MORNINGS LIKE THIS

 
I was reflecting this morning, as I stood in line, that the crowds are changing in the airports. It is early in the morning and usually it is business travellers. This morning there were lightly dressed travellers, flip flops and shorts despite the -6 and snow. Children, bleary eyed, miserable and wondering ‘Why am I out of bed?’.
 
And of course, longer lines as the once a year traveller makes that annual journey to the south, clogging up the security lines with their "Really, I didn’t know that I had to pack that?" looks and questions.
 
Can’t wait to be in that line ….

ON TIGER AND RULES

 

I have to admit that I was surprised by the Vanity Fair article on Tiger Woods, ‘Tiger in the Rough’. The details paint a very interesting picture of his dual life and how his image was so perfectly managed by his handlers (the specific content of the article must mean that they are confident in accuracy, or they would not risk the lawsuit). The summary captures it all:

In the end it was the age-old clash of image versus reality, the compartmentalization of two different lives that inevitably merge at some certain point, whoever you are. He exhibited the same superhuman confidence off the golf course that he exhibited on it, apparently convinced he would never be caught despite the stupid sloppiness at the end—text messages, voice-mail messages. He deluded himself into thinking he could be something that he wasn’t: untouchable. The greatest feat of his career is that he managed to get away with it for so long in public, the bionic man instead of the human one who hit a fire hydrant.

The Cheap Seats surprised me again with an old quote of what his dad thought he was:

But what makes it such a spectacular fall from grace — and probably a bit unfair — is just how perfect the aura of Tiger has been for more than a decade.

"Please forgive me…but sometimes I get very emotional…when I talk about my son…. My heart…fills with so…much…joy…when I realize…that this young man…is going to be able…to help so many people…. He will transcend this game…and bring to the world…a humanitarianism…which has never been known before. The world will be a better place to live in…by virtue of his existence…and his presence…. I acknowledge only a small part in that…in that I know that I was personally selected by God himself…to nurture this young man…and bring him to the point where he can make his contribution to humanity…. This is my treasure…. Please accept it…and use it wisely…. Thank you."

When your dad talks about you like this, as Earl Woods did to Sports Illustrated back in 1996, you’re either going to fail to meet these oh-so-modest expectations OR have a religion founded in your name.

In the end, it all comes down to that old rule of ‘whiter than white’. If you say you are one thing firmly – to everyone, are not willing to take feedback – acting above it all and then act in another way, eventually it will catch up with you.

This tumble from grace is just as big as others. The difference is, so many people believed it. One could argue, that the game of golf for the last 15 years has been built on it.

ONLY IN CANADA: THE RIM ROLLER

 

Being an avid gardener, one of my first tasks when we moved back was to put in a Lee Valley Tools order – a Canadian gem of a company, that is for sure. Putting an order in, I was back on the mailing list and the Christmas catalogue is in.

I had to laugh as I thumbed through the catalogue and came to the Rim Roller. For my European friends, there is a phenomenon in Canada around coffee and donuts, it is called Tim Horton’s. A chain started by a famous hockey player and insanely successful, part of the culture. They are everywhere, on every corner and it seems that every single one is busy. Personally, I think a big part of their success is the fact that they have diversified so effectively. I do not like the coffee, but they have fantastic fresh sandwiches.

On a regular basis, they run their ‘Roll up the Rim to Win’ program where you roll the rim of your cup and can win prizes. But these rims can be a bit tricky … well, no more thanks to the Rim Roller:

                                                     

Definitely only in Canada.

THE FIRST SNOW

 

While the West has enjoyed a super cold start to the winter (which is good, as the Olympics are coming to the West), it only hit this week. It is fascinating how the first snow fall results in gridlock as people turn on their ‘driving in the snow’ brain. It would appear that this also applies to trucks.

This was the scene on Wednesday on Highway 400. I don’t think anyone was hurt.

Highway 400 Jacknife

Highway 400 Accident

With the introduction of the new cell phone ban in cars and the hands free mandate, I wonder if my clicking that picture was illegal?

$400

 

The very first snow of the year. I have been dreading it.

The good thing? $400.  That is the price to have my driveway and steps snow ploughed for the entire year. How does he make money? I have no idea (except through volume). I could not get my check book out fast enough.

The price of my dual stage, electric start, self propelled monster snow blower that I just took out of storage?   $1600 new.

The value of not having to ever touch this snow blower when it hits –30 degrees C and have the opportunity to let my father-in-law borrow it for the winter?   Priceless!

I would gladly walk away from the investment in updating the boys ski equipment for a mild winter. The one thing I just did not miss … Winter.

TO CUT A DASH IN KOWLOON

 

Read a great article in GQ about buying high quality suits in Hong Kong – at a very reasonable price. The place is called ‘Sam’s’ in Kowloon – a quick ferry ride away and custom suits for HK $2000 ($400).

Only thing, never been to Hong Kong …. Although looking through the ‘Who has shopped here list’, it is quite the place.

image

A DOG, A COUCH AND THE FREE MASONS

Part of the move back to Canada was the repatriation of many of our items from storage – one being our dining room set. We bought the set while living in our very first home, a 140 year old beautiful Victorian home called ‘Gordon Hall’ that we refinished from top to bottom.

It was a grand home, 11 foot ceilings, all plaster walls, original windows which were not well insulated but had a patina to them when the light hit them in the evening thanks to their hand crafted and imperfect nature. While in the house we started to look for a dining room set that would fit.  The dining room was huge, and a ‘new’ set would not look right so we started to look around antique shops and spread the word.

During that time we also became proud parents of Bram – our lab. I had always wanted a dog. Bram was amazing and like all dogs he had a few ‘foibles’. One being that he liked to lay on his back as a puppy and put his head under the couch while I sat watching TV. What I didn’t realize was that while he was doing that he was also chewing the front of the couch. So, after we finally realized this and corrected his behaviour, we set about getting it fixed – by a local upholster – Paul.

For the record … how Bram liked to sleep.

Brams Puppy Approach to Sleeping

Paul was a great guy and while we were talking to him we noticed that he refinished a lot of furniture so we mentioned our need of a dining room set. He knew our house, the old Victorian style and said he would keep an eye out. Late one Sunday night Paul showed up at our door with his cube van. He said he had ‘our set’. He had been at auction and came across a 10 piece set that was truly unique. It was 110 years old, solid mahogany with a china cabinet with snaked ‘S’ glass and a side cupboard that is 8 feet long and about 400 lbs. The widow demanded that it be sold as a set and he bought it for himself. When he got home, it would not fit.

We bought it on the spot.

Unfortunately, as it came out of storage (we stored it while in Europe), it took a beating. Turns out that when they store your stuff it is as individual pieces that are moved around frequently and despite it being packaged (but not crated), there were chips, cracks and damage. Annoying but also the impetus to get it refinished for the first time in a century.

While we were giving it a quick check over with the refinisher, we came across this business card in one of the drawers. Amazing, from a time past. Note the phone number and the text on the back. Knowing that the Masonic temple is a super secret society, this is obviously an oversight on behalf of Mr. Fitzgerald.

Dining Room Card 1

Dining Room Card Back

I can just imagine him trying to type this on an old type writer, the card not fitting and slipping as he tried to knock out the last line. Who are the Princes of Libanus? Turns out it is a Chivalric degree (22) in the Free Mason hierarchy. Not knowing much about Free Masons, I began to read. Interesting society, with an interesting list of requirements for joining:

Generally, to be a regular Freemason, a candidate must:[21]

  • Be a man who comes of his own free will.
  • Believe in a Supreme Being (the form of which is left to open interpretation by the candidate).
  • Be at least the minimum age (from 18–25 years old depending on the jurisdiction).
  • Be of good morals, and of good reputation.
  • Be of sound mind and body (Lodges had in the past denied membership to a man because of a physical disability; however, now, if a potential candidate says a disability will not cause problems, it will not be held against him).
  • Be free-born (or “born free”, i.e. not born a slave or bondsman).[57] As with the previous, this is entirely an historical holdover, and can be interpreted in the same manner as it is in the context of being entitled to write a will. Some jurisdictions have removed this requirement.
  • Be capable of furnishing character references, as well as one or two references from current Masons, depending on jurisdiction.

Deviation from one or more of these requirements is generally the barometer of Masonic regularity or irregularity. However, an accepted deviation in some regular jurisdictions is to allow a Lewis (the son of a Mason)[58] to be initiated earlier than the normal minimum age for that jurisdiction, although no earlier than the age of 18.

Some Grand Lodges in the United States have an additional residence requirement, candidates being expected to have lived within the jurisdiction for a certain period of time, typically six months.[59]

Fascinating stuff … as is the list of people who were Free Masons.

U2

 

We had the good fortune to see the U2 concert last week. As always, Bono and team entertained. Although I found myself wishing they would stop playing new songs and go back to their classics. As a fan, I would love a best hits tour. But for some reason, I don’t think that Bono believes that his best years are behind him quite yet.

IMG00002-20090917-2135

Not their best concert (I enjoyed their previous tour better), but leave it up to Bono to educate. I did not realize the plight of Burma’s imprisoned leader Aung San Suu Kyi:

Aung San Suu Kyi AC (Burmese AungSanSuuKyi1.png; MLCTS=aung hcan: cu. krany[citation needed]; IPA: [àunsʰánsṵtʃì]), born 19 June 1945 in Rangoon, is an opposition politician and general secretary of the National League for Democracy in Burma (Myanmar). Aung San Suu Kyi was the third child in her family. Her name is derived from three relatives; "Aung San" from her father, "Kyi" from her mother and "Suu" from her grandmother.[5] Suu Kyi won the Rafto Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In 1992 she was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding by the Government of India. She is still under detention in Myanmar, and has been for almost 14 out of the past 20 years.[6] In the 1990 general election, Suu Kyi was elected Prime Minister, as leader of the winning National League for Democracy party, which won 59% of the vote and 394 of 492 seats. Her subsequent detention by the military junta prevented her from assuming office.

Like him or not, it was a powerful message that he sent to 62,000 people.

ONTARIO WEATHER

 

Most people would agree these days that the weather is a little unpredictable in Ontario. A few weeks ago there was a freak storm that whipped through the province. I happened to be sitting on the highway as it hit Toronto. The rain was so thick I could barely see the car in front of me and the lightning was like nothing I have ever seen before. Huge strikes every 30 seconds or so for a sustained period (30 minutes).

At one point, I happened to snap a few with the camera on my phone. Not the greatest quality, but they capture the storm that was approaching the car.

IMAG0001

IMAG0003

IMAG0005

Wild storm. Now I just hope that the September weather holds. Nice to finally have summer ….

READERS DIGEST ON THE EDGE

 

The news today that Reader’s Digest will file for Chapter 11 is sad news. Now, I know, the literary elite look at Reader’s Digest with disdain. It is not the New Yorker and many will question the policy of condensing other magazine’s articles into short – to the point articles.

For me, I will admit, I enjoy reading it. I don’t subscribe, but when we go to my mother-in-laws, I grab the back copies (that she often saves for me) and read away. I love the way they troll through the news of today, providing sound bites on everything from health to business, with the requisite human interest ‘miracle’ story thrown in there to inspire.

I hope it survives. It would be a sad thing if it didn’t. After all, who wouldn’t miss Word Power? (smile).

HOW TO BEHAVE

 

Wired has a great article this month: How to Behave: New Rules for Highly Evolved Humans. A few of my favourites:

  • Choose the right ringtone. Sad to say, I am ‘Default Ringtone’. I really wanted to be Van Halen.
  • Ditch the headset. Amen to that – they could not be more right, walking around with a Bluetooth headset in, is truly an ‘ear mullet’.
  • Don’t work all the time, you’ll live to regret it. All about balance – work hard, play hard.
  • I don’t agree with Leaving Your Wi-Fi open. I know a guy who LOVES people who leave their wi-fi open. He uses their bandwidth, and if he is feeling like it, plays around inside that network. No thanks. As for that ‘guy’, he knows who he is.
  • This analysis is scary – American’s spend 9 hours a day glued to a screen:

I also enjoyed the rule torrent, which is listed here. A few favourites (they are around the edge in small print):

  • Don’t quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail at a funeral. Stick to Life of Brian.
  • Back up your hard drive. Right now. (So true. I still hear people moan when they lose their drive. With DVDs at $.25/per, no excuse).
  • Turn off "Sent from my iPhone" email signatures. (or Blackberry, or PALM or whatever)
  • Don’t send out a follow-up email apologizing for a typo in a previous email. (I almost did that yesterday)
  • Ask for free tech support only from immediate family or significant others. (Or only give it to the aforementioned)
  • Never read the manual first.
  • Nobody cares how good your uncompressed audio files are.
  • Kill your zombie brother. He’s not your brother. He’s a zombie. (If you don’t know how to kill a zombie, read this book).

A good read. Thanks Brad Pitt.

THE RECESSION IS OVER ACCORDING TO MARK CARNEY, BANK OF CANADA

 

According to the Bank of Canada, the recession is over. However, according to the Bank of Canada’s governor Mark Carney:

  • “Unemployment will continue to rise”
  • “the higher Canadian dollar, as well as ongoing restructuring in key industrial sectors, is significantly moderating the pace of overall growth." (In other words, people are still losing jobs)
  • Carney said the prospect of "extreme financial risk from beyond our borders" is no longer an issue, but the recovery is not certain.

I am confused Mark. The recession is over but people will continue to lose jobs?

As a person who does not have Mark’s financial knowledge, I find it hard to rationalize his statements considering last night’s round of earnings releases; American Express, Microsoft, Amazon all report dramatic declines, Citibank is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and the UK GDP shrunk significantly more than anticipated. While there are some very good high high points (Intel’s earnings, Ford making a profit), one has to wonder if it is really ‘over’. After all, even with the highlight of Ford, a quick read uncovers a significant truth:

  • The car maker reported a profit of $2.3 billion, though that came mainly from gains it recorded as part of efforts to restructure its debt during the quarter. Excluding those gains, Ford would have reported a loss of $424 million, still narrower than a comparable loss of $1.03 billion a year earlier and much better than Wall Street analysts were expecting.

The US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had this to say:

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke in his semi-annual address before the House Financial Services Committee on 21-22/07/2009 said that he believes there have been “notable improvements” in the U.S. economy lately because the lowering of interest rates and creation of financial programs have provided a support to the economy.

However, the economy will remain weak for some time and unemployment will keeps on rising throughout 2009 before getting better in 2010 and even till 2011. He also pointed out that the economic recovery depends primarily on the improvement of the labor market and the health of the U.S. consumer.

The general consensus is that the worse is over and we will see a slow and painful recovery from now. The price to pay is quite exorbitant and the country is indebted to the hilt with a staggering amount of $12 trillion or 85% of GDP. Nonetheless, we have seen worse during the 40s under Truman administration when the U.S. entered WWII and at the same time ended the Great Depression. The percentage of national debt/GDP peaked at 120% then. Somehow, we managed to bring down it down to 30% at the end of the Carter administration. So there is still hope that history will repeat.

As Bernanke has said, a full recovery depends mainly on employment and U.S. consumer but both factors are still in the red, people are struggling to make ends meet, let alone to consume. The Fed chairman insinuates that we may find trading partners in Asia, for instance in…China to substitute our own domestic demand. That would be quite an irony.

Of note, the US housing crisis continues to churn along with speculation that we have not seen the worst:

RealtyTrac® (realtytrac.com), the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, today released its Midyear 2009 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, which shows a total of 1,905,723 foreclosure filings — default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — were reported on 1,528,364 U.S. properties in the first six months of 2009, a 9 percent increase in total properties from the previous six months and a nearly 15 percent increase in total properties from the first six months of 2008. The report also shows that 1.19 percent of all U.S. housing units (one in 84) received at least one foreclosure filing in the first half of the year.

And of course, like all good weather forecasters (who are really just guessing), Mark provided the following closing comment:

  • But "significant upside and downside risks remain to the inflation projection," particularly from the volatile loonie, the bank said.

Way to go Mark – forecast both possibilities. The good thing, for those of us with a mortgage, interest rates are not going up it would appear:

  • Bank of Canada maintains overnight rate target at 1/4 per cent and reiterates conditional commitment to hold current policy rate until the end of the second quarter of 2010

We live in interesting times. The fight goes on.

AMAZED

 

I love watching Canada Geese. They are beautiful birds. Since starting my job back in Canada weeks ago I have been fascinated by these Geese as they wander outside the office. They seem oblivious to cars and people, with the parents walking the kids across very busy streets at all times of the day. People are attentive and slow down, but you have to worry that one will get hit.

All the while they remain so calm, like we are not even bothering them ……

IMAGE_023[1]

A FEW REFLECTIONS FROM THIS WEEKEND

 

Another beautiful weekend in Ontario (I do love the sun). A friend told me that the UK is having a heat wave – which was something that we never experienced. I love the UK weather, but a tan was not in the cards. While enjoying the sun, a few things came to mind:

  • I have a new lawn. Being male, I have a chromosome that drives me to have a nice – weed free – green lawn. All males have it. In Ontario, weed killer is now banned and the previous owner was able to deny is internal drive to keep his lawn weed free. This means that the dentist on the left of me has a really nice lawn, the people on the right have a really nice lawn and I have dandelions. Now, I think dandelions and thistles are quite pretty in a country setting. But as part of my lawn, they are irritating. I have an old weed picking tool from Lee Valley Tools that is calling out to me. But I wish that I had not given away the contents of my old tool shed … it was full of ‘labour free’ tools to eliminate weeds.
  • Amazon was one of my favourite sites in the UK. Because the retail experience was so painful, I did everything I could to buy online. The latest addition to the Amazon site was DRM free MP3s. I love DRM free. DRM bugs me on all levels. I should not have to pay for a song and then be unable to use it on all my computers or devices. Amazon in Canada does not have DRM free. In fact, other than going to the much loathed iTunes, it does not appear that anyone has DRM free. And the record companies wonder why people download the music for free?
  • WIRED had an article on the new Terminator movie recently (appears to be a must rent). In it, McG (director) talked about how he made everyone read the Pulitzer Prize winning book ‘The Road’ to get a real feel for what it would be like in a post nuclear world. The book follows a father and son as they trek across the wasteland on their way to the coast. Very ‘Mad Max’, only grimmer – much grimmer. I read the book Saturday night and did not sleep well. What was most disturbing about the book is that it felt so real – everything in it made me think ‘Yep, this is absolutely what it could be like’. Personally, if it comes to that, count me out.

Very appreciative of that fact that I only have to worry about weeds in the lawn.

 

ON PATIENCE

 

When your family belongings are somewhere on the Atlantic, it becomes a little trying on the nerves. I realized that it was getting to me last week after the lawyer incident, followed by the renovator not showing up when I arranged to have the house opened for him, among other things (like not having black shoe polish but knowing that you have 10 bottles of it on a ship).

Funny how it is the little, stupid things that nibble at the edges and frustrate disproportionately if you are not carefully watching. Time to start working out again, now if I could just find my water bottle ……

 

THE TRIALS OF TED HAGGARD AND A FEW OTHERS

 

When you are travelling across the ocean once or twice (or in my case – a lot over the last 2 months), you get caught up on the latest movies (I figure I can churn through about 100 emails per movie). The International, Marley & Me (which made me want another lab), The Wrestler (My brother will be crushed, he always thought wrestling was real), Valkyrie (which I turned off after an hour – when you know the outcome why bother?), to name a few.

But two shows left me unsettled:

  • Taken: The story of an ex-CIA agent searching for his daughter who was abducted by Albanian criminals who sell women as slaves. Liam Neeson slowly churns his way through the bad guys to find his daughter just before she disappears forever. In the end, the obvious happens. But what I found unsettling was the fact that this stuff actually happens. We all know that the slave trade still exists, that eastern bloc women come to the west with a promise of a job as a maid and are forced into other things. Very unsettling movie.
  • The Trials of Ted Haggard: I know this is a big deal, and it is bound to be a topic that people get very emotional about. I did not know the story but can recall the noise around this one. If you are not familiar with it, read it here. To summarize, preacher rises to fame, preacher commits a sin which becomes very public and falls from grace. A story played out over, over and over again. What was disturbing about this one is how he was dealt with it. The HBO documentary follows him and his family around as he tries to find a new way, after being banned from his home. He is not like some of the other famous preachers that we have all read about who have the million dollar homes and associated luxuries. He comes across as a rather humble man (obviously assisted by his current circumstances). But I was left wondering, what about forgiveness? Why was he banned from his home and state for a year and a half? You watch as the man and his family are slowly but surely torn down, brick by brick with not many forgiving souls nearby.

One final movie which I hummed and hawed about watching but must absolutely recommend is Frost/Nixon. Great insight into one of this centuries most dubious characters and how a talk show host brought out a confession when every newsperson in the world couldn’t even get close.

STAR TREK MOVIE

 

I am absolutely going to catch the new Star Trek flick as soon as I can (but not willing to fight the dude dressed like Spock for a place in line). I am busy trying to explain to my boys what Star Trek is. While not a Trekkie, I did grow up with it and love Sci Fi. And of course, who didn’t think that William Shatner was one of most awesome over-actors in the world?

A MEMORABLE DAY

 
For many the cat is out of the bag. For those that have not found out yet, I quote Charles Dickens and Great Expectations:
That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day’
I will not be blogging for some weeks as my family has set down the wonderful path of another exciting change. Cheerio.

A MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: METRIC AS AN ECONOMIC STIMULUS

 

Like anyone else in the world who reads a newspaper, I could not help but notice the US budget with the many placeholders for pet political projects.

My message to President Obama: Implement metric. Think about it. The US will be spending all kinds of money on bridges, pet projects and other stimuli, so why not metric? If the US government were to impose a quick conversion to metric, it would have a huge economic impact, businesses and government agencies around the country began working on the project. A few impacts:

  • Computers systems would need to be prepared, replaced or revamped. Think Y2K – which had a WW cost estimated at $300B.
  • Across the country, signs would need to be changed from miles to KM.
  • School books would need to be reprinted, education programs would need to be updated.
  • Every piece of product packaging that included weight or volume would need updating.

The impact would be huge. President Obama, think about it. You know where you can reach me if you need more ideas ….

PASSCHENDAELE

 

I was told recently that if you fly over the north of France from Britain you can still see the trenches of WWI – fields upon fields of trenches of hell. I came across the Canadian film Passchendaele by chance the other day. Being a Canadian film, you never know what you will get – and I was surprised. It was incredibly moving. The final scene says it all, a small town grave yard with white tombstones crossing up and over the hill.

File:Chateau Wood Ypres 1917.jpg

The Sunday Telegraph had an article a few month back on Canada’s contributions to the world, wars and peace keeping.        Salute to a brave and modest nation, Sunday Telegraph:

Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops are deployed in the region. And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the world, as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.. It seems that Canada’s historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored. Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge  of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts. For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved. Yet it’s purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy.
Almost 10% of Canada ‘s entire population of seven million people  served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died.

The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle. Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, it’s  unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the  popular Memory as somehow or other the work of the ‘British.’  The Second World  War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack.  More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone. Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth largest air force in the world.

The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had  the previous time.   Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign inwhich  the United States had clearly not participated – a  touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity. So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality – unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British.   It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to  be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as  unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.

Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say  of themselves – and are unheard by anyone else – that  1% of the world’s population has provided 10% of the world’s peacekeeping forces. Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth – in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on  non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia. Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in  Somalia, in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace – a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit. So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan?   Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun. It is the  Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This past year more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.

Lest we forget.

GOING TO THE AIRPORT – BRING PACKING TAPE

 

I was early for my flight and the flight before was not closed so I had to wait 10 minutes so that ‘I would not lose my bags’ (according the check in lady in Barcelona).

What did I do for those 10 minutes? Well, I tried to read but could not because of this guy and his 10 minute packing tape work right in front of me.

IMAG0040

Why you ask? I know I was wondering that. The luggage looked fine. Buckles were all in shape because he tested them in front of me. He double checked the lock. I observed no cracks. Yet, he used the better part of a roll of packing tape to make that case air tight.

Maybe he has something super valuable in it? Or maybe the answer is buried in this question:

Why do people wear suspenders with a belt?

I will never know.

MAN MUCKING AROUND WITH NATURE: Macquarie Island

 

Australian friends have told me about the problems with non-native animals on their continent, the rabbit problem being the largest and most famous of stories. In Ontario, it is the Zebra Mussel (which has killed out a lot of lake life but really cleared up the water) and the imminent threat of the Asian Carp, spotted miles from Lake Michigan and making their way north – slowly but surely.

The International Herald Tribune had an article on the Macquarie Islands today titled ‘The unintended consequences of changing nature’s balance’. A fascinating read on man introducing new animals and then attempting to unravel the mistake with unintended consequences:

In 1985, Australian scientists kicked off an ambitious plan: to kill off non-native cats that had been prowling the island’s slopes since the early 19th century. The program began out of apparent necessity — the cats were preying on native burrowing birds. Twenty-four years later, a team of scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division and the University of Tasmania reports that the cat removal unexpectedly wreaked havoc on the island ecosystem.

With the cats gone, the island’s rabbits (also non-native) began to breed out of control, ravaging native plants and sending ripple effects throughout the ecosystem. The findings were published in the Journal of Applied Ecology online in January.

"Our findings show that it’s important for scientists to study the whole ecosystem before doing eradication programs," said Arko Lucieer, a University of Tasmania remote-sensing expert and a co-author of the paper. "There haven’t been a lot of programs that take the entire system into account. You need to go into scenario mode: ‘If we kill this animal, what other consequences are there going to be?’ "

With our World Is Flat reality, one has to wonder if this really is just the beginning?

THEIR DARKEST HOUR

Their Darkest Hour: People Tested to the Extreme in WWII by Laurence Rees

 

While travelling to a lovely airport hotel on the outskirts of Paris for a business review a few weeks ago I stopped in a book shop and felt compelled to buy Their Darkest Hour by Laurence Rees. The book jacket describes the contents as follows:

How could Nazi killers shoot Jewish women and children at close range? Why did Japanese soldiers rape and murder on such a horrendous scale? How was it possible to endure the torment of a Nazi death camp?

Award-winning documentary maker and historian Laurence Rees has spent nearly 20 years wrestling with these questions in the course of filming hundreds of interviews with people tested to the extreme during World War II. He has come face-to-face with rapists, mass murderers, even cannibals, but he has also met courageous individuals who are an inspiration to us all.

It is an engrossing read, with the 35 interviews containing portraits of monsters who are now ordinary grandfathers and grandmothers, living their lives. Time and time again, the atrocities and sins of the past are explained away as a different time, with many looking back at the events as if it happened to a different person. At least, that was my first reaction.

The stories that shocked me the most were not the Japanese slaughter of the Chinese, Stalin’s atrocities or the German actions towards Jews and others. They are disturbing, but believable because they are well publicized and what we have come to expect. The most shocking were the Allied stories:

  • pg. 54:  (US Marines)

‘We did not ever take a Japanese prisoner,’ said Eagleton simply. ‘In the two years that I was overseas I saw no prisoner every taken …. Once thirty or forty of them came out with their hands up. There were killed on the spot because we didn’t take prisoners’

  • pr. 112-113: referencing the BBC2 documentary ‘A British Betrayal’ that Rees wrote.

World War II is looked on by many readers as a uniquely moral war – a conflict in which the good guys behaved well and the bad guys behaved badly. Indeed, in Britain it is almost the period by which we define ourselves: our values, our beliefs and our sense of self can all be traced in large measure back to those years. All of which makes it more inconvenient that there exist moments in this history when the good guys did not behave well – moments, in fact, when the good guys behaved very badly indeed. And the circumstances surrounding the handover by the British to the Soviets in 1945 of around 42,000 Cossacks make for particularly disturbing reading.

…. a reminder of a reality that we sometimes forget. Just because a decision has a catastrophic impact on thousands of people, it doesn’t necessarily need to have had any real effect on the handful of people who made it.

The final page sums up where I finally ended up, reflecting on the experiences of the 35 (pg. 278):

If most people’s character and beliefs are more susceptible to change with circumstances than we might think, it also follows that we have to consider the testimony in this book with humility. ‘That’s the trouble with life today,’ one former Nazi once said to me, ‘people who have never been tested go around making judgements about people who have been tested’ And whilst this sentiment did not stop me condemning this man’s wartime actions, his words did make me think more carefully before confronting the question: ‘What would I have done?’

In the end each of us has to decide for ourselves how we might change were circumstances to alter. Maybe terrible adversity would bring out the best in us, or, just maybe, it would reveal the worst. What do you think? What would you have done?

Reminds me of the story I learned in Sunday School where Peter denies knowing Jesus. And as one person said in the book, ‘I wasn’t brave enough to be a martyr.’

What would I have done? Humility, for sure.

PLEASE: NO MORE SARCASTIC CANADIAN EMAILS

 

To all of my Canadian and American friends who have thought it necessary to send me a sarcastic note about the ‘Great Blizzard of Britain’, you can now stop. I have not forgotten what a Canadian winter is like and I agree, 5 inches of fluffy white snow that gracefully falls to the ground in fluffy looking white bunny bunches is not the driving sleet of Highway 400 risking a 100 car pile-up.

I get it.

That being said, my favourite email was to Narda and is a study in subtlety, enjoy:

Subject: ‘Blizzard’

So sorry to hear about your 10 centimetres of snow.

 

To each of you who emailed me, I have only one response: ‘So sorry to hear about your next 6 weeks. Our snow is almost gone’ (wink)

THE POWER OF SLEEP

 

You can read many things about the power of sleep with most concluding the same thing – you need a minimum amount of sleep to be healthy.

In the article ‘3 Smart Things About Sleeping Late’ (Wired, December), they make some very interesting points:

1 // You may need more sleep than you think.
Research by Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders Center found that people who slept eight hours and then claimed they were "well rested" actually performed better and were more alert if they slept another two hours. That figures. Until the invention of the lightbulb (damn you, Edison!), the average person slumbered 10 hours a night.

2 // Night owls are more creative.
Artists, writers, and coders typically fire on all cylinders by crashing near dawn and awakening at the crack of noon. In one study, "evening people" almost universally slam-dunked a standardized creativity test. Their early-bird brethren struggled for passing scores.

3 // Rising early is stressful.
The stress hormone cortisol peaks in your blood around 7 am. So if you get up then, you may experience tension. Grab some extra Zs! You’ll wake up feeling less like Bert, more like Ernie.

As a night owl myself, I could not agree more. I loved spending sleeping in during the holidays. I can still remember sitting up until 2AM studying in first year University, then coming out of my room and joining a few buddies in the common room to catch a late night re-run of Magnum P.I. 

That being said, I can guarantee you, if we would have had an XBOX 360 we would not have been watching Magnum PI.

 

Technorati Tags: ,

SPEAKING OF EXPECTATIONS

 

I had the good fortune to read the book Great Expectations by Charles Dickens over the break. Thoroughly enjoyed it. What I did not realize is that it was a week by week serial (the Young & Restless or Eastenders of the time):

Great Expectations is a novel by Charles Dickens first serialised in All the Year Round[1] from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. It is regarded as one of his greatest and most sophisticated novels, and is one of his most enduringly popular, having been adapted for stage and screen over 250 times.

A few quotes stuck with me, make of them what you will:

‘Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself. Cleanliness is next to Godliness and some people do the same by their religion.’ page 23

‘That was a memorable day for me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chaining of iron or golf, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link of one memorable day.’ page 72

‘throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise’  page 218

‘In the little world in which children have their existence whosever bring them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and it rocking horse stands many hand high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish Hunter’  page 6

HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

Another interesting, unique and exciting year has passed. I cannot believe that it is almost 2 years since our family headed out of Canada. Scary how fast time flies by (something every parent is painfully aware of).

All the best in 2009! And if you need inspiration, well here it is ……

BUELLER!

BOB & DOUG – CANADIAN FAVORITES

 

It is around this time of year that the holiday favourites come out and of course Bob & Doug are central to that. I have very fond memories of getting their first album for Christmas (I would be it was around 1981 or 1982) and listening to it over and over and over.

It would appear that FOX and Global have resurrected Bob and Doug for a cartoon. These things usually don’t last, but their 12 days of Christmas animation is fantastic. We will see.

Of interest, turns out that Bob & Doug made their way over to the UK in the 80’s. You can listen to the BBC ‘cast’ here. You have to love the internet and fanatics who take the time to find these things.

image

THE LONG TAIL MEETS BLINK

 

Reading the Long Tail has made me think about the challenge, the opportunity and the conflict that it creates. For those who have not read the book, the fundamental premise is as follows:

The phrase The Long Tail (as a proper noun with capitalized letters) was first coined by Chris Anderson in an October 2004 Wired magazine article[1] to describe the niche strategy of businesses, such as Amazon.com or Netflix, that sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities.

The concept of a frequency distribution with a long tail — the concept at the root of Anderson’s coinage — has been studied by statisticians since at least 1946.[2] The distribution and inventory costs of these businesses allow them to realize significant profit out of selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers, instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. The group comprising a large number of "non-hit" items is the demographic called the Long Tail.

In the book Blink, the author focuses on decision making and points to a study where a stall with 23 jams sold less than a stall with 6 jams, suggesting that people become confused by too much choice.

So where does that leave us? One obvious solution is a system of ‘suggestions’, where our friends and social network helps us sort through the myriad of choice to find what we like. Amazon was the first company to popularize this model. But is it enough?

While in the US recently someone explained the Zune service to me (Apple fan boys can now stop reading). It is $15 per month, I can run it on 3 Zunes, on 3 computers and pipe it to my stereo via my XBOX 360. Essentially, he was giving his entire family access to 3 million songs for the price of 10 CDs a year. From their site:

Songs you get with a Zune Pass can be copied to up to three computers and three Zune players.

Setting it up to share over the network with the XBOX 360 is explained here.

Over the years I have spent hours categorizing my music by genre (Using decade and one of three choices – Hard, Soft or General) and using star ratings (1 to 5) so that I don’t listen to the bad songs in my library. The possibility of accessing 3 million songs left me with one thought – where would I start?

I felt like the guy looking at 23 jams. But the more I think about it, the easier it sounds. No backing up my music anymore, no buying and ripping from CD, whenever I want it ……. That being said, even if I do choose to start the service, no matter how much my boys beg and plead, all Gears of War 2 items are off limits including the game.

Gears of War Zune 120GB

MY CHANGE

 

I detest loose change. It seems to accumulate everywhere. In my car the ashtray slowly fills. In the house we have a ‘change cup’ that keeps growing. I detest it because it always leads to a task of having to get rid of it. 

Sure, you can roll it. Or when I was in Canada you could take it to the supermarket and pay 10% to have the machine count it (which seems a rip-off to me, especially when we dropped $700 into the machine when we were moving).

So now we let the cup fill and then we sort it into piles of £10. I then take the aforementioned piles, put them in a little bag and use them at the corner store. But every time I do it, I feel guilty or embarrassed (not sure which). Of course the customary response from the clerk at the till does not help. Common responses to my statement of ‘I am going to pay for this with the change from my car’ are ‘groan’, ‘oh-no’ or a grimace. 

Which is why it was a pleasant change to hear from the pizza restaurant ‘Thank-goodness, I need the change desperately’ (I unloaded £30). Although he did groan when I forced him to take £2 worth of pennies and 2P pieces as part of the deal.

Which leads me to a final question, why do we have pennies? After all it costs Canada between 1.5 and 6 cents to make one (It must be the same in the UK). A few interesting penny facts:

Lots more penny (or pfenni) facts here.

WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND

 

There is something right about what happened last Friday: O.J. Simpson convicted and jailed in Vegas. It does not right the fact that he got away from murder or that he tried to profit from it by writing a book called ‘If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened’, (He was paid a reported $3.5M which he subsequently lost in civil court to the families of the murdered). But it is nice to know that he will go away for 15 to life … finally.

I still remember the trials. What a farce. A small justice served.

BAG

 

I have been on a long search for a good bag for travelling with gear. I find traditional camera bags just too boxy and my current bag (a funky canvas messenger bag) is not protective enough. I am sure that it lead to the demise of my Canon Rebel (seeing how it lead to a brand new D40, that is not a bad thing).

2008 August 17 Scotland  Sterling Castle (87)

After buying and returning a number of bags including some cool Crumpler bags that just didn’t work, I came across the Maxpedition site.

I love these American sites. Built for the family that is all about ‘the right to bear arms’. I settled on the Gearslinger  Malaga which will hold my camera, a video camera, additional long lense and a bunch of other stuff with a single shoulder sling (I didn’t want a traditional backpack). Fantastic. I am ready for our trip to Greece in a few weeks.

MALAGA GEARSLINGER          image      image

And the bonus? A nice little pocket to place a handgun should I ever decide to exercise my right to bear arms (smile).

image

GOLD

 

During a recent conversation I openly wondered how the US government would avoid a bankruptcy of their own. According to this site, the debt is in excess of $9 trillion:

The debt’s a problem, but we fixed a worse one before!

• Truman, Ike, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter wiped out most of the World War II debt.  Take a look.

• Two parts of the federal government are running big surpluses.

The eye-popping $9 trillion gross national debt is owed by the "General Fund." That’s the part funded by our income taxes. Half of that goes for the military and to pay interest on the debt. Fortunately, two huge parts of the budget, Social Security and Medicare, are running huge surpluses.

The graph is very interesting, sadly proving that deficit spending can win elections (Reagan). It is also a bit shocking to see Clinton (the supposedly social conservative who supports universal health care) paying off the debt.

During the debt conversation, a point was made that the deficit is not an issue due to the US gold reserves. I will admit, I knew nothing about gold other than the fact that countries had untied their currency to gold decades ago. Turns out that gold won’t save the US, even at $1K per ounce the stock piled value is $250 billion. That is about half of what Iraq has cost so far according to this site.

As Rumsfeld was once quoted as saying (I paraphrase), Ronald Regan proved that no one pays attention to deficit spending.

PINK

 

I own 1 pink shirt that I have worn 2 times. Apparently .. real men wear pink. The Brits LOVE their pink.

Real Men Wear Pink

By Daniel Billett, About.com

There is something alluring about pink. Maybe that’s because psychologically it is known to have a calming effect. Or maybe it’s because pink is complimentary to most skin tones, unless you already have a lot of pink tone in your skin (like me). Or maybe it’s because a man who wears pink exudes confidence, yet is sensitive. It could be as simple as the fact that pink is easy to coordinate with almost every color in your wardrobe–it goes amazingly well with greys, tans, black, navys and other blues tones. And lastly, if you’re still not convinced how great pink is, women love pink and are more likely to give you a second glance. So give pink a try if you haven’t already. I have outlined four ways you can incorporate this magical color into your wardrobe.

Sweaters
If you haven’t seen the movie “Brown Sugar,” you need to just to see how great a pink sweater can look. In a party scene, the actor Boris Kodjoe wears a pink crew-neck cashmere sweater with dark trousers, and I must say it is such a sexy look. It proves how something as classic and simple as a pink sweater can be show stopper.

Dress Shirts
Pink dress shirts are one of the easiest ways to incorporate pink into your wardrobe. They are easily worn with suits, under sweaters or on their own with trousers or jeans. I will say that at my office there is a man who often wears pink dress shirts. He gets many compliments whenever he does because it breathes new life into his suits and makes him look more distinguished. It’s a winning look.

Suits and Trousers
Spring and summer would be the time to wear pink suits and trousers. I know you may be having a hard time visualizing this, but when I say suits and trousers I mean seersucker or light cotton. It’s the perfect thing to wear at a summer wedding or party.

Accessories and T-shirts
If you can’t commit to a more substantial item in pink, start small. Ties, t-shirts, hats (like a pink Kangol) or a scarf with pink stripes would be the way to go.

Via.

HELLO

 

A recent conversation.

‘Hello Mr. Weening. This is XYZ bank, we have a few purchases we would like to discuss with you on your credit card’

‘Sure’ (I get these once in a while. I remember one particularly embarrassing situation 12 years ago when I was with clients in Austin Texas and went to put through a $4000 dinner bill and they refused me until I convinced them that I was not on a bender with someone else’s card)

‘Has you wife just attempted and failed to make an Internet purchase at XYZ for £500 and did she make an online purchase at XXX computer store for £480?’

(thinking .. unless she is buying me an early Christmas present …. I doubt it. Although I did tell her that I need another 1TB USB drive and that the boys computers need 2GB of additional RAM …)

‘Let me check … Nope’. They then closed down her card and (to be safe, on my request) my card. That could have been the end of it.

I then did something that I am not sure is allowed, I asked for the web site where the purchase went through and called into the retailer. I explained the situation and they stopped the shipment and cancelled the order.

I could have just let it go into the big Mastercard fraud center where the goods would have been shipped and Mastercard would just looked at it as the cost of doing business. But that is wrong.

A small win for the good guys.

ON MEDIA

 

In our family we are vigilant around media balance (i.e. not too much). The other day the boys came home and as it was a dreary day they played for an hour on the computer and I was reminded that playing the computer is the same (or better) than the TV. I would often come home from school, plop down and enjoy an hour of cartoons.

This is a challenge that all parents face (or many ignore) that has been around for generations. On the weekend, I found this excerpt particularly funny with regard to the age-old challenge of ‘getting the kids outside’. In the late 1700’s ….

The first lending libraries opened around this time …. In fact, the advent of the novel created concern about young people lying around all day reading when they should have been outside being active or doing something useful.

Via.

CUT DOWN THE TREES

 

Wired’s June 2008 ‘Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green’ has a few fascinating facts to consider with regard to the environment:

Over its lifetime, a tree shifts from being a vacuum cleaner for atmospheric carbon to an emitter. A tree absorbs roughly 1,500 pounds of CO2 in its first 55 years. After that, its growth slows, and it takes in less carbon. Left untouched, it ultimately rots or burns and all that CO2 gets released.

Look at the environmental protection agency’s CO2-per-kilowatt-hour map of the US and two bright patches of low-carbon happiness jump out. One is the hydro-powered Pacific Northwest. The other is Vermont, where a 30-year-old nuclear reactor, Vermont Yankee, keeps the Ben & Jerry’s cold. The darkest area corresponds to Washington, DC, where coal-fired power plants release 520 times more atmospheric carbon per megawatt-hour than their Vermont counterpart. That’s right: 520 times. Jimmy Carter was right to turn down the heat in the White House.

  • On Air Conditioning: Heating a home emits 15X more CO2 than cooling a home. A hypothesis on this topic, perhaps we think of A/C as a luxury while warmth is required to survive. Still, global warming will reduce the emissions simply by reducing the over all need to heat.

The entire list of facts can be read here: Get Ready to Rethink What it Means to Be Green:

1: Live in Cities

2: A/C Is OK

3: Organics Are Not The Answer (I found this one very interesting)

4: Farm the Forests

5: China Is the Solution (My next home will be solar)

6: Accept Genetic Engineering

7: Carbon Trading Doesn’t Work (This is a big UK one, everywhere I go they have little notes – make this transaction carbon neutral by paying ‘X’ – what a load).

8: Embrace Nuclear Power

9: Used Cars — Not Hybrids (A very interesting statistic on the cost to build a hybrid. Sorry Leonardo).

10: Prepare for the Worst

I blogged on this topic a couple of years ago after reading Michel Crighton’s book State of Fear (great book). In the end, the focus on the environment is a great thing. But we need to balance fact with fiction.

Keep it up Al Gore.

THE WEATHER

 

When you are down about the weather just look at these pictures. This is August 20th – the first day of school in Artic Bay. A friend of mine who teaches up there sent it.

BRRRRRRRRR. Wonder where that is?

Arctic Bay (2006 Population 690) (Inuktitut syllabics: ᐃᒃᐱᐊᕐᔪᒃ, ikpiarjuk) is an Inuit hamlet located in the northern part of the Borden Peninsula on Baffin Island in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada. The 2008 Rand McNally Road Atlas shows a new name of Tununirusiq, but its status as official is not known. Arctic Bay is located in the Eastern Time Zone although it is quite close to the time zone boundary. The predominant languages are Inuktitut and English. As of the 2006 census the population has increased by 6.8% from the 2001 census.[1]

The BBC has an average minimum temperature in February of -36 and a record low of -50. That is cold.

GENERATION KILL

Over the past weeks I have watched the HBO show ‘Generation Kill’ and read the book Sniper One. They are a depressing depiction of the state of Iraq.

Generation Kill has a fascinating history and I was surprised to find that much of the story is fact based (surprised because of several of the events, certain characters and the way in which the initial invasion was carried out). It is based on the book Generation Kill, which is based on a 3 part article written by a Rolling Stone reporter during the invasion:

Generation Kill (2004) is a book written by Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright chronicling his experience as an embedded reporter with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion‎ during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His account of life with the Marines was originally published as a three-part series in Rolling Stone in the fall of 2003. “The Killer Elite”, the first of these articles, went on to win a National Magazine Award for Excellence in Reporting in 2004.[1]

If you read the write up, it is interesting to note that there were ramifications for many in the article as Evan Wright spared no one, making many of the officers looks like asses:

The book also details rising tensions between the men and a couple of their commanders, including Capt. David McGraw, whom the men referred to as Captain America. Mr. Wright describes the captain as firing randomly on several occasions, endangering his men and generally spreading panic.

Mr. Wright writes: ”One of the enlisted men in his vehicle challenges him. ‘What are you shooting at?’ he asks him.” The marine then says, ” ‘The guy is not right in the head.’ ” Both comments are breaches of authority.

Later Mr. Wright writes of Captain McGraw poking a prisoner in the neck with a bayonet.

Of course, not everyone agrees with the depiction, a full rebuttal can be read here. There appears to be a few inconsistencies. You can also see footage from one of the Marines here. Interesting.

The problem is that Sniper One and movies like Stop Loss pass on the same overall message as Generation Kill, the place is a mess, that the soldiers are frustrated and the people who are paying for it are the civilians. In both accounts, there are mindless killings. There is the F-18 strike on a village with no one but women and children in it, there is the Sniper One story of the guy riding his bike down a street and getting his leg blown off.

I was left with a real feeling that it is all very sad.

GOOD MEDIA

 

I have had the opportunity to enjoy some great media over the last weeks including ….

The Dark Knight: Saw it last night. Wow. What a great flick, I understand why it received 94%. That is two great superhero flicks in one summer (The other being Iron Man). Christian Bale does a great job as Batman – two big thumbs up. Although I am not sure what he is going to do in the new Terminator movie. Isn’t that plot line becoming a little overdone? I think it is in danger of being X-Filed, becoming so confusing that you can’t keep track of what is going on …

Generation Kill:  Watching the new HBO series and quite enjoying it. Not like Band of Brothers, that is for sure, and it leaves you with a sense of .. bedlam? At the same time, I am reading the book Sniper One. According to the cover, this is a book that ‘the British Army tried to stop being published’. By all accounts, it seems to be a rugged – raw account of what is really happening in Iraq and it leaves you feeling sad. Sad for these troopers who are putting their life on the lines, sad for the people of Iraq who are stuck between mad extremists, meddling nations who fund terrorism (yes, I am talking about you Iran) and the forces wasting billions. It also paints a picture which is very different from what we see on the television – it is crazy over there. It is anything but a peace keeping mission. It is all out war. I have Over There taped, that is up next.

Dan in Real Life: Steve Carell has come a long way since the Daily Show. A flick about a widowed father of 3 girls living an excruciating life, trying to find love. Very touching and along the lines of Definitely, Maybe – another single father movie which I saw on the plane a few weeks ago and gave the two thumbs up.

Reality Bites Back: 10 comics, 8 weeks and a reality show that mocks every reality show ever made. Comedy central genius. Last weeks episode ‘The Biggest Chubby’ (take off on Biggest Loser) where they try to gain the most weight in a week is side splitting funny. I will leave you to wonder just how many pounds of custard did he eat in 10 minutes? (Hint: It is shocking). A great laugh.

SMELL

 

I spent 10 days in North America a week ago and while in a mall in Atlanta I noticed three things:

1. Everything was on sale.

2. Everything is cheaper in the US. Did I mention that it cost me £83 ($166CDN) to fill my car yesterday?

3. That you can smell an Abercrombe & Fitch store way before you see an Abercrombe & Fitch store. I walked in and there was a guy spraying their ‘scent’ around the store. A little overpowering but very distinct. Made me think about LUSH, which is the same way. You smell their stores way before you see them.

There is no doubt that scent triggers memories, experiences and in the case of the above, buying. A colleague of mine mentioned once that his son, who works in a travel agency, had suggested that they put coconut scents into the air vents to help people get into the vacation mood (great idea).

I wonder what the right scent is if you are a photocopier salesperson? (smile)

And all of this made me laugh when I read this. Leave it to the Japanese to automate retail scents!

SHERIFF JOE

 

An article was forwarded to me about a US Sheriff Joe Arpaio who has taken a radically different approach to jails including the reintroduction of chain gangs, emptying the jails and making inmates live in tent cities and the elimination of what he views as perks …

We took away coffee, that saved $150,000 a year. Why do you need coffee in jail?" says Arpaio, patrolling the dusty, barren grounds. "Switched to bologna sandwiches, that saved half a million dollars a year."

Arpaio makes inmates pay for their meals, which some say are worse than those for the guard dogs. Canines eat $1.10 worth of food a day, the inmate 90 cents, the sheriff says. "I’m very proud of that too."

As the CNN article and the wikipedia entry show, his methods are not without detractors. As someone who watched Karla Homolka, one of Canada’s sickest serial killers, ‘thrive’ in jail while getting a degree, I have to wonder whether he is on to something.

As he says, maybe if it is really awful, they won’t come back. But fingerprinting after a traffic ticket? A little much.

clip_image001

MY INTERWEB MEANDERINGS THIS WEEK

 

Rock fan? Head to the Hard Rock web site and check out the memorabilia page. The quality of the images is unbelievable. Try this:

  • Click on ‘The Beatles’
  • Using the scroll wheel on your mouse zoom in on the letter to Sgt. Buddy Dresner from Paul (and the guys). Zoom in on the stamp. It is all of the Hard Rock cafes that have Beatles memorabilia. Zoom in on the third row down, second over from the left – the Paramount.
  • Continue to zoom in on the memorabilia that is on the left side of the entrance overhang. Wild.

Watched a few movies this week.

  • Wanted is matrix like with a few twist, turns and great action. Two thumbs up.
  • I was hoping Black Sheep would be like Lake Placid …. It was not.
  • Days of Glory is the heartbreaking story of four North African soldiers who fight for France during World War II and suffer through a culture of degradation and racism despite their heroic contribution to the effort to rescue France. A great film about a very sad topic.
  • Who would have thought that paying for gas could be one of the most cinematically tense scenes every filmed? No Country for Old Men is a depressing but brilliant. I do not need to watch it a second time.

The perfect age to get married according to the University of London: 31 years, 9 months. I was close.

30 minutes: The perfect power nap to boost motor skills and brain power according to the National Health Institute.

9am and 3pm: The perfect times to work out. Yah, right.

10.5 years: How much time I have left before I will reach the perfect age to write a blockbuster novel. Based on analysis of The Times bestseller list since 1955.

The reason why the urinals in Schiphol Airport are so clean. We men are so simple. LOL.

RANDOM NUGGETS FROM THE INTERWEB …

 

Check out the free WorldWide Telescope application. Amazing. If you have a USB telescope, the application will actually move your telescope around. Download it here.

A few of my favourite Seinfeld quotes (funny that they are all George):

  • George: ‘Jerry, just remember it’s not a lie if you believe it’
  • George: ‘When you look annoyed all the time, people think you’re busy’
  • George: ‘I have a bad feeling that whenever a lesbian looks at me they think, ‘That’s why I’m not heterosexual’
  • George: ‘My father was a quitter, my grandfather was a quitter, I was raised to give up. It’s one of the few things I do well’

It is amazing to see that many people believe that 9/11 was a giant conspiracy. A big part of the theory based on Building 7’s collapse without a direct hit. A fascinating summary can be found here. Bill Maher has an interesting perspective.

I just finished watching the 2nd season of the series ‘The IT Crowd’. Too bad it is over. Enjoy IT.

Seven bad bosses according to Star Trek, and how to survive them. ‘Got – to – be – a — good – boss – Scotty’

I laughed when I read the worst wedding toasts of all time. The reference to pond scum is one I like to make when I can.

BUSY

 

It has been an insane 2 weeks. Very busy, blogging to resume next week. In the meantime, a few quotes on being busy:

My view is that, you know, life unfolds at its own rhythm. You know, I have never lived a life that I thought I could plan out. And I’m just trying to do the best I can every day. I find I have a lot to get done between the time I get up and the time I go to bed.
Hillary Rodham ClintonLifePlanningActionBusy

I’ve been busy for years, buying land, often under pseudonyms, and planting trees on it. All the money is going into it when I die.. and in the end I’d like to think that it will be 20 to 30,000 acres.
Felix DennisPhilanthropyBusyEnvironmentCharityInspirationalGenerous

I’m a busy guy but I set aside quiet time every morning and every evening to keep my equilibrium centered on my own path. I don’t like being swayed by anything that might be negative or damaging.
Donald TrumpNegativePlanningSelf Control

The essential question is not, "How busy are you?" but "What are you busy at?" "Are you doing what fulfills you?"
Oprah WinfreyWorkQuestions