Going With the Flow

By Jim Hagarty

What I find the most intriguing about modern high technology is not the amazing innovations our best brains are able to devise, but the uses to which these marvels of scientific research are eventually put.

Take the motion sensor, for example. This is really a breathtaking creature, which, as far as I know, exists only of a little eye, capable of detecting when things are moving and when they have stopped and then passing that information along to whatever other utility might need it, such as sliding door or a light.

My cap is off today to the people who invented motion sensitivity. What a marvellous contribution this breakthrough has made to the quality of all our lives. We don’t have to open doors to public places any more, or turn lights off and on.

In effect, what scientists have done with the motion sensor is begun the arduous task of creating artificial life, starting with the eye.

Now it is up to the rest of us to decide how we’ll make use of this little genius in our day-to-day lives. And in this area, clearly, we’re just getting started.

No doubt the motion-sensitivity inventors had some grand ideas in mind when they were working late into the night in their labs and eventually experiencing the joy of seeing their experiments begin to bear fruit. Maybe they thought the ability to artificially sense motion might help to fight crime or to prevent accidents and natural disasters or to save the environment.

I wonder what they would have thought if they’d only known that the ones who would make the best use of the product of their fertile minds would be the designers of the modern public washroom.

I discovered this truth a few years ago when I entered, all agog, the space-age-like men’s washroom at the remarkable new “food” store in my hometown. Of course, the taps in the sinks shoot out a little sprig of water when they sense your hands rubbing each other below them. And the dryer on the wall blows out some heat when it detects your approach. I’m used to these motion-sensor-triggered things.

But approaching that big white fixture on the wall that most men can’t wait to get close to after their morning coffee, I was surprised to discover that motion sensitivity had come now to even such a classic convenience as this. Completing the task at hand, I saw what I thought was a little round, wine-coloured button on the front of the porcelain potty. I pushed it, thinking it might activate the traditional cleansing cycle but it did nothing. Then I saw a sign above it informing me that this system started itself automatically. So, I rearranged myself and walked away. Within seconds of my doing that, I heard a rush of water as it vigourously removed all traces of my recent presence and I instantly knew, how the wall fixture knew, that I was done.

That little red button was not a button at all, but an eye. An eye that spends its entire day fixed on one thing and trained to trigger a torrent of water whenever that thing moves out of its range.

I have to admit, it’s a little unnerving to think that I can expect an eye – mechanical though it may be – will now be watching all my activities and other movements when I get up the courage to visit the modern public washroom. A bashful farm boy doesn’t easily get used to the idea of subjecting himself to such scrutiny.

And yet, who am I to quibble with science? I just wonder how it is that among the most ardent users of the motion sensor are people who worry about the flushing habits of the male half of the world’s population.

And I wonder if, for all its apparent proficiency, this device is really doing its job as well as it appears to be.

After my experience in the washroom, I returned somewhat stunned to my café table to tell a friend about it. He immediately retraced my steps to experience the marvel of modern science for himself, only to return, dejectedly, to tell me it hadn’t worked for him. Perhaps, I offered helpfully, the motion sensor is still more primitive than it looks and is not able to detect the movements of objects of insignificant size. Or something to that effect.

You know, in light of those remarks, it occurs to me that one useful application of the motion sensor might be to harness it somehow to detect when a person is about to say something he shouldn’t and to prevent his mouth from opening to say it.

And while I may not be any kind of technological breakthrough, I’m pretty good at detecting a bit of motion too. I sensed right away, for example, when my friend suddenly left our table and bolted for the door. Which sensed his approach, of course, and opened automatically.

I honestly wonder what the next few uses for motion sensitivity will be. Will my new TV be able to notice, late at night, when my eyes have snapped shut and my head has fallen to my chest and automatically shut itself off? Will car windows of the future automatically wind themselves up when they sense the motion of falling rain? Will my garbage cans automatically roll themselves to the street when they sense the approach of the waste-removal truck?

It is not just humans who are adapting to motion sensoring. I knew of a couple who would let their cat out at night. When it wanted back in, it would leap four feet in the air to trigger the motion-sensor light, alerting its owners to its wish to be let back in.

When even cats see the benefits in a thing, we are probably on the right track.

Sing Me a Lullaby

Bad Daughter cd cover

By Jim Hagarty
Here is another cut from the CD Bad Daughter by the McCullough Girls, Deborah and Callie. The album was recorded in Nashville and is a real treasure. All 12 songs were written by the mother-daughter due. It is not yet available in the Corner Store. I love the sentiment, the musicianship and the harmonies.

Sing Me a Lullaby by the McCullough Girls.

My Research Project

By Jim Hagarty

How long can a full tank of barbecue propane last?

This is a question I have wanted the answer to for years.

Finally, I found a way to solve the puzzle.

I brought home a full tank last weekend and we had our first barbecue of the season. It was great. I went outside after supper and fired up all three burners full blast to burn off the grease from the grills.

Next morning I walked over in the vicinity of the barbecue and remarked to myself that it seemed unusually warm in that corner of our yard. We have a nice big lot but generally the climate remains fairly constant from one side to the other.


It was then I noticed that the barbecue was still busy barbecuing grease.

I am pleased to report that a full tank of propane will last at least 14 hours.

Somebody should pay me for my research.

So I can get the tank refilled.

My Think Tank

By Jim Hagarty

I just spent some quality time at a think tank where I did a lot of cogitating (look it up, it’s respectable).

As usual I came away from the session having learned a lot and feeling lighter. In fact, it is a pause that refreshes without filling.

My think tank is almond coloured and about three feet high. It has a wooden seat which is nice because it doesn’t get cold, an important attribute on frosty mornings.

If you have a chance to attend a think tank or two sometime, I highly recommend the experience. It is where I have come up with some of my best ideas over the years and those who have encountered the results of some of my best ideas fully agree that they could only have come from my think tank.

All I can say to them is, tanks a lot, I think.

Me and Queen Elizabeth

Al Bossence final

By Al Bossence

(I am not an annoying name dropper. But years ago I wrote a piece for a magazine which was looking for stories on “Famous People I Have Met.” My friend Jim Hagarty asked me if he could reprint it on his blog so after long and tense negotiations (over coffee), I agreed. Keep in mind I didn’t actually meet most of these people.)

I think it was sometime in the mid ’50s I was probably 10 years old or so when I first saw the Queen of England.

It was a fleeting glimpse as she and the Prince of Wales passed by in an open car on William Street, Stratford, Ontario, Canada.

But, I was sure she saw me. After all, I was a young 10-year-old boy with a big imagination so why wouldn’t she have seen me? The roadside was jammed with throngs of cheering people as far as I could see and the Queen of England had just become my friend. It would be another 45 years or so before the Queen and I would lay eyes on each other again.

Canadians will recall some of these next names …

I remember seeing our then-prime minister, John Diefenbaker, when I was a small boy in public school. He stopped in the village of Tavistock, Ontario, where I grew up and gave a speech by the town’s water fountain. I related this story to a friend of mine from Tavy and he said, well don’t you remember Pierre Elliott Trudeau coming through town a few years later doing the same thing. Alas, I didn’t. Must have been one of those days I was playing hooky.

In 1967-68 I was a doorman/car jockey at a then posh Tower Hill apartment building at the corners of St. Clair and Spadina Avenue in Toronto. The president of the Canadian Cancer Society lived there and one night held a big entertainment function. A fellow doorman and I were at the big front glass doors as the limousines rolled up. We smartly stood at attention and swung open the doors for Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden. I remember how she glowed as she walked by with all her jewels on and how handsome Lord Snowden looked. Later that evening, four of us had to move a heavy piano from a hallway into the suite where the party was going on because pianist Peter Duchin was playing. There was a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player there that night as well but not sure who he was. Might have been Carl Brewer.

Sat at a table next to Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot in a little Halifax coffeehouse back in 1966. I was in the Navy at the time. His career was just in the process of revving up and he was playing there. I remember their table was pretty “lively.” Saw him once more after that in concert at The Center In the Square in Kitchener, Ontario. I think it was sometime in the ’80s.

Saw rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins at the Stratford Coliseum in the early ’60’s when he was a really wild and crazy guy. Some members of his band went on to form “The Band” who in later years backed Bob Dylan.

While living in Stratford Ontario back in the ’90’s I drove for a company called The Stratford Airporter, taking people to and from Pearson International Airport in Toronto. I drove singer and harpist Loreena McKennit several times as well as another lady from a Canadian group called Farmer’s Daughter. Actors from the Stratford Shakespearian Festival frequently traveled as well: Bill Needles, Martha Henry and Rod Beattie were a few of the travellers.

Saw Johnny Cash and June Carter at Toronto’s Ontario Place as well as Tina Turner and Cindy Lauper. Been to concerts in Toronto by The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, ZZ Top, The Eagles, and Neil Young. Saw Roberta Flack on stage at the Festival Theatre in Stratford. Listened to Moe Kaufman playing The Swinging Sheppard Blues in Stratford as well.

Back in the ’70s and ’80s there was a well-known stage actress at the Festival in Stratford by the name of Pat Galloway. Before moving to Bayfield in 2002, I did a lot of landscaping for Pat and her husband Barnhard at their home near St. Marys, Ontario. Really, really nice down-to-earth people. Fellow stage actors William Hutt, Douglas Chamberlain and Douglas Campbell would sometimes be there. In Pat’s heyday we heard that there were some pretty lively parties on their estate with various in town Hollywood actors popping in.

Oh yes, about me and Queen Elizabeth and our second meeting. I think it might have been in the summer of 1998. The Queen was in Stratford again and I heard she would be heading off to Woodstock, Ontario, in the early afternoon. I knew that I may never see her again so I hopped on my motorcycle and headed over to a spot out in the country along Highway 59 just a few miles north of Hickson, Ontario. Nice open spot and no throngs of people this time.

Finally, the normal traffic going by ended. No cars at all. I waited and waited and then one car went by and few minutes another one followed a few minutes later by another one. This went on for about five minutes. Had I missed her?

Then I saw the convoy of cars coming fast. First one, two or three and then there she was and she was sitting by the back window on my side of the road. Light blue outfit with a matching blue hat.

I was standing beside my motorcycle as I waved. No mistaking it this time, she looked right at me, but alas, there was no recognition in her eyes from 45 years before.

Whoooooooosh, the car was by in seconds and she was gone.


By Jim Hagarty

I love quotes. Little sayings that make me think, make me laugh, give me courage, give me perspective. I collect them and Mitt Romney-like, keep them in binders. I have quotes on areas likes fear, procrastination, courage, love, achievement plus other categories.

Starting today, I am sharing one quote I like per day. Click on inspiration. Without a trace of ego (ha!) the first entry is one of my own quotes. I promise things will improve after this.