Hypergraphia

HypergraphiaAn article in the September, 2016, issue of Doctor’s Review looks at the curious, compelling affliction called hypergraphia: the obsessive need to write. I never knew before this that there was an actual illness of this sort. As someone who is often driven by a deep compulsion to write, I am both curious and a little afraid to learn more. And of course, I turned to the internet.

Curious because I always want to learn, especially when it’s something that might touch me in some way. Afraid because I’ve always thought of my writing as a mere personality trait, a passion I’ve had as long as I can remember, and to discover it may be an actual illness is worrisome. But if I have it, mine is at least a mild form, in comparison with true sufferers.

Hypergraphia is incurable, too. Well, that might not be a big deal for some, since writing itself satisfies the afflicted. And in general writing doesn’t afflict life in a negative way that other ailments do. Hypergraphia is often associated with some of the latter: bipolar disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy and schizophrenia.

I enjoy writing immensely and the act is pleasant, not painful. Not writing isn’t painful either, but I often awaken at night thinking of what to write and how to say it best. Not writing feels like mental constipation; a sense that something has to be released. I don’t often suffer from actual ‘writer’s block’ except when struggling to produce fiction.

Yet if I actually had hypergraphia, I would be in the august company of Vincent van Gogh*, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Robert Burns, Danielle Steel, Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov and Lewis Carroll. Their illustrious presence, however does not confer talent, much to my chagrin.

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Collus report debunks Block conspiracies

SAIDI and SAIFIEvery year, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) publishes the scorecard of local distribution companies (LDCs). Across the province, more than 70 LDCs are ranked and rated according to performance, customer service, efficiency, progress and other measurable data for residents to see how their utility is doing. It’s a thing called openness and transparency.

As the OEB notes:

The scorecard includes traditional metrics for assessing a distributor’s services, such as frequency of power outages, financial performance and costs per customer. In addition, performance results for 2014 and onward will include a number of new metrics that directly reflect the customer experience, such as how well the distributor resolves a customer’s concern on the first contact, the accuracy of customers’ bills, public safety and more.

Our own LDC, Collus PowerStream, is one of those LDCs listed. You can see its excellent scorecard here. And we do damn well. You wonder why local media aren’t trumpeting our success story. Our utility staff deserve to be publicly praised for what they have accomplished. Kudos, too, to the former board for their guidance (fired by The Block for being competent and successful).

The Block don’t want you to see the scorecard, won’t raise it at council. That would be open and transparent; words that are anathema to The Block.

As I’ve written in the past, they and the town’s administration have worked aggressively to destroy the relationship with our utility and our municipal partner, PowerStream. This has been done solely to fulfill private agendas and satisfy personal vendettas. It has never been about the greater good of the community. And it will cost you a lot: your taxes are going up to cover the added expenses, and your hydro rates will go up if our utility gets sold to Hydro One. All thanks to a small group of ideologues (whom the OEB is investigating).

Little one-and-two-person consulting firms you never heard of before they showed up here, and outside lawyers who may have significant conflicts of interest, were hired to discredit our electrical utility and everyone involved in the share sale last term. Some of our best staff have been driven out by the relentless witch hunt.

Incomplete or incorrect information has been presented to the public suggesting the utility has not performed properly or that the shared services agreement was somehow incomplete or ineffective, or that the share sale was somehow corrupt. That information wasn’t forthcoming or was missing. All rubbish.

Any counterpoint or data provided to contradict this has been suppressed by town staff. Despite two years of expensive (approx. $350,000 of your tax dollars wasted, with more to be spent) investigations to find some wrongdoing, nothing has been found to justify these wild conspiracy theories. That hasn’t dampened The Block’s passion for witch hunts and hurting people.

But they couldn’t stop the truth from being presented by the OEB. Now you can read it, too, and realize just how much you have been conned.
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Promises, promises, promises – all broken

AccountabilityTwo years ago, in a series in the Collingwood Connection on the eve of the last election, 2014, all candidates were asked to make statements about certain issues. I thought it would be good to examine a few of their promises and see how well they have progressed. Whether they have actually kept those promises. Here is what they said about the topic of accountability and to measure their performance to date.

First, just what is accountability? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing says, “Accountability as a general principle that governments (including municipalities) are answerable to the public and responsible for their actions, decisions and policies.”

Answerable and responsible. But do we have actual accountability here in Collingwood? Or, as Saqib Quershi, writing in the Huffington Post, called it, merely “an accountability façade”? He wrote:

Accountability is a two-way process. Ontario’s public sector often suffers from the sort of accountability… where a public servant is a euphemism for a public master, in charge and unaccountable. We have a cultural accountability problem…

Yes, indeed we do. Ian Lee, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, back in 2008 gave us words that should be carved above every council table in large letters:

Legitimacy is earned through accountability. Accountability is produced through transparency.

Here’s an example of one candidates’ promises:

Ensure all major decisions seek out community input, and ensure there is rigorous staff research and due diligence before any decision is made.

That promise was made by the current Deputy Mayor, Brian Saunderson (although how exactly a decision seeks input wasn’t made clear). And “due diligence” appears from the hospital redevelopment debacle to simply mean delaying tactics.

All of the candidates made similar promises. The Most Secretive Council Ever doesn’t even give lip service to community input. That pretty much sums up The Block’s position on accountability.

But you never really expected these folks to actually KEEP those promises, did you? Neither did I. Keeping promises requires a deep sense of ethics, a strong moral compass and a belief that the community is more important than your own entitlements. And to put personal agendas and vendettas aside for the public good.

Okay, stop snickering. We all know how this has turned out. Let’s examine the promises of those who were elected, shall we? As you read this, ask yourself do the candidates address how they will personally assume responsibility? Do they discuss accountability or process? And do they say how they and their actions will be accessible to the public to measure their accountability? First, The Block.
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13 Ways to Kill Collingwood

13 Ways to Kill Your CommunityI found it! I stumbled across the secret manifesto The Block is using to destroy Collingwood. It’s in a book called “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” (Frontenac House, 2010) by Doug Griffiths and Kelley Clemmer. And pretty much everything in it outlines The Block’s not-so-secret plan to turn this community into rubbish.

I know, you’re going to object, “But Ian, you know The Block doesn’t read! How can something as big as a book be their secret manifesto when they won’t even read Municipal World or their own budget?”

Because, dear reader, the book was written in 2010, before they came to power. No doubt their handlers reduced its contents to simple sentences and one-syllable words, then wrote them out in crayon for The Block to digest before the 2014 election campaign. Trust me: once you see what’s in it, you will realize this is the path The Block have followed since they were elected.

Here for example, is the list of chapter headings:

  1. Don’t have quality water.
  2. Don’t attract business.
  3. Ignore your youth.
  4. Deceive yourself about your real needs or values.
  5. Shop elsewhere.
  6. Don’t paint.
  7. Don’t cooperate.
  8. Live in the past.
  9. Ignore your seniors.
  10. Reject everything new.
  11. Ignore outsiders.
  12. Become complacent.
  13. Don’t take responsibility.

See? This list precisely lays out what The Block have been doing since the election. And I’ll get to each in detail, a bit further along. Call it the Thirteen Commandments of The Block.

Of course you will also object, “But Ian, this list doesn’t cover The Block’s destruction of Collus PowerStream, the airport industrial development, or their sabotage of the hospital redevelopment. It doesn’t mention The Block’s secrecy, their sense of entitlement, or raising our taxes needlessly.”

And that’s sort of true, but contained in those chapters is the seed for all these activities. Plus, as the authors note, their list isn’t comprehensive. There are other ways to destroy your community, and – trust me – The Block is very ingenious in its efforts to turn everything they touch toxic. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

And it was all laid out for them in this book!

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Old habits, old junk

My current ukuleles and guitars.

Old junkThe past couple of weeks I have been trying to turn my office (one of our spare bedrooms, once upon a time) back into my office. A working space I’ll need when Susan retires this winter. My man cave, so to speak.

Over the past few years, since I sold the store and went back to home-based freelance work, I have spread my tools and toys around the house, an inexorable sprawl, rather like moss overtaking a pathway. Books litter the house, while my office became more of a walk-in storage closet. Until you could no longer walk into it and it was more like a squeeze-into space.

I’m not so much a hoarder as restlessly obsessed with learning and as a result I accumulate along the way . I simply can’t stop learning, can’t stop exploring the intellectual horizon. Which means I’m always chasing information, data, images, content. And saving it to read later. Which all too often doesn’t happen because I’ve moved on to some new subject of interest, like a magpie distracted by some shiny bauble.

The detritus of my previous efforts and explorations pile up, collecting dust. Thousands of printed pages, collected in binders or bound in Cerlox, each one a silent monument to some pursuit or learning experience I engaged in. Plus hundreds of pages on municipal agendas, reports, emails, notices, Municipal World magazines…

It was time to let go. To admit that I simply won’t go back to that place and space again. To make new space for new purposes. De-clutter. All those lovely platitudes and euphemisms.

It’s been a slow, agonizing and emotional process. Physically, it was like one of those wooden puzzles where you have just so many pieces and they have to assemble into a particular shape. The room is small – really a kid’s bedroom, not something for an adult with eclectic tastes. And I have stuff. Lots of stuff. So what to keep and what to let go takes some time and consideration.

Who knew I had so many guitars and ukuleles? Fourteen ukes, four guitars, one bass. And cases. And harmonicas. Flutes. Stands, microphones, cables, amplifiers, effects, Tibetan singing bowls… stuff I mostly want to keep. I will sell off some, but will keep many. Where will even my soon-to-be diminished collection reside?

Creating space means discarding other stuff; stuff that had – or even has – meaning to me; stuff that I gathered for a particular voyage into knowledge or experience.

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Enough with the astrology claptrap already

Claptrap“No,” wrote Phil Plait on Slate, “NASA Didn’t Change Your Astrological Sign.” Which it didn’t. But that hasn’t stopped the wingnuts from wailing over the recent announcement from NASA allegedly changing your horoscope.

Let’s start with the basics. Plait sums it up nicely:

Astrology isn’t science; it’s nonsense. It’s been tested 10 ways to Sunday and every time it fails. Even astrologers have come up with tests for it, and it’s failed those. Astrology doesn’t work.

Ah, but that doesn’t seem to dampen the belief of those hooked on superstition. Astrology is a business and the sheep must continue to be shorn. So let me take a shot, too. Yes, it’s fish in a barrel, but I love spending my Saturday mornings debunking this claptrap.

Yes, it is made up...

First: astrology isn’t science. Never was, never will be. It isn’t astronomy or psychology: it’s entertainment. Nothing more relevant to your life or your future than your weekend cartoons (and less relevant than the Dilbert cartoon…) or Sudoku puzzle. Sure, even smart people love to read their horoscopes over coffee and toast, and laugh about them, but then they get dressed and move on with their lives. They don’t plan their days around superstition and fantasy.

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