarize your life. Have you been “successful” in the eyes of others? Has your life had a positive impact on people’s lives? Have you made costly mistakes that have now put you in such a depressive state that you want to end it all? Do you matter to anyone? Has your life just been a waste? Is anyone going to miss you?

After some very tough years, ending up living in a group home in Belleville, Ontario and, in fact, overstaying my welcome there, I had no idea what to do. After disastrous experiences moving to Panama and Ecuador I wanted to give it one more try in Mexico, so I hoped to go for six months on a tourist visa. By a quirk of fate I was given a Canadian Tire MasterCard, which I didn’t deserve having gone bankrupt twice, but it allowed me to book my flights. I had found an apartment in Ajijic that was cheaper than just my room in Belleville. A lot of research told me the cost of living was much cheaper, so off I went last September.

I fell in love with the area the first day I arrived. My apartment was even better than I expected and thanks to my new friends, Francis and Anastasia, I met a lot of great people who I thought were going to be great friends. A couple of weeks after I arrived I met the love of my life, Elba. It quickly became the relationship of my dreams. I had never had this kind of love before. Relationships are always complicated but this one was just incredible. Despite our age difference of twenty years and the fact she spoke no English, every minute together was pure magic, for me at least. Although not what was intended when I gave her a replacement ring on New Years everyone congratulated us on getting engaged. Her two sons, Jonathan and Kevin, loved calling me Dad and her family kept telling us to hurry up and get married. I had never been so happy in all my life.

My plan to just check out Mexico for six months quickly changed. I needed to go back to Canada to apply for my temporal visa to return to Mexico and get married. Elba insisted on joining me on the trip although I told her I could not afford her flights, so she agreed to pay for them. I have gone into great detail on what a total disaster the trip was in another post, so I won’t repeat myself here. As far as it relates to this post what happened only contributed to where I find myself today. When we returned and she ended our relationship in a simple text message it nearly killed me. It was the hardest thing in my life. I felt totally worthless and just wanted to end it all. The future was destroyed and I didn’t even know why I was back in Mexico now. Getting married and all the dreams we had shared together were now shattered. I saw no reason to go on.

Thanks to a couple of good friends at the time they convinced me that I wasn’t worthless and urged me to go on. Time heals all wounds. Not true for me. My life had been turned upside down and the wonderful memories of our time together have haunted me everywhere I go. I also had no clue why she had so abruptly dumped me. Still don’t. She refused to tell me why. She refused to answer my pleading text messages or talk to me. At one point she simply said she wanted me to “disappear”. What a great thing to say to someone who’s suicidal.

Then a month or so ago I discovered I had only twenty-eight dollars in the bank and I whole lot of month left. I had also run out of my critical medications for my diabetes. No food. No meds. No hope. I reached out for help from anyone. I offered to sell an interest in my website business. I applied to the local Canadian Legion for a small loan to get me through. Although a couple of people offered small amounts of money for food this was not a solution to the mess I was in. After a day of not eating and drinking far too much, which is not normal for me, I was crying my eyes out in horrible depression and just wanted to end it all. A friend sent over a doctor and two of her colleagues to talk me down. She offered help in not letting them take my dog from me. She offered help with money and some work. She offered help with getting my meds. She gave me hope. She took my bottle of rum, which considering the condition I was in was probably a good thing.

The next morning they came without warning and took my dog, Rollie. Then despite all the offers of help Dr. Lupita basically disappeared on me. Luckily John Kelly, President of our local Canadian Legion, called me and we had a very long conversation. We talked about getting my meds through Seguro Popular, which I didn’t even know was possible. We talked about a small loan from the Legion to help me get things in order, most importantly to keep my business alive that I had worked so hard on for so long. Again, that glimmer of hope appeared.

Now, three weeks later that glimmer has gone dark again. Seguro Popular said they can’t help me with any of my meds. My blood sugars have been hovering around thirty, which is very dangerous because at thirty-two you risk slipping into a coma. Although I couldn’t afford the hospital anyway, falling into a coma would mean the end because no one would discover me in time. At least I would go quietly and not need to deal with suicide.

All the horrendous issues coming at me every day, like the numerous issues with my idiot landlord, like no hot water, no electricity and no internet, were just daily hurdles that challenged my patience, but nothing was worse than what happened with my “friends”. The reaction to my painfully honest post about ending it all was such vicious attacks on me. How these people could be so cruel and not get how dangerous their mean words were to someone already on the edge just baffled me completely. The only way for me to survive was to block and ban them. I simply couldn’t take anymore.

That no one in my long list of six hundred supposed Facebook “friends” gave a damn came as quite the shock. Even my new found granddaughter, Mackenzie, didn’t respond. I had been so looking forward to meeting her finally when she came to Mexico for a wedding next year. I apologized that I would not be here and explained why, but even that got no reaction from her. I got the same reaction from colleagues back in Canada, some of whom are rich beyond compare. I had sent detailed investment proposals to them, not just investing in the website business. Things that would make them a lot of money, but got zero response.

Still fighting not to just give up I started a GoFundMe campaign asking for just a dollar. I had seen sixty or seventy million people view and comment on the dumbest things so I thought they might be willing to invest a single dollar. Not a single response. I even asked my famous friend Andrea Pearson to add a post on her Facebook page encouraging people to visit my campaign but got nothing other than a private message that she hoped things would improve for me. I even asked her if she might donate that first dollar to kick start the campaign, but got nothing. My life is not even worth a person donating a dollar? How’s that for “is that all there is?”

I’m not looking for pity or charity. I am looking for a reason to go on. I just hope that anyone who knows me understands just how hard I’ve tried to go on. Without my critical meds it will all be academic soon. I don’t know how I will be remembered, if at all. Maybe just some nutcase, but I just want anyone who ever cared about me in any way to know how hard I tried.

Gracias.

 


Mary Jane, or maybe now it's Kanni Bas? Only in Canada, you say?

Now that Tricky Trudeau has made good on his election promise to legalize marijuana, mostly to get votes from young people, the roll-out was so typically Canadian.

Justin made the promise in the "federal" election, committing to legalize recreational use of pot by the "federal" government, which, okay, he actually did, but as is so typically Canadian he left it to the provinces to decide the logistics. Who can grow it? Who can sell it? Who can buy it? Who can and will still be charged for illegally selling it? Who will enforce the law? And, the big one, who is going to buy it?

As usual Canadians couldn't agree on anything. In some provinces it's sold by the government, through existing liquor control boards (vice control?), or new government run stores (can you say Brewers Retail?). In other provinces it's run by retail private enterprise, although it was a nightmare for them trying to decide to stay open before the law was passed, which meant being shut down and denied a license after the law came into effect. Go figure.

The stated goal was not to encourage the use of pot, especially by young people, despite the fact that they were already the largest group of users. No. It was to eliminate the "black market", particularly organized crime. How? By making the legal price lower than you paid your local pot guy. Seriously? No. It was to collect all the new tax revenues from legal sellers, something they had never got a dime from before. Not only sales tax, but what drug dealer, big or small, ever paid income tax on the huge amount of money they made. That's why so many seniors who were not able to afford to live on their meagre pensions started to grow pot. All that money and no tax! Cool!

Our feds have no problem laying down the law for pipelines or carbon tax. Not up to the provinces and not even any real consultation with all the native bands who manage their land. But, marijuana? No way, Jose. Other than signing it into law they wanted nothing to do with the very idea of having a national law that would cover every aspect of the business, plus things like policing, medical use and the expulsion of some half a million criminal records for simple possession. That would be far too simple.

For me personally I grew up in an era of some limited pot use, mostly because I was in a band and, well, there was always temptation everywhere. My one experience with pot was when I was the drummer for the house band at the old Club Bluenote in Toronto. One of the star entertainers we backed, Eric Mercury, offered me a joint in our dressing room. Of course I was in awe of this guy and felt stupid to say no. Peer pressure at its best.

The first song of our next set is a song only known to old guys like me, You Keep Me Hanging On, by Vanilla Fudge. Maybe you can't stand the song but check out the tempo.

It's pretty funky enough, but when I hit my snare in the warm-up I realized just how stoned I was. It sounded incredible! I counted in most of our songs so I started. Next thing I knew our lead guitarist, Nolan Yearwood, was turning around shouting at me to speed up! Apparently I was so stoned that I was playing it about half speed just grooving on this whole new sound from my kit. That was the last time I ever toked before playing, in fact, it pretty well scared me off pot forever.

Okay, I tried it a couple of other times in my life, but that's a different story. Life's cruelty caught up with me when I started to suffer terribly from a complication of my newly discovered diabetes. I got what's called peripheral neuropathy in my feet. People have often asked me to describe what it's like and the best description I've come up with is it's like someone is holding a lighter under your feet. Excruciatingly painful and you are never without pain.

When I lived in London, Ontario a neighbor in the building asked me if I had ever tried marijuana for the pain? I hadn't, so he said there was a nice senior on our floor that sold pot to the residents. I think it was ten dollars for three joints. I hid them in the freezer. Don't forget it was very illegal and I figured the police had nothing better to do than bust a bunch of seniors.

So, one night I thought I would give it a try. Can't hurt, right? It was the first time in years that my pain was gone! It only lasted a couple of hours but those were the best hours ever. I knew that medical marijuana was available so I thought I could get some that way. No sooner was I thinking that I might have some relief from my pain than I learned it would only cost SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS to apply! So much for that idea.

How has this personal experience formed my personal opinion about the possible benefits of marijuana?

Well, I believe that study after study has proven the medical benefits of pot for mitigating pain. No question. Recreational use? Well, a whole lot of folks like marijuana more than smoking or drinking, both of which have well documented perils. Not sure there has ever been a driver who has ever killed anyone under the influence of pot instead of being drunk. How many people have died of cancer from years of smoking cigarettes? How many innocent lives have been lost because of drunk driving? How many families have been destroyed by alcohol? Pot? Sure sounds a lot less dangerous to me.

Many people were dead set against legalizing recreational use of marijuana. I don't agree that we should necessarily be promoting it, but I do believe one hundred percent that it needed to be decriminalized. Not long ago there was a case where a father was denied access to his flight from Canada to Disneyland with his four kids because he had a forty year old conviction for simple possession. It that fair? No way!

If legalization had been handled properly at the federal level there are tons of existing laws about the sale of cigarettes and alcohol. Why not just add pot as another controlled substance? That takes away the profit motive for all these huge companies jumping into growing and selling it. A twelve year old can't go into a liquor store and buy beer, so what's different with pot?

What the government could have done, in my mind far more responsibly, was allow people to grow their own for their own use. After all, it's a weed! Someone like me could grow enough for pain management, something I still can't do. Expunge the half a million criminal records for people charged with simple possession, which has grossly affected their lives, like not being able to get a job because they have a criminal record. Truly stupid.

What's done is done, of course. Far too late to bring any common sense to the whole issue. I consider myself liberal, not in the political sense, open-minded and progressive, but I think Canada is going to regret this move. It's already started off with huge challenges, like stockouts across the country. The whole issue of edibles has been delayed at least a year so there's more trouble to come.

Just one man's humble opinion. What's yours?


A question for you my dear readers.

Having lived in Panama, Ecuador and now Mexico and visited Costa Rica many times, my question is about basic services - electricity, water and internet.

These counties in Central and South America (some consider Mexico part of North America) and quite possibly others, have been referred to as "third-world countries" when it comes to many things, such as hospitals are concerned. The shifting winds of governments over the years, together with the influx of Expats to these countries has brought on many improvements to healthcare, highways and sewage treatment, for example in Panama City where 40,000 metric tons of raw sewage were previously dumped into the Bay of Panama daily. This was the primary reason that all the big hotels on the bay, built to launder drug money, sat empty.

In the countries I have lived in or visited the most frequent occurrence was no water, no electricity or no internet, often for days on end. My question is if this is a result of inadequate infrastructure to support these services, corruption either in private companies or the governments, a lack of funding, incompetence or maybe just a lack of intent?

Each of these countries have at one point made International Living's Best Places To Retire list. First it was Costa Rica, then Panama, then Ecuador and now Mexico. Those who have been part of the Age Wave, the baby boomer generation, are shocked when they move to these countries only to learn that the basic services that they have been accustomed to in their home counties are often not available. Electricity (power) in particular is an exception because people have experienced a loss of power as a result of thunderstorms, ice storms and high winds taking down power poles, but, except in extreme situations, such as the recent tornados in Canada, power is usually restored fairly quickly.

That is not the case in the countries mentioned because weather is seldom a contributing factor. Instead, the power just goes off for no apparent reason at any time of day or night. In some situations I understand that it is because of the electrical grid not being designed to allow localized outages for work to be done. The entire system must be brought down.

Water supply can be just as problematic. Unlike in more developed countries where water supply is a public utility, in Panama, for example, water is supplied by private companies which are often underfunded and ill-equipped to deal with problems that arise. Again, in Panama, a pipe broke in the system supplying my water and I had no water for over a week. Not so great to not be able to flush the toilets for a week. Here in Mexico it's the well known don't drink the water. Bottled water is the norm, although I for one don't know what the problem is with the water supply. I can only assume that it is a lack of purification that is a normal part of water supply everywhere else.

Internet is a whole other issue, although improvements are being made gradually. A common complaint here in Lakeside will soon be solved when iLox brings 50 Mbps service here soon. Telmex is also introducing fiber-optic service. no doubt in response to iLox coming. That being said, Telmex service is completely unreliable. Many areas get less than 2 Mbps, if at all. And just yesterday the service from Telmex was out all day here in Riberas. The question is why?

The new President has pledged to bring WIFI to everyone in the country. A very lofty goal. He has also pledged to stop Guadalajara from drawing a foot of water out of Lake Chapala every year, although there is no indication how that might affect the local water supply.

Obviously I can only speak to these issues as an immigrant to the countries I have lived in, but I wonder how the locals feel. Do they just accept that this is the way it has always been or are they just as annoyed at the constant failure of these services? If so, why aren't there loud protests to clean up the mess that is, for example, CFE? Are Mexicans just used to no water or no power? Don't Mexican businesses suffer the same consequences when they can't operate their equipment? It costs businesses a lot when they must close because they can't function without power. Their employees must be sent home with no pay, which hurts everyone. Food spoils in restaurants when there is no refrigeration. They can't open at night with no lights. Bands can't play music without power.

Please don't get me wrong. I love Lakeside and I do everything possible to promote the area on my website. I simply want to believe that these issues can actually be solved to make life here even better.


Here's my thoughts on voting for governments

The process starts with getting your voter ID card when you turn legal age to vote in whatever country you live in or whatever country you are eligible to vote in based on your citizenship. This could be done at places like passport offices or driver license offices. Wherever they can take a photo and verify your other ID, ideally with a passport or any recognized photo ID. You would also need a valid credit card because you are going to be charged a fee for your voter ID just like you are with a passport. Also just like a passport it is good for five years.

After applying in person and providing all the required ID you would be sent a photo voter ID card along with instructions on how you register online, just like with a credit card activation. You would be provided an ID number and allowed to select a password which needs to be updated at least annually. You will receive a reminder email or text message to update your password. Because the card is a permanent voter ID information such as address, marital status and anything else that could change frequently would not be required although you can update your registration online at any time. For anyone whose marital status changes their legal name, they would need to go to the appropriate office to update their information and receive a new card with the proper legal name. Their new card would be valid for five years from the date of the changes.

Qualification for a voter ID card would not be automatic. Each country would develop a test based on their accepted values. The application would have conditions similar to filing an income tax return with the same sort of penalties. Basically, you could be fined or charged if you lie. So, a question such as are you now a member of a recognized terrorist organization would automatically disqualify you. Do you have a criminal record could also disqualify you conditional upon the type of conviction. Other questions would deal with the specific values of the specific country and the responses would be rated on a scale of importance. No questions related to sex, discrimination or politics would be allowed.

On voting day you simply log in on your computer or smartphone and vote. Although your vote is duly recorded it is anonymous so there is no record kept of how you voted. It also does away with voter lists. A related system could be added so that you can use your voter ID to donate to a specific party. These donations are recorded both for income tax purposes and to ensure that your donation meets the legal standards for making donations. A corporation would not be allowed to donate if the chief executive does not have a voter ID.

You would still be allowed to vote in person on election day as long as you show your ID card. Those overseas, such as military personnel serving outside the country would also vote online.

Would this totally eliminate voter fraud? Probably not but it sure would make it a lot harder. Once you have voted online that is recorded for your voter ID and the system does not allow you to vote again. If you make a mistake you would be allowed to void or change your vote until you make a final submission. It would be very difficult to fraudulently come up with all the ID documents required for your voter ID, but nothing is impossible. Regardless, producing documents such as a birth certificate, social insurance card, passport, government photo ID card or driver's license would need a lot of effort for a simple voter ID card.

Is this big brother? It's a question of the ends justifying the means. In most countries, the voter turnout is pathetic, often less than fifty percent. Does the elected government truly reflect the will of the people? No. In some countries it is a legal requirement that you vote. If this system were adopted there is no valid reason why every single citizen could not vote. Although maybe a bit heavy-handed, your credit card could be charged a fine for not voting.

With the rapid advances in technology, things like fingerprint ID and taking a photo when you vote could be added. The voting process could also allow clicking on a candidate's name and getting a brief summary of their positions on the issues before recording your vote. By voting online you can take all the time you want to be informed before voting.

Also, in some countries, employers are required to allow their employees paid time off to vote. This cost would be eliminated completely.

Just one man's opinion.