Archive for January, 2013

Canada: It’s cold with a Capital F

winter bird

So I heard on the news today that Environment Canada, our national weather service, is thinking of issuing a NATIONAL cold weather warning. A NATIONAL COLD WEATHER WARNING.

Whoah, whoah, whoah…this is Canada, people. A land where Canadians pride themselves on their ability to adapt and handle the cold.

How cold does it have to friggin’ get before we need to issue a warning to everyone in Canada? (Except, I am guessing, the wool sock and sandal-wearers on the West Coast – it is a balmy 3*C there…)

I think this graphic shows our predicament clearly. It is so cold, that I heard some guy comment that his nipples and penis were actually the same size. That’s effin’ “shrinkage” cold.

It's figgin' cold....

It’s figgin’ cold….

idyllic coldI know, I know. I can hear the diehards saying,”… but winter is so beautiful”; the snow, the crisp air, theBonhomme tobogganing, the skiing, the skating, ice fishing…blah blah blah.  They are selling kool-aid; a stereotypical but seldom attained image of an idyllic cold – warm snow encrusted cabins, cheerful winter carnivals, and beautiful hoar-frosted winter-scapes.

But where are those stupid visions now?  Now after several freeze/thaw cycles, the snow is that crusty, dirty, yucky brown. Now when I step outside to enjoy the great outdoors, my nostril hair freezes instantaneously. Now when I turn the key, my car starter and battery generate that low groaning “whrrrr-whrrrr-whrrrr”, which literally translates to “Seriously…it was -29*C last night.  You expect me to start?”

Where is the beauty in any of that?

Cue flashback…

When I was a kid, I think I liked, and maybe even loved, winter; but then I used to eat dirt, too.  I used to stay outside and play street hockey, and skate on the outdoor rink, and sled with my friends and my brother.  I would stay outside so long that when I came into the house for supper, my hands and feet ached with unimaginable pain – neurons thawing as my hands and feet fought to make it back to an appropriate body temperature.  And what kid didn’t try to hurry the process by sticking their hands under warm water…duh! Every other week, it seems I would forget the painful feeling of my fingertips and toes “exploding” and would try again.

When I was a kid, temperature was irrelevant…maybe because I was so busy generating heat that I forgot it was cold, and I had the metabolism of a rabbit.

You all know I love Canada.  It is a great country full of great things. And I take great pleasure in complaining about the cold and telling the rest of the world they are wussies as they bundle up in their frigid temperatures…

While the East Coast basks in relatively warm weather for mid-January, California is being hit with a blistering cold front. 

Oooh...those frigid fahrenheit temperatures. Poor Californians....

Oooh…those frigid fahrenheit temperatures. Poor Californians….

The unusually frigid weather has brought snowstorms and temperatures below 30 degrees to the Pacific Coast state, alarming motorists, farmers and zoo keepers, among others.

I take pride that our winters are harsher and tougher and meaner…makes us look stronger.

I still, on occasion, enjoy the Canadian winter for brief flashes; especially when it is sunny, and there is no wind and the thermometer is hovering around the freezing point.  I love it when my layered winter clothes keep me warm and cozy as I glide effortlessly on the ice or enjoy the bright, white landscape – everything so clean and fresh – and I love it when I enjoy a cold starry night sipping a bottle of beer in a bubbling 104*F hot tub, my bald pate protected by a colourful woolly toque with a bobble. (Sadly, I do not have a hot tub nor any friends with one now; alas, this is one of those idyllic images). 

Truthfully though, this “winter-affection” exists just before and during Christmas. Then, the love dies.

After Christmas, when there is nothing but months and months of darkness and cold to endure before Canada and the North tilt back toward the sun, I hate it. It sucks.

It sucks that I understand how to measure wind-chill in  watts per metre squared – and that I know a rating of 1600 watts/m2 means likely frost bite. I hate that I need a snow scoop (and more specifically that I do not own a snow blower.) Actually, I like my snow scoop…it’s the relentless snow I hate.

NL Blizzard WarningI mean, what Canadian has not been there…looking with dread at their driveway? Hoping beyond hope that the neighbour living two doors down, the one with the TORO Power Max 8260XE (26”) Dual Stage with the Briggs and Stratton 250cc OHV 4 cycle engine, will show mercy and save you 90 minutes of your life, and an aching back and possible cardiac arrest. You hope that he will clear your driveway in the same 15 minutes it took to clear his. (For those who don’t know, I am talking snow blower/snow thrower). Sadly, most times you are disappointed…and fuming; fuming that your neighbour is cracking a cold one while you struggle with your task, and that you gambled on the 52” LCD TV and Wii Fitness instead of the snow blower. But using The Force, you can channel that anger and disappointment into clearing that snow. Your only dilemma is where to put all the snow Mother Nature has dumped on your drive – plus the repeated bonus of the crusty, heavy, soul-destroying furrow of road snow that the “Plough-guy” gleefully pushes into the end of your drive (several times). Aaaaarrrgghhh…

Damn you SnowPlow Man, damn you!...

Damn you SnowPlow Man, damn you!…

I hate that every excursion now takes on the same epic proportions of Scott –Amundsen racing to the South Pole: sweater, fleece, coat, gloves, scarf, hat, boots. I hate that I have the agility of the Michelin Tire Man when I am appropriately bundled up.  I hate that I have too few layers to fight off the cold when I am outside, but too many layers to walk about inside a building without perspiring like an influenza victim.

..Say no more...

..Say no more…

And I hate scraping my car, and the wet trouser legs from my car mats. I hate the high heating bills and the cold spots in my house. I hate the winter…Please make it stop.

I hope this cold snap ends soon – I hate to see those Californians have to put on a sweater to stave off the extreme cold.

I hope we go back to “idyllic winter” because I want to go skating on the Rideau without risking my nose snapping off.  And I want winter to end, so that we can get to a Canadian summer quicker…the thing that makes a Canadian winter endurable.

A nice idyllic Canadian summer – and hopefully one that is not “crazy hot and humid” – ‘coz that sucks too…

Later,

ASF

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No one will ever trust you again, Lance…

Lance Armstrong

in·teg·ri·ty  [in-teg-ri-tee] adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. c.1450, “wholeness, perfect condition,” from O.Fr. integrité, from L. integritatem (nom. integritas) “soundness, wholeness,” from integer “whole” (see integer). Sense of “uncorrupted virtue” is from 1548.

“The big question this week is not whether Lance Armstrong cheated (we know he did) but why he has decided to admit it now…The short answer is money.” – OpEd piece by By David Michael Lamb, CBC Sports Posted: Jan 15, 2013 2:49 PM ET

Zero to Hero.  And sadly, Hero back to Zero. How quickly they fall, eh?

Lance Armstrong is a household name…and his baby, Livestrong, has been a focal point for good-hearted people to show how they feel about cancer. I will commend him for Livestrong, which I still believe is a good cause…it still seems a noble way to show solidarity with those who are fighting the Big C. Livestrong is still looking for new ways to raise awareness, increase outreach and facilitate collaboration in an effort to improve the cancer experience.  These trusting, kind people have given money and time and exposure to this cause, in good faith, with hope, with courage, and with honesty.

And in one fell swoop, Livestrong – and its founder –  are sullied.

I am sad the organisation now has to prove beyond a shadow of  doubt that it has not been a “Church of Oral Roberts” venture for Mr Armstrong…funding his private jet and contributing to his $125 million net worth.  No matter what happens, Livestrong’s reputation will  be forever linked to something dirty.

I am not going to listen to Mr Armstrong’s story as he discloses his justification and rationale for doping. (Okay, I will watch it on tape delay later…) I am sure he will have his excuses for super-oxygenating and drugging his blood, for having a doctor replace his blood with transfusions of un-doped blood. All this manipulation and dishonesty just so he could rise to the top of his game, with an undetected mega-advantage. Some say “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” I would counter with, “if you’re cheating, you’re cheating.”

Now I, like you,  know that people make mistakes. Sometimes  an act of cheating is just a bad decision, an error of judgement. Who hasn’t at some time, wished for a life “mulligan” and hoped for a re-do. We are human, after all and as Alexander Pope wrote, “…to err is human”.

But in this case, I am not sure I can respond with the “to forgive, divine”.  You forgive a transgression, or perhaps two. Can anyone forgive seven?  Seven years of “bad judgement”, and 16 years of denial. I mean as late as June of last year, he was still fighting like General Custer…

‘These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity.” – The UK Mail, 13 June 2012

I guess the best defence is a robust offence. Just look at his hatchet job against fellow cyclists and against the media. The latter have dished out millions in slander and libel suits. Just like how he cheated his way to convincing cycling victories, when Lance Armstrong lied, he lied convincingly!

And though he has limited impact on my life –  he makes me mad.  I feel jipped. I feel betrayed. I feel used. It all feels dirty. I suppose I can grudgingly accept such tactics in politics and in business (though I do not like it); however,. I do not like it in sports at all.

I do not think I am upset that he doped – in the wake of Baseball’s Steroid Age, the probable use of drugs in hockey and rugby, and given the rampant drug use on the Cycling Tour  – Mr Armstrong was just using “cutting edge” technology to get ahead. Perhaps he considered the treatments as a weird, though damaging and illegal version of the swimmer’s full body “shark suit”, or the metal hockey stick, or the space-alloy prostheses on Paralympians. You do what you can to  gain an advantage. And besides, they were all doing it. It is just happens that  Lance Armstrong – either by virtue of his drugs, or the skill of his doctor, or his athletic ability, or his bicycling know how – was just better at the cycling thing than equally doped up rivals. I get that. I can get over that too.

What I can’t get over is 16 years of lies; the outright bold-faced lies to his teammates, his fans, his supporters, the media, and the world.  I can’t get over the lives he damaged, and those reputations he shattered, in defending the tapestry of falsehoods that he wove.  I can’t get over the fact that we trusted him, we cheered for him because we wanted to believe in the incredible strength of the human spirit – personified for a long while in the cycling cancer-beater.  If Lance Armstrong could do it – overcoming cancer and climbing to the top of an élite sport – then anything was possible if you worked hard enough.

And I did not believe it when the first the cracks appeared in the wall. But through bravado and intimidation and money, Mr Armstrong patched the damage. We questioned, and became skeptical, but we still held onto the threads.

And then, poof!  With allegations unchallenged, and in the resounding echo of his silence, the international sporting bodies revoked his medals, stripped his title. The dream vanished along with his Yellow Jerseys, his Olympic medal and his endorsements.

But more importantly, he has lost his credibility and his integrity will always be stained. Who will ever believe anything he says now? Everything he does from now on will be questioned and “slightly dirty” in some way. He has a lifetime of infamy to look forward to now. I hope his 16 years of fame was worth it.

Later,

ASF

There is no such thing as Free Parking – if you want a good spot, that is…

free-parking

Parking… to bring (a vehicle that one is driving) to a halt and leave it temporarily, typically in a car park or by the side of the road: he parked his car outside her house (Oxford Dictionary)

Simple, eh? Take car, turn steering wheel, select gear, ease on accelerator and brake, stopping the car between the lines or at an appropriate distance from cars in front and rear, and sufficiently close to the curb.

Easy-peasey.

So many options…parking lots, roadside parking, reversing into a spot, parking illegally, double parking, and the dreaded PARALLEL parking.

Parallel Parking

Why is there so much emotional capital invested in the simple act of parking a vehicle?  Really, I don’t think you can be indifferent about parking. You either love it or hate it.

Having lived in England for three years driving a mid-sized North American left-hand drive vehicle, I got pretty good at squeezing the SX2.0 in to some pretty small spots. Add to that the joy of renting vehicles all across Europe and I must admit that I love “the parking”. I love the challenge.

The quest for a parking spot is one of the Great Hunts in life. And like any serious quest, its hidden bounty is even protected by a Parking WardenGuardian. In this game, it is the Bylaw officer or Traffic Warden who is the Gate Keeper. Walking the streets in their omnipotent patrols, sensing the expiring parking ticket or attuned to the ticking meter, they circle like birds of prey, waiting for the opportunity to open their book of doom. They are reviled, taunted, abused – and when defeated, all rejoice in the Vanquish.  Wardens must be rewarded on a quota, they dish out their fines and judgement with unsympathetic abandon. It is un-human! Hopefully they receive good self-esteem training – they probably need it after all the abuse I have seen them take.

Aside from the fine, the Wardens tap into a volatile part of our souls. Why do we exhibit such passion and angst and joy when it comes to parking? A good spot can make your day. A bad parking experience can ruin one.

Maybe it is because parking appeals to a basic instinct. It is like the need for a parking spot sets off this little klaxon in the brain, the kind that warns of a prison break. It is like someone gave the competitive spirit a Red Bull and Vodka. There must be some sort of “hunter/gatherer” thing that comes with parking. For me, I feelthe primitive urge to “hunt for the perfect spot”  as soon as I see my final destination.

Why does the pituitary flood the gates with adrenalin when I need to stop the car?  What’s the problem with a few extra steps to get to wherever I am going?  I tell you what is wrong with it– it is accepting the “merely adequate”, the “just okay”. It is mediocrity…

I love The Chase. I love it always. Except at Christmas.

Christmas parking sucks. The parking frenzy with all its emotion – mostly negative – surrounding the December outing is absurd.

Now, because it is January, and all the Christmas shipping done and the Boxing Day ludicrousness is over, I am calm enough to think about the December parking horrors as they are nothing but a distant memory, like the Ghost of Christmas Past.  I have healed from the “no quarter” battlefield that is the War of the Xmas Parking Spots.

Peace on Earth? Goodwill to all Mankind?  Not when it comes to the Christmas parking places. At Christmas it is every driver for themselves – yelling and cursing and “flipping the bird” and honking…as ubiquitous as Fa-la-la-la-la and Boughs of Holly.

But Christmasn is just a few weeks.  I have noted that rgardless of the season, there are some parking constants…

The HuntThe Parking Spot Hunt is a game of cat and mouse with several key spots. Whether at the Shopping Center, the main shopping street, a box store, a strip mall, an outlet centre, the workplace party, the restaurant, the Christmas tree place, the rink, the theatre, the bank –  it begins with selecting a section of the lot and then narrowing it down to a specific “lucky” row. If the instincts were right, a spot will be waiting – as Sid Vicious would say, “Pretty and vacant” – for your car to slide into like a hand in a glove.

And if the spot eludes you, the chase continues in ever widening circles to find the next best spot.

The truly fanatic “parksman” will brush aside the passengers’ counsel and sightings of potential spots, with a positive feeling that there must be one closer. There is always a mental anguish when committing to spot.  One cannot commit too early… there might be a better one available!

The parking spot hunt has many phases, guises and sensations…there is “the Chase”, “the Stalk”, “the Deception”, “the Disappointment” or joyfully, “the Quickening”. If you are very unlucky, you will suffer an anxious “mix and match”, like the “Chase and Wait” or the “Chase and Deception” or the extremely unlucky “Wait followed by Deception, followed by Disappointment”.

The basic components always include spotting, or stalking a departing patron and the commanding the entry in the soon-to-be vacant as the occupier departs – the Chase.  The frustration comes in waves as the “parkee” leads the “parker” on a wild goose chase, dodging from aisle to aisle as the “parkee” frantically tries to figure out which car is theirs.

The first test to the will is “the Psyche”.  It starts with finding the seemingly perfect spot. You turn your wheel to slip into the spot like a ship berthing at its home port, and then your brain screams, “Abort! Abort! Abort!”. The vacant spot is not so. It is “half-filled” with a motrocycle, a FIAT 500 or damn SMART Car, or a stray shopping cart blocking the spot. You were bamboozled. Goshblarnit!

Next comes the Wait, those tantrum-inducing moments as the “parkee” dillies and dallies in/around their vehicle – taking eons to unload the cart, taking the cart back to the corral, unlocking the  vehicle, sitting, adjusting the seatbelt then the rear-view mirror then  the radio, moving to applying makeup or combing the hair…blah blah blah. Aaargh! Hurry up already, I HAVE THINGS TO BUY! Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

It doesn’t get worse than that. Oh wait it does.  The dreaded Deception.…that is the culmination of the Chase, the Wait, and the complete Disappointment as the person who entered the car did it only to retrieve a wallet or a phone, or to deposit the first wave of shopping.  All you get from the experience is the unsatisfactory shake of the head or dismissive wave of the hand – but the gesture only comes after  committing to the now evaporated parking spot.  As you sit there, feeling that “fight or flight” rush, your turn signal becomes a beacon of your disappointment, your ire, and your disbelief – probably aggravated by the unheard giggles of those drivers from behind. The ones that you let by you, because you had your cross hairs on the Prize.

Loser.

So many emotions all swirled together. Parking is not simply the temporary halt of your vehicle as you pick up that Best Buy gift certificate or that standby bottle of perfume. Though it seems to get worse at Christmas, the whole parking experience can be a  simple snapshot of the worst parts of the human condition.

No Parking for DBs

Unsure of what I mean…let me describe my take on the turds that are competing for those valuable spot – in my order of ascending “douchebagginess”:

  • park far awayThe Far Parker.  This is more of a complaint as a passenger, as you ride with the person who parks in the furthest reaches of the parking lot. You know the ones – they park further away than the mall makes its employees park.  Out by the massive winter snow pile, or the yucky brown pile full of road sand and pebbles.  Usually drivers of BMWs or very shiny SUVs, free of car seats and that gummy goo that kids manage to leave in the seat cracks and windows.
  • The Close Parker. Not quite the opposite of the far parker, the Close Parker is technically correct, as the halt between the lines. But they park so close to one side of the spot that it is impossible to open the door closest to them. If you are unlucky, they will have arrived after you, and have blocked your driver side door. Your only way to exit is to enter the passenger side, straddle across your stick shift and try to limbo into your driver’s seat.
  • The Door Banger, aka the cousin of the close parker. The door banger is self-explanatory as they leave traces of their car’s DNA all over your car…complete with nice dents.
  • The Two-Space Taker.  The two-space taker has no idea where to put his car, where the lines are, or more probably just Two Spacerdoesn’t care. Their car may straddle the line, may actually stop on the line, or worse, they park diagonally across the two spots to protect their car. They try to get the security of the Far Parker achieves with none of the legwork.  Douchebags.
  • The Spot Stealer.  This is almost the douche-baggiest driver in the parking lot. As you follow proper parking lot etiquette, waiting patiently, the Stealer forgoes the wait and jumps in to your parking spot – totally devoid of any class, manners, upbringing or civility.
  • And the douche-baggiest…The Disabled Spot Violator. The blue markings and wheelchair symbol are just a guide. The Violator is just going to be a minute, or just does not give a hoot about whether the old or the infirm or the broken or the infirm are allowed access to the spot society has granted to them. Whenever you see them you just hoping to see the Traffic Warden…where are they when you need them.

Violator

I am glad that the Christmas rush is over. The crowds have dispersed and the population does not have the crazed retail fervour, that Post-Apocalyptic Yuletide Zombie look. Parking spots abound. The frenzy has ended.

But The Chase is never over.  Somewhere out there on my next jaunt, awaits the White Rhino ofall  parking spots. My quest continues.  I can’t wait to find it before anyone else does.

Later,

ASF

Hey Airline…Just tell me the Truth like an Adult

air canada

I am beginning to hate airlines. Wait, that’s incorrect. I don’t hate airlines. I just don’t trust them anymore. I wish that I didn’t have to rely on them, but in this day and age I can’t ignore them. Sadly, as a Canadian, I don’t really have a lot of choice.

Why the rant?

Once again, my wife and I are sitting on tenterhooks, unsure if the Airline will come through and deliver on a service we have paid for – in full.

As a member of a blended family, with children living in different Canadian cities, we have relied on our national airline to bring our family together for Christmas, for summer holidays and for special occasions.  The money we have paid to our national carrier (and at times to the major Western competitor) has no doubt contributed greatly to both airlines’ bottom line.

And it seems that no matter how many ways we are disappointed by the pricing structure – the hidden fees and surcharges and taxes – the lack of flexible flights, the cramped seats, the yucky food, the aloof and sometimes rude customer service, the Airline always seems to find a way to fall short of my already jaded expectations.

Today our girls were to fly back home to Calgary…YOW to YYZ to YYC.  Each had a full fare ticket at a cost of almost $1000 each – booked and paid for in November 2012.

Last night, we checked in online, chose adjoining seats and the plan was to print boarding passes at the airport kiosk.   This morning we headed to the Ottawa Airport from Kingston – almost a good two-hour drive. We had a nice afternoon in Bytown and after a nice lunch at the Market, we were off to the airport. I found a great parking spot – bonus! – and we were off to the check in area. Luckily there were no issues with the queues, and all of us were in good spirits.

Then…the National Carrier’s “Hammer of Disappointment” hit us hard. The first leg from YOW to YYZ – no issues with that. But from YYZ to YYC…uh, umm…”Sorry ladies, I have to issue you standby passes and your seats will be confirmed half an hour before take-off.”

Excuse us…I thought I heard the Employee say that the seats would be confirmed half an hour before take-off?  Isn’t that when everyone is supposed to board? What if there are no seats?  What if they are stuck en-route?

After a number of questions – all answered with vagaries, round-about-isms, and veiled references to the Customer Contract (all paralysing 12 lengthy, font 8 paragraphs worth) – there were no satisfying answers. The Toronto-Calgary flight was overbooked. The girls now had standby tickets. There were two Calgary-bound flights from Toronto tonight…both fully sold out. If the girls did not make it out of Toronto tonight, they would get meal vouchers, hotel vouchers and taxi vouchers…and a night in Toronto alone.  The fact that one’s boyfriend had driven from Edmonton to Calgary to visit over the remaining Christmas Holidays, and that the other had work tomorrow are irrelevant.  Our National Airline would do the very, very best it could. They would probably be home by 4 January.

Dog poop.

I understand that the business case is to overbook…and to take chances.  But really, with this questionable actuarial bean-counter business practice (which I believe some are arguing could be fraudulent – see http://www.moneyville.ca/article/1227876–airlines-told-to-offer-full-refunds-when-flights-overbooked) who takes the chance…the Airline or the Customer? The Airline gets its money regardless. And as for the Customer, yes, it is in the fine print – caveat emptor – tickets are not a guarantee of service…

But…

angry flyerWhy do they surprise me (rather, shock me…) and let me think that I am on the flight when I book and pay for a ticket, when I check in online and when I head to the airport.  Why  should my first notice that I am being bent over, that I am not guaranteed a seat, be at the baggage drop off desk at the airport? They have my e-mail and phone number. Text me. Call me. Bad news does not get better with time. I would rather know early than when I am helpless and held hostage in a departure lounge.

Better yet, why doesn’t anyone who books a spot after the flight is fully sold be told that their ticket is a standby ticket.  Too much common sense I guess…could hurt the bottom line, I suppose.

And what about transparency? I am a person. I have feelings. I deserve the truth. Do not couch it in airline speak of “changing platforms”, “dead-head priorities”, “unexpected maintenance”, “missed connections”, “strong headwinds”, “unforeseen circumstances”. I can handle the truth.  And if the Customer Service Representative is entering information about my booking or possible connections, why can’t I see the computer monitor? Is it because it is simply useless clicking on the keyboard, or that I might make an informed decision, that I might notice some snarky amplifying commentary to enhance my flying experience – i.e. “seat this customer in a middle seat between the loud-talker and the arm-rest stealer, near the broken toilet, in the seat with the malfunctioning entertainment console or earphone jack, and make sure you tell him that there are no more meals available…”

I can forgive a lot of perceived transgressions if I am treated with honesty, dignity and respect. I know flights are overbooked. I bumpedknow that most times everybody gets on. I just want to know why our girls were bumped to standby when they had full-fare tickets and printed boarded passes. Did we buy the wrong ticket, were they too cheap, or have caveats that we missed? Did we check in too late to have a valid seat? (Doubtful as we checked in our luggage 2 hours before departure).  Are we the unlucky winners of a random selection? Do the seats we chose the night before not exist on the new aircraft? There has to be some logic – all I wanted to know is why.  The truth would allow me to understand that we were not feel unjustly treated. With the truth, while I may be upset, I wouldn’t feel insulted and belittled – like a child who is sent away because they cannot handle the truth.

The National Carrier does not have a monopoly…other carriers  can challenge on select routes. But as the National Carrier shouldn’t it be in the service of all its citizens – whether they are Super Elites or just plain Economy Classers. The Carrier should remember that it provides a service and in the end it is in the “People business”, not just the money business. No people, no business, no money.

It should remember that people not only use it to exercise their livelihood, but more importantly to be with family and to live life. They seem to regard us as Units – commodities to be moved from Point A to Point B, like cargo. They  have it wrong.

We are more than units. We are Fathers and Mothers, Uncles and Aunts, Sons and Daughters, Husbands and Wives. We are Significant Others and Partners and Friends. We have expectations, commitments and hopes…and in the blink of an eye, they can be dashed by poor weather, by a missing bolt, an overbooked flight.

True, the catalyst may be out of the airline’s control – volcanoes, storms, breakdowns and most despicably, “oversells” happen – but how the Airline responds and treats the People that are affected by the unforeseens should reflect the character of the national flag it represents.

And as it stands, I don’t think that our National Carrier is quite doing that, eh?

Angry_Beaver

Agree?

(Post-Script. The girls are now on a flight home, only six hours of angst and confusion. I do have an e-mail in to both the President and Senior VP Customer Service of our National Carrier, expressing my dismay. I will let you know how it goes…)

Later,

ASF

A classmate adds his thoughts on “bystanders” in the wake of a beating on an Edmonton LRT witnessed by more than a dozen people. The victim, who has died from injuries sustained in the attack, pleaded for his attacker to “stop, stop, stop”. No one did anything….

"As I mused, the fire burned"

I am presently struggling my way through a talk for Saturday night on the subject of integrity. For a person that has spent most of his adult life studying the question, I’m finding it surprisingly hard to put words to paper.

Three things caught my eye. The first, a blog post by a classmate of mine, concerning a gentleman who was pushed onto the subway tracks in NYC and killed by a train…his post begins discussing the freelance photographer who captured photos of the man just before he was killed, apparently while he was trying to use his flash to warn the driver. The second is the post by theologian John Stackhouse noted below, about our role in evil. The third was this story, very close to home, about a man beaten to death on an LRT train on last Friday afternoon. A beating that took place while…

View original post 1,236 more words

1 January 2013

january-1

Hung over this morning? If so, sorry…if not, you must be either very young or getting older!!

new_year_hangover_800w_600hFunny how we fixate on New Year’s.  The night before, we are partying with friends and family – eating and drinking as if there will be no tomorrow. And for some, perhaps the morning of 1 January does feel like the end of the world.  No worries – they’ll feel better on 2 January!

1 January.. Important to us, but not such a significant day in the Chinese or Islāmic or the Indian calendars, or the Ethiopian, Assyrian, Persian and Hebrew ones (there’s more than just the Gregorian and Julian calendars…poke around  Wiki List of calendars – there’s over 46 in use now, and a few dozen archaic and chinese_astrologyproposed calendar formats out there. Just don’t go all Mayan on us…)

But, courtesy the Gregorian Calendar and its benefactor Pope Greg the 8th … 1 January is the day that starts off  our new year and a new beginning for those in the “Western World”.

Forget the trouble, strife and anxiety of 2012…anything is possible and everything can be altered for the good in 2013.

Really, I don’t think it is that simple. If it was, I’d be thinner, healthier, richer, smarter, more productive, more organised, better focused than I am now – the perfect role model to whoever cared.

But, life is not like that.

The omnipresent New Year’s Resolutions have never worked for me. I do not believe that my resolve is any stronger on 1 January than it was on 31 December, or than it will be on 1 July or 9 October. Taking stock of the number of people who fade away from the cardio room ar the Gym by mid January, I’d say that sentiment is fairly universal.

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Personally, I have made very few resolutions on New Year’s Day.  I quit smoking, (the last time), on a March 29th  – okay  maybe the end /beginning of the fiscal year – but not really a New Year’s Day. And many other of my life defining decisions have been made on any number of Gregorian dates – I have not waited until the new calendar was placed on the refrigerator.

But 1 January feels important. It is the day that marks a clean sheet, a new start. And more importantly, new promise.

And that We, full of our positive energy from a happy Christmas, full of kinship and food and spirits, wish to spread our recent joy across into the new year. A time when focus all our well-wishes and optimism in the hope that it will make everyone’s lives better. When we hope that everyone has a happy, and healthy, and prosperous new year. That everyone gets a chance to realise their dreams, to succeed in the face of challenges, to feel secure and safe; to be free of fear, of worry, of pain, of anger, of disappointment, of distress, frustration, disillusionment, regret, panic, and apprehension.

And in this time of relaxation and repose, of reflection and thought – and before we return to our routine and obligations and livelihoods – it is the time of year to hope for lofty dreams. To hope that this is the year that people of different faiths show more tolerance andunderstanding so that their children

Tutu and Dalai Lamacan grow without seeing violence and hate as the only options. That this is the year that we figure out how to feed and water a growing population without wasting our resources or damaging our planet. That this is a year that we challenge and defeat a number of afflictions and diseases and syndromes that result in needless deaths – deaths that are either violent and unforeseen, or lingering and inevitable.

I know we all wish that for each other throughout the year – not just on 1 January.  But what better time to say it…then when we are all thinking of everybody?

And while the road may be rocky – with the help of friends and family, it is never impassable. I wish everybody a very happy 2013 – one of challenges and growth, of joy, love, fulfillment and fun.

Later,

ASF