Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Redundancies of Technology

Remember your first electronic gadget?

Mine was the electronic version of the game Simon Says. It was a big, bulky black plastic flat-dome shaped toy, with a red, a blue, a green and a yellow light pad.

You’d turn it on, flip the switch to select your level of difficulty, and then one or more of the coloured pads would light up. As each colour lit up, a very low tech buzzer would hum, slightly differing in pitch for each colour.

The object of the game was easy, simply do as Simon did, immediately after the toy flashed its buzzing colours, you had to press each colour in the exact same way. All levels started easy, say green, green, green. But eventually, it got all the quicker, until the different colours seemed to blur into one.

I miss my old electronic Simon Says game – back then electronic toys were simple. Technology hadn’t advanced to the point we have today, with all the 3-Dimensional graphics, the seven-to-one stereo surround sound, and the life-like animations.

There isn’t much use for my old Simon Says game anymore – though I bet if I still had it, and it was in somewhat decent condition, it’d fetch a good price on eBay by some collector.

I started thinking about all this out-dated technology recently, when I popped an old disc with some video content I wanted into my computer. The video was recorded back in the late 1980s, just as CDs were entering the marketplace. The video files were standard AVI format – something that has been around a long time. But my Windows Vista, with the latest version of Windows Media Player couldn’t play it. It gave me an error message, saying I was missing the CODEC to decode the video files.

So, I clicked on the link provided in the error message, but was told the CODEC was no longer supported by Windows Media Player. Imagine technology that goes bad just like the milk in your fridge.

Being a bit of a geek, I just shrugged it off, and began trying other media players – I tried Windows Media Centre with the same result. RealPlayer, even Nero’s Show Time video player – none worked. On my last legs, I decided to try Apple’s Quick Time, and hey – it worked.

The video was 15-frames-per-second, pretty crappy compared to today’s standards, but it worked.

But now I was concerned – and you should be too – what to do with all your old technology?

Audio tapes have been long since replaced with CDs and MP3 players. Good old fashioned VHS tapes have been replaced with DVDs, and DVDs have now gone the way of the technology grave yard, being replaced with Blueray discs. Some people reading this blog may never have even seen a record before, yet they know what a record store is.

It isn’t all that complicated to plug in your tape deck, VCR or DVD player to your computer, record their content digitally onto your hard drive, and then burn them to a more current format – say a Blueray disc (provided you have the right software, hardware and cables).

There are other cool technological solutions to some of these historic forms of storage. I’ve seen new record players, with USB cables, allowing you to play a record, and record the audio digitally onto your computer’s hard drive. Many sound editing applications even have filters, allowing you to clean up the old “raw” and scratchy sounds produced from playing the record, so that it doesn’t sound much like a record at all. It won’t be nearly as pristine and perfect as a pure digital file, as the original recording was made using analogue technology – but it will be sans the hiss, which is often caused by the friction from the needle hitting the vinyl.

Needle? Vinyl?

YOU KNOW – R E C O R D S! Those black shiny round things with grooves?

Oh forget it!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Comedic Medicine and Other Altered States of Being

Yesterday, I went to the Most Races Show on Earth, an annual comedy fest showcasing the best in multicultural humour.

This was my second year attending this show, and both times were amazing.

Laughter really is the international language we all understand, regardless of the colour of our skin. Aside from exercising my funny bone, it’s a great cause too – proceeds from the show go towards the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society (CAERS).

There were comedians from all ethnic lines – from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Italy, Lebanon, Poland and more. A live band warmly welcomed each act, and gave those of us in the audience a much needed breather, to catch our breath from all the laughing.

Multiculturalism was the dominant theme – but altered states of being seemed to be just as prominent.

Although I’m a fan of the drug-influenced comedy of Cheech and Chong, I was surprised by just how much of this drug culture played in last night’s show.

Almost every comedian made jokes about doing marijuana. If the jokes weren’t about how hard it was to get the stuff, they were about what they were like under its influence.

“I went up to a fellow Brother, who had dreadlocks down to his ass,” said one comedian. “He’s got to have, just look at those locks man, but he didn’t even know what I was asking him about.”

“What about Sugar Crisp – man if there’s a spokesman for us – it has to be Sugar Bear,” said another comedian. “Can’t get enough of those Sugar Crisps . . .” he continued, acting like the famed animated character, only as if the cartoon bear were stoned.

Many famous people have been known to dabble in the so-called drug culture – or counter culture depending on who you talk too. Robin Williams has admitted to being on various controlled substances when he was much younger, and has spent many years in and out of rehab facilities. Robert Downey Jr. has also spent time in and out of rehab for drugs – but this past summer he had one of the most successful movies of the summer-blockbuster run, with Iron Man. Hunter S. Thompson, the founder of the gonzo journalism style of reporting was known to pen his best stories under the influence of many drugs. Then of course, there’s the most famous comedy duo, which made getting high a comedic riot – Cheech and Chong.

However, when you go to a comedy festival which is supposed to break down the barriers of racial discrimination, and highlight our similarities spanning our cultural differences, aren’t there more similarities than smoking up?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the show last night – all the comedians were funny, energetic and entertaining to watch. But I was disappointed that the majority of the jokes revolved around marijuana.

There are so many different stereotypes, it would have been nice to see the comedians play off of those, rather than falling back to the easy and over-used stereotype of the druggie. Part of the point of the show, from my understanding, was to poke fun at the various cultural stereotypes, and show that despite all these common images, we’re pretty much the same.

But instead of poking fun at various cultural stereotypes, I felt I was watching an old Cheech and Chong movie. Or maybe I was watching Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where we actually see the world through the altered states of mind of one of the best drug-influenced writer’s of all time.

No wait – I was at The Most Races Show on Earth, so how come I have the munchies?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Unlucky 13 Isn’t So Bad In Space

The number 13 often gets a bad rap. Friday the thirteenth is one of the most dreaded days on the calendar – it’s even the name of a well known horror movie franchise.

Many buildings don’t have a thirteenth floor – my high rise is one of them. The numbers in the elevator go from one to 12, and then 14 to the penthouse. Technically, that means people living on the fourteenth floor are physically on the thirteenth floor – but don’t go telling them about it.

Not everything associated with the number 13 is all that bad. A baker’s dozen includes one more than a true dozen, so in a sense it’s like buying 12, while getting one for free. The history behind this actually is based on compassion – not fear of the number 13.

During The Great Depression in the 1930’s, bakers often would reward customers purchasing a dozen muffins, cookies, bagels and other baked goods, by tossing in an extra one at no charge. They did this as a sign of patronage to customers who came back to get more baked goods, despite the economic hardships.

Today marks another triumph for the number 13 – space exploration. Every year, a handful of extremely lucky – and brave – souls ride rockets out into space. The number of humans floating around high above us is usually quite small.

Unless you consider 13 big – that’s the number of men and women orbiting us in space today. It marks a milestone in the space race, as that’s the most people ever to be in space at the same time. The last time there were almost this many people in space was in 1995.

NASA’s Discovery Space Shuttle is currently circulating the Earth with a standard crew compliment of seven. Three astronauts are currently calling the International Space Station home, and three replacement astronauts are in space, en-route to that space station, via the Russian Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft.

So the number 13, often associated with bad things like walking under ladders, black cats, and broken mirrors, isn’t all that bad, especially if you’re in space. Though I suppose when you’re that far from home, luck is the furthest thing from your mind.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cell Phone Danger – Walking and Talking

Recently, an average, everyday person – someone just like you – was killed while using her cell phone.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about how overuse of these devices has been linked to brain tumours. But as Arnold Swartzenager famously said in one of his movies: “it’s not a tumour.”

This person was killed when she walked into the back of a truck stopped at an intersection. You read it right – she collided with the truck – not the other way ‘round. The driver of the truck didn’t see her, and drove off, trampling her under the wheels.

How could someone simply walk right into a vehicle? In this case, the blame is partly due to her cell phone. She was chatting on the thing, not paying attention to where she was going, and now she’s dead.

Though some of the blame must be put on the truck driver for not noticing something odd – you’d figure there would have been some sound when she struck the vehicle, and definitely when she fell under its tires.

The real culprit here isn’t the cell phone, but the poor victim herself. There have been far too many stories about people getting into accidents while driving, walking, even cycling, all while they talked, surfed or typed on their mobile devices.

With so-called “Smart Phones” taking over, there are even more distractions on these little wonders. You can watch live streaming video, play your favourite songs, check the latest weather forecasts, even participate in an interactive video conference (assuming your mobile device has a camera).

These new communications devices make it all the more possible to do just about anything anywhere. I remember hearing one guy break up with his girlfriend over his cell phone, I couldn’t help but listen, I was sitting in the bathroom stall next to him.

And these devices have been marketed to us as time savers, allowing us to do just about anything anywhere.

This is why we do use these things to do just about anything anywhere.
But there are many situations when doing just about anything anywhere is not only inappropriate, but dangerous as well.

Although breaking up with one’s girlfriend while sitting on the toilet may be inappropriate, it’s hardly dangerous – unless you fall in I suppose.

But walking along busy streets and sidewalks can be quite dangerous, as we’ve seen most recently. Far worse about these types of accidents, is they are so preventable, because we are in control of the situation.

If we get so involved in something on our mobile devices – be it a game, a cool application, a conference call, or just a simple person-to-person call, we should be bright enough to stop whatever else it is we are doing.

I mean really – dying from walking into a truck!?!? That’s a pathetic way to go, and chances are all this woman had to do was stop move off to a coffee shop, or even just a secluded part of the sidewalk and she’d still be alive today.

But now she’s dead, simply from talking on her phone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sponsoring a Canadian – A Fools Game

We warmly welcome anyone into Canada – even on an individual basis. If you travel to another land, meet someone, fall in love, and want them to come back with you, you can almost wrap them up and bring them over.

So did Percy Whiteman – to a degree. Whiteman fell for stripper from China, working in a local strip club, so he sponsored her immigration to Canada. Though one wonders how she managed to land a job in Canada, prior to her sponsorship?

Whiteman married this stripper, got AIDS and is now suing the strip club, the stripper he married, and the Canadian government for a total legal claim of $33 million. He’s suing the federal government for failing to follow up with the necessary HIV AIDS tests prior to allowing her into this country, and I presume the strip club for providing a place for him to hook-up with her – but that just seems silly.

This whole story has a foul stench to it – could it be that cheap stripper perfume?

NO! It smells like everyone is using everyone in this sordid tale of love (or is it lust?) gone wrong.

Suwalee Iamkong, from Hong Kong, China used her female prowess on a Canadian-male to work here and live here legally. She knew she had HIV before coming to Canada – she was tested in her homeland prior to arriving in Canada and tested positive. She simply denied the results, claiming they were inaccurate.

Excuse me, but if I found out that I had some life-threatening disease for which there was no cure, even if I didn’t believe the results, I sure as hell would have done something about it right away. Say, get a second opinion; maybe even have another test conducted?

Instead, she apparently ignored the test results, so that she could get into our wonderful country – and quite possibly take advantage of our free healthcare system.

Whiteman on the other hand, met Iamkong at the strip club, wanted her for more than just a private dance, and pursued a relationship with her.

Now I’m not knocking strippers – hey if I had a nice Double-D cup and an ass shaped like a peach, maybe I’d get up on stage and shake it to make some money. NOT!
There are more – ahem – respectable professions in this country. Or at least, I hope so. I know the depression in the economy has hit us hard, but please tell me there are still jobs where you don’t have to remove your clothing!

That said, Iamkong is in the sex trade. Granted, she’s not calling herself a prostitute, and she didn’t say anything about having sex for money. But guys – and girls – don’t go to strip clubs just to hang out and drink over-priced, watered down suds. Needless to say, one must question Whiteman’s choice of meeting spots for finding a potential mate.

Regardless of where you go to meet people, only a fool these days would engage in unsafe sexual behaviour.

You can get sexual diseases from anyone anywhere these days, so it only makes sense to have safe sex until both parties have been tested. Hell, common sense is to practice safe sex with anyone you meet, until you see the black and white documents proving you and your partner are both clean and free from all things evil. Having unprotected sex without knowing for sure is just asking for something nasty, and as in the case of Whiteman, deadly.

I assume they still even do those blood tests prior to marriage, so that once you’ve tied the knot you can cut loose and be free, and presumably have kids and start a family. How come the now unhappy couple, didn’t get tested before getting married?

Another question remains, should Canadian tax dollars really be spent on recruiting and sponsoring strippers?

If Canada is to remain competitive in the ever shrinking global economy, just how competitive will we be as a nation, if we’re spending money on bringing in people to take off their clothes for money, instead of engineers, scientists, chemists, philosophers, even sculptors, writers and other professional artists – surely these career paths add more to the fabric of a nation, than a stripper would.

Though they are nice to look at, and I suppose they assist with beer and other alcohol sales . . . take it off! Take it all off!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fox News Bashes Canada – Says We Are Frigid Rednecks Dependent on America for Survival

International relations between countries are all the more important in our global economy. Which is why I find it puzzling that a major American network would air something which intentionally creates ill will with us Canadians.

The obviously light-hearted current affairs panel on the Fox News network called “Red Eye with Greg Cutfeld,” began discussing how our Canadian Forces will be pulling out of Afghanistan in 2011. Naturally, an American show will have an American spin – while our Canadian news and current affairs shows discuss how many soldiers lives have been lost, the ethical dilemmas involved in any war, and the cost to Canadian taxpayers to support an American-made war – the American spin often revolves around how Canada is helping aid American efforts to fight the war on terror.

Not so with Greg Cutfeld’s show. Cutfeld even starts off his show by equating the Canadian military’s ending of the Afghanistan mission with a holiday, saying that: “certain members of the Canadian military are looking to take a well-deserved break. And by certain members, I mean all of them.”

He goes on: “Meaning, the Canadian military wants to take a breather, to do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach in gorgeous white Capri pants.”

This well spoken but highly mis-informed American on the boob-tube fails to mention the over 3,000 soldiers from all nations across the globe via the United Nations, assisting his country’s war. A war which originally was begun “to get Osama Bin Laden and those who stand against America’s interests,” as proclaimed by then-U.S. President George W. Bush, but now has been nothing more than another Vietnam, as Bin Laden continues to haunt the world with his broadcasts calling for violent acts against America and its allies.

Nor does Cutfeld mention the 116 brave Canadian soldiers killed in the line of duty, serving in Afghanistan in his country’s war. Though Cutfeld did indicate that we “shared a border with the most powerful country in the universe.”

Guests on Cutfeld’s show got into the Canadian-bashing, with even more outrageous mis-informational insults slung our way.

“We have police officers, they have Mounties,” said one guest on the panel. “Our cops ride heavily armoured cars, they ride horses. We have bullet-proof vests, they have wonderful little red jackets that can be seen a mile away. This is not a smart culture Greg!”

Another guest chimed in, supposedly in our defence.

“Yes, but to be fair to the Canadians, they are up there where it is frigid, where it is very cold, they are a hardy people, good allies of the United States, this is why I’m so disappointed in them,” she said. “So they are getting manicures, they are getting pedicures, everybody needs a little time off.”

Maybe those coming back from Afghanistan will get a pedicure, but I’m sure it won’t be nearly as an important a moment in time, as when they first see their teary-eyed spouse who hasn’t seen them in over six-months, the baby that was born while they were away and have never seen, or even just the comfort of landing on home soil, where it is safe.

The sacrifices our Canadian soldiers and the various civilian support staff that spend many months, and in some cases years, overseas, defending the interests of our nation and our allies is far greater than the need for well groomed nails.

What this show – on a news network, of all things – did was to degrade, alienate, and offend a whole nation, by downplaying the hard work, dedication, and above all else, the sacrifices our nation has made for another country’s home-grown war.

Granted, the Fox Television Network is known for it’s edgy, often in-your-face shows which aim to be anything but politically correct. The network’s founding shows included “Married with Children,” about a shoe salesman more interested in nude magazines than taking care of his family, “In Living Color,” a show which poked fun of racial stereotypes by reversing and exacerbating those stereotypes, and the very popular “The Simpson’s,” which often shows how a dysfunctional family can be quite functional.

However, Fox News is a news channel, and news channels should have a sense of obligation and respect for the content which they broadcast because chances are, unlike a made-up show with made-up characters, news is about real people and affects real peoples’ lives.

Or at least, maybe that is one of our Canadian traits that our American neighbours still need to learn.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Made In Canada – Not For the Government

One of the easiest ways to help people keep or get jobs in a recession is to support local products and services. This has been one of the many methods governments have used to us get out of economic crunches in the past.

Even U.S. President Barak Obama has been tossing around the “buy American,” protectionism slogans, to encourage his citizens to purchase products made in the USA.

You’d think Canadian governments would know this too – this isn’t the first depression we’ve been in. We’ve seen our fair share of recessions, the Great Depression back in the dirty-thirties, and now today’s depression. Though most aren’t using the “d” for “depression” word, we’re obviously in one – because economists agree this is the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

However you name it, our economy has sunk to new lows. So, why is it that our governments aren’t buying Canadian?

The provincial Ontario government admitted this week that many of the provinces flags and provincial police uniforms are being made in China and other Asian countries.

At a time when people are losing their jobs in this country in record numbers, you’d figure our governments would encourage job growth by at least buying Canadian.

But instead of having Canadians make the various products and services our Canadian governments use, they have chosen the cheapest bidder, sending these jobs to other countries.

It’s almost like watching your mom, dad, brother or sister suffer in poverty, while donating large sums of money to a third-world. Granted, there is nothing wrong with donating to poor countries, but shouldn’t charity start at home? Doesn’t it make sense to help those nearest and closest to us first?

There is a downside to protectionism – in a global marketplace, it isn’t always wise to turn down a business opportunity just because they aren’t local. But, in this depression, we must resolve our own locally-grown financial issues before getting back onto the global money train.

Because that global money train of international trade isn’t going to stop for long, in a country which isn’t going to be able to pay for those goods and services. So it makes fiscal sense – as well as ethical sense – to invest in Canadian-made products and services first, and foremost.

Eventually, once this depression has long since gone away, leaving prosperity and growth in the marketplace, then, and only then, should big business invest in the world outside our borders.

However, that begs the question, should publicly funded tax dollars ever be spent on goods and services made outside of our borders?

It is one thing for a private corporation to decide to go to China, Mexico, or any other country to get the goods and services it requires. But it is quite another for our governments to do so – because we ultimately are all investors in that government.

The role of governments should always be to promote local products and services. To use another family analogy, it is like your mom asking you how come you could never be more like some other parent’s kid, why’d you have to turn out like you?

What a horrible thing for a mother to tell her child. And what a horrible thing for a government to do to its citizens.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Late Night Talk Shows New Way of Politicking

U.S. President Ronald Regan became famous for his live nation-wide broadcasts from the Oval Office during prime time on television. Even the British are known to use the mass media, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous radio addresses on Sunday nights.

Tonight, U.S. President Barak Obama takes on Jay Leno, as he appears on The Tonight Show. Oh this isn’t the first time an American president has appeared on late night talk shows. Remember when President Bill Clinton jammed on his saxophone? But unlike President Clinton’s appearance on late night talk, President Obama’s will be the first time a current president of the United States appears as a guest on a late night talk show.

President Clinton’s appearance was during the 1992 presidential campaign, on the now defunct Arsenio Hall Show. President Clinton was trailing badly in the polls to Ross Perot and President George Bush, but after that brief musical interlude, he took the lead and won the presidency.

President Obama is certainly not hurting in the polls – he is the most popular American president of all time, even more popular than John F. Kennedy, according to many reports. So why is the American president doing the talk show circuit?

Some have scoffed that he’s promoting his own style of politics, and trying to sway the American public opinion his way. But he’s already got that on his side – it has even been branded “Obama Mania,” by the media.

I’m hoping that President Obama is doing late night talk shows to build the economy. See, much of the energy, drive, and even depression in an economy is powered by investor confidence in the market. Unless you keep your money in a dirty sock under your bed, chances are you have a bank account – that makes you an investor in the market.

Banks invest your money to earn interest. Granted, the amount of interest is laughable when you deduct all the service charges banks force us to pay, but we still are investors of sorts.

If President Obama is smart, he’ll use this late night talk show opportunity to encourage us to invest in the market, which in turn will hopefully stimulate something within our sagging economy.

However, a lot depends on the host Jay Leno. Prior to the U.S. presidential elections, Obama appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. Surprisingly, Letterman rose to the occasion, tossing away his comedic funny-man hat, for that of a more sobering interviewer. His interview was warm, well thought through, and managed to keep the mood light, but serious. Letterman was able to intelligently discuss the issues, without the expense of poorly placed jokes.

Can funny-man Jay Leno accomplish the same thing – or will he be constantly depending on his humour to carry the conversation tonight?

I suppose we won’t know the answer to that until after the president’s appearance on Leno’s show. But for the good of the global economy, let’s keep our fingers crossed, and hope for the best.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How to Completely Ruin a Good Thing

I had a meeting with a potential client not too long ago. As is often the case, there usually are several phone calls back and forth prior to the meeting, where each side gets to ask all the preliminary questions, to ensure there is a good fit.

After much telephone tag, we both agreed a face-to-face meeting would be in order, as there was the potential for us to work together. We agreed to meet at the potential client’s offices, and that they would provide a projector, and possibly even a sound system so I could hook up a laptop and go through my very slick – if I may say so myself – presentation.

When I first got to the offices, a bitter taste was already tormenting this meeting. The projector I had requested wasn’t there, and the key management-type that should be running the meeting, was letting someone else run his show.

I carried on, sans slick presentation, but to my dismay, I was being bombarded with the very same preliminary questions which we had already answered over the phone. They were worded slightly differently, but essentially they were the same questions.

Being a communications nut, with a lot of management experiences, I tried to steer the meeting towards the discussions that needed to take place to move forward. But the person running the meeting on the potential client’s side – who really needn’t be in the meeting at all because he wasn’t a key stakeholder – kept drawing things back to the initial basic info, which I thought was already well known to all involved.

What should have been a pleasant next-steps meeting, turned into a complete waste of time, because of the potential client’s own political baggage.

Essentially, from what I understood upon reflection and discussions after the meeting, the person running the meeting was the former manager of the person who should have been running the meeting.

See, the real key player here, the Manager of Learning Development was recently appointed to that role. Previously, he worked for this other arrogant bastard, who was leaving the team, to pursue other professional avenues. Why someone who had chosen to leave their team was even in on the meeting is beyond me. But what happened is clear.

It was a pure show of political might – at the cost of us doing business with them.

The new manager was put into an awkward position, because his former boss had taken it upon himself to continue to be his boss, even though he isn’t. Though the new manager, should have – and probably would have if he had more experience and some – ahem – balls – told his former boss that this was his meeting, his project and he was running the show.

I don’t know if this happened because the guy was forced to leave the team, and was essentially getting back at his soon to be ex-bosses at the executive level, or if this happened just because this guy is arrogant as hell, and I don’t care.

But what a loss! Everything looked so very good from our emails and phone calls prior to meeting, but then everything crashed and burned.

Hopefully that outgoing manager will be gone sooner than later, else the project which this company really wants and needs, may never happen.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Obama Presidency Brings in New Form of Color Coding

It’s a good thing when we see more color in the White House. With U.S. President Barack Obama’s new administration, we’re seeing good things happen in a house traditionally home to upper-class white dudes.

But, the election of the first non-white person to one of the most powerful positions in the world is having an unfortunate racial tension elsewhere.

The other day at the office, during an informal break at the water cooler, one colleague joked that they had to make several changes to allow President Obama to retain his Black Berry. I was thinking this colleague was going to mention how they had to implement new security protocols, and specially encrypted digital lines, managed on a special highly secure system of servers and satellite uplinks – which they do. Most American presidents aren’t allowed to keep their personal mobile devices, for security reasons – President Obama is the first person holding that office able to do so.

However, instead of discussing the technical wonders which make it possible for an American president to have a Black Berry, this colleague said: “they had to change it from Black Berry to White Berry.”

Is this an off-color joke, a racist remark, or just a really bad play on words?

Since President Obama took office, there have been other similar comments – some suggesting changing the color of the White House to “Black” House, there is even talk in the entertainment industry about who will portray the first black James Bond.

A black James Bond?

I didn’t think much of all the different Bond’s over the years – to me the original Sean Connery was and will always be the only true Bond, James Bond. Changing the color of a legendary film character to mirror American political changes doesn’t make any real sense. But it does reflect a changing and potentially unstable mood sweeping across America, Canada, and possibly the rest of the world.

Call it the new form of color coding – turning anything and everything traditionally associated with a specific color – other than black – and making it black.

Having someone who isn’t your traditional white male in the White House is progress. Intentionally making others mirror his color isn’t progress – it’s a form of discrimination – or reverse discrimination depending on your point of view.

Cracking jokes about this new form of color coding is racist – that comment about a “white berry” was uncalled for and I gave my colleague a look of disgust upon hearing it.

Real progress wouldn’t be to change everything white to black, but to ignore a person’s skin color completely. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where it didn’t matter if you were white, black, yellow, olive green, brown or any other color really had no impact on your social and professional life? Isn’t that what President Obama really represents?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ford Canada on the Right Road

For months, this blog has stressed how the Canadian, American, and other global governments should not be pumping bail out money to big business. Publicly funded tax dollars should not be used for private corporate gain.

Finally, one of the big three North American automakers has come out against these government bail outs.

Ford Canada’s chief executive David Mondragon told a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee that federal government bail outs are not the cure, but offering more reasons to buy a North American-built car is.

By promoting the environmentally-friendlier cars now being made by North American automakers, the fuel economy, and the price savings over purchasing an import, Mondragon says people will see the benefits to buying locally made vehicles. He also added, having financial incentives, say more money for trading in a used vehicle towards the purchase of a new one, would also help.

Bravo Ford Canada! Bravo!

Mondragon says the biggest businesses in the country should be pulling their own weight, showing leadership by example through the recession, as opposed to looking like beggars wanting a handout.

"What we need to do is provide an anchor in the sea and right now there is no anchor in the sea for our ship," Mondragon told a parliamentary subcommittee meeting Monday night. "There are great opportunities for governments to help the industry and the economy find the bottom."

If big businesses – hell all businesses – held that attitude during these tough financial times, maybe this recession would end sooner – or at least it wouldn’t be as rough a ride.

Instead of complaining about all the doom and gloom, and then threatening to put thousands of people out of work unless governments toss over bail out money, Ford Canada has taken the high road.

U.S. President Barak Obama is all about buying American. The popular U.S. president says if people buy American-made goods and services, then the people working for the companies providing those goods and services will continue to have jobs.

I think Canadians should buy Canadian – but specifically buy from Canadian companies with healthy attitudes like Ford Canada’s, which don’t hold Canadian taxpayers hostage.

I’m not currently looking for a new vehicle, but if I was, I’d certainly consider Ford above all the other North American manufacturers. The others are pretty good whiners, and maybe even good at securing government loans, but that’s not what we need in this economy.

We need – as Mondragon has said – solid anchors in these rough economic seas. It is one thing to be cutting edge, and have the latest technology. And once upon a time, the cutting edge ruled. But these days, you have to have more than a “wow” factor – you have to have strong leadership, which is committed to the future.

General Motors and Chrysler’s constant bickering about government bail outs doesn’t wow me. But Ford Canada’s ideology that longevity is based on what a company’s leaders does with the company, now that does have some “wow,” and it should influence who you choose to do business with.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do business with a company that was able to solve its own financial issues, and make it on its own through the rough times, than one that required public funds just to stay afloat.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I Smell Burning

For those who follow my blog, you’ll know I occasionally write about the nuts in my building. Not that I live in a nuthouse – though some of you may think I should.

I love living the high life in a high rise. It really is different up here. I enjoy an exclusive view of the world, while maintaining a certain level seclusion, because people can’t see way up into my palace in the skies.

My building is pretty old, but that’s a good thing. Today’s buildings are made of so-called space-age materials, which is just a fancy way to say “Made in China” crap. My building on the other hand is built like a bunker. I should know, every time I hang anything on the walls, I have to use excessive force just to make a dent.

Despite its toughness, occasionally scents and smells from the neighbours creep in. Usually when this happens, it is because of the lady on the floor above me cooking. Or rather, the lady above me is attempting to cook.

Usually when she’s cooking, it just doesn’t smell all that good. It either stinks like grease, smells like she’s hauled in some rancid road kill and is roasting it, or everything just smells like burning.

I love to cook, and take pride in creating an atmosphere where not only the food interacts with the pallet, but the scents play with your nose. Anyone who’s enjoyed my home cooking, always tells me: “oooh that smells good,” long before the meal reaches the table.

Having the demon cook above ruins that ambiance; it throws out the whole thing. My homemade meals don’t taste any worse, but I don’t get to savour the smells of good cooking, because bad cooking stink overpowers it.

Maybe it is part of our animal instincts, to warn of us about potential danger by making our nose pick up stinky smells more over the nice ones. Or maybe I don’t have enough air circulation to vent out the upstairs neighbour’s bad aromas. All I know is no matter what I cook, if the lady upstairs is cooking, her grease fired excuse for a meal will stink up my nice smelling kitchen.

And grease fired probably isn’t far off. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’s set off the fire alarm on more than a handful of her cooking adventures. Of all the stinky stunk that emanates from her place, burnt is probably the word to best describe it.

I’ve tried everything to contain the stink. I’ve opened all the windows and doors, sprayed air freshener until the can runs empty, even turning a bit of my own heat up, by adding some more spices to my cooking. Nothing works, short of calling 9-1-1 and reporting a fire in the unit above me.

I’ve often thought of running up to her place, breaking down the door, barging in with a fire hose, and just washing out her mess of a meal.

But spending a night in jail isn’t exactly my idea of a fine dining experience.
So, I suppose I’ll just have to open all my windows and doors, spray as much air freshener as I can without suffocating, and hope that I don’t see flames coming from the ceiling.

But hey, at least I have a good meal on my table.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Not Another Bail Out

Another private company falls victim to the global economic crisis – U.S. Steel Canada, says they are temporarily closing plants, displacing at least 1,500 jobs.

Rumours are already circulating of yet another publicly funded government bailout for yet another private company.

At this rate, with all the public funds – meaning yours and mine funds via tax dollars – there won’t be very much we the people don’t have a vested financial interest in.

Though you will never have a say as to how those interests are managed, funny how the more we spend the less we have control.

Wait a sec – isn’t that wrong? Shouldn’t we have a say in how our dollars are spent? Who’s to say these companies won’t just continue to make the same mistakes which got them into their financial woes? Who will be held accountable should these big global mega-giant privately run businesses fail, with our publicly funded tax dollars?

Yes, the economy is to blame, yadda yadda yadda . . . there is more to it than just a bad economy. Economists for years have been predicting a global meltdown; it’s just part of the cyclical nature of our market-based economy. It always goes up and down, there are highs and then there are always lows which follow.

Even if you don’t want to listen to the economists publicly warning of the impending economic crunch, most – if not all – of these mega-corporations have very well paid, and supposedly very knowledgeable economists of their own. They should have seen what was coming, and worked with their executive and other business teams to ensure the longevity of their company through the economic downturn.

It shouldn’t always be up to publicly funded governments to save the private corporations of the world because they simply failed to plan for tomorrow.
For years the North American auto market has been in a slump of sorts. This all started several years ago, when gas prices started to rise. People started realizing that those big SUVs would bankrupt them at the gas station. So, when it came to looking for a new car, they started looking for more fuel efficient models.

The North American automakers were still churning out big gas-hogging vehicles, but the Japanese automakers saw the light, and were selling hybrids – part electric, part gas-powered. These were the real first gas-saving vehicles introduced over here, and they were stealing business away from the North American automakers.

Although all automakers are feeling the pain of the global economic crisis, those foreign to North America are feeling less pain, because they had good leadership which continued to make vehicles for their customers’ needs and wants. The North American automakers on the other hand, completely missed the boat on this one, and are now demanding publicly funded seed money from governments worldwide, otherwise they will put thousands of people out of work.

Losing one’s job ain’t pretty and isn’t something we would wish on even our enemies. But the role of publicly funded governments does not extend to keeping private companies afloat – especially when those companies are to blame for their own mismanagement.

That’s the nature of our capitalistic market-driven society. By having public government funds going into private businesses, it is changing the rules, and making our society a more socialistic, communistic-driven society.

Unless, maybe we are just naturally heading that way. Bring back the Iron Curtain, the Cold War and a society so fearful of the power of its own government that no one dares speak out in protest.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the sound of that.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Watch You Speed – Or Technology Will For You

Last Friday, the Toronto media was hyping a mega-rolling-roadblock which was to disrupt Canada’s largest morning rush hour come Monday.

Today, that travelling roadblock never happened.

Over 200 big rig trucks were supposed to descend upon Queen’s Park – the Ontario legislator – mid-morning, protesting the province’s mandate requiring all large trucks to have functioning speed limiters. Prior to their arrival, they were to proceed from central areas of the province, in a convoy of sorts, slowing traffic during the peak of rush hour.

Only a handful of trucks actually made it to the destination, and traffic chaos was averted. But not because the issue was resolved – the truckers just didn’t show up.

Regardless of their numbers, the truck drivers have the right idea.

The Ontario government is requiring all trucks – even ones from outside the province – to have mechanical devices which limit their maximum speed to 105km/hour. They claim lower reduces accidents.

The truckers say it isn’t the odd truck speeding to blame for all accidents. Many are caused by the weather, other drivers, and even their own truck driver error. They say, limiting a truck’s top speed can actually cause accidents, because then the driver won’t be able to accelerate when needed.

There are times when trucks do speed – just as in any profession, there are bound to be a few bad apples in the bunch.

But for the most part, truckers are highly skilled and well trained in far more road safety prevention than the average Canadian motorist.

Limiting the top speed a truck can travel may prevent a truck driver from actually performing a necessary task, which could lead to an accident or worse, a fatality on our roads.

There are other safety issues in trucking which need more of our government’s attention, than forcing them to limit their speed. Drivers are often placed on outrageous time tables, where the only way they can arrive at their destination in time is to drive non-stop for days.

There have been more incidents caused by truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel, than speeding over the past 10-years. No one can go without sleep, no matter how many “Red Bulls” – or other high caffeine beverages – one consumes.
The laws have been put in place, but the industry still for the most part regulates itself in terms of ensuring drivers get enough down time.

Technology is an amazing thing. Through technology we can keep track of where our shipments by truck go, thanks to Global Positioning Systems (GPS). That same GPS technology even is useful by the drivers, using real-time maps and satellite imaging so they can find their way. But technology can’t be a be-all end-all to preventing accidents.

Using technology to limit a truck drivers speed is just a lazy-ass excuse to avoid the real issues of safety – lack of sleep.

Even fitting trucks with so-called “deadman peddles” isn’t the answer. These devices force the operator of the truck to interact with them, either by pushing a peddle, or a button over a period of time, to ensure the driver hasn’t fallen asleep. If the deadman peddle isn’t pushed in time, it will turn off the engine.
Deadman peddles have been used in planes and trains for years, with mixed results. Early versions could – and often were – disabled, simply by placing a heavy item on the peddle, like a brick or a lunch box. Newer versions require several items to be pushed, but even these can still be tricked by those sneaky enough to do so.

The real solution to safer trucking is more enforcement, to ensure truckers aren’t being forced to deprive themselves of much needed sleep, to get their goods to the market in time.