Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Deep Dives

The banner across the top of this morning’s Cape Breton Post gave me pause, I’ll admit it:

The SaltWire Deep Dives: Looking at the Doctor Shortage in Atlantic Canada. Today: Where are all the doctors?

“Deep dives?” I thought. “That’s my thing.”

I was nervous, but I had to read it — what if they’d found all the doctors? What if, all this time, they’d been trapped in disused coal mine or stuck in an elevator? I had to know.

What I saw when I opened the paper was a two-page spread that made me breathe a sigh of relief: I’m not about to get squeezed out of the “deep dive” market, although SaltWire probably gets the nod for “Big Fonts.”

Fully one quarter of the spread is the headline (I’m not kidding). Then there are 500 words on the fact that there is a doctor shortage — most of which is simply the story of one man in Newfoundland and his fight to find a doctor — followed by four short (the longest is 168 words; I counted, I’m like that) interviews, three with patients (one of whom is the Newfoundland man quoted in the first story) and one with a doctor. (There’s one additional doctor interview online, which means that someone, faced with the choice of putting an extra story in the print paper or having a massive, 1/2 page headline opted for the headline.)

Much of the real estate on the two pages is taken up with statistics, which are presented in very large type but without context.

Best of all is a “timeline” of the doctor shortage that consists solely of stories SaltWire papers have written about it over the years. It looks like this:

1999: There is a doctor shortage.

2003: There is a doctor shortage

2005: There is a doctor shortage

2015: There is a doctor shortage

2016: There is a doctor shortage

2018: There is still a doctor shortage.

2018: Yep, we are still short of doctors.

SaltWire, with papers across Atlantic Canada, is enviably well positioned to do an actual “deep dive” into the issue of healthcare and instead opted to print a collection of stats and blurbs that, if mounted on Bristol board and presented at a junior high science fair, would be unlikely to win any prizes.

What a waste of an opportunity.



I heard the very beginnings of a story on CBC’s The Current this morning about a fertility doctor who was substituting his own sperm for that of donors (I didn’t need to listen to the whole thing because I watched the first season of Sisters — an Australian comedy with that very theme — on Netflix last year). But I listened long enough to hear a woman speak about the shock of discovering her children had been fathered by the doctor, rather than her husband.

It reminded me of my personal theory about these biological parentage concerns which is that since we share about 99.9% of our DNA with other human beings, why sweat the last 0.1%? How much difference can it really make?

(My original theory was much more fun and based on the notion that we share 60% of our DNA with bananas but some know-it-all had to go and rain on my parade, suggesting this interpretation of shared DNA is too simplistic.)

With all that shared human DNA (nature) plus nurture, it seems to me pretty much any child could become your child (which, admittedly, would not be the case with a banana — dress it in little human clothes, send it to college, get it a job, it would remain a banana. Or so I presume. It’s not like I’ve tried this.)

I realize this REEKS of “childless woman has many theories about raising children” but haven’t you noticed that the best theories often come from people who haven’t a clue what they’re talking about?

Yeah, me neither. I’ll stop now.


Binary stars

Speaking of shared DNA, a spectator alerted me to a wonderful, additional bit of biographical information about Poland’s Kaczyński twins — Lech and Jarosław — who founded the Law and Justice party in 2001 and served as the country’s president and prime minister, respectively. (Lech died in a plane crash in 2010, Jarosław is now the chair of the party and a “simple MP” who nevertheless seems to run Poland).

In 1962, when they were 13, the twins starred in a Polish children’s film called: The Two Who Stole the Moon (O dwóch takich, co ukradli księżyc). According to an Internet Movie Database (IMDB) summary of the plot:

Twin brothers, Jacek and Placek, are the town’s troublemakers. They’re lazy, greedy and also cruel. They despise hard work, so they cook up a plan to make easy money that would make them rich for the rest of their lives: steal the moon [which is said to be made of gold] and sell it. They set [out] on a journey to find a place where the moon would be low enough for them to steal. Before they leave, they take the last loaf of bread from their poor hardworking mother. After numerous adventures the boys manage to catch the moon in a fishing net. But it is only the beginning of their troubles.

Perhaps because it is based on a 1928 story by Kornel Makuszyński, the movie is not prescient about the future of its stars — it  ends with the boys seeing the error of their ways and returning to their parents to work as farmers, not founding a right-wing political party and taking over the country.



Electric buses

Xcelsior electric bus by New Flyer. (Source: New Flyer website

Xcelsior electric bus by New Flyer. (Source: New Flyer website

I love Erica Butler’s work — she’s the Transit columnist for the Halifax Examiner and she has a great knack for making sense of things, which is really valuable in a columnist.

This week, she’s explaining why — and how — Halifax is probably going to get electric buses and it’s a particularly interesting read if you (like me) hadn’t realized how close our provincial capital is to introducing the technology and how many other Canadian cities have already done so. (Winnipeg! Who knew?)

The article covers a lot of ground, including an introduction to the Pan-Canadian Electric Bus Demonstration & Integration Trial and the non-profit organization that’s overseeing it, the Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium or CUTRIC; a discussion of how Halifax’s buses are to be funded and some deets on the kind of (positive) environmental impact their introduction will have.

She’s also promised (in a comment on her own story) to have a look into the feasibility of electric streetcars (as opposed to buses) and I’m hoping she may, at some point, find time to tackle the environmental issues around the lithium-ion batteries that power the buses.

Butler’s article is behind the paywall but available to those of you with joint Cape Breton Spectator + Halifax Examiner subscriptions. (Don’t have one? Why, I just happen to have a bunch right here…). And if you buy an annual subscription to either right now, there will be a special added bonus, about which more to come….(Hint: We have SWAG.)


Come From Away

Come From Away Logo[Warning: This post contains language and subject matter that may be considered cranky and downright un-Canadian]

Am I the only person in Canada who does not want to see the musical Come From Away?

That’s a purely rhetorical question: I know I am not, because I was kibitzing this morning with someone, in Canada, who wants to see it even less than I do. We have the same conversation every time the CBC does a story about it, as q with Tom Power did this morning.

Come From Away tells the heartwarming story of some 6,700 passengers whose planes were diverted to Gander airport in Newfoundland and Labrador on 11 September 2001 (i.e. 9/11) and who (when they were finally allowed to get off those planes) were put up in and around Gander in private homes and hastily converted schools.

I really hope the musical includes a song about why the flights were diverted to Newfoundland and Labrador — as the CBC explains, one of the reasons was:

[T]o keep them away from large, urban centres such as Toronto and Montreal. Officials didn’t know whether the planes posed a threat and wanted to minimize any potential threat to large buildings in Canada.

“It’s Okay to Blow Up Newfoundland” would be a showstopper of a tune, although I don’t think it would count as heartwarming.

My fellow kibitzer and I are actually planning a prequel musical about the 28 hours passengers on the last flight diverted to Gander had to spend on the plane before they were allowed to disembark. (Possible songs: “Please Put Your Shoes Back On,” “I Will Sell You These Peanuts for $1,500,” and several about the onboard bathroom situation that require more finessing before they can be presented in public.)

Coming soon to a converted barn near you!


Cherchez les femmes

This week’s installment of my semi-regular “Where are the Womens?” series consists simply of a photograph which I have titled:

Because it’s… 2019?

Premiers Stephen McNeil (NS), Wade MacLaughlan (PEI), Blaine Higgs (NB) and Dwight Ball (Nfld & Lab) in Charlottetown at Atlantic Premiers meeting. January 2019. (Source: Twitter)

Premiers Stephen McNeil (NS), Wade MacLaughlan (PEI), Blaine Higgs (NB) and Dwight Ball (Nfld & Lab) in Charlottetown for Atlantic Premiers meeting. January 2019. (Source: Twitter)