Category Archives: Social Constructs

God Branding (What Would Jesus Drive?)

We tend to not criticize those with strongly held belief sets, as having some kind of belief set is one of those things that humans do as a natural behavior.  We’re fairly certain that Ooog and Uggg invoked their forms of prayer to the invisible deities they felt controlled the mastodons or brought them luck in the hunt, millennia before there was what we now call ‘religion’.

We don’t self-identify as agnostic, nor as atheist, believing that ‘faith’ is your own damn business.  We can recite the Nicene Creed from memory, which means there has been some theological learning in our history, but not limited to the usual suspects:  We looked at them all over the years to see what we could learn from older, potentially wiser people and their documents.  The scientist in ourselves, who looks for empirical proof has no problem with the contradictions of religion demanding faith before logic, as faith seems to be one of those things that humans have.  If you don’t like contradictions in humans, then, perhaps you need to adjust your world-view.  Humans are contradictory creatures at the best of times.

What we are looking for is an understanding.  Let’s, for the sake or argument, accept that there is a higher power than us humans and stop there.  We’re not going to get into he/she/it created the Universe in an afternoon, or cause a flood, or did the thing with the apple and the snake, as that is theology, not belief in a higher power.

Theology is something totally different from belief in a higher power and we’re going to use the term “God” as the most commonly understood and recognized term for a belief in a higher power.  (We have to have some kind of short-form label, if only to keep this post from being in excess of 10,000 words.  We’re not going to tie ourselves in politically correct, ultra-inclusive language for the sake of not offending anyone.  Higher power = God.  Now, let’s move on.)

The contemporary parallel is Cars.  A lot of humans own them and they all do the basic things of move you somewhat effortlessly from A to B, often carrying some of your stuff with you, like groceries, or the cat to the groomer.  There is no real difference between them, in that they all are at least vaguely competent in doing what they are designed to do.

Where they differentiate is in their branding and what is created in the mind of the consumer as the image of the brand.  Ask a die-hard GM owner to drive a Ford and you might as well demand they whittle off a limb with a butter knife.  Nissan owners would rather have dental surgery in an septic tank than be near a Honda driver.  Blue Oval fans insist that late at night you can hear a Bowtie rust in your driveway, while BMW pilots sneer at the Audi drivers who can’t seem to find the turn signal.  Volvo and Mercedes-Benz drivers are simply smug pricks.  Smart Car owners need a red foam-rubber nose as mandatory equipment so we can spot the clowns getting out of their ‘vehicle’.  FIAT stands for Fix It Again Tony and the Trabant was merely a very bad punchline to an indecipherable existential Soviet joke.

Same functionality, but rabid fandom for their brand.

God is the king of branding:  It’s not Terry O’Reily.  Before there was such a thing as branding, in a marketing sense, there developed a large number of brands of God that spoke to various cultural needs as a convenient explanation of current events, social and gender control, and political intrigues.  Of course those brands also used, wars, hatred, slavery and exceptional levels of violence as part of their brand.

If God’s purpose is to give us comfort and something to believe in, either because we as humans need to feel that, or because God actually exists and made us want to have that feeling, then God has succeeded rather well.

Where it all goes to shit is with the brands.

In keeping with our analogy, even the most hard-core Porsche fan wouldn’t ever consider setting fire to a Lotus Europa, as we have something called tolerance.  Yes, you are allowed to like other brands, your judgement may be suspect (QED, Chrysler owners) but it’s ok.

Why can’t we do that with religion?

You like your brand.  I like my brand.

It’s Friday, move on.

Self-Evident Truths (Reprint)

We occasionally receive emails forwarded from locations unknown that contain pearls of wisdom among the dross.  One of which was the “Adult Truths” from a correspondent.  We’ve rewritten it, sort of, and reprinted it from February 2011 as we’re in day 6 of 14 or more of continuous, endless rain.  

1:  When you die, the first duty of your best friend should be to clear your computer history.

2:  There is great need for a sarcasm font, especially in email to government departments.

3:  Were the years spent learning cursive writing really necessary?

4:  MapQuest can start their directions on #5.  I know how to get out of my neighbourhood. 

5:  Could we all please just agree to ignore whatever comes along after Blu-Ray or 4K  I’m fed up with having to start my video collection…again.

6: Kay Jewelers is wrong:  Not every kiss begins with Kay.  Pick any Friday or Saturday night, and I’ll wager many start with a silo of MGD, or a fourth round of tequila shooters.

7:  To all the Nigerian/Togoan/Maldivian lawyers out there:  I don’t have wealthy relatives that suddenly died leaving me a fortune. No, you can’t help. 

9:  Can we have a sign in our cars that says:  Your $45,000 Lexus has a broken turn signal, or you’re an asshat.  Pick one.

10:  How are kids going to learn what clockwise is? 

11:  For that matter, how will kids ever know what REgent 5-1212 was?

12: 12:00…12:00…12:00  Is my technology mocking me?

13:  If the various national security agencies who are reading all our emails and texts would get together, I wouldn’t have to wade through mountainous piles of spam.  Just forward the important stuff please.  Oh, and send me a reminder of my anniversary as well.  Thanks.

14:  Note to parents:  Your kid will never make it to the NBA/NFL/MLB/NHL/Olympics.  Relax.  They are not the next Crosby or Gretz.  Ain’t happening.

15:  How many times can one network run “Weekend At Bernie’s” without incurring the wrath of consumers? Or is this just a trick by televisions manufacturers to have us throw large objects at our TV’s, necessitating the purchase of a new one?

16:  There are some things that should never be shot in 4K HD.  We do not need to see a Kardashian’s steatopygia at that level of detail.  

18:  Mashups should die now.  Preferably in the same fatal crash that takes Autotune and ProTools.  Learn how to sing then learn how to edit and mix.  For the video monkeys, there’s nothing wrong with a cut; use a dissolve if you have to.  The quad split was invented by video switcher engineers to have another button that lights up. 

19:  Ice Fishing.  Why fish for it, when you have a perfectly good freezer at home?  Make your own.

20:  There’s no such thing as “Authentic” any cuisine.  It’s always changing.  Beware of any joint that strives to serve authentic fusion cuisine when the place is named Ulmanis & Tomokiro and serves Latvian-Japanese fusion cuisine. 

21:  Why cut when you can untie?  Sorry, now that everything is in impervious plastic security blister-pack clamshells, you have to reach for the plasma cutter to get at the tube of wood filler.

22:  A little honesty from the liquor companies please.  The objective isn’t to relive that great time when we ran out of milk and loaded the coffee with Bailey’s.  The objective is to relive the Christmas party when Gretchen from Accounting got shitfaced and took her top off while dancing on the break room counter.

23:  Thong underwear is wrong, regardless of gender.

24:  Ads for prescription medicine should include a complete list of  all the side effects.  This will result in prescription medicine ads that are four minutes long or cover five pages of your magazine.  We need to know that your miracle cure has only been tested on four employees, two of whom spontaneously combusted when exposed to daylight.

25:  Lists like this.  It must be mid-winter.  (Actually, it must be day 6 of 14 of continuous rain.  Petrie Island is under water)

FHRITP Script Flip Public Service Announcement

We like to flip the script from time to time and Shauna Hunt from CITY-TV did exactly that, beautifully.  She is a reporter with CITY-TV in Toronto and was doing a live stand-up outside a Toronto FC event when an idiot leaned into the microphone and entered the Pantheon of Idiocy.  Here’s the clip from CBC as part of their coverage.

There are two constants in our universe:  Hydrogen and Stupidity.  This means a reporter expects there to be idiots in the background, or sometimes in the foreground when the camera is live.  The normal idiot remark when on camera at a live stand-up is something along the lines of “Hi Mom” or “Toronto FC Rocks!” along with pseudo gang signs or a half-drunk rock-on-devil-horns.  Yelling ‘Fuck Her Right In The Pussy!” at Shauna Hunt, cost Shawn Simoes his job at Hydro One as a well-paid IT engineer and has probably cost him his whole career for a few moments of exceptional stupidity.  Good.  He deserves it and there is not a lot of sympathy from this quarter.

However, we are inclusive in our world-view and the stupid will always be among us, usually showing up in the background on live hits from any event possible. 

As a Public Service, here are some things idiots can and perhaps should say when on camera:

“Good Reportage”, preferably in a semi-posh accent, a dead-straight face and a single curt nod at the end

“Do you have any Grey Poupon?”  You should be holding a sausage smog-dog to truly carry this one off

“Jello for Everyone!”  Penn Gillette may still do this, although Penn and Teller don’t tour much anymore.  The gag is they would buy a Jello dessert for everyone in a restaurant.  It might cost $30, but getting a free Jello dessert at a diner, late at night, is too cool for words.  Gillette would often add “Work for World Peace” to the end of it.  Your choice.

“Can I take a selfie with you?”, perhaps better done by a hysterical 14 year old girl in the lineup for a concert by some interchangeable boy band

“Ars Gratia Pecunia!”  This will take some memorization, but it is low-rent Latin for Art for Money, loosely based on the MGM Ars Gratia Artis – Art for Art’s Sake.  (No it isn’t perfect Latin conjugation as it should be Committendi artis pecuniam, but if it was good enough for Louis B. Mayer, we can live with it)

“Spay and Neuter your Pets!”  Bob Barker would like this one

“I’m continent!”  Saucy, but bladder-positive if nothing else

“Nice Shoes!”  This is quite dirty as the backstory explains the setup and you are only delivering the setup, not the whole line.  An acquaintance was once hit on by a guy who showed exactly how much game he had by reducing his seduction time to “Nice shoes, wanna fuck?”  It didn’t work, but one could always use statistical rules to try it 100 times and see how many times it succeeds.  Odds are 2/100 but that’s better than 0/100

“Free Falun Gong, Win Valuable Prizes!”  So it isn’t fully positive and politically correct, but there has to be some leeway in public stupidity on camera

“Thanks for being here!”  This will mess with the reporter’s head, especially if you’re sincere and only modestly enthusiastic, instead of over-the-top crazy

And the always appropriate..

“Hi Mom!” Even if you’re looting a big screen TV from a store in the US during a riot, this always works.

You’re welcome.












Charleston and Duffy

We’ve got a bit of a two-fer today, as both events are causing us great vexation. 

First off Walter Scott being gunned down in North Charleston, SC.  If you haven’t seen the video of Walter Scott being shot by a police officer, here it is.  Aside from the obvious attempt of the officer to plant something and the fact they officer was charged not with manslaughter, or self-defense, but straight up murder, and the racial stink that permeates the whole thing, there is one more vexatious point:  How can a trained police officer fire eight rounds at a target moving away from him at no more than 30 feet and only hit the target once?  Where did the other seven rounds go?  The Projectile Fairy didn’t capture them and put them under the officer’s pillow that night, of that we’re fairly certain. 

Which tells me the North Charleston Police couldn’t train a goose to shit, let alone teach their officers how to use the spectrum of force and when to increase the amount of force used with a subject.  That’s Policing 101, usually about Day 2 of rookie orientation.  For those who don’t know about the spectrum of force, here’s a good discussion

From our perspective as a citizen it’s simple enough to follow.  Simple presence of the uniformed officer, a commanding voice and attitude, hand control, active restraint, or baton, then chemical (OC spray, or Mace) electrical discharge weapons like a Taser or a Beanbag Shotgun, then the firearm.  Notice the escalation, from simple, loud, commands (“Stay in your car and drop the keys out the window”) to pulling the sidearm and everything in between.

There are exceptions of course, based on the situation.  If you pull over a guy and he gets out of the car with a shotgun and brings it up, you tell them drop the weapon and get your firearm ready to go, as the suspect has escalated things (Suspects don’t necessarily care about escalation of force protocols) and you have to react appropriately, immediately.  We’ve got no problem with that, at all. 

The Walter Scott shooting is another thing.  That went from an out of shape 50 year old with no obvious weapon or threat to the officer, running away, to an officer planting evidence after firing a clip at the suspect.  Had it played out sensibly, the officer would have got back in his car and followed Walter Scott for another 200 yards until he ran out of run and collapsed on his own.  Cuffs, backup, done with minimal paperwork and less fuss. 

Was Walter Scott in fear for his life?  We don’t know, but the dashcam footage showed a reasonable traffic stop and a compliant citizen who panicked in front of a cop with less experience with spectrum of force than my dog.  At least the dog has the smarts to back off when the cats give that low, rumbling hiss that translates across species into “Eff Off!”  We would also strongly recommend that every officer in North Charleston go back to the range and prove they can actually hit targets, center of mass at 10, 20, and 50 feet.  We don’t need idiots sending rounds all over the neighbourhood because they can’t shoot straight and that includes the police.

Senator Mike Duffy’s trial for Expense Fraud and charges of General Assholery is in its first week.  Up here our Federal Senate is populated by appointment of the Prime Minister.  It’s a reward for being a fart-catcher with rules that are looser than Amish sphincters after a binge-eat at the All You Can Eat Burrito Bar at Applebee’s.  Hiring a convicted serial rapist as your personal assistant is considered bad form, but that’s about it.  The caveat with this kind of demented-emperor oversight is that you say good things about the government and every program they bring forward is simply wonderful for all Canadians. 

Did Duffy go jowls-deep in the feed trough?  Sure he did; all the Conservative appointees do, just like all the Liberal appointees did when the Liberals were in power.  Up to the elbow in free trips, expense fiddles, hiring cousins with no work experience, or the easy fiddles of simply not showing up for work for two years at a stretch, but someone managing to cash the paycheque from your cushy digs in Mexico.  No committee work, no endless bladder-crippling meetings, no Question Period, nothing more exhausting than flying to Vancouver to do a 20 minute speech about how a government program is simply wonderful, words pre-written by the PMO and delivered with the standard half-hearted enthusiasm of a long-time party hack who has been phoning it in since 1988.  Then there is the crippling stress of having your assistant file the expense claims, which can only be relieved by flying to a foreign climate to rest and recuperate, on the taxpayer’s dime.

To be frank, our Senate is a joke beyond redemption that costs us millions of dollars every year for the members of the chamber of Sober Second Thought to roll around in the trough.  We get more value for money from the Dominion Carillonneur when she plays K’naan’s Wavin’ Flag on the Parliament Hill bells.  At least you can walk by the Hill and go, “What the heck is that song, holy crap, it’s that World Cup thing!  Kewl!”

With luck the Duffy Show will play out as expected just before our upcoming Federal Election in October.  The Harper Government will be painted accurately as mean-spirited micromanaging bullies.  Then the voting citizens will be confronted with a choice of None Of The Above on our ballots.




Tough Week–Some Thoughts

It’s been a tough week in our world.  Not tough in a geopolitical sense, but in an emotional sense.  Tough weeks are things that one goes through in life, as they are a part of life.  There is no perfectly smooth, effortless glide through this world, with rainbows and Skittles for everyone.  That’s not the deal we get from Life. 

At best, life is a gift we get every morning when we get up.  How we make the most of that gift, every day, is how we define a life.  Little joy nuggets and little sorrow droplets amongst the compost of phone calls, interactions, bumping into furniture, email, lunch and the occasional coffee with the insistent, grinding background screech of what we call our society and our civilization. 

Finding those little nuggets of joy and happiness are what makes life worthwhile. 

Unfortunately, sometime the droplets of sorrow outnumber the joys and make for a tough week.  We lost four people this week, none of whom were especially close family or friends.  Two were colleagues from the workplace, one from long ago in television, one from the IT career.  Knew them both well enough to share a coffee with, knew a bit about them as people, not just anonymous faces on the floor.  Neither were ill, that I knew of, they just died.  The third was an aunt, in a far away city, whom I remember fondly, who passed at a ripe old age.  The fourth was the wife of a close colleague, who had been ill for a number of years, bravely battling and finally losing her fight with cancer. 

Where it becomes a tough week is how you feel.  There was a quote long ago that I can’t find the attribution for. 

The quote is this:  It is not for the dead that I grieve, but for the living that I bereave.

It sums up how one might approach this very touchy subject of death.  Those who have died are beyond our care now, those left behind are the ones that deserve our sympathy and what comfort we can offer them.  About all one can say to someone is that you are sorry for their loss.  There are no magical words that can help take away the sorrow for those left behind. 

I can’t make it better right now for the families and close friends of Michel, Billy, Joyce and Chantal, but I can offer them this observation. 

Those that are gone are still in your memories and your heart and it’s very sad now.  Eventually, you get up, embrace the gift you have and go hunting for the nuggets of joy.  You’ll find them.

International Women’s Day–An Ancient Reprint

Before the turn of the millennium a friend and I wrote for a website called  Yes, the formal URL was and we were impressed that they could actually register a domain name with an obscenity as well as offer an email address of .  We had to write for them, so we did.  This of course was in days before Perl:  You had to code html yourself, or if you were leading edge, use an ancient plugin to Word that would generate half-assed semi-formed html as a starting point, then shine the turd from there. There was no WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or whatever the hell is this hour’s hot app.

Our first missive was a little blotchy, but we did a few more.  By the time June 2000 rolled around we found our voice.  Imagine Kim Carnes with Joe Cocker’s larynx after she had been punched in the throat and was speaking through a corrugated metal dryer vent was our approximation.  Eventually this morphed into roaddave, which you can read about here

When we got up this morning, we noticed it was International Women’s Day, a United Nations sanctioned day to honour and celebrate 51% of the population.  Being that rare and delicate outlier subset of Men, (meaning white, middle-class, employed, intelligent, evolved and heterosexual) we considered writing something profound and important to mark IWD.  We struggled trying to find the right tone, the right sensitivity, the right sense of apologia and yet positive encouragement to the other half of the population, regardless of their socioeconomic and geopolitical status. 

Then we said, screw it.  It’s Sunday morning and the “Spring Ahead” time change has us mentally rowing with one oar around Lake Stupid in an under-inflated rubber dinghy with no keel.  Herewith, originally from, with Rob S, is 25 Things We Like About Women    

Since Cosmopolitan Magazine can do articles like “25 things your Man should do” we decided to return the favour. Some of them are mutually exclusive and some are either contradictory or just plain silly. We don’t care. We’ re going to catch shit from all directions on this, but we have no fear, so here we go:

25 Things We like about Women:

1: Curves. Kate Moss would be a terrible boink. If I wanted a bruised pelvis, I’d hump a garden shed. Women were designed to have a little extra padding. Nature said so. Don’t starve yourself to look like a twelve-year-old boy: Women are supposed to have curves.

2: Brains. Most women outrank men in this department anyway, but so few of them show it. Ladies, don’t be afraid to speak up when your man is trying to see into the gas tank with a lighter. We rely on you to keep us from being really, really stupid.

3: Class. There is nothing as wonderful as a woman in The Perfect Little Black Dress gliding down a flight of stairs. Hair done, makeup, tiny little purse and she wants to go out with YOU.

4: No Class. There is nothing as wonderful as a woman with a mouth on her like a trucker with Tourette’s Syndrome who could cuss the paint off your car at forty paces and she dares you to go out with HER.

5: Singing. The contented sound of a woman, humming or singing to herself while she works. Even if she couldn’t carry a tune in a box with a string handle, a woman idly singing for her own pleasure is a joy.

6: Strength. We don’t mean the ability to bench press 300 lbs., although that’s fine. We mean the ability to grab ahold of an ugly job and just plain do it. Moving 10 cubic yards of topsoil around with you in the yard, or taking the base of the ladder while you climb up to fix the burnt out light bulb in the foyer. The pale, frond-like beauty of Victorian times has no place in the year 2000.

7: Sparkle. This is so hard to define, but here we go. If your friends are envious of you because your significant other is just so damn much fun to be around, then she’s got sparkle.

8: Balls. Not in the literal sense, as that could be a bit off-putting. But if she takes no crap from anyone. An example: Her car breaks down and the mechanic tries to talk her into a complete overhaul of everything except the cigarette lighter and the antenna. If she says: “Oh, OK, whatever you say, Mister Mechanic.” she ain’t got balls.

Watch how she complains to a government department, or a counter person. If the phrase “I’ll cut off your head and shit down your neck.” comes out of her mouth, she’s got a big set and they rumble when she walks.

9: Demureness. If she blushes when you compliment her on how nice she looks (see #3) then she’s got the right amount of demureness. This is good. Making a woman blush is the first stage to winning her heart.

10: Cleavage. Be it bosomy cleavage in that blouse that is cut just right, wearing the lucky bra that hold Thelma and Louise just so, or at the top of the crack of her ass when she wears that bathing suit, cleavage is old fashioned and wonderfully erotic.

11: Common Sense. “Hon, if you have a snake tattoo on your face and more piercings that a voodoo doll, you are kinda restricting your career options, aren’t you?”

12: No Sense At All. “Let’s go skinny dipping in the neighbour’s pool at 3 am!”

13: Romantic. If she buys YOU flowers, or gives YOU an engagement ring.

14: Forgiveness. You come home at 3 a.m. from a buddy’s going away party, smelling like a brewery and have a stripper’s g-string around your neck, she simply asks if you had a good time with no heat or sense of “I’m going to kill you.” If you do this more than once a year, you should see the second paragraph of #8. Expect your life to be threatened. And you will deserve it.

15: Waxing/Shaving. Women should not have more pit hair than their man. Same goes for legs and upper lips. And Ladies, please do some weeding and pruning of your Secret Garden. A well-trimmed plot is a delight and occasionally going bald south of the equator is a saucy surprise. Going to the dentist for a shave is not enjoyable, nor is that “aaaaccccccck” sound we make when we cough up a hairball.

16: Smell. Women smell nice. There is something indefinably intoxicating about that soft tang of a woman’s natural scent on a hot day. We can’t explain it. To quote Garrison Keillor: “There’s nothing like the smell of a hot woman when some of the sweat on her, is yours.”

17: Perfume. Find a perfume that you like, use it sparingly and strategically. Drenching yourself with Eau Du Civet just makes you smell like the perfume counter at Woolworth’s, or that stripper from #14.

18: Passion. Believe in something. It doesn’t have to be the same things that your man believes in. In fact, you get some good vibrant discussions going with your man by taking a contrary view and backing it up with sense, logic and a passion about the subject.

19: Horniness. Once in a while whisper something really lewd in his ear when you drive home from a party. Ask him to drive to Lover’s Lane RIGHT NOW so you can make out like minks in heat across the hood of the car. A quick, spontaneous knee-trembler is fun for all concerned.

20: Self-Esteem. To quote Roy Blount Jr., “This is what I got, I can shake it, I can bake it. If you don’t like lookin’ at it, who asked you?” If you whine about your lack to this, or too big that, it just makes you look weak.

21: Humour. No, ladies, you don’t have to like The Three Stooges (most women don’t anyway) but if you can tell a joke, or laugh at one your man has told before, then you get points.

22: Snuggling. Men will never admit it, but most of us do like to snuggle. Be it spoon-style or butt to butt. Doesn’t matter how, just the close physical connectedness of being near is comforting.

23: Affection. So many people don’t show affection toward each other. A gentle caress, or a squeeze of the hand means a lot. Most men could be tortured for weeks by the Iraqi Secret Police and would never confess, but we will. Knowing you are on our side means the world to us.

24: Trashiness. If you go to a costume party with your man, dress up as Sister Roxanne, the Slutty Nun, who smokes, drinks and carries on like a whore in a habit. That’s fun trashiness. So are five-inch Fuck Me Pumps once in a while, or those stockings with the seam up the back and no panties.

25: Understanding. The Battle of the Sexes is over. Women won a long time ago, but the rules keep changing. Men try and keep up as best we can. We’ re not perfect and we occasionally forget the difference between the G, H, I, and J spots. Let us know and let us make up for it in our own way.

Paint A Target On The Board Of Directors

For those of us above the 49th, watching Target stores go down the porcelain facility was an exercise in schadenfreude, taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others.  Target bought up a lot of the old Zellers real estate, changed the livery to the ubiquitous red and white splat then sat back to wait for the drooling parka-clad throngs to bust down the doors screaming “Shut Up, and Take My Money!”.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Target Canada came off as a “special” cousin to Zeller’s or maybe K-Mart’s addle-minded Uncle Gordie.  Target drooled a little, smelled funny and didn’t have actual stock in the stores that people wanted to buy and prices that were competitive.  Canadian consumers tried Target once, perhaps twice, then vowed never to go back.  By January 15th, Target Canada announced the closure of all 133 stores, tossing about 17,000 employees into the ditch with a hearty “Thanks for working at Target!”

Now coming to light are a couple of outrages that are being perpetrated on the cadaver.  Former CEO Gregg Steinhafer got a golden parachute that was bigger than the severance issued to the now-former employees of Target Canada.  Steinhafer was fired by the way, not ‘resigning to pursue other opportunities’ or ‘spending time with family’:  He was s-canned, but like most CEO’s had negotiated a deal with the Target Board that unless he was found on the Washington Mall at noon hour, drunk, disheveled and engaging in an unnatural act with a live penguin, he’d get his piece of pie.

The second outrage is one of insolvency jiggery-pokery.  A Toronto-based market research firm was told to switch its invoice for $232,328 from Target USA, who hired them, to Target Canada, a few days before Target Canada pulled the yellow handle.  When Target Canada did the deed, that invoice, now residing with an insolvent company might be worth $50,000, maybe, maybe not.  Essentially, Target knew they were going under and tried to bury as much as they could in Canada, to maximize their going-out-of-business profits through the liquidation process. 

We’ve got two beefs here.  By definition a Board of Directors is charged with ensuring the company is being run in a way that is prudent and profitable for shareholders and to provide a group of savvy multi-disciplinary advisors to the corporation to ensure prudence and profitability to the shareholders:  Not the employees, not the suppliers, not the kid who collects the shopping carts after school every afternoon.  Fine, that’s the capitalist system we work under.  It sucks sometimes, but that’s what we’ve got as rules of engagement. 

Where most Board of Directors fall over is in their sheep-like mentality of not questioning anything.  A well-suited, pricey-per-diem Compensation Consultant tells the Board that the CEO must be paid a grotesque amount of money “to attract the right candidates” for the position.  Yes, CEO is a good-paying gig and most CEO’s don’t last long, so the candidates negotiate big money and big perks up front.  The candidate is not incentivized to play the long game, as all the goodies come home on Day 1, not Day 995 of their gig.  The Board nods sagely dazzled by the haircut and the cufflinks and the CEO gets his or her payday, so even if caught up to the bristles in a penguin, the CEO still gets a mammoth payout.

The second beef is boning the suppliers.  Businesses of any kind run on third-party companies that provide things to the business to conduct their operations.  The amount of credit from a supplier is a conscious wager by the supplier that the company is going to be paid for what they’re providing.  It does not matter if it’s 40 footer full of green garden hoses, or the contract for the guy to push the floor cleaning machine around the store, the supplier is trusting the company to pay their bills on time, in full, for services or goods provided.  Those suppliers need that money to pay the minimum wage to the guy behind the floor cleaner, or the Xiolang Tractor Painting and Garden Hose Manufacturing Cooperative #22 in Baoding, China, who shipped over the container full of garden hoses.  And the shipping company and the trucking company and the warehouse people and the printers and packagers and so on down the line.  Everyone gets boned.

What the Board isn’t doing is making sure that the company is doing what is the Right Thing to Do.

Henry Ford, the noted rapacious capitalist and owner of the Ford Motor Company back in the day, did it very simply.  He paid his people very well for the time, and priced his goods at such a point that his employees could actually afford the products they were making on the earliest assembly lines.  This is called Enlightened Self-Interest.  Ford knew that his folks on the line would bust their guts to do the best possible work, for a really good wage, so they could buy a car.  That created an instant market of 12,000 employees who were potential customers. 

Ford also played the capitalist card well.  When the Steel Combine in the US decided to up the prices on the raw material for the cars that Ford was making, Ford essentially said “Screw you, I’ll make my own damn steel”  Then he did it.  The River Rouge Complex in Detroit was the result.  Ford brought in the ore on his own ships, to his own steel mill, to make his own steel that they smelted, forged and stamped on site to make the cars coming off the other end of the assembly line.  Our long-lamented 1987 5.0 Mustang was made at the Dearborn Assembly Plant with copious amounts of River Rouge steel and glass.

So what about the Board of Target?  They’re getting theirs, collecting their per-diems and ‘creating value for shareholders’ at least as measured by this month.  Are the doing the Right Thing?  Not by a long shot.  The Board, like most Boards, are sheep.  Nobody is rocking the boat, asking pointed questions like “What the hell are we paying this clown for?”, “How will this be good for us in two/three/five years?” or “Is this the Right Thing To Do?”

For that, they should be ashamed.

Vaccines, Research, Benefits and Ladders

We’re going there, sorry, but the stories are getting out of hand.  We’ll start with the anti-vaxxers who point to a “prestigious study” in The Lancet that says vaccines cause autism in children.  Here’s the link to the article, Feb 2 2010 where The Lancet retracted the article by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, because his research was, to be generous, bullshit. 

There are no scientific links between being vaccinated and becoming autistic, or any of the other shades of autism spectrum disorders.

Yes, there has been thiomersal in many vaccine fluids.  Thiomersal is an organic mercury compound in use since the 1930’s as a preservative and anti-fungal.  It was developed because an early (1928) diphtheria vaccine under testing created a more than 50% fatality rate when injected as the vaccine did not contain a preservative.  The children died of staphylococcus from the injection media, not the vaccine.

Oddly enough there was no incredible uptick in the cases of autism when thiomersal was incorporated into vaccine preparations in 1930.  One would think that there would be several generations of autism victims to research, but that doesn’t seem to be true.

However, since us humans shouldn’t be exposed to any more mercury than is really necessary, the CDC asked vaccine makers to remove it, just in case, and since 1999, they have.  Thiomersal is still used as a preservative in contact lens solution, nasal sprays and tattoo ink. 

Using the anit-vaxxer logic circuits then, any woman either pregnant or hoping to become pregnant should be prohibited by law from wearing contact lenses, using nasal spray or getting some ink.  Needless to say, young kids should never get tats until they’re older and can make bad decisions on their own. (Daddy I can’t get a job for the summer, nobody will hire me! It’s because you have have Donnies’ Fuck Bitch poorly and illiterately tattooed on your face, dear daughter.  Now what did I tell you about the possessive apostrophe?) 

By way of comparison of the concentration of thiomersal in a vaccine, you would have to take a piss in an Olympic sized swimming pool, then drink all the pool water to equal the concentration.  You probably get more mercury exposure from being near a burned out compact fluorescent light bulb.  Funny how nobody has drawn a link between CFL’s and autism.  Could it be there is no link?  Just sayin’. 

What the anti-vaxx movement really shows us is how dumb we have become.  We have near-instantaneous access to a gazillion pages of learned research, from people who have forgotten more about disease prevention than we will ever know, but yet we grab at that one miniscule outlying data point in a million that ‘proves’ our opinion.

Here’s a suggestion:  Do your due diligence before opening your mouth.  If you think that there is a causal link between A and Z, odds are you can find research by someone that will give you more leads to more research, from more people.  This sounds like Journalism 101 and in many ways it is very rudimentary research. 

The other concept to keep in mind while doing your research is this one:  Cui Bono?  It’s Latin for Who Benefits?  To contemporize it, follow the money, meaning who is paying for the research.  Sorry dear scientists, but money rides and ethics walks when it comes to primary research these days. 

Now, if you can find three unrelated, probably accurate, unbiased sources, odds are the idea is nearing the department of truthiness.  There are hard facts out there.  We use Wikipedia for some of them, but tend to keep our use to things like How many square miles is France (247,368) or what is number 44 in the Periodic Table of Elements (Ruthenium).  When it comes to opinion or analysis, there are too many sources to list, but we do tend to investigate both sides of an argument to find where the middle ground is, as that is where the real truth is most likely to reside.

The third concept to keep in mind is the overall benefit of something.  Back in the 1960’s seat belts in cars were considered weird Birkenstock-wearing tree-hugger, stream-tasting, safety-freak articles.  Drivers and car makers complained that they would be trapped in their cars with seatbelts and millions of innocents would drown or burn to death in crashes, strangled and mummified by seat belts.  Fifty years later, we belt up automatically.  (I’m primary research in the efficacy of seat belts, having survived a couple of serious and fatal crashes:  Seat belts are the only reason I’m alive.)

Overall benefit is sometimes tough to measure and there are always mitigating opinions on both sides.  Take the simple tool of a ladder.  Ladders are wonderful things and have been around for thousands of years, but they can be tricky for idiots to use.  Go to Home Depot and look at a ladder.  If you can find the rungs behind all the warning labels, you’ll find a useful tool.  Those labels are there because someone sued someone else, which has nothing to do with the overall benefits of a ladder – It has plenty to do with Cui Bono

This doesn’t mean that ladders are inherently dangerous, but it does mean that idiots should use them with caution.  There is no international conspiracy of ladder manufacturers to make them more dangerous, so you will be forced to hire a licensed ladder operator to change that light bulb in the foyer.  The overall benefit of a ladder exceeds the number of morons who have climbed up two storeys and their last words have been recorded as “Honey, watch this!”

To tie this all up, use your brain.  If you see an internet posting that says stuffing two sticks of unsalted butter and a dill pickle up your ass will cure cancer and you believe it to be true, then you need to step away from the keyboard, slowly.  Do some research, follow the money and look at the overall benefit of something before pontificating.

Christmas Traditions

Yuletide is a season of traditions, some old, some new.  We’re going to share one or two with you as our way of a holiday post. 

We’ve been listening to The Shepherd on the radio almost every Christmas Eve.  For those not familiar with the CBC, or As It Happens, here’s the backstory.  As It Happens is a CBC radio program that since 1979 has aired either on Christmas Eve, or as close to it as possible, a short story by Fredrick Forsyth called The Shepherd.  It is a reading by the late Alan Maitland of the story of a RAF flyer in 1957 taking a Christmas Even flight home from Germany in a DH 100 Vampire single seat jet fighter.  The story by Fredrick Forsythe is part redemption, a narrative of faith and a great historical ghost story, all set on Christmas Eve.    

We turn down the lights in the house, turn up the radio, or the computer and sit for a half-hour, listening to the magic of radio as Forsyth’s words and Maitland’s voice weave story in our minds more vivid that any presentation in 4K HD and THX audio.  In an interesting twist of history, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum has a DH 100 Vampire and a DH 98 Mosquito as part of the collection, not a dozen kilometers from here.

Even though we have heard The Shepherd dozens of times and can nearly quote it verbatim, it still brings a chill and then a warmth that is our Christmas Even tradition.  We can’t do it justice so go to the CBC site, here and listen for yourself.

The second tradition was started about fifteen years ago, as a way to spread the load of the holiday season.  Ourselves and another couple take it in turns to host the Christmas Day dinner, adjourning to each others houses for the feast.  Some years it is the traditional turkey and other years a more contemporary tasting table.  There is always too much to drink and too much to eat, but the fellowship and close personal ties between us and any strays we round up provide an evening of warmth, laughter and closeness that is about as good as it gets.  It is the highlight of the season.

If you have a mind as twisted as ours, we will suggest Cards Against Humanity, the Canadian Edition, as a way to tighten your abs to work off the Christmas dinner.  We still hurt this morning from laughing hard enough to cause damage.

To our friends, distant, near, online, and real world, we wish you happiness and joy this holiday season and hope that you find your moments of warmth, joy and closeness with those who mean much to you.

In the words of Joe the old batman from The Shepherd, Happy Christmas.

Spacing Again

NASA has been sitting on the sidelines since the Space Shuttles stopped flying, relying on the Russian Soyuz as a way to get folks to the International Space Station along with groceries and gizmos to keep the joint going.

This morning NASA launched, for the first time, an unmanned Orion, the next-gen spacecraft that will contain humans to go to places like Mars.  Using a Delta IV Heavy rocket NASA did what they used to do:  Punch big holes in the sky.  Everything worked, two orbits and a successful re-entry old-skool style under parachutes to a splashdown.

Which led to some comments from colleagues.  One remarked he had seen the beginning of the Shuttle and the end of the Shuttle and was astounded by the passing of that many years.  We commented that some of us recall Sheppard and Glen in the early days, the Gemini series, the Apollos and Skylab.  We felt old for a moment.  My colleague’s timeline was different and we have the benefit of perspective.

Most of us of a certain age remember the Space Race when the US was in a death-march to the Moon with the Soviets:  When winning mattered to demonstrate the prowess of the ‘free world’ to conquer these kinds of massive technological things that had never been done before by anyone, anywhere, ever.  That sense of seeing a greyish, grainy shot of someone in a bulky spacesuit stepping onto another planet nearly a quarter of a million miles away, that sense of “Holy Shit!  We Did It!”

We, as a people, had lost that sense of awe of doing the impossible, but for about five hours today, we got a tiny taste of that mojo back. 

It isn’t the beginning, but more like Orion is the very first struggling, hesitant steps of the beginning of the Beginning.  Hopefully, soon, we’ll have that incredible sense of awe back.  Our planet needs it, perhaps now more than ever.