On Your Father's Side  

Screen time Jeopardy

Who would’ve guessed I’d be binge watching Jeopardy reruns on Netflix, but here we are.

I’ve watched the quiz show since Alex Trebek’s version hit the airwaves in 1984.

Not consistently, mind you, but enough that I recognize half the contestants appearing on these reruns.

The streaming service is featuring two different Tournament of Champions events and the $1-million Battle of the Decades.

After the kids started arriving, we cut cable, so I haven’t watched much in nearly a decade.

Nostalgia and challenging my brain are the reasons I’ve already blown through half the episodes in less than a week.

For a while, before kids, I thought of myself as a pretty good player. Heck, I seriously considered trying out (I signed up for email alerts about upcoming auditions).

But something’s happened since I last watched.

The questions (or answers, if you’re a stickler) are suddenly much more difficult.

Here’s a good example of a cupcake question that I whiffed on recently. In the category “Carson, daily” about The Tonight Show, the answer was:

  • “After this Tonight Show guest host was given her own late-night show, Carson refused to speak with her ever again.”

The answer, formed as a question, is …?

Yeah, of course, “Who is Joan Rivers?”

But do you think I could get that? I practically spit out my Doritos in frustration, thinking the answer was covered in nacho cheese on the tip of my tongue.

That’s not the only example, either. There’s been more than I care to admit.

Dang it, but my brain isn’t working.

Now, in my defence, I’ll say the Jeopardy brain needs regular workouts.

Like the crossword brain, the more you watch or play, the better you get. Eventually you learn the Trebek cadence and little clues that help solve the puzzles.

What I can’t help thinking about, however, is I’m just dumber a decade later.

That shouldn’t happen, though, should it? I’ve got all this extra, useless information now.

It had me wondering, is my brain at 45 years old, like my eyes, thickening?

To Google.

I picked up my phone to ask the great god Google, and its first-born, Siri.

Ooh, an email just came in. Oh, an alert from the New York Times: Trump just said what?

Facebook wants to know how my day went, I should tell it. There are new missions available on Marvel: Puzzle Quest.

Forty-five minutes later, I had a new muffin recipe saved to bake for the kids, and my missions were all completed, but I wasn’t any closer to actually answering my question about old brains.

Then it hit me, my phone is killing my brain power.

I have the stats to prove it. With the latest update to Apple’s software, my phone now tells me how many hours of screen time I’m averaging, per day.

Last week, it was six hours.

Gawsh, I’m embarrassed to admit that. Sure, some of that was watching Monday Night Football (the heart wants what the heart wants), but there’s no excuse for that kind of use.

I’m addicted, and I know it.

The New York Times has been exploring this issue as it relates to kids. Because, let’s face it, it’s too late for us old timers.

The newspaper is talking a lot about parents eliminating screens from their homes and how some schools are pulling out tablets and smartboards.

You know it’s bad when the people who build the apps and tech are banning them at home.

Chris Anderson is a former editor of tech magazine Wired. He’s now CEO of a robotics company. He has five children, and he enforces 12 tech commandments on his family.

“We thought we could control it,” Anderson told the Times.

“And this is beyond our power to control. This is going straight to the pleasure centres of the developing brain. This is beyond our capacity as regular parents to understand.”

The Times also writes of Silicon Valley nannies signing “no-tech” contracts so kids don’t see screens at all.

“The people who are closest to tech are the most strict about it at home,” Lynn Perkins, the CEO of UrbanSitter, told the Times.

I’m amazed these parents can find anyone willing to work for them at all.

I met a family recently that just hired a nanny because mom is headed back to work.

The first question this new nanny asked? “What’s your wi-fi password?”

Our kids (and our oldest is just seven) are already battling us for more access to TV and our phones.

I'm a terrible role model. I need a flip phone, something that looks like it might cause brain cancer.

Thankfully, I won’t be in danger because nobody uses their phones to make calls anymore.

Maybe I’ll get cable again, too.

The 2020 Tournament of Champions is calling my name.

Let’s hope I still have my hearing by then.


Vegas going to pot

How hilarious is it? I flew all the way to Las Vegas to buy legal cannabis for the first time?

I mean, I didn’t fly to Las Vegas just to buy weed. We were in Vegas on holiday, and there just happened to be a dispensary between our hotel and the gift shop down the street.

With the entire world’s “eyes on Canada” because of our decision to legalize marijuana, it’s entirely ironic it wasn’t until I spent $800 on airfare and hotel accommodations that I could buy a few edibles.

Actually, it was the first time I purchased pot of any kind, legal or not, and I was curious to see what the fuss is about.

Besides, I can’t buy edibles in B.C., and I can’t speak to anyone unless I drive two hours to Kamloops.

I’ve been writing a lot about legalization for my good friend’s new website, and I really wanted to experience it firsthand.

Yes, I could have just driven to Kamloops, but my wife would have not been thrilled to spend a weekend in Kamloops celebrating our 10th anniversary.

Nevada legalized last July, so while Canada is getting all the attention, Nevada is raking in the cash. No surprise there, eh?

Walking into Essence on the Las Vegas strip was an intimidating experience.

There were no windows to see inside. It’s on the corner of a busy, six-lane intersection on the “other end” of Las Vegas Boulevard. Heck, even the door was hard to find, with the entire exterior of the building an eerie, Martian-green colour.

It wasn’t much better inside. Bare concrete walls and a security guard funneled you toward the actual dispensary and made it feel like some kind of prison. There was a line for medical users and one for recreational users.

Velvety ropes that ushered customers into the line of their choice were of little comfort. Music blared and all eyes find you as you walk into the place.

But the welcoming Essence staff compensated for the lobby’s stark, grey walls.

Once my eyes adjusted, I realized the security guard — a wisp of a girl no more than 25 years old — was dancing to that music.

The employees behind the security glass checking my ID were downright chatty.

“This is pretty intense,” my wife said.

A happy young man smiled and nodded.

“Yeah, we’ve heard other places aren’t as secure, but better safe than sorry,” he said in a voice that sounded theatre-trained.

He spotted our Canadian ID.

“Oh, congratulations!”

Americans now know at least one thing about Canada.

Once I was inside the actual dispensary, there was more to absorb.

“No cellphone use,” the doorman shouted to the steady lineup of customers. “Do not take product out of the bags.”

On our left, a row of salespeople sat behind desks waiting for medical customers.

Recreational users stood and viewed pipes, papers and product through glass cases on the right.

Nevada’s first year of pot sales (the state legalized July 1, 2017) have exceeded expectations.

Customers have spent $530 million on pot and generated $70 million in tax revenue.

It was 40 per cent more than expected.

With almost no medical users in Essence — seven of 10 Nevada customers in Year 1 were recreational — another staffer waded into the middle of the room and shouted, “Next!”

Nobody moved.

“Next! Who wants to go next?”

We raised our hands, “We’ll go next.”

“Great, come on!”

She slammed down a chair for us at an open desk, and we were welcomed again by middle-aged “Carole.”

We explained that we were curious about oils and edibles, but we are infrequent users.

I was keen to try CBD oil to help manage chronic back pain and lift my mood.

Once Carole had a handle on what she thought would interest us, we were offered an array of products to choose from.

Two staff members spent at least 15 minutes with us going over our options — and they seem unlimited.

She offered us a nifty cartridge vape system. They were sleek and easy to use, but because you can’t buy replacement cartridges in Canada, we had to pass.

We choose $24 CBD Gummiez and a $51 disposable vape pen from Experience Premium Cannabis.

With tax, it was about $80. Prices are steep, but everything in Vegas is overpriced.

We couldn’t spend much more since we were only in Vegas for a long weekend.

We would never attempt to bring it back across the border, because that would just be wrong (at least we think it would’ve been).

With our purchases in hand — and it’s cash only, by the way — Carole wished us well, and a safe return trip to Canada.

“Congratulations on legalization,” she says.

One day, maybe we’ll even have a store in Kelowna to celebrate.

To Vegas, or not

My wife stumbled out of bed about 2 a.m. and headed downstairs hoping to ease her mind about our pending trip to Las Vegas to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

Something was bothering her, and an hour later she was back.

“Our passports are expired.”

It appeared we were doomed with six days before our scheduled flight.

She didn’t sleep much that night, or the next two after that.

The sudden realization led us to a difficult, emotional debate:

  • do we cancel
  • reschedule
  • drive to Vancouver to pick up our passports?

What made it worse was the timing. It was Saturday. We couldn’t speak to anyone at the Kelowna passport office for another two days, so we could only guess our options.

My first choice was to reschedule. There was no single reason for us to visit Las Vegas in late October.

We could just as easily rebook for mid-November, as far as I could tell.

As it turns out, there were 500 reasons to make the trip work.

With hotels now regularly charging you to reschedule or cancel, and the difference in flights plus cancellation fees, we would have likely lost at least $500.

It wouldn’t matter when we moved the trip, or if we cancelled outright, it was going to cost us.

My wife’s first choice was driving to Vancouver for an express passport.

We’d leave Monday morning, spend two days there with friends, and drive back on Wednesday a few hundred bucks lighter, but two passports richer.

The kids are young, she said, and what will they miss in late October in Grade 2 or kindergarten?

True, but I had a huge hang-up with that idea.

Let me get this straight: We pull our kids from school for at least two days, drive to Vancouver to buy an express passport, because we weren’t smart enough to renew, just so we can spend four days in Las Vegas for no reason?

If that doesn’t define North American white privilege, I’m not sure what does.

David Letterman said it best when he was still hosting his late-night talk show: “This is why the rest of the world hates us.”

My wife was ready to smack me at this point. She might have actually done it.

Of course, we had already made our decision. We had already put down deposits, made arrangements for the kids to stay with their grandparents, and booked off work.

Not going wasn’t an option this late stage in the game.

Besides, she said, think of this as an adventure. We get to show the kids museums and galleries and life in Vancouver.

They’ll remember this the rest of their lives.

That wasn’t her ace in the hole, though, and I’m sure you all know what that was: “Doesn’t our marriage deserve this time?”

At this point, friends had started offering advice. We were urged to apply in Kelowna with four days leeway.

The superb staff at Kelowna’s passport office will never admit this out loud, but if you’re just pathetic enough, they can supercharge your passport application.

They can — or should I say, they “may” — expedite your passport so suddenly, you’ll think they’ve actually turned back the clock.

We had two express passports made in Surrey, and authorized a friend who lives there to collect them for us.

She then dropped them into the Xpresspost for next-day delivery.

“Canada Post?” I said. “Aren’t they on strike?”

Well, rotating strike, but the fear was enough that she managed to pull them back at the counter and ship them with another courier.

In all, it was only about 72 hours of consternation, debate, worry, anger, fear and hostility.

But the passports arrived a day before we were about to leave.

It’s a simple “thank you” to staff at the passport office in Kelowna, and to our friends on the other end; we’re doing what we can to thank them.

I’m curious as to how many passport applications come into the office here begging for help.

They know the service they provide can often come tagged with emotion — everything from an exciting family vacation to a sudden death in the family — and they react with professionalism and courtesy (as long as your entire application is completed properly).

Not all government agencies can claim such distinction.

It’s still embarrassing to me, the thought we went through all this for Vegas, which must be pushing L.A. or New York City for capitalist capital of the world.

But the trip was fascinating and, as travel often does, reminded me just how much I appreciate home and my wife’s determination and planning.

It’s also a good time to check your passports. You never know when your marriage needs four days away from the kids.

Message to new council

Congratulations to Kelowna’s mayor and councillors for accomplishing something that must require more work than anyone can imagine.

Door knocking, fundraising and public speaking are three of my greatest fears, and you can’t win an election without them.

I can’t even kiss babies, and I have three of them.

Really, it’s a minor miracle anyone runs for public office. Not only does it require that level of work just to get inside, but you get modest rewards and constant criticism once you win.

So about that...

Roughly 10 months ago, I wrote a column in reaction to the City of Kelowna’s budget increase of three per cent, but I never hit “send.”

It sat in the “drafts” folder until now.

I’m happy to say it stands — mostly. Of course, now it’s an “appeal” rather than a “lament.”

The column was in reaction to quotes from councillors last December when the tax increase was expected to hit 3.6 per cent.

What had me in knots was Coun. Luke Stack suggesting there was little appetite for tax cuts in Kelowna.

According to media coverage at budget time, Stack said he didn’t get many requests for lower taxes.

“I wish it (property tax) was a little less in the increase, but I’m not embarrassed about it,” Stack said.

Here you are Coun. Stack:

  • I, David Trifunov, of Yates Road in Kelowna, B.C., am officially asking for lower taxes in 2019, and beyond.

You have it on record.

Since I moved to Kelowna in 2006 — and became a homeowner a year later — taxes have climbed 33 per cent.

Yes, that’s 33 …

Councillors, please think back to what it's like to raise a young family.

Over the past four years, your group — and all but one were re-elected over the weekend — has come across as privileged, out-of-touch talking heads only worried about playing nice with each other and city staff (yes, I did vote Saturday).

You have — in my opinion — voted for budget increases without enough thought toward making actual, hard choices yourselves and instead have offloaded the hard work to your constituents.

Remember, your job is to represent taxpayers. You’re not city employees. Please, don’t heap praise on every city plan or project. Look at them critically, and think about those of us who will pay for them.

Mayor Colin Basran told The Daily Courier he was insulted by questions about how to cut the tax increase from 3.6 per cent.

“It’s not like they (city staff) just throw things in that they think are frivolous,” he said.

Why wouldn't they?

They want more staff to keep work loads light, insulate job security, and buy more toys to play with.

Why wouldn't they ask for the stars and hope for the moon? Better for them, you give them the stars.

Coun. Brad Sieben said at budget time, “There are very few things to cut from what’s presented to us."

Those of us in Okanagan media circles quickly point out the City of Kelowna’s mighty, 13-person communications staff (or is it 14 now?).

It seems inconceivable this city needs 13 people to generate press releases and recreation guides. How about trimming there the next time someone quits or retires?

Not that anyone would quit...

If you have that level of staffing in one department, what’s happening in the others?

Coun. Charlie Hodge said last December that anyone who advocates for a tax increase of less than two per cent is “dreaming,” since that level of additional funding would take the city “backwards.”

“If you want to live in a quality community, you got to pay for it,” Hodge said.

That's baloney, and we all know it.

This city could go backward, forward, sideways, upside down and underneath, and people would still move here...or would they?

Better still, if you have manageable tax increases (say, at inflation or lower) you might attract even more people to live here.

Our unemployment rate in September was a stalwart 5.7 per cent. That’s pretty darn good, I’d say.

Our growth rate, on the other hand, is a modest 1.4 per cent. That’s below the national average and well below cities we like to make fun of: “Who would ever want to live in Guelph?”

But cities like Guelph (and Saskatoon and Regina) are setting torrid paces, and we are being left behind.

A robust economy needs people. The B.C. Construction Association estimates the provincial labour shortage at 11,700 jobs going unfilled.

While that’s actually better than 2017, it’s also just one industry.

Tourism, hi-tech and education can tell similar stories. How many middle-class workers in these industries can’t afford to live in Kelowna?

If this city can manage housing prices (while still offering amenities) we’ll start to compete for talent with the Guelphs of the world.

Until then, stacking 3.5 or 3.6 per cent property tax increases on homeowners will do nothing but exacerbate our labour shortage.

So, please, new councillors, enjoy your victories now.

In two months, however, remember that you’ve asked too much from us over the past decade.

Ten years ago, I was a carefree bachelor. Now, I’ve got three babies to kiss and a mortgage to pay.

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About the Author

David Trifunov is a proud father, humble author and recovering journalist.

Trifunov and his wife, Erin, are raising three little girls in Kelowna and enjoying every second of the trials, triumphs and tribulations.

As a humble author, he has written three middle-grade books for publisher Formac-Lorimer.

To pay the bills so he can raise those kids and write those books, Trifunov is a journalist with 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor.

His parenting column will appear regularly. davidtrifunov.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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