Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day Delinquents

In Canada, we celebrate the annual day after Christmas as Boxing Day. On this day – which happens to be today – stores across the country discount merchandise to clear out their inventory for the new stuff in the New Year.

Retailers generally make most of their sales during the Christmas crunch, and anything they don’t sell gets put on discount the day and week after, to bring their year-end sales figures up.

Boxing Day sales may be great deals, but there is one problem – people.
I don’t know what it is about the word “sale” but it seems to attract society’s scum buckets. Whenever I go someplace plastered with “sale” signs, the people shopping are the rudest, meanest, cruellest sadistic slime balls to walk the earth.

Seriously, these people will push their own mother in front of them as a shield, so they can plow through the crowd. They will use their poor babies in strollers as a weapon, charging down aisles full of shoppers, so that they can get to the front. They will do whatever it takes, at all costs, to get the deal.

I love a good deal like anyone else – saving money isn’t a bad thing. But I refuse to go to the malls and stores on Boxing Day. It is just too frustrating and alienating.

All those nasty horrible people, pushing and shoving just to save a couple of dollars here and there. There have been instances where people have been trampled, fist fights have broken out, even riots. And for what? A savings of $10 off on a Tickle Me Elmo?

It wasn’t always this bad, society has degraded over the years. There have always been Boxing Day sales, but the people back several years ago were a lot more, well, politely Canadian.

Back about 10 or maybe even 15 or twenty-years-ago, I remember going through the malls on Boxing Day. Oh they were still crowded places, but there wasn’t any shoving, pushing, and there certainly weren’t any fights – not even an argument back then. If someone accidentally stepped on your toes back then, they did the typical Canadian thing and apologized. Actually, even the person who’s toes got squashed said they were sorry – that’s how polite we Canadians used to be.

Thanks to a severe lapse in immigration laws, our Canadian ways have succumbed to those who just don’t share those good, honest and friendly values.
I can’t blame someone from some other part of the world, where pushing, shoving and even getting into a fight are normal ways to navigate public spaces – in their country. But I do disagree with that behaviour here in my country.

When you go to a friend’s place, you don’t rearrange the furniture to suit your personal styles and tastes. The same goes for when you decide to move to another country, another culture and another way of life.

Problem with being Canadian, for far too long we wrongly believed to be Canadian meant to have no real identifying culture and way of being ourselves.
What it really means to be Canadian, is to be polite, friendly and good natured to those around us, even if we don’t know them.

But because we failed to recognize this as uniquely Canadian, and in large part due to weak immigration laws, we have lost a lot of that peaceful identity, to far more hostile and aggressive cultures.

And an even bigger emerging problem, as many people from many different cultures continue to come here to live and they continue to keep their own way of life, we are becoming a more violent and fragmented society.

There’s an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) ambulance attendant that lives a few doors down from me. He tells me all the time about how he goes to car accident scenes, where, despite the seriousness of the injuries, some people refuse to get into the same ambulance as others, just because they aren’t from the same culture.

On more than several occasions, he’s says these individuals have said they’d rather die, than go into a vehicle with “that” next to them. They all request another ambulance, but the policy is to use whatever resources are available and nearest to the scene, so he has to play international diplomat, and talk these people into getting into the ambulance.

We see this in many other instances too. Our cities have always had pockets of communities, composed of cultural groups. There is Little Italy, China Town, the Greek part of town – all served a great purpose, by allowing new comers to this country to find others that shared the same experiences of coming here from their country.

People used to settle in these cultural pockets, and as they became more accustom to life here, and adopted to Canadian culture, they moved out and shared their culture with the rest of Canada, adding to the great fabric of this country.

Not anymore, now people come to these pockets, and stay there. Often refusing to interact with anyone not linked in any way to their own culture. We have become a country of many countries, with many warring nations, instead of what was once a peaceful co-existence.

Our cultural diversity has always made Canada a great place to live. But part of that cultural diversity – the part that is uniquely Canadian – is the ability to get along peacefully with all other cultures.

Sadly, we have long lost that which is – or now was – Canadian.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To Easy to Be Free

There’s a story circulating around these parts about a woman whose car broke down during a snow storm. This woman, leaves her car, and wanders off, looking for help. The thing making this story “newsworthy” to the local media is that she somehow managed to get trapped in a snow bank, and survive for three days until rescued by a search and rescue dog team.

I’m not an expert on mental issues, the mind or any such thing, but you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure this person probably isn’t exactly all there. Three days trapped in a snow bank? Three days?

I thought about this when I read the headline, and figured the person must be a senior citizen, and probably suffers from something or other – but if that were true, then surely she wouldn’t have a license and be allowed on our public roads?
After seeing the story on television, the woman clearly isn’t a senior – she’s probably not far off in her fifties.

Which begs the question, how does someone mentally alert enough to have a driver’s license and drive thousands of pounds worth of plastics, metals and flammable materials along with others doing the same – get stranded in a snow bank – without her car – for three days?

You’d think a person able to drive would be able to avoid a snow bank – especially on foot – or if not, at least be able to get out of one.

Driving is a privilege – or so we are reminded every time we go to renew our licenses. Since when does that privilege extend to those without enough intelligence to be on the roads in the first place?

I suppose it’s just been a long time coming, they don’t generally make you take an IQ test or any test for that matter when you go to renew your license. Usually, if anything, the worst part is standing in line for hours, only to be told to stand in the “little feet” for a quick and usually awful photo.

Perhaps we’d have fewer accidents on our roadways if there were a certain baseline level of intelligence required to drive a vehicle?

Think about it – this woman walked into a snow bank and stayed there for three whole days. I can understand staying put when lost, in the hopes that someone will find you – but staying in a snow bank because you can’t get out?

The woman walked into the thing on her own footpower!

She lacks the intelligence to just turn around and walk out the same way she came? Why then does this same woman have a driver’s license?

That scares me, being someone who is often out and about – think about all the other people lacking a basic level of thought driving on our very public roads. If these people – or even just one – gets confused behind the wheel, tragic results are sure to follow.

The media is focusing on how the husband of this woman claims it is a Christmas miracle that his wife survived. I’m thinking the real miracle is that she hasn’t killed anyone while being dumb behind the wheel.

Or maybe, the real miracle is how someone stupid enough to trap herself in a snow bank for three days got her driver’s license in the first place?

Whatever the miracle is, it raises the issue of brains, or a serious lack of brains, posing a real risk on our roads. Drinking and driving is very wrong, as it’s been long known that alcohol impairs judgement, and affects our motor reflexes enough to cause harm behind the wheel.

But if you lack the intelligence to be driving a vehicle, that too in a sense, is an impairment which can cause harm behind the wheel. Worse still, what if someone dumb decides to drink and drive?

Intelligence is a genetic thing – we don’t all excel in matters requiring much grey matter. Which is all the more reason to test people’s mental abilities prior to issuing them the piece of paper that says they can drive. Anything else, is just asking for trouble.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Watching Weather

For those who regularly follow my blog, you know I am always boasting about my palace in the sky. I live way high up, in one of those lofty high rises in the city.

Aside from never having to worry about a flooded basement, one of the perks to living so high up is the view.

I can see the lake and the city skyline in the south, and way up past the city to the north. Something which is also pretty amazing about the view – watching weather.

Now, I know you’re thinking to yourself how pathetic this guy’s life must be, to actually watch weather unfold. Here’s someone – you think – who really needs to get a life.

Well, you may be right, but if you ever happen upon the chance to watch weather from way up high, you’ll probably be just as awe-struck as me.

I’m so high up, I actually can see the cloud formations, as the clear blue sky mists over into a dark haze. I can see rain and snow storms moving across the city. I can also see pockets of weather – when it may be storming in specific spots scattered all over the city, with lots of blue skies in between.

You learn very quickly, that no matter how big the city is, the raw power of Mother Nature can sprawl over the whole thing in a matter of minutes. I’ve seen the whole city go from bright sunny skies, to pitch-black in under ten-minutes.
What’s really amazing, is watching a developing storm, especially as if it starts in the south over the lake.

Water is to storms what gasoline is to cars – fuel. As the storm crosses the lake, it picks up speed and power. I’ve seen small storm clouds turn into frightful monsters, which have knocked over trees, caused cars to spin out of control, and blackout much of the city by downing power lines.

The past few days, I’ve been watching some pretty wicked snow storm weather. Snow storms are interesting things to watch develop, because they always start off with a very thick and low lying bed of layered clouds. From the ground looking up, you just see grey clouds. From my perch above the world, I see the layers of cloud, usually a dark layer at the bottom, several varying light and dark layers in the middle, and a puffy purple-ish-white top. The purple is the reflection of the sun on the snow forming in the cloud. This is also why it tends to warm up a degree or two just before a snow storm, although the sun’s visible light rays can’t penetrate through the layer of snow forming, the ultraviolet rays which contain heat do get through, causing the air to heat beneath the clouds.

When these layers streak together across the sky, the snow starts to fall. The streaking effect isn’t caused by the cloud’s movement across the city – it already is completely over the city. The streaking effect is caused by the weight of the water droplets freezing – as they freeze, and become snow, the cloud can’t hold them anymore, and they fall to the ground.

Snow storms are particularly interesting to watch, because it takes so much time for the clouds to fill with snow, that the storm clouds usually cover the entire city before it actually starts to fall to the ground.

After a snow storm, the sky is almost completely barren of clouds, because the low pressure system has moved off, and a high pressure system is usually moving in. But now that the ground is completely covered in a layer of insulating snow, all is quiet outside.

Snow acts like a sound barrier, absorbing much of the noise commonly heard outside. So everything from cars, people and their pets, to birds and even the wind all are muffled.

That’s the best part about living high up, experiencing the different effects nature has on the environment above and beneath.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Boxing Day Already?

I was out doing some last minute holiday shopping today, and already there are signs posted promoting Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is a Canadian tradition, held the day after Christmas Day, as a discount day, when stores slash prices to get rid of all their excess stock that didn’t sell prior to the Christmas shopping rush. Although Boxing Day was traditionally only one day – December 26 – for some time now, it has often been celebrated for a whole week by retailers. This way, they can have a week-long sale.

I remember the stories when I was a kid you’d hear about on the news, about people lining up in front of stores over night, so they were guaranteed first dibs on anything on sale on Boxing Day. People would sleep in tents, on sleeping bags, on the sidewalk, waiting for the doors to open. The lines would be huge, often stretching around the corner, and down several city blocks.

These days, I’ve always avoided Boxing Day sales – the deals may be great, but the atmosphere isn’t. Maybe it’s the specific class of people that go out of their way to save a couple of bucks off of something they may never have needed in the first place, or maybe it’s just our society in general – but Boxing Day shoppers are rude.

They push through you as if you don’t exist. If someone accidentally steps on your toes, the person who did the stepping either ignores you, or blames you for being in the way. There have been numerous reports in the past of fights, stabbings, even all out riots, as hoards of people cram into malls and other stores, all vying for the few bargains that line the shelves.

At this time of year, it isn’t unusual to see signs in stores promoting the Boxing Day sales to come. But what is unusual, probably because of the recession we are in, is to be promoting Boxing Day sales on now.

That’s exactly what I saw, as I did some last minute shopping. Lots of stores claiming their prices have already been slashed.

Christmas is the most important time of the year for most retail stores. This is the time of the year where they make the majority of their sales – if they don’t make enough sales, come the late winter or early spring, they will be out of business. So during a recession, it makes sense for these stores to try whatever they can, to ensure their survival.

Though these early savings have also brought out the beasts which savagely shop during Boxing Day. Although I was just browsing, taking my time, trying to find ideas for add-ons to my gifts, I was pushed, prodded and pulled through the crowds by these animals.

And animals is what they really are – because human beings have manners – and these individuals certainly lacked those.

People don’t push, poke and prod, they don’t shove and they certainly don’t walk right through you, as if you weren’t there. That is the behaviour of barn yard animals, or worse, wild boars.

Maybe Boxing Day is the equivalent to feeding time for the lower class boars that celebrate Boxing Day – and all those red price tags cause them to get antsy and charge?

Maybe we should change the name from Boxing Day to Fight Day, or Wild Boar Day, or even just call it F*cking After Christmas Sale Day – because that’s how I felt during this so-called pre-Boxing Day.

I hope those wild boars which brushed right through me as if I wasn’t there got the savings they were after, because I’d hate to see them – and worse their attitudes – if they hadn’t.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

War on Wal-Mart Worthless

There is a war being fought right here in Canada and the States. There are no guns, no anti-tank mines, and no one – as far as I know – has died.

It is a war against one of the largest retail giants in the world – Wal-Mart.

Those against the mighty retail box store chain, claim that when Wal-Mart moves into an area, all the other retail outlets either go out of business, or are forced to cut prices so low, they just can’t make a profit and they too will eventually die out.

They claim Wal-Mart mistreats their employees, discriminates against women and minorities, and won’t let them form labour unions to ensure they are treated with respect.

I think this war is worthless.

I have never worked for Wal-Mart and I don’t know anyone who does. Though I’ve been a customer of the mega-retail giant for some time.

If anything really is dangerous about Wal-Mart, is that shopping there is highly addictive. Because they have so much of the things I want or need, and the prices are always exceptional, I always end up coming out of the store with far more than I had originally intended too. I may go in thinking – THINKING – I just need item X, but I often come out with items X, Y and Z.

Maybe it’s just a show, but all the Wal-Mart employees I’ve encountered in my many visits seem happy and good natured.

Being the person that says: “welcome to Wal-Mart” isn’t the most glamorous job in the world, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that it doesn’t pay like a that either. Though that’s one of the biggest complaints about Wal-Mart – that they pay their staff minimum wage, and don’t treat their employees with much respect.

Retail jobs in general don’t pay much more than minimum wage – most people who do work these jobs are those still in high school, or those without any education whatsoever.

One of the anti-Wal-Mart ads I saw in the States shows an employee on one side, and the CEO and President of the company on the other. It shows his salary, and poses the question to this employee – how long will it take her working at Wal-Mart to earn the same salary as the CEO?

The answer was over 1,000-years – which made the employee cry.

Though this was a clear manipulation of emotions and tactics, similar to what you’d see in a political campaign full of smearing and name calling – which makes sense, because those who created the ad are former political campaign directors for some major U.S. political figures.

Very rarely do the employees ever come close to earning what the CEO earns – the day the guy working the mail room starts making what I do, it is time to look for another line of work.

No one holds a gun to your head telling you where to work. If you don’t like where you work, can’t earn enough to support yourself or do want to make as much as the top executives – change your life. Go out and get a better education, a better job, a better income.

Don’t attack the people that did hire you just because they pay you the lowest of the low. You knew what the wages were when you applied for the job. You knew what the job was – or should have – before applying to do it.

I’ve worked for many companies over the years, and I know the good from the bad. If Wal-Mart really was mistreating people to the extent these anti-Wal-Mart nut bars claim, there would be far fewer Wal-Marts, because there would be far fewer people willing to work at them.

Now if we could only lure those so hell-bent against Wal-Mart to use their protest skills somewhere needed – like ending this nonsense about bailing out the auto sector, or even ending the so-called collation government take-over planned in the New Year. That would be time well spent on a worthwhile cause.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If the Sole Shines Through

Unless you’ve been under a rock the past few days, you know about the protestor throwing his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush.

In most Arab nations, it is considered the greatest insult of all to reveal the bottom of your shoes. By throwing his shoes, he wasn’t just taking aim at a major world leader, he was expressing his deep displeasure with the American involvement in his country.

The so-called War on Terror is the biggest joke. Bush and anyone supporting the initial invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan are actually the real terrorists. Both wars were supposed to be witch hunts, finding the ultimate terrorist, Bin Laden.

Bin Laden still hasn’t turned up – though he’s probably living comfortably right under the American’s nose, yet both Iraq and Afghanistan are nations in crisis. The infrastructure of both countries doesn’t exist, poverty runs rampant, and there are so many different factions all attacking each other, peace may never exist.

The United Nations originally refused to support the War on Terror – they saw it for what it really was. Just another excuse for an American leader to bully and terrorize another part of the world, to claim their natural resources in the pursuit of global domination.

Whoa – global domination?

Yeppers – we’ve seen the American’s trying to run the world many times, just using different weasel words. The Cold War, between the good white hat wearing Americans promoting democracy and so-called freedom, versus the evil black hat wearing Soviet Union, and their communistic rule. Actually, any time the Americans claim there are fighting the good fight to banish communism from the globe, has been a disguise towards global domination.

Who the hell has the right to tell another part of the world how to function?
We may not always agree with another political system, but who are we to judge?

Obviously, the man who threw his shoes didn’t agree with Bush and the American way. He simply threw his shoes, he didn’t go out and nuke another country, destroying the lives of those living there.

But wherever the Americans go, they disrupt the lives of everyone along the way. The United Nations has sent many teams – including many Canadian soldiers – to Afghanistan to bring about order. This mission has cost the lives of over 100 Canadian soldiers, and is essentially nothing more than a mass clean-up effort, to repair the damage left by the Americans.

There are still American forces in Afghanistan, but only a handful – most of the American forces have been redeployed to Iraq, where war continues to brew in yet another American-made mess.

Throwing one’s shoes may not stop the American’s – but it does draw them under a very large microscope.

Everyone around the world, has seen the humorous footage of one of the most powerful leaders on earth, ducking and evading a pair of shoes.

As Bush leaves office and Obama takes control, maybe things will change for the better. After all, the last thing Obama wants is global attention focused on him ducking and evading a pair of shoes thrown at him.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Watch What You Give and Get

China is back in the news, as a country poisoning our people. Another recall has emerged, for several toys made in the Asian country, containing toxic substances.

Last year, toys, pet food and more recently, even milk from China were all contaminated with deadly materials.

I personally always avoid anything made from that country. I’m sure China is a nice place to visit, but their lack of care for quality sends red alert signals through my veins. And it should through yours too.

Our government is comprised of politicians too pussy-whipped to take a stand on protecting us from products made in China. There was a proposed law on the books, Prime Minister Stephen Harper even said he’d put through the legislation as soon as possible. But, as with many things politicians say, nothing actually happened.

Now that the government is on vacation – some may say that since Harper took office it has been on permanent vacation – any hopes of having greater regulations in place to protect consumers from dangerous products from third-world countries may just be that – hope.

So, it is up to you and me to police ourselves. We must take matters into our own hands, and just stop buying anything which may kill either ourselves or those we care about.

It isn’t easy – you’d be surprised at how much crap a third-world country can churn out. Just about everything is made in China these days. Which may in some cases going without.

The key is working together as a population – if everyone in the country just says no to anything produced in China, eventually companies will stop farming off their production to that third-world country.

Maybe they will actually wake up, and realize that although it is cheaper to pay people in some other country to build their products, if no one in this country is purchasing those products because of where they are made, they will eventually bring production – and jobs – back to our country.

I remember a long time ago, I worked for a software company which at the time, started sending out some of our development to a third-party company in India. Instead of paying software developers here about $60/hour, they were able to pay $8/hour for the same job.

Problem was, all the software that came back from the Indian programmers was flawed. It either didn’t work at all, or it would have major crashes when interacting with other applications – or even just on it’s own. Everything had to be checked and sent back and forth between our development teams and the one in India just to get anything to work.

What was supposed to be a cost savings measure actually turned out to cost the company more, because it took longer to get products to market. Because of the software delays, the company lost customers and eventually went out of business.

Not all companies using cheap Chinese labour will go belly-up, nor will all suffer.
I am always surprised by how low prices often wins out over quality. Near me, there is a shopping mall with mostly dollar-type stores. These stores sell things made pretty much everywhere but North America, for bargain basement prices.

You can buy a pack of four light bulbs at one for one dollar – though I bet they’d last no longer than one night, if that. They sell supposedly brand name products too – I saw a bottle of Tide laundry detergent at one, going for a couple of bucks. I read the label and found it was made in Sri Lanka and had a production date of July 2004 – over four years ago. Wonder if it would actually clean my clothes?

I’ve got to this mall early, to get a hot chocolate and a muffin on my way to work, and surprisingly, people line up to get into these dollar stores.
Bargain hunting is fun, but at what cost?

The cost of having to replace a couple of light bulbs that burned out the next day? The cost of buying new clothes after a laundry detergent destroys them? The cost of a person’s life, after consuming something toxic?

Don’t buy anything made in China – or other third-world countries. Unless of course, you just don’t care about yourself, or those around you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Keep the Cash -- Take Up Walking

Looks like the biggest industry in North America is about to go belly-up, as it falls victim to the recession – or so says those in charge of the auto industry.
In actual fact, the auto industry – which employs millions of people across North America for General Motors, Chrysler and Ford – is just as much to blame for its problems, as any other business is when it doesn’t make the cut.

As gas prices continued to increase, you’d figure the so-called “Big Three” automakers would have started producing more fuel efficient and even more alternative energy-driven vehicles. But as the oil and gas industry is in bed with the auto industry, neither saw the writing on the wall.

As oil tycoons continued to artificially increase the price of their products, driving up the costs to run the big, gas hogging vehicles being made and marketed in North America, those buying new vehicles turned to the foreign automakers, with their fuel efficient and hybrid-powered vehicles.

It wasn’t until after Toyota and Honda had already sold millions of hybrid vehicles in North America, and American-made auto sales slumped that the Big Three even considered jumping into the hybrid market.

The greatest irony, now that more people are doing whatever they can to cut expenses in this global economic mess, the Big Three automakers are forced to wake up and realize they are just as likely to go out of business, as the mom and pop shops down the road. Public transit use is up in major cities across North America, as people drive less to save more. Oil and gas prices have fallen sharply, as the need for the product has fallen so much so, even the evil oil tycoons can’t fake a need to force an increase. And people just aren’t buying big, gas guzzling vehicles anymore.

General Motors is threatening to close all of its auto making plants for January and part of February to stay alive. Ford and Chrysler have yet to announce how they too will threaten the world with massive unemployment, unless governments bail them out of their own sloppy mess.

It isn’t the business of government to interfere in the nature of private business. No one wants to lose their job, and the more people unemployed, the longer and harder this recession will last. However, even if governments don’t finance the auto sector, eventually things will get better.

The world won’t stop spinning and people won’t suddenly be stranded, unable to travel from point A to B. The world may be absent General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, but so be it. Tax dollars shouldn’t be used to pay for some private corporations mismanagement.

If and when the Big Three do go out of business, it may very well create other industries which are more environmentally sustainable, and finally force the evil oil tycoons out of business as well. There are many other ways to get around – electricity, solar, wind, and who can forget about our own two feet?

General Motors has already created a fully electric car, but they quietly killed the project because it was so successful. That’s right, they buried their success, so that we’d still be dependent upon the oil and gas industry to power the world.
Any company which hides its successes to fuel a dependency on a product is no different than a drug dealer pushing drugs on his customers, to keep them hooked. General Motors is like the pimp that gives you the occasional freebie, so that you go into withdrawal and eventually pay through the nose to acquire more ass.

Only the real ass in this scenario are the suits and ties pimping the North American auto market, and their just as trailer-trashy cousins, who run the oil and gas sector in the Middle East.

I for one hope they all go out of business, because then, finally, we will be free to explore alternatives to fossil fuels, by looking at ways to not just power our vehicles, but our homes, our businesses – our world – which are not only environmentally sustainable, and more cost effective, but also won’t lead us down the road to other dependencies.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Retards Have All the Guts

I was taking our wondrous public transit system today, and it was busy with the usual suspects – business travellers, kids playing hooky from school, seniors out for their daily coffee, shoppers getting holiday gifts and me.

At one stop, a retard – I’m politically correct sorry, I mean handi. . . uh that’s been banned by the language police too . . . slow . . . hey . . . retard is just another word for slow . . . so retard it is – got on.

You could tell he was “developmentally challenged” – AKA slow or retarded. He sat right up front in the spots reserved for people with disabilities. Then he began wandering around, stopping to chat to any pretty lady who didn’t have time to make a mad dash out of there.

For someone without all his marbles, he had good taste. He only went up and started chatting with the good looking women, from what I could see. He even snubbed one woman who didn’t make his grade, as he budded in between her and her better looking friend.

Maybe you have to be retarded to have guts. Being a successfully single guy, I know it takes a lot of guts to go up and try and make nice nice with members of the opposite sex at venues where this sort of pick-up behaviour is expected, like a bar, club or party. But out in public, trapped on a public transit system, during one of its busy times, isn’t one of those common pick-up venues. And people usually aren’t in the mood to just start a conversation with a complete stranger.

Some of the women this guy went up to ignored him, but surprisingly, many actually talked to him. Maybe next time I see a hot babe that I just wanna get to know, I should play the retarded card?

Then again, I didn’t see anyone giving out their numbers, and he didn’t leave with anyone, so more likely they were just being kind and sympathetic.

Still, kudos to this kid for bravery. I’ve often found myself tongue-tied and shy when I catch an attractive woman checking me out, and trying to initiate something by a look or a stare. This guy didn’t even have the green light signal from any of these women, yet he went up and just started babbling and they started listening, and talking.

There is that old adage you have nothing to lose, and you’ll never know unless you try. But with all the news reports about violence in our streets, you’d figure most people would run away from a stranger’s advances in a situation which isn’t usually a social spot.

I would have thought that most of these women would have seen a person who obviously had some mental challenges, approaching them, and make up some excuse to get away, or even just leave without any reason, other than to make an escape.

But the retard, in all his slurred speech, awkward movements, and even more awkward approaches to meeting a mate, at least got those potential mates talking. And that in of itself, was a pretty amazing thing to see.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What Would You Ask Your Potential Manager?

Job interviews don’t really give you a chance to ask your potential manager a lot about how they manage – you don’t want to come off half-cocked and sounding like an arrogant know-it-all.

But when you are hiring a manager, you can really put them in the hot seat.
Here are some of the questions I ask when I hire anyone who is going to be taking care of my staff. Listen long and loud – some of these may be unconventional, but then, if I’m going to put you in charge of the most valuable people in the company – the workers – you’d better be able to give me the answers I want to hear.

How do you manage yourself?
May sound silly at first, but it isn’t – it is based in logical practicality. To be a good leader, you have to set the example, and if you can’t make it to your own meetings on time, I don’t want you. Self management is about being “employee number one” – being the model employee – doing what you say, and showing how to do the right thing. It is about dressing the right way, talking the right way, performing the right way, and above all, walking the talk – leading a team by setting the perfect example.

What’s the most unexpected thing that has ever happened, and what did you do?
Being able to handle the unexpected is to be expected. If you can’t think quick on your feet, you’ll be on your back when I toss you out the door. Management is more than just budgets and timelines, it’s all about people. Everyone has their own lives in and outside of work, and life isn’t always routine. To be a manager on my team, you’d better be able to handle surprises.

How much do you know about those who report directly to you?
I don’t want to hire potential stalkers, but as I said before, management is all about people. To be an exceptional manager, you need to be personable, and get to know your team. You need to know the names of their significant others, and their children’s names, and ages (if they have them). What they do when they aren’t working – for fun, or just because. Why? See next question.

How often do connect with your staff and how?
This is a bit of a loaded question. Often, potential wanna-be managers instantly assume I’m asking them how they talk about work with their staff. What I’m really looking for is how often they connect with their staff on a social or personal level. How often do they take the time to just chat about their kid’s, their significant other, or some other non-work related thing, in an attempt to open up and get similar information back from those they work with. By sharing stories about the things going on in our lives outside the office, we learn that we are all really alike in some ways and different in others. We learn how to accept ideas and values which may be different then our own, and we can base our working relationships on pseudo-quasi friendship, by sharing similarities. So when a colleague calls saying they are going to be late because they had to rush their kid’s forgotten lunch to school, you understand and empathize with them, rather than chewing them out.

How do you connect with staff?
Again, I don’t want to hear about how wonderful you are at booking meetings, and how accurate your minute taking is. I want to know how you get your staff to open up with you on a social or personal level. You can’t just go up to all of your staff, and start asking them about their significant others, the names and ages of their kids, and where they live – they’d get scared and quite rightly think you’re not playing with a full deck of cards. The best managers, are exceptional people people.

How many have you lost under your command?
I often start this question off with a story, about how military leaders are often judged by how many soldiers have been sent to their deaths under their leadership – obviously, the fewer deaths, the better the leader. Then I ask them how many people have quit under their leadership? Granted, not everyone will have left because of their leadership – or lack of leadership – there are many reasons why people leave a company. But a sign of a good manager, just like a military leader, is the one with the fewest casualties. Good managers can retain and keep good employees, even under some of the most undesirable circumstances. I’ve been in places where the budgets were small, the resources limited, and the opportunities few and far between, yet people had been working there forever – because those running the place were exceptional coaches, mentors and leaders.

Who is the most important member of your team and why?
Anyone who actually identifies any one individual or group as the most important team member is automatically disqualified from ever being a manager for me. This is a trick question – there is no “I” in team – no one is more important than anyone else. And even if you have the largest team in the company under your beck and call, your team is no more or less important than any other team or department in the company. The best managers know the importance of getting all teams to work together.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Managed Gift Giving

I participate in the annual gift giving of the holidays. And whoever says it is better to give than receive, is probably lying – it is always better to receive.

Though I’ve learned the secret to getting what you want, and ensuring you give what others want too. I call it managed gift giving, and it is really easy to do.
All I do, is I create separate lists of the things I want or need for those who typically give me gifts every year – like my immediate family and friends. Then, I ask those same people what exactly they want or need, and make my own list of things for them, based on their responses.

I’ve tried to get others to give me lists, and for the most part, they either forget, or say they never can figure out what they want. That’s why I just ask people what they want or need. It is easier for me to get them thinking about what they want by talking with them, rather than leaving them to create their own lists.

Though I always create my own lists and give them out to others. This way, I don’t have to take anything back, or worse, do the dreaded re-gifting thing.

Re-gifting is always dangerous, because any gift you didn’t value enough to give away, may easily end up back in the hands of the very same person who gave you the gift in the first place! It’s true – if you don’t value a gift enough to keep it, you probably will forget who gave it to you in the first place, unless of course, it really was an awful gift.

You might be thinking now, that by giving a list of potential gifts ruins any chance of a surprise. Right?


I make a list of possible gifts, and tell those I give these things to they don’t have to get anything or everything off the list, it’s just a guide post, to give them ideas about the types of things I’m looking for. Though, because shopping for someone else can be quite tedious and not always easy, most people will stick to the list. And because I don’t know what on the list they will give me, it is always a surprise.

Though sometimes I can’t surprise everyone on my holiday gift giving list. Sometimes, people don’t give me enough to go on, so I have to get the one or two items which they mention, and that means they know pretty much what I’m giving them. I like it when people give me a long list of stuff – a list too long for me to get everything on. This way, I can really surprise them.

Managing gift giving is the best way to give gifts – and not just during the holidays. When birthdays and other events happen throughout the year where gifts are required, I always ask people what they want or need. This way, they get what they want, rather than me having to try and figure it out.

And this also means I never give the worst gift of all – money or gift cards. Giving a gift card or money says to the person you’re giving the gift to that you really don’t care about them. It shows that you really don’t know that person well enough to be giving a gift in the first place.

Though I suppose asking someone what they want takes out some of the guesswork too, but at least there aren’t any nasty surprises.

I shouldn’t get polka dot underwear, or some weird funky furry steering wheel cover or something, because people know what I want or need – just as I know what they want or need too.

Managed gift giving works – try it this year.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Me and My Guilty PVR

A few months ago, I upgraded my digital cable to one of those fancy-smancy packages, completed with a High Definition Personal Video Recorder – AKA a PVR.

These things are awesome – I can pause, stop and rewind live broadcasts. I can also record about 90-minutes of television, so that I can watch it at another time. Essentially, the PVR is a special kind of digital cable box, one with three digital cable receivers in it and a large hard drive to record shows. The digital receivers allow it to constantly record live shows, while you watch other shows, or to simply play back recorded shows.

Previously, I’d just do the time-shifting thing. I’d catch any programs I missed on another station in a different time zone. I still do that – it’s cool to watch American channels and see the American commercials. Americans have a different sense of humour than us Canucks, and it plays out in their commercials.

But I now suffer what may be a new disease of modern technology – Guilty PVR. I record so many shows on a regular basis, that I have accumulated quite the list on my PVR. So much so, that I often feel guilty about deleting anything, without first watching it.

Sounds silly, but you figure, if I set the thing to record it in the first place, then I must have originally wanted to watch it. And that’s true, just some things – particularly news and current affairs shows – are more interesting closer to the actual events they surround.

Though I also “PVR” many Star Trek shows, and lots of shows off of the Discovery Channel – Discovery rocks. I record movies off the movie network, shows off of Showtime – like Californication, and stuff off HBO. I really enjoy some of the old stuff off of Déjà Vu too, remember Bizarre with John Byner – classic.

Still, I’m so busy during the work week, I don’t get to watch all that I “PVRed” so come the weekend, my PVR is practically burping full. So much so, that I feel the need to sit in front of the television all day, watching nothing else but show after show after . . .

Eventually, my eyes gloss over, my fingers grow numb from the remote, and I decide enough is enough, and I toss the whole PVR out the window . . .

Or so I think sometimes. What usually happens is I watch some stuff off the PVR, and then go on with my life – as the PVR blinks “Recording.”

Oh no – now it’s filling up again!

Friday, December 05, 2008

How the Annual Dinner Affects Your Work

As the holidays approach, people toss away their corporate casual business wear, in favour of something less corporate. It is the much anticipated – or hated depending on your point of view – annual holiday party.

I’ve been to my fair share of these annual events over the years, for various companies. Some companies go all out and have mega-events, where they rent out huge banquet halls, have fancy caterers, serving formal multi-course meals. Other companies, have little to nothing to ring in the holiday season, opting for pay-as-you-go pub night.

A few times, I’ve been to these things, where the pub is open bar – meaning you can drink your career away if you aren’t really all that mindful.

One of my clients this year is going for the pay-as-you-go cheap night at the local watering hole.

I prefer those big swanky catered affairs, in those ritzy banquet halls. This is the one time of the year where everyone can get together in a non-business environment. And it is the one time of the year where companies show how much value they really place on you and your colleagues.

In this era of economic doom and gloom, the annual holiday feast has been sacrificed at many places. Although understandable, it says something about the devaluation of the common employee by his or her employers.

Employers love to brag about how everyone loves to work for them. Some I’ve been to even boast about how they’ve made someone’s top employer’s list. But what really says to an employee that you value him or her, isn’t some slogan created by some human resources staffer with too much time on his or her hands – it is the way the company actually treats their staff.

Companies that provide the necessary resources for their staff to do their jobs are on the right path. But providing those extra nice-to-have resources for their staff to not only do their jobs, but to experiment and try new things are even better. Just about everyone needs a computer and software these days to do their jobs – but when a company provides the fastest computers, and the latest cutting-edge software, that’s a sign the company really values it’s staff.

Companies that give the basic statutory holidays and that’s all don’t care much about their staff. But those that give additional vacation time, and even take non-statutory holidays off really show their employees their value. Work must get done, but working until you burn out isn’t a good way to motivate employees to show up. I’ve worked for companies where they not only give you the statutory holiday, but the day before and the day after that holiday off – not a bad perk.

Other nice perks – all those dreaded corporate functions. They can be a pain, and there are some people at the office you just don’t want to see outside the office. But companies that provide these to their employees are showing their love – so to speak.

Without these corporate functions – like the annual holiday party – we’d simply be drones, showing up when needed, doing our jobs and then going home. There is more to work than just doing it – there are all the interactions with all those other workers. As a species, we are social animals. So it makes sense that we have social functions within our work environments – otherwise, we’re liable to show our least favourable animalistic tendencies. And I hate it when that happens.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Too Many Women

When I was in university, I took a sociology course on modern civilizations. It was one of those elective courses, which was a lot of fun, and helped give me a broader education. Or so they tell me.

One of the interesting theories back then, has apparently come true.

Back then, a group of academics said one day, we’d have too many women. For as long as we’ve had bean counters, people have kept track of global populations, birth and death rates, and other statistically-based human growth-rates.

The too many women theory, says, based on an increase in female birth rates and a decline in male birth rates, coupled with an increase in the number of births overall, eventually, women will out number men by ten to one. That means, in a room of ten people, statistically speaking, only one of those individuals would be a dude.

The too many women theory has come true – women out number men significantly in the global population, particularly in the first world.

As a young kid in university hearing this theory, my first reaction was one of excitement and joy. Being a single guy, in a room full of mostly women, doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all.

But when one sex significantly outnumbers the other, things change dramatically for the negative in our society.

We’ve already seen an increase in the number of single mothers. In a world where there are more women then men, both sexes become more promiscuous, and the traditional family unit breaks down. There is even an alarming trend among young teenage girls, who want to have kids, and be single moms – because they see it as “the thing” to do.

In the workplace, men find it harder to find work. Although it is public policy and in law not to discriminate based on sex – part of being human is just that. We unconsciously hire those who look like us, talk like us, and share the same values and beliefs we do. This is one of the many reasons why men dominated the workforce prior to the sexual revolution in the 1970’s, and why women dominate the workforce today.

We can see this in terms of the economy too – watch TV and you’ll see most of the ads have more women in them than men. Advertisers know where their income comes from – they see that more women are making the global economic wheels turn, and so they specifically target their ads at them.

The hardest hit segment of the population, are women with traditional family values. Here, you’ll find women who won’t start a family, until they have been in a long-term relationship with a man, who they know will always be there. As there are fewer men available to all the women, there will be a large number of women in this group that will never find a “life partner” and as such, never have a family. As most of us have traditional family values, this will impact our future as a race.

That means eventually birth rates will fall significantly, as there will be a large segment of the female population that will never have the opportunity to have children, simply because they couldn’t find a mate. Unless the numbers of men and women starts to balance out, eventually, either our values will have to change, or we will simply become extinct as a species.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Those Big Babies Have Done It Again

Children often need to be disciplined when they act out of line. That’s how they learn to be productive members of society – by their parent’s telling them right from wrong.

How come our federal politicians don’t know how to properly behave and to be productive members of society?

Just a few months ago, our “leader” – if you can call Prime Minister Stephen Harper that – called an early election, on the basis that his government was unable to work with the other political parties. He said the house of parliament had broken down and the only way to ensure a good government for Canadians, would be to have an election.

By calling an election prior to his mandate, Prime Minister Harper claimed he’d achieve a workable government.

Nothing changed in that federal election – we got the same leader and the same leaders of the opposing parties. And now the opposing forces are joining sides, in a bid to oust the government, so they can play “leader.”

Problem is, running one of the largest nation’s on earth – or any nation for that matter – is not child’s play. It’s not like playing Lego’s and it certainly isn’t anything like street hockey.

Though the way our federal politicians are acting -- more like children that need a spanking than adults that ought to know better – it might serve them well to be placed in the penalty box.

We don’t usually get to pick and choose who we work with, and in many cases even who we work for. Often, you just have to deal with the uniqueness of each person, as best you can. By crossing your arms, and taking up the stand that you just won’t work with that person or group of people at all, is no different than a child, refusing to be nice to another kid in school.

That’s one of life’s lessons we are supposed to learn at a young age. But if appears are federally elected representatives either haven’t learned that lesson – as that is exactly what they are doing.

Prior to the election, it was our “leader,” Prime Minster Stephen Harper claiming he simply couldn’t work with the other political parties. Now, in what appears a way of those other political parties at getting back at the Prime Minister, they are claiming the exact same thing about Prime Minister Harper and his party.

They are trying to end parliament early, so they can force a no confidence vote – and presumably another federal election – in the New Year.

Just how many federal elections must we go through, before these children learn to grow up, and work together?

Federal elections are not only time consuming and cost a lot of money, they also take away the primary role of the government, which is to govern. While our federal politicians are running across the country, banging on doors and kissing babies in an attempt to win your vote, there is no business going on within government.

Although it is normal and expected that the government’s business be placed on hold during an election, what isn’t normal nor expected is to constantly have elections.

This constant disruption to governing is unacceptable – especially when the sole reason is a childish act of not willing to work with those you have to work with, to get the job done.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What? Nothing? Nobody? Nadda?

Today, I saw a kid wearing a t-shirt with “I love only Me” on it. I didn’t know how truthful some stranger’s t-shirt would be today.

I arrived at the office at my usual time, and after several hours, hadn’t seen anyone else on my team. Others were around, but none from my team. This is odd, because usually, I’ll get an email or voice mail from anyone not able to come in. But nothing was in my inbox from my absent team. I had got many other emails, so I know the thing was working.

I checked at reception, no one knew where these people were either – in fact they were going to ask me the same thing!

I checked with Human Resources, and they hadn’t heard anything either. Never know, maybe they just got up and quit.

I’ve often thought about storming into some big shot’s office, smile, and then saying: “f*ck you I quit!” and then storming out of there.

Maybe my thoughts were contagious?

Human Resources was just as mystified as I was.

I sent out some emails, and within the next hour or so, I had my answers. One person was working from home, the other, her daughter had a bad cold, so she was playing nurse-maid to her.

Thanks for keeping me informed team. I would have preferred some story about someone quitting on the spot, or even a horrific tale of some car crash – anything is better than: “whoops, sorry, forgot to mention it.”

They didn’t forget to mention it – they didn’t tell anyone. And that usually means they were just slacking off. When someone decides to work for home, they usually are in touch with the office through email and the occasional phone call – they are still “working” – in theory anyways.

I’ve always had my doubts about those who profess to the joys of working from home. Most people I’ve had the displeasure of working with who subscribe to this practice, seem to end up with more work on their desks after working from home, simply because nothing really got done while at home. It’s so easy to flick on the TV and tell yourself you’ll get started after the show. But then, before you know it, it’s already four in the afternoon, and you’re still watching Oprah.

Then there’s my other well meaning colleague, who’s daughter fell ill. Whenever I’m sick, and can’t make it in, I email the team to let everyone know where I am. I’ve been in situations where it really pains me to sit in front of the computer – the glare from the screen just adds to the pounding in my head. Yet, somehow, I manage to hammer out a quick email alerting my staff why I won’t be in.

So, if a sick person on their deathbed can type out an email, surely someone who isn’t sick, merely taking care of someone who is sick, that person should be more than capable of sending out an email message.

But when people are just avoiding work, they tend to avoid making contact. People who are hiding from the truth, seldom open up willingly.

Which is why I wish the stories I received back from my email inquiries were more horrific. At least those would be more believable, and more entertaining.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Where’s Ms. Manners When You Need Her?

Some people just don’t have any manners – none whatsoever. Maybe their mothers were wild boars, or some other barnyard animal, because they certainly act like wildlife.

I was in a food court the other day, and although there was a line, people were ignoring it. When it was my turn at the cashier, the person behind me simply handed the cashier his receipt, and paid for his meal. I was shocked.

Then some woman practically pushes me out of the way, while I was paying for my food, as she reached across in front of me to grab some paper napkins.

I’m not Mrs. Manners, but even I know that behaviour is rude. Not too mention awkward and uncomfortable, because in both situations, I was in the middle of complete strangers.

Good manners can go a long way. If the woman simply said excuse me, and asked if she could grab some napkins, I’d be more than happy to move aside. I may even reach over and get them for her myself.

But instead, people these days just do whatever they feel, without thinking about those around them.

We live in a society of “I’s” instead of one of “us.”

Is it any wonder why road rage is on the rise, or that it even exists. When I was a kid, road rage didn’t exist. There always was some bone head who would cut people off, tailgate, or do some other dangerous and downright mean driving manoeuvre. But you never heard about anyone actually getting out of their car and pounding the crap out of someone. Never heard of someone trying to drive someone off the road, or shoot at them, or any of the many things that people do these days.

If people simply remembered that there are others out in the world, besides them, then maybe we’d all be able to get along all that better.