February 24, 2007


Underneath It All

Okay, you're going to have to bear with me for a moment here. The link I'm showing you is a Guatemalan sinkhole. It's pretty eerie, actually, an entire house just disappeared. Two teenaged siblings disappeared with it. Here's a scary picture.

You want to know what a sinkhole in Guatamela has to do with us? Frankly, everything. These things are happening all over the place, from California to Toronto and around the world. Our infrastructure is crumbling, and we're not keeping up with maintaining it. Think about when your city or town was built. Think about the last time anyone went in and replaced all those pipes in the ground.

I know they're kind of the mystery we're built on - the sewage system. Who wants to spend much time thinking about what it actually does? We're happy to consider how we get fresh water when we turn on the tap, less contemplative when we flush the john.

Infrastructure is not sexy. Politicians will only campaign on issues that are sexy. Like gun control and crime and funding for hospitals and schools. Poop takes a little of the sheen off the brochures.

We can marvel at pictures of sinkholes that have swallowed SUVs in California (and quietly applaud?) but the fact remains that we're sitting on a time bomb. Replacing crumbling infrastructure is hugely expensive, and worst of all from a political standpoint, there isn't much of a photo op when you're done. If it's done right, you can't tell.

Check out the age of what's sitting under your home. It's public record. And get on your local representatives to find out what your area has budgeted for maintenance. Even though the ancient Romans had a pretty remarkable system in place around 800 BC, many still used the back up system of opening a window and giving it a toss.

And you thought the neighbour's dog was a problem.

February 23, 2007


Blame Game

While I'm certainly guilty of some indulgent navel-gazing on too many occasions, I comfort myself with the fact that I'm fully aware I'm thinking in tiny little circles. Sometimes.

There is a terrific piece in The Guardian today, a Brit paper that sums up the North American problem quite nicely. Or, at least the problem I'm feeling more and more often of late. We've become a nation that procrastinates from cradle to grave - nothing seems to matter anymore. There aren't enough hours in the day to keep up with all the really important things we need to consider because we're too busy keeping track of the stupid things. What Tom Cruise is doing, which star is in crisis, how big the neighbour's TV is.

The writer of the piece, David Thompson, is spot on in wondering how a war can be going on, and we care more about what everyone will wear to the Oscars. He saves a special whumping for the incredible way our leaders now get away with, well, murder. No more accountability. By anyone, for anything. Read it. It's really a great piece.

February 22, 2007


Power Shift Archived File Folder

Still trying to figure out how to link the piece...bear with me...
Later that same day...Webgod Jeff found the link here.


Let The Games Begin

Okay. I'm going to get slammed into the goalposts for this one, but here goes nothing.

A recent survey from the government-sanctioned Canadian Social Trends cites an alarming tumble in the time that parents spend with their children. A fellow columnist from the Spec looks at it here.

You know what? The most glaring problem I hear whenever I listen to parents bitch about not having enough time with their kids is that they're stuck driving them to a bazillion different sports and activities. The concept of two parents working has been around for way too long to be dumping this time shortage all on the backs of - let's be honest - working mothers.

Too many parents are slaves to their children's social and sporting lives. Am I a horrible parent because I refuse to live in my car year-round, driving across the province and living in arenas or gyms? No. My kids participate in lots of school sports, and when they've expressed an interest in soccer or hockey, they get signed up. The soccer thing made me crazy, because it got down to having to ask the coach if we could go to the cottage.

Uhm, no.

Tell your kids to pick a sport. One. They'll get over it. We're really not turning out more well-rounded kids. We're just turning out kids who only know how to function when some adult has them scheduled within an inch of their lives. Your energy would be better spent petitioning the government to make sure sports and music and art programs stay a part of our school cirriculums so that ALL children can participate.

If your work is gobbling up vast expanses of your personal time on an ongoing basis, it's time to address the imbalance. But if your kid's activities mean you're spending your life in the car, I have another suggestion. Stop signing up for things. Show your kids that being bored at home with you is more important than making rep. And it is.

I'm not anti-sport or anti-piano. I just see a real cheap shot when families cry out about a lack of time, and yet it's because they've let something that should be an extra become a mainstay. There are too many families who work opposite shifts and long shifts to make ends meet. They're starved for family time because they are doing what we all think they should do - support themselves. I'll save my tears for them.

I truly believe we get the families we deserve. You decide what is best, and then you do it. Period. If that means ditching a long commute, figure out a way to do it. If it means watching movies you don't like, or listening to music you can't understand, do it. As your children navigate through this crazy world, they need help. Your help.

February 21, 2007


Ya Think?

Pammy Anderson was apparently embarrassed when a fan asked her for an autograph while she was with her sons. The fan offered up a naked picture of her, and a pen. Seems she thinks it's terrible for someone to do that in front of her sons. I think of all the things she's done in front of the whole world, and I kind of stumble over her attitude. Forgive me.

This woman's comic book image has been seared into every brain on the planet since she busted (heh) forth from the Jumbotron at a BC Lions game. Who doesn't know the story? We've watched her pump up her lips and boobs like I inflate my bike tires. Every second of her life is recorded somewhere, and most of it is in a state of undress.

And now she's crying foul? Give it up, honey. You can't suck and blow at the same time. Though I'm sure if anyone could manage that, it'd be you, and there would be a video of it somewhere.

While the rest of us are trying to shield our young sons' tender eyes from things, like, well, you, your kids have to live it every day. Any kid can go on the internet and learn about sex. Your kids have the added nastiness of probably being able to download their own conception.

So, shut up. You've ridden this sleigh to the top of Mount Strumpet, and now you have to steer it back down. You sure as hell have no right to get angry at those fans you so lovingly cultivated in your own special way. Park the hypocracy. You seem to have steered your boys thus far better than most (don't take that too close to heart - most of your competition is lying in a ditch), so don't go getting all hypocritcal now. I don't think you're that dumb.

And I know we're not.

February 20, 2007


"I'll Get You, My Pretty...."

...and your cellphone too.

Read this article in today's Star. No really. If you're reading this, you have a computer. Hackers have stepped up the war, and you need to protect yourself. They're coming after your cellphone now too, looking to hijack call lists and personal information.

Part way down the piece, is a truly scary revelation. They're retrieving your secret data out of thin air - literally. If you use any wireless connections, or if you connect two computers in your home with a router, you are vulnerable. The most reported form of fraud involves subbing in viable-looking websites that require you to enter sensitive information.

Take a closer look at sites you may use like eBay or your banking site. Make sure it's real. Resist the urge to click on any strange links - that's their entry into your computer and your life. Tell your kids the same thing. Tell them again. And again.

What can you do? As always, the first, most important step is one of the most overlooked. When you get new software, change the password that comes with it. It's the handwashing of the tech world. Everyone knows it, few do it.

Apparently, the password is often 'password'. Choose tougher passwords (forget the cats' names) and change them. Write 'em down on a sticky note if it helps. The article notes that's far safer than having a guessable password.

Nobody is immune, but I have a hunch our kids are more vulnerable. They are hugely tech-savvy, but life experience hasn't caught up with the raw talent. Keep an eye on them.

February 19, 2007


Remotely Sad

We had a black armband weekend around here. The guy who invented the remote control died, and the boys were suitably sad. They have lost a hero.

When we were kids, we'd just sit there and stare at whatever came on after the Brady Bunch. We'd fight about who had to get up to change the channel on the old Electrohome (if memory serves) and later on the first colour TV that graced our rec room. Mom used to bribe us to change the channel.

The remote seems to represent a little piece of heaven to men especially. We fight here regarding music and shows, because I just put in a CD or movie, and let it run. The boys (and the man) flip around like fish in a boat, resting on one thing for a nanosecond before they're off again like some butterfly with ADD. They download a single song from some band. I buy the whole CD. And listen to it. I watch the coming attractions before movies. The Poor Sod Who Lives With Me frantically jabs away at the fast forward, gnashing his teeth when he can't zip past them. I shrug.

Watching TV with any of them is enough to bring on a flash induced seizure. Terrified they're missing something, somewhere, they jump around from show to show in the commercials. I yell at them. You put something on, and you leave it.

Every time I muck with it, I end up watching something with Spanish subtitles. The boys gently remove the remote from my hand, reset it all, and never give it back. We call whoever has the remote The Keeper of the Beeper. Yeah, we call it a beeper. Don't ask why; I have no idea.

I think I liked life before the remote. We ended up finding cool shows we never would have known about, simply because my sisters and I were fighting. As I recall, everyone had a smaller butt back then as well.

Coincidence? I think not.

February 17, 2007


Welcome New Power Shifters!

I know. You just read WHAT in the auto section?

Welcome to my world. Yeah, it's a little different. Some of us just put the key in and turn, and that's pretty much what Power Shift is about. The good news is that those people can read something they understand, and the motorheads among you can laugh at us.

If you hit the Power Shift link to the left and scoot to the bottom, you can read some of the archived columns, if you're so inclined. Some weeks it's information you need to have, other weeks it's a little more random. I hope you'll stay on board.

If you're noodling around my site, you'll see my first column, Motherlode. Don't let the name fool you - I've got a couple of kids, but it's about life in general and you needn't be a parent, or a woman, to find something in there.

The idea is to get a blog out every day, because we don't have enough of those in the world. It's more a navel-gazing running commentary on what I find interesting, which can be dreadfully boring or provide some links you might have missed. You never know.

I hope you'll stay, and I hope you'll keep reading Power Shift.

Oh, and the boxing pic on the cover? Click on the Pain Diaries. The gloves were for real. Almost.

February 16, 2007


Ad Hawk

Remember when we started taping shows to watch later? Time-shifting, I think they called it, though I never could figure out how to set the damned thing. I either taped the wrong channel, or the wrong time. It was around this time that I realized there isn't much on TV worth watching, let along capturing for later. I'm no TV snob - when I like something, I can sit mesmerized for hours watching shows back to back. Sopranos, Arrested Development, The Office, Jeopardy....

The big stink twenty years ago, and still, is that advertisers feared people would just zip through the ads. You think? That started a big kerfuffle on not only the value of ads, but also the cost. In the NYT today, they're exploding a common held belief that we all flip past them.

Maybe it's my age, but I always found when I watched a taped show, I still watched all the ads because I forgot to hit the fast forward button. My monkey brain has been trained to expect, and accept, advertising.

I don't mind great ads. I hate the annoying ones. We were watching something last night, and an ad came on with a big fishing boat tossing in the ocean, with large brawny men pulling up fishing nets. It was cool; I like things about the ocean and the outdoors. I watched it, and it was for GE desalination. I can't tell you what the show was, but I can remember the commmercial. How often does that happen?

I don't think advertisers should stress so much. Just make an ad that portrays whatever your product is being cut from a great white shark's belly, or something like that. I'd watch that. People are fascinated by sharks.

I like the little Geico lizard guy. My kids like the gophers, or whatever they are. Kittens have been moving toilet paper for eons. Keep out the someone-else's-idea-of-cute kids, and I'm good.

Until advertisers catch up with the technology, they're going to continue to find it harder and harder to measure what we actually absorb of their message. But we all have to buy stuff sometime - put it on sale, and keep out the infernal pop-ups.

February 15, 2007


Power Shift Shift

Nah, I haven't died. Just been a little more frantic than usual.

Power Shift has been picked up by the Toronto Star, and is set to start running this Saturday. This is very cool news, as syndication is the lifeblood for a columnist. I've been running in The Independent in Newfoundland for nearly a year, but the Star nudge is a wonderful boost for the column.

I'll catch up more later...

February 12, 2007


Katz and Dogs

I had a really bad dream last night. I dreamt that I gave away my cats. Maggie and JoJo are my babies, so I woke up a little distraught that'd I'd been cruel enough, even in a dream, to give them away.

If you're a dog or cat lover, I don't have to explain anything. If you're not, well, too bad for you. This article in Slate was timely for me this morning - a guy named Jon Katz is writing about why he loves his dogs so much. It's actually a more in-depth look at the sociological reasons behind it. It's interesting. I love cats, I don't mind dogs.

Katz tells a story of a woman who dumped a guy because he didn't like her dog. I don't blame her. I find people that love animals are more relaxed and approachable than those that don't. I wouldn't date a guy who hated animals, and I can't imagine my sons not growing up with our girls. They bring a nice balance to the house, and make you focus on something other than yourself.

You've probably heard a lot recently about why humans respond differently to certain animals. Animals that have both eyes facing forward resemble our own faces somewhat, animals that use paws like hands are another point of similarity. The penguin craze is explained by many of their human-like emotions, the mating and bonding. Rumour has it that meerkats will be the next big deal, as they're furry and cute and live in families. They also rip each other to pieces, perform amazing feats of incest and kick family members out of the nest, but I digress.

People that love their dogs and cats can go on and on about them. And on. But when a bond is based on loyalty and devotion - and one that is strong both ways - it's easy to see why. With Valentine's Day this week, there are the predictable pieces about love in the paper. A recent study says people value smarts and fidelity over looks and hot sex. It's funny - those first two things you can only ascertain after you've gotten over the latter two. Show me a guy who walks into a bar an demands to be introduced to the smartest woman in the place.

Maybe we love our pets so much because we get right to the two things that matter most, without all the people baggage and heartache. That, and they can't open the cans by themselves.

February 11, 2007


Gulp

I've been reading about the Skywalk they've been building over the Grand Canyon for awhile now. Take a look at this picture, now that it's completed.

I am terrified of heights. You couldn't pay me to go on this thing, and I couldn't watch anyone else go on it either. I am the family joke (for many reasons) because I'm scared of escalators. We were at a mall yesterday - I'm almost as afraid of malls as I am of heights - and every time I have to go on an escalator, two people grab my hands to help. I wobble like crazy. The kids learned a long time ago I'm not hanging on for their safety, but my own. They snigger.

I've been to the top of the CN Tower, but I didn't look. We used to go cliff jumping at the cottage when I was a kid ("no, Dad, of course we don't do that!") and one time I sat at the top of the 40 foot jump for 6 hours. The only way down was to jump. It was getting dark. I finally jumped.

My son and I were comparing life goals the other day. He said his is to go bungy jumping. I said mine was to own a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. He thought I was kidding. I wasn't.

Pretty much sums it up.

February 8, 2007


Herouxville

I was going to leave this alone. It's just too easy, but it keeps coming back.

A wee town in Quebec, Herouxville, has declared a kind of autocratic constitution apart from the rest of Canada. They have drawn up a list of rules for living in their town. It contains things like you may not stone women, or set them on fire, or wear any face coverings except on Halloween. You get the picture.

This town of 1300 sounds like it could use a little fresh blood, if you ask me. They are basically setting to bar any immigrants who don't meet their high, high standards, apparently such as a basic IQ about 12. They have brought new meaning to the term pur laine, that old Quebec saying (pure wool) denoting old line, unblemished Quebec stock.

Ah, racism at its finest. Why is it always the idiots who hold this up as the ideal, though? Read the article linked. The councillor who proposed the idea, and who is vociferously standing behind it, has proudly declared that his motion has openly stated what the whole world already feels. In fact, he believes his efforts have merely reflected the mindset of most. His quote? "What we did seems to have pulverized the planet."

Pulverized the planet? Surely this racist creep means 'polarized'. But forget the planet. If all the inhabitants of this nasty little place are actually in agreement with this doctrine, perhaps we could just pulverize Herouxville.

This is vile.

February 7, 2007


The Dog Ate My Homework

I'm not sure why this is buried deep in the front section of my paper this morning, but I'm livid. It seems one of our esteemed members of parliament went on a rather important trip to the Middle East in September. You know, that incredibly delicate region of the world. Wajid Khan, the Member for Mississauga-Streetsville, was handpicked by PM Harper for the mission, even though Kahn was a Liberal.

Note I said was. Now he's not. He's another floor-crossing denizen (voters? what voters?) in a recent trend that has made party-changing the new black.

Khan supposedly filed a report after the $13,000 trip. Well, yeah, as he should. This is a fairly important mission in terms of Foreign Affairs, one would think.

Think again. There is no report. Apparently. They can't find it. Or rather, 'it doesn't exist'. Huh? When he took this role, he promised his findings 'would be shared with MPs from all parties'. As it should be. Except now Harper has since said it must remain confidential. But I thought it didn't exist.

I don't care what party Khan represents. Evidently he doesn't care much either. But this is absolutely an abuse of power, and an absolute corruption of the process.

The least they could do is pick a lie and stick with it, or we're in danger of actually being as stupid as they think we are.

February 6, 2007


Jakarta Tango

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia. Jakarta's Health Ministry needs a punch in the head.

Indonesia has suffered more human deaths from H5N1, the deadly bird flu, than any other country. They've confirmed two more deaths in this report. With time being of the essence in trying to race for a vaccine, they have promptly shared all data with labs desperately trying to contain this virus, right? Nope. Get this quote from their ministry spokeswoman: "We can't share samples for free. There should be rules of the game for it."

Rules of the game. Game? Have I missed something? They don't want some other country getting all the credit and money for solving the vaccine puzzle. What is this, Amazing Race or something? I mean, it's not like anyone's dying or anything. It's not like this posturing could cause major death and destruction globally. She says its got nothing to do with the future pandemic, it's just - just - about bird to human transmission. Duh.

I'm thinking if you're leading the stats, and not in a good way, with bird flu deaths, you should be a little more ready to hand off the pass to a stronger player.


Out of this World?

I used to be amazed at the strenuous testing NASA put its astronauts through. I never coveted a seat on a rocket, because I knew I could never bothered to be as fit and fabulous as the endeavour would require me to be.

We hold these men and women up as heroes; read this piece in the NYT and see if perhaps they've been neglecting some very important testing.

Some nutter astronaut has been charged with attempted kidnapping; seems she (yeah, thanks for that, sweetheart - our team really needs the bad press) believed another woman was a rival for some shuttle captain's affections, and so, because it makes perfect sense, she set out to kidnap her.

All that NASA prep work came in handy, it would appear. Dressed in a wig, Lisa Nowak wore her diapers on the 900 mile trip so she wouldn't have to stop. This is something they learn at astronaut school for launch-type things. Though she later told police she only wanted to 'talk' to the woman, she had with her the following conversation starters: rubber hose, a BB gun, a steel mallet, a knife, pepper spray and garbage bags.

The kicker is that Crazy Broad and the object of her affections didn't even have a relationship. She was married with kids. Wouldn't you love to find yourself trapped in a flying tin can with this pride of the U.S. Navy?

Methinks that NASA maybe skipped one very important test.

February 4, 2007


It Doesn't Start Until WHEN?

So you remember your first time? Was it a long time in the planning, or maybe just something that happened out of the blue? Was there food and drink involved? Did you already know the rules of the game, or was it just a lot of fumbling?

Did you get pictures?

I'm going to my first Super Bowl party today. I don't do football. The only sport I have any knowledge of is hockey, and that's only because when I was 16 the boy I dated was engaged to the Boston Bruins. Would have been a lot of lonely Saturday nights if I didn't figure out hockey.

I find football slow and confusing. So much ado about nothing, and those rabid American fans really, really need to be delivered a clue about football's place in the heirarchy of Things That Really Matter. I watch movies about American high school football teams where everything comes down to one game, one throw, one catch. And if they blow it (they usually don't, in the movies anyway), their entire ticket out of working in the mines or something is lost.

I'm looking forward to today. John and Arlene are wonderful friends who have agreed to host the party, more for the boys than anything. John is a former CFLer who is a fount of information for the boys, who are both crazy about football. Arlene will have lots of wine for the girls.

I have read the sports section, and will refrain from my usual faux pas - asking how many periods there are, talking about goals, and wondering aloud why the scoring is as screwed up as tennis.

Everyone's first time should be as memorable.

February 3, 2007


True Love

Jim Coyle in the Star is great today. A little pre-Valentine's warmup, from two very different angles. He delves into the only remotely appealing thing about Conrad Black - his love for his icy wife - and the pile-up that is the marriage of Tie Domi.

I guess it's not such a unique observation - that when it's good, it's very, very good, and when it's bad, it's appalling - but it's still fun to strap the two extremes together.

If the Black marriage survives his current troubles (to understate it) I will be awed that Mrs. Black's love is as boundless as her extravagance. Oh, who am I kidding. They both make me barf.

On the other hand, Coyle touches on a much more common scenario - the wronged wife determined to throw around so much poop, she becomes deaf to the fact that you can't help but get some on yourself. Tie Domi and his estranged wife, Leanne, have given us all a ring-side seat to the hate-fest. Idiots.

Somebody should have told Mrs. Hockey Player that if you trade in your identity to be a Mrs. Anything, there is a cost. She's discovering what it is. She's hellbent on bleeding the little troll dry, and taking no prisoners on the way down. I have some advice for her: get over it. Go get a job, start becoming something other than the wronged wife of some hockey player, and move on. Until she develops some self-esteem by establishing herself as something other then the ex-wife of Tie Domi and mother of Tie Domi's kids, she's going to stay bitter and be a lousy representative of women to her children. She admitted in court he'd fooled around - a lot. So - what made you think he would change if you put up with his crap every time? Their father is a lousy role model. You need to be a good one.

These poor kids are getting treated like backpacks kicked down the length of a school bus. Will someone tell these bickering morons that it's not about them? And will someone tell the Domi brothers (Domii?) to please, disappear off our radar and go away.

The funny part is that no matter how scared or scarred, we all go on to do it again and again and again. Optimism that comes with its own anesthetic - love.

February 2, 2007


How Healthy Are You?

Here. This will only take you a minute. Click on this Newsweek survey to see how healthy you are. Without lying, I got a B. If I go out and run around the block and eat an apple, I might make an A.

Since nobody's looking, you can tell the truth, and maybe make a couple of changes. If you're already an A+, don't sit near me. You're boring.

February 1, 2007


Matthew Daly

A young man is tracked down and murdered, kicked to death by a pack of feral criminals as his girlfriend looks on, helplessly.

His family is torn apart and the scars run to the core of a community.

The men that murdered Matthew Daly were caught. After a trial that took five years to take place, one of them will probably go free today. The other two could be out in 5-6 years. Read the verdict here.


I would never ask for someone to explain how Matthew's death could have made any sense. But this? This I need help with. Is this where we are? A young man murdered and his killers out of jail before they hit 30? Just what is it you have to do in order to have the full wrath of this society brought to bear? Is there anything?

We are days into a horrific trial in British Columbia, where a sick freak allegedly killed and butchered 49 women. The difference here of course, is that when you kill drug-addicted prostitutes, you have to get to 49 before anyone gives a damn. I watch their families sitting in court, and lashing out to the TV cameras, but the sad fact remains that they are mourning the girls they lost, not the women who were killed.

But I want this killer gone forever, too. Life in jail. Period. Matthew Daly lived, and died, just a few blocks from my home. His death has changed the way I raise my sons. I look at his picture, and I see all of our sons, all of our children. A senseless, senseless loss, now made worse by the no-doubt high-fives that went around some jail cells after the parole times were announced. These cowards do not deserve freedom; they do not deserve second chances; they have forfeited the right to walk the streets.

Grief is forever, and time does not heal all wounds. When we can no longer protect our children - even and especially when they have done nothing wrong - we have failed to provide the most basic promise we implicitly make when they are born.

But we must function as a community. I need you to help me protect my children, and I must help you to take care of yours. When our courts dispense with justice and return those who place no value on human life back amongst us, they threaten the very fabric on which we base everything that matters to us.

My apologies to the Daly family. We have let you down. I hope you find the strength to hold together that which has been shattered.


Power Shift: Parking Pirates

Here's the link to the Toronto story on the vermin that abuse handicapped parking privileges.

Come to your own conclusions.