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Showing posts from November, 2010

From the Mailbox

I'm sure we've all seen this one, from Robert keeps popping up in my mailbox like clockwork every three months or so. Unlike most of these perpetual email circulars, it is correctly attributed--it was Hall's blog entry for February 19, 2009.
Hall is a Vietnam vet and Massachusetts State Senator. I strongly agree with some of his views, and even more strongly disagree with others...

I'm 63. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I've worked, hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven't called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there's no retirement in sight, and I'm tired. Very tired.

I'm tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my …

"The Axis of Upheaval"

Niall Ferguson suggested, a year and a half ago, that major western countries were on the cusp of going bankrupt in a crisis he said would play out over the next eighteen months. "Forget about the axis of evil", he said. "Welcome to the axis of upheaval."

Right on cue...
(Note: Ireland said as recently as Friday that it would not negotiate a bailout from the EU or the IMF and even denied such a bailout was necessary. Must have been quite a weekend.)
How long before Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Spain crowd into the lifeboat with Ireland and Greece? How about the United Kingdom? When does the lifeboat reach capacity? And when it goes down with a colossal sucking sound, what will it drag down with it?
The idea that an entity as large as a country can go bust is terrifying to me. Talk about "too big to fail". What's interesting to me about Ireland is that as recently as three years ago, it was called a Celtic Tiger. The boom of its economy was heard around th…


Rocketstar posted a few days ago on a topic which, considering my childlessness, is surprisingly near and dear to my mind and heart: education. Specifically, he said something I've long agreed with: TEACHERS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM.
There is a fundamental disagreement on the very purpose of primary and secondary education. Some people believe it should be all about jobs: about teaching every child the skills required to function in later employment. Some people believe schools should place their emphasis on rote learning and memorization; some think that's bunk. A minority of people, myself among them, believe that empathy and critical thinking should be core curriculum concepts, instilled on an ongoing, basis from an early grade.
By either standard, our education system is a failure.
Not a complete failure, by any means. There remain a fair number of students who go in one end of the education tube and come out the other not just with the credentials, but with whatever it is you b…

A death in the family

I've often said that the people I work with are akin to family....a large, surprisingly close-knit family. If that seems to be overstating the case a tad, consider: assuming you get the proper amount of sleep (an admittedly iffy assumption in this day and age), and further assuming you work full time, you spend as much or more wake-time at work as you do at home...five days a week, anyway.Every family has its tensions. We don't all get along all the time. But for the most part we function pretty well as a team. And every family has its friends. In the case of our grocery store family, the friends are representatives. Most of them forge long-term bonds with us their clients. The best of them are eventually seen as extensions of the family. Rick Kent, our Parmalat representative since our store opened a decade ago, was such a man. One of the most gregarious souls I've ever met, he was the epitome of friendly professionalism. We'd see him at least once a month, and he alwa…

Life Skills

Like many grocery stores, we serve as a work placement for kids in special education. For reasons unknown, all of the teens who spend a school year at the Chop do so in my frozen/dairy department, under my tutelage and supervision. On 'down' days, I ask myself what, exactly, this says about the job I do. Then I remind myself that I'm not just a stockboy, and even if I was, the people I work with are what make the job enjoyable.

(Quick spiritual/linguistic aside: that word 'enjoyable' is one of many English words that people rattle off without really examining. It's interesting if you break it down into its component parts. The prefix EN- means "entry or conversion into the specified state". JOY we know, and crave, even if, or maybe especially if, we don't experience enough of it. And-ABLE means just what it says. So when you say something is enjoyable, you mean it is able to be infused with joy. That hints at an underlying Great Truth: nothing is …


I'm a little late for Remembrance Day--how many people spare a thought for it after the eleventh hour?--but, as somebody who believes every day should be Remembrance Day, I don't think this is at all out of place.

Memories, misty watercolour memories...

What's the earliest memory you can recall? Better yet, that you can date with any precision?

When I was younger, I used to tell people I could remember watching Sesame Street when I came home from the hospital after being born. Utter nonsense, of course. The hospital visit I was referring to actually happened when I was three or four--the first of a few eye surgeries I've had. And I don't remember coming home from that any more, if I ever did.

My closest friend in high school once admitted to me he couldn't remember a single thing before grade five. That gobsmacked me: I have vivid memories of everything from kindergarten on up. I can name every teacher I ever had--admittedly, it took me a few minutes of thought to recall Mrs. Capstick, who taught Junior Kindergarten, and Mrs. Harris, who taught Senior. But geez, there are days from grades two and three I can practically relive. I can tell you the name of my first crush (Alison Edmed, first grade) and the name of my f…

And I was going to post something optimistic...

I was in a pretty good mood today. I'm not sure why. It went beyond my usual Tuesday mood--I love Tuesdays for the same reason you normal people love Fridays, i.e., I'm off Wednesdays. But today I was feeling, for whatever reason, pretty damned good.
Then I got home. And read this
Bobby Tillman, 18, was kicked, stomped, and punched to death by four teenage thugs. His crime? He was "the next man who walks by." Seems there was a fight in the aftermath of one of those out-of-control house parties that are all too common nowadays. A girl slugged a guy, and he declined to hit her back. He said, however, that he would hit the next man who walked by. That chanced to be Bobby Tillman. Three others joined in the attack; the rest of the crowd, apparently, stood around and cheered.
I'm not sure what sickens me more: the random attack, or that it was widely viewed as some kind of game.
I'm getting increasingly liberal and softhearted as I age, but when it comes to inciden…

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Why, oh why are people so dumb?This week's big special is a 3-pack of Philadelphia Cream Cheese bricks for $4.97. This would be a fair deal even in the U.S.; here, where a single 250g brick regularly retails for $3.79, it's rather incredible. These come on sale once a year, and the first thing I do each time they're on--before we open on the first day of the ad--is construct a sign saying
"ATTENTION CUSTOMERS: The 3-pack Philadelphia Cream Cheese is in the bunker at the front of aisle 8"
I then strategically place this sign such that it blocks the individual bricks of Philadelphia cream cheese completely. I then sit back and observe the fun.
This question comes up a minimum of five times each day. I hear variants when other items are on sale, some of them even stupider: "where is the center aisle?"..."where is the produce department?" That one boggles the mind considering that in every store I've ever visited, produce is…

Memo to the United States of America

Re: midterms
You flunked.
That is all.
No, wait, that's not all. I watched some of the victory high tea parties last night. They made me think of my cousin, who once bragged to me that he got 9/100 on a test. Yes, bragged. The gloat was unmistakable. To a brown-nosing scholarly type like me, this behaviour was inexplicable. Just as American behaviour was yesterday.
Barack Obama must shoulder a good deal of blame: I'll give you Usians that. His health care bill took a horrible situation and somehow made it worse. He's looked for consensus when he should have been governing with an iron fist, and opted for the fist when a velvet glove would have been preferable. And there's no doubt the economy sucks rocks--always a bad sign for anyone in power, no matter the country. Furthermore, Obama made the critical error of referring to voters as "irrational". That's rule number one in politics: DON'T DO THAT, EVER EVER EVER. The craziest loon you ever did…

Next Stop: The Orchard

My next Breadbin post will be coming to you from an Apple.
A Mac Mini, to be precise, which is to arrive here tomorrow sometime.
A new computer is starting to edge out of the 'want' category and into the 'need'. The last system I had winked out; this one is using the computer equivalent of a wheelchair, or maybe a cane. We bought this Dell system used, and it worked fine for a couple of years before starting to succumb to old age. Turn it on, and it takes about five or six minutes to remember what it is and what it's supposed to do. Chrome, which is the fastest browser out there, takes upwards of three minutes to start up. Perhaps the final straw came last night when Outlook Express took almost five minutes to display a picture. Not to retrieve display it.
It all brings to mind the olden days. On my dad's first computer (a TRS-80 Color Computer with 16K of memory, which was lots in the halcyon days of 1982), you loaded programs off of cassette tapes by ty…

Going Moldy....

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