Archive for June 2006

Hurry! Disabilities For Sale Now!

June 19, 2006

wheelchair2_blue.jpgI’m driving down Bloor Street with my friend yesterday. Traffic is heavey.We’re barely crawling when he spots it; a brand new Rolls. Black and massive and gorgeous parked in front of Christolph’s.

We’ve checked out the Bentley’s at a dealership near my place but we’ve never seen a late model Rolls in the flesh. There a quarter of a million bucks so its not surprising.

I’ve made it a habit to check to see who’s parking in the disabled spots at my local Lawblaws.There are six dedicated spaces.Very rarely there’s perfectly average cars with actual permits. More often, any type of car with no permit at all.

But far and away the most common sight are immaculately clean, late model, high-end vehicles with the blue wheelchair cards on their dashes.

I also check to see who gets into these cars and it always seems to be able-bodied looking customers hurrying into their Benzes or Lexii or Cadillacs.

I guess I could ask one of them what’s up. But what are you going to say? Hey, lady, you’re seem to be pretty healthy; running around just fine and then you jump into a car with a disabled permit. Where’s the disability?

wheelchaired2_blue.jpgWell, maybe its invisible. That’s possible. Or maybe the lady’s just stepping out to grab some groceries while her paralysed husband waits in discomfort at home.

And, you know, you feel guilty questioning whether or not someone is disabled. Then you start wondering why you’re even wondering about it. There’s lots of wealthy customers at Lawblaws. Why wouldn’t some of them be disabled?

Except it happens over and over and over again. Rich, healthy shoppers getting to into expensive cars with disabled permits.

So as we’re approaching the Rolls I say I bet its got a disabled permit and sure enough …

This icon of privilege and wealth, the only car parked for a good half block, and the driver’s disabled. I just don’t buy it.

wheelchaired_blue.jpg“Disabilities for sale.”

We laugh. I eventually get the car turned around so my friend can take pics. He sees the same phenomenon all the time himself so naturally he’s going to want to document this.Plus he’s the one with the digicam.

I don’t know what I believe. Are these permits easy to get if you’re willing slip a little cash to a clerk at city hall? Are rich people the only ones who’ve figured out that all you need is a doctor’s letter to get one and after that there’s no worries because the laws aren’t enforced anyway? Or maybe I only notice the ones attached to fancy cars.

Because they do draw attention, those fancy cars.

Just to clarify:“Disabled person parking permits” are issued to the individual with the disability, the permit privileges are not transferable. The permit is not valid when displayed on a vehicle and the vehicle is not being used to pick up, drop off or transport the holder of the permit named therein. Persons who use a “disabled person parking permit” in the absence of the named holder, may be charged under the Highway Traffic Act.


Protocol for Threats of Imminent Suicide

June 17, 2006

bloorrevington.jpgYesterday my Friend insisted I read the web log of a colleague, Molly Holschlag. I don't know Molly aside from hearing about her and her many successes. I've never spoken with her and I'm not in her field. So why the urgency from my friend?

This is why:
"I am sitting in a hotel room in London. I have a minibar full of alcohol, and 80 Lorazepam tablets (2 milligrams each) and 100 friends within a mile radius."

I have had many experiences with depression so I guess my friend figured I might be able to help or at least help him help her.
By the end of her post I was very concerned for Molly.

"If you see me tomorrow, it’s because maybe I can figure out how to help myself instead of destroying myself. But I'm not sure that will happen, and I have only myself to blame. I have waited too long pretending."

There has been a steady outpouring of support for Molly' by her friends in the comments field and even more support behind the scenes to secure her safety I'm told.

But it got me thinking…
I don't muck around when it comes to suicide. ALL threats of suicide should be taken seriously. Statistics back me up on this. There's no question anymore that suicide is a major health problem.

Suicide Deaths, U.S., 2001

Suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.

It was the eighth leading cause of death for males, and 19th leading cause of death for females.

The total number of suicide deaths was 30,622. * The 2001 age-adjusted rate** was 10.7/100,000 or 0.01 percent.

Suicides outnumbered homicides (20,308) by three to two. * There were twice as many deaths due to suicide than deaths due to HIV/AIDS (14,175).

Yet there' is no consistent and REQUIRED procedure for dealing with a suicidal person, even amongst professionals. There are recommendations, guidelines and certainly protocols for emergency rooms, EMTs and police. But they can vary from place to place and there is certainly is no way to become CERTIFIED in suicide intervention.

For the rest of us lay folks, there's nothing at all.

There should be.

Yes, you can go online and look up what the NIMH recommends or call a hotline on behalf of a friend or loved one. What they will tell you right off the bat is to call 911. That's not the problem. The problem is that we non-professionals really don't know how to identify a threat of suicide or what to do while waiting for an ambulance. Worse is the notion that we can handle our friend's threat ourselves. Reassurance and an open ear are vital, of course, but suicide can be a sly beast. A friend who you helped may seem much better, happy even, after you've talked. But what about the days after?

Suicide has such a devastating effect on family and friends. Too often they feel guilty for missing signs or not knowing what do.

Say your friend, (conscious) is lying on the floor clearly having a heart attack. You wouldn't just reassure them, listen attentively to their concerns and then once the heart attack was over hug them and then pick up leave. Nor would you decide not to call for help because they didn't want you to.

In reality if your loved one was at high risk for a heart attack you may well have learned CPR. In any event you COULD become certified in CPR. Its encouraged even.

So I'm thinking we need to use this model, CPR, and set up a course in suicide intervention. Maybe call it Protocol for Threats of Imminent Suicide. You could go to your local community centre, St John's Ambulance or health clinic and become certified in PTIS and in the event you encounter a suicidal person, you'd know what to do. This has certainly worked wonders for cardiac patients and CPR. Its saved thousands of lives.

I'm not qualified to design such a program. besieds, there are well tested recommendations already in place.

bloorbridge_-_0174.jpg** If someone is threatening to commit suicide, take it seriously. Be calm and follow these steps from ACEP to help you manage the crisis:

Don't try to handle a suicide threat or attempt alone. Involve other people. You don't want to risk your own health and safety.

Call 911 or the local emergency response number, if necessary. Contact the person's doctor, the police, a crisis intervention team, or others who are trained to help.

While waiting for help to arrive, listen closely to the person. Let the person know you are listening by maintaining eye contact, moving close to the person or holding his or her hand, if appropriate.

Ask the person questions. Find out if the person has a specific plan for suicide. Try to determine what method of suicide the person is considering.

Acknowledge the person's feelings. Be understanding, not judgmental or argumentative.

Remind the person help is available and things will get better. Stress to the person that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Don't promise the person threatening suicide that you will keep this confidential. You may need to speak to a physician or mental health professional in order to protect the person from injury.

Don't leave a suicidal person alone until you are sure they are in the hands of competent professionals. If you have to leave, make sure another friend or family member can stay with the person until they can receive professional help.

If a person attempts suicide, immediately call for emergency medical assistance. Administer first aid, if necessary. If you know the person swallowed poison or drugs, call the Poison Control Center. Be prepared with the name of the poison or drug used.

Molly writes today that she is feeling much better now. The overwhelming support of her fiends has helped dodge this bullet. She even spoke at her conference .Even better, she's going to seek out counselling or a psychiatrist. But this brush with suicide, however it is framed, means Molly's at a greater risk now. She needs for the people around her to know what to do should this happen again.

Perhaps Molly's very personal posting may seem a rare thing in the blogosphere (yes, I hate that word too). It prompted immediate and on-going comments of support. At least 50 at last count. But visit an online support group for a mental illness and you'll see many similar stories. The difference is in the comments. People there know that however many times its been said it must be the first thing you say in a reponse: Get professional help as soon as possible.

Photos:Suicide Barrier. Designed by University of Waterloo Prof. Dereck Revington of the School of Architecture and engineer Morden Yolles.

2. Luminous Veil by Jon at groundglass.

* From the National Institute of Mental Health : Suicide facts.
** From The American College of Emergency Physicians " Responding To A Suicide Emergency"

Hungry For Cool

June 9, 2006

Practical And Paying for It





02-27-obelisk-chairs.jpg02-27-obelisk-2-.jpg Finally a really cool solution for the ever shrinking outdoor spaces squeezed out for the modern urban dweller.

It starts out as a 2001-ish monolith/obelisk and quickly disassembles into four chairs and a table. The wonderful thing here is that this is not some 'concept' design circa 1975. It actually seems to work. And more, the chairs look comfortable, stable and practical. Once you're finished entertaining, you simply re-build your obelisk and you've got a cool sculpture. Quite a design challenge which DEDON meets head on.

Of course at $9890 U.S (w/ cushions), those truly in need of space efficient solutions for their homes might be able to spot an obelisk rising out of the terrace of a million dollar penthouse. In Toronto? Count yourself lucky because for some reason the set seems available at studio b home (334 King street West E.) for a mere $7,760.00 Cdn. Go Figure. At that discount price you might well get a second mortgage on your condo to pay for it. Source and Authors/Photographers:DEDON.

Mac Gets Smarter


←Some pretty cool shit from GelaSkins, This is 'Toxicity' by Alex Noriega. Gelaskins is offering a dizzying array of iPod skins for a mere $14.95 U.S. (Plus if you buy three you get one free!).Not bad. Not bad at all.

Now I don't have an iPod (yet) but I'd love to wrap anything from a Palm Pilot or Blackberry to a laptop in some of these mesmerizing skins.

iPodgolfer.jpg← 'Golfer'. Perhaps the most boring skin. Its only hope seems to be as a gift for dad. But then again, how many dads have iPods? OK, maybe the hip or young ones but even they would want something a little cooler I should think.

iPOd worst.jpg← 'Summer 69'. While it may remind some of the patterns on their frocks from that era, to me it screams laundry room wallpaper, 1975. Does everything have to be revived? So this is ugliest one in my opinion. Chartreuse and brown. Hideous.

iPodbosch.jpg← 'Garden of Earthly Delight, Hieronymus Bosch.' Yeah right. Hardly a picnic there. Hieronymus really knows how to scare the crap out you. But I like this one. A proff once said "Its easier to depict Hell than Heaven". OK. True. But nobody does hell like Bosch.


← 'Farbstudie Quadrate, Kandinski'. This is hard for me because I really like Kandinski. But like almost every other skin (especially Bosch) it demonstrates one thing: How out of place the iPod interface looks surrounded by these fine works of art and graphics. The dial looks great, particularly here with Kandinsky's circles. But the completely artless graphics kind of spoil the whole thing. Don't ya think?

Except this one. 'Craotek by Craola'. Everything melds together nicely here. There's great colour and design and with this as your skin you'd be left with a forever fascinating object.

Truthfully though, they're all cool. And according to Gelaskins, made of high grade vinyl. You're listening to your favorite music anyway.So why not carry around a little art for added inspiration?

I Spy With My Little Radar

June 3, 2006

dupontsignED2.JPGI've been driving along Dupont street for years. Its a street rife with danger especially at some of the more notorious intersections like Dufferin, Bathurst or Spadina where it can be a very tricky manoeuvre if you're travelling north and want to turn left onto Dupont.

Cars emerge unseen, hurtling southbound through the intersections from under the CP railway bridges.Then there are the drivers who insist on bombing around the S curve right before the Kendal Avenue intersection.

I used to live on Kendal, only a couple of houses south of Dupont, and I always imagined a driver who's timing was just a tiny bit off allowing his car to take its natural course and ending up in someone's front yard or worse, in our someone's living room. (In fact I'm pretty sure there have been just those types of accidents).

Not that I don't understand the thrills to be had on and around Dupont street. A little G-force on the S curve or the heady drop-and-recovery from under the CP bridges. Even the dreaded left turns can sometimes feel like a game of chicken – a welcome test of reflex and driving skill in the otherwise aopressively dull, crawling traffic of Toronto. We are most of us Formula One wannabes at heart. Aren't we?

Its curious. Almost daily I see a car pulled over by police on the bottom of Bathrust street. But on Dupont? In the ten years living at various locations a stone's throw from Dupont, I cannot remember ever seeing anyone pulled over by police for anything.

Dupont has always been the Wild West of driving. Lawless – drive at your own risk – caution; this street is not supervised by lifeguards.

You can see, then, how completely bizarre it was to see what I saw the other night. Under a yellow sign reading 'YOUR SPEED' was a seizure-inducing bright red LED flashing the numbers '51'.It wasn't me travelling at 51KM/hr in a 40 zone. I was going about 45. Must have been the guy in front of me.

hammer and sickle suhsED2.jpgHow Soviet. Do they think I don't know how fast my car is going? It wasn't a camera (we have, and have had, plenty of those in various forms) so its not like they were out to covertly stick me with a speeding ticket. No, this seemed to be something much darker.Like an animal trainer repeatedly reminding his beast of its commands until it finally becomes completely servile. I wondered if the City was doing the same thing – brainwashing us into following their orders of travelling at the speed limit. I know we have a left-leaning mayor, and that's fine with me. But this new speed-mind control seemed downright totalitarian.

I suppose I should mention that I get just a little paranoid on occasion. It usually passes quickly enough and did so that night. Once it had, I jumped in my car to test this new toy out. This was around 2:00 AM, mind you, and Dupont was all but deserted. I drove down the street doing a good 60KM/hr right past the new radar machine and…

Nothing. The sign stayed blank. And has ever since.

What's going on you ask? Well first of all, as it turns out, this is not a new device. It's been in place since September 2005 as a part of the City of Toronto's 'Watch Your Speed' program which is itself part of a much broader initiative 'We're all pedestrians' to make drivers more aware of pedestrian safety.There were even some awesome posters put up on sidewalk garbage bins and TTC shelters though it could be argued pedestrians were more likely to see those than drivers.

Watch Your Speed Program
Four speed display trailers are used throughout the city in neighbourhoods with a history of local speeding. A sign mounted on the trailer reminds motorists of the posted speed limit in the area while the radar unit measures the speed of approaching vehicles and displays this speed back to the motorist.

AT first glance this seems a good idea after all. Slow people down with these display trailers on busy, speedy streets, especially near intersections and crosswalks. But the Dupont display (east of Howland Avenue) can't be more than 80 meters from a crosswalk at Brunswick and that just doesn't give speeding drivers enough time to slow down.

Besides, since first noticing it, I've watched several cars speed right past me without so much as a burp from the display trailer. Must be busted.

Speaking of busted. Though clearly this program is only at the beta stage you have to wonder if the city just might be trying to save a little cash with this technology. Wouldn't it be more effective to post some actual cops on Dupont and nail these speeders? Police are expensive I guess.

Just to be clear. In reality I'm a pretty cautious driver and besides I often have my right honourable friend backseat driving beisde me. A shout of "Cyclist!" or "Pedestrian!" can be quite useful in suppressing my Formula One aspirations.

Pedestrian Safety Statistics

* Half of all traffic fatalities involve pedestrians.
* Pedestrian Fatalities in 2004: 28
* Pedestrian Fatalities in 2005: 12 (to August 31st)
* More than 2,300 pedestrians are injured every year in traffic collisions (Average: six people/day).

News release: September 2005.


Display Trailer photograph (modified) by Joe Clark

Hammer and Sickle mock up by su'hs with no other source information.