The End Of An Era

The news of today was dominated by the story that the General Motors Oshawa assembly plant would close next year after more than 100 years of operation.

I remember touring this plant on a school trip back in 1961. Although my family was mostly a Ford/Mercury/Monarch bunch at the time, like most schoolboys exposed to auto marketing I had the perceived price/quality of GM cars fixed in my mind. Buick>Oldsmobile>Pontiac>Chevrolet – or so I thought. Imagine my surprise to see all the makes coming down the same line – one shiny new car after another.

It was a heavily mechanized but non-automated workplace back then. No robots or computers – just a lot of good old-fashioned elbow grease made a car in 1961. Need the emergency brake cable hooked up or the wheels put on? There was someone ready to do it – over and over again on each succeeding unit.

I suppose all the guys (and it was indeed guys) who came to work the day I toured are now retired or deceased. The youngest new hire then would be in his mid-70s now. Their passing – like that of the assembly plant itself marks the end of an era in many ways:

  • It’s the end of an era for the sedan. Like other plants that are closing, the Oshawa plant primarily made the slow-selling Chevy Impala – not the SUVs so many consumers want now. Chrysler and Ford went through a similar reorganization so I guess it’s no surprise that GM has to do the same.
  • It might be the end of an era for fossil fuel cars. GM claims to be on the way to lower emissions and autonomous driving cars – maybe even cars that are shared rather than owned. We’ll see soon enough I guess.
  • It’s the end of an era for auto branch plants in Canada. I’ve already seen that happen in the food and beverage industry; now it’s the auto sector’s turn. It would be a bit much in these Trumpian MAGA times for GM to close down plants in the US without having Canada share the pain.
  • It’s the end of an era of generations who worked at GM. For 100 years all you had to do was get through Grade 10, get down to the plant where dad (or grandpa) worked, and hire on.
  • It’s the end of an era for the blue-collar dream. That steady boring GM auto assembly job made it possible to get married, buy a house and GM car, raise your kids and retire comfortably. No longer, sadly.
  • It’s the end of an era for Ontario communities that thrived on the tax base and payroll of a large factory in their midst. In the past 30 years, visceral losses have afflicted many small towns – Cobourg, Chatham, Smiths Falls, Arnprior, Chesterville. Now it’s happening in larger places on the fringes of the GTA. It’s not a pretty picture.
  • Finally, it’s the end of an era for the educational philosophy of my youth. That philosophy resulted in an “assembly line”  teaching operation that ignored the exceptionally intelligent or challenged, and concentrated on making sure the average Joe / Jill got the 3Rs and a bit of history and civics before they escaped to the factory. That’s all they needed to know to be productive citizens, right?

More than a few tears will be shed in Oshawa today as they mourn what was, what is, and what will be. The end of an era.



Lafayette, We Are Here

I rarely say anything political on this blog, but I was saddened that the American President would fly all the way to Paris and then not go to Belleau Wood. These were his people – his Marines – who suffered and died and stopped the Germans cold in 1918.

I am grateful that General Kelly and Secretary Pompeo made the effort to honor them.

Perhaps it’s better to recall the comments of Charles F. Stanton at the tomb of Lafayette in 1917:

America has joined forces with the Allied Powers, and what we have of blood and treasure are yours. Therefore it is that with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now, in the presence of the illustrious dead, we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue. Lafayette, we are here.

Lest we forget – the rest of the world still needs you, America.




Spam Slam Thank You Ma’am

Spam isn’t just about email these days. You may have seen a particularly egregious type of  it in comments to news stories or occasionally in blogs like “Bluebird Banter” or “MLB Trade Rumors.” In addition to the legitimate baseball commentary, you’ll see a post about working from home and making thousands in the process – with a link you can click for more info. Congratulations – you have just been introduced to Blog Spam.

The rationale behind Blog Spam is simple. Say you are out to sell soccer jerseys. The more times you can link your soccer jersey site through other websites, the higher ranking it gets in search engines like Google. So you get an automated spider to troll the internet, find as many sites as possible that permit comments. Then you put a bogus comment with a link back to you. Presto! You have just optimized your website for Google.

This sounds relatively harmless until you find that a tiny blog like Almontage can get hundreds of these comments per month. Not just for soccer jerseys either. Lots of porn and penile enhancement comments arrive. Stuff I’m not going to click on, and I wouldn’t want you to either. So how can I slam the spam?

If I chose to use a commercial site like Blogger or then the problem would be more or less taken care of for me. But I prefer to host my own site for flexibility and freedom from ads. That means I have to deal with the Blog Spam tsunami myself.

The first thing I do is moderate the comments. Comments are welcome, but your first one has to be approved by me. After that, it’s clear sailing.

Next, I close the posts for comments after 14 days. I don’t want to go back and check for spam on stuff I wrote months ago.

The final thing is to install an anti-spam plugin called Akismet. This useful app silently kills the worst spam so I never see it. Akismet also flags stuff that it thinks *might* be spam so I can review it later. Most of the time it is correct.

All of this might seem like overkill on such a tiny blog, but it’s worth the effort.

  • If I don’t keep the blog spam free, it looks like I don’t care. Would you want to visit my place if I never bothered to cut the lawn or pull out the weeds?
  • If Google detects spam here, it could ban my blog from its search. Not a big deal as most of my visits come from links I post personally. However, if you Google “Almontage” I am not far from the top of the list and I want to keep it that way.
  • In addition to their salacious content, most blog spam comments are really stupid – and I detest spammers. Years ago they made it impossible to have a Guest Book on a personal website, and now they are doing the same thing with blogs.

As with most things on the Internet, having your own hosted blog can be a mixed blessing. But if I do my job properly, any visitor can read it free of annoying comments and targeted ads. That’s a good enough incentive for me.





Mr Oates Turns 4

Mr. Oates – or Oatesy as he is commonly called around here – will celebrate his 4th birthday on November 11. In cat years that makes him around 30, so he is still relatively young but quite a bit past kittenhood. He’s a handsome devil – as most ginger tabbies seem to be.

It’s been well over 3 years since I discovered him at the Arnprior Humane Society shelter – sleeping quietly in a cat bed, sad and forlorn after his family suffered marriage breakdown and surrendered him and his favorite toy to the shelter. Both came home with us.

He didn’t enjoy the car ride, and it took him a bit of time to feel at home – but by nightfall, he was sleeping at the foot of the bed. He’s done so every night since. Most cats don’t show a lot of gratitude for a second chance at life, but they are nothing if not adaptable. Oates certainly made himself at home.

He’s different from our much beloved Sammy. He is a quiet purrer, but very vocal – almost like our old Siamese Brio from a couple of decades ago. He really loves women. Maria is his favorite person in the world, but other people on his love list are our friend Shari and granddaughter Veronica – the Cat Whisperer.

Oates has his moments with me as well. He usually comes in to cuddle up if I have an afternoon nap. At night, if Maria gets tired of his snuggling in her face, she sends him down to the foot of the bed, where he usually ends up plastered to the back of my calves. “Anyplace that’s warm” is his motto.

At age 4 he is full of energy. He dashes around in the morning, frantically chasing a wand toy mouse or feathery “bird.” Afterwards, he’s ready to chow down and then hit his bed for a few hours of shut-eye. He repeats the process at night before stretching out on the couch near the fireplace.

He is extravagant in his affection. He rubs around your legs, gives head butts, and if you drop him a slow “I love you” eye blink, you are sure to get one back. He’s got a variety of vocalizations, from a soft purry trill to a full-throated Yow! Yow!  Mrrowww! There’s no ignoring him.

His favorite room in the house is (wait for it) the furnace area. Lots of nooks and crannies to explore, and he knows he’ll get a cat treat to lure him out.

In 36 years we’ve had three great cats, each one different but each one special. We have loved each one. They have loved us. Not a bad bargain.

Music on Tap

I was just thinking the other day about the ways I have listened to music over the past 60 years or so:

  1. 45 and 33 RPM records on portable record player.
  2. AM radio on old tube console from the 1940s.
  3. AM radio on Transistor portable.
  4. FM radio on Transistor portable.
  5. AM radio in car.
  6. LP records on stereo record player.
  7. LP records on stereo hifi system.
  8. Reel to reel tape on stereo hi-fi system.
  9. Cassette tape on stereo hi-fi system.
  10. FM Stereo tuner/receiver on hi-fi system.
  11. FM radio in car.
  12. Cassette tape in car.
  13. CD player on hi-fi system.
  14.  Cassette tape on Boombox.
  15. Cassette tape on Walkman.
  16. CD on Walkman.
  17. CD on Boombox.
  18. CD in car.
  19. MP3s on computer.
  20. MP3s on iPod.
  21. Satellite radio in car.
  22. Streaming (Spotify) on computer.
  23. Spotify on Roku box.
  24. Cable TV digital music.
  25. Spotify through tablet connected to hi-fi system.

So it’s taken a lifetime, but I have gone from plastic insets in scratchy old 45 vinyl to nothing but bits and bytes and I’m still listening to rock ‘n roll. Go figure.



These lovely boxes are not speakers for a hi-fi system, but beautifully designed computer desktop units called Thelio. They are made by US computer maker System76. What’s interesting about them is that they are built from the ground up to run the Linux operating system.

I have been a Linux user and techie for a dozen years, and I have never seen anything like this – especially in Canada. We have Windows, Apple, Android, and Chromebook – but Linux machines? No way.

The typical Linux guy starts out like me – installing the system on an old desktop or notebook. Maybe they get a clone built without an O/S and then install Linux. Maybe they get brave enough to build their own desktop for Linux. But I have never met anyone who has an out-of-the-box Linux machine like this.

System76 is sort of like Apple, in that they combine a specially designed Linux box with their own Linux software distribution called Pop!_OS. However, any Linux distro you want can be loaded on to the Thelio desktop unit. Also, the average Linux user will be more tech literate than the average Apple user – so he/she may be unwilling to pay premium prices for compatibility and convenience.

I can see the System76 approach to be more valuable if you want a notebook. Those are difficult to build on your own because parts are not as readily available as for desktops. However, if you want a really nice looking desktop that you know will work perfectly with Linux Thelio is the way to go.

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