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Cameron's House of Fun

Fatherhood, politics, education, random thoughts (heavy on the random thoughts) and stuff (always stuff).

Friday, November 26, 2004

Putin frightens me

Everyone has seen that recent picture of Bush with his fly open talking to the Japanese PM right? First, what is it and the Bush presidents and Japanese PMs? Between the puke and the flashing I would run if I was a politician from Japan.

Second: Is it just me or did Putin look like he was plotting how to kill everyone in the photo. When listening to his pronouncements I find it instructional to remember that he was an actual member of the KGB, not just a pencil pusher.

A funk, a grumpy period, lots going on, and teething part 12

So, I've been tired and pissy lately. Something to do with feeling unmotivated and not sleeping. I've been killing myself to get some of this internship stuff done. It is very hard to work with people with very little production experience. I'm currently editing and resizing and importing graphics into module 4 of the certification program. The problem is that they are all still named dcss 100036.jpg and need to have some sort of naming convention applied to them, also they are HUEG LIEK XBOX and need to be slimed down. I told the people I'm working with that I need raw image files, not stuff pasted into a Word Doc. One of the graphics came in Powerpoint with a note about it being sent this way because the sender knew that I didn't want Word docs. ARRRRRRGGGGHHH.... taking the time to explain myself again is not worth the time wasted.

I have also been playing silly buggers with the payroll people at work, again. Last week I was supposed to get paid for two weeks of work, for which I bill weekly. Previously I had been paid regularly every Thursday, then it was decided that I was a contractor and thus would be paid 21 days after billing. So my boss and I decided that I would bill every Friday, ensuring that a cheque would come weekly. This pissed Payroll off, so they wanted to pay me every two weeks. Sucks, because it messed our budget, but there you go. So I go in Friday to get my cheque for two weeks of work, which I have been told was ready Thursday night. Apparently "ready" means "signed by one person, but not by the other". Which is manifestly not "ready". So it goes away to get signed and comes back to me. It is for one week. I go and talk to the payroll guy (by talk I mean "talk through clenched teeth while trying hard to not beat his head in with a monitor"). He fires up his payroll software and starts talking a mile a minute and waving his hand at the lovely payroll charts and the calendar etc etc. Finally I say to him " Stop, look at me. Why would I go from billing once a week and getting paid once a week to billing once a week, getting paid every two weeks for one weeks work? How does that make any sense?" He waves his hands some more, points to the monitor etc etc. At this point I get on the phone to my boss, who swears and tells me he will deal with it. A few hours later a courier arrives with the second cheque. I'd feel ok about this, but I know this dance will be on again next week.

Lucas seems to be pushing out tooth 12, his gum is swollen like someone put a pea up in there. The poor little bugger has been waking up really really early this week, like 5 - 5:30 (poor us as well). Oh well, this will pass as well.

I wanted to write something about what is going on in the Ukraine right now, but then I realized what I really wanted to do was point out that this is what a stolen election looks like. While I think that there were some pretty serious irregularities in the US election earlier this month, I'm pretty sure that they weren't so widespread that they cost Kerry the election (though if Ohio was buggered with who knows). That said it was nothing at all like this. The Ukrainian situation has it all: foreign interference, the threat of civil war, people swearing themselves in, other people getting sworn in without actually being the winner, countries refusing to recognize the election as fair, foreign elections observers freaking out, blogs from the protests.. boy howdy, exciting stuff. Let's all hope it doesn't end up like this.

Kelly over at OnTheFence is doing a very nice job acting as a clearing house of all the blogs that are actively covering this situation, check it out.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Cornucopia of random goodness

I guess that now that the man is in the ground I feel a little more comfortable talking about Arafat and what comes next. As the whooshing sound of a power vacuum grows louder, and as people clamor for elections I'm struck by the fact that there is a lot of "do as I say, not as I do" going on. Israel and the US want there to be a democratically elected leadership on the Palestinian side but the IDF continues to block off access between the various parts of the electorate that would elect this leadership. They also have fairly routine "incursions" (a term, like "civilian contractor", that does it's very best to avoid mentioning killing people) into Palestinian territory.

On the other side there seems to be a lot of people who would like nothing more than to be President for Life of the Palestinian Authority, but who are making the appropriate noises about elections. The whole thing is sad, because here is this amazing chance to move forward and either some ass with a tank or bombs strapped to him will screw it up. That, or no one will flex and the wheels on the bus will go round and round for another wasted generation.

On a different tack completely, Paul Wells has an interesting comment from
Historian Michael Blis about our PM, Paul Martin. People keep telling me that I should give the guy a chance, that he has only been in the job for a year ... etc etc etc. They forget several things: He's been auditioning for this job for what, 20 years? So we know him quite well. He's made a spectacular mess of a couple of things, and the topper, the absolute important thing for me: I would not buy something from this man. Not a used car, not a chocolate bar, not a political philosophy, nothing. There is something that bothers me about him at a very animal level.

I've just got back from the gym, a mildly horrifying experience as always. I went early on Thursday afternoon, thinking that it would be less crowded and easier for me to work out with out feeling like such a dull normal. I was right about the crowds, there was hardly anyone there, I was wrong, oh so wrong, about the whole dull normal thing. There were guys there with biceps as large as my fairly substantial head. That said, they were of the helpful, pleasant variety, no the "omfg look at the puny little man who can't hardly lift any weight at all" variety. This was good. My doctor and I had a discussion of Friday about my weight and relative slothiness. This conversation was not good. I'm going to the gym more now, thank you very much.

I always wonder what the people who are that big and buff do. I mean, what do they do in life? Because to get that fit requires a massive amount of time and effort. Do they watch any TV, do they have a social life? Do they all have to work at home or near the gym? I'm quite curious.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Things that have gone from funny to sad

When sorryeverybody.com was first launched last week it provided me with a laugh when I most needed it. But now there are roughly 1056 people appologizing, in such painful, heartfelt ways it has stopped making me laugh. As Mike Myers would say, I'm feeling a bit veclempt. Actually quite veclempt.

I grew up in a family where my father and mother both worked for the Progressive Conservative party during elections, my wife grew up in a family that organized for the Parti Qu├ębecois. Both of us can detatch and look at politics as a sport: there is how we vote and feel and then there is giving props where they are due. I've voted for both the winner and the loser at municipal, provincial and federal levels, I've voted for stupid people to make some kind of point, I've voted for people that I didn't like because I liked their leader, hell I even voted Equality Party once (I would like to be able to blame drugs.. but I can't). All of this to say I have been on the winning and losing end of elections and I get how it works on the inside (locally anyway).

I've never seen people so upset and filled with dispair at a election result. I mean, I've been pissed off in the past, our most recent provincial election here in Quebec being a good example. My fellow citizens voted in a man who seems intent on either dismantling every cool social service that other provinces envy or laying the ground work for seperation... and he is meant to be a federalist...

Anyway.. I guess all of this to say: I have no idea how the US is going to function, Bush seems intent on doing whatever he wants, all the while pretending to reach out, anyone who is upset about he results is branded a sore loser and a whiner and mb a terrorist all the while there are people wandering around who look like they have been kicked in the heart.

It is so sad.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Snow

Oh, by the by, it's snowing. Not tons, but it is cold enough out that some will probably stay on the ground.

When I was a kid I was excited by this, now I think about the cold and the slush and how hard it is to get around...

I think mb I need to recapture my joy.

The hole where my heart should be

Sound dramatic eh? Like I am going to reveal something huge?

Nope.

I WANT THE HOCKEY STRIKE TO BE OVER DAMMIT!!!

The news has basically all but given up on reporting on the strike, NHL.com has the schedule up like games are happening, but this is the reality.

It makes me sad.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Work Whining, Election Reform and you know, stuff...

Shortish post, cause I am tired and not at all in a good mood. Work presses upon my mind, deadlines loom and I am now recieving payment via that 4th arrangement since I started there. When I was hired I was told I would get paid via direct deposit every other Thursday, then it turns out that if I don't work at the office I am not an employee, so I would get paid every other Thursday, but by cheque, then it was going to be every 21 days so my boss had my invoice once a week. This pissed payroll off, because Thursday every week I would start harrasing them. Now I am going to be paid every 2 weeks, but I bill weekly. ARRRRGGGHHH!!!

The New York Times had an interesting piece on election reform, you can read it here.

I guess this seems to be my new fixation... that and how to get young people interested in voting again.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Hurt feelings, bad winners and other random goodness

I've been talking to a wide range of my American buddies. They are a non-representative sample, and that is being polite. Everyone of them voted Kerry. Everyone of them is upset and hurt. They feel let down and cheated. Not in a Florida in 2000 way, but in a "what the hell just happened" kind of way.

I wrote about the idea of wedge or "hot button" issues a few posts back and I've given it some more thought, talked to my wife and friends, read some stuff and I keep coming up with the same question. What the hell will actually get the center-left to left wing of a citizenry out and voting and caring?

I don't have an answer. I really wish I did. In the US Roe v Wade might do it, but since that goes to the courts voting someone in or out of office won't really do anything. I suppose constitutional/charter rights might do it in both Canada and the US, but they are usually such complicated issues that they can't be boiled down into nice sound bites for the TV.

Medicare (socialized medicine, not the program of the same name in the US) in Canada can get people riled up, but most Canadians have such a "oh, they'll never really do anything to that" attitude that as long as you don't come out and say "we're scrapping the whole thing" no one gets all that excited. More thought on this is needed.

I've been spending time in my usual online haunts and I've been struck by one thing over and over. How incredibly ungracious winners the right are. I'm not saying that I wouldn't have sung songs or danced dances if Kerry had won. But, given the low turn out and the tightness of the popular vote, I wouldn't have been screaming "IN YOUR FACE FASCIST!!!"

When nearly half the people who voted vote for the other guy this means that either A) they really like him or B) They really hate you. Believing that your winning magically makes everything you believe to be true and right is like believing that everyone who gets a not guilty verdict in a criminal case is innocent.

There is a piece in Slate that I will try linking to, basically the point of the article is that running a smart, well spoken guy for president is dumb. You need to run a salesman, someone who speaks in short sentences and, is basically, simple. The article is here. The author suggests that John Edwards is that man. I dunno. I wish smart and telling the truth got you into office, but I'm starting to wonder. If the rules of the game are to be mean and nasty and basically knife fight and dumb your message down to win, mb the left has to get really really good at those rules.

Finally, personal stuff. I'm off to a meeting with a consulting firm at one today. They do synchronous learning stuff and some LMS work etc. I'm not sure what will come of it, but it will be interesting.

I also appear to have a job doing some needs assessment and redesign for the Faculty at school, so that is nice. I won't have to sell organs to pay for the mortgage.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Refugee Camp Is Open; or the sofa is waiting

Ok, so as I write this the dust hasn't settled in Ohio, New Mexico and Iowa. Unless something pretty amazing happens in Ohio (which I guess I am not ruling out entirely), the wheels came off the cart pretty spectacularly last night.

The American People have spoken, blah blah blah... AND THAT IS THE BLOODY PROBLEM!!!

Paul Wells
has a very interesting commentary pointing out that some exit polls show that gay marriage and abortion wound up being more important than terrorism or the economy. Which means several things: 1) Karl Rove is a genius, an evil, blood sucking, baby eating genius, but a genius none the less. 2) A significant part of the American populace doesn't mind the economy going down the shitter, wars raging around them, the rest of the world hating or being scared of them just so long as they get to tell their fellow citizens what they can and can't do with their lives and wombs.

Wedge issues are apparently important, and I'm having a hard time figuring out which ones would actually get Democratic (or lefties in Canada for that matter) out to the polls in large numbers. I'm mindful of the quote in the Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy "They care, we don't. They win."

But there is one thing that this election has really show anyone with a brain and a TV: the mechanics of the US election system need a major overhaul. I'm not talking about the Electoral College, which seems a bit insane, but may have it's place. I'm talking about how people actually vote, the nuts and bolts.

First things first, there needs to be a National Elections body down there. County by county is madness. Every American should vote in exactly the same way as every other American. To do otherwise is to invite disaster. I can hear you now "States rights.. blah blah blah"... do you really think that having your President decided by lawyers and judges is some how better than surrendering a bit of power from the States to a central elections authority? At the very least, at a bare minimum, there should be a body that establishes national standards, each state can send it's Secretary of State and it's chief election supervisor and they can hash it out.

Second, the President, Senate races and Governor races need to be on a separate ballot. This crap where you don't know who won the Presidency of the United States of America because the close race of Bob Smith, Republican Dog Catcher Extraordinary in some state slows down the count is just bonkers. Two ballots, all the big deals on one ballot and all the lesser positions and the ballot initiaves on another.

Third, get rid of the damn ballot initiatives. You elect people to govern, with the exception of constitutional amendments, they should just get on with it.

Finally: NO. MORE. VOTING. MACHINES. IKEA sized pencil, paper ballot, ballot box, cardboard voting privacy screen, two poll workers paid minimum wage and meals to work the day.

England does it that way, Canada does it that way, lots and lots of places do it that way. I know, I know, you're saying that these places are all smaller. First, I don't buy that argument, there is this way of extrapolating populations and programs, it is called "per capita", please look into it. Second, lets assume that some how you are right and size actually is an issue. Canada has a population of roughly 30 million people. The last election, which was a squeaker and very complicated, was called, with a high degree of accuracy, before 10 pm. Just over 600,000 people voted in New Mexico. At 10:55 the day after the election, they still don't know who won. How is this possible?

All I know is that there was an overhead shot, from a chopper maybe, on the news last night of people lined up in the dark to vote. The line looked at least a kilometer long. At the same time as this was heartening, I couldn't help but think "All that is missing is an APC or a technical and I could be looking at any election in the Third World."

Finally, reports out of Ohio and Florida make it sound like a lot of lawyers are readying themselves for war. Let's hope that if there are any irregularities that the Democrats don't roll over this time.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A refreshing pause from election related anxiety

I'm posting a lot today, stressed mb.

I thought I would write about something cute.

In case you don't know, we have cats. Five cats. The get fed twice a day. Some get wet food (the old ones) and there is dry food for the rest. We have this bucket thing we got from Canadian Tire that holds the dry food and we have a little plastic coffee mug that we use as a scoop. Lately we have been getting Lucas to help us feed the cats. He does this by holding the mug, with our help, and delivering the food to the bowls.

He feels very strongly that the cats should get more than one scoop. So he always tries to go back a second time. This morning, as always, we stopped him (some of the cats could use to loose some weight). So he walked off purposefully to his bucket of toys and rooted around for a while, until he came up with his own plastic cup. He then marched off to the cat food container in an attempt to feed them some more...

There... now you can go back to your election anxiety.

Vote.

On the off chance that anyone reading this is American (this presupposes anyone is reading at all) I offer to you this simple plea.

Please vote. Now. Drop everything, let go of the mouse. Stop typing, the internet porn can wait. Turn off the stove, park the kids or pets with sitters, go stand in line, challenge the challengers, remember to leave your political paraphenalia at home, but just go and vote. Now. I'm not kidding. This isn't like cleaning the windows or cutting the lawn, it can't be put off. This is serious, important stuff.

Also, as much as it may seem like I just want you to go and vote for anyone, I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I want you to vote for Kerry. Not Bush. Not Nader. Not anyone else that might have been written in on your local ballot. Kerry. Now. Touch that screen. Mark that ballot. Push the button. Scan that opti. But for the love of all that is pure and good, please vote, and vote for Kerry.

Why you ask?

Because right now you scare us.

I don't mean "us" here on the internets.

I mean "us" who are not Americans.

That's right. You. Scare. Us.

This may seem like a cool thing on it's face. I mean, inspiring terror and fear has cache.

But it is bad. Very, very bad.

You don't scare us the way you should be sensibly wary of a bear in the woods. You scare us in a "OMG I hope Charlie Manson never gets parole" way. You didn't scare us in the same way when you were led by Clinton, Bush I, Carter or even (god the 80s punk in me is dying as I say this) Reagan. We knew you were big and powerful. We knew you might get pissed off and do something really not nice. But there was a feeling of restraint and that there was a plan and that this plan wasn't concocted by people who could only politely be referred to as barking fucking mad.

We all know that US foreign policy won't change over night, that Iraq will still have happened and will still be a mess. We all know that Hamid Karzai will still be the mayor of Kabul, we know that bad shit will still happen, and that sometimes your military will do it. We know all these things and more. But we would all feel a lot better if the person in charge of the proceedings actually seemed like he wasn't barking fucking mad.

Addendum: go read The Rude Pundit. His is a cautionary tale.

Of Visitors, cat boxes and linkage.

Ok, so yesterday was "Clean the Cat Boxes Before We All Pass Out or Develop Upper Respiratory Tract Infections Day" over here at my place. These exciting festivities usually happen on a weekend, or in the evening, simply because taking care of Lucas and coating ones hands in cat excrement are not really compatible activities.

All of this to say that the "Clean the Cat Boxes Before We All Pass Out or Develop Upper Respiratory Tract Infections Day" were planned for when my wife got home. All of which is to say that the house stunk like, well, like cat box until around 6ish.

This is called foreshadowing by the way.

So I am sitting at my desk, and a person looks through my window. To do this he must almost go on all fours to look under the stylish bamboo blinds. This happens with a frequency that is a bit frightening. Normally this activity is done by random unsavory strangers. In this case I knock on the window in their face and give them the finger. Rude? Yes. Effective? Quite. In this case I opened the door. Because the window looker was Kelly and his lovely lady friend (do the kids still say that? Did they ever?) Valerie. I had never met her and it was a pleasure beyond all reckoning. Lucas liked her and that is good enough for me.

So, back to the foreshadowing bit. Why do visitors only ever visit when my house stinks like cat piss and looks like large chunks of Toys R Us were fired through the window by cannon? I'm happy to have visitors (especially those that do not require diaper changings and can speak one of the two official languages) but why does this always happen? Is it an extension of Murphy's Law into the social sphere? A side note, Kelly and Valerie were insanely polite and didn't mention the smell, in fact Kelly went so far as to claim there was no smell at all. For this I am grateful.

Speaking of grateful, Kelly has linked to me from his blog. Which means that there exists the chance that more than my 5 closest friends are reading this.

Welcome.

I will endeavor to actually be interesting.