Thursday, October 14, 2004

Canadian Tire Guy

That's it! I've had enough!

I've always had a hate on for that curly-haired, bespectacled Canadian Tire guy. You know the one; he show's up to "help" a neighbour in every commercial by belittling their abilities and showing off his latest tool from Canadian Tire.

But this latest commercial has gone too far!

I've always assumed that I have a character weakness that causes me to overreact to this guy. Maybe he actually is just trying to help and not just be a jerk. But the latest commercial makes me think I'm right. In fact, the commercial seems to be set up to prove we should dislike this guy.

In this one, his neighbour (one we've never seen before - how many next door neighbours does this guy have? Do they keep moving away?) is stuck in his driveway, snow blasting all around him, and his car won't start. Enter the annoying guy, who explains that his car won't start because his oil is wrong. He should have used 'blah blah'. After giving the guy a lecture on the proper use of oil, his neighbour explains, "I had no idea". To which Canadian Tire guy replies - wait for it - "I know".

Okay, I'm not prone to violence, but that deserved a punch in the face.

This is the same guy who taunts his neighbour (another one) by quickly getting his backyard cleanup chores done using his brand new pressure washer, while his neighbour is forced to clean by hand. When he's completed the task, he waves to his neighbour as he leaves for golf - but never offers to loan him his pressure washer. This is the same guy who after agreeing to go and buy a neighbour a specific kind of brakes, returns with something different - not because he couldn't get them, but because the ones he brings back are better.

What is with this guy? Why does Canadian Tire think that we will identify with him?

Actually, as I think about it, I do remember what each and every product he pushes is. Maybe they're on to something...

Saturday, September 11, 2004


9/11 had a major impact on my life. I have never been so truly sad...

It made me open my eyes and look around. Question why this could happen, and how can/do I stop it.

I found that it had been happening for too long beyond my front yard, and that now it was in my neighbours yard. I found that it was not enough to wait for it to threaten me, and that I was wrong to ignore it elsewhere.

I don't have the answers to stop it, but I believe that communication and information sharing will help. Bring the world together; try to understand. I don't want to hate. I don't want to fight.

On a personal level, I changed my lifestyle. I don't want to be ignoring the things that matter most to me by working myself to death. I guarantee you that most of those people in the planes and towers would've given anything for a few more moments with their families. I don't want to find myself with those regrets.

I can't imagine their feeling of pure helplessness, knowing that they would not be going home. I can't imagine having to make the decision some made on Flight 93; knowing that there was no chance you would survive. Knowing that by not trying to bring down your own plane you would be condemning many more to death. I know they knew it was the right, the only, thing they could do, but their grief consumes me.

I grieve for the emrgency workers, who went about their jobs as if they could save everyone. Unselfishly doing what they had to. And failing.

I honour all of these people today.

We need to open our eyes; unite in peace. Closing our doors will only make it worse. We have to try.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

"Cell phones cause trouble in the classroom" - no dah!

According to a story in the Globe and Mail today, cell phones have had to be banned from use in the classrooms of most high schools.

You've got to be kidding! Why is this something that had to be considered? Why would they ever be allowed? "Hang on a sec, Mr. Green. I'll answer you after this call."

Okay, you know, I think we may have taken lack of discipline too far. According to the article, almost all schools have banned their use in the classroom. "Almost all"??!! And one school has changed the rules to allow students to use their phones in the hallways and cafeterias. The reasoning? This way, students won't break the rules and sneak into the washrooms to make calls. They might have camera phones, after all.

Okay, this is nuts. First off, the need for a cellphone in a school is questionable. If you really need to be contacted, there's always the school office. But, there's no reason to assume you can't have one; just don't use it on school property during school hours. If I brought a radio to school, nobody would have cared if it sat in my locker turned off. But there sure would have been issues if I propped it on my desk and turned it on.

And this bit about allowing it in the hallways to prevent people from breaking rules is crazy. If they break the rules, deal with them. They sure didn't allow smoking in the hallways to stop kids from sneaking to the washroom. Now, part of this washroom thing was to deal with bullies. Apparently, some of the new camera phones have been used to bully other students. While I deplore bullying, deal with the bullies. As far as I know, there have always been bullies in washrooms. I would have been very stressed if we dealt with them by giving them an official bullying room instead.

I think its time we unite as a society to deal with kids and discipline.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I'm Angry

I'm angry. I'm very angry. I'm so angry, that I don't know how to react.

Once again, terrorists have taken the lives of innocents. This time, hundreds of children. Suicide bombers seized a school in Russia, holding as many as 1200 hostages - most of them children and their parents. Their demands were unclear, and changed often. I have just read that Russian forces tried to take back the school and hundreds have been killed.

What the hell is wrong with these people? Are they just bent on killing as many people as they can? How do we deal with this? How do we deal with people who don't value anything? All they seem to want to do is exterminate everyone who doesn't belong to their.... what? I can't even define what it is they hate!

The only common denominator to this is that they are all Muslim. They fight under the auspices of protecting their religion. But their own religion abhores the taking of innocent lives. And they kill their own children by strapping bombs to them and using them as human weapons. How do we deal with people who don't even love their own children?

I find myself starting to react badly. I want to believe that these are totally irrational people hiding behind a religion that they don't believe in, but I'm finding that more and more difficult. They don't seem to have any real demands. Their only goal seems to be the complete extermination of non-muslims. And yet they also kill muslims.

I need to hear from Muslim leaders. I need to hear them stand up and decry these actions loudly. I need to hear them tell other Muslims that these are sins they are commiting. They will not be welcome into heaven as martyrs. They are killers, murderes and monsters. And that's how they will be dealt with.

Without these voices, I can see no other path but the one that leads to total mistrust of all muslims. It will come down to self-preservation. When no other path is left, it is in our nature to fight. I'm afraid the rest of the world will have no choice but to attack the muslim world in order to preserve our lives. I don't want this.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Feeling Community

Globe article from July 7th (or 6th) on people's feeling of attachment to community.

A Statscan survey released recently had some interesting results about Canadians' feelings of community. While 85% of those surveyed said they had a very strong or somewhat strong sense of belonging to Canada, only 68% had the same feelings about their local communities. Not surprisingly, the smaller their communities the more likely they were to feel an attachment.

This survey seems to support what I've been feeling - that we are losing touch with our communities. While its great that almost all of us feel "Canadian", we need to localize these feelings. If we can't share a sense of belonging and responsibility with our neighbours, we will continue to lock ourselves away and allow our social constructs to deteriorate.

There is a saying, "It takes a community to raise a child". This is so true. I believe many of the negative feelings we have towards youth and crime have been fueled by this loss of community.

When I was a kid, I knew that if I did something wrong away from my house, there was a good chance I would be dragged to my house by some other parent who would present me to my parents. Similarly, if I needed help, I could find it at almost any door. Today, if you were to bring a child to their house, you can't be sure you wouldn't get assulted by their parents. And kids certainly don't feel comfortable walking up to just anyone's home.

We need to work very hard to take back our communities. We need to reach out and start caring. This will be difficult. There are too many factors that have led us here - both parents working; long commutes taking us away from our homes. We live one place, work another and play in another. But somehow, we need to do this. Its important to realize that feeling Canadian means feeling part of our community.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Organic Governing

I've been reading a book by Bruce Stirling, one of the great observers of humanity, where a not too distant future society has all but dissolved. In its place, are smaller, nomadic societies. These societies exist as functioning groups, completely co-dependent. Everyone has a role and a skill that can be used. Government is dynamic and liquid. It exists when it is needed by the community and changes often. Anyone could have responsibility at any time. And, it worked.

I have seen this on a smaller scale in a shorter time frame, but just as effective. The weekend gathering I attended recently was just such a society. Everyone was responsible and everyone contributed.

I believe this is what we are missing in our larger societies. We no longer feel a part of the solution. We have no real recognized responsibilty or skills. Our participation has been reduced to tax payments, and activity we all resent. How do we give everyone the abilty to 'chip in'? How can we all feel like we are part of what we are building? Give us pride in the results? Make us all instruments of change?

There is no doubt that to do this we need to make huge, wholesale change. Governing can really no longer be a career; it needs to be a necessity and one where everyone understands and reaps the benefits. If we can achieve this, I believe we will have made great steps toward effective communities again.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Wasn't That a Party

My family and I had the privilege and pleasure of participating in one of the most amazing celebrations I have ever been a part of. Friends of mine celebrated their marriage this weekend in a fashion so befitting their own, their families' and their friends' personalities - they transformed a chunk of land in the bush into a glorious outdoor spectacle.

It was the second time around for both of them, so neither really felt the need for a large, formal, opulent wedding. They wanted to celebrate their new chosen lives, and they wanted their families and friends around them. But more than that, they wanted it to be an experience for everyone. They succeeded.

Most of us came for one or two nights, camping on the land surrounding the small lake. We were there as families, to help my friends make this one night something to be remembered.

To transform this land into a wedding chapel, restaurant, reception hall and recreation area was an act of pure human will. A small island on the small lake became the alter. The wooden bridge to the island became a bridal path. The entire area was lit by candles and torches. Almost everything used to decorate or function at the wedding came from the land around.

In keeping with the natural surroundings, the wedding vows were witnessed by a group of Cedar Waxwings, that alighted in the tree above the couple, and a large bullfrog who saw fit to float nearby.

The transformation was an example of community at its best. An attending plumber noticed the cook had to continually leave the tent to get water - poof, there was a sink with running water. The horseshoe pits had no sand in them - poof, there were boxes with sand built around them. The plates were sliced circles of wood from trees that had to come down, covered with flatbread tortillas to cover the rough wood. The decorations were dogwood and pine branches in old plastic milk pails filled with sand. The candles were tea candles in mason jars filled with sand. Christmas lights lined the trees. The food was cooked on a series of barbecues by guests who volunteered under the watch of the chef. The large fire pit kept the night bright and warm. Fireworks closed the night off.

Almost everyone contributed in some way, and that, alone, made the entire event special. We all felt like we more than guests. We were part of the whole. By letting us help with the preparations, it became ours as well. The sense of belonging felt by everyone there was huge. We were all, truly, part of them.

It was an experience that won't be topped anytime soon, and one that I will forever be grateful to have been included in.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The Simple Life vs. Kids Today

Today, both of my oldest mentioned that they might not play baseball next season. Now, understand that they have both played baseball for six years without question. Its been their choice, even though I've coached them since their second season.

I didn't react. Its a long time until next season. But I did muse over the reasons.

They have a new found freedom in our new town. We've pretty much allowed them the free run of the town. They can get on their bikes, skateboards or roller blades and head pretty much anywhere. The advantage of a small town is that everyone knows everyone, and they really can't go anywhere where they won't be known. So, we feel pretty secure allowing them to roam.

I think this might be one of the key reasons. My boys play hardball. The town we are in doesn't have a hardball team. My boys have to play in a neighbouring town, where although they've made friends on the team, they're not the guys they hang out with. In our previous town, they didn't hang out with most of the team either, but neither could they roam freely. So, baseball was one way out of the house a couple of times a week.

One of my boys has also expressed his interest in spending more time perfecting his skateboarding. He feels next summer, he'd like to put more effort into that. Again, where we now live, he can do this. And that's given him the ability to make his own choice.

So here I am with a quandary. I love coaching baseball, but I'm not going to coach if its not my kids. I want to be with my kids. But I can't force them; especially when they are making such mature decisions. We moved here to give them the freedom that they are enjoying. And we've spent their lifetime preparing them to make their own choices.

Sometimes, it appears you can do your job too well.

Oh, I do have another ball player. My youngest plays ball too. But separately, he has said he might prefer to play soccer next year.


Friday, June 18, 2004

Real Monsters

A horrible crime was committed in Toronto over a year ago. It involved the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of a little girl, only ten years old. Today, the killer had his day in court and pleaded guilty to all charges, closing the book on the case.

Some of the facts that came out about the crime are beyond frightening. The sheer randomness of the attack and the time it took for the entire crime leaves you with a feeling of total helplessness to prevent something similar. As a parent, it makes me want to tie the strings even tighter.

This particular guy, was a time bomb. By his own admission, this was a fantasy he had his entire life. This particular night, after viewing child porn on the Internet, he acted. He stepped out his door, saw this girl, grabbed her, dragged her into his house, raped her, and killed her in a period of twenty-five minutes! By the time her parents had begun to get concerned about her absence, she had already been dead for half an hour.

The role that child porn played in this crime will be the source of much discussion for years to come. Suffice it to say, it will likely, rightfully, lead to tougher penalties handed out to possessors, distributors and creators of child porn. Good!

But another, more disturbing issue has been raised. There is a call for penalties to be handed out to ISP's who distribute child porn. Now, any ISP that knowingly distributes such material, either directly or through knowledge of one of its clients, should be penalized. Penalized with all the force available to the law. But, the mere fact that their service was used is not a crime. If people use that service for illegal activities, and hide that fact from their ISP, the ISP cannot be held responsible.

I may be sensitive because this is my industry, but think of the similar case in non-Internet terms. Is the postal service responsible for the contents of its packages? Is the telephone company responsible for the content of the phone calls carried out on its lines? The postal service, being a government operation, actually has the right (I think) to open its packages. The phone company has to be ordered by a legal power.

An ISPs business is probably more closely related to a public storage facility. The storage facility's contract specifically tells you that you can't use their facilities for illegal purposes, but beyond that, they really can't do anything. If you store stolen goods there, they are not the ones who committed the crimes. In fact, I don't even believe that they can open the unit to look.

The Internet scares people. But it is not the problem. We need to focus on the real criminals. With child porn, we really need to go after the producers; they are hurting children. Go after the distributors - the ones who know they are distributing it. Go after the consumers - they fuel the demand. But you can't attack the medium. That would be like banning paper because it was used to publish illegal magazines.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

New Government / Old System

As our election day fast approaches, I find myself having a very difficult time deciding on where my vote should go. Now, I have never failed to vote in my twenty-five years of being able to, but I find myself considering it.

The problem is, our governmental system doesn't work anymore. It is quite likely that a government will be elected that doesn't represent the majority of the voters. And in our parliamentary system, the local representative you elect will not represent you once elected. They will tow the party line under partisan politics.

When transportation systems and communication systems were such that it was difficult to hear what the people wanted, representative government by geographic region made sense. The smaller populations made it work. Partisan politics were necessary to get anything done, and the people that elected those politicians trusted them to do what was best for them.

Not any more. We don't trust those politicians. They frequently say one thing and once elected, do another. And, if the party changes its platform, the representative goes along with it.

I think its time we changed the way we do this. This system is based on geographical and political factors that no longer exist. Its time for elected officials to be responsible to those who elected them - not the party. A democracy should not elect a dictator every four or five years. There are smarter people than me that study and design governmental systems. Let's get them to do this.

Its time for real change!

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Simple Life

Recently, my family and I moved away from the busy, crowded suburbs of Toronto to Tavistock, a small town over an hour from the metropolis. By small town, I mean less than 3000 people. The nearest, large centre is about a half an hour's drive away.

We didn't enter into this lightly. Our quality of life had been suffering badly over the ten plus years in the shadow of the GTA. Stress and claustrophobia were playing havoc on our moods and energy levels. But, everywhere we looked to move were either still too expensive (i.e. commutable to Toronto) or truly in the middle of nowhere.

Tavistock turned out to be the greatest compromise we could find. Although we originally considered it to be in the middle of nowhere, on further examination, it appeared to be in the middle of everywhere - and far enough away to still be a small town.

Still, moving to a town this small is a little scary. You know no one, and everyone knows you. If you don't get along with the townsfolk, you are pretty much screwed. And what if everyone proves to be hayseed hicks or rejects from 'Fargo'?

Our fears proved to be unwarranted. Far from being ignorant, uneducated simpletons, we've discovered a sophisticated population - more so than I've seen anywhere else I've lived. People here, want to be here. They've chosen this life rather than been trapped in it. Like us, they've decided to put far more value on living their lives in a fashion far more focused on family and community than on obtaining social stature and monetary success.

There are more entrepreneurs in this town than I've ever seen in one place. There are far more of them at home during the day, enjoying their homes, yards and community. They work to live rather than live to work. Doing their own thing gives them the freedom to work at the pace they need.

I like this. For the first time, I desire to become part of the community; to work with the community; to give back to that community. I am looking forward to this simple life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Kids Today

I accompanied my boys and their grade six class on a field trip today. It was my first time to do the parent volunteer thing. I found the kids to be unbelievably good to one another. They seemed to have no divisions by social stature, and seemed to get along great.

I don't know if this has to do with the small town attitude (I recently moved my entire to a very small town), or that in general kids today are just better than they used to be. I remember kids being very non-tolerant, looking for weakness to exploit, and very divided on social scales. Granted, this was much worse in high school, and these kids are middle school, but I'm sure I remember it even then.

I will admit to the possibility that what I remember is badly tainted by my own social limitations, but I don't think so. After all, it was my generation that created "The Breakfast Club".

This experience just added to my already growing belief that kids today are just generally better with each other than they used to be. I've seen it at sports, at social events and now at school.

I hope I'm right. They are our future, and it could be a very good future.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Politicians and 'My' Canada

The Liberals are trying to turn the election into one that hinges on Canadian culture and identity. They would have us believe that if the new Conservatives are elected, they will destroy the foundations that make us Canadian.

Now, there may actually be some validity in that fear, but what makes them think I believe that they are the protectors of my Canada?

Their own advertisements talk about Canadians looking after each other. How exactly were they looking after us as they recklessly mis-spent our money? The HRDC, under the Liberals, lost millions of dollars. When I say lost, I mean misplaced - they don't know where it went. Their (our) leader of the time responded with a shrug, saying it was only a couple of million. And we don't even need to mention the advertising scandal - that may even have been criminal.

They also like to bring up how they will save health care. Conveniently, they like to forget that it was they (the Liberals) who cut the health care transfer payments to the provinces, starting the mess the system is now in.

Thanks for looking after me, fellow Canadian!

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Global Workgroup

I am a believer in community. As a species, we have survived and developed through strong collaboration — information sharing is crucial to our success. The Internet has provided a method of communication unparalleled in history. Through this medium, we can explore, share, question, dream and learn.

Open Source is a movement that is built on our desire - our need - to share. It makes the creative process into a shared experience, transcending borders, languages and cultures. And it encourages advancement. Its open communication is exactly what this world needs to begin solving its differences.

We need to expand the Open Source concepts into more of our industries and arts - especially those that directly affect our growth - health and education.

To do this, we need to reinvent some of our social and commercial platforms that we've built our societies on. Understandably, many industries and leaders see Open Source as a threat to their well-being. Instead of fighting, we need to work to redefine these platforms so we can create new businesses that allow the freedom and growth of Open Source. I encourage you to share your ideas on these concepts.