Saturday, December 30, 2006

The death penalty

It's not such big news that Saddam was hung a couple days ago. Sorry ousted dictator, no 2007 for you. For some it's an issue, for others, like me, not so much. My wife is angry, perhaps at the behest of watching too much Al Jazeera, and under the impression that the Americans chose the most sensitive possible date to snap his neck from a dangling rope - the date being Eid Kbeer, or the celebration of the Muslim Prophet's birthday. Personally, I don't think the American's chose the date, but rather it was a Shi'a decision to finally get rid of the guy - the Shi'as didn't seem to mind the sensitive date so much - at least from what I saw of them dancing through the streets.

The whole issue of the death penalty is a passionate one, with adamant people on the pro and con side. Me, I'm a fence sitter. While I'd hate to see someone hung for a crime they didn't commit - I think hanging is a just punishment for a few horrendous crimes I can think of.

In the past they had public executions, even charging people money to attend. Archaic, but fascinating to watch. The plus side being that they would help recoup some of the funds lost on the judicial process. Humanity's natural blood lust would make such an event a spectacle - I especially like the idea of turning criminals into gladiators and having them fight each other to live another day. They make for great movies anyhow - Gladiator, the Running man. (Okay, maybe not the movie the Running Man, but certainly the book. IMO, much more interesting than seeing which monster truck can bash up the most crap, or watching steroid-massive WWF guys perform fake body slams. It would giver reality TV a twisted new realm of reality and, indeed, pupularity.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I still can't get over that AIDS statistic

More or less, I guesstimate that at least 5 billion a year is earmarked towards AIDS by governments and charities.

Say half of that goes to research and the other half to awareness campaigns.

2.5 billion dollars of gov't money, not the money paid by drug companies to create cheap drugs for people - that is perhaps ten times more.

This is how I do the math in my head.
Assume each researcher gets a generous $100,000 per year.
For a million dollars you get ten researchers.
For ten million dollars you get one hundred researchers.
For one hundred million - one thousand.
For one billion, ten thousand.
For 2.5 billion - twenty-five thousand researchers.

So, I repeat again. It took twenty years and twenty-five thousand researchers to prove the statistic that being circumcised greatly reduces the odds of a man contracting HIV.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Harper calls Hamas genocidal.

It doesn't bother me that Harper is critical of Hamas and Hezbollah. What bothers me is his consistent blindness to the other side of the story. Israel is not innocent and while it is right to condemn the hard-core destruction lines of Hamas and Hezbollah, one must also stand up and condemn Israel's near polar opposite Zionist-apartheid mentality. Like it or not, Hamas and Hezbollah are both democratically powerful forces in the region. The world can condemn and ignore them into further radical isolation - or try to lure them into a more moderate approach. Harper seems to be good at adding lines like "within a United Canada" to important statements. Why not push Hamas to add a line such as "Under the current conditions of aggression, occupation and oppression..." to their non-recognition of Israel's right-to-exist stance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tories look to consult public on Senate choices

I consider myself somewhat more clued in than the average Joe on politics in Canada. But I have to admit, I can't think of the name of a single Canadian Senator at this time. So why the hell would I vote for one? A popularity contest to see how many people have actually heard of Senator Jane Doe representing Frogsfart North West Territories?
While I think democracy is the least imperfect of all political structures, there is a limit on a constituent's mind. We already vote for our national leader through a local representitive MP (most of which are unknown), We also elect a provincial premier, a mayor for the city and even a local representitive for whatever Ward we happen to be part of. The Senate, while technically they have the power to block legislation, they never do. Rather, they are simply elitists who provide regional representation, are appointed for life (or until they reach 75) and act as little more than a debating board so that legislation gets a thoughtful comb over before being passed.
Come on Harper! The people of Canada elected YOU, through regional MPs to make decisions for us. We don't need more voting, we have enough already, and it costs money! If there was a contraversial senator, then I think the Canadian public would let them know they wanted them out.
Otherwise, let it be. Why tinker with something that has worked well for over one-hundred years!

Questions
How many Canadians can name a single Canadian Senator?
How many can name their local MP?

Why am I even babbling on about this, I've wasted way more time than I should have.

AIDS research shows circumsision reduces rate of infection.

Twenty plus years and hundreds of billions of dollars spent in AIDS research and only NOW they come up with the statistic that the obvious trait of being circumsized greatly reduces infections. Isn't that a little sad? Where does all that donated money go? Is there a band of multi-million dollar monkeys in state-of-the-art-labs working around the clock to come up with this info?

From the BBC website - The trial in Kenya found a 53% reduction in new HIV infections in heterosexual men who were circumcised while the Ugandan study reported a drop of 48%.

Results last year from a study in 3,280 heterosexual men in South Africa, which was also stopped early, showed a 60% drop in the incidence of new infections in men who had been circumcised.


Right! Now I assume the study eliminated a possible prejudicing factor that different classes of people are more likely to be circumsized. As well as that different classes of people, namely poorer, are more likely to be infected with AIDS.


Off the top of my head though, here's a random survey designed to give to men in countries with high rates of AIDS and circumsision to determine a correlation between the two.

1) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with another man? - If yes, discount from survey.
2) Have you had unprotected sex with female prostitutes in the last two years? If no - discount from survey.
3) Approximately how often?
4) With the same female prostitute or with many?
5) Approximately how many?
6) Are you circumcised?

Amongst other useful questions such as age, income, tribal affiliation, region, living accommodations, etc...

Give them a blood test for AIDS.

From this info, posed to various random samples of which a good percentage would be circumcised, I could easily have come up with similar AIDS statistics. Pay me twenty grand to do it and BANG - you just saved twenty millions dollars! Again, I ask myself, why is one of the biggest breakthroughs in recent AIDS research so strikingly obvious?

I mean it is known that uncircumcised men can transmit yeast infections, which is why some women who are dating uncircumcised men will get the infections repeatedly. Is it that hard to put two and two together?

This correlation is even a fact I once wondered, and I'm definitely NO brilliant medical mind. In fact, in my life I have dedicated a grand total of maybe five hours to thinking and reading about HIV and AIDS.

Before I go, here's a blurb I came up with through googling AIDS spending.

This shift in emphasis is being driven by funding. The amount of money earmarked for HIV/AIDS is massive. In the United States alone, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is dedicating more than $2 billion to the disease next year, and a five-year congressional initiative is adding $15 billion. The World Health Organization (WHO) will distribute $5.5 billion, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will provide $4.7 billion, and more than $500 million will come from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Most of this cash will be spent on research, screening or treatment in developing nations. Governments are still spending money on domestic AIDS research, but the amount being spent on such programmes is no longer on the rise so, with the possible exception of postdocs, job opportunities are fairly static. And drug firms, feeling the pinch from the current economic downturn, are tending not to hire scientists to work on new HIV/AIDS drugs at the moment.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bloc leader threatens to overthrow tories over Afghan mission

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't like Stephen Harper or his idoitic bend-over-for-Bush style of government. To me, his policy has so far been equivilant of copying ideas from the world's political village idiot.
But I have to take his side on Afghanistan. We went there to complete a mission as part of NATO. To faff about and not put our boys in the line of fire would threaten to lose all that NATO has fought for so far. My biggest critisism is against other countries for not keeping up with their own war promises and insisting their troops are placed in safe and easy mission areas.
I'd rather Canada be the brave ones there to die for the sake of not only the betterment of the Afghan people, but for the safety of the world from twisted tyrants like the Taliban. We should be increasing our committment so we can get these nutjobs out of there once and for all, rather than be stuck there forever.
That said, the Taliban did have their assets. Peopler were deathly afraid to commit crimes and they had a brutal stamping out of corruption. Deathly and brutal stamping bad - No theft and no corruption good. With the new lax government, the fear is gone and the corruption which led to the extremist Taliban is coming back. A plan must be made to curb these problems, for they are the few cards the Taliban hold at the moment.

Monday, December 11, 2006

No more Victorian Chocolates!

It's a big occasion. Someone's just had a baby, or it's Christmas, or a birthday, or that hated yet unfirable colleague at the office has finally left. You want to celebrate the occasion, so you head to the local supermarket and find the sweets aisle. Chocolate bars, gummy bears, toffees, and then the special occasion boxes and tins of chocolates. In Canada, there's Turtles, Pot of Gold, Toffifee, Quality Street, and a two dozen other brands of recognisable and unrecognizable quality.
Here in Morocco it's similar, except you see perhaps two or three good brands. After Eights (did you hear the one about the guy who bought a packet of After eights? He died at 7:30.) Quality Street, Toffiffee. There are also, among a dozen other crap boxes of chocolates, these Quality Street ripoffs called Victoria chocolates. Same colourful packaging. Small medium and large round containers, and inside, the dodgiest, waxy, all taste exactly the same chocolates. No toffee centre, no strawberry or orange flavour, just this bland, more brown food colouring than chocolate, sugary lumps of disappointment.
When you're next at the supermarket and thinking of buying something for a special occasion, don't go for the cheap chocolates. Go for the real deal, the tried and tested ones. If your money is tight, buy the smaller box rather than subject your friends to the let down of opening a beautiful shiny package only to taste wax-laced sewer drivel.
NO MORE VICTORIAN CHOCOLATES!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Zack's Sbu'a

The official sbu'a party, coming from the word usbu'a, meaning "week" in Arabic, was held with a dozen close friends and family members exactly one week after Zack's birth. In our living room, we ate dates packed with walnuts, various almond based cookies and washed them down with sugary glasses of amber tea.



At noon, the small party headed down to the appartment's garage where our building's concierge and a hired butcher took the sheep we'd bought, swept the legs out from underneath it and slit the beast's throat. Blood spurted about ten feet across the garage, landing just short of my shiny black shoes (I'll spare you the photos!), and soon the sheep began to convulse into its final death throws.
One of Siham's uncle's then led us in a prayer. The photo taken was the concierge with Baah-sil minutes before the carnage scene.


The big sbu'a party took place the following week so as to give Siham time to recover more. Due to the size of our apartment, we had room for a cramped fifty people sitting around five circular tables. When making the list, we counted around twenty-five relatives, and another twenty-five colleagues, and another twenty good friends. Point being, invitations began to get tricky. In particular, Siham couldn't invite a few select colleagues without inviting the entire office.
In the end, enough colleagues, friends and relatives didn't confirm to give us the comfortable number of around fifty guests, plus a couple uninvited ones...

The scandalous Aunt made a surprise appearance, sporting a heavy gift wrapped in gold couloured lacy cloth. She immediately demanded one of Siham's cousins race into town and collect her daughter.
Meanwhile, she trapped Siham's older brother at their table and, when her daughter arrived, brought up the uncomfortable subject of marriage.
Had I realised "The plan," I might have sat Siham's brother next to one of our prettier friends - if only for the joy of creating scandal myself.
It didn't help her husband-seeking daughter's cause that she wore shocking red lipstick that highlighted her disproportionate teeth and a jutting lower lip. I'll move on now before I say something that really gets me in trouble. Again, I'll avoid posting the photos.

Question. Have you ever been in a situation where a relative bought you awful clothes? Did you have to wear them out of respect? It happened to me when I was thirteen. An aunt bought me this green outfit, a sweater and a bright lime green trousers. The sweater was fine, nice even, but how many thirteen year old kids would wear bright lime green pants to school? It was probably the dorkiest outfit ever made. Then again, I have seen some doozy hand-me-downs here in Africa!

Back to Zack. For the big Sbu'a, his grandmother bought him a frilly dress-like gown with a cap that had a bow in it. After they dressed him, I waited for what I thought was a respectable amount of time, and made the excuse he was too hot and put him back in his baby suit. Unlike before, I'm provided pictures. As for my lime-green pants, unfortunately they are long lost and I didn't wear them long enough to even have a photo op.






The guests settled into their seats. Scandal cousin making googly eyes at Siham's brother, who responded with helpless looks toward others not at that particular table.



The first course was meshwi, a huge side of lamb that traditionally is eaten with the fingers. I suppose my table was a little more Europeanised than most, because everyone but me attacked it with a knife and fork while I ripped searing hot pieces off with my right hand, dropped them a couple times, dabbed them in salt and cumin and shoved them home.

Next came a plate of five whole chickens smothered in a thick salty-sweet sauce and decorated with pineapples, apricots, prunes and almonds. Again I was the only one at our table trying not to burn my fingers too much.

Next came dessert, a huge bowl of fruit with a tray of chocolate and merangue ice cream cake jutting out of the top.



People filtered out of the appartment as tea and cookies were served. Soon after that, a hired maid mopped the floor while the caterers dragged the tables and chairs out of the house.

All in all, a smashing success of a party. Happy one week, and two week, and now three week birthday baby Zack.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My last word on the Liberal Leadership race, for now.

Let me start by saying that before this race started, I would have voted for Harper before voting for either of the two front runners, Bob Rae or Michael Ignatieff. That has now changed for reasons stated in earlier blogs. In fact, I would now vote for a retarted monkey before voting for Stephen Harper.

The three front runners.

Bob Rae - The problem with Bob is that Ontario despises the memory of his being in power. He left office with something like 17% of the vote. While some of his failures can be attributed to bad times, he was still a dismal Premier. With Ontario being the largest voting province, combined with it being the Liberals heartland, it doesn't bode well for Rae's chances of going on to win a federal election. That said, I think he is perhaps the most capable candidate. I think his intellect matches that of Ignatieff and his policies and stances are generally more in line with mine.

Iggy - I still struggle to understand why such a profound acedemic supported the Iraq war. Otherwise, you are the perfect candidate. I would vote for you above the others if it weren't for that one blip on your resume. I'm at odds to say whether your folly is worse than Rae's botched premiership or not. Ballot wise, perhaps not. But moral wise, it's still a position I can't get over. That said, your criticising stance on Israel, while lambasted in the media, bodes well with me. I don't hate Israel, but that doesn't mean I love them either.
Something else that seems to be dogging you is the Quebec Nation issue. It's something that stirs up a lot of sentiment among Canadians, yet for me it is a non-issue. Calling Quebec a Nation is like calling a tree a living thing. What's the point of harping on the fact when it is what it is. I don't see the need for any official "Nation" recognition. The stance neither bothers me nor makes me want to endorse you.
All that said, I object to Kennedy's anti-nation stance. He seems to be shooting for the federalist vote by taking a side and focusing on how Quebec isn't a nation. It is, look up the meaning of Nation on Wikipedia, read it ten times so the confusing vagueness of it begins to make sense, and get over it!

Dion - Here's the man I endorsed earlier, and still endorse. Not because I think he's the most intelligent candidate. Nor the best leader of the bunch, but because he is the most likely to beat Harper. Dion's weakness may lie in his federalist stance in Quebec, and his middling spoken English, but neither is in my opinion as bad as Ignatieff's Iraq invasion support or Rae's Ontario premiership. (Kennedy already killed his French vote by whining about Quebec Nationhood.)

To summarise, anyone but Harper, although Dion has the best chance to unseat this muppet.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

African Adventure family travel

As a new father, holding dark-haired little Zack in my arms, I reflect on how my parents did the same with me, and their parents with them, and so on. Seeing Zack reminds me of photos of my grandfather, and my father and even myself as a child.

With my travel writing, I also wonder about my future. I'm fairly confident that I will get published. I've put that much time and effort into being a travel writer, and gotten enough positive feedback from respected peers (and it wasn't always positive) that I feel it's just a matter of time.
With a little crying baby though, I wonder if my African adventurer days are over. So, what's my career path? While the adventure travel writing may be on hold, it doesn't necassarily have to end...

The plan:

Stage one: get the current book published.
Stage two: Hammer through the article writing world and start a second book. Possibly work towards a degree in journalism.

Stage three: In Canada, there is a law that allows parents to provide their children with home-schooling. I'm providing a new twist to this, and call it road schooling. What if, in ten years, I take Zack out of school for a year and into Africa. Let's say we stop for a couple months in Morocco to visit the family and practice his Arabic and French. Onto West Africa and down through the Congo, practicing French with mom and English with Dad all the way. Stop in Angola to learn Portuguese for several months, with a private tutor, while I hammer in maths and sciences. The geography will come from teaching him to use a GPS, not to mention the borders we are crossing and the places we are visiting. As a writer, I'm the perfect candidate to teach him grammar and work on various books. What other subjects are there? Gym - we'll take long hikes, mountain climb, and play rubgy in both Morocco and Angola. History, each country we pass through I'll be reading books about their history and pass them onto him with fun lessons. Art, we'll visit the various artisans throughout different countries. Sculptures in Zimbabwe, pottery and painting in Morocco. Computers - I'll set him up with a blog so he keeps up his writing prowess, and make sure he has his own website which he learns to program by himself.

Perhaps I'm being a bit too keen. He is only ten days old after all!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Zack yack

More vintage baby Zack

And Zack on Day 4



A little Zack video



Zack was circumsized yesterday and screamed whenever he peed. He seems to be doing much better now.

Monday, November 20, 2006

It's a Boy!

Zacharia Adam Sturgis came into this world yesterday at 1845 GMT.

We left the house at 3h30am when Siham's contractions were less than ten minutes apart.

It was noon when Siham was moved to the delivery room, and for five hours she was in fairly intense labour. The doctor waited as long as she could, with Siham adamant about not wanting to have a Cesarean section. Finally, the doctor made the call for her, and Siham was taken to surgery. At 18h45, from the nearby waiting room, we heard the baby crying, and shortly later we were told it was a boy and that Siham was well.

Siham in the hospital room















Siham having a contraction.















Me having a laugh.

















Siham in the delivery room now.





















Come on baby!
















And here is little Zack

















Zack and Daddy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Al Jazeera English arrives

I used to check out the news online at aljazeera.com but quickly got fed up with the ridiculousness of their reporting. For the same reason I never bother with Fox news or CNN;
on Aljazerra.com, everything was turned into a ranting Israeli or American conspiracy and the tone of it was bordering on fundamentalist nonsense. On the one hand, I welcomed the idea of an Arab perspective to counterbalance the extreme opposite nonsense of Fox news and CNN, but it became more like Fox, if not even worse.

While I can't exactly blame Al Jazeera for anti-American reporting, considering the US bombed their stations at the beginning of the Afghan war, and as if to say, "That wasn't actually a mistake," they bombed them again at the beginning of the Iraq war. Whether it was before or after these instances they stopped reporting real news and focused on being a puranical anti-American and anti-Israeli media outlet I'm not sure. However to gain any clout in my books, they should try to at least emulate the self critical mentaility of the BBC who report for integrity and even go so far as to question and expose the incompetences of themselves.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Phantom Aid and Madonna



I visited Malawi early in the year 2000, crossing the Zambia border after a night of drunken revilry with locals in a popular shack-bar.
Malawi is one of the poorest, if not the poorest country in the world, and for the past few years anyhow, has been on the brink of famine. It is also the most dysfunctional African country I've ever visited, and by dysfunctional I mean not only the government but the entire population right down to the local level. It is a nation with an overabundance of beggers, where the words "Give me money," ring out from every corner of almost every village I happened to pass through.

Type the words "Malawi Phantom aid" into the BBC news website and you will find numerous articles written about the abuse of aid money in the country. For example, five million dollar projects where two million goes into US expat salaries and another $700,000 on wining and dining with government ministers at five star hotels.
The latest craze of phantom aid seems to be focused on Madonna and her recent adoption of a Malawian boy.
A coalition of no less than 67 human rights groups has been pushing for a reversal of the country's decision to allow Madonna to adopt this boy.
SIXTY SEVEN!
Who-knows-how-many dollars are being dished out to object to one boy who has been offered a better life? Little David's father, too poor to keep him, left him with an orphanage and says he agrees with the adoption because he wants a better life for his son. Malawi has one of the highest AIDS rates in the world, with between 12% and 17% of the population infected, and much more than that unable to farm, work or go to school because they have to take care of sick loved ones. (Quite likely the real source of their "so called" famines.)
Approximately 91,000 Malawian children are infected with HIV and another half a million are AIDS orphans.
But I keep coming back to this sad statistic. In a country with so many problems: HIV; education and health care; famine and a crumbling infrastructure - that "sixty-seven" Human Rights groups even operate and take the initiative to focus on whining about the decision to offer some poor orphanage child a better life. I assume these are foreign operated organizations because Malawians have too many other things to worry about to bother wasting time with the human rights of a now spoiled rotten Malawian boy. In my opinion anyhow, the Phantom Aid Malawi conundrom has reached epic proportions.

The photos provided are during my one month trip through Malawi. On that particular day, after a seven hour drive, I came to a bridge that had been washed out. I tested the water's depth and with the help of several Malawians, tried to lift the car to see if we could carry it across. We couldn't. Instead, I decided to return, seven hours back, and take an alternative road. Most irritating though, was that the bridge had been washed out for two years and nobody had bothered to tell us.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Flying from Fes to England today

Ryan Air discount carrier has just begun flights between London and Morocco. My ticket, leaving Fes tomorrow (Tuesday Oct 31st) and returning Thursday, cost only 64 Euros for the return trip. At that price, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to head to the city of rain, curry and shopping.
With a baby due Nov 25th, I'm leaving it a little late. But there wasn't much ticket flexibility, the cheap flights only started this week.
The plan is to fly in, stay with a friend, buy as much as I can (within the 25 kilogram plane weight restrictions) and fly back to Morocco on Thursday morning.

Ryanair flies to three different airports in Morocco. Fes, Marakkesh, and Oujda.
From these three airports, they fly to three different European destinations. Marseilles, Frankfurt and London.

Tickets can cost as little as thirty Euros, if you are flexible and play with the dates.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Is myspace getting worse, or is it just me?

I'm getting more and more and more errors on Myspace. It started with the attempt to use the new feature that searches my gmail and Yahoo address books for people using myspace. It didn't work.
Then I was getting invisible messages. "You have one message." and when I went to my inbox, it was empty, except for saying, "message 1 of 1," with nowhere to click.

Then it was the searches for a friend, then searches through the highschool database. Nothing worked.

I'm beginning to think myspace is a dud. It would be one thing to fix previous errors. But they don't get fixed. They just build, one glitch after another with nothing ever getting corrected. Is there someone else out there having problems with myspace?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Canada's Clean Air Act, or Harper's Hot Air Act?

In the past I've been very critical of Harper. But to be realistic, it's not as if the Conservative government has a magic wand to simply pass laws that will bring Canada's runaway pollution problem into check overnight. In that, I'm a realist. As much as conservative sniping annoys me, the Liberal partising sniping about Harper's impotence environmentally is just as irritating.
Canada is a country balancing the windfall from a massive oil boom and the repurcussions of the environmental damage the boom creates. Drastically cutting pollution, at least in the short term, is a pipe dream.

We've made promises to big businesses, oil companies, and America to continue processing the oil sands for decades to come. Besides that, the oil boom money is damn nice.
Unfortunately, Harper can't do a whole lot to fix the great dilemma of pollution and global warming in the short term. That said, I am extremely disappointed in the policies and goals he's outlined. They seem flat and push the burden onto future leaders to pick up the slack.

Europe has the right idea, and here's a hint on how to impress the Green sreaming electorate while pandering to their dependence on the oil boom economy. The electorate wants something they can see, some environmental plan to distract them from the oil companies dessimating the environment. A ray of hope - not some mimicing of Bush's fancy names for Legislation.
Mr Harper should understand that most Canadians don't like George Bush. Judging by the polls, the majority of Americans are starting to lean this way too. Try to distance yourself from Bushm. For example, the Clean Air Act you outlined sounds scarily like the Clear Skies Initiative outline by GWB.
Furthermore, your plan is completely lacking environmental responsibility for the current government.

Here are the Clean Air Act ideas, taken from Glove and Mail website.

Highlights of the Conservatives' proposed Clean Air Act

Canadian Press

• By 2011, develop new regulations for vehicle fuel consumption.

• By 2025, set national targets for smog and ozone levels.

• By 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 45 and 65 per cent from 2003 levels.

• No mention of the Kyoto Protocol and the emissions targets the government of Canada comitted to in 2002.

• Harmonize vehicle emissions standards with those of the United States over the next 12 months.

• Harmonize regulations with those of the U.S. for volatile organic compound emissions in consumer and commercial products over the next year.

• Over the next three years, discuss and set “intensity based” targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, rather than total emissions targets, for major emitters.

• Negotiate with provinces to create harmonized system for mandatory reporting of air emissions, reduction of regulatory overlap.

• Create environmental damages fund from non-compliance fines to be applied directly to cleanup.



There is nothing really enforcable and simply the same tired promises of keeping an eye on polluters in the future.

Consider this. Rather than say, "We want to cut our greenhouse gasses by 50% by 2050." Try showing us some numbers we can imagine in the voterships lifetime, this year even. For example. "Canada wants to increase its renewable energy resources by 2% per year, and derive 30% of it's energy needs from renewable resources by 2015, including solar power, wind power and increased hydro projects."
Perhaps raise that goal to 40% by 2020.

Why not offer future tax breaks or lower road taxes on low emissions or hybrid cars?
Perhaps, due to market forces, it's not the best econonomic idea to push through right away, but a five or ten year plan for gradual e-friendly tax breaks could be extremely popular with the electorate. Not to mention tempting Toyota and Honda as campaign contributors - Gasp, campaign contributors with a non-environmentally threatening agenda! It would also push the big American car companies, who have trailed Japan in the Green revolution, to get a move on.

Will Canada revoke dual citizenship?

It's only a rumour at the moment, and the article states that little more than talks are taking place within Canada about the issue of dual citizenship. What startles me though is the xenophobic knee jerk reaction of most Canadians partaking in the ensuing debate.
They ask questions as to why would anyone want to have dual citizenship when Canada is such a great country?

See G&M article here.

The majority of the responses reinforce Canadian's closed-minded racism. "Joe the nobody who's never left the country doesn't understand why dual citizenship might be a good thing, why should other people have it?"
"Once in Canada, why would anyone want to leave?"

Personally, I hate passports and nationalities and even borders. The amount of time I've wasted jumping through bureaucratic hoops to obtain visitor's visas, not to mention the money, is a nightmare.

And if it's a pain for me, imagine my wife who's Moroccan. She needs a costly and time consuming visa to go almost anywhere in the world.
Yet she is Moroccan, and she would probably choose Moroccan nationality over Canadian nationality if she was forced to make a choice.

Why is this a problem for me?

I'm a travel writer who travels through Africa. If my wife obtains dual citizenship, I can continue in my career path because a Canadian passport actually gets me into other countries.
But if she doesn't get Canadian citizenship because she refuses to renounce her Moroccan identity, we'd likely get blocked at some point on the journey. Thus a small Canadian policy could either destroy my career, or cause strife in my marriage by having me unfairly push my wife to make an uncomfortable decision.

All this frustration based on a rumour. Something they are merely discussing and reviewing their policy of. Fortunately, there have been no changes yet, so there's nothing to be worried about. But to revoke people's dual citizenship is wrong.

It's a policy idea pushing us back to when Japanese Canadians were interned in prison camps. A xenophopbic idea to please a xenophobic group of closed-minded people.

"Why would anyone want to have dual citizenship?"

Because some people like to explore the world! Because some people like to live in new countries and seek diversity and culture. Dual citizenship opens that window for them. If obtaining documentaion to live a rich and diverse lifestyle is unCanadian, sorry Joe Muppet. There are other parts of the world than your big patch of land and its stamp of approval.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The tricky issue of the veil in Britain.

At a striptease in Saudi Arabia, all the men were shouting, "Show us your face."

A fierce debate is going on in England. Should women wear the Islamic veil? Is this a sign of segregation in a country trying to integrate Muslims? This issue has been pushed to the forefront since the onslaught of home grown terrorism.
My solution - post David Blunkett to deal with Muslim integration, I don't think he really cared one way or the other whether a woman was veiled or not.
Teehee.

Seriously though. Is it a sign of segregation and refusal to partake in British culture? Yes, to a point it is.
Do I agree with the veil - I wouldn't want my wife to wear one.
I don't think it is a necessary part of the Islamic religion so much as a symbol of certain cultures and countries known for their oppression of women. To me, the veil is a sign of a woman's subservience to her husband.

All that said, I have to bring up the argument that Britain today gives people the freedom to express their views through their dress. In a world where people have pink mohawks, wear vampire white makeup, get piercings and tattoos everywhere, wear their jeans halfway down their bums, and so on, what exactly is defined as fitting into British culture?
Alternatively, while I'll take the stand it is the choice of a women whether she wants to wear the veil in public or not, I also feel that if people go to Britain without being ready to accept certain cultural norms and freedoms, they might be more comfortable staying back in their home countries. If their style of dress is so fiercely important to them, perhaps they shouldn't have left in the first place.
In many stricter Muslim families, women are not allowed out unescorted by their male protectors. (Husband, father, brother.)
Yet here in England they not only are allowed out, but are actively partaking in British political debates, discussions, schooling, and life. So, while it's okay to partake in British society in some ways that defy their cultural norms, they cling fiercely to something that holds them back from really achieving these freedoms.
In my opinion, the veil is a symbol of being held back. Of staying anonomys and unimportant, and though a voice comes from behind the veil, it's a faceless and power-stripped voice which to me shouts. "This is what my husband is allowing me to say."

If that's what a person wants, then so be it. Otherwise, "Show us your face."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mechanics in Africa

Throughout my journey across Africa in a Beach Buggy, and during my last two years here in Morocco, I've had several visits to the mechanics. When you know a good one, they can be impressive. A job it would take me more than a day to muddle through, these guys finish in an hour.
Back in Canada, I had to change the bearings on my Ford Contour - a nightmare of a job because the placement of the wheel bearings was probably designed by either a drunken monkey, or because Ford intentionally wanted to make the job nearly impossible so people would be forced to bring their cars to a Ford mechanic.
For the job, I needed a strut condenser, but not just any strut condenser, one that would fit into the tricky tight space the contour designed.
The job took me three days. Granted, I'm no mechanic, and the first bearing, just to figure out how to bypass the strut condensing problem, took me almost two days. Once I got a system in place, the second bearing took a couple hours.
On the Honda Civic, here in Morocco, the guys took about an hour to change both bearings, and most of that time was waiting for someone else at a nearby garage to press the old bearings out and the new ones in.
And then there's the price. The bearings themselves were about US$80. The labour, for say two guys at an hour each, cost just over US$20.
A hundred bucks to do a bearing change job they probably would have charged triple or quadruple for in Canada or the States!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Leafs are on track.

It's been a promising start for Toronto. What surprises me the most about the league right now is the closeness of it. It's not only going to be the Maple Leafs in a dogfight to make the playoffs, it's going to be a dozen or more teams in each division.
The key for the Leafs will be consistency, they can't afford to take a mid season slump like last year. It killed them.
Sundin's 500th goal puts him at sixth most among active players. Ahead of him are Pierre Turgeon 511, Joe Niewendyk 561, Joe Sakic 575, Jaromir Jagr 593 and Brendan Shannahan 602.
The only player who might be out of reach in the long term is the younger Jaromir Jagr.

Far from dominating, the Leafs may have taken points on five of their six games, and five straight since their first game. Yet under the old system, their record would be 2 wins, 1 loss and 3 ties, or just one win over the .500 mark.
Nothing to get excited about.

The Senators are another team who will be in the dogfight after losing highly touted defenseman Chara to Boston and potential MVP Martin Havlat to the Chicago Blackhawks. Currently sitting atop of the scoring race, Havlat is a major factor in an apparant turnaround of the Blackhawks so far this season.

Ottawa seems to be the victim of salary cap limitations, if not their own stupidity. Their good drafting, trading and team building led them to become, "Le dynasty de merde," or one of the best teams to never amount to anything. They are dissolving faster than Calgary Flames who dumped superstar after superstar in an early nineties cleanout. The difference being the Flames dynasty actually won a cup before trading their best players for second and third liners. (Doug Gilmour for Gary Leeman teehee.)
Highly touted goaltender Gerber has shown signs of potential , but on other nights has been more reminiscent of The Goober.

I'm still laughing over the sweep of Ottawa by Toronto in the playoffs a few seasons back. Jeez, I lived in Ottawa then. I've been in Africa for five years!

Do presidents only get impeached in the movies?

Do presidents no longer get impeached, or resign in shame? Does that just happen in the movies?

The last one was Nixon (resigned on the cusp of being impeached) during Watergate for wire tapping the democrats.
Hasn't the Bush administration passed the Patriot Act allowing them to listen in on coversations legally?

Watch Swordfish to learn more about the Patriot Act, it was what the hero had originally been jailed for after destroying the same concept with a virus?

In the movie the Pelican Brief, a major energy giant company strategically assassinated environmentally friendly judges in order to pass votes for oil contracts on a Nature Reserve. The president was in the end brought down by the fact that this company had donated to his presidential campaign.

The current regime's largest campaign contributor was major energy giant CEO Kenneth Lay, the man responsible for the Enron scandal = the biggest corporate ripoff in American history.

Bill Clinton almost got impeached for lying about an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinski.
George Bush lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, invaded a sovereign country based on those lies - without UN approval (illegal under international law), - and caused, directly or indirectly, the deaths of more than 655,000 people who would otherwise be alive today had he not invaded.

Bush (via his cronies) revealed the name of a CIA agent (a serious crime) in a smear campaign against her husband and the CIA who disputed Bush's Iraq WMD claim.

I could go on and on, but these are a few of the more solid and obvious "crimes."

***

Article II, US Constitution:

Section 4 - Disqualification

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, AND Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.


Are US presidents no longer impeachable?


Definition: TREASON - This word imports a betraying, treachery, or breach of allegiance.

The Constitution of the United States, Art. III, defines treason against the United States to consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort. This offence is punished with death. By the same article of the Constitution, no person shall be convicted of treason, unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
--b--


minor - Threatening the country's security via revealing the name of a CIA agent.
major - making decisions based on lies which helped the cause for recruiting of American enemies.

(There has to be something illegal about this, if not then at least very dodgy?) - The Republican campaign taking money from near defunct corporation Enron which went on to steal billions of dollars from American citizens.
Being the root cause, and prime exascerbater of significant and shock level oil price increases that resulted in the significant increase of GWB's personal wealth and the wealth of his friends.

Advice for aspiring writers.

1) Legitimate publishers and agents don't advertise in magazines. These are vanity publishers, and no matter how bad your work is, they will tell you it's good enough to publish, but they want to split the costs of publication.
2) Real agents and publishers NEVER ask you for money. If an agent or publisher asks you for money, it is a scam, designed to take money from aspiring authors. You will never see a cent of that money returned.
3) If an agent thinks your work has the potential to make them money, they will represent you and take a commission on the money you make. They won't ask for an advance, ever.

4) And my last piece of advice, which I've mentioned way back when starting this blog, is to go to the website www.critiquecircle.com
Even if you only submit one piece of your work, (you have to critique others to get feedback yourself) you will learn something.

Okay, I should stop procrastinating on my blog now and get back to work.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Is Ignatieff floundering?

While the media has been criticizing Liberal leadership hopeful Michael Ignatieff as anti-Israeli for his harsh comments on the Qana tragedy, (calling it a war crime) I think he stated the plain truth. While Ignatieff is still not my first choice, I retract my previous position in that I would never vote for Ignatieff as PM. Not that he's grown on me, but Steven Harper has just taken such a stance of such ignorance that I could never support him.
Even though I don't like Bob Rae, I'd choose Rae over Harper. I'd even choose the NDP or the green party over Harper.
Ignatieff's intelligence and affluent responses to difficult questions have impressed me. Israel needs a strong Canadian PM to take a stance against their transgressions while pushing for peace and dialogue. It bothers me that other Liberal leadership hopefuls have remained bothersomely quiet on the issue.

In the first days of the invasion, I waited to see if I agreed with Harper's initial "Measured response," approach to Israel's invasion. I even gave him the benefit of the doubt when he didn't retract the statement after Israel went on to destroy the infrastructre of a predominately peace loving country and kill over 1000 of their civilians.

But his latest ignorant support of Israel, casting a blind eye to their war crimes and and destruction, including the environmental catastrophe on Lebanon's coastline, means I can never, ever support Harper. I'm taking Ignatieff's side on this issue, and if a few pro-Israeli politicians want to cross the floor and pander to the miniscule Jewish vote, let them do so, you're not wanted in a Peace loving Canadian political party. Ignatieff is catering to the common sense vote of people with a clue about Middle Eastern politics. I'd be willing to bet there are more of us than there are hard-core even beyond stupidity Israel supporters - even in Israel!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Harpercrite strikes again

Harper the hypocrite says Liberals are anti-Israeli.

I'm tired of the Israeli card being played, over and over and over again, as though the rest of the world should be held accountable for saving their few remaining numbers from the Germans in WWII. The holocaust was awful, tragic and the blackest mark in mankind's recent history. But that doesn't give Israel the right to commit war crimes today. Nor should it give them the power to protest and lobby every time someone points out one of their murderous mistakes. The most recent case being a war crime committed in Qana. But the list is long and very disturbing.

Ignatieff called it right, saying Qana a war crime, but he also reiterated that war crimes were committed by both sides.

I don't support Hezbollah and think their claim to victory is a baffling joke. They merely rode out the storm, fired a few rockets from their hidden bunkers and tunnels, killed the odd Israeli, and disappeared again. Meanwhile Israeli retribution destroyed the infrastructure of Lebanon and resulted in ten times the casualties, military and civilian, than Israel themselves suffered. I don't see how being the underlying cause of the destruction of one's country can be considered any kind of victory for Hezbollah, moral or otherwise.

Moving on, Harper should not blindly support Israel while ignoring the devestation felt by the Lebanese people. The region is a pit of snakes, and unless you tread carefully, you're going to get bitten.

Ignatieff is first lambasted for saying he didn't lose any sleep over the deaths in Qana.
I feel bad about them, but I didn't lose any sleep either. Admittedly, it was a bad choice of words.
He compensates by saying Israel committed war crimes in Qana.
Suddenly the Jewish lobby is up in arms and like a little kid in a playground, Harper jumps up and down and calls Ignatieff anti-Israel.

Harper - what happened in Qana was a war crime. How does pointing out the fact make Ignatieff anti-Israeli?

I'm disappointed in the media for reporting such drivel.
I'm disappointed in Harper yet again.
And I'm disappointed in swathes of the Canadians for following Harper's idiotic line as can be seen by the comments page of the G&M article about Harper's anti-Israeli accusation. I thought Canadians on the whole were smarter and better capable of seeing a situation for what it was.
Blindly nodding at whatever BS a country's leader happens to say has been an American problem recently (sorry to the American minority who doesn't blindly nod.) Apparantly it's a Canadian phenomonon as well.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Iraq death count estimate - 655,000

Check the BBC article out here

655,000, or 2.5% of Iraq's population. That's a staggering number! One in twenty five Iraqies killed since the beginning of this war.

In comparison, if one in twenty-five Americans were killed, that would add up to 7.5 million Americans. So far the count is around 3000 though, including non-American troops.

While the underlying blame lies squarely on Bush for creating this quagmire. There is something wrong when Muslims systematically assisinate and mass murder other Muslims for little reason other than to create havoc and destroy what remains of Iraqies dreams. Or perhaps the reason is simply to see America fail. If enough Iraqies die, America will be embarassed for the stupid mistake they made of invading.

Bush is suffering from the lowest support ratings of any president in history. Hovering around 40% - what shocks me is that there are 40% of Americans stupid enough to keep blindly supporting this buffoon.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Wake up America!

America today reminds me of dysfunctional African countries and their unspirited, at times fearful, acceptance of the people in power. "They will steal their share and then someone else will take their turn," tends to be the common line.

People in Iraq are being blown up, rounded up and shot, and tortured worse than at any time under Saddam Hussein's regime.

The Valerie Plame affair still confuses the hell out of me as to why it just was just shruggingly reported. It's as though it's no big deal that Bush told a deliberate lie to the American public in order to justify the Iraq invasion, and then when called on that lie, Bush (and we all know the decision came from him) punished the whistle blower by committing a federal (national security endangering) offence by revealing the name of a CIA agent (who happened to be the whistle blower's wife.)

Watergate, Lewinski? They don't even compare!

Yet the biggest headlines dominating American media in the last six months is about a Republican's innappropriate comments to a young man. Not a boy, but a young man, and there is a significant difference! Sixteen year olds are old enough to go to war in the United States, which IMO, can be vastly more emotionally scarring than a few dirty gay comments posted over the internet by some old codger.

Murder, war crimes, torture, who cares.
An old gay politician caught writing a dirty comment to a young man. Prepare the guillotine, American values are under threat.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Is Mr Foley's neighbourhood bringing down the Republicans?

Mr Foley, the republican embroiled in a scandal about explicit sexual messaging with a sixteen year old is not only under fire, but the Democrats are going for blood, trying to milk this situation into a full blown, bigger than Monica Lewinski scandal and getting everyone associated with this guy fired.
Seriously though, what's the big deal?
I'd like to point out that the age of sexual consent in the majority of US States is sixteen - the age of the young man he was sending sexually explicit emails to. Therefore, depending on the state, I'm not aware of any law being broken. While his acts are questionable, and indeed raise suspicion of him being a possible pedophile, it doesn't mean he is one. Indeed, in my books, he is just a dirty old man.
How many "normal" guys do I know who don't actually click on the "barely legal eighteen" sites when searching the net for porn. The fact that he is a gay and attracted to young males should bear only a minor difference to a man dreaming of sex with the women he sees on barely-eighteen-sites on the net. Sixteen is a grey area, seventeen less grey, eighteen considered perfectly acceptable. Is there really that much of a difference?

Then again, what should I expect from a nation who practically declared a national family values emergency when a boobie was shown for a split second during a superbowl halftime show.
There are a lot of things the Republicans should go down for, and I could blog about them until I am blue in the face. But this is not one of them.

An early turning point for the Leafs

I know it's only the second game of an 82 game season, but if there was ever a turning point in the Leafs fortunes, it occurred last night. Coming off a 4-1 loss at home, heading to their arch-rivals home arena, I feared a repeat of last season, where the buds were continually undressed and embarassed by a powerful Ottawa team.
Last night, the Leafs responded. In fact, they did the undressing of Ottawa, in a romping 6-0 victory.
I only wish I could have watched the game. Not even the radio internet link worked, whether it was my connection, software, or just too much traffic. The internet was acting funny last night, this blog wouldn't come up at all and another site kept crashing on me.
Go Leafs Go.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Go Leafs Go - my weekly hockey junk

The Leafs recorded their first loss yesterday to the loathed Senators. Like last year, I'm hoping this isn't the start of another dismal appearance against the team who seemed to single-handedly dismantle the Leafs playoff hopes last season. Since the Leafs play the Sens up to eight times, they need to come away with at least a few wins. Tonight in Ottawa will be a big test for the Buds and may well spell success or failure for the rest of the season.

IMO, the Leafs single biggest off season blunder was letting Eric Lindros go. The guy wanted to be in Toronto, and was willing to take a bargain-basement salary just to stay. I make an early prediction and say the Leafs will lack offense this season. Sundin can carry the top line with a couple other good players alongside him, but Tucker needs a quality centre to bolster the second line, and the big E could have done that. Injury prone or not, we're talking about a guy who was touted to be the next great one until a few concussions slowed his career down.
The Leafs have depth in young defense, and should have probably passed on Hal Gill who I doubt will do much to impress this season. Instead, they should have given a couple cheaper young kids a chance while investing in best you can buy defense coaching.

Finally, big news on the sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins to Jim Balsillie, owner of the massively popular Canadian company Research in Motion. The only reason the Pittsburgh Penguins ever survived in the hockey market was because of Mario Lemieux. Without him, the team would have been hauled away from Steel town years ago. As if some freak of nature occurred, they managed to haul in the next generation superstar in Sydney Crosby as well. But the city has lolligagged on building a new arena and talks have spun around moving to another state - Bad idea!

Where is the best market - the Toronto area is massively underserved. Per capita, there are more hockey fans in Toronto than probably any other major city in the world. Look at New York, with the Rangers, the Islanders, and the Devils. Count the Sabres too if you're talking about NY State.
In Toronto, Leafs tickets are always sold out. A second team, with the star draw of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Staal would be dynamite. South of the border, you're taking your chances on both a weak US dollar and questionable hockey markets.
Choose your Canadian city soon, Winnipeg, Quebec City, or the GTA. There's a dynasty in the making with talent that hasn't been matched since the Oilers broke into the league in the eighties.

The Leafs would be crazy to decline the possiblity of another team in the area. There are enough dedicated Leaf fans to sell out tickets forever, with or without a rival team nearby. It would also set up a rivalry for the history books and bring the best thing in hockey today back to the country his talents were made in.

The only thing to figure out now is a great name.

Recently edited out of a chapter.


I recently edited this section out of my Egyptian chapter. It's a tough chapter, where a lot of things happened, but not a lot of it is noteworthy or interesting enough to include. Anyway, this is one of the ministories which didn't make the final cut. Please note that this is a few editing rounds short of being polished as I cut it out at an early stage.

You'll probably notice sections of strong writing, and sections not so strong. Hopefully it will provide a look into my editing process anyhow.

#


Pierre’s shiny bald head and snappy clothes made him look like Lex Luthor. He laughed heartily, argued in class with the teacher and blamed them when a language concept escaped him. Other students avoided him, whispering to each other about how obnoxious he was. He didn’t have a big crowd of friends at the school. In fact, I was his only one.

At the end of each class, with Arabic grammar and vocabulary scrambling to get a foothold in our heads, we often ended up at our favourite backstreet café. With one hand, Pierre held the ebony handle of a sheesha water pipe, bringing it up to his mouth and inhaling deeply. While the sheesha gurgled, he’d use his other hand to roll a set of dice onto the backgammon board and move his pieces around.

#

Cairo’s weather was generally sunny. In my entire time, there was one brief rainstorm, a pelting of acid rain that sent black droplets down my skin as I sought shelter in a nearby shop. Another day, I awoke to an eerie brownness which dulled out the sun. A hamseen, as the Egyptians called it, is when strong winds from the desert pick up the dust and sand and leave the entire area in a cloud of dust.

On a cool January afternoon, Pierre and I sat playing backgammon in our favourite bustling alleyway. An enormous Egyptian man had locked onto us with his eyes from far across the alley. Sweat beading down his forehead, he walked straight toward us, grabbing a napkin from a nearby table to wipe his brow. Nearly out of breath, he said, “Do you want part in Egyptian movie?”

Pierre eyes shot up. “What film? Who’s the director?”

The shady-looking, overweight man brightened. “It’s a movie about the mob. I’m not sure who the director is. You can learn more about it at the office if you come with me.”

Pierre bumbling with excitement and me not-so-enthusiastic, we followed him down a few narrow streets, up three sets of concrete stairs, and into a small, unfurnished apartment with cracking, pollution-stained orange paint. Four Eastern Europeans chatted in some Russian-sounding language. They leaned against the wall with expressions of anxious boredom. A chunky British girl, her dark hair frazzled and her jaw set in an exasperated-end-of-day at the office look, came out of a separate office with a clipboard. She saw the six of us waiting and checked her watch. “The associate director should be here in a minute,” she said.

Two hours later, the associate director still hadn’t arrived. I took a deep, frustrated breath. “I gotta go.”

On my way out the door, the British girl, her voice filled with panic, rushed toward me. “Wait!” She took my arm and shuffled me into a separate room filled with wire racks of pants, dress shirts and long-tailed coats – it looked like a charity shop. “You can take your clothes off here,” she said, standing by the door.

“But we just met. What kind of Egyptian film is this?”

Her face went bright crimson. “Uhh,” she stuttered, “Abdul’s going to get your dimensions and fit you with something for the role.” Her slim Egyptian colleague slid between her and the door and looked me up and down.

“Oh,” I winked at her, “maybe later then.”

The man took out his measuring tape and determined my lengths and widths. They then did the same to Pierre and we agreed to show up the next day and meet the assistant director.

“Please wait here,” the British girl said. “The assistant will be here any minute.”

“That’s what you said yesterday,” I said.

“I know, I know, but he’s coming.”

Pierre and I still sat in the concrete stairwell two hours later. “Forget it.” I stood up. “I’m done.”

“I’m staying. I really want to do this and see how movies are made.” Pierre remained in his seat.

“They’re not paying you to sit here for hours every day. Waiting around on the day of the shoot is one thing; they give you twenty bucks at the end of the day. But, it’s been four hours now just to sign up. It’s ridiculous.”

Eventually, Pierre was given a time and place to be at for the shoot. He showed up for the next two days at six in the morning, but the filming was cancelled both times. Still undeterred, he returned for a third day and waited with several other foreigners in a café next to where the camera crew had their equipment. Ten hours later, having not acted but just waited, they paid him the meagre wage. Worse still, the company misplaced two pairs of designer pants they’d asked him to bring. He spent another two weeks harassing the studio before they were found and returned.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tidbit of the month - sort of

This is a story which I'm not including in the book. Although it has points of interest, it takes a long time to get across and, I'm afraid, sounds a little whiny.

A ten page passport extention doesn't last long in the Middle East. Since getting ten more pages inserted in Ethiopia, the next country Sudan took up two pages with their stamp happiness, Saudi Arabia had taken up another three, Jordan had taken two pages, and, after a month in Egypt, the extention had taken up their second page. I had one blank page left.

With the passport in hand, I headed to the Canadian embassy. The marble-floored, white-walled room, had glass barriers protecting the employees; probably more for safety from irate Canadians than from terrorists.
A woman behind the desk explained the procedure to get a new passport. "You need your birth certificate, your social insurance number, this application, and..." she pointed to a section on the application. "This needs to be filled in and signed by an Egyptian official stating that they have known you for two years or more."

"But," I said. "I already have a passport, why would I need all that. I could return to Canada with this passport, see, there's still one page left. It doesn't make sense to have all those documents."

"Those are the rules," she said. "That's what you need for a new passport."

I had two problems. First, my birth certificate was at my parents house in Canada. My parents were in Florida for the winter. Second, I had barely known any Egyptian person for more than a couple months. How was I to find an official who'd known for two years?

It wasn't until the sixth month of my stay in Cairo before I managed to obtain my birth certificate from overseas, which had been lost and needed to be reordered by my sister. A dentist friend of Selim's signed the statement that I was in fact, Daniel Sturgis.

While my new passport application was being processed, I met an American at one of the pubs I frequented. He worked with passport control and immigration at the American embassy.
"I was wondering," I said, "What are the conditions on issuing a new passport to US citizens at the embassy?"

"That's easy," he said. "We just interview the person in and ask them a few quick questions like What US highschool did you attend? What street did you grow up on? What was your zip code in the US? If the answers come quickly," he snapped his fingers, "we check a couple facts and issue them a new passport. It's usually pretty obvious."

"What if the answers don't come quickly?" I asked.

"Well, then we double check the facts to make sure they aren't lying, and if everything is alright, we replace their lost passport."
"Oh, their lost passport," I said. "What if they have there old passport and its run out of pages, or is going to expire."
He looked at me as though I was stupid. "No questions asked," he said. "We make sure the passport is genuine and issue them a new one."

"Right," I said.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Revisiting the Darfur crisis

I earlier mentioned that in lieu of the Sudanese government's objection to an international force, Middle Eastern Nations should rise to tackle the challenge of Darfur. While it would be nice if they could, most Muslim governments are either at odds with Sudan, do not have the military capabilities to lead such a mission, or most unfortunately, just don't give a damn about the suffering of their fellow Muslims if it is not tied to Palestine or Iraq, Israel or America.

That leaves the world with other options. One such suggestion, as mentioned in the Economist magazine, is for China to lead the mission. China has the power and capability and could also utilize this catastrophe to improve their clout on the world stage.

If this is still not acceptable to the Sudanese government, a last resort option I suggest is born from the fact that the Sudanese government has quelled the people of Darfur's basic human rights. The region of Darfur is predominately black African. A government must protect all of its citizens to the best of their ability, no matter what background they are from. Because the Sudanese government, rather than protect the people of Darfur, has made efforts to persecute them by aligning their own military with local janjaweed militias, the United Nations should, with immediate effect, consider Darfur a country to itself, with their own right for self determination.
Instead of dealing with Sudan, you're dealing directly with Darfur. A subsequent referendum should be held on whether to rejoin Sudan as one country, or become the independant state of Darfur.
I know it's a drastic measure, but the Sudanese government has left the world with little other choice. The mere threat of recognizing Darfur as independent of Sudan may just kick the SOBs in Khartoum into action.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The stuff in the NIE Bush doesn't want you to hear.

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report is a collection of the view of all sixteen US intelligence agencies.

Bush is against any declassification of the NIE and describes his critics as "naive" for not understanding the war on terror.

From the BBC
"The leaked excerpts from the report were first published by the New York Times on Sunday.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Mr Bush condemned the leak, calling his critics "naive".



Declassification would let people judge the document for themselves," he said."

This last statement pretty much sums it up. He's against declassifying the document so people could judge it for themselves. Americans need to be spoonfed propoganda, and anything that is too damaging to GWB must be silenced or spun in a different direction.

Ask yourself, why is it dangerous for people to judge the document for themselves? Could it be possible that it exposes his gross incompetence and threatens his grip on power? That the recurring theme discusses the dangers he has created in the world thanks to his catostrophic judgement.

Without ever reading the document, here is my hypotheses on some of the things it says and what they don't want you to hear.

George Bush had no credible intelligence to prove that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He fabricated the information based on a previous rumour that had been disproved by Joseph William who had gathered foreign intelligence to the contrary in Nigeria. In response to the outcry by Joseph William downriding Bush's claim that Iraq had purchased enriched Uranium from Nigeria, the Republican administration fought back by leaking confidential National Security information and reveailing that William's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent.

Torture, as used by Iraqi police and informal militias, is now worse than at any point in time under Saddam Hussein.
The situation in Iraq is out of control and will not get better. All out civil war is inevitable unless drastic steps are taken.

Furthermore, Muslim resentment toward American foreign policy is at unprecedented levels and ensures chaos in Iraq that can possibly spread throughout the entire region.

It is more likely Iraq will fall into the hands of Islamists and break out into all out civil war than it is to become a functional and united democracy. If true democracy takes place, it is likely Iraqis will vote to break apart with mass migration similar to India and Pakistan during their separation following the deoccupation by the British. Such displacement will further fuel civil strife.

Iran, who posed more of a threat to the region than Iraq ever did, will continue to grow stronger. They have been emboldened by the Shia power vacuum the invasion has created and, through Hizbollah and Syria, threaten to spark a devastating regional war with possible nuclear repurcussions.

Terrorism, already spreading throughout the Muslim world's closest target, Europe, will grow worse. While Americans and Europeans will initially try to preach fairness and equality, growing Muslim resentment at Western foreign policy will act as a catylist for further terrorist attacks. This in turn will fuel hate crime throughout Europe, increasing the attractivenes of right-wing extremists parties such as Jean Marie Le Pen in France.


The Iraq war has diminished American respect throughout the world and in many ways, exhausted it in the Middle East. As a result, the United States has been sidelined in their ability to take a stance of intervention in places of humanitarian catastrophe such as Sudan. Islamist governments already in power use America's disastrous foreign policy decisions under George Bush as reason to block intervention. While Sudan continues to deny their genocidal war crimes in Darfur, they at the same time twist the world's call for intervention into their own rallying cry against any foreign crusade to occupy Arab land.

While staying the course in Iraq is essential for any chance of peace and democracy, these objectives remain impossible while George Bush is in power. For too many Muslims, he is the face of evil and fans the flames of their humiliating military inferiority. For the best chances of a successful Iraq campaign, a new and apologetic president not affiliated with the current regime needs to be implimented.

Further reccomendations to quell Islamic revolt and anger, and take the first steps to healing America's crumbling foreign affairs, would be to entertain preliminary charges against George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and other key administration and military figures through an international tribunal for war crimes. If the tribunal feels there is enough evidence to proceed, charges should be brought and trials should be held on the international stage.

* Please note: While I seriously doubt GWB or his associates will ever stand trial for their decisions, my thoughts are simply aimed to quell the damage his administration has done to America's image in the world.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Ramadan again

Ramadan feels similar to a kid going back to school. The homework is a pain, you might get a nasty teacher, but their is an exciting atmosphere where you get to tackle another challenge and see close friends again.
In Ramadan, the not eating is a pain, you might get a nasty headache , but their is a certain jovial family atmosphere. It rises to a sort of crescendo on the last days before you break the fast with relatives and sometimes friends.

On the other hand, there's the argument that faithful are told to fast so their minds are weaker and easier to manipulate. Cults are known to half-starve their followers in order to deprive them of a fully reasoning mind. A tired and undernourished brain is easier to manipulate than a well fed one. The fact that, at the hungriest and most desperate time of the day, the Islamic call to prayer (there is but one God and Muhammed is his prophet) blares over loud speakers as though a message of release. The most enjoyable part of the day, when the date squishes into your mouth and you take a huge drink, the message which is repeated over and over and over again, is right there.

That's not the official reasoning, however. One reason for fasting during Ramadan is to make people understand what its like to be very hungry so they can better sympathise with the poor. Almsgiving, (Zaqat) is the third of the five pillars of Islam.

It also makes people feel they have taken part in something. Like they have completed a harsh task, and having done so, are more a part of the religion.

I've spent the last four Ramadan seasons in Arab countries, the first in Jordan and Egypt, and the last three here in Morocco. Last year, my first as a Muslim, I didn't make a huge effort, which was certainly more than the two years previous. I sometimes had coffee to get rid of headaches in the morning, and when you cheat once, well, the whole game is up so you might as well have a yoghurt and a chocolate bar too.
This year I'm one for one so far. I figure if it starts to interfere with my work, I might cheat again. The plan is to work hard in the mornings, sleep in the afternoons, break the fast at sundown, let the bloated feeling settle, and get back to work.
Even a sip of water is considered cheating and thus ruins all the effort someone put throughout the day.

If you have an open mind, consider asking a Muslim friend if you could join them and break the fast one day during Ramadan. It's an enlightening experience and gives you a taste of what Muslims go through for a month every year.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The perfect mobile phone

It seems mobile phones get more intricate by the week. From the huge clunky military style unit which started off the craze, to the clunky carphones which cost so much you needed to take out a second mortgage, to your modern day pay-as-you-go pipsqueak with all the bells and whistles.

What would your perfect mobile phone be?

Me.

Obviously a camera with video capability would be standard, as high a quality as you could squeeze into the little sucker. Night vision included.
Size options, the normal slim mobile, or the big blackberry mini keyboard and a larger screen.
It would have the processing capacity of a modern day laptop.
Storage capacity similar to an IPOD.
Removable storage units like the ones in digital Cameras.
A home unit that hooks up to monitor and peripherals so the phone can be turned into a PC. The home unit would include a booster to increase speed and Ram.
In some Asian cities, cell phones have begun to tap into the wireless internet community and can make calls through programs like Skype. Such accessibility would be a standard option. Recognition of the cheapest possible call rate.
A GPS unit, with a car kit that speaks to you.
Shock resistant and waterproof.
Satellite phone for the middle of nowhere coverage.
Satellite internet capability.
For the larger version, the option of video games, like a miniplaystation, which could tap into the wireless community.
A video projector, as seen in this article, would be a cool option. As the projectors get more advanced, something with the power of a modern day projector would be amazing. You could project the information onto a screen and work on your computer or watch movies through high speed internet connectivity.
Why not have it replace car keys and house keys as well, using a special signal to unlock cars, and start them like the slide-in card keys do.
Car adapters which turn the phone into a speaker phone.
Thumb print identification/unlocking.
Attachable antenna for two-way radio communication.
Modern cars could include standard celphone options that hook right into the car. Diagnostic capabilities, fuel efficiency, time until next service.
Offshoot business options - Mobile car service teams who, while you're busy somewhere, can race in with a team, service the car, oil change, filter, anything else that needs servicing, and zoom away in the time it takes you to finish your grocery shopping. All thanks to the diagnostic tools. This could help manufacturers extend car warranties and be the much needed quality injection companies like Ford desperately need.


All right Microsoft, Linux, Nokia, Sony, Motorola, Ford, Toyota and Honda. I've given you a glimpse of the next generation of ideas as I see them. Now get working. I expect my car and mobile phone package to be ready by 2010.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Chavez claims Bush the Devil

While I might agree George Bush is a terrible president, in fact I could create an entire blog simply to bash his policy decisions. The deficit, inflation, anti-americanism throughout the world, alienating his closest allies, Valeri Plame, oil prices, Lebanon, Iraq, ... enough said!
But Chavez looks like the bigger idiot today. To get up on a podium, call George Bush the Devil, and say he smells sulphur in the air is childish and, well pathetic. You do a disservice to yourself Mr Chavez, and discredit every point you made in your ensuing speech by lowering yourself to such infantile name calling.
There is plenty of fodder to stand up in front of the world and call Bush an idiot, buffoon, liar or some clever spin on the axis of evil analagy. It would have been easy to embarass Bush's democratic Middle East stance by pointing out that the UN is only as democratic as the five veto wielding nations allow it to be and spin that into any number of his disasterous decisions. Some of this you did go on to point out, but all of your comments were undone by your Berlisconi-esque maturity level on the international stage.

Dion's G&M responses

While certainly not the worst of the candidates in the Globe and Mail Q&A so far, I don't think Dion hit a homerun either. He fielded very few questions, perhaps the least of all the candidates, and none of them particularly risque. His answers, while more concise than most candidates, were still a long way off from Findlay's who IMO, dominated the open forums thus far.
I'm still in the anyone but Rae or Ignaetieff camp. Cleverly, they have waited until the end of the pack to answer questions, if they answer them at all.
The Globe also did a survey, which was about as clear as mud. What I got out of it was that Ignatieff is leading now, but Rae and Dion are still within reach. I also understand that Rae has the most second ballot popularity and is favoured to win the big prize. In all honesty, if I had to, I'd choose Rae over Ignatieff because I totally disagree with Ignatieff's stance on Iraq. I want a Prime Minister who keeps a comfortable distance from the White House's current administration.
I'm hoping one or more of Dryden, Kennedy or Findlay drops out and supports Dion. While they are all impressive candidates, I don't see them winning. I do hope Findlay hangs on, pulls in a bit more experience and runs for the next leadership race because I do think she has the potential to make a great PM one day.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's Dion's turn tomorrow

Tomorrow, it's Stephen Dion's turn. I'm hoping he answers my question.

Thank you for fielding questions today Mr Dion. Protests have recently taken place around the world to draw attention to the situation in Sudan's Darfur region. Former Canadian General Dallair, who led the tragic UN mission in Rwanda, has called for Canada to play a role in intervention. What do you see as the key challenges to the diffusing the Darfur crisis and what role do you see Canada as playing?

Hedy Fry: judgement of responses

In the Globe and Mail's question and answer today, Dr Hedy Fry fielded several questions. Something about her responses seemed overly thought out to the point of being irrational. She seemed to have a plan for everything from Quebec to green energy in Northern Canada to Afghanistan. I don't quite know why, but this bothered me. I'd rather have a politician not say they have a plan for everything we ask about, but rather to define the key challenges of an issue, penetrate more than just its surface, and provide one or more alternatives. This is especially important because even if the Liberals do win, it is likely to be a minority government. With a minority, plans go out the window and everything is give and take concessions, holding on by a string until the other parties get fed up and have another go at the cookie jar.
Hedy sounded like an inexperienced candidate for student council president, rather than an articulate and well thought out prime ministerial one. She tried to find the right answer to all the questions and impress everyone. Yet she rarely scratched the surface of an issue, or took on anything I would consider to be too challenging. At times I got bored and felt her rambling and dull. I also found it disappointing she took three hours to answer a limited number of questions that could have been done in half the time. I suspect Martha Hall Findlay went in with at least one pre-known question her friends sent in. Either that or she did her homework and quite cleverly studied the previous discussions. She seemed to have preplanned answers and responded in kind.
If it took Hedy Fry three hours to answer these questions, I suspect she hadn't done her preparation, which makes me think she wouldn't be organized as a leader.
If I were running, and I had the opportunity to field questions, I would be studying my ass off and have a commission of clever political minds around me to debate each question that has been asked so far. I'd also have friends send in pre-known questions so I can prepare answers in line with my political ideologies before the debate even begins. This is a serious fight for a serious position of power. Not a little game. Anyone who donated money to this woman in hopes of her mounting a serious Prime ministerial bid should be kicking themselves right now.

Chat programs, which to use

In University, about eight years back, the chat programs of choice seemed to be ICQ. The little flower in the bottom of my screen would flash and the speakers would blast out a high-pitched, "Uhoh," every time someone sent me a message.
I eventually moved onto Yahoo messenger, but after a few years, broken by intermittent travel, I gave up on Yahoo. The program seemed to get too complicated, with little applets for hundreds of applications. Games, chats, videos, funny messages, etc, etc. Yahoo messenger seemed to slow my computer down noticibly. It also made the system more unstable, and after a while, the computer started to freeze up.
So I switched to something simpler, a program which seemed to suddenly sprout up and is now a major competitor. Skype offered the basics I needed, and allowed me to make dirt cheap phone calls overseas. I like its simplicity, and since originally downloading Skype, small improvements seem to be made every so often, like smoother call quality, video conferencing and Skype in where I can buy a phone number in any country around the world. I haven't had the program crash on me, and though I've only used the camera twice, it hasn't crashed like Yahoo seems to do.
I also have google talk, because it is an even simpler program than Skype, and because Google tends to do things well. It is conveniently tied into my email account. Problems, I sometimes have delays when calling people. It waits several seconds before connecting, but afterwards the conversations run smoothly.
I prefer to only have the necessities running on my computer. The more programs, the more confusion and possible conflicts. Keep the basics running, and the rest will be easy.

Rebels Softball

Line up for spring season

Dan
Steve
Hans
Hunter
Bart
Mark Huffman
Antonio
Wael
Anouar
Rich L
Matt D

Friday, September 15, 2006

Martha Hall Findlay: a refreshing surprise.

Out of nowhere, comes candidate Martha Hall Findlay. Previously, all the hype had been on other more famous (or perhaps infamous) candidates, and their main challengers. Ms. Findlay has responded, and in my opinion, primed herself to move up in the rankings and give the front runners something to be nervous about.

To make an analagy, many aspiring writers were pushed into the idea of writing, probably by a friend or relative who thought they wrote a good letter, or had an interesting story to tell.
But because their mother and best friend find them fascinating, doesn't mean they are. The aspiring writer might get to the step where they have four hundred pages of pouring their heart and soul out. But, as 99% of writers, me included, go on to find out. The publishing world aint that easy to crack.
I think the same thing goes for politicians wanting to become PM. A tight knit group of friends or political allies might tell them, "Hey, go for it, you have what it takes to be a great PM!"
Brison, Bennett, Volpe, Fry, and Ignatieff are all in this boat. They really believe that their group of friends is right and they can go on to lead the country.
With Findlay, I think we might have actually hit the one whose friends were right.

On her online G&M debate, she impressed impressed me. Although she didn't field my own question about General Dallair's intervention in Sudan, the questions she did take on received balanced, articulate and intelligent answers. She wasn't partisan sniping, and I have to say I agree with the majority of her stances. She got past the scratching the surface answers that Carolyn Bennett gave and said certain issues were important to her, such as the child development plan and health care, but not at the expense of a balanced budget. Some of her answers were long, which perhaps stopped her from responding to more questions. I'm sure she shied away from some difficult ones, but the ones she took on struck a chord of common sense in my books.

But there is bad news. I was hoping only one candidate would stand out and take on Rae or Ignatieff. Both of which I forsee losing badly in a federal election. Up until now, I thought that would be Dion.

I sometimes wonder if the core of Ignatieff and Rae's support is derived from people who want the Liberals to lose the next election. Some of the delegates may be disguised conservatives with an agenda. But another more serious issue could be that other star Liberals are hoping to sacrifice an upcoming election to the Grits in order to run themselves for the next leadership race when the party has rebuilt itself.