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The following is a passage from an essay that I wrote for a first year history course at the University of Guelph:


The atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945 essentially ended World War Two. The total casualties from the two bombings added up to over 200,000 (most of which were civilians).[1] Arguments persist today as to whether or not dropping the bombs was necessary in order to end the war. The truth is, that the use of atomic weapons on the state of Japan brought a direct end to a brutal war that had already claimed approximately 50 million lives.[2] While it is entirely true that the destruction following the bombings was truly horrific, and also that 200,000 people died a truly horrendous death, the outcome of the bombings was far better in the long run than continuing the war would have been.

By no means was the destruction of the two cities considered to be a great military success. It is not regarded today as a proud moment in American history. However at the time that it occurred, dropping the bombs appeared as the lesser of two evils. The choices in 1945 were either to force a Japanese surrender through the use of the nuclear weapons, or to launch an invasion on Japan. Neither choice was desirable, however the estimates indicated that an invasion would not be the correct route to follow:

A study done in August 1944 for the Joint Chiefs of Staff projected that an invasion of Japan would “cost a half-million American lives and many more that number in wounded,” while a memorandum from Herbert Hoover to President Truman in May 1945 estimated that a negotiated peace with Japan would “save 500,000 to one million lives.” There is every reason to believe that such round, frightening numbers lingered in the minds of Truman and Stimson long after they were first received, and that they haunted all future deliberations.”[3]

The numbers given in the study far exceeded even the highest estimate for casualties in the two cities as a result of the bombing. Given these numbers, it is easy to see that many human lives (not only on the American side, but also on the Japanese side) were saved as a result.

[1] Michael S. Sherry “Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Atomic Bombing of” The Oxford Companion to United States History. Paul S. Boyer, ed. Oxford University Press 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Guelph. 16 November 2007 <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t119.e0698&gt;
[2] J. Garry Clifford, John W. Jeffries “World War II” The Oxford Companion to United States History. Paul S. Boyer, ed. Oxford University Press 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Guelph. 16 November 2007 <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t119.e1688-s0004&gt;
[3] Kagan, Donald. “Why America dropped the bomb.” Commentary 100.n3 (Sept 1995): 17(7). CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals). Gale. University of Guelph. 15 Nov. 2007 <http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId=CPI&gt;.

It is interesting, every once in a while, to go back and look at some of the work you’ve done in your life – from kindergarten finger painting, to grade 6 poems, to university papers. Charting the evolution of your own education is a cool thing to be able to do through reading.

I take a few points away from this passage above:

  1. I seemed to have a relatively realistic view of war and its horrors, even at a time when I hadn’t seriously considered the ravages of war, nor visited anywhere beyond the Plains of Abraham that a battle of any significance had been fought.
  2. I wasn’t nearly as critical then as I was today – which is something that I definitely learned over the next 4 years of university. Today, I would never argue that the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima was good because it saved Japanese lives in the big picture. I would also today give them separate treatment, as they were distinct events that occurred several days apart.
  3. Overall, the passage serves as a stark reminder of what is at stake when the world peace we have largely enjoyed since 1945 seems to teeter on the edge of a knife or on the twitter handle of a world leader – nuclear warfare is not something to play political football with, and those who speak lightly of it show their lack of true understanding. For those looking for another reminder of this very seriousness, I urge you to get out to see Dunkirk – an incredible film on this very topic.

Thanks for reading – I promise that I will return tomorrow with more content that is both a) fully original, and b) a little lighter and more accessible/engaging than parliamentary democracy and nuclear warfare (haha!).

Good night to all!

This post is the fifth installment in my month-long project, “500 in 28”. For the next 28 days, I’ll be spending 28 minutes a day writing 500 words. See here for my first post explaining the project. #500in28

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For about two years after I moved back to Toronto after a brief western adventure in British Columbia, I tried my hardest to put my Political Science degree to good use. I got involved with municipal politics by volunteering with my local city councillor, some Toronto-based and Toronto-centric NGOs, as well as both the federal and provincial branches of the Liberal party.

I learned a lot in that time, in many different areas. One of the most important things that I learned for my own purpose, was that at this point in time involvement in policy and politics isn’t for me. And tonight I’d like to elaborate on one of the reasons why.

In the (fantastic) book “Tragedy in the Commons“, by Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan, one aspect that they discuss when it comes to the deficiencies of our parliamentary political system is that our Members of Parliament do not have specific job descriptions. As such, they are free to create their own. This can result in socially beneficial outcomes, if the MP is both self-motivated to create positive change and empowered by his or her party to do so. However, in cases where one (or, often, both) of those conditions are absent, the MP can meander into conducting their job in ways that might be best suited for other members of the Public Service of Canada.

One thing that MP’s often wind up doing is serving as navigators of the bureaucracy on behalf of their constituents. Working in a politician’s office, whether in Ottawa or back in their home riding, staffers regularly get calls from citizens asking for help with their passport / their aunt’s immigration process / their annoying neighbour with the dog / whatever other issue, big or small, is bothering them that day. And I am not here to criticize those callers – it is their prerogative to call their elected representatives for assistance when they see fit. That being said, my take on the issue (as well as that of Loat and MacMillan – if my memory serves me correctly, considering it’s been a couple years since I gave their book a thorough read) is that our MPs should spend their time passing legislation and reducing regulation to improve the flow of the bureaucracy for everyone – not using their insider knowledge to assist those who should happen to call them for help.

The current situation leads to our highly-compensated representatives spending their time and their office’s budget on solving pesky day to day problems, rather than working on the societal big picture. It also allows for unequal access to government services. If I can skip a line or two by calling my MP to pull some strings, I’m going to do that every time. But if not everyone knows that, then I am at an unequal disadvantage. Which is unfair and counter to the very ideal of our democratic system.

There are tons of reasons that this cycle continues. The main reasons being that: a) most who run for office genuinely want to help people, b) assisting these people creates a positive association with the politician that will then lead them to be more likely to vote to re-elect them at the next election, and c) that so many of these bureaucratic processes are genuinely overtly complex and would be difficult to streamline, even if a competent and motivated team of MP’s took the issue on.

I encourage you to check out the book for a thorough and engaging look at these issues. Alison and Michael offer some compelling suggestions for change as well, and knowing that organizations like Samara (their NGO) are pushing for these types of reforms is reassuring to me as a Canadian.

To sum up, I want to quickly touch on the title of this post, which exemplifies how much this process is amplified, and to be frank, much much worse, at the municipal level.

While volunteering with a Toronto councillor, I spent plenty of hours working the front desk in his office, dealing with reams and reams of emails as well as dozens of daily phone calls. It’s a tough job – taking the call, listening to the complaint/concern (and sure, the occaaaaaasional compliment), and deciding how high of a priority it should be assigned. Some issues were ones that the councillor shouldn’t even be dealing with (other jurisdictions of government, issues for a condo board, or simply something that the person just has to figure out for themselves in their daily life). But some issues were clearly coming from someone who has been infuriate with the bureaucratic run-around that dealing with city entails.

Examples that I can think of off the top of my head include:

  • Someone who’s lawn was torn up to replace a fire hydrant, and was now being told that they had to pay for re-sodding because it wasn’t the city’s fault the grass didn’t re-grow.
  • Somebody who had a nice tree on their boulevard that had been there for years, and all of the sudden they woke up one morning to a work crew cutting it down. They were told that technically the boulevard is city property (despite the fact that they’d been mowing the lawn on it for years, and had cared for the tree all that time as well), and were calling the office to complain that they’d lost such a valuable natural asset to their property.

These are just two, but you get the idea.

The city councillor is the ultimate navigator and tour guide of the city bureaucracy. Now that I know that a councillor can help my with basically any issue from A-Z, I don’t hesitate to call. However, it shouldn’t be this way. A call to 311 or a form on Toronto.ca should be able to engage the power of the thousands and thousands of city employees, spread over dozens of departments, to fix the problem and make our city a better place to live. But so often it doesn’t: complaints get bounced around from department, the proper person is on vacation, it’s technically not our problem in the first place, and all of the sudden you call back and WHOOPS, that case # has been closed with seemingly no real attempt at a true fix. So either the process starts again, or you just give up.

All of this is to say that, of course, building and maintaining a world class city is difficult. I’m not saying that there aren’t thousands of people working hard and trying their best. But when politicians talk about cutting red tape and upping the efficiency of the public sector, I really do get it. And so long as they’re not using that type of talk to disguise their true intention (to reduce environmental standards, funnel more money to the private sector, etc.), then I’m fully on board.

Thanks for bearing with me on this journey of wonk-ish politics-speak – tomorrow I’ll try to come back with something a bit lighter ;).

And thanks, as always, for reading.

This post is the fourth installment in my month-long project, “500 in 28”. For the next 28 days, I’ll be spending 28 minutes a day writing 500 words. See here for my first post explaining the project. #500in28

For part 2 of this story, click here.

Between the time when I was on Metro Morning, July 4th, and the time when (spoiler alert!) I would eventually get to the island, I had a bunch of other things to do. I was working with my girlfriend (Sabina)’s brother Benji at the time, painting houses, and also had a 3-week trip to Nova Scotia planned to visit my family and grandparents shoehorned in as well. So I knew that it was going to be tough.

But there’s a bit of a side-story that really opens up the perspective on how and why I ended up fulfilling my promise to Mr. Galloway. So let’s travel down that avenue!

I’ve been struggling on and off with concussion symptoms for the past few years, after suffering several concussions playing rec sports. It has unfortunately come to the point where I can no longer play hockey, or any other sport where there is a potential for even moderate head contact. After a long process of coming to grips with the fact that I could no longer get the competitive juices flowing out on the ice, thinking about the other athletic pursuits that I’ve previously enjoyed, I came around to triathlons as a new vehicle for achieving a feeling of self-motivation and success. I have to thank Brandon, a great guy from Edmonton that I met on our recent trip to Nepal (which I will certainly be writing about later on this month), for the inspiration here. Brandon is an impressive triathlete in his own right, and talking to him while hiking in the Himalaya about how he got involved in the sport inspired me to explore this new athletic challenge.

So, since returning from Nepal in June, I’d been looking for a triathlon to sign up for. And as it turned out, I had a family connection to a triathlon series that had a race on Toronto island in late August! Tim, my girlfriend Sabina’s mom’s boyfriend (how’s that for a mouthful, eh?) tipped me off to Multisport Canada, an organization that puts on a fantastic triathlon series every year. And he graciously arranged for me to be entered into the Toronto Island Sprint triathlon, a 750m swim / 20km bike / 5km run event on the morning of August 20th (thanks so much John!). My brother was also entered into the race, so it was a bonus to have a built-in training buddy who lived only 15 minutes away (and equidistant to our nearest city pool).

I trained over the month and a half leading up to the race, trying to balance my desire to do my best with the understanding that, as my first race, I should be sure to limit expectations and treat it as an exploratory attempt. As the race weekend approached, I found myself having to continually remind myself that I was doing this for fun, and that I shouldn’t worry about my result.

The race morning arrived, and I biked down to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal for 6:15 am on the Sunday, to meet my brother Jeremy to pick up our race kits, get our race numbers sharpied onto our arms and legs, and get on the ferry over to the island to get set for the 8 am start time.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the race (though if you want to scrutineer my results, you can find them here), but I will say that it was an incredible event. I had some moments of panic out in the waves of the open water swim, but once I got over those nerves, it was pretty smooth sailing. I finished strong with the swim, and moved on to the bike and the run, the two disciplines that I knew I would excel in (since they were the two with which I had the most experience). A small hiccup with fueling – taking too much water and energy gel in close proximity to having to run – notwithstanding, it was a perfect day, and I crossed the finish line content with my performance and happy to have experienced the entirety of Toronto Island for the first time in such a dynamic and unorthodox way.

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Photo by the wonderful, lovely, and doting Sabina Staempfli, who sacrificed her Sunday morning to encourage Jeremy and I through the bike and the run.

To conclude (and at this point I feel the need to point out that if it weren’t for my self-imposed 500 word guideline and 28 minute writing limit, I would say plenty more), it was a great day, and a confirmation that triathlon is a sport that I see a future in.

Not to mention a self-admonishment that I was a fool for waiting this long to visit Toronto Island.

This post is the third installment in my project, “500 in 28”. For the next 28 days, I’ll be spending 28 minutes a day writing 500 words. See here for my first post explaining the project.

(Note: For part one of this story, click here.)

On July 4th, the first day back to work after the Canada Day long weekend, I got up at 6am to head down to the CBC building for the 7:20 segment on the Metro Morning Summer Bucket List.

I’d spent some time over the weekend thinking of what it would be like to be in the studio with Matt Galloway, and what I was going to say. I’d checked the #mmsummerbucketlist hashtag to see what the other person invited on to the segment was going to be talking about, and discovered that Julia’s choice for place-you’ve-always-meant-to-go-but-haven’t-been was the Toronto Archives (located at Spadina and Davenport-ish). Reading this didn’t help my nerves. She seemed to have a better argument than mine for why she wanted to go to her place, what she’d do when she got there, and why she hadn’t yet been. A better argument, at least, than “I hear the island’s cool! Never been tho.” But I figured that I at least had a few good anecdotes, and that I’d be able to talk for a few minutes and make it somewhat interesting. So off I went on my bike to John and Wellington.

I arrived in good time, and after a bit of wandering around the maze that is the CBC building, managed to find my way up to the Metro Morning studio. I was met by a producer and brought into the green room, where we waited for our segment.

Seeing how a major radio program operates was one of the coolest parts of the experience. At the University of Guelph, I’d been on my friend Alan Sovran’s radio show several times (Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast, represent!). That show was a one-man operation, with Alan doing everything from manning the dials, to playing the tunes, reading the promotional materials, giving the weather, etc. It was always tons of fun being on with Al, but Metro Morning was a few next levels beyond humble ol’ CFRU 93.3 FM in Guelph.

There were multiple producers, at least 2 people in the booth, and tons of other people around that I imagine worked to support the show in whatever way a daily 3-hour fast-paced morning show requires. The most surprising thing, to me, had to do with the woman giving the traffic updates. Our segment came right after a traffic report, and as we were quietly shuffling into Matt’s studio to take our seats, the traffic reporter was right there. She wasn’t in a separate studio, or reporting from somewhere offsite. She was sitting across from Matt, with a laptop open with a very complex-looking traffic app open, reading the traffic report off of a piece of paper with hand-written notes. I never would have thought that’s how the traffic was done.

So! The traffic report wrapped up (it was pretty quick, it was only 7:30am on the first day back from a summer long weekend) and then it was just Julia, myself, and the great Matt Galloway.

There was no time for introductions. Matt had a sheet of paper in front of him that clearly had notes about both of us from his producers, and he was off. We discussed our places and I gave him my anecdotes, and before I knew it Matt was asking me the key question: “So, when are you going to go to the island?”. After a brief hesitation where I mumbled something about maaaybe going in the next couple weeks, I asserted that before the end of August, I would visit Toronto Island. And with that, we were out of the studio and Matt was already talking to the next guest.

Check in tomorrow for the conclusion of my trip, where I commit to following through on my Metro Morning promise.

This post is the second installment in my project, “500 in 28”. For the next 28 days, I’ll be spending 28 minutes a day writing 500 words. See here for my full rationale.

On Monday June 26th, I woke up for work and lumbered into the kitchen to make coffee, flicking the radio on as I passed. As I stood at the sink filling the kettle, Matt Galloway’s voice on Metro Morning resonated through the kitchen. He was talking up Toronto, as he is wont to do, specifically discussing places in the city that you’ve always meant to go but have, for some reason, so far avoided. The short segment interested me, so when he threw it out there for listeners to tweet at the show with their top location they’d yet to visit, I grabbed my phone and sent a tweet in to the internether with the hashtag #mmsummerbucketlist:

 

 

To elaborate a bit more on the 140 characters above, it’s true. Over the past 4 years that I’ve lived in Toronto, I’ve specifically advised several groups of people to make a trip out to Toronto Island, assuring them that they’ll have a fantastic time. But to that point I’d never been! I’d always meant to, but just hadn’t done it yet. So it was a tweet that I thought was fitting, and sort of funny. But I didn’t expect anything to come of it. I’m the type of person (as friends and family will attest) who will call into radio stations, send emails to my favourite podcasts, and tweet at anyone or any company that seems like they might be interested in hearing from me. So this tweet, to me, at the time, was just another example of a small daily digression that quickly fades into the background of everyday life.

So I put my phone away, finished making my coffee, and went to work.


The next day, while at work, I checked Twitter and saw that I had a notification – and for someone with only a couple hundred followers, that’s not a regular occurrence. So I clicked to check it out:

 

 

Hmm! That’s interesting – one of the producers from Metro Morning was wanting to know more about my little anecdote! So I sent him a direct message (DM) on Twitter to explain myself a bit more, though I really didn’t have all that much to explain. I told him what I’d written above – that the island had been on my bucket list for a while, but had continually been pushed down by other more urgent or exciting weekend activities (or at times, let’s be honest, by the draw of just staying home and watching Netflix). That was pretty much it.

To my surprise, however, Brendan was interested in that story. So much so that over the course of our conversation throughout the week, he eventually asked if I had the time to come on the air the following week to talk about it. I was so stoked! I really like CBC radio in general, and I find listening to Matt Galloway in the morning to be a great way to get my day started. So, feigning coolness calmness and collectedness, I replied to Brendan in the affirmative. And after a quick phone chat, I was ready to go down to the CBC building on Tuesday July 4th to talk about it with Matty G!

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the segment on Metro Morning, and how it spurred me to move the Island to the top of my summer bucket list!

As always, thanks for reading.

-Geoff

This post is the first installment in my project called “500 in 28”. For the next 28 days, I’ll be spending 28 minutes a day writing a 500 word post. See here for my full rationale.


 

We live in the “golden age” of content:

My mom’s TV gets more than 1,000 channels. My twitter feed scrolls by as if powered by a maniacal, tireless hamster on a never-ending wheel. Every minute, over 2.4 million Instagram posts are liked, almost 7 million Snapchat videos are viewed, and 3.5 million text messages are sent in the United States.

And that doesn’t even mention the thousands of hours of podcasts that are published every day.

Why did I have golden age in quotations up there? Well, as I’m sure we’ve all experienced, all of this content can overwhelm. For example, I currently have 43 podcast episodes downloaded that I’ve yet to listen to. I have 64 tabs open on my phone’s browser with interesting articles I’ve been meaning to read. Etcetera, etc.

To cut to the chase, I’m doing something about it. Instead of constantly consuming content, and feeling the anxiety of having so much content left unconsumed, I’m going to start to increase my level of output to try to balance my level of intake.

I’m calling it 500 in 28. For the next 28 days, I’m going to write approximately 500 words per day. And I’m going to give myself 28 minutes each day to do it. I think that this little project will serve a few purposes:

  • Allow me to apply some creativity and productive energy into something of my own, rather than constantly reading and consuming other people’s work.
  • Establish a space for me to discuss some of the interesting articles and podcasts that I do consume (because, of course, I’ll keep consuming – it’s the golden age, after all!).
  • And, perhaps most importantly, it will force me to practice slaying the dragon of perfectionism that is consistently my enemy when it comes to creating anything at all, and commit to establishing a habit of work and following through with it on a regular, daily basis.

So, I’m embarking on this little campaign, and I hope that you’ll read along with me! And I’d love it if you commented, or even wrote your own piece in response to something I write!

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy the next 28 days.

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