Monday, February 22, 2021

Canada's vaccine response is extremely disappointing


Here in Toronto, Canada's largest city, we have been in lockdown since the day after Christmas.  The Ontario government's stay-at-home order has been extended until at least until March 8th, due to fears about the spread of variants of the COVID-19 virus.  This didn't have to happen and its consequences are tragic.  Every day that the vaccines are delayed means that more people will become infected and more people will die.  It means that variants of the virus will spread more rapidly.  As I write this, two vulnerable members of my family have still not been vaccinated.  One is 92 years old and the other resides in a group home.  Millions of Canadians find themselves in similar situations.  I do not buy the excuse, however,  that we have to wait for other countries to deliver the vaccines to us.  Why, for heaven's sake, haven't we been able to produce our own vaccine?  Why have we been left in the dust as countries such as Germany, the U.K. and the United States receive the coronavirus vaccine before us?

Canada's COVID-19 response should have been swifter much more efficient.  It certainly would have helped if we had produced own vaccine.  After all, Canada is the country that gave the world a wonderful gift about a century ago. Two Canadian doctors, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, discovered insulin at the University of Toronto.  Insulin was purified and used in the successful treatment of diabetes.  

F. Banting (r) and C. Best circa 1924

In 2003, Canada experienced an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus.  According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, most of the infections originated in Toronto hospitals.  Thousands were quarantined during the outbreak and 44 people died.  SARS was a severe warning of what might happen in the future.  We had ample to time to prepare for a worse scenario.  Yet we were not prepared - not buy a longshot.  Why not?

On November 30, 2020, the Toronto Star published a column by journalist Linda McQuaig about Canada's inability to produce its own vaccine.  McQuaig pointed out that Canada once led the way in vaccine research and production.  She chronicled the history of the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories, which opened in 1914 as a public health commodity at the University of Toronto with the intention of  producing diphtheria antitoxin.  Of Connaught's pioneering work,  McQuaig wrote: "From the early part of the 20th century, Connaught created high quality medical treatments and vaccines for Canadians, including vaccines for smallpox, tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough, as Canadian medical historian Christopher Rutty has documented."  It also played an important role in assisting Dr. Jonas Salk with developing the polio vaccine in the 1950s.

Alas, Connaught was privatized in the 1980s as a cost-cutting measure by the conservative government of Brian Mulroney.  Its remains have been integrated into the vaccine division of Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical giant located Paris.  How penny wise and pound foolish!  Years later, we are paying a heavy price for that decision.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada had struck a deal with Novavax to produce its COVID-19 vaccine in this country.  That's all fine and dandy, but it comes much too late to prevent a large number of deaths and illnesses.  It is expected to be months before this potential made-in-Canada vaccine is approved and distributed nationwide.  That's not good enough.  People are dying!  We need the vaccine now!

Canada is not a Third World country.  It is not poor nation, bereft of resources.  There was no reason why the True North couldn't have produced its own vaccine much sooner.  So, why did it not happen in time to combat this horrid COVID-19 pandemic?  Why are we in a situation in which we have to depend on other countries for vaccines?  I am angry and profoundly disappointed that this has occurred.  It's not good enough to say that the vaccines will soon get rolling, that we have to be patient a bit longer.  People are suffering and dying in the meantime.  Their lives could have been spared.  The delay has given the variants of the disease more time to spread.  

Prime Minister Trudeau has promised that all Canadians will be vaccinated by the end of September.  I  can only hope his calculation is accurate.  Remember that Canada has a relatively small population.  It's not as if we have over a billion people to vaccinate like India or over 330 million like the United States.  We have a population of about 38 million people.  According to COVID-19 Tracker Canada, as of today, more than 1,055,288 have received received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.  Only 468,510 Canadians have been fully vaccinated.  Unfortunately, the vaccinations have been moving at a snail's pace.  Let's get rolling!  Let's get it done!

- Joanne

Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentine's Day Trivia


"Love is the expansion of two natures in such fashion that each includes the other, each is enriched by the other. Love is an echo in the feelings of a unity subsisting between two persons which is founded both on likeness and on complementary differences. Without the likeness there would be no attraction; without the challenge of the complementary differences there could not be the closer interweaving and the inextinguishable mutual interest which is the characteristic of all deeper relationships."   

- Felix Adler, From Life and Destiny (1913), Section 5: Love and Marriage

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and I compiled some Valentine trivia for you.

- Joanne


FLORENCE HENDERSON, American actress and singer, best known as The Brady Bunch matriarch, was born in Dale, Indiana, USA on February 14, 1934.  She died on November 24, 2016 and the age of 82.


JIM KELLY, former American football quarterback in the National Football League (NFL), was born on February 14, 1960 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


DREW BLEDSOE, retired American football quarterback in the National Football League (NFL), was born on February 14, 1972 in Ellensburg, Washington, USA.

SIMON PEGG, British actor, comedian, screenwriter and producer, was born in Gloucestershire, England on February 14, 1970.  He came to prominence in the United Kingdom as the co-creator of the sitcom Spaced.  He wrote and starred in the Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy.  He also co-wrote and starred in the 2011 science fiction film Paul.

Photo Attribution:  Simon Pegg, Alice Braga & Like Hemsworth at the LA Premier… | Flickr

Mark Rutte, Dutch politician, Prime Minister of the Netherlands since 2010, was born in The Hague, in the province  of South Holland on February 14, 1967/


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, American businessman and politician, was born on February 14, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts.  He is the former mayor of New York City.

JIMMY HOFFA was born in Brazil, Indiana on February 14, 1913.  The American labour union leader served as the president of the International Brotherhood Teamsters from 1957 until 1971.  He disappeared on July 30, 1975 and was declared dead on July 30, 1982.  

SUNG HOON, South Korean actor and voice actor, was born in Nam District, Daegu, South Korea on February 14, 1983.

Photo Attribution: tenasia10



WILLIAM  TECEMSWEH SHERMAN, American Major General in the Union Army during the Civil War, died in New York City on February 14, 1891 at the age of 71.

JOHNNY LONGDEN was a champion jockey.  He is the only person to win the Kentucky Derby as both an rider (1943) and as a trainer (1969).  Johnny was born on February 14, 1907 in Yorkshire, England.  His family immigrated to Canada and settled in Taber, Alberta, where he was raised.  Johnny Longden died of a stroke on his 96th birthday, February 14, 2003. 


Circa 270 A.D.  Saint Valentine is martyred in Rome.

1400 (Circa February 14) -  Richard II, King of England from 1377 to 1399 is murdered at Pontefract Castle.  He is 33 years old.  

February 14, 1779- James Cook, British explorer, navigator and cartographer is killed in a fight with Hawaiians near Kealakekua.  He is 50 years old.

Al Capone

February 14, 1929 - St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago.  Seven gangsters are killed, allegedly on the orders of mobster Al Capone.


Hefty Smurf has a heart tattooed on both arms.  Hefty is the son of Muscles Smurf and the twin brother of Handy Smurf.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Language Corner: Words that have a negative connotation for women

As we all know, words matter.  Some words in the English language display a subtle or not-so-subtle anti-female bias.  

Kieran Snyder is the CEO and co-founder of Textio, an augmented writing platform that predicts the response one will receive based on the language of a particular piece of writing.  Snyder is a linguist and a writer.  She holds a PhD in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and her work has been published in Fortune, Re/Code, Slate and The Washington Post.

In a 2014 study for, entitled "The Abrasiveness Trap: High-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews," Snyder examined 248 job performance reviews from 180 people (105 men and 75 women).  The reviews were taken from 28 different tech companies of a variety of organizational sizes.

Kieran Snyder

Snyder found a common occurrence in her study.  One particular word appeared 17 times in reviews of women, and not once in any of the reviews of men.  That word was "abrasive."  Other words, such as "bossy " "aggressive," "strident," "emotional" and "irrational" were applied unequally to describe women.

The word "aggressive" did appear in two reviews of male employees, but only in the context of them being encouraged to be more aggressive.  Reviews of women, on the other hand, only ever used the term "aggressive" as a means of criticism. 

Some Subtle and Not-so Subtle Sexist Terms to Avoid

NAG: According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, nag as a verb, means "to irritate by constant scolding or urging; to badger, worry to find fault incessantly : Complain"  As a noun a nag is "a horse, especially one that is old or in poor condition"  It is also "a person who nags."

Although dictionaries such as Meriam Webster does not explicitly define a nag as a female, the implication is clear.  The word is subtly sexist.  One often hears reference to a "nagging wife," such as in the cartoon above.  How often does one hear the term "nagging husband?"  Some terms that are        similar to nag include "fishwife," "hen-pecked," "shrew"  and "harridan."  We hear of a "hen-pecked husband."  When do we hear of a "hen-pecked husband?" One of William Shakespeare's most well=known plays is titled The Taming of the Shrew.

SPINSTER and OLD MAID:  There are no similar terms for older unmarried men.  They are simply described as a "confirmed bachelor" or a "lifelong bachelor."  The words spinster and old maid are pejoratives.  They conger up an image of  a shy, unattractive or vey ugly woman.  Think of the card game "Old Maid."  The picture on the "Old Maid" card is that of a very hideous looking woman.

EFFETTE:  According to Merriam Webster, the word effette is derived from the word Latin word "effetus," meaning "no longer fruitful."   For a time it was used to describe an animal no longer capable of producing offspring.  As an adjective, it now means "lacking strength, courage or spirit; resembling a woman."

WORKING MOM:  Have you ever head of a "working dad?"

SOCCER MOM:  Have you ever heard of a "soccer dad?"

STRIDENT:  How many times does one hear female leaders or politicians described  as being "strident" or having a "strident voice."  That's exactly what happened to Hillary Clinton.  Let me know when you hear a male described as "strident" or "having a strident voice."

There are many more words I could include on this list.  There is clearly an anti-female bias in the language we speak.

- Joanne

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

6 Iconic Film Posters With The Cars That Could've Been

Here is something for car lovers.  The UK's Bristol Street Motors has recreated six of the most iconic car movie posters.  They feature cars that could have been famous, but didn't quite make the cut.  I hope you find it entertaining and informative, even if you are not an automobile enthusiast.

- Joanne

Alternative Pop Culture Cars

 In some films, the cars can become bigger stars than the actors that drive them. The DeLorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future is iconic in it’s own right, but did you know the films could have turned out with completely different motor stars? 

Bristol Street Motors have uncovered that iconic movie cars of the past weren’t always the original plan and have reimagined what the movie posters would have looked like if their alternatives were used.

 Aston Martin DB5 v Blower Bentley

Goldfinger (1964)

 007 could have easily been driving a 1931 Blower Bentley instead of the now-iconic Aston Martin DB5 in the Goldfinger movie. Bristol Street Motors found that in the novels, Bond was something of a car nut and counted his treasured Blower Bentley as his own personal hobby.

 As revealed by Top Gear’s 50 Years of Bond Cars special, author Ian Fleming received a letter from a fan one day encouraging the author to “have the decency to fix him up with a decent bit of machinery”, as the Blower Bentley was dated and over 20 years old. 

Fleming gave Bond an Aston Martin DB3 for the Goldfinger novel, which updated to the classic DB5 when the movie was released 5 years later.  

It was by pure chance that The Lincoln Futura made it into the Bond film, looking extremely futuristic back in 1966.

Lincoln Futura v Cadillac Series 62

Batman (1966)

It was originally planned that the Batmobile was to be a 1959 Cadillac, but 20th Century Fox announced they needed something faster for Batman to drive. Hollywood car designer George Barris was hired but with just three short weeks until filming started, he bought the Futura and dawned it with Batman-esque features and fail fins, and the rest is history.


Volkswagen Beetle v Volvo P1800  

The Love Bug (1968)

The Volkswagen Beetle, known as Herbie, found fame in The Love Bug but was close to never making it to the big screen at all.

 The movie producers had no specific car in mind to star in the film, and so held a casting call. Car manufacturers could show their cars to Disney executives and crew who would be working on the movie. There were Toyotos, a TVR and the Volvo P1800 all in for a chance as playing Herbie. 

During the audition, the Volkswagen Beetle was the only car to elicit an emotional reaction from the crew, with many of them reaching out to pet it. VW was offered the chance to feature their Beetle in the film as a result of this.


Mini Cooper v Fiat 500

Italian Job (1969) 

The Italian Job is known as one of the most iconic movies ever made. The movie was considered to be totally original upon its release. However, what people don’t know about is how close the Mini Coopers were to being replaced with Fiat 500s. The two cars have a close rivalry now due to their similar size and target audience, and back in 1969 it was similar. 

According to Michael Deeley, the British Motor Cooperation sold the production three Mini Coopers at cost price but they had to buy an additional 30 for action scenes. Alternatively, Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli offered an unlimited supply of top-of-the-range Fait 500s for free. He also offered Deeley a Ferrari and $50,000 towards the picture. Upon consideration, Deeley couldn’t make sense of British Crooks driving Italian-produced cars in Italy, so decided to stick with Mini Coopers.


Ferrari 308 GTS v Porsche 928

Magnum PI (1978)

Originally, the 6 foot 4 actor Tom Selleck, who played the character of Thomas Sullivan Magnum lll, was supposed to be driving a Porsche 928. Unfortunately, Porsche refused to allow their car to be specially altered for the tall actor, and producers were forced to look for alternatives. Step forward Ferarri with their 308 GTS – they were happy to modify their car to house Selleck and the car became an icon.


Delorean DMC 12 v A Refrigerator

Back To The Future (1985)

A firm favourite from our childhoods, fans will be surprised to know that the famous scene of Doc and Marty’s time-travelling Delorean disappearing in a line of smoke and fire almost never happened. Bristol Street discovered that in the first two drafts of the movie, a lead lined refrigerator took the role of the time machine. However, when mobility became an issue, co-author Bob Zemeckis dared to ask, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to build the time machine into a car?”

* Bristol Street Motors operate under the Vertu Motors Group.  Serving England from its local dealerships, it represents 14 of the world's major manufacturers as well as offering a wide variety of quality assured used cars across a range of the best-known car franchises.