Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chad: The jailing of French Aid staff.

To me the name Zoe's Ark charity sounds like a cult. The kind that round up people on the streets and, by using various mental manipulations, (starving, humiliation, cutting off from the real world) manages to bend their wills to make them believe their leader as the second coming of Christ, or perhaps in this case Noah.

Arch de Zoe, the French translation, is an example of development work at its worst.

Nothing is worse than a charity who shows up in a developing country without any plan, except maybe one with a really bad plan.

Did they just assume it would be easy to find some orphans, get the papers done, and fly the kids back to France? Perhaps, if your someone who's never been to Africa and is filled with visions of starving orphans, such a plan might sound plausable?

To me it sounds like some nightmare from Pinnochio.

Adoption is not that easy. It takes more than some ragtag group rounding up kids and putting them on a plane. It requires painstaking paperwork, months, sometimes years of planning, and the go ahead from all sides. Most importantly, it requires kids who don't have loving parents already!

I wonder what fate actually awaited these children in Europe?
Was it the adoption process the Zoe's Ark charity claimed it was.
Was it forced labour? Indoctrination into some suicidal Zoe's Ark cult? Prostitution?
Or perhaps, as the Chadian dictator suggested, it was to sell black market body parts.


The French aid worker's proclamations of innocence are laughable. The insistence that they were duped into thinking the kids were actually orphans. Their hunger strike. How stupid do they think the public are?

Psst... We know the French government warned Zoe's Ark to stop. Therefore, without the French government's blessing, how could the kids possibly be assured paperwork for France?

Even if the public got past that and believed the Zoe's Ark workers were duped, why did they try to make the children (who weren't even orphans) appear injured, in casts and bandages, despite not being hurt at all?

It all rings with the ideology of the blind cult faithful leading their fellow members into destructive oblivion.

People in Chad were in an uproar that the aid workers might receive leniency. They ended up with eight years hard labour.
In my honest opinion, the sentence was fair. Any less might have seemed lenient, any more might have seemed a tad harsh.

I wonder though. Did they receive a fair trial?

It's hard to say.

What's considered fair when all the evidence points to obvious guilt of a serious crime?

While eight years of forced labour won't be a walk in the park, they should feel lucky that Chad didn't serve them with more Draconian punishments.

Like death.

Shame on you Zoe's Ark. Your either criminals, or idiots. In either case, I have no sympathy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Back from the writing holiday.

Five days, four hundred marked up pages, and a good idea just where I am with my manuscript.

It started off well, editing seventy-five pages on the train up to Tangers. In these first chapters, I realised I still have work to do on them to improve descriptions and flow.

I got another seventy five pages edited on the ferry across the Mediterranean to Spain, slowly working away as it made it's long traverse and pulled into busy port of Algecerias. These chapters were markedly better.

A bus took me to Gibraltar, where I walked for a long time, up the gentle hill of the quirky English town. I arrived at the hotel the guidebook recommended, it was at the far end of town, way up at the top of the hill, and my shirt was damp with sweat when I arrived.

The guidebook said twenty pounds. The hotel demanded forty.

"That's a lot more than the guidebook!" I said.
"It's an old guidebook, prices go up," said the employee.
"It's not that old. And yes, prices go up, they don't double over a few years!"

So I trudged back down the hill, to where a youth hostel charged 15 pounds, and passed the night in a cold dormitory with other farting and snoring travellers.

My third day was a shopping day, and I took a bus to the big Carrefour supermarket, and later walked to the Decathlon sporting goods store. Most of my purchases were gifts for Siham and clothes for Zack.

My bags were overflowing with clothes and food when I caught an afternoon ferry back to Tangers, where I edited another 75 pages on the boat.

It seemed a common theme, seventy five pages per stint, and editing passed the time.

I noticed various traits in my writing. It had picked up considerably through the middle chapters, before improving considerably through the middle and maintaining the strong writing up to the end. The learning curve left my middle chapters incredible, and I'm confident if all the chapters were that good, the book would be easily published.

After I get these changes made, my next stint will be hammering out the first five chapters, editing them and making the necessary changes.

I hope to have the changes made by Christmas, while my wife is away welcoming her parents back from the Hajj and I can slip away for a few more days.

I needed this trip, it reinvigorated me and got my head back into the book again. Something I've been struggling to do for months now.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Time for a writing holiday.

I'm at a stage now where I need to just print of the manuscript, take off for a few days, and work.

So I'm heading north, without my celphone, without my computer, with nothing but my manuscript and some pencils to hack this thing up.

Something I haven't done yet is to take the book, from start to finish, and in one big push just edit everything. I'm sure I'll find some repetitive descriptions, I know I say "He had a bright smile," a dozen too many times, and get a deeper understanding of my bad writing habits.

I need this. I consider it a break from the normal routine. The idea was inspired by a few things. One was a friend organising a writing getaway. I unfortunately couldn't attend.

Another was watching the movie Capote. The main character and famous writer, Capote, talked of getting a writing holiday in order to have sex with his gay lover and get work done. My intentions rest solely on the latter.

I'll update my progress, and describe my writing holiday when I return.

Until then, it's time to disappear.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

This smile just in...

Woolworths has just announced they will be selling all teddies at cost. Their reasoning: They don't want to risk making a profit out of a teddy!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sudan's Idiocracy: The Best Thing to Ever Happened to Gillian Gibbons.

Sudan's idiocratic version of Islamic rule reminds me of the Stoning scene from Monty Python's "Life of Brian."



News from Sudan has fascinated me ever since I learned it would be a part of my route through Africa.

Some of the most memorable news stories I've read about Sudan are "Sudan man marries goat."


The recent Mohammad the Teddy Bear story, reminds me of a story from 2005 where a ridiculous death threat and court process took place against the editor of an Islamist newspaper. His article was defending the Islamic religion from an attacking essay. For merely referring to the sacreligous essay, a group of Sudanese people called for his death.

When I travelled through Sudan, I found it a tolerant place. Sudanese people impressed me with their hospitality, more than once paying for my tea when I sat in a street cafe. When inconvenienced, such as being stopped at one of the countless roadblocks, I was usually offered ice cold Pepsi's to help me cope with the intense forty-plus degree heat.

While more bureaucratic than any other country I've ever visited, I found public servants always polite and helpful, some even apologetic for the abundance of red tape.

As for the unfortunate, or perhaps fortunate (depending on which way you look at it) teacher, Gillian Gibbons, getting kicked out of Sudan was probably the best thing that ever happened to her. I can't imagine much more rock bottom than having to teach in a hot, dry, (both alcohol and rain-wise) country. When I was there, Sudanese people seemed afraid to have fun. Khartoum completely closed down come nine or ten o'clock. Everything stopped and there was nothing to do.

Mrs. Gibbins also has a damn good story to tell now. She's hit the freak life twist jackpot. The British tabloids will be salivating, and bringing out their chequebooks for exclusive interviews when she returns to the UK.

The payoff will probably be well worth the fifteen days of jail she's had to deal with. As a writer, sometimes going through such a shitstorm, while scary and hellish at the time, ends up being worth the frustration since a fantastic story comes out. Two weeks in a Sudanese jail, Islamist nutcases calling for your head, all because some kids wanted to name their Teddy Bear Mohammad.

My earlier idiocracy description and Monty Python comparison sum up my feelings on the issue. No need to kick this thing to death any more than the thousands of news chat rooms have already.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Skype turning to junk, Canada deregulates celphones.

When in England, I used to buy phone cards to call overseas. They promised everything from a few dozen minutes to a few hundred minutes depending on the calling destination. They also seemed to rip you off of those minutes, drastically reducing the actual amount promised, or levying a heavy surcharge for each call made. Still, it was dramatically cheaper than calling direct from the land line.

I've been a Skype Internet phone user for over two years now. Before this week, I have never noticed a drastic difference in the price quoted and the price charged. But that's changed suddenly.
Before, when I spent two minutes on a call, I got charged for two minutes - or about four cents. Now, I spend two minutes on a call and get charged for about five minutes. Then there's the accidental calls, or the calls that don't work, or the answering maching, they used to not charge anything for a quick hangup.

I'm keeping my eyes on other options because the honesty features that attracted me to Skype in the first place is gone.
Hook you in and then screw you over.

I have a general wariness of all phone companies. While Skype may still be the cheapest way to call my family in Canada via telephone, it's not an irreplaceable product.

Moving on, the CRTC in Canada recently announced deregulation of the cell phone industry. This decision is much to the chigrin of established mobile phone companies.

"Opponents of deregulation, including some consumer groups and cable companies, argued at Parliamentary hearings that without restrictions, established telephone companies would drive out competitors by offering discounts, and then raise prices over the long term."

My counter argument is - As opposed to fleecing customers now by charging some of the highest mobile phone rates in the world?

While some smaller startups might get screwed, I highly doubt a company like Virgin would come into Canada and be intimidated by money-losing rates charged by established phone companies. We'll see who goes bankrupt first...

Throughout Europe, and much of Africa, I can buy a phone card for around ten bucks with some credit already on it. I can leave the country, not use the card for two years, return, and that credit will still be there.

As for Canada. I have to pay ten bucks a month, minimum, just to keep the phone running. Credit can be eaten up simply because it wasn't used from one month to the next.

In Europe, the percentage of people who have a mobile phone are well into the eighties.

In Canada, that proportion is much lower. The most recent data I could find said that 66.8% of Canadian households had at least one cell phone. But that's a household statistic, so it means much more than 33% of people don't have a mobile phone.


Here in Morocco, particularly in towns and cities, you'd be hard pressed to find a single person who didn't have a mobile. They now cost as little as $25.00, including the phone, a sim card and some credit. Unlike Canada, you don't have to pay monthly, it's pay as you go, literally. I could have twenty dollars in credit, leave the country, return five years later, turn on my phone, and still have that credit. Once or twice a year I top up with around a hundred bucks. I typically get eight months out of that hundred bucks, with an average of two or three short calls per day.

I'm cheering on deregulation. Thanks to affordable rates, most of the world have embraced the mobile phone far faster than Canadians have. It's time Canada caught up!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fatherhood, one year on.

It was a year ago when I first blogged about becoming a father. My son was born on Nov 19, 2006. Since Zack arrived, my facebook account is where I've posted updates through photos, videos and blurbs. As a travel writer, something I quickly found out is that readers are not interested in a person's social life aspects. Starting a family falls into that category, and while exciting to loved ones, is not enticing reading.

As a travel writer, Zack's arrival has significantly cut into my work, with the seeming constant interruptions (which I do not blame entirely on him.) The largest portion of blame lies on me for being unable to focus and basically get my act in gear.

To battle this, I keep intending to go off for a week on my own with the entire manuscript in order to do a no-interruptions marathon edit. The problem is, I need to make significant edits beforehand just to get to that stage. If I work hard, I could probably finish those edits in a couple of weeks, however the family interruptions conundrum comes up once again.

Hours turn into days, weeks, months, and now a year.

For nine months after Zack's birth, I was stuck on the same chapter, Egypt. I rewrote it a dozen times but never got it quite right.

Now I've gotten past the Egyptian chapter's hurdle, or at least put it aside for now, and am focusing on making the suggested critique edits made by fellow writers. Hopefully I can accomplish this sooner rather than later.

Current goal - By March I want to have a manuscript ready to send off to interested agents.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Welcome to Canada, please wait for ten hours, followed by death by taser.

In my recent article, Flying with baby requires extra patience, published on The Leader World, I talk about my airport struggles in Toronto.

I now realize that it could have been worse. Similar to Polish Immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, my flight could have been twelve hours instead of eight. I could have arrived in a country where nobody spoke my language, and the customs and immigration made me wait for ten hours.

Then, when frustrated and angry, he gets tasered to death.

What else would you expect when you arrive at a terminal?


Here's the rundown. The RCMP are called in to control an erratically behaving man at the airport. He had waited in the baggage control area, where he was supposed to meet his mother, only to not find her there because it was restricted to inbound traveller's. He eventually left the baggage area after six and a half hours, but by then, his mother had just left.

His mother had been pacing for six hours asking for help locating her son. She was eventually told he hadn't arrived. She then left the airport.

Firstly, it took six and a half hours for someone to help this guy get his luggage and get him through customs.

Secondly, they told his mother he hadn't arrived.

Whoever said this is the primary person responsible for Mr. Dziekanski's death. More than the RCMP, more than Mr. Dziekanski for his erratic behaviour.

A twelve-hour flight, probably a sleepless night before that from travel anxiety, coming to a country where nobody speaks your language, and being treated like crap for ten hours.

I'd be throwing a tantrum too!

There is a SERIOUS problem with Canada's bureaucratic system, and to a greater extent Vancouver`s, if people are left waiting for ten hours. At the very least, find an interpreter or get in touch with a relative. Was any of this done? Apparently not.

Just as an inquiry should be done into the police's use of force and conduct. An equally pressing inquiry must be done to find out why this man fell through the cracks. We need to discover the root of the problem: Why he was at the airport for ten hours, and what can be done to correct the problem in the future?

I await the forthcoming police inquiry with keen interest. Unlike the majority of Canadians, I don't blame this entirely on the RCMP. I blame it on the lack of service and assistance provided to arrivals at Vancouver airport. Without their seeming incompetence, the police would never have had to show up in the first place.

Mulroney, Bush, Harper, drawing parallels...

Shifting blame, covering up, and secrecy are three things these leaders seem to share. While it is important for every leader to walk a fine line between too much information, not enough, and keeping a few secrets, these guys take it to a new level. They are the experts at leading the populations blindly while systematically raping the system.

Starting with Mulroney. It looks again as though the case against his alleged corruption will slip through the fingers of the law. Schreiber, the shifty key witness, swears he'll not say a word if he's extradited to Germany where he faces fraud and tax evasion charges. Trying to get a dodgy character like Schreiber to tell the truth is a risk even if promises are made not to extradite him. Further complicating matters is, if he admits to illegal cash payments, is he not admitting to breaking the law himself, therefore why the hell would he?

Options: Cater to him and go after Mulroney, (there's no guarantee such a crook will talk anyway)

Or: Let the law run its course, send him back to Germany, and forget about the questionable cash payments he handed over to our former PM. It's especially heartbreaking for Liberals, who went after him in 97 without enough proof, and ended up handing Mulroney $2.1 million in damages.

Moving onto codename Britan, as the bribery account for Brian Mulroney was supposedly called. He's probably still laughing at the $2.1 million settlement.

If he is guilty, and I have a really hard time digesting that $300,000 of "honest" cash, the hard-to-trace under-the-table stuff of money launderers, tyrants, and drug dealers, was honestly paid to a former Canadian Prime Minister for advice and help with a pasta business.

Mulroney isn't even Italian!

Had there been an upfront declaration of the earnings, some proof of work being completed and not a last minute tax declaration after information leaked, then I might be able to swallow the story.

Moving onto Bush...

Speaking of cover ups: Valeri Plame: weapons of mass destruction: massively censoring information about the state of affairs in Iraq; human rights abuses; destabilizing a stable country but doing very little to help an unstable one (Sudan) with shocking human rights abuses (oh wait, you did do something, you called it genocide, then did nothing after that.)

Moving onto Stephen Harper. At times, I can almost accept he's doing an okay job. He had the fortune of inheriting a strong commodity-based economy with record prices, as well as an oil boom in his electoral heartland of Western Canada. The liberal scandal of a few million misplaced dollars put him over the top and the Liberal party is still recovering from that, and their leadership campaign where the qualified but uninspiring Stephan Dion emerged as the winner. He definitely has luck on his side.

On the dark side, he also inherited Afghanistan, which in my mind has been his biggest failure. (Read earlier post)
Other failures are his stance on the environment.

Most recently, and this is where I start drawing a parallel to George Bush, is in the massive censoring of reports based on Canada's complicity in the Afghan Prisoner Transfer agreement and the subsequent abuse of prisoners. At first, some people could accept that our government wasn't aware of the abuse and disappearance of Afghan detainees. I agree with the fact that in order to get out of the sticky war, we gradually need to hand over responsibilities. The descriptions which weren't edited out of this transcript are enough to tell us that we screwed up. They are also enough to make me question why is the rest of it censored from the public?

There are times for censorship. Young offender cases, for example. But for our government's management of a war? The only reason I can come up with for censoring parts of the report is to protect the government from their incompetence being revealed. I don't recall massive censoring under the Liberals. In fact, before America's censoring of Iraq information, the only time I'd ever heard of such public interest details being controlled is in countries run by tyrants and abusers of democracy.
It was once a shock to see governments controlling the media's reporting. Then it came to America, not it's in Canada.

It can be argued that if we can't leave anything up to the Afghanistan authorities to deal with, then we'll be there indefinitely. Thus the logic of handing over the care of prisoners to them. I'm not against handing over power and responsibilites, I think that's a good thing.

Canada made this agreement with the intention of following up with checks. At best we ignored to do these checks, and at worst we did them and then not only did nothing to correct the serious abuses, but continued transferring detainees into their imminent torture or even death.

If you want to turn swarm of nervous stinging bees (Afghanistan) into a honey producing hive, continually abusing them is not the way to proceed. It's a guaranteed way to get stung again and again - ie Kandahar!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Canadian Dollar - low to high.

Since becoming a floating currency in 1970, the Canadian dollar's previous all time high was in 1974, when it was valued higher than the US dollar at 1.0043 (it's actual high was in 1864 after the US abandoned the gold standard). Since its modern-day high in 1974, the Canadian dollar steadily depreciated throughout the following three decades, reaching an all time low in 2002 of $0.6179

This was approximately one year after George Bush took power. Up to that year, the US dollar had stayed strong, partly thanks to a series of respected economic policies left over from the Clinton era.

In less than six years, the US dollar has gone from its all-time high against the Canadian dollar, to a shocking fifty-year low.

If this trend continues, the Canadian dollar will have doubled in value by the time George Bush leaves office.

Concerned?

I'm not, I'm Canadian!

But I'd be very upset if I was an American.

For instance, say an American has a 5% annual raise.
Happy right, getting richer, making more money...
Well, in Canadian dollar terms, he'd be getting a reduction in salary of about 3% per year since 2002.

While this is okay in the short term because these things happen in currency markets. It's happened for six straight years - that's an 18% reduction in salary if paid in Canadian dollars.

Pity the American diplomats in Canada.
Or Europe for that matter.
Or Australia, or South Africa.
Or Morocco....

Friday, October 19, 2007

A common sense environment argument.

This is basically my argument, well laid out by someone who as more organizational skills, or perhaps just more time on their hands, than I do.

Before you click, some things to think about...

What really happened to Saturn's electric car?
Why was hemp, a cheap, readily available and environmentally friendly product, outlawed in the United States?
Why is America favouring the even more polluting ethanol based products? Was regular oil not dirty enough?






Well, here's your counter argument: Since President George W Bush is talking to God, then we can assume that God might have mentioned something if America's environmental policies were helping to destroying our planet. Therefore we must be okay continuing on our present course, because GW hasn't mentioned anything.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sharia Banking

A recent poll of Canadians in the Globe and Mail asked the question.

Do you think Ottawa should approve applications it has received from Muslim groups looking to set up so-called sharia banks that would operate within the structures of Islamic law?

The response was a resounding 82% no.

There was a similar, albeit much more controversial debate over a year ago. The debate was over the introduction of Sharia Courts in Canada. Some Muslim groups wanted to settle their issues in their own Islamic Courts. While I was adamantly against Sharia courts, I thought the fact that Canada entertained the issue showed how free and beautiful a country we really are.

The entire concept surrounding Sharia banks is that charging interest is illegal for Muslims. There are ways around this, such as charging for services instead of charging interest. Putting down a flat fee for borrowing that is called something other than interest. In fact, we already have banking concepts in Canada that are in line with Sharia law.
"No interest for a year?"
"Don't pay a cent event!"

Do such slogans sound familiar?

Yet the knee jerk reaction of Canadians before even analyzing the facts is to give a resounding "No!" to the issue.

My deeper and more analytical opinion of the entire Sharia banking concept suggests that everyone discussing it, especially Muslims keen on the concept in Canada are missing the bigger picture of what "no interest" might actually entail.

As much as you fiddle around with numbers, calling them charges and fees, what it comes down to in the end is basically the same thing. People are paying interest on a loan disguised as other fees.

In my opinion, the entire idea of "no interest" is a Macroeconomic concept which is much harder to grasp than the Microeconomic concept everyone is trying to fiddle around with to appease Muslim groups.

How can a society charge no interest?

Well, under Canada's current fiscal policy, it's impossible. If I loaned someone money at no interest, after a year I'd be worse off due to inflation.

But, what about a deflationary economy where the reverse happened? The Macroeconomic concept seems almost too far fetched to grasp. It's a concept which seems like going backwards when modern train of thought goes forwards. But it is not necessarily impossible and would be an interesting experiment. Japan briefly had zero interest in a bid to jump start the economy. Interest rates are still some of the lowest in the world over there.

A deflationary economy would require is fiscal restraint, something pretty much every government in the world lacks, including most Islamic countries who are some of the least fiscally responsible.

I could debate this further, bring up pro and con examples. Muslims say the Koran is the divine word of God. They also say that there are meanings hidden within it that are still misunderstood. I think this may be one of them.

On the other hand, if it makes people happy to pretend they are not paying interest when they actually are, then what the hell, let them live in a world of service charges and late fees. Two plus two still equals four at the end of the day.

Taking a shot at Quebec Liberals

Recent G&M article, "Liberal Party official under fire over remarks," sounds the alarm bells as though the Liberal party of Canada is crumbling over a recent rift.

The scary part is, I share a similar view with the man who is under fire.
When Quebec Liberals suggested hiring more Quebeckers, he replied by saying, “If I hire more Quebeckers, will I also have to hire more Chinese?”

Thank you for saying that Mr Caroll. There has to be a limit to the ridiculous concept of affirmative action at some point. I'm all for equal opportunity, 100% for it and would gladly step aside for a more qualified candidate, or even for a slightly less qualified but disadvantaged one. But I agree 100% that this comment was necessary.

So, Quebeck Liberals calling for his resignation, where should we start. Get a couple Inuits in there too, Mohawks, Oujibwa, etc. Don't forget lots of Pakistanis because they're underrepresented in the Toronto area. A Greek, a few Lebanese (Christian, Muslim and Druze because you don't want one of the fractured country's population to feel left out). Hell, I'll start searching around Morocco for a gay woman in a wheelchair who can come over and fill a big void in that unrepresented area because surely we need to cater to the gay Moroccan handicapped woman vote.

Give it a rest. The remark was sarcasm at your own irritating pursuit of an irritating subject. Take a look at the party, the leader is from Quebec! If you want more Quebec representation go join the Bloc.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Shift Happens.

Ladies and Gentleman, I hope you enjoyed your flight today. Please remain seated until the plane is parked at the gate. At no time in history has a passenger beaten a plane to the gate. So please don't even try. Please be careful opening the overhead bins because 'shift happens'.

A little over a month ago:

A friend of mine asked if I would be interested in joining him on his thirty-foot boat. He wanted to sail it from Sicily to Tunis and needed an answer fairly quickly.

I'm an adventurer, and such an opportunity was way too enticing to pass up. I'm also married, and such an opportunity must be discussed with my wife, who was "maybe" going to Washington on an international conference during that exact same period.

We talked it over. It was about a month before the conference was supposed to start and she hadn't heard anything. She had no idea whether she'd get accepted or not, and was even doubtful.

A couple days later, my friend needed to know if I was in or not. Siham, doubtful the conference was a go, reluctantly agreed to let me go on the trip.

I called my buddy, said I was in, and started daydreaming about my upcoming adventure on the sea.

Sure enough, it was the same evening that Siham got the acceptance email.

"Shift happens."

She came to me, imploring, "I have to go on this conference, it's really important for my career. You have to stay and take care of the baby."

"But I promised my friend I'd go."

We came to a compromise. Siham's parents and their maid would come and help out with Zack. I was going to call my friend and tell him, "If you can find another third, then I'm out. If not, I'll hang in until the last minute and can come if I'm really needed. I'll even hang in until the last minute in case someone cancels."

My parents heard Siham was coming to Washington for a month and were ecstatic. They automatically expected that I would come to Canada. But I was handcuffed to the If-needed-sailor promise which I refused to break.

Finally, yesterday, everyone confirmed for the sailing trip and I was free to travel and do what I wanted to.

I scoured the internet for deals on flights to Canada - Not an easy task leading up to labour-day weekend. There were absolutely no direct flights from Morocco until mid September. I assume they're booked with students returning for school.

I played with different dates and different airlines and finally got something for a little over a thousand bucks. Had I waited a week or so, I probably could have saved another hundred, but I thought it was best to just head off.

Aside from seeing my family, expenses were a big part of the decision. I can't help it, but the cheap economist in me saw it the following way:

I could stay in Rabat and pay for another month of food for my Parent's in law, brother in law and their maid, not to mention periodic family guests of theirs which seem to drop in every other day for a meal. In Morocco its just expected that the host pays for everything.

They've already been here for a month and I've noticed my grocery bill has more than tripled.

Or I could buy on a plane ticket and go eat Canadian home-cooked food for a month, visit my family and friends who want to see the new baby. Do a bit of hiking, biking, and enjoying the beautiful Canadian summers. The cost would probably work out to about the same.

Poker with the boys; take Zack to see Mommy at her conference in DC; do some work; watch the new Bourne Movie and the new Harry Potter movie; golf with my dad; visit my buddies in Toronto and Ottawa; check out the climbing scene in Ontario; apply for some jobs to improve Siham's chances at getting a visa; check out the job market and try to find a promising job so Siham can get accepted into Canada more easily.

I'm not sure if my parents in law are disappointed. They've been here to see Zack for the last month. I think they also understand that shift happens!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Property search Morocco.

Housing markets seem to have been on an unprecented run throughout much of the past decade. I thought that being in Morocco, a developing country, may have spared me the worst of arriving late on the scene. Oops!

To dissect the price of buying a new home, you are buying a plot of land and the cost of construction for the home. It shouldn't be too much more than the going rate for the land plus the going rate to build.

My interest in owning a little place in Morocco is to have somewhere to leave the collection of belongings my wife an I have accumulated over the previous two years. The cost of a decent small appartment, I anticipated to be in the $45,000-75,000 range.

In and around Rabat would be the ideal place. Being in touch with the expat community here, we could likely find someone to rent the place year round while Siham and I go to live in Canada.

So Siham called the Moroccan version of a real-estate agent, known as the Simsar. It's their business to be familiar with the network of other Simsars in the area of Rabat. Together they know everything for sale and for rent.

The first place we checked out was about a fifteen minute drive from us, out in the suburb called Temara. It was an appartment complex, and I have to admit the appartments were nice, only way way way too expensive.

For a 102 square metre appartment they wanted around $150,000

This is quite far out of Rabat, and surrounded by some pretty shoddy neighbourhoods.

Strike one.

The following day our search led us down the street from where we are currently renting. It was a partially filled development complex.
Something that confuses me about Rabat is that they built poor neighbourhoods right in the midst of rich ones - and the price of land in the rich neighbourhood inflates the price in the poorer neighbourhood to nearly the same level. The cost to buy a home in a beautiful neighbourhood surrounded by leafy tree lined streets and wide sidewalks is about the same price as it costs to buy in the raddy potholed streets with uneven dying trees, unpainted buildings and fences overgrown with weeds, right next door.

Our second day searching led us to one such disparity neighbourhood a couple of kilometres down the road from where we currently live. The neighbourhood is a dumping spot for expropriated families from around Rabat. In return for the land they did't own, they get an appartment. We inquired about building a home. A piece of land, so tiny it would be about the size of a deep double garage, would cost us around $110,000. That's more expensive than just outside of Toronto where I grew up.


My wife described the squatting culture of Rabat. While some families are legitimate farmers who happened to live and work the land for more than a generation, others are families who find a promising piece of land likely for future development and squat. They build their shack and wait for the gov't to relocate them to a nice appartment.
Next step, they sell or rent out the appartment, find another promising place to squat, and do the same thing over again.



I get home, in disbelief over the sky-high cost of owning a tiny piece of land. From our current rented appartment, I look out my back window and see nothing but forest for miles and miles. At least another 100,000 homes worth of land just in my line of sight. Yet a tiny piece of land a kilometer to the west costs $110,000

To build a little three floor home only costs another $50,000.

But there wouldn't be any backyard. The neighbours house is attached to yours. There's no yard for the kids to play safely, just a garbage-filled patch of uneven dirt nearby. There's no park with swings, people haven't even heard of grass. No football pitch anywhere within walking distance. The roads would be potholed within a few years. It's every man for himself. Buy your tiny patch of high priced land and build a home.

To compare. Back home in Canada, my sister and her husband just bought a $250,000 house. Four bedrooms, unfinished basement, and acres of land surrounding it.

What I don't understand is how the middle-class Moroccan can afford a home even with no surrounding land? Where's the money coming from for this balooning middle class who are driving up the cost of property in Rabat?

Salaries here are much much lower than Canada or Europe. A middle class salary in Morocco (of which there isn't nearly the same proportion as Canada) might be half or a third what a counterpart would make in the West. Shouldn't housing prices reflect that gap?


Price of 90 square metres on the outskirts of Rabat - $110,000
Price of a three story home built on it - $50,000

Some people swear that property is the best investment there is.
If you're looking at Rabat, I disagree. There are so many uncontrollables. Politics and policies, natural disasters, economies, global warming, baby boomer generation in decline, interest rates.

Our search continues. The next round will take us north, to the beaches, or to somewhere well outside of Rabat.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sunscreen, the supposed life saver, can be dangerous.

I've known about the dangers of antiperspirant for a long time. They are thought to be cancerous, and as such, I've only ever used just the basic deodorant.
Now I hear about the trusted sunscreen. The product people were buying to protect themselves from the dangerous UV rays sneaking through the ozone layer. Such a saviour product can't dangerous, can it?
On the website cosmeticsdatabase.com, they rate different cosmetics for harmful chemicals. For sunscreens, there are two categories, one being effectiveness blocking out the suns harmful rays, and the other danger from other chemicals either untested or known to have negative side effects.
The results are startling.
Avon and coppertone, two well known brands, have particularly terrible ratings in both categories. Coppertone kids sunscreen scores a seven out of ten on their overall danger chart, including a 9 in the chemical health hazard category. Their waterbabies sunscreen scores an eight in the same category!
Other baby sunscreens have similar dismal ratings. And we are using them to protect our little darlings!
Some familiar names with high hazard ratings are: Walgreens; Neutrogena; Hawaiian Tropic; most products from AVON; most products from coppertone; estee Lauder; Mary Kay; Banana Boat; Olay; Alba.

Most of the recommended sunscreens with good ratings were from companies I'd never heard of. Here are a few of the good guys names:

Keys soap solar; Miessence Reflect; Badger; UV Natural; California baby; boscia; Lavera; Mustela

Check out www.cosmeticsdatabase for more info.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Immigrants aren't the only ones frustrated by Canada's stupid policies.

(Excerpt which didn't fit with a recent article, but I want to share nonetheless)


Foreigners aren’t the only ones complaining of the stifling immigration bureaucracy. For a Canadian citizen to be issued a new passport overseas, some of the things they need to provide are:

- A Canadian birth certificate or citizenship card,
- A guarantor form signed by a local official who has known the applicant for two years.

These criteria need to be met even when the applicant is trying to replace a valid passport, either near expiry or running out of pages.

Few international travellers think to carry their birth certificates. But even more ridiculous is how Canadian immigration expects someone visiting a foreign country to have known a (doctor, lawyer, police officer, etc.) for two years.


Picture this scenario. One traveller is having a fit over how to fulfill the ridiculous passport renewal requirements. A second Canadian traveller next to him asks for a letter of recommendation in order to apply for a visa to Sudan or Saudi Arabia.

Embassies such as Sudan and Saudi Arabia require such a letter before granting a visa.

With a valid Canadian passport and the fee of fifty dollars, the Canadian embassy will write something similar to the following.

“Humble greetings from the Canadian Embassy, etc, etc… We would like to guarantee that Mr. John Doe is a Canadian citizen. We would appreciate your hospitality by granting him a passage through your wonderful country, etc, etc…”

“Wait a second,” the first traveller says. “The Canadian embassy will guarantee I have a valid Canadian passport in a letter to some Sudanese guy? Yet they need guarantor forms and a birth certificate when it comes time to replace that exact same passport for Canada’s own purposes?”

I write this because I've experienced both situations.

It took an afternoon to get each of my two embassy letters swearing I was a Canadian citizen.

It took me six months to get my birth certificate found and shipped to Cairo so I could get my passport renewed in Egypt. Don't tell the RCMP and get me arrested for forgery and fraud, but I only knew the dentist who signed my guarantor form for six months. It was either that or be stuck in Egypt illegally for two years.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Maxing Mini a major marketing mistake

There are several special vehicles in the world. For me, the VW Beetle tops that list. Another really special car is the Mini.

Why?

Well, for one, because it's so small! It reminds me of my childhood, playing with micromachines. It's Mr Bean's car, the one he put the brick on the gas pedal so he could change out of his pajamas.

It's historic, storied, classic. It's smallest car out there - thus its name, the mini. It's been reinvented brilliantly, yet remained tiny, and with lots of BMW pep under the hood!

BMW, the owners of Mini, are creating two new Mini cars. One an elongated version of the mini called the Mini Clubman. And another, an SUV called the Mini Colorado

It's a tempting thing for a company to lock onto a winner and try to extend the brand. But in the case of the Mini, it's a monumental mistake.

Take the word Mini. Miniature, small, tiny, little, puny, pipsqueek, etc.

That's why people love it. Beautiful things come in small packages. It's a statement, unique because it's the smallest. In a world of huge SUV's and guzzling sedans, the mini is refreshing. It makes it cool to own small.

And they want to make it bigger?

Big mistake!

If they want to alter it, they should change the shape slightly, add bells and whistles, sunroofs, convertibles. DONT MAKE IT BIGGER! A bigger car is not the Mini. It's a BMW. If I wanted a bigger car, I wouldn't buy a mini.
At best, you are capturing the interest of a few mini owners. At worst, you are pissing off your traditional market who have bought over one million mini cars to date.

As for mini stock - Probably a short sell.

I might be wrong, I'm made mistakes before. But so have car companies.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the wedding...

Lately, my wife and I seem to have a knack for missing bad parties. We missed a real bust during the Beach Rugby tournament in Agadir over a month ago, and missed another one this Saturday for a cousin's wedding.

It was stiflingly hot in the historic medieval city of Fez. For the part of the wedding that we missed, it was so hot that the guests were uncomfortable, bored, sweating... and getting hungrier by the minute.
Men and women were separated for the proceedings, which was the reason we decided to skip the ceremony. While the women danced and had fun, the men sat, uncomfortable, exhausted, squirming, checking their watches... and getting hungrier by the minute.

Girls just want to have fun, and they did. The men meanwhile, especially two joining families, one conservative Muslim, the other modern and liberal, sussed each other out, sitting and sweating... and sussing... and getting hungrier by the minute.

It wasn't until 1am before the food finally arrived. Moroccans are polite, especially during the special day of someone's wedding. So even starving and waiting hours longer than usual, nobody spoke out of turn and and said, "This sucks, where's the fucking food."

I knew how it worked, and that's the very reason I often cringe at going to Moroccan weddings. Food, if on time, doesn't come until 10pm. 1am would be excruciating.

We made it for the second part of the wedding on the Sunday, where Siham's side of the family threw a bash of their own to make up for the sexual separation of the Bride's conservative family.

It was hot enough to fry an omlet on a dark rock, and guests were told to arrive just in time to really appreciate the midday summer heat. We showed up an hour late. If I could do it again, I'd show up two hours late. The given time was 1pm. Nothing happened until 4pm.

People sat in the meagre shade of the common room, hoping for a gust of air to provide some respite from the suffocating heat.

A blurry family connection owned the giant house. Siham tried to explain, but lost me somewhere between inlaws and nephews and grandparents. In the reception room, elaborate arabic tapestries were carved throughout the ceiling and along the walls.

Some genius decided it wasn't hot enough to have an afternoon wedding meal on the first floor, where people were suffering from the beginning stages of heat stroke. Instead, we went up a floor, where it was a few degrees hotter, and without a huge door to send gusts of wind onto the guests. My legs felt like I'd been forced to wear my pants for a month strait, burning, itchy, sweat-caked, and I'd only been there two hours.

Food was served. I was hungry. There was a lot. First a beef tagine, with almonds and an olive-oil-based onion sauce, later there was a similar chicken tagine with olives. My appetite was appeased. Perhaps the cooks were suffering from heat stroke too, because guests quietly whispered that it wasn't up to the succulent wedding standard they expected.

Whoever planned the food supplies, seemed to have neglected the drink supplies. Hint: In fifty degree heat, people are thirsty. The two one-litre bottles of soda and one bottle of water lasted half a minute at our table of ten. We waited anxiously for fillups that never came. The image of ice cold beer ran through my head, and Western weddings, and air conditioning.

Afterwards, Siham and I went to the local cafe and downed bottles of water and soda. I contemplated buying a cold beer from the nearby supermarket, but didn't.

The evening provided some respite as chairs were set up on the lawn outside. The dancing and clapping crowd in the common room seemed to replace the sun's power with the stuffiness of body heat in an enclosed space.

A Moroccan band bleated horns and pounded hand drums. The bride and groom were carried around the room on Palanquins. Dancing ensued, and continued late into the night.

At least nobody was hungry, and when something ends on a memorable note, all the previous little troubles seem to fade away.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Memory of a childhood friend.

"You have a group invitation."

That's what it said on the top right corner of my facebook info page yesterday. I'd joined other interest groups for schools, sports, etc. But this one wasn't like any other group, it was a memoir group for a friend passed on, "Dave Currie."

I clicked to go to the group, and confirmed that my friend had died. Unfortunately, there weren't many details. From the pictures posted, I figured he died of some sort of brain cancer or tumor as some of the photos showed a large scar from his forehead, around his ear and to his chin. The last pictures showed him bald.

As kids, I remember Dave's curly pate of bright blond hair. I first knew him as a hockey teammate.

When I was ten, Dave moved down the street from us and started attending the same school. We formed an instant friendship. Dave was charismatic. Girls loved him. He was also mischievous and a trouble maker. On more than one Halloween, we could be found running from house to house smashing pumpkins left high on the walls of split level houses. We fished illegally in the Credit River during salmon spawning season.

Around the same age where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn had there adventures, Dave expanded my horizons from my neighbourhood to the entire region of Meadowvale. There wasn't a place we didn't bike off to just for the fun.

He taught me to catch a football better than anyone else in our pickup games, calling me a wuss every time I dropped it until I didn't drop it any more, even his hardest throws.

There was always an electric feeling when I knew I was going to hang with my buddy Dave. I still remember the excitement because I never knew what adventure we would have. Running/trespassing through people's backyards; Skateboarding down steep hills; playing road hockey on his street; spray-painting goalie pads to look like the Maple Leafs; picking up girls (unsuccessfully) at the mall; telling his sister scary stories and seeing her jump a foot in the air when I grabbed her leg and yelled, "AAAHHHH."

Come highschool, Dave moved to the opposite side of Meadowvale. I suppose we became more interested in girls and other activities and grew apart; though we still played hockey on the same team. As with most of my friends, after Highschool we completely went our separate ways. I moved onto University, then to Africa where I've spent most of the last six years and haven't been in touch.

One of my last vivid memories of Dave was at a hockey game. We were about seventeen years old. The referees were terrible! Half of our team was in the penalty box at any given time of the game. During one particularly bad call, the coach was shouting, the players were fuming on the bench, the fans (Parents, buddies, and girlfiends) were pounding the glass in protest. Out of nowhere Dave builds up speed and starts figure skating. He began with a couple pirouettes, followed by a (not so graceful) swan glide with his back foot stretched behind him higher than his ass. There were a couple more pirouttes and a jump twist in the air before he fell down and raised his hands in the air.

The refs and other team stared at him in confusion. Our team went from fuming to cheering and banging on the boards and the fans started clapping and cheering him.

That was Dave. He took a bad situation and gave everyone a great memory. He was always a team player, had a booming slapshot that scared the shit out of goalies, and was full of surprises and jokes.

In another game, we were winning by a huge score - 10-1 or something. I'd set Dave up for a hat trick already (I was a hog so it was rare for me to pass). In the last minute, I spun around with a blind pass and missed Dave by about ten feet behind him. I put my hand up in apology at the terrible pass.

After the game, he came up to me, pretending to be pissed. "Damn Dan, we would have won if you hit me with that pass."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Too sexy!

They're only young once, so you might as well have a good ol' laugh.




By the way, the shirt says, "Hung like a 5 year old." It was a gift from my good friend Lee back in Canada.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

NHL schedule 2007

Just as it did last year, the schedule for the NHL in 2007 sucks. In what Bettman described as intensifying divisional rivalries, teams within the same division face off against each other a gut wrenching total of eight times.
Newsflash: It doesn't intensify rivalries, it bores the hell out of viewers. I hate watching the same teams play over and over and over.

Here is how the schedule works: The NHL is divided into two conferences, with three divisions in each conference.

5 teams in same division: Teams play each division rival each eight times - 32 games.
10 teams in same conference but not division play four times each - 40 games
15 teams in other conference, of which ten total games are played. - 10 games.

Since ten games are played outside the conference, five are at home and five are away. So stars like Sydney Crosby, who are likely to sell out crowds no matter where they go, are only allowed to visit any particular cross conference city once approximately every three years, if not less. So for hardcore hockey fans of the fifteen teams out West, only five of them are lucky enough to see Crosby in a home game this year.

Meanwhile, Philidelphia, New Jersey, the Islanders and the Rangers get to see Crosby four times each. If you live in the New York area, you have options of hopping to New Jersey, MSG, or the Island to take him in - a whopping twelve games in that area.

Compared to once every three years in Minnesota, Chicago, Nashville, or San Jose - struggling markets where his presence could really help.


How it should have been...

There should have been five games against divisional rivals, for a total of 20 games.
There should be three games against conference rivals for a total of 30 games.
There should be two games against each cross conference rival, with the extra two games for old rivalries or bonus games that make sense. Toronto-Detroit, Chicago-Montreal, etc.

Otherwise, the schedule doesn't make sense. Someone mentioned teams are upset about travelling out west so much.
Then why is Detroit in the same conference with Western teams? It's okay to screw Detroit on the schedule, but not give an extra ten games on the road to every other NHL team?

The NHL management is incompetent and insensitive to the fans. It's long past time a rival league put these bufoons out of business.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The new RCMP commissioner: is Stephen Harper crazy?

The RCMP has been in the midst of the worst string of bad news in their history.

First there was the case of Mr Arar. The RCMP falsified terrorist information about him, passed off to the USA as fact, and ignored his pleas as he was arrested in the USA, and deported to Syria where he faced incarceration and torture without trial. He was innocent, and worse still, it was found that the RCMP fabricated information to cover up the issue. RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli resigned after providing inconsistent testimony over the Arar inquiry.

Next, it came to light that the RCMP hired a pathalogicial liar as a civilian agent, paid him large quantities of money for cleverly constructed lies, and later erased his prior criminal record by entering him into witness protection program. Under his new identity, he now faces murder charges.

Third, the Pension-fund scandal. Millions of dollars went missing. It is currently under investigation. Still, for the supposed protectors against fraud and theft, to be ripped off themselves, by themselves, is a little shocking.

Fourth - the Air India bombings. Despite the RCMP claiming they knew nothing of the Sikh extremists terror plot, considerable evidence from the recent inquiry proves otherwise. More than one witness has given evidence that they passed on specific intelligence of an impending terrorist attack on an Air India flight. Even more startling is the seeming lack of security for that particlar high-risk flight on that particular day.


The most recent scandal to hit the RCMP is the death of Ian Bush. He was shot in the back of the head while in police detention. Even more startling, is that his arrest was for having an open drink in a public place and providing an officer with a false name. RCMP Constable Koester claims self defense in the incident, citing that he was attacked. An expert has, in what he described as an extremely difficult decision testifying against his colleague, said Constable Koester's version of the facts doesn't fit with the blood splatter evidence at the scene of the crime. The trial is ongoing, however at the very least, it is deeply embarrassing for any police force to have a civilian killed in their custory for a minor violation.

There's no getting around it, the RCMP has its problems. That's not to say it is a lost cause organisation. The RCMP has over 24000 members. Some of those members made a serious mistake with Arar. The head honcho resigned over it. You have to assume others involved were reprimanded and punished accordingly.
While I agree, there needs to be something done, some major ass kicking overhauls, I would stand up and be the first to say I believe the overall ethics and morals of the RCMP is the best in the world. I also believe they work hard trying to serve and protect Canada every day.

Canadian Prime minister Stephen Harper has broken with 135 years of tradition and replaced the disgaced Zacchiareli with a political ally, William Elliot, a bureaucrat with questionable credentials. Even more startling, is that Stephen Harper's friend is an outsider to the force, something that hasn't occurred in the last 135 years of their history. This seems scarily reminiscent of George Bush's attempt to impose his totally unqualified close friend, Harriet Miers, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Should one of the RCMP's responsibilities not be to act as a check on our government's corruption? The nation's highest police force put under the control of the PMs political buddy - what's next? Will the terrorists become so dangerous Canada needs to be declared a police state so Harper can further grab power?

If I were an RCMP officer, I'd be pissed. On the whole, the RCMP is a great organisation that has historically done Canada proud. Tradition is an important part of their history, and Canada's history. Some of the hard working RCMP officers envision themselves one day leading the entire organization. To take that dream away from them, and to impose someone who isn't wanted, is an insult to the 24000 members who, in fact, are responsible for the Prime Minister's life and safety.

If I was Stephen Harper, those would be the last people I wanted to piss off.

Is he crazy?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The crazy pranks of Brock U's Queenston Rez

I wasn't a bad prankster, certainly compared to the guys upstairs in Doherty hall. I gave a few cold shower surprises, taking a glass of ice cold water from my refrigerator, lifting it over the shower curtain and dropping it onto unsuspecting buddies.
Fortunately, our hall got along with the trouble makers from Doherty, who pulled countless fire alarms in the middle of the night. Yeah, that pissed me off. They also like to do tippers, who someone described as garbage pails full of water leaning against the elevator door. Ninth floor, bzzz ding - all over the floor and into the neighbouring rooms. Except there's something else - that wasn't water!

Something fishy is up?
The stinky surprise placed in the ceiling on the ninth floor. These guys really didn't like that floor. An exterminator had to be called before they tracked the stench and disposed of the offending fishy substance.

We had a few clowns on my second year in Queenston.
The secret Santa gift exchange might have been the worst.
One of the naughtier boys on the floor ended up drawing Mr Bondy. An older, married student who wasn't well liked. He creeped out some of the girls. The secret Santa gifts to Mr. Bondy began with a porno of enormous fat-chicks, followed by a big dildo, a bag of dog poop and more unpleasant surprises, all marked - Fuck you from secret santa.
Bong the Banger.
A Korean exchange student, a rake-thin pimply girl, lived next door to me at the very beginning of my second year at Queenston. Her parents visited her the first week, and I recall them screaming at the dons and resident head for placing their lil' princess on a coed floor. She was soon moved to an all-girls floor.
That didn't stop lil princess from visiting Bong, the Korean exchange student who remained on our floor. A few weeks later, and for the remainder of the year, one could hear her moaning and screaming, as good ol' Bong lived up to his name.
One day, ol' Bong was banging, much to his neighbours chigrin. Walls were thin in Queenston, and the voice of a screaming sex-crazed Korean girl could be heard bouncing echoing like an amphitheater.
One day, one of the naughty boys passed by and heard the pleasure-driven screaming. Naugty boy summoned his buddies, and all together they hammered their fists on the door and interrupted Bong's bang. "Way to go Bong, Way to go Bong, Way to go Bong, Yeaaaah Bongster."

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Typical Embassy Dissappointment for Canada Day.

It pains me to inform you, my fellow Canadians, that there will be no Embassy festivities this year for Canada day in Morocco. Rumour has it the Canadian Embassy had a party on Tuesday June 26th, but forgot to invite people. They also seem to have not noticed that Canada Day this year falls on a Sunday, which is the perfect day for an enormous party.

As a shocked Canadian living in Morocco, I called an emergency meeting with Canadian icons Bob and Doug Mackenzie. They said, “What d’ya want eh!” and, “Go away ya hoser,” but were otherwise fully supportive of my plan to celebrate Canada Day, on its actual date, here in Morocco.

In honour of the second biggest country in the world, a special, “Canada Day,” hockey tournament has been organized at the Megamall. It starts with the younger teams at 13h00, however the main match takes place at 18h30.





The men’s team representing Canada will be led by none other than local legend, Dan Sturgis. He is akin to a hockey hero in the land of people who never skated before. Hockey historians call him a, “lazy skater prone to knee injuries,” and hockey insiders warmly refer to him as a “Never was.”

The tournament has been dedicated to Canada’s official head of state, Queen Elizibeth II. Festivities following the tournament will be held in the nearby patio of restaurant XO. Entrance is free, however the event will be held in true Canadian style. Therefore, it’s BYOB, and BYBMS, with MS being interchangeable for both maple syrup and moose steak. You may be tackled at the door if they catch you trying to smuggle beer inside, so hide it well. Those who bring a clever sign, particularly one bashing the Canadian Embassy and ambassador for his lack of National Spirit, will be given a free pancake in which to spread their Maple Syrup on.

Happy Canada Day everyone!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Balsille's exciting options.

There seems to be a setback in the Balsille-Hamilton Predators romance. The Predators current owner says nothing is going on. There's always Phoenix, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa Bay, and another half dozen teams guaranteed to either lose money, or barely make a profit forever in lacklustre hockey markets.

Can someone tell me what the NHL has against putting teams in viable and hockey mad places?

Balsille Preds deal or no deal, I've brought out my crystal ball and am making predictions. It's a bit blurry, but I see one of two things happening.

If Balsille gets the Predators, they will come to Hamilton in one year, two at the most. During that time, Balsille will be racking up draft picks and talent consistent with what the team's started to do already via the Vokoun to Florida trade and trumping free agency by sending high profile unrestricteds to Philly for a first round pick.
Expect a couple more moves in the short term, but continued patience. You can always get more future picks right before the trade deadline if you play your cards right. By the time the Predators come to Hamilton, they will be overflowing with young talent comparable to the current Penguins.
The next move: Expect some of this talent and a wad of cash to move to Pittsburgh for Sydney Crosby. The primary goal of such a move will be to piss off Gary Bettman for interfering in his previous bid to buy the Penguins.

If Balsille does not get the Preditors, my prediction is equally, if not even more enticing. The World Hockey Association, (WHA), existed from 1972 to 1979. They directly rivalled the NHL, forcing the NHL to expand into other markets to compete. The WHA's creation was a result of untapped markets and their willingness to pay more than the NHL wages dished out by a cartel of profit-driven owners.

The league eventually failed, with a handful of the stronger market teams, they merged into the NHL. The Edmonton Oilers dynasty was part of this expansion.

The ingredients for a strong rival league have never been better than they are now. The NHL owners once again have limited players salaries with a salary cap. A rival league could offer someone like Crosby what he's worth, rather than the maximum seven or eight million he makes in Pittsburgh right now. To put things in perspective, a Los Angeles soccer team is paying David Beckham fifty million per year over five years to play for them. Beckham is a waning and aging star known as much for his smile and pop star wife as for his talent. A great player, but his skills definitely aren't worth 50 million.

While low salaries coupled with refusal to expand created the rival WHA league before, there are three ingredients leading to a rival league now.
1) incompetent expansion,
2) instituting salary caps to make that expansion viable, and
3) improved international relations and economies.

Teams in a new league would not go to shaky spots like Las Vegas, Kansas, or pretty much any city below a geographic line drawn from Boston, through Philly and over to L.A.

Instead, there would be a North American League and a European League. Higher salaries means stars like Sydney Crosby would be better off playing for a team like Hamilton.

Who would you rather see, the Hamilton Blackberries with Sydney Crosby vs the Moscow Dynamo with Ovechkin. Or the Phoenix Coyotes with Shane Doan vs the Columbus Blue Jackets with Sergei Federov?

Crosby is good for the US market, but is the US market good for Crosby?
While big names such as Nike would sign Crosby to huge advertisment contracts regardless of where he plays, being on a Canadian team would increase his local brand appeal tenfold. Being on a Canadian team in an international league even more so. Remember Gretzky's spinning hockey game, his lunch box, the retarded kid going "Gretzky!" and whatever else he happened to sell. Canadian businesses would line up to get his endorsement. Crosby merchandise would go through the roof.

Good for hockey!

What the NHL doesn't need is more useless market teams. It's time places who shouldn't even have a team stop winning the cup.

Stealing the Stanley Cup.

Donated by Governor General and converted hockey enthusiast Lord Frederick Stanley of Preston. He wrote out five conditions for the awarding of the Stanley cup when he introduced it in 1892. These conditions prove it is not the property of the NHL.

The original intention of the Stanley Cup, as donated by Lord Stanley, is outlined as follows.


1) The winners shall return the Cup in good order when required by the trustees so that it may be handed over to any other team which may win it.
2) Each winning team, at its own expense, may have the club name and year engraved on a silver ring fitted on the Cup.
3) The Cup shall remain a challenge cup, and should not become the property of one team, even if won more than once.
4) The trustees shall maintain absolute authority in all situations or disputes over the winner of the Cup.
5) If one of the existing trustees resigns or drops out, the remaining trustee shall nominate a substitute.

In lieu of a later dispute, the trustees passed further rules regarding the Stanley cup.

6) The Cup is automatically awarded to the team that wins the title of the previous Cup champion's league, without the need for any other special extra contest.
7) Challengers for the Cup must be from senior hockey associations, and must have won their league championship. Challengers will be recognized in the order in which their request is received.
8) The challenge games (where the Cup could change leagues) are to be decided either in a one-game affair, a two-game total goals affair, or a best of three series, to the benefit of both teams involved. All matches would take place on the home ice of the champions, although specific dates and times would have to be approved by the trustees.
9)Ticket receipts from the challenge games are to be split equally between both teams.
10)If the two competing clubs cannot agree to a referee, the trustees will appoint one, and the two teams shall cover the expenses equally. If the two competing clubs cannot agree on other officials, the referee will appoint them, and the two clubs shall also pay the expenses equally
11)A league could not challenge for the Cup twice in one season.

Revive the World Hockey Association. But this time, include the hockey world markets across the sea to create a true, robust, and exciting league.

Balsille, if anyone can pull this off.

I'll wait in line to buy my ticket.

Leafs take some risks.

Last year the big deal in Leafland was picking up Andrew Raycroft in exchange for a goalie prospect Tukka Rask. Raycroft turned out to be, perhaps the worst starting goalie in the NHL last season. His one good stat was that he was among the top ten goalies with 37 wins. He was also among the top ten goalies in losses. He was number one for most goals allowed. He also ranks near the bottom of the pack for GAA and Save percentage.

The Leafs finished a dissappointing one point away from a playoff spot last season. Andrew Raycroft couldn't lift his game to give that extra nudge the Leafs needed. Instead, the ever important nudge, in a three way battle for the remaining playoff spot, came from the Islanders backup goalie.

With essentially the same team. A slightly older Sundin, a defense corps who could use one more D specialist, and a solid foundation of forwards. The Leafs again pulled the trigger on a trade - their current philosophy seems to be why draft and raise players when you can trade and improve right now. A philosophy I personally don't like as it seem to ensure long term mediocracy. To be honest, I'd prefer short term failure in exchange for a shot at a superstar, and even the cup a few years down the road. In their existence, the Leafs have never had a superstar. While in Pittsburgh's brief reign, they've had two, arguably three or even four if you count Paul Coffey and Malkin.

But with a base of fans screaming for success, it's hard not to make "now" trades. One thing I like is to see a lot of familiar faces back. That in itself is not a bad philosophy considering the Leafs did have a solid season. A goalie who could have picked up one more win would have put the Leafs in the playoffs. A goalie who could have picked up five more wins would have put them in contention for fourth or fifth spot.

While the Leafs young talent pool might be lacking. Few people expect to pick a superstar midway through the first round - especially given the Leafs history at the draft. After the top ten or fifteen, it's a lottery, with some later picks never even making it as regulars to the NHL. With Bell, they have an underacheiving player with potential, traded for none other than the great Martin Havlat only a year ago. Bell was expected to be Thorton's wing man last year.
The true gem of this deal though was Toskala, who at the very least can't be worse than Raycroft. Raycroft is probably a nice guy. He had one amazing season a few years back. I don't know why he can't repeat it. Age? Injury? Vision? Training? Or he's just lost the edge that brought him into the NHL on fire. With a better goalie, all else being equal, on paper the Leafs should be able to make the playoffs this season.

There is still five million bucks of wiggle room left under the salary cap. They would be wise to show patience with it and shave off a few more million in trades starting with Raycroft. Kariya or Lindros would round the team off nicely. Peca hopefully is coming back, which should put them in great shape to take a run at top four spot in their division.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Story excerpts edited out - Jordan

July 2003

I wandered through the streets of Aqaba, the historic Jordanian town on the Western tip of the Red Sea. Parked at a hotel an hour's bus ride away, the defunct buggy waited to be resurrected from my seven month absence.

Travel ebs and flows with highs and lows, and this was one of the shit spots.

Crap piled upon more bureaucratic crap. Expired permits, visas, documents, documents.

I found a fast food restaurant and ordered a chicken combo meal. While I sat down, two young Jordanians walked in. They laughed and greeted the pimply kid behind the counter. The first was dressed like someone who shopped at the GAP, with khaki pants and a grey golf shirt. He ordered for both of them and sat in the booth across from me.

"First time to Jordan?" he asked.
"Second time, I just got back from Egypt."
"What of Jordan have you seen?"
I finished chewing my food and swallowed. "I drove around Wadi Rum, went to Petra, and later visited Amman."
A restaurant employee interrupted our conversation. He went over to collect the tray of food. Meanwhile, his friend, who had a greasy mop of black hair and was dressed in grubby jeans, leaned toward me, putting his hand next to his mouth. "The prince," he said. "He's the prince."
I nodded. Maybe he would buy my car, or fix my import permit problem. Then again, I didn't even have my car.
The prince sat back down with his meal. "Where are you headed next?"
"Back to Petra to collect my car, then onto Syria."
I finished my food and left shortly later, forgetting about the encounter until a couple days later.

+++

At the Jordan-Syria border, a thin-haired official perused my expired documents. He took out his calculator and his ferret eyes scanned back and forth. He then wrote down the cost of fines.

"That's crazy!" I said. "Three hundred and twelve dollars for expired permits?"
"Expired by five months," he said.

"But look, I was in Egypt during those five months. I wasn't even driving around Jordan."

"But you left your car here."

"Is there a cheaper way?" I asked, trying to hint at a bribe.

"You can go back to Amman and try to sort out your documents there."

That made sense. Drive around illegally, rack up more fines, and likely go from office to office where nobody had the slighest clue how to help me. Who in Jordan's history had overstayed their temporary import permit and went through bureaucratic channeles to avoid paying the fine - probably nobody. I clenched my documents with frustration. "Do you know who I ate dinner with two nights ago?" I said.

"Huh?"

"Never mind." I counted the cash out, handed it to him and went back to the car. At least I'd gotten through.

Next stop, Syria.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Afghanistan

Tony Blair, in his resignation letter as published recently in the Economist magazine, speaks of having resolve in the face of those who distort the faith of Islam. He claims that if our resolve is stronger than theirs, we will win in the end.

It goes beyond mere resolve, however. The allied forces must show uniformity in the application of the principles that make Western democratic societies a role model.
Condoning the torture and murder of prisoners, as the Canadian Miitary has done in turning a blind eye to it, perhaps even encouraging it, goes against those principles.

Just punishment, even if culture dictates the death penalty, is okay. As is a fair judicial system and prison system free of torture and non-judicial-sanctioned murder. But that is not the case in Afghanistan.
Our resolve to transform Afghanistan is inherently good, but it must be followed through with the reslove to carry out that action. The government which has replaced the Taliban is seen as corrupt. Graft, which was virtually eliminated under the stringent Taliban, is now rampant. Torture and murder in the prison systems, carried out by corrupt elements willing to grant freedom for a price, devestates our hopes of rebuilding a better society.

Blurred arguments

While the initial invasion was a cakewalk. Rebuilding the country is seen by surrounding Muslim countries as an occupation. The new government is considered a puppet of the west. Never was this argument stronger than when the "coalition of the willing" attacked Iraq without provocation.

The legitimate argument for attacking Afghanistan, that they harboured terrorists who threatened non-Muslim countries, became even more blurred. Al Qaeda's cause for brutal Western resistance had gone from a small force who had to brainwash members, to a force overflowing with volunteers ready to stand up to the new crusade.
There was no legitimate argument. Iraq harboured no more terrorists than any other Arab country sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and had some patience been shown, Hans Blix's UN team could have come to that assessment. Furthermore, while a bad dictator, Saddam Hussein was not the worst.

While Tony Blair insists our resolve must outlast the remnants of the evil regimes and their distorted faithful, the world passes useless motion after usless motion that do nothing to bring an end to the attrocities in Darfur. If ever there was a reason to invade, change regimes, and fight for a just cause, it would be in The Sudan. The Sudanese government has used brutal war tactics for over twenty years to ensure Sudan's oil resources are controlled by the country's Arab Elite.

By pulling vital military and strategic resources out of Afghanistan, and putting them into Iraq, the Afghanistan mission is now in serious jeopardy. Instead of what should have been our original intention, showing the violent Islamic Fundamentalist movement that the West is a helping friend; we are on the brink of two massive failures.

Furthermore, the West no longer has enough clout to help where we are needed. Had Iraq never happened, there is a real possibliity that Afghanistan would be stable and on the road to success. We might even be out by now, leaving a strengthened democratic ally.

It's hard to keep our reslove when the situation deteriorates, as is happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan

I think rather, that western reslove should last only to a point where our presence becomes resented. America and Britain's continued occupation in Iraq is by many considered a blight. Their occupation in Afghanistan is becoming more and more that way.

And we are afraid to tread, unwanted, into another resentful Islamic hotbed; Sudan.

Tony Blair, resolve led to many a downfall and loss.

Germany invading Russia. The Bay of Pigs invasion. Russia's previous escapades in Afghanistan.

Resolve must be tempered with lost-cause logic. To me, that logic dictates getting out of Iraq and focusing on what can be salvaged - Afghanistan.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Off with his hands?

I entered Saudi Arabia, having crossed the Red Sea on a ferry from Port Sudan to Jeddah, in 2003. A huge sign hung above the the final customs barrier. The sign didn't say, "Welcome to Saudi Arabia," or, "Peace be upon you," but rather, the 'not so welcoming message' hanging from the portico said, "The penalty for imporing narcotics into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is Death!"

Saudi Arabian courts are strictly based on Islamic Sharia law. They are notoriously harsh and unforgiving. A Palestinian-Canadian boy found this out recently after a school brawl left a fellow student dead. The blame has been pinned on this Pal-Can boy, despite controversial and limited evidence that would struggle to hold up in a Western Court. He's been sentenced to death.
So, what to do with this Saudi Prince? Through a not so complicated kickback scheme, he organized for Saudi Arabia to pay 80 billion dollars (likely ten billion too much) for aviation equipment from UK based giant BAE. In return, BAE syphoned $240 million per year back into two US embassy accounts directly linked to him.

The penalty for theft in Saudi Arabia is the relatively light sentence of chopping one's right hand off.
That's what I'm interested in. Not the ripple effect through British politics, nor the ethics of BAE.
Due to Prince Bandar's family, does he have impunity to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from Saudi Arabian coffers?
In Canada, a scandal of not nearly the same scale, in which numerous individuals or companies benefited a few million, brought down our government.

I don't blame BAE for their action. If they hadn't been willing to "deal", Boeing would have been happy to. If not Boeing, then someone else.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan is the most important Saudi diplomat in modern history. Prior to leaving his post in 2005, he served as ambassador to the United States for over twenty years. He was America's most important ally in the Middle East and personally helped stave off an oil crisis by assuring increased output leading up to the Iraq war.
He had more influence in Washington than any other diplomat in the world.
He was particularly close to George W Bush, who received the nickname Bandar Bush, and became an honourary member of the rich Saudi family.

Will this icon of global power and wealth be brought to justice for stealing a princely sum? Pardon the pun. So he stole more money than me and all of my friends combined will likely earn in our lifetimes. It's not like he accidentally brought a joint into Saudi Arabia. Then he'd really be in trouble!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Canadian Visa Nazi to Winnie Mandela - NO VISA FOR YOU!

It came as no surprise to me that Winnie Mandela was rejected a visa by Canadian Immigration. It's a requirement to provide a police certificate with the application, and Winnie's police record isn't exactly flattering.
She was convicted of the assault and kidnapping of a 14 year old boy in 1991. More recently, she was convicted on numerous accounts of fraud and theft while acting as president of the South African Women's league.
Her name is associated with praising the tactic of necklacing, where a tire filled with petrol is tied around a victims neck and set on fire.
She has been accused of bullying political opponents.
Nelson Mandela accused her of adultery leading up to their divorce.

If Winnie Mandela had been accepted, our experience would be even more depressing. Read here.

A criminal convicted of kidnapping leading to murder, as well as theft and fraud, given Canadian visa. Moroccan wife of Canadian, no criminal record, masters degree, high paying job, denied visa. Immigration fears she might be an illegal immigrant risk despite having three unabused visas for Europe, a still valid visa for the United States, and even an expired and unabused single entry visa for Canada.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sensationalist, and likely duped BBC journalist slams Morocco.

I'm no apologist for Morocco. The country has its problems. There are things that really irritate me. Poor driving and road condition top the list. Bureaucracy overload comes a close second.
A recent article about Morocco, posted today on the BBC website is nothing short of the worst sensationalist journalism I've read from them. I've always held the BBC in the highest of regards. What was written today was more like what I'd expect from some low class tabloid. Sure, in a round about way, the BBC reported the facts. However, other facts and deeper digging seem to have been ignored, as though an attempt is being made to paint Morocco as badly as possible. Did the Moroccan government do something to piss the BBC off recently? Is this payback? Or am I missing something? Is this some Moroccan government sponsored reverse mentality propaganda to increase aid handouts in time for the G8 summit?

It's certainly shoddy reporting. Richard Hamilton regurgitated BS from somewhere.

In summary, the article describes a so-called hard luck family who live in public toilets not far from the capital Rabat. The article says the father worked in the toilets for twenty-three years, and when his daughter was kidnapped several years ago, he had to pay all his money to find her and get her back. They lost their appartment and he moved into the toilets with his family.

I wouldn't put too much stock in what the "toilet guy" says. Perhaps, events in some form or another like he said might have happened. I doubt he'd pass a lie detector test on all the facts however.

First of all, what are these toilets and how did he get his job? Likely, he came off the street and worked for tips, one of countless toilet people who leave a dish for tips on a rickety wooden chair outside public toilets. Inside, the toilets always seem to remain filthy and stinking. The "toilet cleaners" don't put their "not so hard" earned money to good use and invest in a bottle of bleach every so often.
If I ever take a piss in a Moroccan public toilet without having to hold my breath from the hideous stench, I'll tip the guy generously. Case in point, the "toilet" family complains about rats. If their are rats in the toilets, he can't be doing a very good cleaning job can he?

Secondly, even the beggars here in Rabat make more than a dollar a day. Which is what his salary was described as.

The BBC corrospondent describes abject poverty here in Morocco. I think we have different opinions on abject poverty.

I see abject poverty as the scene in Darfur, where people are destitute and rely on handouts just to survive to the next day.

When's the last time you heard of people starving to death in Morocco?

The BBC article finishes with the quote, "It reflects the huge gap between rich and poor in Morocco: some people live in luxury, others live literally in a toilet."

A huge gap between rich and poor? Not so much as in some countries. The majority of the so called rich here are lower-middle class to middle class by Western standards. When someone writes of a huge wealth divide, I think of Russia, where a quarter of the country's wealth is owned by a mere one-hundred people. Here in Morocco, there is opportunity enough to work and provide the bare necessities for a family - a roof and bread on the table. Living in the toilets was 100% this man's decision.

A likely scenario - the man chose to move his family into the toilets because he's trying to cash in on a government handout in the form of a relocation package. Either that, or he's using his "toilet people" status as leverage to increase the begging income for the rest of his family. Come the month of Ramadan, Moroccans are their most generous with almsgiving. A family living in the toilets is in perfect condition for sympathy generosity.

Even more likely still, the guys pathological lying is what got him down the toilet in the first place. The exact same place as where this shoddily researched article belongs.

Harper vs the Environment.

My first blog on this subject, well over six months ago, mocked Harper and the conservative government's environmental package. In my conclusion, I noted if Harper wanted to trick Canadian's into thinking he was greener than he actually was, all he had to do was throw some money at a few environment/renewable energy projects, brag about it in the media, and bam, his ratings would shoot up.
He did just that, and for a while it looked like he might be cruising toward a majority government. (shudder)
Harper is currently attending the G8 summit. He says he's not going to take the high road on the environment and pledge German-style targets. Nor will he take the American low road and pretend Global Warming doesn't exist. Instead he will try and be a bridge between the two, bringing Europe and the USA together on the issue.

Canadian Public Translation - I, Stephen Harper, am in love with GWB. I will do anything for him, even if it jeopardizes my own political career and proves unpopular with Canadian voters. Someone has to act as cover for America's gross environmental negligence, and protect the oil industry which really runs our neighbours to the south.

A stance of solidarity with Germany would have gotten Harper into the voters good books. It would have replenished his tarnished environmental image. I've said it before and I'll say it again. CANADIANS DISLIKE BUSH. Any time one of our leaders disagrees with him, especially over his more controversial, "You're either with us or against us!" policies, it can only boost their popularity.

But Harper, I forgot to mention the second secret of tricking Canada into thinking you are Green. Had you actually figured it out on your own, you might be on your way back to getting majority poll numbers. It's the world's most common political trick, and its called lying. You figured this concept out when it came to Income Trusts. You figured it out with the Afghan prisoner transfer agreement.

The Liberals understood it with their previous envirnomental programs.

What should you have done?

Tell Canada you are going to attempt to meet the targets laid out in the G8 summit. Hold off on the treaty, perhaps making a stipulation or two. If pressure grows, finally sign the thing, but with no intention of doing anything more than superficially following through on its targets. By the time Canadians have figured out that you've renigged on the deal, you could be well into a second, if not a third majority government.

Why?

You've stood up to Bush.
You've painted yourself green enough to hopefully trick enough Canadians into voting for you in the next election.
You've doused the environmental issue that's been plaguing your government ever since you put Rona Ambrose in charge of the file. You've deflated the Liberals biggest critisism of your government.

I'm looking forward to an upcoming Liberal minority government, followed by a Liberal majority not long after.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The demise of the NHL

What is hockey even doing in a city like Anaheim? Recent polls show it as something like the tenth most popular sport in the area, behind women's college volleyball! Yet here they are on the brink of winning their first ever Stanley Cup.

Sure, there was a movie made about a bunch of kids called the Mighty Ducks. In my opinion, the worst hockey movie ever made. I mean come on, the knuckle puck? A young teenage kid shooting it so hard the goalie gets rocketed into the back of the net? A figure skater who dances through opponents? The flying V? Not much to build a legacy off of. I'd like to see them try the flying V in the finals. They'd get knocked on their asses, turn the puck over, and give up a scoring chance for sure. And that's before even managing to get in formation.

Perhaps, when the Ducks win the cup, ice hockey will make it above woman's volleyball in the sports pages for a day. Maybe even propped up all the way to the fourth spot after the baseball scores; Kobe Bryant's off court escapades; and the latest off-season trades in the NFL.

Even more irksome is that non-hockey-city Carolina won the cup last year.
And even-less-hockey-city Tampa Bay won it the year before that.

I think a line should be drawn somewhere slightly south of Boston, through Philadelphia, and all the way to Los Angeles. Any team which falls below that line
should either be moved to a city north of it, or folded.

Nashville had a top team this year, but still lost money. Expect Balsille, the wily Canadian billionaire who just bought the team, to fire-sale much of the top talent in return for prospects and high draft picks. Furthermore, after the team has moved to Canada, I suspect a backroom deal has already been worked out to trade much of those built up draft picks and prospects and a heap of cash to Pittsburgh in return for superstar Sidney Crosby.

You heard it here first. And good old Bettman will have a conniption. We all know Bettman wants the top talent to remain in the US market. It's important for Bettman to make sure money is made in marginal hockey cities who have no business owning a club, in hopes that one day enough fans will start feigning interest. History is not on his side. Remember the Pittsburgh Penguins who couldn't afford Mario Lemieux's salary and ended up practically giving him the team. They should have folded or moved after Lemieux retired the first time - their ticket sales had plummeted without their superstar, but thanks to pure dumb luck, they ended up with superstar Crosby after the lockout.
If hockey has trouble flying in historic hockey town Pittsburgh without a superstar, how the hell will it ever survive in Anaheim, Phoenix, Tampa, Carolina, etc, etc.

Meanwhile, the salary cap limits Crosby's paycheck to something like seven million a year. Take that cap away and he'd easily command double, if not triple that amount. Enough to push the Pens back into financial distress.

This year's Stanley cup final really gave me a dilemma. As a Leafs fan, I've relished Ottawa suffering through countless crash-and-burn playoff scenarios. This year, I'm torn between not wanting some lame-ass California city's name in the cup, and wanting to laugh sadistically at yet another Ottawa humiliation. At the very least, it could have come at the hands of a real hockey town like Detroit.

It's not that there are any particular players on Ottawa that I dislike. I respect many of them and think they have heaps of talent. Everyone loves a Cinderella story (Emery), but at the moment, too many of the players are actually playing like a bunch of Cinderellas to have a chance in this series.
As I said, it's not the players, it's the fans who aren't mature enough yet to win the cup. When the highlight of their year is seeing the Leafs not make the playoffs, it's pretty sad. Perhaps in another twenty years, with the Sens being relegated to the bottom of the league for few stints, I might change my mind. After all, twenty years ago it was the Habs who every Leaf fan despised. Now, I find myself cheering for them.

It would be good if the Sens could hang on and make the series go five games. That way they can lose in Anaheim, while the hockey-bewildered crowd claps gently and exits the stadium before the team can even start hoisting the cup. Finally, the Sens can come home to a small delegation of cheering fans, "Thanks for the ride!" a sign will say. The dejected team will put on half smiles and wave to their fans in appreciation.
Meanwhile, some naughty Leafs fan much like myself will have snuck into the crowd in order to shout, "Losers!" It's very important to be wearing a Sens jersey when one does this, and then point to some hapless and jerseyless Sens fan in order to see them get pumelled like that poor woman from Buffalo.

I'll keep cheering, even if my beloved Leafs are destined for years of mediocracy to come. It's been a constant for much of my life, and perhaps in a couple years, I'll have something new to be excited about. Sidney Crosby down the street from my Maple Leafs. A fun rivalry with a team led by a superstar. Not a bitter one with fans cheering for a team destined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, over and over again.

And maybe, finally, the cup can come to a place where there are true hockey fans. People who drink beer and paint their faces. As opposed to sipping cocktails, asking silly questions about the rules, and yawning in hopes of a fight.