Thursday, December 10, 2009

Satire - Refugees Shun Canada

Recently, calls have been made to try Robert Mugabe for crimes against humanity in a rape campaign he allegedly masterminded during the previous election.

It's no secret that Zimbabweans, whose government led by Robert Mugabe, have been brutalized, raped, murdered and abused for years by their government. Zimbabweans often seek asylum abroad, in countries where governments don't terrorise and abuse people. Countries who seek justice against indescretions. Canada was once one of the countries they flocked to. This is no longer the case.

"After seeing Zimbabwe's government commit, or be complcit in attrocities, Zimbabweans wanted to go to Canada to get away from it. What do we find here, a Conservative government who also refuses to try their own MPs for being war criminals," says Micheal from Zimbabwe

Michael continues. "Seeing Peter MacKay up there, guilty of War Crimes and slandering anyone who dares speak out against him, calling them Taliban sympathizers. It's like we're back in Zimbabwe. I don't know why we left. It's the same thing. More and more people stand up for the truth. The government becomes more and more vicious. Scarier still, the Canadian government poll results are going up!"

John, a survivor of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, also draws parallels. "I see comments from Canadians, saying it's okay to torture people and transfer them into abuse, rape, and murder, because they're Afghans, because they must be associated with the Taliban. It reminds me of Rwandan Radio the day the genocide started. "Kill the cockroaches," they said, referring to us Tutsis. 'Kill the Taliban, because any Afghan arrested must be associated with the Taliban,' is what I hear now."

Meanwhile, other Africans compare the current Canadian government to Apartheid South Africa. They say that during apartheid, black political movements were ridiculed, slandered, oppressed. Just like what the Conservatives tried to do to Barack Obama during the primaries when someone leaked confidential information to undermine Obama's campaign.

But the comparisons to Obama is the lesser evil. That's politics. Other parallels between apartheid and the Canadian government is even scarier.

Neslon Mandela spent 13 years exiled from the South African mainland on Robbin Island.
Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Sudanese Canadian who mysteriously appeared on a terrorist blacklist, was harassed by Canadian authorities. Abdelrazik was exiled from Canada for seven years.

The parallels are terrifying. In fact, in many ways, South Africa at least was known to treat it's prisoners humanely. They dealt with them internally, not renditioning torture to rogue regimes like Sudan, where torture is commonplace. Do you think Mandela would be alive today if South Africa handed him over to be imprisoned somewhere like Sudan?

John from Rwanda also offers his opinion on Abdelrazik. "In Rwanda, it was innocent until proven Tutsi. In Abdelrazik's case, it was innocent until proven Muslim. He's lucky to be alive. Arar, too. Scarily, they still don't have enough evidence to arrest them. Perhaps that's the one bright spot for Canada, as much as their government are criminals, at least the Canadian police show some independant thought in following procedures. They're not government lackeys like in Zimbabwe and Rwanda. Although who knows what will happen if the Tories get a majority..."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Satire - UK Hoteliers right to Mock Muslim Guests

In the recent BBC news article, "Christian hotelier 'abused' Muslim guest" a court case is being heard regarding two Christian Hoteliers who verbally abused a Muslim woman.

The Muslim woman claims it was because she was wearing a hijab head covering and gown.

Outside the courtroom, members of campaign group "The Christian Institute" demonstrated in support of the Christian couple.

"It's absolutely ludicrous, that in this day and age, a woman covers her hair up for religious purposes. It's sickening. It's a form of bondage," one Christian is reported to have said.

Below are some pictures of women covering their heads, showing just how wrong, disgusting, and inappropriate it is in today's day and age to oppress women and destroy their self esteem.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

You Tell Santa!

Zack, with his Toys R Us flyer, goes to see Santa. His big dark eyes grow wide as he sees the man in the red suit sitting in the high-back brownchair. "Santa," he shouts, wiggling to get past the other kids. Zack's mother and father wrestle with him, getting his jacket off. His father holds him and pays for some photos to be taken. He orders Christmas cards. His mother holds Zack's baby sister, hushing her as she wails. Finally, its Zack's turn. He goes up to see Santa, Santa has Zack's sister on one knee, and Zack on the other.

"Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Chistmas. And what's your name little boy."
"I'm Zack, that's my sister Alia."
"And what would you like for Christmas this year Zack."
"I'm glad you asked Santa, here it is. I want the Batman - The Brave and the Bold toy for Christmas. In case you're confused, I brought a picture. It's right here, no wait, on the other side, yes, right here. Now I don't want any of your elves skimping. I know their tricks. I don't want some cheap, dollar store, flea market souq Batman. I want the real deal, the Brave and the Bold. In case you're not sure how to make it, look at the picture. They sell them at Toys R Us. It's the one with the cape that expands as you crank its arm. I know the deal. I'll leave you some cookies cuz I know you big guys like sugary stuff. The gym is a couple doors down by the way, I know a good personal trainer if you want to work the Christmas cookies off afterwards. Oh, thanks, that's very nice, a colouring book and a candy cane. Merry Christmas."
"Smile for the photo!"

Friday, December 04, 2009

Satire - Afghans, Native Americans, and Palestinians Apologize to Stephen Harper

Afghan detainees, who were transferred into conditions of torture, rape, and even murder, have apologized for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"We see a place like Tibet, where the Chinese government has taken their territory and claimed sovereignty over them, and we see how lucky we are to have Canada and Europe as our occupiers," said Omar Khan, humiliated Kandahar civilian who was rounded up by Canadian soldiers in a security sweep and later tortured, raped and beaten. His brother is still missing.

"The humiliations we faced were mere inconveniences compared to what the Chinese have done to Tibetans. The Chinese brought horrible things such as economic stability, policing, and investment to Tibet. We are proud that our occupier, Canada, is standing up to these Chinese aggressors."

"Elections are the way to go," Omar Khan continued. "Democracy is so much better than Communism. China should look at Afghanistan as a role model of democracy!"

Native Indians, who were also the subject of humiliations, such as having their families ripped apart and the children sent into schools where they faced rape and beatings, think Canada is doing the right thing standing up to the Tibetan occupiers.

"It's wrong to steal land from people. It's wrong to force your culture on other people, and exploit their resources and land," said Native Indian, fermented potato on the Rocks.

Palestinians too, who have criticized Stephen Harper in the past for his staunch support of Israel, and for his refusal to condemn Israeli aggression even while they were committing war crimes, have come round to fully support Stephen Harper in his bid to lambaste China for their Tibetan exploits.

"You have to stand up for what's right?" said Palestinian Omar Bin Lyin. "Flooding a country with another culture, just because that other culture has more advanced weapons and technology, is wrong! Even if those cultures, and a power struggle, go back thousands of years, it shouldn't be put up with, ever. That's why I support Stephen Harper in his quest to right the wrongs China has committed."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tuesday Travails

It's about that time the mail arrives. I no longer get excited about the mail, even though I'm expecting a half dozen pieces of good news, or, in some cases, closure.

Still, I can't quite shake that feeling of disappointment each time I open the mail box, fully expecting to find nothing important, and finding just that. Bills, depressing bank statements, or threatening letters by people who want to kill me.

Okay, I made that last part up. But I'm working on it.

I want some closure mail in knowing my wife's taxes are done, and we can proceed with a subsidy request for daycare. We're now at about fourteen weeks (it's supposed to take six, but can take 10-12 weeks for first time filers.)

Closure in knowing that Alia has a birth certificate and we can proceed ordering her a passport.

Good news that I got a story published.

Great news that someone wants to publish my book.

Amazing news that I placed a story competition, albeit the least likely so far.

The only slightly welcome mail over the past months has been the Men's Health Magazine I subscribe to. With some recent contest submissions, I'm apparently now subscribed to three literary journals too, which will match Men's Health in my delight of getting something to read that isn't depressing, then again, have you read some of the stories in the literary journals?

Some stories are just depressing in an alcohilc downward spiral kind of way. Others are depressing because they are so damn good, and I think to myself, can I write like that? Does my story stand a chance beside this one in a competition. No, Damn it! Well, maybe my best story, if I work on it. Speaking of which, time to get cracking.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Satire - Defending Peter MacKay

If, in some way, there was incompetence in this whole unfortunate Afghan Prisoner Transfer affair, it certainly wasn't Peter Mackay's fault.

In 2006, Peter MacKay was very busy with important things, such as being one of Canada's most eligable bachelors and fueling rumours of a spark between him and Condoleeza Rice, which, consequently was while Canadian policies in Afghanistan inadvertantly led to prisoners being tortured, raped, and perhaps even murdered. With so many emails to respond to, answering romantic questions and even, possibly, wooing an important Republican woman, it's perfectly understandable if he missed a few minor details, such as the fact that his policies were responsible for war crimes.

But there were other factors that are equally to blame. For instance, Condoleeza Rice wasn't the only woman knocking at the door. There was another, certain well known blonde woman vying for his attention. Yes, we all know who I'm talking about.

Elizibeth May!

That accursed woman should not have been running against him in his home riding in Central Nova. Peter Mackay had important things to do that didn't involve trying to convince the people in his riding that there is no such thing as Global Warming.

With so many door calls, emails, letters, phone calls, single Republicans, and a hippi-looking, wild-haired tree hugger vying for Peter Mackay's attention, it is perfectly understandable for his busy staff to have missed a message or two from Richard Colvin, or the Red Cross, or the Afghan Independant Human Rights Commission. So what? We all make mistakes at work. It's not a big deal if he took his hand off the wheel while his policies inadvertantly led to Afghan civilians being detained, beaten, raped, tortured, and perhaps even murdered.

And if those humiliated victims of abuse happened to get out of jail, it certainly isn't Peter Mackay's fault if they decided to join the Taliban, fuel the resistance, tip the balance in favour of the Taliban, who in turn killed dozens of Canadian and coalition soldiers and led the British and some other countries to label Afghanistan a lost cause.

We should not blame Peter MacKay for this.

Instead, we should be blaming Condoleeza Rice and Elizabeth May. For if they hadn't been distracting him with their assets, he could have spent less time worrying about his political career and more time focusing on the job at hand.

Furthermore, his staff should have been screening his emails and passing important messages onto him. So it is also there fault for not letting him know he was a war criminal.

It's also George Bush, Stephen Harper's, Syria's, and Sudan's fault. They started this whole torture thing. In fact, they made torture routine, turning it into an important issue. With the US torturing a Canadian citizen in Guantanimo (with our permission), Sudan torturing a Canadian citizen in Khartoum(at our request), and Syria having just finished torturing a Canadian citizen in Damascus(at America's request), what's good enough for our own citizens is certainly good enough for Afghans, right?

And while we're at it, where was Canada's opposition? They're the ones who are supposed to be making sure Peter Mackay does his job. If anyone is responsible for war crimes committed in Afghanistan, it's the Liberals and the NDP, who should have been shouting at Peter Mackay in question period the moment these allegations came to light.

As you can see, their are a lot of people to blame for the war crimes Canada is responsible for in Afghanistan, and none of them are Peter Mackay.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Afghan Prisoner Scandal - Why Canada should follow through

Canada should call an impartial public inquiry into the transfer of Afghan prisoners, who were allegedly transferred into conditions that contradict the Geneva convention and are illegal under international law. International laws of the Geneva convention are also prosecutable under Canadian law. Should an impartial public inquiry take place and the evidence gathered indicates that trials should go forward, the ICC and the Canadian courts should pursue these crimes with their full means and authority.

At the very least, it looks like Canadian officials, from the Minister of Defence Peter Mackay to top military brass, might be found guilty of negligence in the transfer of Afghan prisoners. At worst, they are guilty of intentionally transferring those prisoners into conditions that contradict the Geneva convention, including torture, rape, and possibly even murder.

It's important this issue gets fully examined and taken through the course of the law. Firstly, this is important because Canada can't criticize other countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, who's leaders flaunt and break international law at will, while our own governments are not held accountable for their misdeeds.

Furthermore, the victims of this injustice, some of which may have been Taliban, others who may have joined the Taliban as a result of being humiliated by torture, rape, etc, would see this as a step toward justice.

If we don't hold our leaders accountable, how can we expect Afghanistan's government to do the same. By not seeking justice, we are allowing the Afghan government to point to Canada as an example and say, "Hey, they stonewalled justice and aren't accountable for their crimes, then neither are we."

A full inquiry, and if Canadians are found guilty, then a conviction, lets Muslim extremists around the world know that Canada goes into Afghanistan with high morals and principles and we prosecute those who break the law.

Justice gives Afghan people a reason to trust us. Injustice gives them fodder to recruit more extremists to kill our brave soldiers, our men and women who put their lives on the line. We owe it to Afghanistan. We owe it to our soldiers. We owe it to ourselves as a country with impeccable morals and traditions, to seek justice.

As Stephen Harper would say, we need to "shine light into dark corners" of government affairs.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Revisiting the Afghan Transfer Agreement

What amazes me is how long it's taken for the media, and the opposition parties, to really grab hold of this story. These aren't new revelations.
What's scary is it shows how impotent Canada's opposition parties are. They've sat on this story for more than two years, and have done little to bring the government to account over actions that arguably constitute war crimes!

This is my post from more than two years ago.

Let's get some things straight. Unlike the Conservative government would try and have you believe, taking shots at government incompetence and their complicity in torture is NOT the same as taking shots at Canadian soldiers on the front lines doing their duty. Canadian soldiers were following protocol. They were told to deliver prisoners somewhere, and the agreement was to deliver them in good faith to Afghan Authorities. Top military brass can in some ways be held accountable, but again, who do the top military brass answer to? The minister of Defence. Again, in no way are Canadian soldiers responsible for incompetent government policy.

Had the Canadian soldiers themselves been abusing detainees, like in AbuGharib, then yes, we would be responsible and we would have a military scandal more than a political one.

But this is nothing like AbuGharib. The only parallel is that instead of soldiers committing crimes, it was Canada's top brass, our Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister himself who knew of the torture, rape, and abuse and waited over a year and a half to take action!

Our soldiers are the victims here. These protocols led to a far more dangerous situation, a complete lack of trust in Kandahar. You can't claim to be trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, then go and turn those same people over to the humiliation of human rights abuses.

Our government, plain faced, stands up and says how dare people insult our military. They go on to claim there's no way they could know of such conditions occurring. How could they not know? Anybody reading a newspaper knew. The Red Cross complained of Canada not informing them of prisoner transfers for months after they'd taken place. It was stonewall after stonewall by the Canadian Government!

It's unfortunate we have such an impotent opposition in the House of Commons. Dion did little if anything to bring this scandal to the attention of Canada. Ignatieff seems to have all but disappeared, whether he's now hiding from his own words supporting torture, or he's just a lame duck I don't know. His silence is scary.

I do agree with one thing, there shouldn't be a public inquiry. Instead, the ICC should look into these allegations and decide whom, if anyone, in Canada's government should be brought to trial for war crimes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I'm fascinated by doomsday, by prophets and prophecies warning us against the inevitable doomsday. They've had Nostradamus documentaries on the history channel all week, and with the movie 2012 coming out, the believers are probably crapping their pants right now.

But, in the next decade or two, if not by 2012, some major changes in the world are going to take place.

We might hit peak oil, if we haven't already, and demand will outstrip supply, driving prices soaring.

But oil isn't the only product in danger. Fertilizer ingredients, potash, etc, is an even more scary prospect.

Thanks to our manipulation of finite resources, improved health care, and this burning economic thirst to have more more more, we are using up the world's resources at breakneck pace. A tipping point has to come.

I'm always been fascinated by government's fear of recession, and how they will go to great lengths to avoid that horrible word. But, the more they delay, spend, offset, and gerrymander the economy to keep in that full steam ahead mode, the harder the crash is going to be. It's kind of like continually eating sugar to keep up your energy while running a marathon. Eventually, your just going to crash, and crash hard!

Has the tipping point come?

The price of phosphates, a major ingredient in fertilizer, has increased fourteen fold since 2007. Which means demand has been outstripping supply. If we reach the point where phosphates become prohibitively expensive, or we can't mine enough to continually boost our farming production, could the world begin starve? Could we not be able to produce enough food to feed ourselves? Could the world's population actually decrease! Could this start happening in 2012? Is that what Nostradamus' prediction meant?

Think about it. A 10% drop in world population. An economist's nightmare. That's 10% fewer consumers. That's 10% less productivity. In countries like Canada, who have been growing our consumer base through immigration, a sudden drop off might mean back to back to back quarterly GDP decreases, continual annual GDP decreases. Recession. Depression.

Or will a giant meteor crash into the earth. Perhaps Nostradamus understood something about the Cosmos we don't. Perhaps every thirty thousand years we pass through some mine field of galactic meteor waste, and Nostradamus figured it out. I doubt Bruce Willis will drill a hole and set off a nuclear bomb if a Meteor is coming. It'll hit us before we know what happened.

Or maybe the cosmos, some galactic line up of planets with the earth, will trigger massive volcanic and tectonic activity.

Maybe HIV will morph into an airborne disease and decimate us.

Perhaps it will be the bird flu, SARS, Ebola.

The Day After Tomorrow - Damn, Canada got hit hard in that movie. Al Gore, help!

Or, scariest of all, Sarah Palin.

Oh, wait, phew, she won't get in until at least 2013.

Perhaps Nostradamus was wrong after all...

Ranting about waiting, and other things.

I feel like I'm waiting, indefinitely, for things that never seem to happen. I filed Siham's taxes about twelve weeks ago. I was told it would take six weeks.

I sent half a dozen different stories to different magazines and journals, and am waiting for an answer. Publish me, yes, or no.

I did get published several months ago, and I'm still waiting for my copy of the magazine to arrive.

My manuscript, Siham's taxes, Alia's birth certificate, that magazine I got an article published in, a date to start training for my new job.

Every morning I check the mail. What do I get. Bills, usually. The odd survey. A "baby come back" message from Bell Canada every so often, and bank statements.

Speaking of waiting, if Bell is waiting for me to come back, they might be waiting longer than I've been waiting for, err, I mean, forever.

I don't think I'll be going back to Bell. If they are spamming me biweekly with letters, then that is part of their ad campaign. Their ad campaign translates to higher costs for their services. I hear they just overpaid a boatload of cash to become the 2010 Winter Olympics soul telecommunications advertiser. When I find out a company spends billions on advertising, and isn't doing very well financially, it tends to push me toward the competition. Especially if their commercials are annoying.

But moreover, Bell only price matches after they've lost a customer. Oops, you left us, well we can offer you that rate too...

Then why didn't you when I asked you too match it?

I don't really like Bell commercials. They're not as good as Rogers, with the guy (presumably with Bell) who keeps getting one upped by the cooler looking guy with a Rogers phone plan.
IMO, they're one of my favourites, although not nearly as good as the gum commercial where a goat rams into a guys nuts or a Polka band kicks another guys ass, but they're pretty good.

I don't really remember any Bell commercials. I think there's one where there's a party in a Bell sign, but that's it.

Perhaps instead of a Bell sign party, they'll get a goat ramming some guy with a Rogers phone in the nuts and use the line, "Finish your contract and start using another phone already."

Hmm, doesn't work as well as it does with the gum.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No Rules Poetry

Up to now, my poetry doesn't stretch much beyond the Dr. Seuss meets Sam McGee rhyming that I love to read and attempt to write. That's my comfort zone.
I have this feeling that I don't get other poetry. I mean I sometimes get it, in meaning, on some level, but not the style, the rules.

But there are no real rules, it's just expression. Which is why it doesn't really move me, rarely anyway.

I started reading poetry in literary journals, and perhaps it's got something to do with my short attention span, but it just doesn't click. It's often like trying to puzzle through how a poet has broken up sentences on separate lines.

Here's a poem I wrote. I don't claim it is good. But it's my first attempt at non-structured poetry. My goal, in part, was to get my message across with as few words as possible.

Remembrance Day Canada 2009

With disgraces, too.
Perpetual claims of,
Role model status.
Shameful Japanese internment.
Jews not the only ones.
And today we remember,
With sayings
Lest We Forget,
We will Remember them,
Our follies too?
A Flanders Street of pricking felt
Have we forgotten?
Lessons of fathers
Grand and great
Damaged souls,
Bodies decaying.
Rats the size of cats.
We live free, unless,
Accused of terror,
Innocent until proven accused.
Of sympathy for suffering kin?
Arar, Abdelrazik, Khadr
Syria, Sudan, Guantanamo
Abandoned by government.
Extraordinary internment.
Never forget the sacrifice.
Of soldiers not principles.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Rumour: Balsille to Create Rival League(s)

Is it possible that Canadian billionaire and hockey enthusiast, Jim Balsillle, is seriously considering either forming, or joining and backing, a hockey league that will rival the NHL?

Jim Balsille has been spurned three times by the NHL for trying to buy franchises and relocate them to Southern Ontario, first in Pittsburgh, then in Nashville, and finally and most bitterly, in Phoenix.

With the financial clout of multi billion dollar RIM behind him, and Balsille's obvious desire to own a hockey franchise, does he have the will to carry this through? If he does, it might spell serious trouble for the NHL.

One source outlined some juicy pieces of hearsay about the rival league, and suggested that its likely form will include interconnected leagues to build off a system widely used throughout Europe.

This means that teams will be able to play up and play down from the top league. Essentially, a last place team in the premier league will drop down to a feeder league, while a first place team in the feeder league could move up to the premier league. This could go several layers deep. In European soccer, for instance, there are more than six divisions.

Such a setup makes sense for a guy like Balsille, who like the millions of hockey fans and players throughout North America and the world, never made it to the spotlight in their teens, but retained romantic notions of moving their way up through leagues to make it into the spotlight. A guy with some talent and determination in a city leauge could be fighting his way up to fourth, to third, to second division teams. It could also bring higher level hockey to cities throughout North America and Europe and add a mythical quality to teams who push their way up the ranks to get noticed and make it to the NHL. Furthermore, it could be a proving grounds for young coaches and trainers hoping to get noticed by creating something from nothing.

The rumoured new leagues would include teams in both North America and Europe. Possible European cities include St Petersburg and Moscow in Russia, Stockholm in Sweden, Helsinki in Finland, Prague in Czech Republic, and with the possibility of expansion into Belarus, France, Switzerland, Germany, and England.

In North America, markets in Southern Ontario, Quebec City, Winnipeg, New York City, Los Angeles, Washington and Montreal make sense, with the possibility of expansion into Western Canada and one or two other US markets.

The league, which is still very much a rumour, would likely offer higher salaries than the current, salary cap limited NHL, particularly to upcoming talent in order to woo them away from the National Hockey League.

It's not hard to see just where the speculative new leagues could exploit weaknesses in the NHL system:

Firstly, NHL rookie salaries are limited to $900,000, and with almost half of the NHL's teams losing money last year, and with a rival league eating into revenues further, a stronger, financially backed league could offer higher startup salaries to top young talent. They could also poach any star not under contract and offer them ten million or more per season, matching their true worth, while NHL teams would battle to fit players under the salary cap.

Another factor favouring a start up league could be that players could be woed into playing in front of their hometown/provinces/country crowds. The upside of an NHL player signing with a team from his country or own province/state of origin would not only be a higher salary, but also better sponsor income via local businesses would certainly enhance a player's earning power. Teams too would strengthen drawing power with hometown heroes.

As good as it sounds, there are definite hurdles for a new rival league. Primarily, the NHL has a strong brand and player loyalty, and cracking that would be challenging. The new league would feel the pinch, especially in the early going when players are locked in contracts to NHL franchises. The barrier of NHL players having a preference for the NHL brand and being wary of breaking away from the NHL is also formidable.

Here's a list of free agents for the upcoming 2010 season.

A few big names include Patrick Kane, Robert Luongo, Kovalchuck, Rick Nash, Nabakov, Jokinen, Toews, Cam Ward and Selanne.

That's where marketing could be key, and starting soon. If the new league could put the idea into the players, and the fans minds that "A better paying, more dynamic, exciting product is coming, and instead of Phoenix vs Florida, Nashville vs Columbus, and Tampa vs Atlanta, we could be playing Moscow vs New York, Sweden vs Toronto, Paris vs Montreal, etc. Just like a new political leader might rejuvinate a party, a new league might reinvigorate disenfranchised hockey fans who are tired of the NHL song and dance.

It's been suggested that the league could eventually open up to a mid season tournament like soccer's FA cup in England, where minnows, lower division teams who qualify, can turn giant killers and upset top level teams. Such a tournament could raise the status of local teams, such as a team from Halifax, Regina or Kingston, and broaden the fan base for the sport in non-traditional markets such as Phoenix and Nashville where slow but steady success and exposure could eventually create a fan base to support a competitive team at the top level.

Truth or rumour? Time will tell.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Broken Pencil

My Google Link says - The guide to alternative culture in Canada, features reviews of hundreds of zines, e-zines, journals, chap-books and newsletters from across the country.

It's a pretty mish mash magazine with several sections.

It starts with ranting bloggish stories. And I mean that in a kindly, Rant Like Rick Mercer kind of way. Many have an artsy theme to them.

It has a few articles and exposes on people and events of creative and artistic interest.

Some Comics and artwork.

The major article in the issue in front of me is Crafts in the Economy, talking about things like knitted Ipod cases and DIY products.

There is a section with fiction, which is one of the more entertaining in the magazine. The stories range from disturbing with gratuitous, risque and graphic sex to quirky and a bit weird. The stories are well written and descriptive with generally troubled characters, or characters in a real life, awkward situation.

The second half of the magazine is dedicated to reviews, ezines, zines, journals, chapbooks and more.

Canadian Stories Magazine

Canadian Stories Magazine is pretty self explanatory. A folk magazine written by or about Canadians.

Unlike a lot of Magazine websites, Canadian Stories describes what they're looking for.

Here's a link to their editor's corner.

One of the things I like about Canadian Stories is that it's not so literary as to appeal to only the most distinguished, bizarre, and, ahem, literary of authors. They generally don't pay for accepted material, but do have some worthwhile contests.

Canadian Literary Magazines

Here's a list of some Canadian Literary magazines I got from the Kingston Writers Festival.

Literary magazines usually say they want people to be familiar with their work before they submit. If you're familiar with the materials in any of these magazines, please feel free to send me a short blurb on the type of work they publish. Over the next little while, I'll try to provide links and descriptions of some of the magazines I've happened to read.

I'm asking for blurbs so I, and other readers and writers who come across my blog, can narrow down the magazines they choose to become familiar with and purchase, both for interest, and for the intention of submitting to.

Antigonish Review
Arc Poetry
Broken Pencil
Canadian Stories
The Capilano Review
Dalhousie Review
Literary Review of Canada
Malahat Review
Nashwaak Review
The New Quarterly
Prairie Fire
PRISM International
Taddle Crek
Vancouver Review
West Coast Line
White Wall Review
Windsor Review

Satire - Vote for the Conservative Party of Canada

Dear Canadians

Unlike the tax and spend Liberal opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is not only the right choice, but should be the only choice going into Canada’s future.

Do you want some godless, tax and spend Liberals leading your country? No, of course not. You want the righteous spend and spend Conservatives putting more and more money in your pockets, and taking less and less out.

That’s why Stephen Harper reduced the GST. So that when you buy a candy bar, you have an extra two cents to store away. And why not put that money in a tax free savings account, or a tax free educational fund, or a tax-deductable housing improvement allowance? (Which the socialist, godless, tax and spend Liberals voted against.) Because as we gradually take taxes off everything, you’ll have more and more money to spend, and even though it will have to be paid off by your children and grandchildren for centuries to come in the future, at least you’ll have a cool new I-pod to play in your gas guzzling SUV.

Let’s take a moment to remind voters what the Conservative party has done for Canada, and why voting Conservative is the best option for the future.

The Red Carpet

The CPC’s star friends list includes a hero of many Conservative constituents; the right honourable George

Walker Bush and his associates Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove. As close friends with Canada’s Prime Minister, (GWB calls him Stevie) and long time allies, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is well practiced in showing how awful other parties are and how the right wing neo-con agenda is always right. We are proud to be acquainted with some of the most distinguished Conservative political minds of our era.

Star Talent

Stephen Harper’s incredible talent began to show when he was leader of the opposition. As early as 2001 he showed his ability to commit long speeches to memory by repeating word for word a speech given by Australian Prime Minister John Howard. In front of parliament, he used the speech to give an impassioned plea for Canada to join George Bush's Coalition of the Willing, and invade Iraq, a sovereign country, without UN permission. In doing this, Mr. Harper was trying to show Canadian strength, and prove that nobody can dictate Canadian policy but Canada, even if in direct contravention of international law.

As opposition leader, Stephen Harper questioned robust scientific evidence of Global Warming. In doing so, he rightly put short term economic gain far above any remote possibility that our carbon emissions might create conditions for human extinction.

Conservative Party Successes

As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper outshone all other international leaders by abandoning Canada’s international obligations to the Kyoto treaty, first at the G8 summit, then at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) and again at the Commonwealth Summit. He went on to make Canada the first country to completely abandon its Kyoto targets, and Canada is now the largest per-capita polluter among the G8 countries and we refuse to commit to any significant carbon reducing goals.

Showing the ability to not only plagiarize, but to adapt and reword, Stephen Harper introduced the Clean Air Act, legislation that would allow Canada’s global warming emissions to increase without any repercussions, and very similar to the Bush legislation known as the Clear Skies initiative.

Stephen Harper is truly a leader to be reckoned with on the international stage. He gave Canada a respectable image among some of Canada’s closest and most important allies - hard line Zionist groups. He did this by abandoning Canada’s traditional peaceful role in the Middle East and staunchly supporting Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon. He showed his ability to stay the course when he maintained his stance during their collective punishment of all Lebanese people, despite a growing international outcry. More than a year later, he continued to show his unflinching support for Canada’s most important ally, Israel, (formerly the USA, but not anymore since it is now run by a double talking negro man with obvious terrorist roots, ahem, middle name Hussein). Harper showed his support for Israel again when they invaded and occupied the Gaza Strip in 2009. While Israel arbitrarily committed war crimes against Palestinians, the Canadian PM stood strong, refusing to condemn them. In a more recent act of political solidarity, the Canadian government refused entry to British MP George Galloway, who shockingly supported the Gazan people via a mission of mercy to give them food and other basic necessities after many of their homes and livelihoods had been destroyed. This is the type of consistency we feel Canada deserves on the international stage.

Our proud, honorable, economist PM not only oversaw the largest Canadian stock market crash since the Great Depression in the 1930s, but presided over the largest one day, one week, and monthly drops in the Canadian Stock market ever! He reassured panicked investors as they watched their life savings disappear.

After having governed while the Toronto Stock Exchange lost over 40% of its value, Stephen Harper went onto lay blame against the alarmist and angry, not to mention godless, tax and spend opposition, accusing them of deflating the stock market by a further few percentage points via their criticism of the CPC’s management of the crisis.

During this obvious and internationally recognized economic crisis, Stephen Harper reassured Canadians that our economy was still strong even though the Toronto Stock Exchange had crashed 20% more than the NYSE at that same point.

Continuing with The CPC’s impressive economic record, we’re proud to announce that the CPC has reversed the former Liberal Government’s completely unnecessary budget surpluses within three years and set the stage for deficit governance for years to come.

Late in 2008, the CPC put partisanship anger over economic turmoil and proposed a budget that served to unite the opposition against Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper then showed his ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Many CPC supporters believe that a good leader must change as circumstances change, and not be afraid to take on a new course (even though when other the parties do it they are uncertain, baby killing flip-floppers.) In 2003, Stephen Harper tried to convince Jean Chretien to join an illegal coalition to overthrow Iraq’s leader and divide their nation. In 2008, when faced with similar, albeit less violent circumstances, a completely legal coalition threatening the CPC leadership, Stephen Harper took brave steps and launched a full-fledged verbal attack on the very institution he was sworn to protect.

Stephen Harper went on to become the first Prime Minister in Canadian history who, when presented with a confidence motion he was sure to lose, prorogued parliament, thus by ensuring seven weeks of complete government inaction during a global economic crisis.

Stephen Harper and the CPC have in the past reached out to gain the support of opposition parties. They showed their ability for bipartisanship when, in return for massive transfer payments to Quebec, they obtained the support of the Bloc Quebecois during Stephen Harper’s first term in power.

Unfortunately, Stephen Harper had to withdraw his generous transfer payments when those backstabbing, ungrateful separatists no longer supported the Conservative agenda. Stephen Harper then, staving off an opposition coalition, cleverly convinced many Canadians of his version of the truth when he said, "The highest principle of Canadian democracy is that if one wants to be prime minister, one gets one's mandate from the Canadian people and not from Quebec separatists."

Taken straight from George W Bush’s economic plan, Stephen Harper cut taxes and then went on the biggest spending spree in Canada’s history. But he did make tough decisions for much needed cuts. The CPC supporters are proud of how Stephen Harper slashed spending via the budget for Canada’s Food Safety Inspection. While the cutbacks took time to be implemented, and directly resulted in a major food poisoning outbreak that killed seventeen people and caused Canadians to lose faith in the packaged meat industry, they are working well otherwise.

Stephen Harper showed his ability to manage the CPC and make tough decisions when he kicked Garth Turner out of the Conservative party for blogging his views, which is behaviour completely out of line with modern Conservative politics. Stephen Harper later fired conservative candidate Mark Warner for his interest in social issues concerning local residents. He went on to show his strong leadership ability to control the Conservative party in tough times by banning Conservative MPs from unauthorized media interviews.

Stephen Harper showed his ability to find the right man with the right experience for the job when he made Gordon O’Connor, a former lobbyist for military arms dealers, the minister of defence in charge of $15 billion in spending.

The Conservative Party of Canada has a proven track record for having the ability to backtrack, make tough decisions, and break campaign promises when deemed necessary. Some accomplishments not previously mentioned include.

  • Breaking a campaign promise on taxing income trusts.
  • Ignoring police advice and vowing to dismantle the gun registry after a fatal shooting in Montreal with registered weapons.
  • Promising a lean government, and then bloating the cabinet by fourteen more people, each with cars, drivers and support staff.
  • Leaking confidential diplomatic comments made by Barrack Obama in a bid to help right wing friends gain an advantage in the US primaries.

The CPC is most proud to announce how it has protected Canadians by ensuring that suspected terrorists such as black Sudanese-Canadian Abousfian Abdelrazik are out of the country as much as possible. Under the CPC, the Canadian government demanded his continued arrest, incarceration, and interrogation by a foreign government not only known for torture, but wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide against Black Sudanese people. The government continued to refuse his reentry to Canada despite his being cleared by CSIS and the RCMP, because the CPC knows best.

Furthermore, during CPC rule, the borders have been tightened so much that even foreign-born Canadians, such as Suaad Mohamud from Somalia, have had their passports confiscated while trying to come home. The CPC has also ensured that Canadian passport and Immigration services are accountable to nobody. We are proud that the only possible recourse for Canadians in dire situations from Canadian government inaction overseas is by drawing massive media attention to their cases and getting lawyers to act on their behalf by dragging their issue in front of the slow and inefficient Canadian courts.

As you can see, the Conservative Party of Canada has been hard at work to make Canada prosperous, independent, and safe. Please vote wisely should an upcoming election be deemed necessary by the godless, baby killing, tax and spend Liberals, the jihad-loving, socialist NDP, and the ungrateful, backstabbing, separatist scum Bloc opposition parties.

Swine Flu Vaccination

I got the swine flu vaccination last night.

I did it to protect six week old Alia more than to protect myself. If I'm immune, then I'm not bringing it into the house and endangering her.

Zack also got immunized. He cried, cuddled me, then got a bandaid and a chocolate.

When I was at the clinic there were several older people there too. I couldn't help but think, why are older people here? I was under the impression that priority went to those most vulnerable.

In the news this morning, the Calgary Flames allegedly jumped the queue in Alberta, and a health care worker was fired. Despite all the hoopla and anger, I might have done the same thing if I was the health care worker with friends in a high risk group. Not high risk of death, but of contracting the Swine flu. I think hockey players exist in an atmosphere where they are particularly vulnerable to catching the flu. As do health care workers, customer service representatives, and people who work in high-traffic environments where disease spreads rapidly. IMO, the government should be organizing priority lists, going into schools to do mass vaccinations, organizing with companies to set up times and clinics where at risk employees can get immunized, and making sure the most vulnerable are served first!

According to health experts, it's children 6 months to five years who are most vulnerable to the dangers of the swine flu, as well as people with underlying respiratory health issues, diabetes, and a few other specific health problems.

It's these people who were supposed to be immunized first, which is why I was somewhat surprised to see that seniors practically outnumbered younger people at the clinic where I went. I was under the impression that seniors are likely to be immune to the swine flu because they've lived through at least one pandemic in the past.

People over a certain age, I'm not sure what, were supposed to be low priority. As I glanced over the dozens of older patients (it took me about 40 minutes to get in) I coudn't help but feel they were overreacting and shouldn't be here.

I suppose I blame the clinic for sending them notices, or the government for not issuing the flu vaccines appropriately.

On the other hand, perhaps we're just at a stage now where the supply and demand are starting to intersect, and the only issue is having enough health care workers to give the vaccines out in a timely manner, thus the lingering line ups.

It's been 16 hours since my swine flu shot. My arm where I got the shot now hurts and I have a mild headache.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Outrage Conundrum

I find it funny, how, when something controversial comes up, it almost gains legitimacy and attention when people cry indignation, gather in protest, hold up angry signs and take their fight to the media.

Transexual Jesus Play

It just makes me want to see what's going on. It gives the people at the centre of the controversy massive free publicity. That translates into more money. So they can do an even better job of putting on a scandalous show in the future.

I'm almost tempted to make up a second, anonymous profile, pretend I'm someone else, and threaten myself with violence. Then I can go to the media, tell them someone wants to kill me for my views, and get national, or even international attention.

Let's see, what are some of the most controversial things I can say. I can call someone's prophet a transexual or a pedophile. That would generate plenty of hatred. Then again, I generally avoid blogging about religion other than to raise a point of interest.

Saying something nice about Hitler, or holocaust denial. That always stirs up controversy, although that would just make me one of countless neo-Nazi nutjobs fighting to have their racist voices heard over the internet.

I could insult Obama, but that would just make people think I'm a Republican who watches too much Fox news. I have to hit a nerve that hasn't really been hit.

Who is someone that everyone in the world loves? From both sides of the spectrum.

Yes, it's time for Nelson Mandela jokes!

A Japanese man knocks on Nelson Manela's door, waves a clipboard in Mandela's face and says, "Car parts in truck, you sign, you sign!"

After three or four instances of this throughout the week, Mandela, exasperated, says, "Who are you looking for? Why do you keep coming here?"

The Japanese man says, (in his thick Asian accent) "You mean you not Nissan Main Dealer."

Okay, I'm just not controversial enough. I'll have to work on that.


Tax gas, tax the roads, tax the water, tax the air, tax food, tax babies, tax children, tax tax tax!

Okay, let the threats roll in...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Tricks of Trick or Treating

Later in the night, when all the little kids had returned home, some older kids rang our bell, impatiently, three times. It must have taken me too long to answer, for in the thirty seconds it took me to get to the door, they'd taken off to the next house.

I could hear our neighbour greeting them, and could hear her taking her time, "Oh, hi, and look and your costumes... Are you having a happy halloween? Let's seen now... I'll give you some of these, and oh, what else, maybe some chips, yep, let me see, how many more kids do you think will be coming, I have to make the candy last, hrmm..."
I could almost hear those impatient kids thinking out loud. "Hurry up lady, just give us the damn candy so we can race to the next house."

A definite mentality change develops as kids grow older. Earlier in the night, when I'd taken Zack and his friend to different houses, Zack would typically say, "Trick or Treat."
The person at the door would greet him, and smile kindly, and say "Hey its Superman!"
Zack would point at one of their decorations and say, "Hey, a spider web," or, "What's that, can I press the button too," or, "I'm superman, I can fly!"

He'd stare in awe at the glowing pumpkins, at the other kids costumes, at the decorations and everything. I had to remind him to say thank you, and bye, and remind him there was more candy to get at the next house, then gently guide him away.

It was a fun day, and I look forward to next year.

Monday, November 02, 2009

How the Cash for Clunkers should have worked.

It shouldn't have been the cash for clunkers program. It should have been, "You better get your ass out and buy a car now, because we're going to tax the hell out of your gas guzzling cars through road taxes and gas hikes."

Alright, so "Cash for Clunkers" has a better ring to it. But it's a stupid idea that will continue to screw over the industry.

And yeah, a sudden tax shock to the system is a stupid idea, almost as stupid as a near bankrupt government giving out more free money. But announcing a gradual plan to increase taxes, while providing some incentives for buying green cars (I like green licence plates that get free parking, discounted road taxes and lower tolls.)

That's my idea. Oh, and the tax revenue from getting higher gas taxes can later be given as green car subsidies.

A government should plan to make money, not perpetually lose it. While I think Obama is great, this has been a major folly. It's Bush-style-soiled-band-aid-on-a-gushing-wound-type-solution.

US national debt as of today, approaching 12 trillion = $38,000 per person.

Ford Profits, Cash for Clunkers, is the Auto Sector in for very tough times ahead?

Ford went from being the worst, to the best of the big three, which isn't saying much.

Their merger with Mazda several years ago, IMO, is what has kept them alive. Still, they are in trouble and recent successes and profits are only cosmetic.

They reported a one billion doller quarterly profit. If you take into account that the government incentive cost an average of $4000 per vehicle, then its scary to think of how much Ford would have lost without the incentive program.

Scarier still is the knock on effect this will have.

According to this article, The Cash for Clunkers program sold 125,000 out of the 700,000 cars that wouldn't have been sold otherwise.

In a normal cycle, 575,000 cars would have been sold.

Incentives, cut back, promotions, and the like have slowly killed the auto industry over the last decade. It's at the point where people don't want to buy unless there's some sort of sweet deal going on.

When the Cash for clunkers incentive program ends, what happens next?

If 125,000 future car purchases were pushed forward by prospective buyers this quarter, then you can assume that instead of a typical quarters 575,000 cars being sold, then 450,000 cars will be sold instead in the upcoming quarter. That's without the psychological effect. People who missed the cash incentives program might be holding out for another one.

I firmly believe these door buster deals are a huge contributing factor which killed the US auto sector. Sales spike with incentives (while auto companies profits are usually trimmed for the deals), then they slump by the same amount afterwards. It's common sense. It's like expecting sales on Thanksgiving week to compete with the following week.

I can guarantee you that the week after the US Thanksgiving week deals is the slowest week of the year. Most people who needed or wanted something already got it.

Same for the auto industry. They're in for more tough times ahead. The Cash for Clunkers might have given them a short term profit (at the expense of the American tax payer), but the pinch is coming big time. This time, the big question is, Is the auto industry prepared for another dramatic drop in sales?

Monday, October 26, 2009

When will a Politician just say what needs to be said?

"If Mr. Ignatieff gets into power, he'll raise taxes! So don't vote for him."

I hate paying taxes as much as the next guy, but let me get something straight, either we raise taxes to pay for our massive stimulus spending, or we let the debt grow and have our children and grandchildren pay it off, possibly in the form of a defunct economy.

It's pretty common sense to me. It's like owning a house. What would you rather pay, larger sums over a few years and get rid of the debt, or tiny sums that just make the debt grow and grow and grow?

If the government raises taxes now and runs surpluses, our debt goes down, our payments go down. Take a big hit now so we don't feel an even bigger pinch down the road.

Once, just once, I'd like a politician to admit this. "Yes, I will raise taxes because we have to pay off our huge debt."

And it is huge!

My share alone is almost $15,000

A family of four, $60,000

And the national debt increasing by $1,700 every second!

How do/did/would you pay your mortgage?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Walk in clinic poetry

With a one month old baby, and a toddler, I don't get much writing done at home these days. I just sat down now, and we'll see how long it takes before my wife calls me to do something.

I was at the shopping mall walk in clinic today, and had to wait for an hour. In that hour, I wrote five poems.

The first poem was based on getting something stolen from me yesterday.

Thieving prick

They'll steal your last quarter
When you need to make a call
They'll steal your glass slippers
When your going to the ball.

They'll steal your favourite shirt
That matched your favourite vest
They'll even steal your heart meds
As you're grabbing for your chest.

They'll steal your sunscreen
On the hottest, most hellish day
They'll even steal your glasses
When you look the other way

They'll steal your tire iron
And at some point later on
When you're scrambling to change a flatty
You will notice that it's gone.

I'm fed up and I'm angry
I've had it through and through
So I better hide this poem.
Before they steal it too.

Woe to be a Leafs Fan

Oh Woe to be a Leafs fan
A bunch of useless bums
They've lost seven in a row.
Are they twiddling their thumbs?

In any normal year.
I'd have an ounce of hope
But that is long gone now,
And I'm feeling like a dope.

For if your team is in last place.
Then don't worry, here's the trick.
Next year will be better.
With a first overall draft pick.

Oh wait! Oh Crap! Oh Jeez!
I've terrible news today.
The GM of the Leafs.
He traded that pick away.

Oh well, there's always next season
Oh dear, oh no, oh boo!
That idiot GM.
Traded that pick away too!


Baby is sleeping!

Can I play with my car?

You can play with the car, but no beeping!

No beeping! Then can I play on the trampoline?

No way! There's to be no leaping!

No beeping and no leaping. Maybe the baby isn't sleeping. Can I go peeping?

No! You'll wake baby up.

I won't. I promise I'll go creeping.

No creeping, no peeping.

No creeping, no peeping, no beeping, no leaping?


What about sweeping?

No sweeping.

Good, I hate housekeeping.

The Bumpkin

One time in Morocco
In the early autumn
I saw pumpkins with big brown spots,
sticking out the bottom.

This most strange growth,
on the underside of these pumpkins
looked like tiny bums.
And so I called them little bumkins.

Writers Woes!

Tis a fight, when I want to write.
I have to get away from the house.
For when I'm there, and have a moment to spare,
I'm hounded by my spouse.

Move that box! Pick up your socks!
In the end though, I got the last laugh.
For when she was on the loo, taking a poo.
I typed a substandard paragraph.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Baby Blog, Diapers and More

In two weeks, my wife and I have gone through relatively few baby products for our newborn daughter. She's breastfed, so I can't comment on any forumulas.

To me, ever since Nestle's horrifying third world scandal, followed by paint scares, plastic bottle scares, and other infant formula scares, I'm jaded toward baby products in general.

Products for newborns are almost designed to be shoddy and poorly tested. When you shop for a newborn baby, it's not an ongoing process where you use the products for life. Baby products are one of the shortest term items you can find, chances are you buy it once, and by the time you need it again for a second child, you've forgotten which products are good and which aren't.

We've used two brands of diapers so far, Pampers Swaddlers, and Huggies Little Snugglers.

Pampers new baby Swaddlers worked well. They generally kept Alia dry and were easy enough to change.

Huggies Little Snugglers were more of a nightmare. If we leave Alia for more than three hours, chances are she's wet. The real issue here is, if a baby is sleeping for a few hours, parents want a break from changing. I don't want to have to wake up Alia, or in many cases, myself, just to change her every three hours. Furthermore, they have a wetness indicator to tell when it's time to change. The wetness indicator is pretty useless when you have to take an outfit off just to check it.

We've got some Kirkland brand downstairs that we haven't tried yet.

There is a huge range of toys designed for babies, and 99% of them are useless in the first month. In fact, as I've found with Zack, and my nephew, the majority of toys are useless. They get played with for a few minutes, usually when they are given, then they end up in a closet, a drawer, and eventually a charity bin.

Thinking back to Zack's bottles as we diversified his diet to include formula and soups, the best bottles were the playtex brand.

I have to admit though, as a man, buying anything playtex for a son is a little bit awkward. If anything, the company could have changed the damn name to something I don't associate with women's menstration cycles.

One problem I found with bottles was that, moving between Canada and Morocco for Zack, it was a nightmare trying to replace the tops. In fact, our first bottles were sent from France by Siham's sister. We had more than a dozen of bottles around the house, and no way to replace the nipples once they went.

Siham wanted a baby monitor with a television screen. I was skeptical, but the fact that the monitor can later double as a spying device or security camera makes it a neat investment.

The first brand of TV baby monitor I bought, for $150 at Toys R Us, had a clunky black and white screen, and was very loud. It clicked and clacked and had a lot of static. I took it back and bought the Lorex video monitor from Costco instead for $179.99.

It works well, although the wires to connect it to the television are pretty poor if you want some space between the monitor and the reach of a toddler. It takes more effort that I'm willing to put in right now, but you can in theory hook it up to the television and have it as that little window while you watch your favourite programs, assuming you have a modern television and can figure out those windows.

We bought a Graco stroller, one of the ones where you kick a locking device at the back to release the stroller, and push it down to lock it. They fold up smaller than the bigger, clunkier strollers, however I quickly found out that they're also more fragile.
The third time I went to use the stroller, one of the metal folding metal braces at the back snapped. I returned it and bought one of the big clunky Graco strollers instead.

The government puts a time limit on how long a baby seat is good for. This is something that's always annoyed me. It also irks me that that companies sell the exact same, identical child seats in both Canada and the US, except for two major differences. In the US, they have the American safety certificate instead of ours, and is therefore not legal here in Canada. The second difference is they are half the price across the border.

We have a swinging chair that we haven't used very much yet.

Swaddle me wraps came in pretty handy. The baby is supposedly used to being wrapped tightly in the womb, and for anyone who's not a proffessional nurse or baby care giver, figuring out how to swaddle a baby with blankets that are usually too small can be a nightmare. Swaddle me products take care of that with velcro nubs that equate to swaddling for dummies. One or two in the drawer is a wise investment.

We had baby sleeping bags for Zack, but they seem harder to find in Canada for some reason. A great investment for the winter and something I'm keeping my eyes peeled for.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Productivity - the Freeroll waste of time.

In online poker, there's a game called the freeroll. In it, an online poker site will give away a prize of money, and everyone can play for free.

I was looking at the different freerolls, trying to determine how many hours are wasted by people trying to win money.

The most number of players I found vying for one prize purse was 12000 people for a prize of $100.

If each player averages twenty minutes playing the freeroll game, then that's 4000 hours total spent playing that particular freeroll game by all the participants combined.

Put another way, in a typical year, a hard working person works 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year. So a hard working person would work 2000 hours per year.

What I'm trying to say is, for the price of $100. Two years worth of productivity in terms of man hours are wasted on a freeroll game of poker.

I'm as guilty as the next guy for getting caught up in online gaming. It's something I'm trying to stay away from... For now...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Writing Style Shift

With a brand new baby girl, a toddler, and my wife all competing for my undivided attention, and with a notoriously short attention span to begin with. I need to make a shift in my writing style. Starting another huge project right now isn't feasible, even though I have two novel length stories simmering in my head. Instead, I'll let the plots and characters develop and unfold there for now.

Instead of working on a story, or series, I'll be working on small pieces. I'll be writing short stories, poetry, articles, opinion pieces, and dabbling at satire when I can find the time, which apparantly isn't right this moment, as my son insists on showing me how to take the hard top off his hot wheels toy car.

Coming Zack...

22. Getting It Out There II: Dan Graham on self-publishing and print-on-demand

I have mixed feelings about this session. While I feel I got some useful information , I feel I paid $25 to have someone give me a sales pitch.

While Dan Graham was an enthusiastic representative of a self publisher, if I'd called him up, arranged a meeting, and talked about self publishing my book, then I could have gotten the same thing out of it for free.

On the bright side, like the other seminars and readings, it humanized an industry I had little knowledge about. Dan also provided interesting information on how books are made, and faux pas that might be made and avoided with a good self publisher.

A few months ago, I contracted an editor to work on part of my novel, paying several hundred dollars. In the end, I felt he made few concrete suggestions for improvement. I found a lot of corrections he missed, and few corrections he actually made. So finding someone who can provide me with a quality editor, and who has a personal stake in making sure they are good, might turn out to be the most valuable piece of information I get out of my entire Kingston Writers Fest experience.

21. Getting It Out There I: Billeh Nickerson/Jon Paul Fiorentino on submitting to literary magazines

The second master class I attended had two literary magazine editors dishing out the goods on how to get published in a literary magazine. The most valuable things for me with this seminar is it provided a human face to the submissions that people like me hand in. It also gave me a sense of where a lot of up and coming writers start. You name the big Canadian author, and they've been published in one the Canadian Literary magazines circuit before literary circles had even heard their names.

As much as I've been over the lit-mag query letter stage, you can never get enough dos and dont's, especially from the mouths of those who read your work and what they're looking for.

One of the editors suggested responding to themes. One of the advantages of keeping a blog is I spew out different stories all the time. While my blog isn't always submission level, it provides me at least a story a week for almost three years now. Some of my stories can usually be adapted to the themes and provide me an important base to start from.

The editors also gave me two useful websites for Canadian writers trying to get publshed that I'll share.

Master Class One - Through a Child's Eyes: Writing for children with Shelley Tanaka

Shelley gave an interesting and well designed seminar on writing for children. She concentrated on voice and character and covered kidlit from toddler books all the way to writing for teens.

While some of the things she said seemed like revision, common sense, or long ago learned writing tips, other things she said I found really useful. A few tips I'll share below.

The Dolch word list, 200 words that children under the age of seven should know, and keeping a young childrens story mostly to that list is important.

As she discussed teen lit, she outlined the exact ingredients I saw in the story I have in mind for the genre.

I'll share some of them below, you'll find many relate to all genres, not just kidlit. I won't give away everything she said, just hints that were new, or particularly useful for me.

Write in your head, think through chapter, outlines, scenarios, etc.*
Start writing when your fingers itch.*
Concentrate on small moments.*
Get feedback, especially from the target market.*
Write a well known story from a different POV. (ie The three little pigs from the Wolf POV)
Consdier how a child shows anger, fear, emotions.*
Practice free writing (as fast as you can for 3 minutes.)

And with that, I'm setting my watch. I'll finish the sentence at three minutes.

My wife had a baby on Tuesday. I stood over her in the hospital room smiling as she had an incredibly intense contractions. She was in major pain, zoning out, holding the nearby rail, moaning and groaning.

And I was smiling. I found something funny in it. I would be a father soon, my wife was going to give me a daughter. I shouldn't have been smiling though, there's nothing funny in seeing someone you love suffer, although I knew she wouldn't die.

I tried to stop smiling, and succeeded by reading a poster on the wall. It gave tips on what a partner can do to support their spouse giving birth. I followed the guidelines.

"You're doing great... I think it's peaked now, it's subsiding... You're doing well... Keep it up honey...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Great news X 2

I have two bits of great news to share. Firstly, my daughter Alia was born on Tuesday at 5:24 a.m. Both mommy and baby are doing fine.

Secondly, after waiting for over a year and a half in an exhaustive screening process, I finally got the job I really wanted to get.

I want to say, as I proceed on a career that might place me in positions of controversy and require discretion, this blog is for my writing and to get my creative juices flowing, whether it be opinions, satire, politics, sports, travel or whatever. As you can see with my recent satire, I sometimes try to sit on the other side of the fence and poke fun at political movements I actually support.

The thing I want to avoid most is using my future position and rank to solidify or legitamize any of my opinions. My future job is one where discretion and confidentiality are of the utmost import, so from now on, if I haven't already, I'll try to water down any political opinions or other controversial commentary on my blog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alien Conspiracy Theorists Suspect Harper's gotten to Layton

Alien conspiracy theorists, some of whom claim to have been abducted, have raised the alarm that the aliens may have infiltrated the NDP. Such theorists have suspected for some time that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an alien. "How else would you explain his incredible control over his underlings and MPs," said one alien expert, who refused to be named for fear of repeat abduction. "They don't say anything without his approval. They even ask him if they can go to the bathroom. And look at his eyes, if those aren't freaky alien eyes, like the teletubbies have, then I don't know what is."

And now, there is fear he's infected opposition leader Jack Layton with his mind control probes. Yesterday, after a behind-closed-doors private meeting with Stephen Harper, Jack Layton emerged and was mum with the media.

Jack Layton, mum? Is that even possible. "I'm sure Stephen Harper somehow brought him under the same control his ministers are under. Every word out is strictly controlled by the man himself," said a conspiracy theorist who gave only his secret anti-alien code name, Thelula.

It may be true that this is the first time in the history of his leadership that Jack Layton, aka windbag, didn't blather on about some aspect of government.

"We need Doctor Who!" read one man's sign, as he stood outside parliament protesting the alien influence. When queried, he referred to Slitherens, a group of slimy green aliens who wear Human skin suits and fart and giggle a lot. "They've taken over!" he said loudly, his voice an eerie monotone. He went on to say he heard an MP, who this article will not reveal for issues of liability, let one rip on her way out of parliament.

More to come...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Satire - Vote NDP 2009

The top ten reasons to vote NDP in the upcoming, perhaps, federal election.

10) Because the NDP will never deal with Stephen Harper, or vote to pass Stephen Harper's legislation, unless they're strapped for cash and the Liberals and the Bloc won't play ball either.

9) Because the NDP is not afraid to increase corporate taxes, even if it means scaring away all business from coming to Canada.

8) Because the NDP believes in equal rights for Gays, Lesbians, Minorities, and the Taliban.

7) Because recreational drugs should be, umm, what was I talking about again?

6) Because Jack Layton's been around a long time, and, come on, just give the poor guy a chance.

5) Because the NDP is the champion of Health Care, Welfare, and no hair.

4) Because we're Democrats, like Barrack Obama, just newer.

3) Because given the choice between a spiteful, angry, right wing religious nutjob, an immoral divorced man with a mean streak who's just passing through the country, some separatists trying to rip apart the country, and a champion of social justice and equality, who would you choose?

2) Because Jack Layton doesn't need to waste taxpayer money with a makeup maven to powder his nose and primp his hair. A quick polish and he's ready to go.

1) Because by passing lax drug laws and having an openess to safe and sustainable prostitution, the NDP can put the party back into politics.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Political Satire - Vote Liberal

Top ten reasons to vote for the Liberal party 2009:

10) So that we can introduce Rae Days to the entire country.

9) So Ruby Dhalla can be made Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and show those ungrateful Phillipino maids a thing or two about employee/employer relationships, and foot rubbing.

8) Because the Liberals will continue their sponsorship of National Unity.

7) Because Michael Ignatieff loves the USA, which is okay now that they have a cool president who everyone in Canada thinks is awesome, well, everyone except the Conservative party members who tried to rat him out during the US election primaries.

6) So they can secretly bring back the Green Shift plan and save the world.

5) To once again provide a safe and friendly refuge for Peter MacKay's ex-girlfriends.

4) To once again provide a safe and friendly refuge for Conservative MPs ready to come out of the closet.

3)Because a Liberal minority has more than a chance in hell of working with the NDP and Bloc.

2) To change the traditional rules so that we can skip future elections and declare Ignatieff leader.

1) Because all thinking women could use more crumpets.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just say no to the Hamilton Blackberries

Gary Bettman and his cohorts are wondering when Jim Balsille will take the hint and go away. "He's undesirable. He's of ill repute. We don't want his type of character owning an NHL team." One NHL management insider, Chuck U Farley, is quoted as saying, "How many billionaire Italian Canadians do you know who aren't tied to the mafia? We don't want people like that associated with the NHL," he said.

When it was pointed out that Jim Balsille is the billionaire owner of a wildly successful telecommunications company, Mr Farley said, "The NHL owners are well experienced in judging character, I'm sure time will prove them right."

But Mr Bettman contradicts the statement that the NHL has a problem with Balsille himself, it's about the NHL's rights, he says, "This is not about whether or not we want a franchise in southern Ontario, and whether or not Mr. Balsillie would make a suitable owner," explained Bettman. "This is about the League rules and the enforceability of our rules, whether or not Mr. Moyes (owner of the Phoenix Coyotes) even has the authority to file a bankruptcy petition is something we're going to get into.”

We asked acclaimed hockey and business lawyer, Jaques Strap, about the definition of bankruptcy and his response was, "Generally, if you're out of money, losing millions of dollars, and the banks are after you for debt that keeps growing, then yes, you can declare bankrupcy and start the court process."

When queried further and asked for an example, Jaques said, "Look at it this way. If you made some incredibly terrible financial decisions, such as borrow a lot of money to buy Nortel stock, or invest in a hockey team in the desert, then when you run out of money and the creditors and other stakeholders are threatening to cut your balls off, then you can declare bankruptcy."

"So why wouldn't Mr. Moyes be able to declare bankrupcy, as Mr. Bettman challenges in the courts?" we asked him.

"I really don't know, at the end of the day, you can't get blood from a stone, especially a sun drenched Arizona stone."

We asked hockey insider Chuck U Farley, "Why is Balsille deemed by the NHL to be of poor character, but people like William Del Biaggio and Peter Pocklington owned NHL franchises?"

"Del Biaggio and Peter Pocklington are good people," Farley said. "Pocklington ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. I'd wager he's as reputable as Stephen Harper himself. And Del Biaggio, well, he's innocent until proven guilty?"

"But he was found guilty?"

"Not by the NHL he wasn't, and that's what counts!"

When queried further, and it was pointed out that Hamilton would be a market guaranteed to make money, Mr. Farley refused to comment. When we went on to point out that 12 NHL teams lost money last year, and another eight teams barely turned profits, some of which had very successful seasons with deep playoff runs, Chuck Farley responded by saying, "Shut up stupid head, you don't know nuthin!"

We managed to calm Mr Farley down and asked him why the NHL won't just let the sale go through and move a struggling team to a viable market?

"A lot of reasons."

When queried further, he said, "Cuz he's a bad man. Cuz Hamilton sucks. Cuz, Cuz, Cuz..."

And with that, he convinced us. So in conculsion, just say no to the Hamilton Blackberries. Keep hockey in Phoenix!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Having a go at Political Satire

It's Federal election positioning time in Canada, and what better fodder for stirring up emotions for a good satire than a Canadian mudslinging, no-holds-bar, federal election. I can feel the anger sizzling up as the various politicians berate each other over and over again with in your face television ads.

Over the next weeks and months, I'll have a go at writing Political Satire, something I love to read. I was inspired by a recent version of political satire that resonated with me. You can read it here...

Huntley case helps Darfur survivors gain perspective.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The "South African" refugee and Canada's Immigration Woes

The headline story in the Globe and Mail this Morning is called, South African's refugee case causes backlash against ‘racist' Canada.

I'll start by quoting what I see as the main underlying issue.

St├ęphane Mal├ępart, a spokesman for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, said the board cannot release the Huntley decision or make any comment on the ruling since all of its cases are heard in private and its tribunals operate at arm's length from the government.

The Canadian government deflects responsibility by saying the decision was made by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. It views this board much like it views the police and the courts. Political interference is all but forbidden. Just like the government wouldn't go and tell the police to drop a manslaughter case against a political ally, they also won't tell the Immigration and Refugee Board to accept or deny a particular application.

This raises a dual issue. It's good on the one hand, because it's not fair for a government minister to push through his maid's, or his foreign lover's, or his immigrating friend's immigration or refugee application without proper invesigations. David Blunkett of England found this out when he was forced to resign over personally handing in his maid's immigration forms, which were subsequently fast tracked in a fraction of the usual processing time.

On the other hand, giving immigration courts complete autonomy raises serious issues when their decisions have political implications. Canadian immigration refused entry to British Minister George Galloway. Most people saw his "actions in question" as being charitable to Palestinians. Some Canadian official saw it as supporting terrorist organisations.

In the case of the South African Refugee, as in many others, it causes serious diplomatic dilemmas for the Canadian government. This case is an embarrassment for Canada, as was Galloway, as was Abdelrazik, Arar, and the thousands of unreported stories of incompetent and unfair immigration official decisions that have occurred throughout the world.

South Africa does suffer from high crime. It suffers from underlying racism left over from apartheid. But South Africa also prides itself on reconciliation, which started with Nelson Mandela's famous forgiveness, and continues to inspire its people, and the world today.

If racism, a higher than normal crime rate, and equal opportunity/affirmative action/nepotism practices are all that's needed to accept a refugee, then perhaps Canadian citizens will soon be seeking refuge overseas as well.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Untold Stories - The Curse of the Blue Hole

Industry guidelines told me keep my first book around 100,000 words. This meant that every incident in my two years worth of travel experiences couldn't be told.

I had to pick and choose. Often, I left out stories because I wanted to maintain flow. Little day trips and stops were often discarded because I didn't want the book to sound like, "I went here, then I went there, then I went there..."

I left the following part out because it sounded almost unbelievable. I was also in a rush to finish the book, and, aside from this one incident, it was a typical week at the beach drinking and laughing and playing cards with other travellers.

In order to tell it properly I'd need to develop several characters, build up to the critical incident, and finally have the awkward goodbye that I fear became a cliche in my book.

Here's one of many untold stories.


This story, my last in Egypt, starts off on a frustrating note. A good looking group Dutch travellers sat in front of me on the bus. A loud, obese, and irritating American sat next to me and decided to strike up a conversation. With the entire bus able to hear his loud disposition, he talked about smoking dope, about checking out the girlies, and about how he just wanted to par-tay in our destination, Dahab, Egypt.

I managed to ditch that guy shortly after arriving, and met up with the good looking group of Dutch travellers. They were wary of me at first, associating me with the loud guy, but in realizing I was trying to escape the loud boob's clutches, they took pity on me and welcomed me into their clique. We went on to spent several days vacationing by the beach.

One day, five of us hired a driver to take us to the infamous Blue Hole. The driver was sad, one of his colleagues had died while deep diving in the Blue Hole earlier that week.

The Blue Hole is a submarine pothole of coral reef that goes straight down 130 metres into the sea. It is said to be the most dangerous diving destination in the world.
"Egyptian authorities claim that 40 divers have died at this site since records began; however, many local dive guides believe that the authorities are deliberately underestimating the numbers and that there have actually been at least twice that many fatalities."

Deep sea diving has never appealed to me. The Blue Hole, and the plethora of gravestones littering the mountainside next to it only enhanced my hesitance for the sport.

Instead of dive, I joined Erik, a thin Dutchman with spiky blond hair. With a mask and snorkel in hand, we hiked two kilometres along a rocky path through the low, reddish seaside cliffs that ran along the Sinai Peninsula. After a kilometre, we descended toward a low point in the rocky cliffs and slipped into the Red Sea.

We swam out and away from the rocks, letting the strong current push us back toward the Blue Hole. Staring down through our masks at the bluish reef below, we saw an enormous school of jellyfish starting to form below. They were sparse at first, but thickened as we continued. The current pushed us forward at a steady pace. "Aren't some jellyfish poisonous?" Eric asked. I felt a ripple of fear at the thought.

"Some are," I said uncertainly, returning my head to the sea and looking down at the increasing density of twinkling blobs. They became so thick that we couldn't help but touch a few as we tried to snake our way through the masses.

After some time, we made it through the imagined danger and arrived at the Blue Hole.

Eric's head was down, and I took a moment to look up and see our friends at the shore. They were waving and shouting at us. I wondered if they were trying to warn us to get away from the jellyfish? One girl put her hand over her head like a triangle, I managed to read the word she kept repeating with her lips. "Shark!"

I grabbed Eric, he looked up and I yelled, "Swim!"

We raced toward the shore, me swimming for precious life, and Erik thinking I was being competitive and trying to impress the girls. For all I knew, the shark could be at my heels. I arrived at the dock and I pulled myself up before reaching to pull out Erik as he arrived after me.

Not far away, at the edge of the Blue Hole, I saw the fin of a black tip shark come out of the water.

Disaster averted, I went back to lazing on the beach. Car problems awaited me in Jordan.