January 30, 2007

A Vote for Change?

If you've no interest in American politics, skip this entry.

Though you kind of have to pay attention, because so much of what they decide ends up involving us. Did you just have to hustle out to renew your passport? Thank the Americans. Anyone in your community over in Afghanistan? Same. Heck, even the price of orange juice in the coming months can be blamed on their weather. Which isn't politics, so I digress.

An article in the Washington Post on the weekend left me absolutely speechless. A woman I've never heard of. Linda Hirshman is a retired professor of women's studies. So. In this article, she tries to unravel the Hillary mystery - will women vote for Hillary Clinton just because she's female? Personally, I'm not sure that this question is even legitimate anymore. Hillary Clinton has so polarized voters of both sexes for so long I thought we were way past the XX/XY debate.

Apparently not. Ms. Hirshman does an in-depth bit of research of asking some Washington D.C. area women she knows to find out what they think of the Hillary question. I jammed my fist to my mouth as I read who these women were: all stay at home mothers, with their names preceeded with 'former' things, like public relations exec, reporters, etc. They then proceeded to admit to the most appalling lack of knowledge, and interest, I've seen in a while.

They don't read newspapers. Well, some do, but just the lifestyle section. Several admitted their husbands read 'lots more', and are generous enough to form their opinions for them. They do all have a general consensus on the fact that they all read People, and Real Simple. Says it all, doesn't it?

Hirshman explores why women have never significantly pushed an election either way. With this kind of bullcrap going on, I'm hardly surprised. Disgusted, but not surprised. I was at home when my kids were small. But I was a stay-at-home mother, not a stay-at-home idiot.

These women confess to not wanting to hear about wars and violence. Their country has dragged most of the world into one; it might behoove them to take a little notice.

How on earth can a country this big get decent representation when 51% of it has its head firmly lodged up its butt?

I calmed down after I realized that I was falling for an article that was shabbily researched, and poorly represented. Forgive me for expecting more from the Post. This article in Salon contains an interview with Kate Michelman, who has been made an advisor in John Edwards campaign. As former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, she would have been an easy pick to be on Team Hillary. She makes clear her position in the Edwards' campaign, however, and political bluster aside, she reminds us that it's about a candidates issues, not their sex.

I go crazy when people, especially women, refuse to engage in the political process. All you have to do is pick an issue that's important to you - daycare, senior's rights, healthcare, education, anything - and learn something.

As soon as you've been convinced you're too stupid or your input isn't valuable, the dark side gets another vote. Ask some questions, do some research, and use your common sense. And remember - if someone starts bullying you, it means they're short on facts and long on wind power. Go around them.

Jamie West

Tune in to 900-CHML at 11:00 - noon today. Jamie and I will be disagreeing about something....

January 28, 2007

Et al

What do you do when you're supposed to be working and are totally devoid of inspiration? Well, I do laundry, and watch obscure channels on the little TV in the kitchen. I just finished watching a show about a freakazoid family that has 15 kids.

Oh please. If the good lord wanted me to go forth and multiply, he would have never have created morning sickness or divorce. Contrary to the old chestnut from the 80s (eight was certainly more than enough), two is plenty. I just watched a woman with 14 kids, while pregnant with the next and talking about the 16th, move into a house the size of a mausoleum with a tribe of little kids all dressed the same. It's like living with a couple of soccer teams, and every day is your orange day.

If you've never had a kid in soccer, they make you be orange parent one day on the schedule. That means on your allotted day, you're supposed to bring oranges for the whole team. Of course, that means that some hyped up mommy or daddy always raised the bar and puts out a buffet. Cutting up the oranges was never beyond me, but hauling a parade of coolers out of my van and providing watermelon, orange slices, Gatorade and a marching band? Nah, not going to play.

I guess if you can support them, have all the kids you like. Though with all the lingering camera shots on the Frigidaire appliances and trucks emblazoned with Sears, I'm thinking this whole living-on-camera thing is the purported way mommy and daddy came up with to support the brood.

Before the end, I ran out of patience with the merry procreators and flipped over to 30 Rock. Dunno if you've caught this show, but I love that they put it on on a Sunday afternoon. Alec Baldwin is worth his considerable weight in gold, and I'm glad it's only taken him 25 years to find his acting niche. I remember watching him fly off a roof to his demise in Knots Landing when I was a youngster, and thinking then 'hmmmm. This lad has potential.' Took him long enough. He may be a control freak nutter in real life (though reading divorce proceedings against Kim Basinger is truly an exercise in nuttiness itself) but I adore him in this show.

I'm actually taking a time out from reading article after article about Hillary Clinton. A truly depressing piece in the Washington Post about women voters has left me pounding my head on my keyboard in frustration. I'll link it later - laundry is less depressing, if that's possible.

January 27, 2007

Rotten Little Bastards

No, not the boys.

I got a call yesterday from a neighbour at the cottage, alerting us that we'd been broken into. We're on a small lake in a quiet area, and it's been 30 years since we were last hit - which is pretty amazing. Apparently, two brats had gone door to door breaking into all the cottages in the area, looking for generators, 4X4s, ATVs and things of that nature. Good stuff.

Our cottage is a humble abode. Our main concern is always vandalism - when people have all the isolation and time in the world to do a nasty deed, the fallout can get pretty expensive. They probably weren't counting on our neighbour, now retired, who spends much of the winter up there tearing around on his ATV being his own neighbourhood watch.

We got there at noon, and saw that the back door had been jimmied open. The door frame was splintered. Nothing was missing. Nothing else was damaged. My sisters and I had had a discussion, wondering if they'd stolen the 42" HD TV, the snazzy new stereo or the leather couches. Oh wait. Our TV is older than me, the stereo is a little ghetto blaster that doesn't have FM, and the only thing that's leather are my father's old work boots.

We aren't winterized, so the brats must have figured out rapidly that we don't do winter sports. Forget finding snowmobiles and ATVs here. Usually break-ins are triggered by kids looking for booze, but we've perfected our plan regarding that by drinking everything before we leave.

We reassembled the door jamb, thanked our neighbourhood spy for taking such good care and headed back. It was beautiful and peaceful up there. It was hard to leave.

The police caught the immoral little punks yesterday, and they admitted to breaking into 160 cottages. That's right: 160. The rape and pillage of so many people's little Utopias. It's shameful.

January 25, 2007

Freaky Thursday

Oh, I loved this article from The Independent. Seems an Australian put his life up on eBay for sale. To the highest bidder goes his possessions, his name, his cranky ex-girlfriend, his hobbies, his friends, his childhood photographs and his piercings.

I think more interesting than him handing all this over, however, is wondering where he's going to go. There are days I'd love to hand over my life to the highest bidder. There are days I'd hand it over to the lowest bidder. I'll make it a day when everyone has homework, there is a mountain of laundry, two columns are due and perhaps there's a dental appointment on the calendar. Any takers?

Of course, he's looking to make a documentary of this little sale. Everyone wants to be Michael Moore. Probably the only thing more boring than living someone else's life would be watching a documentary of it. I'm wondering if it's occurred to him that if he becomes someone else, the cranky ex-girlfriend probably won't be so cranky, nor so ex. I can think of plenty of people that would like me better if I were someone else.

Come to think of it, it's summer in Australia right now. Maybe I'll get in on the bidding, if only to escape this cold.


I lease from Dianne Lubieniecki, who is the Leasing Manager at Leggat Automotive Group in Burlington. You can reach her at 905 333-3700, ext. 206.

I've known her for years, and I can ask her anything and everything, and I do. There is no stupid question; she's worked in the industry her entire career, and can help you find your way.

That said, I know leasing isn't for everyone (not sure Dianne would agree!), and you have to choose what works for you. It usually comes down to money, so check with your banking manager as well before you buy or lease a car. Arm yourself with knowledge about not just the vehicle, but your finances. I think putting car loans on a line of credit secured by your home is crazy, but that's my opinion.

January 23, 2007

Giving Yourself a Raise...

If you were going to embezzle millions of dollars from your employer, I would think you would have to have a really good reason. Like some terminal illness you needed last-ditch treatment for, or some secret extra family in Utah.

Ever noticed that when they bust the lastest embezzler, it's always some mousy bookkeeper that nobody ever suspected? Even the neighbours always express surprise - because for some reason, they always seem to buy stuff and keep it in the closet. Here's a hint I learned a long time ago - if your bookkeeper never takes a holiday, and never has a sick day, they're probably ripping you off. They're terrified that their unscrupulous doings will be discovered in their absence. Another reason to have a series of checks and balances in place - like more than one set of eyes on invoices and cheques.

Anyway, today I came across a fabulous exception in the genre - a bookkeeper turned embezzler who actually spent the dough in a truly fabulous way. The 43-year-old Boston woman bought a ranch, and had half a dozen talking trees on it. Like from the Wizard of Oz. Show horses. A life-sized statue of Al Capone. A 9 foot stuffed bear. A 20 foot tall smoke-emitting dragon called The Slayer.

Read the link. There's a full list of things, with an entire fleet of cars. It's a scream. THIS is how you spend money that doesn't belong to you. THIS is a perfect defense for embezzling - "Hey, look at what I bought! I'm nuts!"

January 21, 2007

Something to Smile About

For someone who has a remarkably blessed life, I nonetheless am crabby and bitchy for a disproportionate amount of it. I believe it is a trumping of my father's genes over my mother's, which may explain the extreme nature of the household I grew up in.

Regardless, this article in The Independent caught my eye and held my attention. It's a cross-section of reasons to be optimistic. I like the thesis, and the roll call of contributors makes for an interesting read. While I don't agree wih all of them (they come from a wide range of disciplines) there are some intriguing ideas put forth.

From scientists to futurists (I've always wondered how you get that designation) to philosophers, everyone ponies in their take on the coming century. Maybe they edited out the nasty thoughts, but if you want to read something encouraging, give it a go. My absolute favourite is part- way down the piece, from David Bodanis, on decency. It's about a new children's hospital recently built in Southwark, London. It features a large atrium at its centre, and the contracted window washers have been instructed to only do the cleaning while dressed as superheroes. For critically ill children, it is pure joy. Apparently for the cleaners, it is a highlight of their work.

Sometimes it's just that simple.

January 19, 2007

Cam & Julian

When Julian Fantino was made head of the OPP, I developed some cautious optimism that squeaky voice aside, maybe, just maybe, someone with some cajones would be heading in to deal with the mess that is Caledonia.

Uhm, nope. More photo op than useful cop, the situation remains the same. SNAFU, anyone?

But today, I am thrilled to learn that Mr. Fantino IS taking some decisive steps to return law and order to Ontario. He is silencing that renegade threat to our highways and byway, Cam Woolley. You know, that guy that shows up on the traffic reports (especially on long weekends) relating who was having carnal knowledge of whom as they sailed down the 401 at 200 miles an hour. Call me crass, but I like hearing about the people that wire their cars together with coat hangers and try to convince the cops they've passed a Safety.

Cam is the guy that everyone tolerates at their workplace, the doofus who seems to have absolutely no sense of how dorky he comes off, and probably wouldn't care if he did know. Read the link if you want a refresher on some of his more useful traffic reports.

Cam admits that being the 'face' of the OPP was never in his official job description (how could you ever capture his particular je nais ce quoi in a job description?), and has no problem getting back to the business of being a license-and-registration-please cop.

But forget Cam not minding. I mind. Someone should tell Fantino that we, the public, have no problem with the police being represented with a warmer side. Think Elmer the Safety Elephant.

Save your bullets, Fantino, for the things that really matter.

January 18, 2007

Factor This

I don't think I've ever bothered bashing Bill O'Reilly because, well, it's just too easy. I welcome many opinions in my home, but if anyone starts quoting this idiot, they're out the door with their shoes pitched at the back of their head.

But today, today is different. Read this. He believes that Shawn Horbeck, kidnapped at age 11 in Missouri and recently recovered, stayed for 4 years with his captor - because he wanted to.

Apparently being stolen at gunpoint by a (let's face it, it'll come out eventually, unfortunately) pedophile is fun for kids. Fun enough to make them think 'hey, you won't make me go to school? Heck, I'll do all that other stuff if you let me play video games all day'.

O'Reilly is pretty much the sickest kind of monster I can think of. Blaming a child. Speaking out of his ass on something so important and so terrifying and doing it as casually as this. Has he no concept of the damage here? Has he no idea of the human capactity to survive, and the cost at the other end? Police are investigating similar disappearances of children in the area, who, I guess under O'Reilly's reasoning, maybe didn't like it with this freak and ran away.

And I guess they're still running, looking for new parents who don't make them go to school.

January 17, 2007

Doomsday Clock

Remember the Doomsday Clock? How quaint.

Created in 1947, it was supposed to tell the world how close to oblivion we were, in terms of nuclear annihilation. With the hands initially set at 7 minutes to midnight during the Cold War, the scariest it got was in 1953 when the hands were put within 2 minutes of midnight, as both the Soviets and the Americans were testing nuclear devices.

I guess it was like an predecessor of the red-orange-yellow alert stripe that's been in place since 9/11. It's made the news today, because those in the know have moved the hands forward 2 minutes - it's now 5 minutes to the end.

They now take into account things other than nuclear threat - though that is still a major component of the calculation. Global warming has people talking about building more nuclear plants - hence the threat of a second gear up for mis-use of the power.

This story made the cover of the Star today. I read it, but I noticed the same problem that sets in when I discipline my kids too much. They tune out. Right after 9/11, any slides on that rainbow yardstick made headlines. Then, people got inured to the process, and went back to bitching about the price of gas. We're too insular to worry about anything that doesn't directly impact us.

Seeing a photo of the clock, which hangs at the University of Chicago, tweaked a memory of something closer to nostalgia than fear; I remember that thing!

Cold War, Global Warming, everyone is taking the temperature of something, but no one is curing the patient.

January 15, 2007

Live @ 5:30 Monday

Guess everyone really is snowed in if the producer called me...

Check in at 5:30 and 11:30, channel 11 to find out why your kids aren't bragging about your parenting skills.

Schools Open, Excuses Running

Well, winter finally got here. I know it set in earnestly at about 2:30 this morning, because I woke up with a wumping migraine which could only mean rain. Freezing rain, it turned out.

I bogged back down under the covers with an ice pack and a rather large dose of something or other, and shivered under flannel sheets. Sleep never returned, and as I was, as usual, about to drift back off the alarm went off. I seriously considered just yelling to Marc, 15, that maybe he should just stay home today. It sounded fierce outside.

I looked out the blind. I could still see grass. Not so fierce. Jackson, 12, was at his Dad's. The phone rang at 7:30 this morning. Jackson wanted to know if it was a snow day. "Nah, can't be," I replied. "Everyone has gone to work.". "I have the TV on, maybe the school's closed," he said hopefully.

I turned the TV on. "Nope. It says Halton School Board, schools open," I told him. "But it says the buses aren't running," he replied. "You don't take the bus."
"But right after that, it says 'schools closed'," he pushed. "Jackson, it says HALDIMAND schools are closed. You know the difference." There was a pause. "How far away are Haldimand schools?"

Dashing all his hopes, I told him that Haldimand was a million miles away from here. Well, it's not, but it might as well be. He was going to school.

Marc ambled down the stairs a few minutes later.

"You think the school is closed?" he asked.

January 12, 2007

Royal Botanical Gardens

I'm furiously writing away for a talk I'm giving at a show at the RBG tomorrow (1pm, come on down!). My kids don't understand how something that condenses down to 4 or 5 pages takes 3 weeks to compose - mostly in my head.

I spoke to a victim assistance group associated with the OPP on Tuesday, and filed my regular columns. The topics have been all over the place, so my brain is no doubt resembling a midway after the carnival has left town.

My blogs have been erratic, and don't even ask the family what dinner has looked like this week. But new archives are up, and I'm going to start putting up some archived Power Shifts under a new category, 'Overdrive', when I can.

I'll probably check in later when I get to the papers - though I'm still assimilating that tear running down Dubya's face on the cover today. Only took 3,014 American deaths to finally get that....

January 11, 2007

Legislating Common Sense?

Further to my recent thumping on those who get themselves lost, whether by misadventure or design, and then require rescues on the county tab, this article in Salon today makes some very relevant points about the recent death of James Kim.

Kim and his wife went off-road in November in strange terrain in southwest Oregon. She stayed in the car with their two young daughters and lived; he went for help and died.

With the recent loss of three hikers on Mount Hood following close on the heels of that tragedy, questions of responsibility can't be avoided. Apparently, Kim's father believes his son isn't to blame.

Dad would be wrong. He wants all sorts of legislative changes. I understand he's speaking through his grief, and I feel for the man. But surely we're all capable of establishing where personal responsibility begins? Read this article from Salon - if you follow the timeline, it's hard not to start shaking your head. And of course, the mom in me is screaming at the monitor "and with your BABIES in your car?".

Mr. Kim Sr. owes those heroic rescuers an apology.

I've written in the past that parents are fools if they believe a cellphone will make their child safe from harm. I think anyone that believes a cellphone is a superhero cape is a fool. They are tools, to be used in conjunction with education, planning and a great deal of common sense. A cell phone was the only backup tool the Kims had. It wasn't enough.

I've never met Mrs. Kim, and I doubt I ever will. But I know we are fundamentally different people. If I had been sitting in that car with a nursing baby and a four-year-old, by husband wouldn't have gotten 1 mile off track before he would have been told calmly, but firmly, to turn that damned car around. Man-ego is one thing - child safety is another.

January 10, 2007

For Melanie...

And anyone else from the OPP Victims Assistance Program last night...! Here's the link to the piece that ran in August. Scroll down to August 24th for the info...


January 9, 2007

Happy New Year, I Want a Divorce

I'm aware that the Sun is a really lousy paper (I'm tagging the British one here, but I'm not particularly enamoured of any of them), but this story about divorce tapped a nerve. I was having a discussion with a friend about this very subject. Come to think of it, I seem to be having this discussion with SOMEONE every year around this time.

It's regarding the timing of divorce proceedings. Yesterday was D-Day for more people than any other. The reasoning seems quite sound, actually. We'll get through the Christmas season, not freak out the kids with talk of visitation and Daddy buying a futon while they're on holiday, but as soon as it's back to normal, it's back to the face-off circle.

Seems sound, but is actually really, really stupid. Christmas is stressful to endure when you're all happy. It's hell on earth when everyone knows this whole matching-sweaters thing is a charade. And you think your kids don't know? Your kids knew before you did. Kids are like animals that feel an earthquake coming by sensing a change in the earth through their feet. They know before anyone - their antennae pick up the slightest changes because they have less on their plates.

And of course, the participants walk around dropping clues like rose petals at a wedding. As you look at your father-in-law drinking all your good scotch again, you get to think 'well, that's the last damn time he does that'. As your husband's sister turns her nose up at the gift you spend ages agonizing over for her, you realize he's on his own next year - you never have to spend good money on the witch again.

I don't know that there is a great time to divorce. In fact, I know there isn't. It all stinks. But people that think they can plan their emotions around a calendar are crazy. Some people think they should wait until their kids are teenagers. Wrong. Terrible time to put them through that, especially if you've known for years. Teenagers want things to be all about them. It's irritating, but it's normal.

I also think if the D word has crossed your mind, you should realize your babymaking activities with this person are done. Forever. I know of no babies that have saved a marriage, but I know of many where the stress has blown them apart.
But if you have people around you that seem to be ramping up for something, this could be it. Cut them a little slack, give them a little space, and understand they'll eventually return to some kind of normal. It may take 3 years, but it'll happen. And keep an eye out for the kids. They're usually the last to be told what's going on, though they're often the first to know.

January 8, 2007

And You Would Be?...........

Ever done a piece of work you'd rather not take credit for?

Sure you have. Whether it's the home repair you lied about being able to do (switch cover still hanging by one screw, 3 years later? Trimwork still not finished so you move the couch a little to cover it?), the day you just can't make anything balance, the streaks you left on the windows or the proposal that was basically proposing that they get someone else for the project. Everyone has one of those. At least one.

I read an article over the weekend (can't find the link in the Star, sorry) about writers being particularly lousy friends. They are insular by nature, self-focused and miserly with their emotions. Sounds about right. They tend to save it all for the page, which makes relationships with them distinctly one-sided at times, and downright painful if you need more from them than a grammar lesson or a 6-letter word for angst.

It is this intense self-interest, or whatever it is, that creates the dual-edged sword of putting something creative out there for the masses. If your name is on it, everyone knows another little piece of you now. Or at least they think they do.

When I watch a movie, I sit through all the credits. I like seeing who did what, and watching the evolution of careers. And my favourite name to see? Alan Smithee. That's the fictitious name filmmakers throw up when they want to dodge recognition. This article in Slate says many do it to circumvent union rules on how many jobs one person can do on a movie, but it's long been the nom de plume of directors/writers/producers that want to dissociate themselves from a project that turns nasty.

Writers do the same thing, of course. To write outside of their genre, for women to get published when it was difficult if you weren't a man, to sometimes write risky things that might offend their reader base - dozens of reasons, actually. I would like to be prolific enough to require a pen name. I would like to have something to hide from. Ha.

The Smithee thing is most fun because it is virtually always attached to something really, really bad. Check out Alan Smithee's IMDB site - and see how much of his 'work' you've had to sit through.

And you wonder why creative people are so crabby.

January 5, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Work

A child in New Brunswick types 'kids help line' into Google, and sends off a 'please help me' note over the internet. It's actually received in Australia, where it is promptly handed over to authorities. Determining its origin is North American, the FBI pick it up from there. It is quickly narrowed down to New Brunswick, and local police arrive and rescue the child from danger.

Now, these are the type of rescues I want to see vast resources used for. Rosie Dimanno banged on a sore point of mine in her column today (I've whined recently on it) regarding a missing sailor who is currently sucking up all manner of rescue dollars as coast guards keep looking for him. (He's been found, by the way. He should not only be presented with a bill, but he should leave a large tip, too.)

You have the right to do anything you like. Climb a mountain, handglide off a cliff, retrace the steps of famous explorers. Go crazy. But there is a huge difference between someone who calculates to put themselves in danger, and an innocent who who is subjected to it. And my heroes aren't those who stick a flag on a mountaintop - it's those who use technology and resources to protect the most vulnerable.

January 4, 2007

Onstar and Bush

We got a new van. Well, we're borrowing it for the next four years. We lease. Punch the Power Shift tab to read about the adventure later today. The new van comes with this thing called 'Onstar'. You've probably seen ads for it, or satirical videos about people like Britney Spears calling it after getting locked in her car. That's right - IN her car.

Anyway, it's a very cool, in a big-brotherish way, phone system. It has an emergency button that will summon police or rescue automatically. It uses satellite technology to know exactly where you are. You can use it like a phone, just by yelling out the number. Well, I was later told you don't actually have to yell.

You have to activate this system, and I am notorious for never getting around to things like that. Mailing in rebates, making appointments, I am weak at all of the think-ahead things. Finally, last night, we activated it in the driveway.

As a young man walked me through all the procedures, I became increasingly spooked. When I pushed the button, he said 'good evening, Ms. Sommerfeld'. He even spelled it right. I could tell. He told me I was in the driveway and named my address. I stuck my tongue out at the console and half-expected to be reprimanded.

I asked where he was, since he knew where I was. He told me North Carolina. I asked his name. I felt a little more even now. As he patiently went through the process, he eventually came to the end of his spiel. He asked me if I had any questions. I told him I did.

"What the hell is up with your President, anyway?" I asked him.
"Don't even get me started," he replied. I like Onstar.

In yesterday's Salon, Garrison Keillor has some wise words for the president, who apparently could also use something like Onstar to bail him out of bad spots and answer important questions for him.

January 3, 2007

Flying Stand-by

I already hate Wal-Mart, but it's always fun to have another round of ammo for the gun. It's not a snob thing; I despise the way they do business, I despise their politics, and I despise their global ghetto-ization of shopping.

Anyway, they've tossed another bomb into the fire now. It seems they're altering how they staff their stores in the U.S, replacing schedules with some new flexible scheduling for part-time staff. Read the article here. In essence, they are putting their workers on stand-by based on the number of shoppers in the store. You know if it catches on there, it'll soon be brought to a Wal-Mart near you.

Wal-Mart has always been leading edge when it comes to howdy-doody computer and satellite information. They monitor their sales minute by minute, store by store. Which is fine. But now, as usual, it's their workers who are going to pay the price for them implementing a procedure destined to deposit yet more profits into their vaults.

Look for more split shifts, last minute schedule changes and every other incarnation of abuse the lowest on the totem pole already endure. Pretty soon they're just going to set up cots in the back and insist the workers live there.

I'm not sure what all this is for, anyway. I have yet to hear of anyone actually receiving any customer service in a Wal-Mart. When you pay someone minimum wage, cut their hours so they don't qualify for benefits, make them work in stores that are opened under a canopy of rainbow and sunshine and then are seemingly never cleaned again, what do you expect?

Going so far as to not let staff even plan their life outside of their job is cruel. I recognize that businesses are in business to make money. They'd be stupid, and bankrupt, if they weren't. But how long until we measure success in something other than money? How long before consumers understand that those 'price rollbacks' come at a cost beyond a few bucks? How do workers take pride in their work, and develop loyalty and a future, when corporations insist on treating them like autobots?

And just how does this store think they can implement this policy, anyway? How do they think they are going to crack the Magnet Code of why, no matter what you are buying in a store, the second you go to check out, so does every other shopper in the place?

January 2, 2007

Building a Better Meatball

So, here's a little glimpse into the inner sanctums of one of life's little mysteries. It seems IKEA, that addictive marketplace that makes us all believe we can build a bookcase, makes gazillions of dollars. The privately owned company doesn't make public what it earns, but the owner let go the amount he paid in taxes, and the accounting heads reckon it means IKEA earned about 3.6 billion dollars last year.

That's a lot of Swedish meatballs and BILLI bunkbeds. Or something.

I've always been fascinated by IKEA. It's such a college-dorm kind of place, and yet it's always packed. I've bought lots of stuff there over the years, but I've learned to stick to kitchenware and duvet covers. The furniture doesn't survive a move, and I have a TV cabinet that waggles back and forth like it's surfing to prove it. Then again, I'm not sure what I expected when they handed me a flat box that weighed a hundred pounds - and an Allen key. That Allen key represents so much optimism. It is usually unfounded.

My biggest stink with furniture that doesn't last is the waste involved. I tend to go without something until I can afford something solid. Indeed, we all sat on a loveseat for years to watch TV because I didn't want to buy a disposable couch. We've turned into such an instant gratification culture that as long as it looks pretty, we're happy. Wooden furniture should last a lifetime; cheap and cheerful should be reserved for those just starting out.

I think every piece of furniture I've bought there has been screwed up. I bought the boys desks there a few years back, and both boxes came with 2 left sides. Both. Back to the store. I've had missing hardware, and their instructions are enough to make you weep with frustration. And yet still, I go back, drawn by great planters and cool dishware, happy plants and neat metal boxes. I have stopped wandering through the rest of the store, where I fall in love with the clean cool lines of some furnished room, order it and get handed a bunch of boxes.

I decided long ago that for me, IKEA was just Swedish for 'pieces missing'.

CHML900 Jamie West

I'll be on with Jamie this morning from 11 until noon. Now, this used to be a lot of fun to do. Go to the studio, talk nonsense, banter, chatter, fun, fun, fun.

Then they went and hooked up the radio station with the cable 14 TV thing. Now, I have to shower and wear real clothes, and all the fun of radio is disappearing. Writers are made for radio. We dress like slobs, we pretend its all about the 'craft' (snicker - its all about meeting deadlines), and we give much credence to the old adage that someone has a face for radio.

But tune in anyway - its a slow-moving January 2nd, so we'll be making it up as we go along. But do me a favour, and flick on your radio instead of your television...