The Inquiry Cost $250,000 More? Were We Lied To?

Hidden costsFormer councillor Tim Fryer is back on the agenda this coming week, making another delegation to the Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee about the true costs of the judicial inquiry (aka the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry, or SVJI). I admire Tim’s tenacity at trying to get the truth out to the public about this debacle. My respect for him has risen considerably since he’s been off council, but I wish he had been such a bulldog for the truth when he was at the table (I wrote about Fryer’s last appearance in front of the committee here).

At the very end of the agenda, you can read Tim’s letter, starting on page 161* and continuing through page 166. What’s most interesting is that he included a letter from the town to EPCOR, included on pages 163 and 164. That letter shows the town agreed to pay EPCOR’s legal costs over the SVJI of $250,000 or more. Yet those costs do not show up on the town’s most recent official accounting of the costs for the SVJI (read it here) **

For a council eager to censor “fact-check” residents’ comments and letters so they conform to the party line, it seems highly hypocritical to find that the town itself isn’t forthcoming about the facts. Yet we now learn that $250,000 was mysteriously left out of the calculations. As Fryer writes,

I figured if a $4 Walmart or $8 Tim Horton’s expense charge could be included then certainly something like the $250,000 or more of EPCOR’s legal expense coverage, as per the Side Letter Agreement terms established with council after the CJI was initiated, should be too.

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More Musings on Tea

Oolong teaBack in 1946, while England was still recovering from the deprivations of WWII and under rationing, the prolific George Orwell wrote his essay “A Nice Cup of Tea” with his eleven-step instructions for making what he considered the perfect cuppa.* But do they still stand today? Certainly, his notion of what makes a “strong” tea would be considered very strong by standards today.

As the BBC noted in an article that debunked many of Orwell’s notions about making tea almost 60 years later, “The great critic of Hitler and Stalin, was not above a bit of teatime Totalitarianism himself, it seems.” I personally think Orwell had his tongue in his cheek when he wrote it, but others take it more seriously.  Like other foods, tea invites passionate responses when someone’s tastes or techniques are challenged. Orwell recognized that his list would be controversial, writing, 

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. 

I recently read again Orwell’s piece on tea in the Everyman’s Library edition of Orwell’s Essays (a 1,300-page collection I am slowly, and somewhat meanderingly working my way through). So I thought I might revisit some thoughts on tea. It prompted me to re-assess the contents of my own tea cupboards, and to re-open some of my books on tea.

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Still Can’t Escape the B.S. (Brian Saunderson)

no more BSIt’s late February as I write this and still our mayor, Brian Saunderson, refuses to do the ethical, the moral, and the RIGHT thing for the town and resign his office while he openly hunts for another, out-of-town, better-paying job.*

It’s been more than a month since he admitted he doesn’t want to be our mayor and instead wants to be the riding’s next MPP. Seems to me he desperately wants to be somewhere else, getting more money and out of Collingwood as fast as he can. But he’s still, brazenly taking the mayor’s paycheque while he campaigns for another job. I don’t know how others feel about it, but it seems to me he’s trading ethics for base personal ambition at the taxpayers’ expense.

And you must be asking yourself what about all those high-and-mighty recommendations in his beloved judicial inquiry (aka the SVJI) that say council members should avoid apparent conflicts of interest? After all, the town spent many millions of our tax dollars to get them (instead of spending the money on fixing roads and sidewalks). Does he think those recommendations don’t apply to him while he campaigns to get out of his commitment to serve Collingwood? It appears blatant hypocrisy to simply ignore those recommendations when they prove inconvenient. And it surely discredits the report.

I’m told Saunderson’s campaign to be the next MPP has the endorsement of a local blogger** who was cited in a 2007 human rights complaint against Maclean’s magazine over alleged racism. The magazine was “accused of publishing eighteen Islamophobic articles between January 2005 and July 2007.” Although the BC Tribunal dismissed the case in 2008, in its ruling it stated that the “article at the source of the complaint contained historical, religious and factual inaccuracies, relied on common Muslim stereotypes and tried to ‘rally public opinion by exaggeration and causing the reader to fear Muslims.'”

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Musings on Making Bread and Chili, No. 1

Recent breadLongtime readers here know that before my surgery last summer, along with my pasta making I was an avid, if not always entirely competent, baker. I mostly made bread from “scratch” but sometimes for convenience used an electric bread maker. I made all sorts of bread in previous years, including soda (“quick”) breads, as well as the occasional scone, tea biscuit, and muffin.

I’ve always looked upon my baking (and cooking in general) as a sort of living chemistry experiment. I play with recipes, tweak them, explore different ingredients and processes. I have produced some spectacular loaves, a lot of adequate loaves, and a few bricks. I had a lot of fun, and a little bit of frustration, from my baking.*

In fact, I enjoy cooking in general because it is a creative art. Not that I’m an artist, but I have a reasonable level of competence in the kitchen, I’m willing to try new ideas and recipes, I enjoy experimenting with foods, flavours, textures, and developing my own recipes.

Most recent loafWell, I’m getting back into baking after all this time. My first loaf was in the bread machine: a “French bread” recipe tweaked as is my wont to make it more interesting. In this case, I added roughly two tablespoons of Fiorfiore’s “dry sourdough” mixture (purchased locally at Walmart) to the dry ingredients, plus a tablespoon of molasses (for colour and sweetness because I reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe), and substituted 1/2 cup of AP flour for whole wheat.  And I substituted a bit of 1% milk instead of the called-for water.

Overall, the result was good. Tall, nicely chewy crust, solid crumb. And the latter was important. Plus it tasted good. I think the addition of the sourdough mix really helped.

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Another Sad Day for Collingwood

It’s sad to see any council devolve into pettiness and paranoia, but not surprising when this thin-skinned group does.

In a story on CollingwoodToday, council voted 4-3* to censor “fact-check” letters or comments from the public.

It’s so very Stalinist of them that they need staff to ensure the public’s comments march in step with the party line. What next? Purges? Gulags? Show trials? Oh wait, we already had that with the SVJI.

And what qualifications do staff have to read and censor “fact-check” public content? Are they trained for this in any way? Are they educated in journalistic investigative techniques? Are they widely-read polymaths with knowledge of dozens of fields and subjects? Who decrees whether any statement is factual or not?

What if, for example, a creationist comments about the presumed age of the earth? Do staff have to wade into a contentious religious debate and correct them, stating the scientific facts about geology and radioactive isotope dating, crossing out “6,000 years old” and writing in “14.54 billion years old”?

What if, say, a minister writing to ask for support for a food bank, suggests the demand has risen 150 percent. Will staff censor “fact-check” the figures to ensure the council is aware that the demand actually only rose 148 percent? If a resident writes to complain there are hundreds of potholes on their street, will staff race out to count them and censor “fact-check” to note there are actually only 89 potholes? This could easily become the theatre of the absurd (albeit fitting for this council).

Or is this role limited to censoring “fact-checking” only those writers and residents known to be critical of the party line? Perhaps just to those writers who contend that the already-excessive official figure of $8.2 million for the costs of the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI) was actually much higher because it didn’t include hidden costs like the payments to sole-sourced consultants and lawyers appointed without proper tendering processes before the SVJI began, or the costs of staff time and expenses to accommodate the SVJI’s needs, or the $700,000 as-important-as-clean-drinking-water-reports-about-the-report that staff will be working on until at least next fall. or even the cost of the OPP investigation (which since 2014 has not found anyone guilty of anything). Why, some might think the cost is much higher, wasting closer to $10 million of taxpayers’ money than the official figure. I’m sure those writers will be sternly censored “fact-checked” for their temerity at challenging the party line.

Will members of the public whose writings have been censored “fact-checked” then be publicly shamed at the council table when the consent agenda is brought up for approval? Will councillors call them out, chastise them, accuse them of mendacity? Did I use the word “Stalinist” yet?

And do staff get to censor “fact-check” members of council as well? If, say, the mayor claims the pool and the new arena only have a ” lifespan of about 15 to 20 years” will staff censor “fact-check” him so the public is aware of the facts: that the outer skin has a guaranteed lifespan of 25 years (the same lifespan as the roof of a standard steel-and-brick building), but the frames have a guarantee not to corrode for 50 years!

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Review: The Ultimate Pasta Machine Cookbook

The Ultimate Pasta Machine CookbookThe Ultimate Pasta Machine Cookbook: 100 Recipes for Every Kind of Amazing Pasta Your Pasta Maker Can Make, by Lucy Vaserfirer, Paperback, 208 pages, Published in 2020 by Harvard Common Press, Beverly, MA, USA.

I am disappointed. At almost $40, I don’t believe the book delivers what the title promises. I expected a book with “ultimate” in its title to have a LOT more information on actually using the machinery, and about the various types and styles, with plenty of photos and explanations, but there is very little of that. It’s mostly recipes.

Nothing at all on the differences between types of manual machines or their manufacturers, different attachments (or how to use them), nothing on deep cleaning or maintenance. I wanted technical information, and details, but got general guidance. 

Vasefirer is the author of several other cookbooks and has a good rating on Goodreads, but since I have not read them, I can only comment on this, her latest book. Before I bought this book, I read many reviews on Goodreads and other sites, but now think the writers didn’t actually read the book before heaping praises on it, or at least not with the critical eye of someone using a pasta machine or looking for technical and other details.

As readers here know, I use an Atlas Wellness 150 manual pasta machine manufactured by Marcato, as well as the company’s Regina pasta extruder. I have written about my pasta experiences of late (you can read the recent posts here and some older posts here and others, including my book reviews, here). I have been searching of late for more technical information and descriptions about the machinery, looking through my books on pasta and bread making, as well as online. The best information about the equipment I’ve found so far has been on sites for crafters and modellers using the machines for rolling clay dough!

But I am also looking for technical and even scientific information about flour, gluten, hydration, the chemistry of mixed ingredients, dough formation, and the processes and techniques of rolling and cutting (and what equipment is best for different pastas). 

I didn’t get much if anything of that from Vaserfirer’s book. Let me explain why…

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Should Children be Recruited in Party Politics?

I found these lines in Brian Saunderson’s latest job-hunting email somewhat tone deaf:

It is also interesting that a 14-year-old can purchase a membership and vote in the Nomination process. If you have any family members who live in Simcoe Grey Riding who are interested, it is an opportunity for our youth to get involved in the democratic process.

I think it’s a questionable tactic to appeal to underage kids as if politics were a video game with no consequences. It also suggests a certain desperation: perhaps he’s not getting as many adults to back him as he wants, and needs to recruit their teenagers to his cause. I can only hope these kids can’t be dragged away from their smartphones or X-Boxes long enough to vote.

That any party allows children as young as 14 to vote in nominations is gobsmacking. I’m not suggesting teenagers are stupid or oblivious to issues, but at 14 they have had little if any formal education in politics and democracy, let alone the machinations of party politics and nominations. Younger kids will be barely out of puberty, and for the rest, I expect their interests will be more focused on what their hormones direct them towards. I doubt politics is high on that list. I’d be delighted to see more engaged teens like Autumn Peltier and Greta Thunberg in our world, but the sad truth is that they are the exceptions, not the rule.

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Musings on Making Pasta, No. 4

Mafaldine attachment cloggedI made another batch of pasta this weekend to test my new mafaldine cutter, but it proved problematic . The dough jammed in it against the blades, so I had to switch to my lasagne ricce cutter, which worked perfectly. Because it got so deeply stuck, I had to remove the blade piece on the new cutter and spend some time fishing tiny bits of dough from the teeth.

I will have to contact the seller and manufacturer to see if there is something I can do to prevent this in the future. I plan to do a test in the near future, not for cooking but just to see if there are criteria that affect it, such as the thickness or the dryness of the dough. The same dough worked fine in the fettuccine cutter and lasagne ricce, so it must be something I wasn’t aware of specific to this device or style, or perhaps the dough itself.

Dough ballMeanwhile, I had decided to make a dough with 100g Tipo 00 flour and 50g semolina, plus two eggs (instead of 1 whole and 1 yolk), 1/2 tsp olive oil, a pinch of turmeric (for colour), and a pinch of salt. Plus water as required to moisten the dough. Just a minor variation on my usual recipe.

It’s an easy dough to make, but I got distracted while mixing and added some water to the flour before adding the eggs. When I did add the eggs, the dough was too wet (eggs add a lot of liquid).  I had to add more of the two flours to compensate until it was finally dry enough to knead. The kneaded dough ball weighed 387g before I left it to rest. That was more than I had planned for.

When the hour of resting was up, the dough still felt a bit too wet, so I sprinkled each piece with flour before rolling, and between laminations did that again. Eventually, I was able to roll and cut the noodles without any issues or sticking. As in the past, I rolled through stages from setting zero to the number six setting on my Atlas machine, which I measured at around 0.66mm for squeezing the dough (and 0.35mm for pushing paper through the gap). This makes a thin, fragile sheet of dough.

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Seven years in politics? But where?

We have questionsIn his latest email letter asking for support for his job-hunting effort, Mayor Brian Saunderson says,

“Having served on Collingwood and Simcoe County Councils for 7 years…”

Saunderson was first elected in late 2014, but did not take office in Collingwood until December 1, 2014. The inaugural meeting for the county was also that month: December 9, 2014. That’s six years and two months, not seven years in office.

I’m curious where he served the other 10 months in office to make up that seven he’s claiming, because it clearly wasn’t in Collingwood or Simcoe County. He wouldn’t be padding his political resume, of course, because that would be unethical and dishonest.

So where did he serve those missing months? And why hasn’t the local media been asking him about his claim?

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The Godzilla Soundtracks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDeU42u2s2Y

CD CoversAkira Ifukube. If you’re not an aficionado of Japanese film or a follower of Japanese symphonic music, his name won’t be familiar. But for millions of kaiju fans around the world, he is a legend. He composed the music and soundtracks for many of the Godzilla films, as well as many scifi and other films produced by the Toho film corporation. He has been ranked among the world’s great film composers along with people like John Williams, Ennio Morricone, and Nino Rota.*

I spent some time reading about the classically-trained Ifukube this past week after I received two CDs with selections from the Godzilla soundtracks, one from 1954 to 1975 (the Showa era films), the other from 1984 to 1995 (the Heisei era films). Ifukube was not the only composer for many of these films, but he was the most prolific. He is credited as the composer in eight of the Showa films, and four in the Heisei, but other composers often based their work on his themes. Masaru Satoh, Yuji Koseki, Kunio Miyauchi, Riichiroh Manabe, Reijiroh Koroku, Kochi Sugiyama, and Takayuki Hattori are credited on other films.

There are still more composers for the post-Heisei and US-made Godzilla films**, but Ifukube is credited for at least some of the music on four post-1995 Toho films. Although he died in 2006, he has credits in 2016’s Shin Godzilla and Legendary’s 2019 Godzilla King of the monsters.

The thrilling opening title of the very first Godzilla was as important to the franchise as Monty Norman’s catchy James Bond theme was for that franchise. It is the signature for Godzilla as defining as the duh-duh duh-duh theme that John Williams wrote for the shark in Jaws. While other composers created their own themes for Godzilla, few could abandon Ifukube’s masterful work and many incorporated at least part of it into theirs.

But Ifukube was more than just a film composer: he was a prolific,  accomplished, highly creative classical composer of considerable renown and would have been recognized as such even without his film scores. There’s a good, albeit brief biography of him in the chapter on Godzilla’s music in Brian Solomon’s Godzilla FAQ (Applause, 2017).

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