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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Taking the blog on the road

On blogging: When I started blogging I said I wasn't going to do any belly button gazing but it's been a little more than a year since I took the buyout from The London Free Press and a lot has happened.

First, I got to blog about a lot of stuff that is important to me and I've met a lot of people who have opened my eyes to a world I had only an inkling existed. It's been a year of growth.

When I check my e-mail in the morning I may find a message like this: "Have a wonderful day,
greetings from Paris." It is a very pleasant way to start the day and I like it.

On photography: I have taken pictures all my life; It was how I earned my living. Now I take pictures for fun and I do it with just a simple point and shoot camera. No zoom lenses. No motor drive. But I get pictures. I am now moving my favourite shots over to Artwork Portfolio where keen amateur shooters make helpful comments on my work.

I have had as much fun taking pictures for my blog as I had shooting for the paper. Check out my portfolio, think about the camera I use (a simple point and shoot), and get out and shoot some art. You can do it. If you have any problems, drop me a line. I'll try and help.

On my sister: A number of you have asked about my sister: She's coming along quite nicely, thank you. It has been three weeks since she took a tumble in her kitchen, breaking her hip. The operation was a success with the surgeon finding good solid bone. The break is knitting well and she is up and walking about with assistance. Today she's leaving the rehab centre and heading home.

Her family rallied beautifully to the crisis with her five children taking turns returning home to assist their dad and spend time each day visiting their mom. A broken hip is always a disaster for older women but somehow the loving reaction of my sister's family muted the pain. I'd even go so far as to say their actions washed a heart-warming patina over it all.

On newspapers: When I worked at the paper, I was always upset at what I perceived as decisions that weaken the franchise. Stuff like the ad on the right.

This is the Nov. 21 2001 ad introducing zero interest purchase financing. The claim is made that you will pay no interest. The interest will be 'Null', 'Nada', 'Zero', 'Zilch', 'Nothing' -- "0%."

I tried to buy a Pontiac with a 0 percent loan. The dealer would not do it; McMaster Pontiac Buick on Wonderland Road refused to sell me the car for the advertised price unless I paid cash. The advertised price was the cash purchase price. If I wanted the car at 0% financing, I had to pay $1500 more.

Not only would the editors at the paper not run a story on this scam, they ran articles on how the loss of interest income was damaging the automobile industry. Huh?

Later ads carried small print giving the equivalent interest rate. This was calculated by looking at how much more it cost car buyers to buy a car with a "zero interest loan" over what they would have paid for the same car if they had paid cash. (In some cases it was cheaper to pay the cash purchase price and take out a bank loan, rather than taking the 0% interest deal from the car company. My wife bought her car that way and saved a bundle.)

The paper continued to run stories on zero interest loans for years as if all these offers were on the up and up. (I slid in the word all as there were a few offers that actually delivered as promised.)

Forgive me, but when editors-in-chief like Paul Berton run what amounts to lies in their paper simply because they are paid it brings to mind a famous remark often attributed to George Bernard Shaw.

Shaw, according to the story, asked a woman at a dinner party if she would go to bed with him for a very large sum of money. She gave it some thought and said yes, for that kind of money she would. Shaw then asked if she would go to bed with him for what amounted to spare change. Shocked, she sputtered that she was not a common prostitute. Shaw replied, "Madame, we have already established what you are. Now we're just haggling over the price."

The newspapers don't even haggle over price.

Since leaving the paper I've finally been able to tell the other side of the story. And it feels good. It feels the way it should feel when one is working for a newspaper. Ah, for the days of Gord Sanderson, backed as I recall by Sue Greer. This team was responsible for The London Free Press Sound Off column for many years.

Today the paper runs the ads for Miracle Heaters rather than running the Sanderson/Greer-type consumer warnings. The paper leaves it to bloggers to warn the public.

It has been a busy year. But this one will be just as busy if not busier.

Come late May, this blog is hitting the road. I'm taking my little camera, a notebook computer and my 40-year-old Morgan and heading off for California with my wife. I just have to run Highway 1, the Pacific coast highway south of San Francisco. If I wait, it will be too late, they are closing a small part of the famous highway to automobiles in 2011. If you want to run the whole route, you've got to do it now.

Judy and I will be seeing small town U.S.A. as we are taking scenic, two lane roads most of the way. We'll hit some tourist attractions like Yellowstone Park and Mount Rushmore but we'll also do some small stuff like seeing the twistiest street in the United States as we did five years ago.

Just so you know, the twistiest street is not in San Francisco, California, but in Burlington, Iowa. That is Snake Alley on the left. And that's the Morgan enjoying the run.

Sorry about the belly button gazing; We'll try and keep it to a minimum.


Correction:

I have problems with "it" and "they." A company is an "it." If a company does something, "it" does it. The pronoun "they" must refer back to people. I must watch my antecedents.

I received an e-mail correcting me. The e-mail read: Back a few items ago, on your attempt to buy a Pontiac, you said: "Not only would the paper not run a story on this scam, they ran articles on how the loss of interest income was damaging the automobile industry." The "they" is incorrect. The proper pronoun is "it," referring to the newspaper. Had you referred to the editors, "they" would have been correct. Is this clear?

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