2008-07-30

Video: Inside Google

Interested in finding out more about the mysterious Google?

Here's a link to the short documentary "Inside Google." It's 45 minutes long but well worth. You'll go through it - snap - like that.

Don't know about some people but Marissa Mayer left an impression on me. She seemed to be robotic in her emotions - very much in line with an engineers DNA I suppose. Sure she seemed genuine but her answers seem to lack a certain warmth and human quality given the importance of the questions. The way she explained why Google keeps all information on Gmail (which I use) left me quivering and thinking about "1984." There is no real rationale for Google to do this. None. It's volunteer voyeurism under the guise of "consumer research?" Nonsense.

As Google slowly brings the world's information (both past, present and future) under one roof, one important question the film raises is the notion of who "owns" humanities work? Will it fall under public domain (as it should) or will we have to pay for it through private interests? Will Google one day own culture?

What's more worrisome Google's growing informational monopoly or global warming?

At some point in the doc, the great library at Alexandria was mentioned. As you probably know, the library no longer exists. While it's difficult to establish what happened one thing is certain; the library was never the same again. Will Google undergo something similar?

Competition is healthy. Information shouldn't belong to anyone. Perhaps Cuil will bring some balance to the internet.

Brain Thought

Sometimes when I sit quietly and loudly bite down on a crunchy bowl of cereal filled with berries and nuts, I look past the Superfriends figurines that suspend from the ceiling and settle my eyes into an abyss of nothingness. Once firmly rooted in this absurd posture, I think about the history and internet and wonder if people want to be deceived.

2008-07-28

Encounters With The Past: The Finale

Growing up in school teachers begrudgingly liked my octagon ("circle" has been overused) of friends. I say this because while we were capable of impressing them, our grades were terrible. We were, in addition, disruptive through an assortment of mad soliloquies designed to excite and make laugh through thought provoking commentaries. Students like Eric and me always tested the boundaries of the education system that was ill-equipped to deal with scatter brains like us.

There are no manuals to deal with people like that. You just have to hope you have a teacher that plays along.

Grades never impressed me. Ever. I've met too many jackasses who knew how to work and manipulate the education system in their favour. Me? I couldn't be bothered. Besides, in order to succeed meant understanding the thinking and rationale of that system.

I was never able to figure it out. Bat-Man detective skill I don't possess. I simply had my own thoughts and ideas on how, like, everything should work. And this was going to have a massive effect on my work life as the corporate environment simply did not resonate with me. More on this in a moment.

Eric was a natural in science - physics, chemistry, math etc. All the subjects God decided to omit from my DNA. I've always admired people who grasp these subjects.

As for me, I'm writing this entry. Meh. Click on an ad. Help me out a little.

The original purpose of this post - which has since turned into a three post mini-epic - was about something I said in high school. It was about a rant I made in class about the irrelevance of 9 to 5 jobs and structures and Eric recalled this.

I admit it. I didn't and still don't get the whole rigid 9 to 5 thing in its present construct. It seems so antiquated. Be forewarned long-windedness on the horizon.

Believe it or not, a company is an extension of your philosophy on life. Laugh but I feel this way.

Too many times I've seen people open a store and run it like a lousy assembly line using cookie cutter strategies. How many generic reference letters, job descriptions etc. were downloaded and dropped on my desk over the years that were so mind-numbingly pointless it was almost comical. I say almost because it was also pathetic. It was rare, if ever, to have one actually tailored to the peculiarities that define their business.

I can't stress the importance of having and following a clear organizational standard from the beginning. If you're running a growing company and winging it as you go along you're missing a chance to create a truly enlightened company. Good luck getting that in order down the road. By then the rot will probably have set in and you'll have to hire consultants charging five thousand bucks to state the obvious. Not only that, the patients will have overrun the asylum. The lousy worker will obsess about useless things that only cause trouble in the work place.

And if you're sending out "raw, raw, raw" material about team work without a proper structure that defines and executes your values flawlessly the joke is on you. That's all superficial stuff. Workers aren't stupid. How many times has your company proclaim in words something at the Christmas dinner only to have forgotten it by the new year?

I think many companies have their hearts in the right place but they have no clue on how to effectively express this. Some know how to make money but have the slightest idea on how to manage a growing business. Learning to manage is an entirely different ball game and it's not easy. An Ivy League degree won't necessarily help you either. Anti-social people with a degree in Management who are barely able to take decisions do exist you know.

Some companies do actually start on the right track only to revert to draconian measure thanks to some putzes in the office. As usual, the dicks in the office prevail and everyone else pays. In my opinion, I would never give such power to a troublesome worker. And you shouldn't either.

Operating on such a passe system of 9 to 5 (as Dolly Parton and her blessed, erm, voice once said: it's not a way to learn a living) is for mature companies in old, stable industries - like a paper mill or something. Now that there's anything wrong with it. Indeed, it's honest work but the reality is that in the 21st century there's a whole new sub-culture of people who can't and won't relate to it.

One of the most corrosive aspects of the 9 to 5 company is one where micro-management becomes the normal means to control employees. Of course, this only gives power to gossiping dead beats and middling middle-management minds that only wreck the creative and productive individual and their ability to truly contribute to a company. Speaking of human resources, if you're an owner AND running human resources cut that shit out if you can afford additional staff. It's called a conflict of interest.

Performance appraisals? What about them? Yeah, they're alright provided the company is actually organized and run by people who can interpret all those frivolous ratings. When used right it's a tool to make sure all values, goals and objectives are on course.

Other than that, they should be scrapped. Half the questions in such appraisals are plain stupid and deserve the N/A notation.

Resumes? To me they're just words. I also always wonder about the person siphoning through them. Think of it. What if the person entrusted with such things is an a-hole or lacks imagination? That's a lot of power to give someone who can potentially cost you some talented people.

Sure, some people have amassed impressive CV's and there's no doubt some of them are obvious and coveted choices but these things are nevertheless dicey. Just because the CV is substantial doesn't mean I should ignore the one that isn't. I'd rather meet people up front. I like to look at people in the eyes. Resumes are necessary so you can't scrap this though you can rework how you treat them.

Asking for experience in a job posting is another thing I take with a grain of salt. 4-6 years experience? What the heck does this mean? Nothing except you don't have to spend to train someone. It's entirely possible a person with far less "experience" could be better for the job, no?

Personally, I want a shot at getting the best. You're damn straight I'm going to interview the young kid with no experience. It's called scouting.

In the end, there are ways to build a successful model that optimizes worker performance. One key place to start is understanding how the modern worker thinks. For example, if they meet and exceed all expectations in four hours of work what do you care if they leave for a two-hour lunch? Your concern is not to worry about them sitting their asses on a desk. It should be about making sure they a) justify their existence and salary and b) make you money. That's it and that's all.

Easier said than done? It may not be easy but I would say no.

One of the biggest psychological problems today is the claustrophobic nature of the impersonal workplace.

Respect and autonomy is key. Woe to the company incapable of understanding all this.

It was great seeing Eric.

He gave me three posts.

Encounters With The Past: Part Two

Let's recap. No sooner than I think about Eric and make him a subject of a blog entry he suddenly appears in a grocery store. Now try and tell me "The Book of Revelations" is "merely the ravings of a lunatic" as Thomas Jefferson (whoever he is. He sounds like a cast member on The Muppets) once put it.

---The Encounter ---

We look at one another and immediately shake hands. Not one of those gentlemanly hand shakes but the laidback, street cred variety. We begin to talk. Catching up is a futile exercise but we give it a shot. I introduce him to my gal. "I've heard so much about you from the guys" she says. He gives a perplexed look. "Why do they bother talking about me?" He soon goes over what he's been up to: from classical ballet to managing family properties to shacking up with a girl with two kids to dating a radio personality to even taking part in a small production porn scene.

Soon the conversation moves towards me. I'm always deliberately evasive with this sort of stuff. I fear that if you've not witnessed my life unfold you wouldn't understand my decisions. Then again, it was Eric and this is the last guy on earth that would judge anyone. So I let him in on a few things.

"I was jealous of you in school," he says. He then looks at Jen and continues. "I used to try and copy his writing and his sense of style." Jen asks for more. "On the soccer field he played with such panache everyone was envious. I wanted to have that sense of artistry." I laugh and add, "I guess all those negative thoughts led to two ACL tears."

I was somewhat embarrassed but flattered. Then he said something that I never knew I'd ever hear, "His style on the field was under rated. It was so subtle that people overlooked it."

Like I said. Eric is smart.

My style was not conducive (indeed popular) with the brutal, physical nature of modern soccer.

We close up the conversation and tell him to contact me. It's crazy to live within minutes of someone you've known all your life and not see them more often, no?

"So that's the legendary Eric," Jen says.

"Yup. And I was envious (in a good way) of him too."

Encounters With The Past: Part One


-----In the creepy corner -----

Nestled away in my mind is an ability of some kind. I'm convinced of this...don't be afraid. I'm your friend.

A few days ago I sat down (as opposed to writing standing) and commenced articulating a story about a guy I knew. This in itself means nothing to you but it does have some value to me. You see, each time I meet this person I discover how I was perceived by certain people outside my inner-sanctum. It's like piecing a human puzzle. Over the years, I've come to view him as a sort of angel that distributes key information about me.

The entry was not published because it wasn't edited - something I try to find time for lest I come off sounding like that guy played by the amazing Stephen Root (who also acts as the voiceover for Bill Hauterive in 'King of the Hill.' Some of you will remember him as the hilarious Jimmy James on Newsradio) in the movie Office Space.

Oh, you want to know my friend's name? Eric. Of French-Canadian stock, I've known Eric since kindergarten. He is without doubt one of the most fucked up, unstable, talented, intelligent, cool, super nice red-headed guy I've come across.

Eric was one of those quiet, unassuming characters that gave off an aura of innocuous awkwardness. But in reality, he was a natural powerhouse with superb physcial and intellectual skill. He and I always got along swimmingly well. Like two birdbrains doing the breastsroke in...I have no idea where I'm going with this part of the sentence so let's just drop it.

-----The entry went something like this:

The other day we bumped into a friend of mine from the old neighborhood. Even though we never really hung out it's always great to see him.

I always considered Eric to be among the smartest guys growing up. One of those "disastrous student genius" types who later on got kicked out of University and lived the extreme skateboarders life. We all have our paths to go on.

Despite our different personalities (while he engaged in team sports they were pretty much alien to him) we always got along great largely because we respected each other greatly. We certainly shared a sense of humour that got us in trouble a few times.

The one I recall best was in high school during my religion class - which was made up of only boys (even though it was a public school) - a bunch of bored boys were sitting around the Chapel as the (foul-mouthed) Priest sat waiting for us to go in and give our Confessions. Instead of purifying ourselves, we all escaped the Chapel like a pack of wild animals.

Poor teacher (who literally looked like Beaker from the Muppet Show) needed reinforcement to round all of us up. Knowing that the hunt was on, it became a game for us to roam the high school pretending to be the Navy Seals avoiding a half dozen teachers.

We all split up and Eric and I ended up together. While he calmly ate carrots and celery, I nervously wondered if this time I really "did it." How many more chances was I going to get before getting kicked out of school for good?

"Let's hide in here," he dead panned.

"The Priest's personal bathroom?" I asked.

"Who will think to look in here?" Clearly this made perfect sense to me because I agreed. There we stood in the dark as a red headed kid chomped down on vegetables.

Just as he offered me a carrot, the door swung open. It was the principal of the school and Father Cox- Mr. Mirarchi (who once told me that I should buy a pair of construction boots and consider a career in construction. Ironically enough, even though I'm on that path as an investor) - and the look on their faces left quite the impression on me for years to come.

"Wh-what are you guys doing in here?"

Then Eric pulled one of the all-time classic rebuttals. "I love him, sir." Right in front of the Chapel.

Yes, there was nothing but stunned silence. I gently slapped my hand to my forehead. The principal quietly led us back into the Chapel. We were all summarily disciplined. My older sister had to explain the subtle aspect of the situation to my parents.

-----So this is what I had-----

As I roamed the aisles in a grocery store getting my thoughts in order trying to effectively write something he remembered I said in high school, I bumped into...Eric!

Endus Part Oneius.

2008-07-26

Article Of Interest: ISPs

Something rotten in Denmark?

Vint Cerf (is that a movie name or what?) has some wise words to impart about ISPs.

"Cerf, a long-time advocate of keeping the internet free from control by service providers and a current senior vice-president for search giant Google Inc., told the Silicon Valley Watcher blog that the companies are being childish by threatening to withhold upgrading networks unless they get breaks from regulators.

"Basically, it's like little kids in a tantrum: 'I'm not going to build this system unless you give me three scoops of ice cream and a pony,'" he said in a video posted on the blog on Tuesday. "My reaction to this is quite negative. It's harmful to the national interest to behave in this way because it is serious infrastructure — it's very much like the road ways."

Some comments from the site.

"If it wasn't obvious, Google clearly has some of the most intelligent minds in this domain. Why aren't these people given the authority for defining government policy?

The USA and Canada are always such laggards in progressive policy, from the environment to this, letting corporate interests define direction. It is OUR country...that is, the human citizen's...not the corporate citizen!"

"I live and work two hours north of Toronto two kilometers from Hwy 11 (where the fibre is) and I cannot get highspeed access to the internet unless I purchase a satellite system. This is because the telcos are only interested in the easy pickings and government doesn't have the guts and foresight to mandate countrywide coverage. You think it's hard for you folks who are paying $40/month for 4 Mbps, but it's harder if you can only get more than 32 Kbps by paying $100/month plus a $1000 setup, and the internet cuts out when it snows or rains.
Yes there's something rotten. Canada is actually a lowspeed country pretending to be highspeed. We were never convinced that we should all have highspeed. Only corporate profits matter."
Geez I want highspeed!"

2008-07-24

Me Smart, Look Dumb

You may design rockets or program robots but you still sound like you club women over the head on your first date.

Stop looking foolish.

Invest in a writer for your website and all other materials that represent you and your company.

I Don't Like Moonday

Who dropped the second 'O' in Monday?

Somewhere along the line some town cataloguer or Monk didn't do their job and misspelled the word and that's why we have 'Monday.'

I hope someone burned at the stake for this error.

"Tell me why I don't like Moondays..."

2008-07-23

The Customer Can Be An Idiot

Is the customer always right? Is it one of those ideas and mantra's that "sounded good at the time?"

My experience has taught me that it gives too much credit to people. If it were up to me I'd remove this altogether.

Instead,when dealing with the public companies should empower their workers to make decisions on-demand. After all, if you hired and trained them it seems to me you should have the confidence and trust in them to make the right decision. No?

One thing that annoyed me to no end during my time on the Death Star (bank), was how the geniuses at the top moved away from this simple but powerful strategy. To them, it was better to rip the soul of the worker and centralize and mechanize the banker/customer relationship.

This in effect turned bankers into a bunch of blathering yes-men - and women. By the way, the bank is where humour goes to die.

At this point, may as well have a monkey punching in the mortgage rates on the computer. "Thanks, Gleek! You're the best! Where can I send the banana to show my appreciation?"

The customer is not always right. I'm pretty certain of this. That's why companies should stop kidding themselves and bring some sanity back by returning some power to their employees.

2008-07-22

Spot #58 Has My Name On It

I tried to be a Good Samaritan today.

The story goes something like this.

A company has reserved parking it paid for. In the section in discussion here, two of its employees have their own private spots. It's all so scripted and coded. Until someone comes along and messes it all up.

Lately, this is what's been happening. A Volvo kept destabilizing the parking lot. To the point that somebody else's car ended up in my spot. I'm #58 god dang it. I'm 58! Yes, a number I am.

Ok. So it's tow the yuppie mobile time so we can all move on with it.

Not so quick.

I end up in the lot and spot the culprit entering her break-parking-rules and etiquette car. I figured she was informed of her misguided deed and was going to move the car. A fine psychic I am.

She pops out with an agenda in her hands.

Why the little...

This is where I go Biblical. In French I explain to her she's in the wrong spot and that her car will be towed.

She dismissed my claim. I was informed that she works for a big department store (who shall remain nameless for no apparent reason) and they had in fact bought all those spots. In fact, if anyone was in the wrong it was the company; which somewhere down the line perversely involved me.

"I'll tell you if they tow me..." and she made one of those 'don't mess with me and my kin' looks. It was time to move on.

I found her tone and defensiveness odd. It was this corporate approach to life that was going to hurt her in the end. Does anyone look beyond their fingertips anymore? Of course not.

Nonetheless, I proceeded to recommend she check her facts. After all, she could have been wrong. Maybe she was given improper information about her privileges. I know if I were her in her shoes (provided they suit a man) the first thing I'd do is verify to make sure everything was indeed in order.

So much for that. You can't help those who don't want to be helped.

I went upstairs and informed the company to make sure everything is alright on their end. The lady basically told me that our spots had been expropriated. It turns out she was wrong and we were right.

Her car was summarily towed.

I watched the whole thing. I felt guilty for enjoying it. Should I have at least sought the lady out to let her know? Then again, I did assert my advice and she refuted it.

So.

I allowed myself to be devishly entertained. All that was missing was a glass of Asti to be raised honoring the towing and its tower.

What?

Oh, spare me.

Note: A couple of days after this all went down guess what? She defiantly went back into the spot that does not belong to her. She was towed again. Sadly, I missed it. BUT, I did by pure luck happen to be around when she walked to her car and discovered it was gone. Priceless. Could you imagine working for someone so stubborn and childish?

The Dark Muslim Knight Strikes Again

The Muslim Bat signal lights up and gives life to a darkened night filled with misguided, empty souls. Gottawam City is under attack and only one man gave save it from itself.

Mo Elmasry. Also believed to be Bat-Muslim.

Elmasry, filled with sensitive rage, has called out PM Harper by calling him a racist.

In his defense, a spokesperson for the PM has said, "I can assure all of you that Stephen does not discriminate against brown-skin. It's the tastiest part of the chicken."

It's not easy for Mo. He fights his inner demons day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, millisecond by.... He will never forget the day when hummus was squirted in his eyes by American CIA operatives when he was a child. A Canadian stood by and said nothing.The Canadian witness claims it was a result of the naive Americans and their inability to contain a loosely bound shish-taouk.

Still, he has lived with this soul-devouring nightmare ever since. His vengeance has been carefully planned and is now ready to be executed. It will be by his rules.

Ta-na-na-na-na-na-na-na - Bat-Muslim! Poof! Bam! Whack!

No one knows where he got his free pass. Liberal guilt? Runaway multiculturalism? The bus company? Commissioner Gordon?

Mo Elmasry is fighting a personal war and we're The Jokers...in his mind.

This war must...go...on.

2008-07-21

Link Of Interest: Management

Love this manifesto I found titled, Management Advice: Which 90% Is Crap? by Bob Sutton.

You have to donwload it (in PDF) but if you're in business (or just plain curious) it may be worth your time. It's 11-pages and you can alternatively access it at Change This website.

Release The Hounds

It keeps getting better and better.

While Canadians pat themselves on the butt thanking their good graces that they're not American they seem oblivious to the serious social issues facing this country.

For example, many Canadians would be surprised to know Canada his hight rates of assault crimes including rape.

Our educational system is not all what it could be. Post-secondary education, while cherished for cheap access, also renders corresponding mediocre results. In other words, you get what you pay for. There isn't a strong link between education and earning a living off it.

More recently, a judge in Quebec overturned a disciplinary action by a parent towards his own child thus rendering him impotent to raise his family. The judge, of course, cuts the legal umbilical chord and has no further social obligations to the child.

Now, it's the turn of a sex offender. Will the people who allowed him back on the street face the parents of his next victim? Assuming he does reoffend of course and by all accounts and statistics they generally do.

I'm not sure what path we're on anymore. There are little encouraging signs.

Paul McCartney's $20 Steal

For $19.99 we figured what was the downside to watching Paul McCartney live from Quebec City?

Thinking back on it it was all upside. Yes. I know. We could have waited a couple of weeks and watch it for free on the CBC or something but last night was the perfect, lazy night to watch 2 1/2 hours of McCartney/Beatles/Wings songs.

McCartney quickly made all the "controversy" seem all the more pitiful through a combination of dead-pan humour and a trip down the path of nostalgia.

Majestic after magical after legendary song, Paul McCartney reminded those who witnessed and those who felt it generations later the full impact of his musical legacy.

These are The Beatles man!

Now I don't usually get into "who is the greatest stuff" but I would like to hear anyone make the case that The Beatles are NOT the greatest band of all time.

My parents sat and watched it with us.

I glanced over at one point and noticed legs and feet tapping to the beat of songs.

Such is the power of music - of The Beatles.

We're lucky to have had a musician of that stature celebrate Quebec City's 400th birthday.

2008-07-20

Rate This: Bend Over


As some of you may know, I'm not the biggest fan of awards.

The other thing that I find weird is the "rate this" feature found on a few social and networking sites (e.g. Stumble Upon). I understand the reasoning behind it but it seems superficial to me. It's A BLOG. How can you rate ideas and opinions outside the realm of education? The mere fact that someone (however remedial or fantastic) is taking the time to write is something worthy.

I never join such sites or try as much as possible to not leave comments on blogs with them. I've never rated a post and I never will. It's an opinion. If you like or dislike an opinion articulate it in writing and move on.

A rating is pointless without explanation or context. It's like the "performance appraisal" sheet at work. While potentially an important survey, it's useless if the person interpreting it has no clue what they're doing. Too often I've seen companies hand out generic PA's even though their company lacked any logical or organizational structure. "Listen, we know we're a mess but your leadership qualities and lack of initiative sucks."

What's this fascination to always want to label, rank, award and rate?

Please don't misinterpret me here. I do agree with honoring and recognizing someone. It's just that some of these awards seem like nothing more than extensions of public relations departments, pathetic politicization or plain comical and excessive.

We're constantly rated at work, school, now blogs and possibly even at home. You're one big "rate this" zombie. I'm a 3.3!

And when you add up all the stars what do you get?

Record Store Etiquette

Excuse me, excuse-moi...je suis le Commentator and you're blocking the A to G section of the music rack...jerk.

People, people. People. When you shop for CDs take a step back from the aisle and let others the chance to look as well. It's just good, basic, common, thoughtful etiquette. You don't need to read the New York Times or have a fancy degree from an Ivy League school to know this sort of stuff.

Where do people learn their social skills?

So next time you're examining which Kenny Loggins CD to buy don't lean on the aisle talking to your better half about it. Gently take her by the arm, smile and nod and quietly (or not. I don't care. More entertainment to for me) debate off to the side.

Article Of Interest: International Politics

Canadian servers hosted Hamas and Hezbollah websites.

2008-07-19

2008-07-18

Blog Post Of Interest: Health And Fitness

The Fitness Personals has this post I think many of us who train or trained can relate to.

Personally, I also don't appreciate people who don't share a particular machine. For example, between reps you rest no? Why not allow for someone to use it in the interim?

Looking For a Rebirth In Social Civility

An interesting and telling ad campaign is running on the radio these days. It's about a person sitting in their in car looking for a chance to get into a lane. When someone lets them in they react with genuine happiness.

Has it gotten to the point where a simple, civil act of kindness that should be second nature to us is considered a rare occurrence?

What's next? Commercials about the advantages of saying "Thank you?" Thank you's are optional now. If you want one you have to pay for it. Figuratively I'm speaking. Work with me.

Like everything else, the commercial is a band-aid approach to probably a deeper problem. Does anyone truly believe McDonald's is the root of obesity? This line of thinking only deflects from examining the individual and why he or she acts the way they do. Entering a McDonald's is only the outcome of that. Movies like that guy who ate nothing but McDonald's for 30-days have no intrisic value in terms of why obesity exists. The film simply reinforced simplistic dogma about fast food.

Whenever I hear the government pleading for us to act like Mary Poppins on the road as opposed to Mad Max, I hark back to the comical and surreal images of that Iraqi official who claimed everything was A-okay and that the invasion of his country was all American propaganda even though the tanks rolled by behind him.

Why do we treat one another like enemies on the road? Do we believe that letting someone in to be a sign of weakness? Intersections with stop signs have become a game where people race to it to avoid being the "sucker" thus leading to "Bunny-hop" stops. Why? To prove we won somehow over the other person?

The other day I was sitting in a dentists office. There were seven people and no one said a word to anyone. Of course, there may be practical reasons for this - like, I don't know, a painful tooth for example.

Interestingly, one would think that silence means an indifference to social interaction. This is not exactly ture. However, we all know man is a social being. It's why we have parties and politics.

While in the waiting room (the damn dentist was 30 minutes late), I observed many glances were exchanged. The sort where lots of heads go up and down and eyes shift. That kind of thing. You know what I mean. We've all done it. The quick look away. We all get caught with it.

The visual exchange points to a basic curiosity and/or a genuine desire to communicate. All that was needed was for someone to break the ice. Not that it's bad to want to remain silent. Talking for the sake of starting a conversation doesn't necessarily mean we're civil. What if the guy turns out to be a racist buffoon? Then again, what if a conversation with a racist leads to that person changing their minds or at least exposes them to a world outside their own?

On this day, it wasn't going to be me starting anything because I'm pathetic that way. I like to keep my social distance at about two feet. Besides, my hearing is not that strong and asking people to repeat themselves is awkward. My buddy on the other hand is ready to network anywhere, anytime. What a pain in the ass.

Digressions, digressions.

To break the ice is indeed the role of a social butterfly. However, here's the thing. We treat people with suspect whenever they do start a conversation with you. We probably wonder "what the heck is this guy's or gal's motive?" We let our cynicism govern our social conduct. Rather than just engage and say hello we shy away for a multitude of reasons. One of which being the type of societal construct we live in.

Then again, it's all a matter of trust and credibility.

Still, we're talking about basic social interaction here. Not about selling steak knives.

It's not always that way it's true. Certain towns and places (Vermont comes to mind for me. But I don't want to generalize) are more socially outward than others but I fear this under sieged mentality has become all too familiar for the most part.

Try this for fun. Say hello to someone in street. Either you'll be treated like you're the reincarnation of Franken-steen and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame or you may brighten the day of someone having a bad day.

Wow. All that from a 30 second commercial.

It says a lot about the state of mind of society, no?

2008-07-17

Rechargeable Batteries Are Practical

Into rechargeable batteries? Scroll down and support a small business selling a neat rechargeable kit by clicking on the Ebay widget.

Rechargeables not only have significant long-term economic benefits but they offer an environmental benefit as well. Among other things, they give a break to landfills filled with toxic batteries.

This particular product actually contains FUNCTIONAL rechargeable alkaline batteries known for their eco-friendly properties.

Personally, up until recently I couldn't be bothered to recharge batteries. Like most people, I was content to use and dump them wherever - usually in a drawer. Of course, when I would clean out the drawer I wasn't sure if they were still charged so I would spend 15 minutes verifying them.

It was far more "convenient" to replace batteries by simply picking up another pack at the store.

My idea of convenience has since shifted after purchasing a rechargeable battery kit. At first, I wasn't sure how long I would stay focused to keep recharging. It's been six months and so far so good.

Just a friendly post to share my experience with them.

Come Together...Over Our Dead Bodies

This is a good one.

Luc Archambault and Pierre Curzi have a problem. They have a dream and no one is listening. They need our help!

Keep that damn anglo Sir Paul McCartney away from our scared shores!

Archambault chimed in with these witty and charming utterances regarding McCartney's planned outdoor concert during Quebec City's 400th anniversary:

"...McCartney's appearance misrepresents the spirit of the 400th anniversary celebrations, which commemorate the fight for the survival of the French language in North America."

Man, this is some comment. The irony of course is that the British helped that survival along while France turned its back on la belle poutine. Look, I'm not going to get into it here but the (hopelessly parochial) separatist interpretation of history is flat out selective - and dare I say wrong. To insinuate that Canadians (or anybody else) can't celebrate this day should be challenged at every turn.

Finally, he closes with:

"He expresses his wish that McCartney would invite Quebec folk legend Gilles Vigneault up on stage Sunday night to sing Gens du Pays, Quebec's unofficial anthem."

Please. Anyway, if they do that there'll be no time left for the extended version of "Hey, Jude."

Finally, here's a comment I pulled out from the CBC:

"I am a french candian. Period.

My family arrived here in 1762, that's BEFORE the Plains of Abraham.


We became subjects of the British crown after the Plains of Abraham and that is history.

If it hadn't been for the British, we would have starved in the following winter.

The French crown did not lift a finger to come to our help and totally abandonned its north american colony. (
Family history.)

I, along with a majority of Québécois (as proven repeatedly through various referendums) believe that our future lies within Canada, that this is the way of the future. (
Yes it is.)

Narrow minded separatism or nationalism is a thing of the past and I strongly wish that this highly vocal minority would stop living in the 18th century and move along.
(Globally speaking, I wish it were a thing of the past but neo-nationalism is on the rise in developed countries. Where there's development and an absence of strong institutions there's nationalism.)

Unfortunately, many Canadians only view Québec through such reports and get the wrong idea of what people are like around here. (
True.)

Those who have made the trip and gotten to know us have discovered a warm and receptive community that doesn't spend its time waving separatist placards and demonstrating in the streets.


I will welcome sir Paul with open arms (and ears). (
No kidding. The Beatles have only two remaining members.)

Have sovereignists forgotten that had it not been for the British defence of the garrison in the Battle of Quebec against revoultionaries from the south, the city and province of Quebec might now be part of the United States of America? (True. But is that a bad thing?)

In addition, before the War of 1812, Major General Isaac Brock (another Brit) fortified Quebec City by strengthening the walls and building an elevated artillery battery.

When Quebec sovereignists begin to respect historical facts, then maybe they will understand more about civilized co-habitation on this planet." (Ok,this sounds a little too David Suziki-ish. But I get the point.)

Over to you Josee Legault; Queen Pirouette of Spinsteronia.

One last comment I read that summarizes this nonsense best:

"Let it be."

Wise words indeed.

Yay! Cough.

CBC hired Alexandre "You're my boy Castro!" Trudeau to report (I use the term loosely) during the Olympics in China.

This I just gotta see.

Brian Williams: "Al, what can you tell us about China's human rights abuses or is this just another ploy used by right-wing nuttos to smear a beautiful government?"

Trudeau: Human rights abuses? What human rights abuses? What are you talking about? Hey, check out that wall! It's a big one, Brian!"

Note: This blog does not profess to know Brian's political leanings. Brian's a real pro. He was merely used for the shameless benefit of this post.

2008-07-16

Africa's Adam's Calendar

Adam's Calendar - or Africa's Stonehenge as The Pen and the Spindle puts it - is yet another mystery of history. Click the link to view the video. It's worth a look. Thanks to P/S for this.

Debate: If Morgentaler Why Not Somerville?

The Montreal Gazette should hire some of the people who write letters to the editor. Here are some bon mots:

"Alan D. Brown writes (Letters, 11 July) that Henry Morgentaler's Order of Canada is indeed a "politically" motivated award, one that promotes "freedom to exercise personal choice." Because Margaret Somerville acknowledges a need to limit personal freedom in some situations, including some of those that would otherwise end in abortion, he believes she's unworthy of the award.

But Brown ignores a basic, universal feature of the human condition: the need to make collective choices that sometimes conflict with personal ones. We are social beings, and every society has acknowledged at least some limits to personal freedom. That is why we have laws and governments.

Brown can argue that Somerville incorrectly identifies the limit of personal freedom in connection with abortion but not that she is somehow unworthy of an award that recognizes significant contributions to Canadian society."

Her contribution has been to promote a kind of freedom that has sadly gone out of fashion: the freedom to think for yourself and therefore, sometimes, to say unpopular things. It takes a great deal of courage to do that in the face of those who insist on conformity - that is, political correctness.

The Order's problem is not so much its political as its ideological motivation. Given what Brown and many others say, I must now conclude that its function is not to promote freedom at all but to promote one notion of freedom and thus establish a state orthodoxy. This is one kind of "unity" that Canada does not need."

Paul Nathanson

I must profess ignorance of Somerville however, the Morgentaler debate is proving why handing it over to him may not have been a good idea. I think the letter brings up a good point.

Khadr: We Don't Have To Like Them To Do The Right Thing

Alright. I'll take a stab at the Khadr situation.

For me it all boils down to the rule of law.

Yes, the kid and is family are dinks; heck, annoying and loathesome for their public outburts. Makes one wonder why the stay here. Is it because of Tim Horton's?

Well, the pull of the Rrroll-up-win contest couldn't have been that strong since they willingly took this child into a highly volatile situation and turned him into a child-soldier in Afghanistan. Thanks to these stellar and sound parental decisions, they alone ruined this kid. Guantanamo, of course, probably isn't helping.

Nonetheless, his psychological state (I'm guessing here) was already coded and conditioned to think a certain way and he probably was on a path to martyrdom for all we know.

It's hard to feel any sympathy for the Khadr clan. In fact, a very strong and responsible argument can be made for the government to deport them.

While many are upset at Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his inaction (even indifference) towards Lil' Omar, I find humour in listening to the Liberal party also. These guys don't kow the meaning of "quitting while your ahead." To me the Liberals attacking the Conservatives is rich given they have yet to overcome the stench of their own corruprive powers. Watching them talk with moral rhetoric makes me want to go to Guantanamo myself. It's a bad episode of Laugh-in with the Libs.

In times of war, however, we're always confronted with dicey ethical questions. Lest we forget the lessons and example of interning Ukranian, Japanese, German and Italian- Canadians during WW II. I know the tendency is to refer to fight on terrorism as a "so-called war" but this is the wrong way to argue rationalize it in my opinion. It implies the war is fake thus reducing the real dangers that modern terrorism offers. I understand Americans for their position on this global reality. Security is a number one issue for them since 9/11. We can spin this however we choose but this is a reality and it should be respected. It makes little sense to chastise them for their concerns.

The rule of law is the spinal chord of our existence. We mustn't deviate from this lest we crack it and die. This is the choice we've made as a civil society. It unfortunately entails applying it to people like the Khadr's. They're Canadians and as such they're entitled to be treated with dignity under the protection of our laws.

This is where it gets messy. People like the Khadr's essentially refute our civilization and use it when it serves them. This will rub some Canadians the wrong way. The whole notion of applying the Geneva Convention to terrorsists who don't even recognize it strikes me as a tad naive. Still...these are our laws. We can't ignore them at will. Can we?

Only Bat-Man is allowed to be a vigilante. Where is he anyway?

Omar Khadr stands accused of murdering a U.S. soldier and attacking Canadian soldiers in the process. The evidence of all this has yet to be firmly established. Only strong suspicions exist. In the process, he has not been given a fair trial.

The trick for the West to defeating terrorism is to not degrade itself into a "guerilla" type fight. This is what they want - For us to stoop to their level. We should resist that temptation. Once we do this, we elminate any moral advantage we may have had. It takes a lot to build moral credibility and much less to destroy it.

Have we considered this? Have we already fallen past the point of no return?

This is not condone the Khadr family. They've made clear where they stand. Personally, I'd send them packing.

But first, I'd much rather preserve the rule of law.

2008-07-15

ARE YOU READY FOR.........Nemrits?

I'm not sure if you are.

I mean, I really doubt the world is ready for NEMRITS.

I really do.

Really.

You people are too stupid to understand their plight; to comprehend their intoxicating power.

And what the heck is a Nemrit anyway?

When I met my first Nemrit I was going through a rough and tough time. My wife was a slut, condoms I did not buy kept showing up in my bed, bathroom and garage, my kids constantly laughed at me, my co-workers never took me seriously, my spatula kept snapping, every peach I bought was hard on the outside but soft on the inside and the dating service I subscribed to turned me down for being "too incompatible" with women.

It was on the steps of a recently burned down Church where I bumped into a Nemrit. It just stood there quietly while observing me. I got the sense it was examining my DNA. I felt like the little repulsive but inviting creature was getting inside my bones. Then it uttered its first word (more like an utterance) to me. A thunderous "Burp!" ripped through me and toward the sky on its way to the Lord.

I was reduced to burning tears. I knelt to the ground screaming and shouting incomprehensible Biblical babblings. Then it came upon me and put its warped arm on my dislocated shoulder.

And then it spoke.

"You're really fucked up, you know that?"

It then laughed and scurried away.

My life was never the same after that. I think my shoulder is cured, too.

2008-07-14

World's Oldest Blogger Dies

Australian blogger Olive Riley was 108 years old.

I didn't know about her but still remarkable.

Alexandre de Tocqueville: What A Marvellous Mind

I still marvel at Alexandre de Tocqueville whenever I read American history and politics.

de Tocqueville was quite possibly the most interesting and prescient commentator of American life and democracy.

Exaggeration?

"America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

"Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude."

"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."

"The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults."

"The whole life of an American is passed like a game of chance, a revolutionary crisis, or a battle."

"There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle."

Dix 30: An Outdoor Mall Capable Of More

A few years back we visited a friend in Connecticut, among other things, we did some shopping at an outlet. It was a great way to shop. You parked away from the actual shops and walked to the center. Once there, you were free to walk at your leisure and in peace free of any cars getting in the way.

This past week end we ended up at an outdoor mall (not an outlet) in a suburb 10 minutes from Montreal. It's one of those new self-sustaining pseudo-city cosmo-mall thingy that's all the rage now.

While I can't say I'm against the concept per se, I will argue that the design and architecture of Dix 30 (the name of the mall) is abysmal. Let me explain.

Aesthetically, it's ok. There's no real sense of identity is present. Ground breaking and shaking it ain't. Functionally, it's a travesty for one simple reason: it was clearly designed to not have the citizen and the environment in mind.

There's no real rational reason why cars should be allowed into the center of any outdoor shopping center. Why couldn't they have designed a parking area for cars away from shoppers like the one we saw in Connecticut? Humans don't need to share public spaces with cars - especially in Montreal where the concept of "pedestrians come first" is optional.

On two occasions we stood at a barren intersection connecting different sections as the light system was obviously rigged to ensure the flow of cars was preserved - pedestrians be damned.

And this is just the tip of the scale. Personally, I would have made it more intimate, more environmentally friendy by, for example, planting trees. Create a shopping oasis of calmness. In this way, the energy of human activity would define the mall.

Instead, we get an indoor mall but outisde and with cars swirling about.

The potential for Dix 30 was great - and squandered.

2008-07-13

Romeo Dallaire: The Man Who Saw The Face Of The Devil

Came across this quote on Wiki about Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire (link to website) and his take on Hotel Rwanda.

"The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda featured a UN colonel based on Dallaire, played by Nick Nolte. Dallaire is quoted as saying that neither the producer, nor Nolte himself, consulted with him before shooting the film. He said further that he did not agree with Nolte's portrayal, but did think that the film was "okay." Dallaire has been otherwise reticent to say anything more about Hotel Rwanda."

Seems to me they missed a chance to shake hands with someone with great integrity.

The Rwanda genocide happened well before this blog ever existed but I felt it necessary to at least mention Romeo Dallaire.

It's hard to imagine the psychological impact Rwanda has had on Dallaire. I know he's spoken about it and it's been capture on both film (The Last Just Man, Shake Hands With The Devil, A Problem From Hell) and in books, but to see murder in its purest evil form and be powerless against it must have been too much to endure and overcome.

While we argue about Morgentaler's legitimacy (I'm not convinced he deserves it) as an Order of Canada recipient, Romeo Dallaire served this country and contributed to its peacekeeping legacy. Seems to me that for a country like Canada that talks incessantly about our peacekeeping values we should at least honour those who actually make it happen.

Note: Thanks to Neil for setting the above straight. I errored in thinking the "Members" list of the Order was an exhaustive one. Dallaire is listed under the "Officers" section. I normally do research vigorously but let my guard down on this one. My apologies and thanks to Neil once again. I'm glad I have some fellow bloggers to point these things out.

I'm Canadian. But I'm An American Blogger

According to Alexa, 40% of my traffic comes from the United States. Just 15% from my own country of Canada.

No clue how to rationalize this odd discrepancy.

A Photo That Captures Sharia Law


Here's a disturbing pick found at eyebald.blogspot.com

This is Sharia Law at work.

It may work for them over there but why is the West even considering (insanely actually) integrating this animalistic and barbaric mode of "justice?"

I must profess ignorance of Sharia Law and for me to use heavy words like "barbaric" may seem out of line but if this picture reveals the norm and essential base of the law then I want nothing to do with it. And if my country, Canada, ever dares entertain it I will denounce my citizenship and will do my part as a blogger to prevent it.

That Ontario dared to look into Sharia Law seems all the more absurd now.

Canada: Grow a pair for once and stand up for what's right. Don't give into Sharia Law. We don't understand it and quite frankly we don't want to comprehend it. Spare me the "freedom and tolerance" angle. This is not part of the multiculturalism many Canadians had in mind.

2008-07-12

Sam And Diane: Among The Greatest Couples In Sitcom History


One of my all-time favorite sitcoms was/is Cheers. Even when I watch reruns over 20 years later the exceptional writing never ceases to amaze me. The show, from its witty dialog to the timeless opening song, has aged extremely well indeed.

The plots involving Sam and Diane in particular have not only proven to be enduring in its humour but the charm of its flawed relationship still resonates.

Has there been another couple on any sitcom with so many intriguing story lines since?

I still don't know if the fact that the show did not reunite them in matrimony in the final episode was the right one!

2008-07-11

Autism: A Little Compassion Is Not A Bad Thing

This is a tough call. Everyone from all sides have a point. However, I fear people are looking at things a little narrowly. Where's the compassion?

No doubt people have the right to a quiet meal. However, we do live in a society and society is not perfect. The restaurant has to weigh its options carefully but in the end it has to think of its bottom line. Someone has to give.

It's clear that people have little knowledge and in some cases don't want to know about autism. Let me tell you, it's not easy for these families raising children stricken with the disorder. I'm been exposed to it quite a bit. Furthermore, families are encouraged by the medical and education communities to integrate autistic kids into society. But it's tough when society itself is not prepared to accept them.

It's a catch-22 all-around.

Canada lags the United States, United Kingdom and France when it comes to autism research and servicing families with autism. The population at large simply has not been educated on the subject. Too often they interpret and conclude a child's bad behavior to be a "brat." They have no clue what families go through . Indeed families often have no support. Be it at the government or social level.

I especially like this response. I completely understand. My sister faced this with her son who had Tourette Syndrome. A few years back, one man threatened my nephew (who was six tears-old) at a party where everyone knew each other:

Esther page 7 on CBC comments:

"I am the mother of a 15 year old autistic child. My son is very low functioning. In fact he is now in residential care due to the severity of his condition.

I have always been cautious as to where we would go out and try to be considerate of others. But the bottom line is in order to teach a child how to behave in public you actually have to go out in public. Sometimes it goes well and sometimes not as great as it was planned - a concept I think most parents would understand. I will tell you how restaurant responds can make a huge difference. Instead of asking a child to leave - a few crackers, a few fries, a piece of bread - can help settle a child. If my son was too loud (sometimes when he is happy he hums) we would go for a walk and return when food is ready.

I have had people give us dirty looks even when we walk down the street and my son makes an odd sound. Most people have a heart and understand when I explain my sons disability. But I will tell you there are some very cruel people in the world who can nearly destroy you with unkind words. I was at a busy mall in Tampa near Christmas last year. My son wobbles sometimes when he walks and will reach out to who ever is nearby to stabilize himself. He "almost" grabbed a teenage girl walking by - no physical contact at all. I said " remember we don't grab people we don't know" The teenage boy with her over heard my words and said that he would beat my son if he touched her. I called out to the girl and told her my son was disabled. I don't know if she heard me. I went home in tears. I emailed all my friends and asked them to do one random act of kindness over the Christmas season as a gift to Isaac.

The most painful thing I have had to do in my life is come to the realization that my child will not likely ever get better. I've tried to get on with my life and be the wife, mom, nurse, student and friend I can be. But under the surface the pain still sits. When I hear about stories like this my heart breaks for the parents. I'm glad Smitty's seems to have done the right thing in the end.

As to the other patron who was refusing to pay - you need to get some compassion! autism affects 1 out of 150 children - If you don't know an autistic child now - you will someday. And it's not just autism, I have heard of people complaining because a child with cerebral palsy was drooling in a restaurant and likewise with an adult with a neurological disorder.
The world needs more love.


Another on the same page weighs in with:

"As a parent with a child with autism I feel compelled to address these comments because discrimination cannot be encouraged.

Most of the comments here show no understanding of what autism is.

Autism is a neurological disorder which affects many aspects of a person's life. Autism is an "invisible" disability, meaning you cannot look at a person and tell that they are disabled.

Did you know that many autistic children cannot talk?

Did you know that most autistic children have more than one medical problem?

Did you know that in teaching children with autism it can take 100 times or more to teach a concept? Sometimes is goes faster, sometimes not.

Acting out is NOT about behaviour. It is about communication.

Parents of children with autism have to prepare a great deal more than other parents for a simple outing (prepare a picture schedule, bring activities, etc), but even with practice and preparation things go wrong, such as a menu change.

It takes a lot of courage for us to bring our children out and face the abuse people are so willing to heap on us when things go wrong. If you think it is hard spending 10 min during a difficult time, try 24/7.

The attitudes reflected in some of these comments reflect intolerance and ignorance. As well, most of the suggestions listed here DO NOT work. For example, taking a misbehaving child out teaches them that if they want to leave, misbehave.

I would actively suggest that people spend time learning about what autism really means. Go beyond a buzzword. Meanwhile, I will continue to take my son out. Some days you won't know I am there. Some days you will. But my son has a RIGHT to be out there and the only way he will have a chance at it is if we practice.

Lastly, I suggest that, if people without disabilities believe it is so easy for children with autism to change, why don't they start first by learning tolerance."

Mom, Who Am I?

Being the intermittent vain sort, I like to check myself out on the net. It's very much akin to looking in a mirror. You may not like what you see but it's there and you can't do anything about it - this works the other way around as well. You take the good with the bad.

It's a few times I notice this blog labeled as "conservative" and in some cases (as is with Blogshares to which I'm not a member) I'm classified (more like generalized) as right-wing. Which of course is erroneous.

And what exactly do they mean by "right-wing."Pinochet? Wolfowitz? Fascism? Or do they simply group what they interpret to be "conservatism" all into one heading to save effort and time? To which I would counter, learn and pick up a book and leave the big words aside until you fully comprehend them.

I don't belong to any particular ideology or "ism." At least, consciously.

Is this a bad thing? Does this make me a "fence-sitter?"

It's unfortunate that people running sites use big words to describe blogs. I do my utmost to uphold the great traditions of Western intellectual thought. Some weeks I may sound more "conservative" (though my character is very much so) and other weeks I may come off as "liberal." In either case, I certainly don't please extremists on either side. A neo-con or neo-nationalist or neo-liberal or neo-anything won't see much on my blog.

Heck, did Man of Roma (link on the side bar. I'm too lazy to do so here) not recently leave a comment on my blog wondering if Italians accept the any form of utilitarianism? Now that's getting into the heart of this blog. Well, this is what I hope anyway.

It is perhaps during my more "right-wing" weeks a place like Blogshares happened to read the posts published here. Of course, I invited them to reconsider the label but as of yet (and it's been quite some time) nothing has been done. Ah, such snapshot times we live in.

Maybe there's an overall trend and feel to this blog. I can't say. Out of over 1200 posts, my impression is that it's not easily defined. Even the blog itself can't find a "category" to fit itself under whenever I join groups, organizations, affiliate programs etc. Often I find myself under "Society" and even "Miscellaneous."

God, I'm may even be a Misc. now. Here lies "The Unknown Blog."

In the past, because I may have attempted to rationalize (which probably came off as defended) America's invasion of Iraq I've been forever stigmatized. I've also taken the position of rather than point out the bad (which is done far more effectively elsewhere on other blogs and websites) I prefer to explore the positives.

On the issue of ideology. The West has a formidable and brilliant liberal tradition to which we must forever safeguard and appreciate. Conservatism, once an irksome and eloquent take on humanity, has become a respectable and elegant alternative to liberalism in its modern form.

I try to balance and keep all this in mind: that is, consider the historical as well as the contemporary.

Not an easy task. After all, sometimes, well, you have to take a stand, right?

2008-07-10

God Overcomes an atheist god

I came across one Antony Flew and a discussion on his book "There is a God: How the world's most notorious atheist changed his mind." Flew, as I found out, is the god of atheists...excuse the pun.

It was an interesting read if anything to hear how atheists rationalized his reversal. It's quite a turn to take given the rampant secularism that grips modernity.

Today, if you're a secularist that refutes religion outright you are considered a critical thinker.

If you're an atheist all the better.

Of course, this is all poppycock.

Since I believe in God I can't possibly be advanced or progressive in my thinking? The case against religion is obvious enough. But I fear the case for religion has been eradicated from the discussion.

I'm a moderate and as such I at least attmept to apply a little more thought to religion. I don't believe it's a spent force nor do I accept it's the root of everything evil.

That being said, since I believe in God this somehow puts me out of the chic intellectual loop so to speak.

That's fine by me.

God may not exist. There's no way to prove his existence or not. So if it's impossible to prove he exists how can we be sure he doesn't?

I suck at betting. But I'm pretty good at sports pools. One old axiom that was/is sometimes used is never bet against a certain team known to be powerful on its home turf. Growing up, common sense dictated never bet against the Montreal Canadiens in the old majestic Forum - even if the Edmonton Oilers dynasty were in town.

My conclusion is: Don't bet against God. It may very well have home field advantage.

Is Flew a sports fan?

Article of Interest: Abortion

Interesting article from the UK found on the LifeSiteNews website about abortion and a doctor who actually helps women to find a proper decision. Often, women think abortion - so filled with many intricate human complexities - is the only option; it's not always the case. Right to choose should be accompanied with the weapons of knowledge.

There are options.

2008-07-09

Speeding Fines Hit New Levels

Quebec has speedy and impolite drivers that are not to fond of observing basic road etiquettes.

We drive real fast here. So much so it prompted police to introduce new speeding fines.

Signs on the highways (I've always argued road signs which are meant to prevent accidents and deaths should be in both French and English. It's simply the right thing to do. But that's me) are now warning motorists that driving at 130km/h (7omph) will cost drivers $895 and demerit 10 points. If that won't discourage people nothing will - well, outright arrests maybe.

130 km/h is nothing. Modern cars get up to that in no time. I remember taking my father's Alfa-Romeo to 240 km/h once. Exhillirating but dumb.

I think the fines are justified but I fear it's somewhat misplaced. It seems to me we need to build and nurture responsible drivers from the ground up. Fines may work but do they change mindsets? People will still drive aggressively.

When one thinks of it, do we really need to go 130km/h? Of course not.

Which made me wonder why do cars go so fast anyway? The way I see it, cars should be capped at 130-140 km/h. If you want to go faster you should get a special license stipulating you took appropriate courses training you to operate fast machines. In reality, too many people have no clue what they're doing behind the wheel.

North American society tolerates way, way too many accidents and deaths on our roads. So the fines should be welcomed. In many ways, it's barbaric that we've not taken enlightened measures to deal with this problem.

Bell Should Be Throttled

I wasn't aware of Bell's throttling practices because I browse more than I download.

Let's get serious. Should anyone be surprised? Bell is a monopoly that operates within a Canadian business construct that permits it to bully. Bell is just another lazy, unimaginative company that uses draconian measures to mask its lack of ideas.

And why did it take an American company (albeit one with alleged questionable bullying practices itself. At least, Bell has a customer service telephone number where live people actually speak to you. I digress slightly) to defend Canadian net neutrality rights? Oh I know why, because Canadians sleep at the switch. We'd rather write up "who is the greatest Canadian" lists and engage in empty Canadian pride rather than stand up and be counted for our rights.

In an effort to rationalize Bell's move, Telus spokesman Craig McTaggart weighed in with this gem, "Customer relations matters that involve no network interface changes do not engage the network change notification requirements, and it would be inefficient and unwieldy to create new requirements in this regard."

What the hell does this mean?

Sounds like all these lame-bo's like Rogers and Telus are scurrying to find ways to justify a) their monopolies and b) how they screw consumers.

And why are we being charged for internet access anyway?

Che Guevara: The Romantic Myth Endures

Exposing the Real Guevara by Humberto Fontova.

Che is a mystifying popular folk hero. People proudly display posters of him on their windows and little pictures of him on car dashboards. My friend, who earns over 100k per year, proudly sports a t-shirt of Che. A statement of sorts to prove he has intellectual depth no doubt.

However, Guevara is also a myth. A romantic figure to misguided souls and minds. The body of evidence about his life pretty much smashes the Follywood perception of this cowardly and senselessly murderous individual. I think I read somewhere once long ago that even Castro thought he was too radical. Imagine that.

I picked this excerpt from a blogger's review of the book:

"One story from the book that particularly impacted me was the tale of a mother who went to Che pleading for the life of her son. The young boy had been arrested for "actions against the revolution." His mother desperately tried to explain that her son's mental capacities would never allow for such a thing. Urging Che to see the boy for himself and then make an assessment of the charges, Che picked up the phone and called his jailers. His orders? To have the boy executed immediately, to his mother's horror."

The people behind the Motorcycle Diaries should be proud.

People will always idolize criminals and killers be it rappers or gangsters. One person I know admired Adolph Hitler's ability to mesmerize and control people and wield power. So much so he had a poster of him in his room. No amount of reasoning or rational discussion about historical context about Hitler would sway him. Jesus had pull yet it's sooo not cool to where a t-shirt with his face on it. Nope. You'd be dismissed as a "nutter." Che Guevara? No problem.

I'm surprised serial killers haven't been elevated in their social status.

Doing so is a way to prove one's existence and defiance of accepted and stable social and cultural norms. It's another way of saying, "I'm cool."

Then again, the whole Che-Che thing reminds me of the episode on The Simpsons about the real origins of Springfield's founder Jebediah Springfield. It seems their mythical hero was nothing but a common thief. When Lisa, God bless her, got wind of this, she set out to enlighten her fellow citizens. When her moment came during a parade, she saw the good (the innocence in the eyes of people were clear to her) Jeb brought out in people despite his piracy. She held back exposing him. Sometimes it's best to let history, you know, sleep.

I wonder if Che's legacy has brought any good to people. He may have a shot at redemption?

2008-07-08

Keyword Resources

Using keywords is an art form mixed in with incomprehensible science. Needless to say, for laypeople like me it can prove to be an elusive force. I get the mechanics behind keywords but lack the experience and knowledge to master its inner-workings. But I'm working on it.

A basic formula is to use google keyword tools, punch in the subject you're writing about and make a list of all the words and phrases being used and insert them in your post. This is a hit and miss thing. The other way is to signup for Google Adwords and pay for words. If you're a politics blog I would avoid paying for just the word "politics." Rather try and find a more descriptive way of defining your political blog - i.e. "Montreal politics."

For this blog I use one simple strategy: just write. And write a lot. With all the pages I've amassed I'm bound to have some key keywords in here somewhere. In fact, I may unwittingly have many what is termed "long tail keywords" which are essentially more descriptive and specifically defined key words. For example, the word "photography" may be over used and unless you have a high google rank may mean nothing to your blog. However, if you're, say, an art photographer in Chicago you would use "art photography Chicago" type thing.

Now whether I'm maximizing my key word potential is another issue.

An Astonishing Decision

I'm a little late on this one. I know.

I think I have proven myself to be a mild-mannered blogger. So forgive me if I seem a little excited here but:

THIS IS INCREDIBLE.

This is an incredible story. So, Quebec Superior Court Judge Suzanne Tessier, will you be watching this child from now on?

This left me extremely disturbed knowing my daughter can take me to court one day for simply disciplining her.

The thing that gets me going is the law and society demand that parents take control of their kids yet they rule against the father? We're always being told to watch our kids on the Internet. This guy does it and this is what he gets? What kind of a message are we sending society? Essentially, what's going to happen is parents will CEASE to be responsible parents for fear of being taken to court by an ungrateful child. I fear this father's problems are only beginning. What this judge did was effectively stripped him of his moral and parenting obligations and authority. She's reduced him to a mere "buddy." Awful. Terrible. Maddening.

There I said it.

This decision must be over turned.

In fact, I encourage every parent to forward this article.

2008-07-07

The Montreal Alouettes And My Sports Journey Plans

The other day I took in a Montreal Alouettes game. For you unCanadians out there, the Als are a Canadian pro-football team from the Canadian Football League (CFL).

The CFL has a long, semi-prosperous, proud and perplexing history to say the least. I have no idea how this league has survived 96 yeas. It's the oldest running football league (1909) in North America. By contrast, the NFL has its roots in the 1920s. In any event, the bulk of the CFL talent comes from the States.

The Als have had a boom and bust type of life cycle in Montreal. It witnessed a Golden Age (I would argue 1950-1979) as well as the indignity of a folding franchise in 1986. Even when they returned in 1996 the chances of success were dicey. They played in front of sparse crowds at the Olympic Stadium until a stroke of luck befell them. U2 came to town and booted them out of the park. The Als scrambled and headed for McGill University's quaint stadium intimately nestled inside the city's great mountain: Mount-Royal. It was a run-away success and they never looked back.

The place is always sold out. Mind you, with a met. pop. of three million people one would hope that we Montrealers can fill up a 22 000 seat stadium.

The atmosphere is the number one reason people go to the games. Basically, it's the jazz festival crowd at a football game. It's a party. If you're an old-time football fanatic this is perhaps not the place for you.

As I sat with my buddy, a couple sat in front of us. The lady pulled out a Tupperware and opened it and began to chomp down on a salad with Asian nuts and rice crackers. Like I said, if you're the type of guy who supports the Oakland Raiders or Philadelphia Eagles this is not the place for you.

Montreal football has given way to a species of fans I term fuppies. Football yuppies.

On a side note, my goal in the near future is to visit soccer stadiums in Italy and England. Maybe even Spain. Closer to home, I'll be hitting a few ball and football parks and hockey arenas. So far, my list of places visited is modest: Fenway, Dodger Stadium, the old Silverdome (during World Cup '94), the old Maple Leaf Gardens, Air Canada Center (Raptors), Skydome, San Siro (Milan derby) and the Stade de Monaco (at least I think that's the name of the place where the French side play).

Buy & Sell Tickets on StubHub!

Sharia Law Coming To A British Court Near You

I'm sorry. I just don't buy this.

Whither liberal democracy?

2008-07-06

Got A Problem? No Problem. We'll Just Tax You

Problem solved...?

A debate about a carbon tax is gripping North Americans these days. My take is that this is a terrible time to introduce a tax of any kind. The special interest "footprint" is all over this one.

Various experts and thoughtful citizens have offered their opinions on the issue. Economically, people are already struggling to just keep up (the rise in gas prices was rather rapid) and pay the bills and a carbon tax would only worsen their stress load.

The idea that a tax would modify behaviour and consumption may not be a bad idea but the timing for one is off. People with the means (blaming the rich and their SUV's is a ridiculous cop out. When everything fails in society blame the rich. SUV's no longer sell at the pace they once did and I read somewhere that Americans have drastically reduced the amount of mileage they accumulate. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 billion miles) won't get affected and I supsect they'll just absorb the hit.

It's the low-end of the income spectrum that probably will be hit most. Have the powers that be actually thought this through thoroughly enough?

The rise in carbons and oil manifests itself not just at the pump but right through the entire economy. It hits every facet of our lives including how much we pay for our groceries. After all, someone has to transport your strawberries in.

Is it illogical to tax carbons at this time? Shouldn't we let people adjust first to the reality of what's happening and then consider a tax if we must?

Mind you, perhaps we should have done this years ago if we're so worried about the environment - Canada's environmental record is pathetic. After all, environmentalists have been warning people for years now. I remember seeing a video of David Suzuki's daughter in the early 1990s talking about the need to change our ways.

Why is it that whenever we're confronted with a problem we aim to increase taxes to help find a solution?

Is this the best we've got?

So many questions. So many women...wait wrong post.

Aspiring Writers Should DJ In A Club

Today I found out a guy I know makes $1000 per week-end being a DJ at a club. That's $4000 cash a month. Another person I know, a brilliant writer, couldn't find any work for two years and finally found a job paying ($16/h) $30 000 a year.

Does this make sense to you?

It doesn't to me. Philosophically speaking.

Nobody wants to pay writers. But everyone needs one.

Elmasry Strikes (Out) Again.

I've read many short sighted pieces in my day and I've further heard many comments that left my eye brows permanently raised and this is no different.

Courtesy of the man who brought you "It's the Jews and Western Culture, Stupid" I present this wonderful piece of one-sided commentary by the crude solipsist Mohamed Elmasry. What else is new?

The irony of course is that he is free to defend Robert Mugabe while he attempts to muzzle Mark Steyn in court. Elmasry: single handily trying to save Canada and Western culture from itself.

I think I'll pass.

Mr. Elmasry, it is you that the plays the part of the malignant actor against our freedoms and attempts to progress as a free and pluralist society.

You, alone.

Looking To Increase Your Traffic?

Aren't we all?

The truth is that it take a lot of work.

Read this post over at Buzz my Blog about monetizing your blog and increasing your traffic.

2008-07-05

And For Something Lighter

How could you not love this song?

Composed and written by Montreal native Andy Kim (I don't know why Ron Dante was the only name listed in the intro on the video) and performed/released under the name 'The Archies,' Sugar, Sugar is truly one of the all-time great pop rock anthems.

2008-07-04

Is The American Constitution Inflexible?

On this 4th of July I was thinking.

We all know about the legacy and wisdom the American Forefathers left in terms of cultural and political heritage. We look to the words of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin and even writers and philosophers like Thomas Paine for guidance and even comfort about contemporary politics and society. Perhaps we look back in hope that somehow we can return to this brilliant age.

Even astute observers of American democracy like Alexandre de Tocqueville leave a devastating imprint about our impressions about it.

Today, American democracy doesn't remotely resemble, to me anyway, what it once was. Of course, things change. Society evolves. History is written. Life moves into certain directions even the smartest or wisest of men could not foretell.

Democracy as a whole in the West is in a state of flux. The idea of democracy remains powerful indeed; the preferred system of many people. However, the functions that determine it and the culture around it seems to have lost its luster. The political process is way too unresponsive (in both Canada and the United States), politics is now a power game for the elites to manipulate, inequality (an inevitable function of capitalism) is widening (despite unprecedented wealth and personal progress); but to name a few.

Democracy is a kind of paradox. On one hand it delivers all the values and beliefs we strive for and on the other it releases forces that can prevent all the good we aspire to.

All the issues and problems that confront Western civilization could not have been foreseen by the Founding Fathers or even to the great thinkers of the Enlightenment to which many American thinkers trace their intellectual heritage to. Yes, they gave warnings but I can't help but wonder if we're a little too complacent these days.

The question is then, can America return to its roots and reinvigorate its democracy? Is the answer in the Constitution? Or is it too set in its "ways"?

2008-07-03

Culture vs. the Individual: Striking A Balance

Should culture come before the individual?

Does your culture define you or even own you?

Or as it has been put by someone (I'm not sure who, I read it in a piece by Peter Wood in Social Science and Modern Society) "you belong to your culture more than it belonged to you."

I know that culture has overcome me sometimes. My first visit to Italy left me with quite the moving impression. I went in ignorant of its culture and history came out wanting to know more.

I had no previous conscious attachment to it. All I knew was that Canada (the United States is different) told me I was an Italian-Canadian - which always struck me as odd. Sure, my upbringing was, for all intents and purposes, Italian (diet, language, mannerisms etc.) but it never led me to stake my claim as an Italian. To many people live vicariously through another country.

My older used to bitterly joke, "Italy was on the wrong side during WWII." It was a reactionary statement to identity politics and to my father I suppose. Now she speaks perfect Italian and appreicates the culture. My younger sister proclaimed one day that she was abstaining from tomato sauces for some reason. Needless to say, my mother (a second generation Canadian and a divine cook) stood motionless and speechless. "B-b-but..." The self-imposed ban and backlash did not last.

Yet, despite all these inner-conflicts it all changed when we visited Italy in 1990. We learned to separate North American Italians from European Italians.

A feeling of "ah, this is where I'm from" did pulsate through us. The nation seemed to speak to us on so many levels it simply blew our minds. It didn't take long for us to realize Italians were/are mad (and sad) geniuses. Later on, my younger cousin, who travelled the world and loved every aspect of it, experienced the same sense when his body entered Italy.

But is this a question of blood and culture? Does it mean we lost part of our individualism? I read somewhere years ago, that "Italy overwhelms those who resist it." Surely this was meant to include non-Italians too? I have known many "outsiders" who understood the Italian mind, language or culture far better than Italians who carried empty flags in their back pockets.

How do you define culture at that point? We've all met Anglo-philes, Franco-philes, Italo-philes, etc. People of different cultural backgrounds attaching themselves to a host culture. In a way, given our immigration history, are we not all de-facto Ameri-philes or Canadi-philes?

Which comes back to the question, are we slaves to culture?

In Quebec, culture comes first. Personally, the individual should always take precedence.

A Freeform Thought

Not that I release any of it on this blog, but I do have a vulgar (gutter) side to me. Consider this email I sent to former financial/banker buddies of mine who are organizing a dinner. As you can tell, I'm still in their good graces. I think they invite me because they get to laugh at someone. Anyway, here's part of my response:

"...if any of you want free-falling decaying comments from the pit of my ass send your sad requests to this shitty address."

I wrote it becauseit makes the the webmasters at Bank-Brother squirm.

They should be glad. This is tame.

2008-07-02

Starbucks Closes 600 Cafes

If Starbucks had real baristas and hadn't tried to change the coffee lingo (Mezzo, Inter mezzo, Castrati, simple, double etc.) maybe they could justify $3.65 lattes.

The quality of Starbucks coffee is actually pretty good. I buy the espresso beans and use it on my cappuccino machine. When I make it the taste is excellent with a nice crema. When they make it, the espresso tastes like mud. I've had to return the espresso on a couple of occasions. It just didn't past the quality test. Sometimes I just want to take over and serve the coffee.

I read in the comments section some insane people actually say Tim Hortons coffee is better. How they can muster the courage to compare premium espresso with Horton's acqua sporca (dirty water) is beyond my abilities to grasp. Only in Canada.

Morgentaler and The Order Of Canada

So, the debate is whether he deserves it and if Doc Abort is a Canadian "hero."

This is one divisive issue and one in which I fear I don't possess the intellectual capacity to effectively wrestle with. Still, I'm The Commentator and so I must try!

And by that virtue alone I'm not sure I would consider him for the OC. Unless the population is in total agreement that his work is for the greater good, then it's best to not bestow such an honour on a person clearly many Canadians don't feel comfortable with.

He's most certainly not a hero. Terry Fox was a hero. Hero's don't divide. He is a hero to one-side of the equation that assumes it's in the right.

What's at the heart of it all? Is he a defender of women's rights? Certainly, the argument of a rape victim as having the right to choose makes logical sense. The belief that an "unprepared" mother bringing in a child is an economic drag on society resonates less with me. What if the child actually becomes an active and productive member of society? How many "illegitimate" children have made history?

Some may argue all he's done is "legitimize" irresponsible sexual behviour. To say nothing of the post-abortion psychological affects that has been documented by doctors. On the other hand, it's a fact of life and he's prevented many women from having "back-alley" abortions.

He certainly serves as useful function for the rationalization that "people are gonna do it anyway may as well help them."

To me, an abortion is an act of destroying the potential of life. I know. It's a dicey call to make. But I'm a man and have no say in this matter - apparently.

The real hero to me is the person who accepts her fate, faces her responsibilities, takes account of her decisions, gives birth and raises a child to the best of her abilities.

Such people rarely get praised. Then again, when is anything about humans? All these debates have ideological overtones that muddy the whole process.

2008-07-01

Maybe The Dorky Spokesman Is Right

Murderin' Mugabe is on his way to being "President" of Zimbabwe. You have to laugh at the whole swearin' in ceremony - what with all his medals and all. Mugsy's bitch made it clear the West obsessed over him too much. Perhaps we do. We should reconsider sending aid to that country. After all, the jerk probably pockets it anyway.

The reaction from African nations is deafening. If they don't care why should the West? In any event, even if the West chooses to do anything it will spun into colonial interference.

For how long can blaming the colonial past go on?