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.