I wrote this article for a website as part of my frustration with the emergence of cell phones in every nook and cranny of society. Now, they’re everywhere and attached to everyone. Since then, they have also come under intense scrutiny by lawmakers linking them to unsafe driving. For years, I refused to get a cell phone. I refused to become part of the drones walking around in their own little bubbles. Among the irritating traits people have developed these days are talking on their cell phones while being served by service people in stores, talking on their cell phones while driving, screaming on their cell phones in public amidst relative quiet and texting while pushing a shopping cart.
The following article was written with the angle of the emergence of cell phones for everyone (including children) and their intrusion into everyday life.
The Sanctity of Silence and the Cacophony of Cell Phones
Kids are the last untapped market
Susan McMillan was enjoying her hike up a mountain in Banff National Park on a summer day in August. She was listening to the footsteps of fellow hikers, the wind in the trees and the hush of the solitude, when she heard a cell phone ring nearby.
“I couldn’t believe it,” McMillan said. “I go hiking in Banff to escape that kind of intrusion. And here is this girl getting a call on her cell phone from someone to say what kind of pasta sauce she bought at Safeway or something. In Banff. It’s ridiculous.”
McMillan’s encounter with the cell phone in even the most remote location is an example of our technology-reliant culture and how difficult it has become to escape cell phones in public places.
Cell phones are relatively inexpensive and, like automobiles, give people a sense of personal power, freedom and mobility. The majority of users state “convenience” as to why they have cell phones, or especially after 9/11, to make them feel “safer.” Today, it is more common to see someone with a cell phone than without one.
However, there is still one place on earth where you will not hear a cell phone’s ring tone of the latest hit by Lady Gaga – on an airplane and, if airline passengers have their way, you never will.
SKYTRAX, a company that surveys passengers for the airline and airport industry, recently released a survey that said 89.1% of airline passengers oppose the idea of allowing cell phone usage on flights. 1.
As part of the survey, one respondent replied, “…the last bastion of peace and quiet and the ability to read uninterrupted would be lost forever in favor of the banal crap that people seem intent on boring one another with at their own expense.” 2.
One solution to deter people from having loud and bothersome cell phone conversations in public comes from IDEO, the same company that invented the computer mouse and the toothpaste squeeze tube. One of its cell phone prototypes shocks the caller if they talk too loudly. 3.
Shocking cell phone users may sound appealing to some people, but the parents of the next wave of cell phone users may object to this. Cell phone and toy manufacturers are now marketing cell phones to the 12 and under audience.
Mattel has introduced a Barbie cell phone for girls 8 to 14. Hasbro has a walkie-talkie unit called ChatNow that looks and feels like a cell phone. Wireless firm Enfora has a similar unit called TicTalk for children 6 and older. In Canada, Rogers is selling Firefly, a five button speed dial phone for “mobile kids”, programmed and controlled by the parents.
“This isn’t a cell phone,” says Paul Saffo of the Institute of the Future. “This is a dog leash. This is a sucker purchase for every paranoid parent. All it’s going to do is cause the kids to want a real cell phone that much earlier…” 4.
The security of their children and fear of what may happen to them if parents don’t know their whereabouts, are major selling points to parents. Parent Eric Webber says he is about to buy his 11-year-old son Jake a cell phone. “He’s playing the safety and security card on me, saying, ‘Wouldn’t you feel safer if I had it?’”, Webber says.
Service providers are establishing brand loyalty early, setting the stage for future sales. Parents are creating lifelong cell phone customers, say experts. “It won’t be long before no self-respecting kindergartner is going to start school without a cell phone,” says Paul Saffo.
The solitude of the back country awaits these burgeoning cell phone users.
A lot of people like to call each of the 4 tennis majors (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open) grand slams. In fact, a grand slam (in tennis terms anyway) is winning all four of these titles in one calendar year. The only woman to have done it in the open era (starting in 1968) is Steffi Graf. The only man to have done it in the open era is Rod Laver. Whenever one of the majors comes around, you hear people calling it a grand slam, which is incorrect. Or whenever a player wins one of these tournaments, people say they have won a grand slam, which is also incorrect.
Out of all the majors, Wimbledon is not only the oldest, but it is the most prestigious. It’s quite a different atmosphere – especially around the grounds and in the courts. There is absolutely no advertising anywhere by any major company. It’s quite refreshing. All you see are the signature green and purple colours of Wimbledon and no ugly sponsorship. The club has cultivated a very prestigious feel and if you were to ask any player, they would want to win Wimbledon the most over all the other majors just for the prestige. I’d have to say that Wimbledon is my second favourite major.
My favourite major is the French Open. I just have a very special fondness for the red clay. It is such a unique surface. The players who conquer this surface are, in my opinion, the ultimate athlete. Sometimes this may translate into the ultimate tennis player (Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Bjorn Borg come to mind). Clay challenges players and it is the player that overcomes these challenges that will ultimately win the title. You have to be patient. You have to be fit. You have to be tenacious. You have to have a cool, calculating temperament. Clay rewards all of these things. For those players who won the French Open and then went on to win Wimbledon a month later, they are truly remarkable because the change in surface is so drastic.
The French Open is also where my favourite players and fellow Canadians have enjoyed so much success. I still remember Chris Evert’s win in 1985 over Martina Navratilova. It was the touchstone for Chris to continue with her career for another 4 years. I remember Carling Bassett’s run to the quarterfinals that same year, only weeks after her father died. It was where Helen Kelesi made the quarters 2 years in a row (1988, 1989) and was the only player to push Monica Seles to 3 sets in 1990. It was where Steffi Graf won her first (1987) and last (1999) major. 1999 was also the scene of Graf’s come from behind, surreal win over a petulant, ignorant, spoiled brat.
The atmosphere at the French Open is also so much more intimate and less stuffy than Wimbledon. The fans at the French crave the underdog but they also are in no mood to put up with antics, whining, complaining and general misbehaving. The champions at the French have all dealt with opponents who in one way or another have gotten on the bad side of the crowd – and rightfully so. The French Open is no place for players who refuse to adapt to the conditions and place the blame for their poor play on circumstances beyond their control. It has been the steady, the athletic, the mentally focused that have won this major.
As for the other two majors, the Australian Open really needs to be moved 2 months ahead to March. Who in North America is watching tennis in the dead of winter? And the U.S. Open – too loud, too noisy, too big, too much “America is the greatest rah rah rah” baloney. Is this a tennis tournament or a promotional tool for the U.S. military? I mean really, what other tennis tournament plays (and I use that term lightly – overblown is more like it) their own national anthem multiple times during the tournament. None. I feel like I’m watching a modern day Third Reich propaganda sports event. Enough already!
As a side note, it is interesting that while Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament, the U.S. Open is the second oldest – a tournament that is not a major is the third oldest. It’s the Canadian Open.
Lotteries have been around for many years. I can remember back in Nova Scotia during the early years of Atlantic Lotto the kind of excitement that surrounded the weekly drawings – that was when lottery drawings were televised… live! It was kind of an event. The week leading up to the weekly lottery drawing involved getting a ticket and putting it somewhere special so that you wouldn’t lose it. I remember even the paper the numbers were printed on was special – almost like bank note stock.
The jackpots weren’t large. I can’t remember exactly how big they were, but they pale in comparison to the outrageous jackpots today. The night of the drawing, everyone gathered around the television, ticket in hand, to watch the rubber balls bounce around the machines that looked like the Daleks from Doctor Who. And then it was over. You were grateful to have won something – anything.
Those were the days. As the years went by, Lotto 6/49 appeared and the jackpots kept climbing into the stratosphere. Lotteries based on the little rubber balls in the machines dropping out and declaring winners are still going strong, but in the last ten years there has been a new kind of lottery appear. They started out small (in terms of coverage) but now there are dozens of them out there – sometimes the same organization rolling out multiple lotteries per year. These new lotteries are the ‘home lottos’ or the ‘cash and cars’ lottos – you know the ones with the $100 price tag per ticket – the ones that are making poor people poorer and the rich people richer.
Who wouldn’t be tempted to buy one of these tickets? The odds are infinitely better than the weekly national lotteries where millions of people participate. More often than not, these gold-plated lotteries are provincial only and a limited number of tickets are printed. When the odds are better, the temptation is greater. These lotteries also benefit worthy causes like hospitals, children’s issues and health care. However, there is a hidden underlying and sinister tone to these gold-plated lotteries that is often not thought about and definitely not talked about.
The fact of the matter is that the only people who can really afford these $100 per ticket lotteries are the people who least deserve to win. Sometimes, luck does shine on people who deserve a hand up. But the odds are stacked against these people because the vast majority of ticket purchasers for this kind of lottery are those who can afford to buy a ticket and it’s not going to make a dent in their finances. I’m wondering what is really in it for already-wealthy ticket purchasers. Do they want to help charities? Write a cheque directly to the hospital. The thrill of victory? Take up tennis. To add to your already-overflowing stash of gold bullion? Get bent.
The people who really deserve a shot at the spoils of these gold-plated lotteries (multi-million dollar homes, cars, cash, etc.) are the people who can least afford to participate. The really sad story that boils my blood is people in this demographic who are using their hard earned money just to get by on a daily basis buying one of these extravagantly priced tickets, hoping that their monthly grocery money they just spent a ticket on will pay off.
That’s just it. These lotteries (just like Lotto 6/49 and those like it) are open to anyone willing to shell out $100 – the oil baron, the country club heiress, the art collector, the gold bullion hoarder, the minimum wage-earning single mother. These lotteries ultimately make a pretty accurate statement about the state of society: the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
I wrote this article for a website, partially for my own information because I am a big advocate of wearing a bike helmet. When I started mountain biking, a helmet was a no brainer (ha!). After several minor crashes, I was glad that I was wearing one. This article really forced me to be a true journalist and explore both sides of the issue, despite my obvious inclination to the one side. I have always found it difficult to be truly objective because of my opinionated nature. This was a tough one.
Bicycle Helmets: To Wear or Not to Wear
Good bike driving skills a better way to prevent injuries and fatalities
On an early August day in 2009, Simon Hurley was on his mountain bike on one of Calgary’s 700km of pathways, heading southbound near the community of Riverbend. Coming down a steep incline to a hairpin turn, Hurley lost control of his bike and slammed his head on the asphalt pathway.
“I know I was going too fast, and I know it was my fault,” Hurley said. “It happened so fast that I really didn’t know what had happened until I was lying on the grass with my bike beside me.” Hurley ended up with some minor scrapes and is convinced the helmet he was wearing prevented serious injury.
All bike helmets must be approved for sale by a safety body like the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The design of bike helmets has not changed much over the past twenty years. Impact foam (crucial to reduce the force of an impact) is still the main element of a bike helmet, though ventilation holes (to cool the head) have increased.
Hurley could have not worn his helmet. That would have been fine with city bylaw officers. Currently, there is no law in Alberta that requires the mandatory wearing of bike helmets – except for those under the age of 18. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia are the only provinces that have made it law for all cyclists to wear helmets. 1.
The issue of mandating the use of bike helmets through law is a relatively new idea. Only in the last 20 years has it become commonplace. Before 1989, there were no jurisdictions in the world that passed laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets. Australia was the first country to pass a mandatory helmet law in 1990. 2. The issue entered North America soon after, with the province of Ontario passing an under-18-only law in 1995. 3.
Safety and health are generally regarded as the reasons why helmet laws have been mandated. Rising health care costs, the increase in the awareness of health and well-being, and requests from special interest groups are also factors that have pushed governments to issue laws that they hope will protect their citizens. Law makers point to sports as an example. Olympic cyclists have always worn helmets. Tour de France riders are always seen wearing bike helmets. Professional mountain bike racers who negotiate the roughest of terrain wear them. These, however, are competitive athletes under pressure in exceptional circumstances where high speed can play a part in a life-threatening injury. The casual cyclist is more affected by helmet laws.
A lot of cyclists who have been involved in a crash may claim, ‘the helmet saved my life.’ According to the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation (BHRF), “despite the considerable effort that has been put into research about cycle helmets, there is no real-world evidence that helmets have ever resulted in the net saving of even a single life.” 4. After helmet laws went into effect in the Australian province of New South Wales, fatalities went up, not down. In the British Medical Journal, a report concluded that the amount of people cycling declined and people’s risk compensation increased. The report said, “helmet laws are counterproductive and governments should instead focus on measures that lead to clear drops in casualties, such as campaigns to against speeding, drink-driving, and failure to obey road rules.” 5.
Despite the good intentions of government officials, many long-time cyclists are against helmet laws and what they perceive as being burdened with yet another law that imposes upon their personal freedom. Ken Kifer was a cycling safety advocate who sought to teach people about the health benefits of cycling and the proper, safest way to do it. “Cycling is no more dangerous per hour than taking a walk or riding in a car and much less dangerous than other common activities,” said Kifer. “Should we wear a helmet everywhere we go?” 6. Ironically, Ken Kifer was killed by a drunk driver in 2003 while riding his bike near his home in Scottsboro, Alabama. The driver veered across the road, struck and killed Kifer.
The Ontario Coalition for Better Cycling (OCFB) also wants to prevent cyclist injuries by preventing accidents through education of cyclists – not through mandatory helmet laws. This special interest group was successful in lobbying the Ontario government to make the helmet law apply only to those under 18, as adults were able to make up their own minds. The OCFB says that helmets make cycling look so dangerous that it scares people from cycling. “We wear no special protective headgear for other every day activities such as walking and driving a car, even though our heads are exposed to similar risks for far greater lengths of time.” 7.
Although Simon Hurley was not required by law to wear a helmet, he has continued to wear it whenever he rides his bike. “Like seat belts, it’s just common sense.”
It all looked so promising for Eugenie Bouchard in 2014. For the first six months of the year, she could do no wrong and blazed trails in Canadian tennis that no player had ever done before. 2015 started off much the same as the bulk of 2014 had – a highly respectable quarterfinal appearance in the Australian Open. Then, she blinked.
Since then, Bouchard has won two matches and lost her last five. She appears lost. Although a lot of armchair analysts and so-called tennis fans have called it ‘the sophomore slump’ and ‘this is the real Bouchard’, the origins of this period of despair for Bouchard can be traced back to when she was the most successful.
After her first title in Germany in May 2014, then her record-breaking run to the French Open semifinals, she played through Wimbledon with a minor injury. Since then, Bouchard has been fighting these minor injuries it seems on a constant basis as they have crept up on her. They don’t hinder her from taking extended periods of time away from the game, but they have to have gotten into her mind.
With little strains, pulls and the like, players like Bouchard can’t train and push themselves to the limit or beyond in practice. This limits their training, and probably more importantly, plants that little seed of doubt in their minds when they step on the court for a match. They aren’t fully 100% physically and thus, even more importantly, their minds start to play tricks on their game – serving balls many feet long or into the net, splaying balls way wide, etc. The already heavily-stacked, important mental side of the game suddenly becomes the elephant in the room. It’s like a golfer with the yips. They’re constantly questioning themselves and their abilities and have no confidence in their game.
I believe Bouchard’s problems are rooted in the mental side of the game. These minor injuries are affecting her mentally. Her coaching change has affected her mentally. The huge expectations to duplicate the greatest season a Canadian tennis player has ever had has affected her mentally. No one is privy to what is really going on with Bouchard, so all of this is pure speculation. But all signs point to the stress and the strain and push and pull on a young lady just out of her teens.
Looking back at the first six months of 2014 for Bouchard, it does truly seem like a fairy tale: three consecutive Grand Slam semifinals (including the Wimbledon final) and her first title. She was the toast of the tennis world. Tennis fans and sports fans (and just fans of Canadians who do well on the world stage) have to keep in mind that at the time, Bouchard was still only 20 years old. It was amazing that, even at that young age, she had nerves of steel, was mentally strong and threatened to take the original ice queen’s title from Chris Evert.
For me, the first hiccup that was a worrisome sign for Bouchard was her appearance at the Rogers Cup Canadian Open in her hometown of Montreal – a month after the Wimbledon final. She was as nervous as an introvert having to perform public speaking. Later at the U.S. Open, her aggressive, slash and burn style of tennis was beginning to be found out and deconstructed by her opponents. For the first time, I saw her get frustrated and unforced errors began to appear out of that frustration. At the end of the year, the third thing that signalled something was up with Bouchard was her separation from her coach Nick Saviano – after all the unparalleled success they had together.
All seemed fine at the 2015 Australian Open. Bouchard picked up where she left off by making the quarterfinals and her game was sound. However, after she hired Sam Sumyk as her new coach immediately after the Australian Open, Bouchard has been a different player. She has been injured constantly – an almost mirror image to her last six months of 2014. But this time, the minor injuries seem to have taken more of a toll on her. She took heat for not playing for Canada in the Federation Cup World Group tie and played in Belgium instead in early February. She lost in the first round. She looked like her old self in her first two matches in Indian Wells a month later but hasn’t won a match since. Her record after the Australian Open is 2-6 including five losses in a row.
She looks completely lost on the court and very fragile – both emotionally and physically. Again, it’s pure speculation as to what is going on – only Bouchard and those closest to her know. Her team can provide insight and consultation, but it is up to Bouchard to solve the problem. It is a tall task. When a player is in a slump, working their way out of it is the biggest challenge and it is what we are witnessing right now. It is not a pretty sight to see, especially after all the mind-spinning success Bouchard has had. The unforced errors come in bunches and that is not good to see, but it is the on-court demeanour that is more painful to watch. Bouchard doesn’t look like she is having any kind of fun on the court and nothing is working. I saw a photo of her smashing her racquet recently – something that I never thought I’d ever see.
Bouchard has so much talent, drive and personality. Along with Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, she has put tennis front and center in Canada. It is not fun watching her self-destruct and not find a way out of the darkness. It is also not fun to read all the mean-spirited comments from so-called “tennis fans” who engage in social media schadenfreude by relishing in her downfall.
There are two possible outcomes for Bouchard: she will struggle to regain her form and rebuild her game while settling in to the lower echelon of the top women players; or she will fight through this struggle, regain her form, rebuild her game and take her place as one of the top female tennis players on the planet. After seeing her play on clay last year, I stand by my prediction that the surface will end up being her most successful and the French Open will be the first major that she wins. Whether that happens this year or years down the road, it’s entirely possible.
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