31 August, 2006

How dare Mayor Zehr?

The tri-city area in which I live is about the most confusing place I've ever seen.
For years, I lived in London, Ontario, which is laid out on a nice simple grid pattern. Granted, there are no expressways of any note in that city, so "grid" turns to "gridlock" in a hurry, but at least it's usually easy to remember where exactly you're stuck in traffic.
This place...
First, there's the nomenclature. I live in Waterloo, which has been surgically grafted on to Kitchener: take the signs down and you'd never know when you leave one city for the other. Waterloo has a downtown core, but it's called "Uptown". Kitchener has a downtown, too--less than two miles away from "downtown" Waterloo.
Then there's Cambridge, towards which Kitchener-Waterloo inches, closer every year. Cambridge is itself a polyglot of three cities: Galt, Preston, and Hespeler. Outside their individual downtowns, there's nothing to distinguish any of them.

Two of the major arteries in Kitchener-Waterloo--King Street and Weber Street--run north, south, east, and west. "75 King Street" could be any of four locations, two of them within a couple of blocks of each other, the other two widely dispersed. And forget using a compass: even though Weber's supposedly running north-south, in reality it's close to east-west.
No, this is how confusing this city is: King and Weber parallel each other while they box the compass, but your grade four geometry teacher would be horrified: these parallel lines intersect.
Three times.

Given such a confusing mishmash, it's little wonder at least two of our three city councils are similarly befuddled. I'll leave the failings of Waterloo council for a future post. Today I'd like to talk about Kitchener and its Mayor, Carl Zehr.
Our happy little haven made the front page of the National Post today. Above the fold, no less, this picture:



See this house? As of next year, anyone building one like it in Kitchener will be breaking the law. The issue--which only became an issue after Hizzoner drove down a street and happened to notice it--is the front-facing double car garage. Zehr thinks a whole street of these 'snout houses' is overkill, an eyesore. As it so happens, I agree with him--a wall of garages is kind of ugly. But I find many things ugly and though I'd often like to, I don't clamor to have them banned.

"It's about quality of life, eyes on the street and making sure that people could interact in their front yards," Zehr said. Well, humph. I'll tackle these objections in reverse order.

'MAKING SURE PEOPLE COULD INTERACT IN THEIR FRONT YARDS'. As opposed to, say, interacting in their back yards? Is that a bad thing, now? What's next? Are we to have city-mandated get-togethers every third weekend?

'EYES ON THE STREET'. Take a good look at that house up there. Note the large window over the garage. Each half of the semi has one. Do you think the people who live in these houses can look out the window every once in a while and see the street below? I do.

'QUALITY OF LIFE'. All my life I've wanted a garage. Every winter while I scrape off the car in the bitter cold, I pine for one. Now, granted, ours is a single-car family, unlike most. The ecowarriors can talk until they're green in the face about the need to lessen our reliance on the automobile, and until somebody somewhere creates a public transit system that (a) is faster than a similar commute by car and (b) doesn't force people to sniff the armpits of strangers, reality will continue to rudely intrude on the pipe-dream.

Follow the logic-chain, here, okay?

--Semi-detached houses are an economical alternative to single detached houses. (The house shown above sells for $217,000 in a neighbourhood where the singles go for $295,000 and up.)

--Most families have two cars. (Whether or not they need them, they chose them and paid for them.)

--Most families would like to have somewhere to keep their cars: a double garage is a selling point. (In fact, many would say a double-car garage augmented their quality of life.)

--There's no room for a double garage beside most semis, and certainly not behind them. (Not unless you're willing to sacrifice all pretense of a back yard.)

--That leaves the front. Yes, your house resembles a car wash or a firehall, but...

...but sure enough, the community pictured above sold out before it was built. So obviously there's a market for these places, Mayor Zehr notwithstanding. "If builders are coming forward with houses and designs, it's because they've got a demand out there that they're trying to meet," said John Kenward of the Canadian Home Builders' Association.

There are times when government should interfere in market economics. This isn't one of them.

28 August, 2006

Reason 4,852,971 why I am not a Catholic

My father has told all and sundry that there will be no tears at his funeral. He once mentioned that he wanted one of those remote-control laughing boxes to be placed in the coffin with him whereupon somebody would trigger it at a particularly dramatic moment in the sermon. Knowing Dad, I suspect he'll go further: a fart machine, perhaps, maybe his recorded voice informing the congregation that although he's been sent to hell, he luckily brought a fire hose with him and now it's one big party down there.
My personal attitude towards death is that it's just another part of life. I'm not afraid of it in the slightest and do not understand why so many are. Why fear something that every single human being is sure to experience? It's like being afraid of eating.
At my funeral, whenever it comes, I hope people find good things to say about me. I hope there will be joy and laughter. I'd like a musical collage of my life played for everyone, perhaps starting with Music Box Dancer (one of the first piano pieces I ever learned how to play). Somewhere in there I'd like this song inserted:

I'm still young, but I know my days are numbered
1234567 and so on
But a time will come when these numbers have all ended
And all I've ever seen will be forgotten

[CHORUS]Won't you come
To my funeral when my days are done
Life's not long
And so I hope when I am finally dead and gone
That you'll gather round when I am lowered into the ground

When my coffin is sealed and I'm safely 6 feet under
Perhaps my friends will see fit then to judge me
Oh when they pause to consider all my blunders
I hope they won't be too quick to begrudge me
If I should die before I wake up
I pray that the Lord my soul will take but
My body, my body - that's your job

I can't be sure where I'm headed after death
To heaven, hell, or beyond to that Great Vast
But if I can I would like to meet my Maker
There's one or two things I'd sure like to ask

--"At My Funeral", the Crash Test Dummies

If I was still a member in good standing of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, there'd be little chance of frivolity at my funeral. Or secular music. Or eulogies. According to the Vatican, "When Christians gather for the funeral Mass, we do so to praise God the Father. We gather not to praise the deceased but to pray for them. For this reason, eulogies are not given."

Move along, folks, nothing to see here, just another High Mass praising God the Father. Never mind that body up there: just a common sinner. God's judging him as we speak: he'll get his, never you worry.

This is wrongheaded on so many levels I don't even know where to begin.

IT DENIES A VITAL PART OF THE GRIEVING PROCESS. Publically enumerating the virtues of the deceased (even if, especially if, those virtues were somewhat. shall we say, "hidden" in life) is a wonderful tribute and a way to recognize our common bonds as humans. Ever been to a funeral for someone you weren't, let's be honest, particularly fond of, only to hear a collection of eulogies that completely changes your understanding?
'PRAISING GOD' IS DONE EVERY SUNDAY. Just how needy is this Deity, anyway? Besides, it is well beyond the spiritual capacity of most people to praise the Lord when, according to their understanding, the Lord has just taken their mother, daughter, sister, friend. (I believe that on some level--not always a conscious level--we select the day of our death, not God, but that's just me.)
THE EMOTIONAL TONE OF THE FUNERAL IS RUINED. Even the most devout are unlikely to appreciate High Mass in the midst of their grief. Oh, I get the subtext, the "let go and let God" I used to hear so often when I was a Christian. And I understand that there can be comfort in ritual. But when that ritual is not allowed to be personalized--when every funeral is as cookie-cutter as every other--well, to my mind at least, the whole point is lost.
WE NEED TO 'PRAY' FOR THE DECEASED? What possible good could that do? They're dead. I thought God judged people based on what they did when they were alive, not what a bunch of worthless sinners said about them afterwards.
Actually, not to put too fine a point on it, but I know...I don't believe, I know...that God does not judge anyone, the quick or the dead. Something that is described as all-loving does not judge, by definition. I don't care what your Bibles say--only a God that Man invented would judge people, judgment being one of the things we humans are so very good at. I've said this before, and I will keep saying it, because to my mind it's one of the biggest stumbling blocks we have thrown in front of ourselves. 'God-fearing', indeed. I thought we were supposed to fear "the Devil", not God. See? I'm just not cut out for this stuff.
THIS CAME FROM THE VATICAN. You know, that place where the Pope dwells. The same Pope who speaks with the authority of God...but only when he's in church.
Unlike many, I don't think it's the height of arrogance to suggest that somebody speaks for God. What I find arrogant is the belief that God only communicates through one vessel--the Pope--ultimately with only one group of people, the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
The voice of God can come from anywhere. I've heard it in music. I've heard it in silence. I've heard it from the mouth of an enemy. I've heard it from many people I love dearly.
I've routinely heard it at every funeral I've ever attended...during the eulogies...

26 August, 2006

Is That Uranus or just yer Ass-teroid?

Gotta love the new mnemonic for the names and order of the planets in our solar system.

(Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune)

It used to be "My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas". Or "Man, Very Early, Made Jars Stand Up Nearly Perpendicular", as my boss rat-a-tat-tatted off yesterday. But with Pluto demoted to the status of "dwarf planet", a new sentence is required.

Heard on 680 News yesterday: "My Very Exotic Mistress Just Showed Up Naked".

Who said astronomy was boring?

(Reminds me of that classic Futurama moment when Fry makes reference to the planet Uranus. He's informed that nobody's called it that for nearly a thousand years, on account of all the stupid schoolboy jokes. "So what's it called now?" asks Fry.
"Urrectum.")

All kidding aside, I suspect most people greeted the news of Pluto's exile with a yawn...the same way they'd greet any other off-Earth news. The prevailing attitude concerning all things extra-terrestrial is sad...and more than a little baffling. NASA is one of the few government programs stateside which has paid for itself many times over. Too many times I've heard people ask "why go into space when there are so many problems here on Earth?" Umm, to help solve them, perhaps? Hard vacuum offers unlimited solar energy. There's more wealth in the asteroid belt beyond Mars than there is on Earth. Population pressures dirtside could be eased with orbital cities at Lagrange-4 and -5, the colonization of Luna, even the terraforming of Mars. All of this could be done with present technology. All that is lacking is the will.

Note to those who believe that human beings, admittedly having made such a mess of this planet, do not "deserve" a new homeworld: Please don't tar me with that brush. Historically and at present, the 'mess' on Terra is due largely to insular thinking. A narrow worldview produces a certain reality: a wide view produces entirely another. Those of us who look to space aren't out to make the same mistakes our fellows have down here, believe me.

24 August, 2006

If I Were A Rich Man...

K, over at The Escapades of All My Fragments (which, by the bye, is possibly the best title for a blog I've yet run across), asks "What would YOU do if you had money? and how much money would you consider enough?"
Ah, the fundamental question. I was just thinking about this one, myself, this evening. Global National, my newscast of choice, did a story tonight on the five percent of the Canadian population who rely on social assistance. Despite our booming economy, the standard of living for these people continues to decline: when their incomes are adjusted for inflation, they're getting by, in many cases, on half what they did ten years ago...or less.
You know, that kind of pisses me off.
I strongly believe in the "hand up, not hand-out" philosophy, but come on. If you're going to give five percent of the population a hand up, you really should extend more than just one (middle) finger. I don't think welfare should be a viable career choice, by any means--but it's only fair to tie the benefits to the cost of living.
Global National made a point of juxtaposing the plight of those on social assistance with the record quarterly profit of our banks, which is simply obscene. Ditto oil companies. How much money can a relatively tiny group of high muckamucks really need?
(The answer, of course, is "all of it".)
My ambitions are nowhere near so high. Like an even hundred percent of the population, I'd like to get by without having to work. Ask my wife, who does our finances: with lifestyle adjustments, we could manage this right now. Ahh, picture it: me, lazing about at home, all day, every day, while wifey slaves away at work.
You know what? I don't like that picture one bit. I'd last at most a week before I'd simply have to get up off my fat ass and start earning some resemblance of my keep. I've been on welfare before. It was bad enough when the government was footing the bill. I'm indifferent to the government. I love my wife dearly. The guilt of exploiting her would make short work of me, I'm not at all ashamed to say.
So, stipulate: I only stay home if Eva gets to stay home, too.
Well, now, that requires a little more thought and quite a bit more capital.
The mortgage would have to be paid off, that goes without saying. Also the car. With that done,
we could live on comparatively little. Four hundred a week would be plenty.
Assuming we could retire at 65 (fat chance of that) and further assuming we lived just ten years of retired life, that means...hmm..$400 times 52 weeks in a year times ten years is holy shit, $208,000.00.
Half a sec: that's in 2006 dollars. Let's bring in The Inflation Calculator.

  • I'll be 65 in 31 years.
  • The Calculator's good up until last year, so let's go back 31 years from there and make it 1974.
  • We insert $1.00 as a 1974 price, enter 2005 as the end year and find that what cost $1.00 in 1974, cost $4.16 in 2005.
  • Applying that past data to the future, we multiply $208,000.00 by 4.16 and arrive at...

...$865,280.00.

That's a rough and ready figure, almost meaningless at this early date. The way the central bankers are terrified of inflation nowadays, it's doubtful everything will cost more than four times as much thirty years hence. Then again, the economy could go right in the crapper--you know, Peak Oil and all that. That'd up the figure dramatically.

Without applying a dollar figure, I'd say enough money--the point beyond which I'd begin to have too much money--is that amount that keeps me clothed, fed, Net-connected, and in books. Preferably with enough left over for one trip a year.

What would I do with money? Nothing special, really: nothing uncommon. I'd buy a lakefront lot and have a house built. I'd pay off the mortgages of friends and family. I'd carefully choose which charities to donate to, avoiding all those which seem to exist solely to perpetuate themselves. Most of all, I'd live modestly, not much different from the way I live at present.

A fork in the road...

Blogger and e-friend Peter has invited me to join a group blog, christened No More Talking Points, and I have accepted the invitation.

THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE BREADBIN! In fact, I fully intend to keep up my current pace here of two to three posts a week.

But please consider joining me over at No More Talking Points, not least because there are several fine writers over there who are not me.

22 August, 2006

Sigh...

Boy, the news is depressing lately, isn't it?
First we have the Jonbenet case rearing its ugly head--great, more child molestation, there oughta be a club for those of us who DON'T get our kicks diddling little kids.
When that mess first broke way back in '96, I made every effort to ignore it, for several reasons. I didn't have a blog then, for one thing, so I didn't feel particularly obligated to keep up with the news. For another thing, it was (and remains) just the sort of sordid celebratized scandal that, details aside, disgusts me on a fundamental level. Entertainment Tonight's all over the case, which is further proof, if any is actually required, that our society is terminally ill. A kid is raped and murdered and we call it entertainment? I can see it now:

"Next on Star TV: Actual coverage of a murder in progress!"

If you think I'm kidding, consider: the public is endlessly fascinated with forensic tech shows...you stick any combination of criminal, medical, and investigation into your show title and you've got a hit. There also seems to be a killer (pardon me) market for all things reality. So I see murder on demand as the next evolution in television. Wait for it.

Anyway...despite my best efforts, I couldn't help but notice the National Enquirer adopted the Jonbenet case wholesale, prosecuting any number of suspects in its pages, and that further negated any interest I might have had. (No, I've never made a habit of reading the National Enquirer, but sometimes--honest!--I'm stuck with nothing else to read, and I go quietly crazy without reading material. Just check out our bathroom.

So ten years gone, the only reason I remembered the Ramsey case was, let's face it, the perfectly weird name of the victim. Granted, she wasn't Stopsign Ramsey or Pineapple Plushtoy Ramsey, but Jonbenet Ramsey is right up there. I'm guessing that didn't come out of a baby name book.

And now I'm confronted with pictures I'd somehow managed to avoid a decade ago, and I'm thinking I don't care if Karr did it, both parents are accessories.
Look, pedophiles don't need any help. Well, they need help, and lots of it, but not in the commission of their crimes. Deliberately going out of your way to make your six-year-old look like a teenager is simply criminal, in my book.
I know, I know, it sounds an awful lot like I'm some kind of scuzzy defense lawyer, examining the victim in the dock and saying now, Trixie, what were you wearing on the night of the attack? In no way do I condone the actions of pedophiles and rapists. In a perfect world, women could walk around naked and remain unharmed, and parents could dress their six-year-olds in full makeup and clothing by Hookers of Hollywood without fear. Alas, this is no perfect world, and most people with half a brain are fully aware of that. I have to figure Jonbenet's folks didn't have half a brain between them.

As everyone in the solar system is aware by now, they have John Karr in custody. (The day after his flight from Bangkok to the U.S., the headline on the Toronto Sun read "Snake On A Plane"...inspired.) There remains, apparently, some question as to whether or not Karr actually committed the crimes he's being held for, which begs the disturbing question of why someone would freely confess to such depravity if he didn't do it.

As is the case in the wake of every serious crime, I'm left wondering why we don't make it a policy to collect DNA at birth. We put microchips in our pets and homing devices in our automobiles and when our kids go missing, we just shrug our shoulders, is that it? When the child shows up raped and dead, we dutifully collect a DNA sample and just hope that it matches that of a convicted criminal we've got on file? What if it's a first-time offense? I'm sorry, Mrs. Dalrymple, but little Tracey is a free pass for our UNSUB. We've got nothing on him.

Nice.

--------------------------------------
Then there's the study, reported here, which shows that although 26% of kids in Canada are overweight or obese, only 9% of parents see them that way. Why are so many kids overweight, and why do their parents seem powerless to intervene? There are many reasons:
  • the accepted parenting style now places an emphasis on being the child's friend, not his/her parent. Friends don't make friends eat brussels sprouts!
  • Children are helpless against the media onslaught touting junk food at every turn
  • Anecdotally speaking, very few kids actually get exercise any more! It's been years since I saw a road hockey game. The playgrounds near my house are deserted most of the time
  • Heck, kids don't even walk to school these days. I know, I live across the street from a school and our driveway is turnaround central for dozens of parents each and every school day

I hate to sound like one of those old fogies who says "In MY day..." I attended eight different elementary and secondary schools, and walked to all but two of them. I was bussed from kindergarten to grade three, only because there was a very busy highway between my house and the school--and even at seven years old, I distinctly remember lamenting the fact I wasn't allowed to walk to school. There were traffic lights and walk signals where the highway crossed my street! I knew how to use them!

I also took a bus in grade eight--but that was a city bus, and school was over half an hour away on it. Not something anyone could walk.

In parents' defense, I must say one of the biggest reasons kids don't walk to school in any great numbers nowadays are the John Mark Karrs of the world. The media has led us to believe they lurk behind every tree, just waiting to pounce. I don't think it's true...but understand that parents don't want to use their kids as guinea pigs in an experiment to find out.

Depressing, like I said.

21 August, 2006

Barnyard to backyard

We were supposed to go mini-golfing...or "Mindy-golfing", as it were. Mother Nature had other ideas, as she turned the entire course into a giant water hazard. So we settled for plan "B" as in "Barnyard".
Ten years ago you would have had to pay me to see a movie like "Barnyard"--or rather, pay me to be seen coming out of the theatre. Then again, ten years ago, they didn't make movies like "Barnyard"...

I think it started with "Monsters, Inc". Many people credit "Toy Story" as the first kids' movie to be palatable for mature audiences. Both it and its sequel were okay, in my view, but still a trifle infantile. "Monsters, Inc" was childlike without being childish and it managed to retain flashes of adult humour here and there. I went in dreading it and came out a fan.
Since then we've seen both Shreks (the second one was a work of art!); Finding Nemo (brilliant); The Incredibles (which moved too quickly for my adult eyes but was nevertheless a blast); The Polar Express (a Yuletide classic in our house, right up there with A Christmas Story); and now Barnyard.
We were the oldest people in the theatre unencumbered by kids. Check that: we were the only childless people in there. I still had the disquieting impression everybody was staring at us, but that was almost certainly my imagination. Besides, there were four of us...it wasn't like I'd gone in there alone, clad in a trenchcoat.
Barnyard was a pretty good movie...for all ages. The kids loved it. At one point, my eye tore away from the screen and found a little girl about seven dancing a spirited jig in the aisle as the animals cavorted overhead. Cute.
I chuckled throughout and guffawed several times. As many movies aimed at the yowwens are wont to do, this one trumpeted its Life Lesson ("A strong man stands up for himself, a stronger man stands up for others") a few too many times, but hey, it's a lesson too many adults have forgotten. Barnyard is worth seeing. We had a great time.
On Sunday, Eva's brother Jim and his girlfriend Ally came over for another session of Extreme Makeover: Breadner Home Edition. We have a new fence now, extending all the way down the right-hand side of our property to just past our side door. This means I can now open the side door and let the dog(s) out without having to go out there myself to open a gate. Plus, it opens up the yard.
I even got to join in on the actual work--well beyond my usual capacity of standing there like a lump. I pounded several posts in using a--you guessed it! post-pounder, and I also wrestled a bunch of large concrete blocks out of the ground, where they had been resting for three decades and no discernable reason. Each one of these things weighed on the order of seventy or eighty pounds, maybe more. At any rate, I felt like I had made some sort of contribution to the effort, however minor. In a few weeks Jim will be back, accompanied by Eva's dad this time, to install new flooring in our kitchen and also a new front and side door.
Busy weekend. But fun.

18 August, 2006

O.J. WAS The Real Killer!

"Excuse me...where is the Tropicana orange juice that's on sale?"
Sigh. "I'm sorry, it's all gone. We sold out this morning."
"Where do I get a raincheck?"
Umm, try the Weather Network? "I'm sorry, we don't give rainchecks; it's one of the ways we keep our prices down."
"What are you substituting then? [grabs a 1.89-litre carton] I want this for $2.00."
And I want you to GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE..."Once again I apologize. The Tropicana you're looking for has been on sale since last Saturday. We've sold through nearly 10,800 units. And we ran out of stock--for the first time!--about ten minutes after we opened this morning. And there was a limit of four per family per day on it for most of the ad. We don't substitute products, for the same reason we don't give rainchecks." In other words, lady, you're shit outta luck.
"Well, do the other stores in town have any? Can you call them?"
Let's see, I'm alone here, there are three skids of product to be worked, our system upgrade is belching up glitches requiring my attention every so often--like right now!--and...CUSTOMER SERVICE...CUSTOMER SERVICE...put a smile in your voice, Ken!
"Sure I can, but I'm pretty sure they ran out before we did." Damn, that smile was more like gritted teeth.
And sure enough, both stores were out of stock. So that customer went away disappointed, leaving me in peace for about twenty seconds before the next person said
"Excuse me...do you have any Tropicana orange juice?"
Work me into a lather. Rinse out my brain with soap. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat...

I
understand. I do. When something's advertised in the flyer, it really should be there until the end of the sale. And there should be world peace, and a chicken--on second thought, make that a turkey--in every pot.
Every grocery store flyer I've ever seen, from every chain, states somewhere "all items while supplies last". Right next to "we reserve the right to limit purchases to reasonable family requirements" or something similar. It seems like either (a) nobody else bothers to read those parts or (b) they think that edicts like that only apply to other shoppers.

I know customers don't care--nor should they, really--but those Tropicana orange juices that were on sale for $1.00? Each one of them cost us $1.90. A little quick math will tell you we're losing our shirts on this item. In my heart of hearts, I'm actually rather glad it's finally gone. Aside from the fact I can't walk six paces without somebody accosting me on the last day of the sale.

Disclaimer to the above: At my particular store, we make every effort to remain in stock as long as possible, nothwithstanding our warehouse: if they are out of stock, so are we, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. My customers are at the very end of a supply chain that extends for many links and, often, thousands of kilometers. That chain is only as strong as its weakest link--which you can be assured is rarely ME.

---------------------------------------------

Whew. Now that that's out of the way...
We had a system upgrade overnight last night. As an In-Store-Trainer, it fell to me to make sure the new system was backwards-compatible...that everything functioned properly before we opened the doors for business this morning. Which means I had to get out of bed at 4:10 this morning. Stipulated: I have always been a morning person. But 4:10 bears a suspicious resemblance to the middle of the night.
As it turned out, I almost didn't need to be there this morning. Thanks to the excellent team we have in place, much of my work was completed before I got there. I spot checked all manner of items, corrected several minor glitches, and then remained "on call" all day, scurrying hither and yon, making sure people knew their new responsibilities, fixing minor scan errors, and telling the multitudes that no, we don't have any Tropicana orange juice.
A fun day. A fun week.
Tomorrow, we have minigolf with our friends Mindy and Jamie--I've taken to calling it "Mindy-golf". On Sunday, Eva's bro is coming to help erect a fence. The slow but steady transformation of our backyard continues apace.
And I'm sleeping in. Until at least six if I can help it.

13 August, 2006

High volume...

I'm about to enter one of those hectic weeks.
At work, a major upgrade of our computer system is slated for Thursday overnight. This necessitates all manner of work beforehand, only a fraction of which I currently know how to do. Luckily, I have resources upon which to draw...
Also at work, we are currently running what is billed as the biggest sale of the year, featuring--you guessed it--turkeys at $1.00 a pound. Turkeys, in August? Apparently so. There were over fifty people waiting for the doors to open Saturday morning...it was the busiest day I've seen since Easter.
There is a limit of two turkeys stated clearly in the flyer, so of course that just meant families split up and went through separate tills. (What in the holy hell do people need with four or more turkeys, anyway? In August?)
This wasn't the only item flying out the door, not by a long shot...we also had Tropicana juices on sale for $1.00 (the 946 ml size--and don't ask how many people thought they could get a 1.89-litre carton for $1.00!) Then, of course, chocolate milk and buttermilk on for $1.00. This item turns people into ravening monsters no matter what time of year it's on. Neilson Dairy didn't exactly help me out on this sale. I was shorted all my low-fat chocolate milk on Saturday...what's more, nearly every single one of the 1440 units of regular chocolate milk were half full. I had to arrange for a second delivery, which arrived early Saturday evening. I take nothing for granted when it comes to this tinpot dairy, so I was able to rely on the stock I had brought in Thursday for most of the day. Still, I had run out of saleable stock by the time the truck came.
Want more? Our store brand waffles were on for $1.00/pack...Head Office advised us to order heavy, which was a joke: our walk-in freezer was stuffed wall to wall to wall to wall and floor to ceiling with turkeys.
Add in the chaos in other departments: three pounds of clementines or five pounds of new potatoes for $1.00; Kraft Dinner at 2/$1.00, and on and on and on, and it made for one hellish day.
It's shaping up to be a hard slog. This blog will probably fall by the wayside somewhat. My apologies in advance to my faithful readers.

11 August, 2006

Terror in the Air

"It is useless for sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while wolves remain of a different opinion." --William Ralph Inge (1860-1954)


In the wake of the (apparently) foiled terror plot to blow up planes en route from Britain to the United States, I find myself in the distasteful position of siding with George W. Bush. This plot, he said, "serves as a stark reminder that we are at war with Islamic fascists". His "we" referred to the United States, of course, and there are many in Canada who will shrug their shoulders and continue to insist this sort of thing is only what those damnyankeebastards deserve.
One of my closest friends lives in the United States, and I have been on good terms with a number of Americans over my lifetime. Being a Canadian who lives relatively close to the border, I have my share of "stupid American" stories, but nobody yet has been ignorant about their ignorance. I've yet to meet someone who even approached the stereotype many Canadians have of our neighbours to the south.
In short, I refuse to think of Americans as damnyankeebastards. Even if they vote Republican.

Besides, when Bush said "we are at war", he really meant it in a wider sense. "We" actually means "Western democracies". Want proof? Check out the passenger lists on the planes that were targeted. Granted, they're unsure yet which planes were targeted, but my point remains.
London Heathrow is a major international hub. Many of the exploded passengers would have been British or American...but many others would have hailed from all over the globe, including Canada. For that matter, some of the passengers undoubtedly would have been Muslim.

THESE PEOPLE DO NOT CARE WHO THEY KILL. I am reminded yet again of that spokesman for the Islamic Army of Aden who said, in the wake of the bombing of a French tanker, "we would have preferred to hit a U.S. frigate, but no problem because they are all infidels."

Had this attack been carried out in full, the death toll would have easily exceeded that of 9/11. We're damned lucky that cell was infiltrated.

The seeds of this plot are much older than most people realize. In 1995, bin Laden and company were all set to carry out a remarkably similar scheme (albeit this one had multiple facets and included the planned assassination of Pope John Paul II.) Both plots involved the use of common, everyday objects and liquid explosives. The surprise is that it has taken so long for these shadowy entities to try again.

To some, the fact that these terrorist plots have been (a) almost entirely unsuccessful and (b) relatively infrequest somewhat mitigates the threat level. I don't think that way. I was bullied as a child.

The reasons for the antipathy so many different bullies held for me are lost on me and always have been. Ask a bully why they do what they do and you're apt to get "because I feel like it." Press further and you'll be informed that Billy over there is a nerd and Susie over here is a skank. Less clear is why nerds and skanks should be stuffed into garbage cans, have their glasses broken, or be summarily kicked in the privates without warning. Expand the bully's vocabulary a bit and he'll seize on one overarching concern: they are all infidels.
Ever had a bully lay in wait for you? They're good at that. If one attack is intercepted by a playground monitor, no problem: there's always after school. Or next week. The adults can't be everywhere, after all, and sooner or later I'm gonna getcha. Thus do we nerds and skanks live in terror.

On a purely psychological level, we know that playground bullies are acting out of insecurity, as hard as that is to believe if you're a prospective victim. Vince insecure? Yeah, right. He's the most secure guy in the school, can't you tell? We all bow our heads to him lest he kick our asses. Regardless, the Vinces of the world often grow up to see their "insecurities" writ large. ("Vince" derives from the Latin vincere, 'to conquer'. I don't pick my names out of a hat. I've known three Vinces and all three wanted to rearrange the geography of my face. Apologies to any pacifist Vinces out there.)

Back to the present. What's next, now that almost every conceiveable liquid and gel has been banned? Easy. They'll find some other way to inflict terror. No security net is airtight, especially to people who have no problem forfeiting their lives. Several people could smuggle cigarettes on board and spill their alcoholic beverages. A tiny match will start a cabin fire that would be every bit as deadly as a bomb. Or somebody will target an airport...blow themselves and a few hundred others up outside all the security. I'm sure if you were to think like a terrorist, you can easily conceive of a dozen ways to spread carnage. The trick is to carry them out undetected. But the terrorists have a few things going for them: unlimited patience and unlimited hatred.

I remain firmly convinced that these "Islamofascist" wolves are out to eat us sheep up. The more we resolve to be vegetarian, the more they'll cheer. A vegetarian diet just makes the sheep more palatable.

09 August, 2006

Despite all appearances, this is NOT about Lebanon

A land dispute dating back many, many years. Tensions running high. Acts of war taking place daily. The rest of the world stands helplessly by. The rule of law laying shot in a ditch. Demands for an immediate ceasefire.
Sound familiar? It should. It's happening right here in Ontario. And our government is fanning the flames.
Yes, the mess in Caledonia will continue for the foreseeable future, no thanks to Premier McGuinty and his coterie of idiots.
I last wrote about Caledonia here, on May 23. Since then, the Ontario government has bought the land in question. In my opinion, that was a shrewd move: it freed the developer from an ugly situation he had nothing to do with, and turned the natives' attention towards Queen's Park, a more formidable foe by far. The government was backed by a court order demanding immediate evacuation of the site.
But, of course, the natives ignored that. Court orders don't apply to them--they've said as much. In their own words, held high at every protest, they are not Canadians and our laws do not apply to them.
What does the government do when faced with such blatant defiance of its authority?
Nothing.
Worse than nothing: it applauds and says "more, please! Assault a police officer? Hurl a brick? Block a road? Knock out power to surrounding homes and business? Sure...why not? And then let Ontario taxpayers pick up the tab for the ongoing (yet strangely impotent) police presence and periodic repairs? Go ahead, we don't care!"
They're actually appealing the judge's order. Natives, of course, are overjoyed: it means their tactics are working. The Neville Chamberlain of Ontario politics, David Peterson, says "there's no one truth here, there're many truths. All I know is we have to settle this before someone gets hurt."
Uh, Dave? People have been hurt. Here are the only "truths" that should matter:

A group of people--their race is irrelevant, or at least it should be--is illegally occupying land in defiance of a court order. They're blocking one of the Queen's Highways, which merits a charge in and of itself. They have assaulted peace officers and civilians with impunity. In other parts of the world, we would deem this "terrorism".

Does it upset you to hear these native Canadians referred to as "terrorists"? It shouldn't. Here is the dictionary definition of "terrorism":

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons. (from Dictionary.com)

I'd say Caledonia qualifies. And I shouldn't have to say this, but I'd feel exactly the same way if the terrorists in question were white, blue or polka-dotted.

That said, if these people persist in their claims that they are not Canadian, they should relinquish the rights that go with the citizenship. They sure as hell have relinquished the responsibilities!

Our courts get it: you don't negotiate with terrorists. Doing so only encourages more terrorism. Dalton McGuinty and his gang are clueless as usual.

07 August, 2006

For the children

I'm going to ask my readers to engage in a difficult exercise in a minute. Beyond difficult, really..."impossible" might be a better description. But let's give it a try, okay?

I'm going to give you a name--a Name In The News, as it were--and I would like you to imagine you are this person. You don't just look like him on the surface...imagine you are living his life, thinking his thoughts, believing his beliefs. Got it? Okay. Here's the name:

Peter Whitmore.

Hey! No fair jumping back into your own mind, there! I said this would be difficult, maybe impossible. It's certainly disturbing. But let's try it again.

You are Peter Whitmore. You are 35 years old. And you are a repeat child molester.

You've been jailed several times, but they keep letting you out. On some level you understand that the thoughts and fantasies you have are "wrong"--if only because they tend to result in your freedoms being temporarily curtailed--at any rate, you've demanded treatment, but haven't received anything meaningful.
At one point, you spent a whole year relatively free in the community and you didn't so much as touch another child, outside your mind, anyway. There should have been some kind of reward for that sacrifice, but there wasn't. No, everybody around you--those who aren't wishing you dead--are just waiting for the relapse. It pisses you off. Have any of them have gone a year without sex?
And you're waiting for the relapse, too. Of course you are. It's just plain unreasonable of them to require you to stay away from kids. "Oh, you can have sex," they say, "as long as it's with somebody close to your own age."
Yuck. How many times have you wanted to say to that big beefy prison guard that henceforth he can have all the sex he wants, so long as it's with other men? You'd get your block knocked off, sure, but it'd almost be worth it.
And they keep letting you out! Out to where the kids are! Sure, you've been banned from being with children under 14 for life, but "ban" is just a word. If you spell it backwards, you get "nab". And "nab" is want you want to do right now, isn't it?

--------------------------------------------------------

That unpleasant exercise in no way condones the molestation of children. I harbour quite a lot of disgust for Peter Whitmore and his ilk in my heart. But truth be told, I feel more than a little pity, too--which is something most people seem incapable of.

Peter Whitmore is incurable by conventional therapies. Incarceration also doesn't work: in fact, the only thing jail time does is permit lots of time to fantasize about ever more heinous acts. What does have a marked degree of success with this type of offender is castration, chemical or surgical. Chemical castration involves shots of (most commonly) Depo-Provera that must be kept up forever, so it would have to be monitored, but it is undeniably effective. Those who are chemically castrated are still able to have sex...they just don't want to.
Side effects include diabetes and blood clots, and anybody overly concerned with those two things has their priorities seriously misplaced, in my opinion. Regardless, physical castration has no such side effects and is at least as effective.

As of this writing, eight U.S. states have laws on the books either requiring or allowing castration for sex offenders. I say Canada should join them. It would surely be better than the revolving door we have on our prisons.

We are experiencing technical difficulties.

Having strange computer problems. At odd times I hear a CLUNK and find that the reset button seems to have depressed itself partway, freezing the system and forcing a hard reboot--which doesn't always work...the first time it happened, it couldn't find its own hard drive. "That's odd," said Eva, "I could have sworn we had one of those."

Every once in a while, the way you'll try light switches even though you know the power's cut, I'd try to turn on the computer. And it would hem and haw and say "insert proper boot device". "I'll give the thing a boot device!"

It's now 4:30 in the morning and I'm wide awake, having had about sixteen nightmares that I refuse to consider have anything to do with my deprivation of a computer for less than 24 hours. No, I suspect what caused my nightmares--most of which, oddly enough, involved work--was the certain knowledge I'd be deprived of the computer for an indefinite period. Also deprived of considerable amounts of $$$ to fix the g-ddamned thing.

So I came down here, put the dog out for a piddle, brought him in, and thought, 'what the hell'. I checked to make sure the reset button was not depressed at all and booted 'er up.

Worked perfectly.

Until I ran my antivirus scan. Halfway through that, CLUNK! the reset button did its thing, a red light glared, and I found myself well and truly hung. I tried one more reboot and it started up as if nothing had happened.

Weird.

It's possible this thing could crash on me in the next second. If it does, that'll be why there are no Breadbin posts for some time. Also why I don't answer my mail.

03 August, 2006

More Middle-Eastern fallout, or, Can something ELSE happen somewhere? Please?

Please God, my last post on this for a while.

It seems the "principled stand" Stephen Harper is taking in support of Israel is killing what until recently looked like a sure shot at majority government. Just 32 percent of Canadians agree with him.
I've been accused of having a hard-on for Harper since before he was elected--in fact, they call me "Steve" at work, sometimes, and the ardent Liberals there bait me mercilessly. The political debate can get heady and heated. As this post will, in a minute.

The word that's getting tossed around more and more often is "neutrality", as in, "Canada should maintain its traditional neutrality with respect to the situation in the Middle East."

"Why?"
"Because taking sides is the wrong thing to do. There's evil on both sides, so no matter which side you take, you're endorsing evil."
"But not taking sides endorses both sides."
"No, it endorses neither side."

This is when I whip a little Edmund Burke on them. His actual quote is "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle", which has a nice ring about it, but it marks me as the snob I am. So I simplify it a little, the way it is usually misquoted: ""'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".

At this point most people have taken me for a lost cause and walked away shaking their heads. I could go on, though:

"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." --Dante

"There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction." --John F. Kennedy

Those few who have stuck with me even after I've brought out the heavy ammunition (and boy, they hate hearing a quote like that one from Kennedy, who was a Democrat!), will insist that Canada has no place in the Middle East, just as it has no place in Afghanistan. On the surface they're probably correct: we have limited economic interests in either region, and neither area poses any kind of immediate threat to our nation.

However...

I find it interesting that opposition to foreign intervention usually comes from the left of the political spectrum...the same people who claim to be intensely interested in the betterment of all humanity. Their definition of "all humanity" seems somewhat limited.

We are citizens not of Canada, which is an artificial construct, but of planet Earth. We share this globe with over seven billion people, most of whom are suffering in some way. That we close ourselves off from so much suffering is perhaps understandable: we are few, they are many, and the clamour of competing pleas for aid can become deafening in very short order.
But the natural outcome of our deafness is the illusion of "neutrality". As tribe pits itself against tribe far, far away from our borders, we rest in comfort on the sidelines and bleat about immediate ceasefires and a return to the status quo.

Memo to the world: Israel seems to have decided that the status quo's not working. Hard to blame them, really: they try to trade land for peace and find they've traded land for war instead. Even worse, they're expected to just sit there and take it when their enemies invade them, capture them, and kill them. Demands are made: if they get titted, they're allowed to tat, and that's it. At that rate, that tit-for-tat rate, it's clear this conflict will have no end, ever. Is that what we really want? Unending conflict?

No?

There really are only two alternatives to this standing by and doing nothing: siding with Hezbollah, or siding with Israel.
The world's media tends to side with Hezbollah. They magnify each Israeli airstrike, invariably describe Lebanese deaths as "civilian", and seldom mention the seemingly unlimited supply of Katyushka rockets in the Hezbollah arsenal. (Who's supplying these things? Syria? Iran? Both of the above?)
Why is this? Anti-Semitism--a phrase that means "hatred of Semites" and is thus semantically null, since Arabs are Semites too--is one simplistic answer. Another, which might hew closer to the bone, is "anti-Americanism". After all, Israel is often viewed as America-by-proxy. What's that Arab proverb? "The enemy of my enemy is my friend"?
As I've written before, we here in Canada have a visceral and knee-jerk reaction against anything the United States says or does...right or wrong. More than one person has suggested to me that Washington's staunch support of Jerusalem is a byproduct of Bush's Christian conservatism...one prerequisite of Armageddon and the return of Christ, according to the Bible, is a functional Jewish state. So there you have it: it isn't that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East; it isn't that "Jews are people, too"; it's simpleminded evangelism. Who knew?

Can we at least consider the heresy that America might possibly be correct in supporting a democracy against legions who want it expunged and will use any means to accomplish their end?
And spare me the poverty schtick, okay? Yup, it's true: Lebanon's poor. So are a myriad of other countries who aren't at war. But...well, a check of globalsecurity.org reveals forty current conflicts in the world. And what do you know, nearly three quarters of them involve Muslims.
Hmmm.
If Lebanon was richer, they'd have better weapons with which to annihilate Jews. They would have those weapons before all else. Why not? They'd rather kill themselves than better their lot, so long as they spill Jewish blood in the process.

In saying all this, am I claiming the wholesale slaughter of Lebanese is a good thing? I am not. The bombing of Dresden was not a good thing, either, but it was a necessary thing.

I suspect that in Canada at least, this desire for "neutrality" most of us claim is really an earnest wish to go back to sleep. The idea that war--dirty, stinking war--might be necessary is not something Canadians have had to grapple with for several generations, now. It's not palatable: it sticks in our craw. But people who are awake are trying to shake us out of our torpor. There is a war coming: these are but the first skirmishes. The war will be for nothing less than global supremacy. We may believe now that American hegemony is to be feared, but trust me, it's vastly preferable to the alternative.

Meanwhile, as ugly as we may believe our Prime Minister's stance to be, chances are Stephen Harper would agree with this quote, again from JFK: "A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality."
And that in a nutshell is what I respect about Harper. Political expedience does not enter into his equation. I may disagree with him at times--I have, and publicly, believe it or not--but I can't fault his integrity. He's doing what he believes to be right, the polls be damned.

02 August, 2006

R.I.P. Heather 1992-2006


Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing...
Strong and content I travel the open road.
--Walt Whitman


I've had many dogs in my life. But you're looking at what might be the smartest, most lovable dog I've ever known.
Heather was my dad's dog. The love between my dad and his "Heather McFeather" was a palpable thing, a thing of great beauty. This wasn't what elevated Heather above most dogs, or even most Collies. No, what made Heather unique among all dogs in my experience was her unconditional love of all humans. For Heather, we all of us were part of her pack.
I knew Heather from puppyhood. At one time she was a rambunctious blur on four legs, but it wasn't long at all before she adopted the stately elegant posture common to her breed.
Her restraint was extraordinary. There are no fences marking my father's property line, but Heather always knew where her yard ended and never once strayed from it. I usually saw her two or three times a year, and she would heel for me without a leash.
Heather was the loyal guardian of Rose Point. Boaters were always granted passage...unless they were towing waterskiers, in which case Heather would bark fit to split. She intuitively grasped that humans do not naturally scoot along on water; I think she believed they were in danger.

"Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our lives. Yet, if they find warmth therein, who would begrudge them those years that they have so guarded? And whatever they take, be sure they have deserved."
--- John Galsworthy


Heather served as my dad's ring-bearer when he married his wife (who, ironically enough, is also named Heather) in 2000. She sat at one end of the deck and brought the ring up on command. The scores of people in attendance didn't faze her in the slightest.

Living as my father does in the Canadian Shield, his dog made her acquaintance with all sorts of neighbours: rattlesnakes, foxes, and at least two bears. She treed one of the latter; its cousin took its revenge one morning while Eva and I happened to be up there.
My wife was outside having a smoke early in the morning and noticed some deep scuff marks in the gravel driveway. Then she saw Heather, laying down, licking her paw. One eye was bleeding, she had a cut on her face, and a loose tooth. Eva went to the dog, and Heather licked her hand.
"Something's wrong with Heather", Eva said to my dad. "I think she's been attacked by a bear."
Heather was giving little indication she was in pain, but she must have been...it turned out her jaw was broken. Somehow I don't think the bear escaped unscathed.
Dad rushed her to the vet, who fixed her up; she was soon out patrolling the yard again. It was Heather's finest hour. In hindsight, it was also the beginning of the long slide into old age.

We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.... --- Irving Townsend,"The Once Again Prince"

She'd been declining over the last year or so: her vision and hearing were going; her bark, once so authoritative (YOU! YOU ON THE WATERSKI! HEAD TO SHORE RIGHT THIS INSTANT!) , had faded into a breathy raspy wheeze; and she was having increasing trouble moving around. It was clear her quality of life had deteriorated. Dad saw her into the next world yesterday. And there, renewed, she romps and plays her days away. Occasionally she takes some time out to sit on a cloud and look down on us, her loving Pack.


Heather, we love you.