Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy New Year!

The new year will be happier for some than others. Today at lunch, we went to the same restaurant we always go to on Saturday mornings... the same one that hosted my wife's surprise 50th birthday. Nothing is weird about going to this place on Saturdays. What is weird is that on Friday night, we couldn't think of anywhere to go to dinner, so we went to our usual Saturday spot. As we prepared to go again for lunch today, we even toyed with the idea of going somewhere else, until I mentioned that the owner might have a heart attack if we didn't show up at our usual time to sit at our usual table.

So we went. And it wasn't there. I don't mean the business had closed overnight. I mean the building (or at least most of it) wasn't there. The owner was standing in the deserted parking lot, along with what seemed to be half the Windsor Fire Department. But the building was gone, except for some cinderblock facia. This restaurant has had a sports theme, and there was a ton of priceless memorabilia inside -- signed jerseys and rare photographs of deceased sports legends, and the like.

It will take some time to determine the cause of the blaze, and the owner has indicated he intends to rebuild and reopen (thank goodness!), but for now, a lot of good people will have been thrown out of their jobs, and the owner will have to live with second doubts about whether there was any way he could have foreseen this circumstance. Early coverage of this event is already on the internet and will probably appear in the next issue of the local paper.

I wish him, and all you readers out there, the best of new years.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas

Sure, I wish there was world peace. But in lieu of that, this is the next best thing.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Funeral

Max's funeral was today. It's mid-December, and the weather was wonderful. There was a bit of condensation from the previous day, but otherwise, the weather was agreeable -- not even cold enough to see your own breath in the air!

The funeral services were well attended, and the procession to the cemetery was long and very impressive. Max was truly well-liked. At the gravesite, the earth was soft and easy to shovel, and many took part in the honour of heaping dirt onto the casket. Back at the wake, there was much food and many people available to do the prayers. It remains to be seen how many men show up this week for the twice-daily prayer meetings, but today, there was a lot of respect shown for Max's memory.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Moratorium on Florida and California Death Penalty is stupid

This post is not about whether the death penalty is justifiable or constitutional. It is about the laughable state of affairs currently existing in Florida and California, two states that currently have the death penalty. It seems that there have been recent botched attempts to put inmates to death in these states, and because of the possibility that the inmates' constitutional protection against cruel or unusual punishment may have been violated by these botched attempts, executions in general have been placed on hold.

Let's examine the insanity of these claims. If we assume that the only people who are actually strapped to the tables are those whose appeals have all been exhausted (and I'm not speaking of guilt or innocence here -- that's fodder for another debate entirely), it seems clear that by this time, it is the state's intent to kill these people. At the rate of something less than 10 executions per year, and no way to do "dry runs" on real people, it's understandable that some procedural errors are going to occur due to lack of practice. After all, when you're trying to stick a hypodermic needle into the arm of someone who doesn't want it there, you might make a mistake caused by stress or personal discomfort. And those types of errors, while not intentional, may cause distress to the inmate when the chemicals start to enter his/her system.

So what constitutes cruel or unusual punishment? My opinion is that to qualify as "cruel", these infractions must be intentional in nature (i.e. wanton torture, either physical or emotional -- which is intended to harass or degrade the inmate). The lawful application of a final judgement, to me, does not constitute an intentional infraction, even if a procedural error occurs in the process.

When you examine any punishment that requires that an inmate be prepared prior to execution, either by being strapped to a table with hypodermic needles inserted, or strapped to a chair with electrodes affixed, there is a possibility that the preparatory procedure will be botched. It is indeed possible that lethal injection, death by hanging, and death by electrocution are prone to a greater degree of error in the preparation. I believe the only process that makes sense is death by firing squad. Human firing squads can practice on dummy targets without a great deal of preparation, and the skills required to deliver death by firing squad are not any different from the skills required to kill in combat, making the act less "unusual" than that of hanging, electrocuting, or injecting someone. However, in this day and age, I don't believe it is fair to place the psychological burden on a human firing squad. The introduction of robotic "marksmen" with laser sighting technology that could home in on a target patch affixed to the inmate over a vital organ would allow for virtually instantaneous death.

If states wish to repeal their laws authorizing executions, let them do so. But while these laws are on the books, the use of a firing squad as a means of execution should allay everyone's fears about cruel or unusual punishment.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Mixed feelings

The last 24 hours have been strange. It started yesterday morning at the daily prayer meeting. One of the guys was holding the latest version of the Jewish Community Centre news magazine. It's published three times a year, and the Chanukah issue had just hit the streets. I have an ad in that publication, so I took a look. My ad had been professionally prepared based on a concept I had sent to the artist, and it looked perfect. It was also in a great location within the publication. If that didn't brighten my spirits enough, my friend Max had come up to me, that perpetual twinkle in his eye, and commented on how nice my hand-writing was. I had sent Max and his wife a card thanking them for their patronage, and wishing them a happy holiday.

Among the thoughts in my note was how I appreciated his efforts in organizing the breakfast that is served to members of the congregation that show up for Sunday morning prayers. I had been thinking about donating some food to help out with that breakfast, and after weeks of procrastinating, I finally decided to take the plunge for this Sunday's meal.

I tried to call Max to find out when I could deliver the frozen food to him but his line was busy, so I tried someone else who I know has a key to the synagogue. He told me that Max had passed away during the night.

You never know when you, or someone you know, will leave this earth. I'm so glad that the last words I had with Max were kind and pleasing. And though I'm saddened that he won't be around anymore to help brighten each day, I know that his time on earth was wisely spent, and that he will now be honoured for his efforts.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Keeping busy

Yeah, I've been keeping busy, but that heading isn't about me. Right now on TV, there's a movie called After the Thin Man. There's a bit player in the movie who I think is named Lee Phelps. He reminds me of Ed Asner. In fact, I thought it was Ed Asner, until I realized that in 1936, Ed Asner wouldn't have looked that old. I looked up Lee Phelps on IMDB, and discovered that this actor had been cast in nearly 600 movies during his career. Which got me to wondering whether any other actor in history has been in more movies. If anyone wants to do the research and let me know in the comments area, I'd be curious to know.