Monday, November 26, 2012

An Obama Victory - and other musings

Obama won the election.

The biggest critique I've heard seems to be how negative his campaign was. Negative, yes, but at least it was honest. He didn't hire some 'swift boat veterans' to lie and tarnish his opponents most respected accomplishments. One of the most despicable acts of American politics.

His four years were debt laden, which can partly be attributed to a hangover of overspending and tax bungling by the previous Republican nightmare, partly be attributed to rescuing the US from another great Depression, and partly attributed to Republican blocking his attempts at reforming the tax structure so the uber-rich pay a little bit more. 

The economy was slowly chugging but not soaring. Considering it was near collapse when he took over, that's not such a bad thing. The Republicans did a half decent job painting the fact that he hadn't turned the economy around more. They also lambasted Obama for continuing the record deficits started by the Bush Administration, which was part of a twenty year legacy of ridiculous debt that the Republicans can take credit for.

He was criticized for increasing bureaucracy and stifling free enterprise with too many laws.  Yet, somehow there wasn't an Enron fiasco, and the housing bubble seemed to be stemmed from getting worse and worse.

So how bad is the red tape? What's worse, some red tape or a repeat of the Bush years? 

I don't envy Obama's job. America is financially screwed thanks to the Republicans.

Comparatively - it would be like moving into a house in dire need of repairs, inheriting the full-value mortgage for the house, while taking a pay cut at work because business is bad, and finally having to smooth things over with a neighbourhood that despised the last person who lived in the house.

So if you take the problems he inherited out of the equation - what has Obama accomplished?

  • Turned America from one of the most reviled countries back to one of the most admired and loved on the international stage.
  • Pulled the Americans out of two crippling wars.
  • Put in legislation aimed at curbing corporate greed and financial havoc.
  • Handled environmental disaster with compassion and respect.
  • Brought Health Care to millions of poor Americans.

So the HOPE some anticipated as Obama being some sort of Messiah that would deliver America back to unprecedented global dominance might not have been fulfilled.

I think he's doing just fine. I am thrilled to see America has overcome racism, bigotry, and hatred to elect a black man with a Muslim-sounding name to a second term in the White House.

Best of Luck Mr. President.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Red Deer Wimps Out Again

Twice now I have seen projects for Red Deer city nixed because angry residents don't want their perfect, serene neighbourhoods to be marred by possible change - shudder.

Six months ago it was a French School being set up in the Anders area. Residents kicked up a huge fuss and filled the City Hall with exasperated residents.

So why were residents upset?

Because many of their kids couldn't go to a French School.
Because a few high school students might actually be driving to the school.
Because they don't like French people.

Other reasons, whether real or perceived, were brought up by irate residents who stirred the pot and got councillors and the mayor to back down...

The hard workers at city hall, the school board, and many others who worked countless hours to set up the French school to both attract Francophone families to Red Deer, and provide a strong education for Francophone background students already living here - got pushed aside because a few neighbours thought their neighbourhood might be marred by  - God forbid - Education.

The Taliban would be proud.

Because they don't want crime to increase in their neighbourhood.
Because they paid a lot of money to live in a middle class neighbourhood.
Because they don't like native people.
Because they don't like poor people.

City councillors listened to their arguments and, of course, backed down again.

So someone else will have to take on the low income housing initiative and a French School. Another part of Red Deer will have to be rezoned at great planning and expense because Clearview and Anders wouldn't let progressive movements into their serene neighbourhoods.

If I was a councillor - The next dozen high-risk youth shelters would be pegged for Clearview.

The next high-risk half way house for pedophiles would be put somewhere that there wasn't a school nearby for them to reoffend. Hrmm, how about Anders!

I'd sooner take a French School than a single high-risk youth shelter any day.
I'd sooner take my chances on struggling families in low income housing than have a pedophile half-way house next door.

Disgruntled residents of Anders and Clearview - you may have won a battle, but like a spoiled kid who gets whatever it wants - you're on the naughty list now.  Santa's procurements from future mayors and councillors could be something much worse than education and a charitable housing initiative. Next time, you might not have a say in the matter.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rethinking Pro Ice Hockey

The NHL is a broken model. As many as half of the teams are losing money. If a team sucks, and it's not in one of half a dozen hockey hot beds, it will likely lose money. Some teams, even if they are top contenders, will still lose money.

In comparison, look at European Soccer.

Each country has its own league, and a second tier, and a third tier, all the way down to a sixth tier.

The worst couple or three teams drop down a tier.

The best teams move up a tier.

The best of the best teams make it to the champions league and play against other European cities.

There's tournaments every year that pit second and even third-tier teams against top-tier teams.

Sometimes there's a huge upset in these tournaments.

The second tier gives medium-sized cities the chance to play against the big-leage metropolises every so often.

The best of the medium cities might even spend a few years playing at the top level, until finances and talent-attraction reality push them back down a level. But they made it to the show. They competed with the best, if only for a while. They give the locals something exciting to cheer about. They give the locals something to hope for, a tangible opportunity to "earn" their way to better things.

Could that ever happen to the NHL?

Could teams "earn" their way into and out of the league?

Could the league shrink to twenty teams, with another twenty teams in a second tier trying to work their way up to the big show?

Could we have a champions league playoff including teams from Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech republic, Germany, etc.

Could fiscal reality determine the place of a team, the tier of a team - with a town of 10,000 having a fifth tier team trying to get up to fourth tier, then vye for third?

Could I make a sixth tier team and try to make it up to the fifth tier?

Could my talented friend play for a third tier team and be offered a spot on a second tier team and be one step away from the NHL?

Just some thoughts...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Moving On

Darling PC. We've had a rocky relationship for almost 20 years now. I've discovered that the Macintosh we made fun of so long ago for its nerdy looks has now grown up. The new Mac is sleek and beautiful and sophisticated.

Basically PC - welcome to dumpsville - population - YOU.

Running from the PC

Some of you might recall when home-owned computers first came out en mass. There was Microsoft DOS - Disk Operating System. I remember my first DOS computer counting the kilobytes of RAM, all they way to 640 kilobytes. In comparison, an average computer today has 4 gigabytes, or over 4 million kilobytes, an increase of 6000 fold.

At the beginning there was the Macintosh and the PC. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Macintosh came out with interactive "Windows" type computing first, then Microsoft created a PC version. Apple, rising with their computers, eventually were pushed aside as the world adopted the PC as the industry standard, and Windows along with it.

In 1995 my University had the Mac labs and the PC labs. The PC labs were good, and the Mac labs, using aged computers, just didn't work right. Mac had suffered in the crunch as the PC outstripped it in quality and user friendliness - mainly due to a financial R&D advantage. It was a windows world and the once soaring company Apple was struggling to stay afloat with their overall technology.

But something happened. As the PC became increasingly dragged down by sluggish programming, increasingly difficult to sync, advancing graphics, advancing virus protectors, and an overall sluggish, Apple's core competencies began to emerge.

Apple, aware of the onset of mass storage, music, and video, came out with the Ipod.

The ipod morphed into the ipod touch, a small hand held computer.

That led nicely into the Iphone.

Then came more and more accessories, like the Apple TV.

Apple recently became the most valuable company in the world.

Their financial disadvantage was erased and they now have masses addicted to their iphone - and arguably the best computers out their on the market.

In 2012, the Mac lab is probably the place to be. The ever increasing nightmare of Windows sluggishness is replaced by a sleek, fast, and reliable Mac.

After 20 years as a PC user, I'm switching to Mac. The once questionable price difference has been mooted by a superior product that meshes with the other products in the house. Yes, I'm paying double for the same mechanics, but I'm getting something that was designed, programmed, tweaked, and refined by the richest company in the world, not a company struggling to stay in the green. Not a company that picks and chooses a bunch of hardware, throws them together and updates them every few months with newer, cheaper, other hardware so they can put something on the shelf. Not a company with the newest version of Windows, the tired Microsoft program that reappears with a different name and fanfare every few years, "window dressing" the previous problems while new bugs  bog the computer down. My computer had a virus the day I bought it, it was called Windows, Norton, McAffee, etc.

My new Mac arrives soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What is a Conservative?

I used to think I was conservative. I thought that based on money. Conservative = conserving of money.  But the Canadian Conservatives don't share the same ideology.

I can do the math again, or you can review my previous posts to find the numbers. The entire amount of Canadian debt comes from Conservative governing. While Liberals have had years of fiscal deficits. Their balance and the amount they've paid off in Conservative debt interest payments puts them at having an overall fiscal surplus.

Canada per capita debt- $18,000

That's per capita. If you do it per tax payer, it's something like 2.5 times higher.
Comparatively, per capita debt

United States = $50,500

Spain            = € 15,500
Greece             = € 31,000
Ireland             = € 27,000
Italy                   =  € 32,000
Germany           = € 24,500
France                = € 27,000

UK                        = £ 19,000
Australia           = AUS $ 8,000

Japan                   = US$ 100,000

Do we really need the equivalent of a second mortgage to be coming off our paychecks in order to service national debt?

Friday, June 01, 2012

Kath's oatmeal cookies

My grandmother had a good friend names Kath, who gave her this recipe. 

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup rolled oats.

Cream egg,  butter, sugar

Mix with the rest.

Place on cookie sheet.

Pat down with a wet fork

Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes.

Gum Drop Cookies

I sometimes add recipes to my blog, more so I can pull them up on a whim than to share them with the rest of the world. Still, this is one of my favourite recipes for sweets.

Part 1
Cream four ingredients together
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs

Part 2

Sift together
1 1/2 cups sifted flour.
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Combine Part 1 and 2
Stir in 1 1/2 cups Quick Cooking Oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup baking gumdrops.

Heat oven to 375 and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Who Screwed up my Order?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A toast to our best resource.

A toast to our best resource.
Through public tips
The watch approached.
Windows smashed
and door jams broached.
Six teens took off
in a black Sedan.
Perhaps they shouted,
"Catch us if you can."
From Oriole Park
To Lower Fairview,
They all met up
for a rendezvous.
Just right then,
Came a second call.
With a little bit of luck
We could get them all
If it was these kids.
I knew that they'd flee.
Like they did throughout
Their violent crime spree
Dignity taken
The victims they sobbed.
Machetes and bats.
With which they were robbed.
The mounties came.
And as fast as an ace.
The car shot forward.
It was time for the chase.
Not far from the river
They ran out of luck.
With a blown out tire.
They slammed into a truck.
The foot chase ensued.
And we chased them I say
Witnesses pointed and shouted,
“They ran this and that way!”
Then two were in custody.
I’ll call them Mike and Ruth
I'd tell you real names
But I can't cuz they're youth.
Three more were caught,
Breaking into a church.
And two more after that.
With a brief easy search
A dozen B&Es
Stolen autos and trucks.
A robbery, an assault
All from these little #%&$s
I toast you dear public
Tips came without fail.
You helped us to catch them.
And put them in jail.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thieving Bastards

Thieving Bastards
They'll steal your final quarter
When you need to make a call.
They'll steal your glass slippers
When you're going to the ball.

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

They'll steal your tube of sunscreen
On a scorching, 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,
As you scramble 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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Jetta TDI - Running Rich

The Problem

I'm driving a 2006 Jetta TDI. I bought it a few months ago.

Within a few weeks of buying it, the engine started to stutter every so often. Usually after two consecutive drives of about 20 kilometers or more. The car would get better for a while, then the problem would be back.

At first I thought it might be bad diesel, something I haven't completely ruled out, but I don't think that's the problem.

I've since taken it to the mechanics and paid over $2000 having the fuel filter changed, the EGR valve changed, various carbon deposits cleaned, various valves changed, all to no avail.

After the first service, the car ran good for a day, then the same problem came back.

After a second mechanic visit, the car ran fine for several hundred kilometers, then started running rough and stuttering again, from time to time, with increasing frequency.

The car would run fine for a while, then start stuttering, then get better, then start stuttering. There seemed to be a spiral, until it got really bad and was just always running rich and stuttering at low RPM. Thick blue diesel smoke clogging the air, stutter, stutter, stutter go... Once I got it over 3000 rpm, it ran better, but every time I stopped or changed gears, I'd have to stutter it up to higher revs to get it going again.  

The Quick Fix

I stumbled upon a quick fix solution. The other day, I disconnected the N75 valve - essentially disabling the turbo. I was wondering if the N75 Valve might be the problem. I forgot to reconnect the wire lead and started the car. The car runs slow without the Turbo but it runs fine, it doesn't stutter or run rich.

Here's the kicker. After a spin, noticing it ran like a donkey and not a stallion, I reconnected the N75 and the car ran fine for the next couple hundred kilometers.

Today it stuttered again, I disconnected it, drove it for a few minutes, reconnected it. Problem solved again.

Are there any mechanics out there who can tell me what the problem might be? Is it the N75 valve? IS it an EGR problem? Bad gas? A wiring issue? Hoses incorrectly connected?

If you're having similar problems, try disconnecting the turbo, taking it for a spin, reconnecting it, and see if it temporarily fixes the problem.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Site meter

Back in the day, I wrote a couple times a week. Now, it's become once a month, more or less.
I've been using site meter and notice that my page gets about ten views per day. One of my most popular blog postings was on the Public Service exams and how to prepare for them. It's good to know that about ten people a day are clicking on my blog, but I am curious. Are there actually people clicking on my blog, or are a lot of these "clicks" bots scouring through the internet. I do get a fair number of spam postings. Curious...


As you can see in the following pictures, the Syrian military are clearly battling terrorists intent on overthrowing the regime and wreaking havoc on the Middle East, and the world. The heroic Bashir ASSAD has spoken the truth himself, as the following excerpt shows.

“Our priority now is to regain security which we basked in for decades, and this can only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron hand,” Mr. Assad said in a nearly two-hour speech at Damascus University, where he stood at a podium flanked by Syrian flags. “We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders against the country.”

It is time other nations step up and support the Syrian regime in their attempts to quell the terrorism. As the dangerous pictures show, these are no innocents!