Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buyer Beware- very very beware

Pavers threaten non-payers with bombings, sex assaults and livestock killings (see full article on yahoo.ca)

Let the buyer be very very beware when it comes to contractors. While it's a generally known fact that hiring the wrong contractor can lead to disastrous results, all of which will be uncovered by Mike Holmes in a Holmes Inspection, it appears that some clients in B.C. got more than they bargained for when they were threatened with bombings, sexual assault and livestock killings. From the traumatic to the puzzling, it appears that this group is not only creative when it comes to retribution, they also felt free to simply walk off the job before it was done.

What really strikes me in this article is the following statement:

The public needs to be aware that hiring a work crew off the street might not be a good idea, MacDonald said.

How true. Just like buying sushi out of someone's trunk is not a good idea and purchasing watch off that well-seeming man with dozens of them on the street corner is also not a good idea.

There are some investments in life where cutting corners doesn't pay off. Doing your research is the most important part of getting any service done. That's why good referrals are the best asset any businessperson can have. Smart businesspeople know that the true way to get good client base is to do good work and pass the word along. We trust our friends and neighbours to tell us good places to go and people that we can trust when we need a job done. And that's best left to the experts, good ones, when we can find them.

Yet another example of how forming a good relationship with people can save you lots of aggravation. And maybe your herd of cows, too.

You Will All Die- Turn Tape Over

See article from yahoo.ca:

LONDON (Reuters) - British Airways apologized to passengers after an emergency message warning they were about to crash into the sea was played by mistake.

About 275 passengers were on the London Heathrow to Hong Kong flight on Tuesday evening when the automated message went out. The plane was flying over the North Sea at the time.

Cabin crew quickly realized the error and moved to reassure the terrified passengers.

"We all thought we were going to die," Michelle Lord, 32, of Preston, northern England, told The Sun newspaper.

Another passenger was reported saying: "I can't think of anything worse than being told your plane's about to crash."

A spokesman for British Airways said an investigation was under way to discover whether it was human error or a computer glitch.

"We apologize to passengers on board the flight for causing them undue distress," he added in a statement.

"Our cabin crew immediately made an announcement following the message advising customers that it was an error and that the flight would continue as normal."

(end of article)

The first question is: if you were about to crash into the middle of the ocean while trapped on a plane, wouldn't you want a real-time message over the intercom by a person? Who uses an automated doomsday message to tell you that you are all about to die? Is it because no employee can realistically be expected to say this calmly over the intercom in a real life emergency? Well, fair enough, but maybe it shouldn't be automated. Maybe it should be like the red phone that only gets used for emergencies. Maybe it should be a red button next to the usual intercom automated messages, such as 'fasten seatbelt' and 'request more coffee'.

Second of all, how is this a simple error? It appears to be a critical issue. Asking for peanuts and getting pretzels is an error, but being told that you're about to crash into the ocean, and then, ha ha, no, situation normal, go back to your onboard film starring Rob Schneider, THAT is not an error. A serious revision needs to be done of the automated messaging systems of these planes, or else, you're going to have a terrified cabin throughout your trans-Atlantic trip, or a real emergency is going to happen one day and passengers will just sit there with their bonbons and blankets, blissfully unaware.

Third, how about the airline's statement that they apologize for causing undue stress? Undue stress? What about cardiac arrest? Fear of God? Paralyzing phobia and childhood issues resurgence? Any of those things would be on my list of issues related to a near-death in flight experience over the ocean. This is the kind of scare that requires therapy, not smelling salts.

It's hard to believe that in an age where air safety is a primary concern for governments and citizens alike, that this sort of thing would be allowed to happen. Travel can be tough on people, but it shouldn't be anything like the gong show it is today, with random patdowns, checks and mass paranoia anytime someone spots a toothpick. British Airways owes their customers far more than an apology; after all that aggravation, it owes them at least a drink.

At least one.

Back in my Day...

For full details, please see attached article:


According to a study conducted in Germany, older people like to read negative stories about younger people. This should come as no surprise to anyone. I'm not even that old and I enjoy reading negative stories about tweens and secretly laugh inside everytime that I see a Justin Bieber object and think about how that person will grow up to regret their decision to love him.

Our world is youth-obsessed. Of course older people would enjoy taking a jibe at the young folk. Youth and their beauty, their perfect, tight little bodies and fresh faces full of hope and optimism staring at you from every magazine cover and billboard that litters the landscape. If I was an elderly person, I'd be fighting mad too. Especially considering how easy kids these days have it. Why, back in my day...

And these are the typical lines of an elderly person that we see depicted in media. It's no wonder that old people hate everything and everyone. Look at their choice of characters: old coot who rambles on, man who sleeps with no teeth, that little Frank's hot sauce woman who shocks everyone by swearing, rapping grannies, breakdancing grandpas, that guy with the cane who tells everyone to get off his lawn. Elderly people seem to have a wealth of choice in how they're depicted, from the purely ridiculous to the just laughable.

Then there are those people who think that old people are cute. Like puppies and cupcakes. Old people aren't cute, they're human beings who are complex and have diverse personalities and preferences and opinions. Reducing them to adorable, wrinkled mini-people can be just as bad as elder abuse, because it's dehumanizing and diminutive. And it doesn't allow them to have their dignity.

Worse is elder abuse. One of the most vulnerable social groups are elders, who are attacked because they're physically frail or mentally challenged. Some are just taken advantage of by family or caretakers who consider them to be those non-contributors to society.

It's easy to be optimistic, fun and relevant when you're young. Society revolves around youth and beauty and they pretty much control every industry on the planet, pouring millions of dollars down the drain on consumer goods and new gadgets. The youth retention industry is also huge, offering treatments to keep people looking and feeling young and offering an array of bright youthful clothing for an audience of 18-55. Clothes are so generic these days that it can be impossible to tell if a woman is 25 or 55. And then with treatments, it's anyone's best guess.

Is it any wonder, then, that with all the negative imaging surrounding them and their limited opportunities, that elderly people would enjoy seeing the suffering of youth? Of course, we all know that youth is the future and all that good stuff, but deep down inside every elderly person is the highly probable desire to see those snot-nosed smug little brats get what's coming to them.

The most beautiful thing about youth, other than the innocence and the physical beauty, is the fact that they hold a future. Their whole lives are about moving forward and looking ahead, and the world still holds endless possibilities because they haven't wasted years or made bad life decisions yet. They haven't felt the weight of responsibility or the constraints of adult commitments, and in many ways, they are the happiest people on the planet and they just don't know it.

Until the zits pop.

Somewhere, a group of old folk in Germany are laughing uber hard.

Evolution's possible winners

Looking through the news today, I get that sneaky feeling that the things that the experts are saying are true: humans are done for. From zombie apocalypses to climate change disasters, to reports that asteroids may hit the earth and end it for us all in a nanosecond, it looks like the end may actually be near. At some point.

And the news is even weirder for evolution's possible winners. Apparently the most adaptable creature to climate change is the mosquito. With short lifespans, large numbers and the ability to genetically modify themselves to intuitively hibernate, proliferate and fly among human patios, it looks like the mosquito may outlive humans.

They're definitely going to stick around longer than the polar bears, apparently, who have too few numbers and too large lifespans to adapt that quickly among melting ice floes. No problem, you may think, humans are way smarter than polar bears and we know better than to swim after seals for days. But even so, we share the same physical adaptation limitations that complex organisms like our fellow mammals have.

Unlike our fellow mammals, we do have adaptive brains and they may save us. But civilization and a growing dependence on gadgets to entertain us have made us soft in terms of nature. Only the strong will survive, after all, which gives the clear advantage to two other recent newsmakers who look like they'll outlast us: the old man in Windsor who's growing his own rice and the economics student who has lived without money for the past year.

Apparently, the old man in Windsor was trying to prove a point about rice to the rest of Canada. First, that it was possible to grow it here, making a Made in China product absolutely not Made in China for once. Second, that growing good rice may be possible as well, therefore vastly improving the livelihood of Chinatowns from coast to coast (there are no Chinatowns in between). This is an excellent point, considering that growing your own food will likely be an essential survival trait as the end approaches. And rice is not a bad start.

But a former economics student living in the wild without money for a year could put the Windsor rice grower to shame. Apparently, he lives in a free RV for shelter, has a compost toilet and even makes his own paper. He says that he's happier than he's ever been in his life in his primitive state and has no intention of coming back to the world of paper bills and coins. And rightly so, because when the rest of us will be crying for our ipods when the end is near, this man will already be living the way that the rest of us may be forced to live.

Personally, I hope that I go immediately when the end arrives. I don't want to live in a world full of mosquitoes and compost toilets. As romantic as it sounds to live a life devoid of money and superficiality and material wealth, life alone in the wild sounds lonely and stinky. And that's not the kind of world that I want to live in. I'd rather be one of evolution's losers.

The Cricket Song of Corruption

Please read article on yahoo.ca:


It appears that the game of cricket has gone afoul in Pakistan and that the team faces serious charges of match-fixing and corruption. While even insinuating that there might be something dirty about this beloved game would be enough to make an Englishman drop his scones, you might be wondering why North America should care about this odd bit of news.

On the one hand, the completely incomprehensible to North Americans game of cricket is an international sport, and a much loved one at that, which is reason enough to acknowledge it. On the other hand, the fact that the team captain of Pakistan's name is Salman Butt and that he agreed to throw matches by not having balls is absolutely, immaturely, hilarious.

Furthermore, North America is not immune to scandals in sports, not even match fixing, as has been famously recorded in history during the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Entire teams can be corrupted, and when the take is bigger to throw a match than it is to win it, you don't need mathematicians and behavioural psychologists on the case.

The real issue has to do now with repercussions for the sport. How should the crime be punished if the crime is proven? And should the body that governs the sport be considered fit to deliver the punishment, considering that it wasn't even aware of the crime? Because it wasn't the international governing body that uncovered this scandal, but rather, gossip magazines, who never shy away from a juicy story filled with scandal and greed and hopefully someone sleeping with someone else's mistress. They're only 2 for 3 on this story, but it's still early on in the game and someone may still get lucky.

It appears the governning body has either been lax in this matter, or worse, complicit. Until they're in the clear, they probably shouldn't be the voice of justice in this case.

The Pakistan cricket club will suffer a black eye in any case as a result of this story. Is it fair, though, to paint the whole nation with the same brush? Will the game of cricket deliver ultimate judgement by depriving the Pakistani nation of the great game of cricket?

If North American sports scandals and films have taught me anything about sports and corruption, it's that there's always room for a comeback. There's always an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and wash out the bitter taste of seasons past and move on to a new one. It's also possible, with time, to rehabilitate the image of a scarred team and to polish the name clean and restore it to its old glory. And even when a team falls into the proverbial basement standings of them all and disappoints their fans season after season, there's still a chance for that team to be loved.

Isn't that right, Leafs Nation?

Monday, August 30, 2010

So You Think You Can Terrorize?

In a strange twist of life imitating art, the RCMP has arrested a Canadian of Pakistani descent for alledgedly being part of a homegrown terror plot. This suspect has also been previously known for auditioning for Canadian Idol, in line with the film American Dreamz, which revolves around an idol-type competition and a young terrorist hoping to assassinate the President during a special taping of the show. It seems somewhat odd that someone with deadly intentions against the nation would audition for one of its most popular and frivolous shows, gaining notoriety and possible embarassment for himself before following through with his diabolical plans.

But then again, it makes so much sense. After all, what do enemies of the state hate the most about Western civilization? Western excess, of course, and the reality programming that's wildly popular within the culture are classic examples of the incredible narcissism and pursuit of the superficial. Not to mention the mass commercialism, fame-chasing and constant obsession with material wealth. Why wouldn't the enemies of the state want to infiltrate popular culture? Popular culture is at the root of all that is wrong with the Western world.

It's shallow, self-serving, self-absorbed and plain dumb. The constant quest for fame is a hallmark of one of the deadliest seven sins, that of pride. It's also a gaudy spectacle with strategic merchandising shots and one-note B-list celebrities. The whole thing is a disgrace.

But does it deserve to be blown up?

I wonder if the audition for Canadian Idol represents a turning point in this young man's life, if, at the end of it all, he was completely disillusioned with this so-called land of opportunity that everyone talks about. Perhaps he had a sudden change of heart, and all that wide-eyed optimism and admiration for the nation suddenly spilled over into loathing. It's sort of like your first relationship, where all you see is the wonderfulness of the person you're with, and then, all of a sudden, the relationship ends and all you see are the faults and blemishes. And then that loathing turns into something more aggressive, and eventually, it's hatred that you feel.

This man's bittersweet adventure with Canadian Idol and terrorism highlights one important fact: reality tv is no place for serious issues. It's vapid and fun, and that's how people like it. It's not a good platform to express real ideas about how society should be run or whether or not the American continent is the devil's framework and should subsequently be destroyed.

It's the place where we go to see who can survive on some distant island and whether or not people will take off their tops to win a quarter of a million dollars. It's the place where we go to see people sing and dance and do myriad other strange things for money and fame, all while being judged by a panel of non-experts. That's what reality tv is for, my friends, and you can leave the politics and the demolition of life as we know it to the side.

The Love of a Real Girl

Please see this article on yahoo.ca:


The technology-crazed youth in Japan have found a way to live a fulfilling romantic relationship online through a specialized website, which not only allows them to find an animated online girlfriend, but also allows them to vacation with her at an upscale beach resort. The beach resort has apparently suffered a serious lack of business, probably due to the fact that real couples aren't interested in taking romantic beach-side vacations anymore, and has instead turned to real men and their digitally simulated girlfriends.

The specialized resort includes digital imaging in the hotel rooms, in the beds, and near the landmarks, so that the real men can enjoy simulated images of their online girlfriends in the form of snapshots together as a couple outside and a virtual kimono-clad version in their bed at night.

There are several things that are really disturbing about this article, but let's just stick to the basics and the most hilarious:

The article states that the busloads of men with their virtual girlfriends on iphones arrived to a beach resort that was already full of bikini-clad women. Real women. Instead of paying them any attention, though, these technocrats decided to have meaningful time with their animated girlfriends, who are all variations of Japanese anime schoolgirls in sailor suits. If that's not upsetting enough, many of them are dating the same image, a character named Rinko and her other school girl friends. So not only is a group of adult young males ignoring real life women in bikinis, they're doing so in favour of staying loyal to a digital image that hundreds of other young men also think they're dating. And nobody sees a problem with this?

The article further states that the simulated girlfriends can carry over attributes of a real life girlfriend, meaning that they get moody when ignored and demand attention when they're sick. The real men apparently love to accumulate points by being good to their girlfriends, gaining points for expressions of love and sympathy. In a real-life relationship, men would also get these points, but they wouldn't be online, hence, they don't count for anything. Only online points count, of course, where everyone else can bear witness to your general boyfriend awesomeness.

All of that would be really sweet if only the girls were real. Many people have online relationships in the digital world, but most of them are with real people. It appears that this market niche has hit that strange, elusive group of basement nerds who, with a little work and polish, would make excellent boyfriends. They sound attentive, considerate, kind and gentlemanly. But they also seem to be the type that are so afraid of real human contact, that only the digital poke and prod will do. There are no words to express how sad that is.

There is no replacing the love of a real girl. This is taking the Pinocchio complex way too far. As much as you might love the six foot tall anorexic Sailor Moon anime character with her sailor suit and 8 feet long pigtails who closes her eyes when she laughs, you can't love her. You can't touch her. And you shouldn't want to. For God's sake, man, this is a cartoon image penned and replicated by thousands of labourers in South Korea. You shouldn't even want to be with that. Not when there are real women around who have human dimensions, skin, hair, faces and complex personalities.

A last and final hilarious point. The article lists romantic trip items that the virtual-real couples can purchase when they're on the beach. This list includes steamed buns. Because nothing says romance like a long walk down the beach with steamed buns.

Way to romance, Japan.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No shirt, no shorts, no sale

See article from yahoo.ca:

VANCOUVER, Canada (AFP) - A book banned for sale aboard western Canadian ferries because a naked boy adorns the cover has drawn worldwide attention with critics crying censorship.

"Alexander the Great novel gets bum rap in Canada," chortled a headline in a report Tuesday in the British Guardian about a ban by British Columbia Ferries of "The Golden Mean" by Canadian author Annabel Lyon.

"Censorship ... is generally bad news," wrote Eileen Reynolds in a recent post on the New Yorker?s web site. But, she added, the ban on Lyon?s book "is particularly silly."

The ferry service, owned by the government of Canada?s westernmost province and connecting Canada?s Pacific islands to the mainland, banned the book because the service is "a family show and we?ve got children in our gift shops," spokeswoman Deborah Marshall told the Vancouver Province newspaper.

The cover features the nude back of a boy astride a white horse.

Lyon?s fictional account of Aristotle as tutor to Alexander the Great won Canada?s prestigious 2009 Rogers Writers? Trust first prize, and was a finalist in Canada?s two other largest literary awards, the Giller Prize and the Governor General?s Award.

Craig Spence, president of the Federation of British Columbia Writers, called the ban "an overreaction to a photo that's artistic ... are you going to stop kids from seeing Michelangelo?s David?

"The kinds of graphic material that kids are exposed to, through advertising and other media all the time, go much farther than that, and they're not in a context that would give it the justification."

(end of article)

Let's start off and say that the nudity is hardly shocking on the cover of this book. I mean, you don't even get a full shot of the bum in the first place from the angle that the picture's taken and even though I'm no bum critic, I couldn't tell you with any confidence how it's shaped or ranked. I don't even know if it's a good bum. But the critics here are not arguing the quality of the bum, but the nakedness of it, and yes, I will agree, it is definitely an uncovered bum.

That debate aside, it's hardly as shocking as full frontal nudity. A bum taken from a side angle view, which is not even the main focus of the picture, is hardly anything to get excited about. I'm sure even the gay community agrees with that.

I think that there are 2 main things that really bother me about this whole issue.

1- Double standard views on nudity

There are always portraits, statues, pictures, etc. of beautiful nude women, mostly taken from artistic angles that are not considered vulgar, offensive or off limits. Any part, save for the all-important v section, of the naked woman's body are used liberally in art and nobody ever argues in favour of covering a beautiful woman's breasts or butt. But for some reason, the minute it's a man, censorship and decency laws come into play.

This is a blatant, unjustified, nonsensical double standard that society seems to have. It's as if society believes that the woman's body belongs in the public sphere and is a public object that can be used for art and expression, whereas the male body isn't. What makes the male body worth protecting more than a woman's body?

Granted, a woman's body is a work of art, and men have all that flab and other stuff. Seinfeld pretty much sealed that debate. We would rather see beautiful women curves instead of men as a general rule. That shouldn't exclude men completely, though, nor should it be an object of censorship.

2- North American prudishness

It's funny that violence is a-ok in North American society, but sex is completely off limits. This is the product of a largely Puritan background and a general feeling that sex is somehow more damaging than violence because of the moral implications.

Sex is a natural occurence in life and often results in children, and what could be more natural than that? How is a natural process that results in the production of a species more offensive than violent marauders hell bent on the destruction of society? Some guy gunning down a bunch of other guys is less damaging to children than a side view of a guy's bum? Where does this thinking come from?

Of course, the moral high ground people oppose both sex and violence, and that's fair enough. It's just strange that North America can't seem to let go of this idea that sex is not that bad. It's really not as taboo or naughty as most people think it is. Look at the Europeans. They are so over sex. Their attitude towards it is fairly healthy. They don't shy away from it and they've accepted it as a part of everyday life. And that's really what it is.

Why are we so embarassed and threatened by sex? If it wasn't for sex, well, none of us would be around.

I think that parents would set a better example by acting mature and open-minded about topics like sex rather than acting flustered and scared like a group of middle aged priests. And they'd do better to explain to their children that the human body is natural and beautiful, rather than pulling their children away while they laugh and point and whisper to each other 'look, it's a bum.'

Show some maturity.

And look, it's a bum. A boy bum.

hee hee.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tough on Bear Crime

A petition by a Calgary woman to save a dozen bears thought to be guarding a grow-op has begun to gain strength, recently harnessing the star power of Jason Priestley, formerly of Beverly Hills 90210 fame. It's a complicated issue that has caused a lot of sympathy and outrage from animal lovers across the country, who argue that the bears can be rehabilitated and sent back into the wild, despite what appears to be months of coddling and feeding by a pair of humans who have been using them to guard their grow op.

The police say that when they found the bears, they were friendly, playful and soft. They had developed a strong sense of camaraderie which is unusual for a species used to competing for resources, and police also said that they didn't seem to be a threat. The rationale for putting down the bears is that they can no longer return to their natural habitat and will not be able to compete again in the wild.

I wonder if there's something more to this story. Perhaps the police is taking such a hard line because they want to be seen as tough on crime, even if that crime is perpretrated by bears. After all, guarding a grow op must be a criminal offense. They're essentially aiding and abetting a group of drug dealers in exchange for security and groceries. That technically makes them no better than small time hoods, escaping the streets by moving on with the local drug lords for protection, status and the basic food and lodging.

That said, it's highly doubtful that those small time hoods would be put down because they can't compete with other hoods once their operation goes down. It's generally understood that they can be rehabilitated and learn to live in society without the protection of gangs. Sure, some of them return to the streets because it's the only world that they know and because it's the world that they feel comfortable in, while others turn to an even more violent life of crime and spend the rest of their lives in a revolving door prison system. But an initial effort is usually made to spare them this fate.

The police said that the bears were friendly and soft when they encountered them near the grow op, which leads me to believe that they weren't exactly doing their job right. Those bears should have been lean and mean if their job was to guard. Perhaps they're just hapless victims of human contact and Oreo cookies.

It's a real and legitimate concern that these bears may not be able to survive or adapt to the wild now that they've been on a sort of wildlife welfare system. Perhaps they'll starve to death or be rejected by more aggressive peers. Even so, perhaps it's not the police's decision to make. Perhaps they should be released into the wild to see if they will survive and adapt. They may not have good chances out there, but they would have more chances than if they were put down.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A week in gridlock


See the attached article on the week long traffic gridlock in Northern China. Apparently, North Americans think that they have traffic jams, spending hours at a time on freeways on roads that are more like parking lots. Well, it turns out that we have nothing to complain about compared with our Eastern neighbours, spending up to a week on the same stretch of highway, caught between construction workers and small villages and little signs of progress.

Remarkably, they're taking it all very well. The people stuck in traffic are talking, playing games and getting to know the local villagers. The only real complaint has centered around the price gauging by villagers selling water and noodles to their captive audience. Selling food on a daily basis for $7.50 a day, which is apparently more expensive than eating in a restaurant, has been the most common cause for complaints. Which begs the question, just how cheap is Chinese food in China? Most North Americans go for Chinese food as a cheap, fast and good form of takeout, but it appears that we're really overpaying for it.

It really puts the whole road rage trend in perspective, though. In North America, most people are enraged at spending an extra half hour in traffic or commuting because they consider it to be a waste of time. But the few hours that we lose on the road is nothing compared to losing weeks. Can you imagine receiving a call from your spouse saying:

"yeah, honey, traffic is terrible. Better count me out for dinner tonight. I won't get home until...what are we? Monday? Yeah, I should make it there by Thursday. Could you call the plumber and make sure that he's coming in, take my shirts to the drycleaners and record my shows? And maybe bake a lasagna? Thanks, miss you, love you, bye."

Talk about the disintegration of relationships. You could go out for milk and never come back. Your spouse will have to sit at home and wring their hands with worry, wondering whether or not you're lost, stuck in traffic, eaten by a bear or you truly left them because your marriage is a sham and they never really loved you in the first place. It makes you never want to ask for milk again.

You would have to leave home with a fully charged cellphone and laptop and load up your ipod with games and TV shows and even have a few changes of clothes on hand. Then you would have to call your boss and let him know that you won't be in for another few days! I've heard of people practically living out of their cars, but I never imagined that you would have to pack for a 5 day camping trip just to get to work one day!

So the next time that you're leaning on the horn or swearing at a row of bumpers in front of you because you're going to be late, remember China's weeklong gridlock and take a deep breath. And call for Chinese takeout. Be sure to tell them how outrageous their prices are too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

25 million M & Ms

Someone in Ottawa has won $25 million in a lotto jackpot. It's an incredible fortune and that person hasn't come to claim their prize yet, but already, the web is abuzz with advice for the winner, the first one being that they should sit tight, keep the money in the bank and get a financial planner ASAP.

I can't imagine what $25 million looks like, but according to the planners, it aint what it used to be. A million dollars used to be a fortune, but is now pocket change for some of the world's richest people in a time where billionnaires are more common. I can't logically imagine what 25 million of anything looks like, so I'm going to try and visualize 25 million M & M's, but even that doesn't come to mind easily.

All that said, those 3 things are good advice. Sit tight, deposit the money, get a financial planner. These same planners say that it's bad idea to quit your job and go on vacation right away, even if that's your initial knee jerk reaction. Now, I'm not financial planner myself, but I have a feeling that even if you had a sudden windfall and millions of dollars didn't add up to financial freedom according to the accountants, I would still quit my job and take a vacation.

I know that you have to plan for that money, figure out taxes and all that other stuff and try to calculate your life as if you were going to live to a ripe old age and you need money for a funeral that's indexed to inflation rates in 50 years from now which would likely increase by 600%, but come on, send in the resignation letter and head for Europe.

The way that I see it, you'll need the time to decompress and recover from the shock. And you want to enjoy at least a little bit of freedom. A trip to Europe can cost as little as $3000. May as well take the kind of trip that you would take if you had your regular salary while mulling over your next steps. And even if you liked your job, what would be the chances of you going back to that same job if you suddenly won? May as well quit and take the time out to explore new options.

It takes the average person 6 months to find a good job after being let go or leaving a particular post. I think that it would be safe to say that you would have at least 6 months salary saved up with $25 million in the bank account, even if you minus the $3000 trip.

So assuming that you don't move and you don't go crazy upgrading your wardrobe with designer duds only, you could probably keep your status quo for awhile. Invest in some nice property, look into that career or education that you always wanted but could only ever dream about before and treat yourself to something that was always in the back of your mind, like a designer purse or a bottle of real champagne from France.

While people state the money is a burden in a lot of ways, I think that it's safe to say that life is even more of a burden without it. You have less choices and less freedoms without money. Most of us need to work jobs that we don't like in order to make ends meet or live in less desirable neighbourhoods. Others have to make sacrifices by living at home with parents or running a car into the ground because you can't afford to trade in for a new one. Money is a blessing and even if it can't buy you health or wealth, it's still pretty special.

25 million dollars is like 25 million M & Ms. You really shouldn't eat them all at once. And they're perfect for sharing.

Who's Your Daddy?

See article on yahoo.ca:

Dad buys newspaper ad after daughter breaks curfew
By The Associated Press

SOUTHLAKE, Texas - A Texas teenager who broke curfew is headed for a reluctant adventure in babysitting.

Robert Rausch placed an advertisement offering his daughter's free babysitting services in the community newspaper in Southlake, a wealthy suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth that is home to business leaders and professional athletes.

The advertisement names Rausch's 16-year-old-daughter and says, "Want a FREE BABYSITTER for a night out?" It explains that she is in trouble for missing her curfew and offers 30 hours of free babysitting, KXAS-TV reported.

Rausch says he wanted to discipline his daughter and help others at the same time. And it appears his daughter has already learned a lesson. She says she won't violate curfew again or throw any more late-night parties.

(end of article)

Now, I believe in old-fashioned discipline, grounding and restitution, as per my own upbringing. But there's something about this punishment that just feels wrong to me.

On the one hand, if you break curfew in your home, you should be ready to face the collasal combined power of both mom and dad and their wrath. That's fair enough. Extra chores, no going out privileges, help out your siblings, wash the car, whatever. All of that makes sense to me. Maybe a break in your allowance, which is painful, but allows you to appreciate it once you get it back and for once, you're not worried about increasing it. None of these things seem out of line.

Where this seems out of line to me is the fact that this man has taken it upon himself to offer his daughter's services for free. As if he owned her in some way. She's 16 years old, and while that still makes her a minor and subject to his authority, it doesn't mean that she's his labour to hand out at his will. It would be one thing for him to get her to volunteer somewhere, particulary if that assignment had something to do with her actual misdemeanor, but this is not the case.

For example: a teenager gets in trouble for taking the car without permission. Have them volunteer at a garage. They learn more about cars and the responsiblity that goes with them and what could happen if an accident occurs. Another example: a teenager gets in trouble for drinking underage. Get them to volunteer at a place that treats people for alcohol addiction or in a hospital.

It doesn't make sense for a teenager who violated curfew to 'work off' their punishment by babysitting for free for the neighbourhood. First, it makes what should be considered a small, normal transgression for a typical teenager into a public affair. Second, it implies that the parent owns the teenager's labour and can use it when they want. Third, the punishment is irrelevant to the crime and does not teach the teen anything about the importance of time or sticking to your word or the dangers of being out late at night, all of the things that a curfew is made for.

Now, it seems that this teen learned her lesson and has promised to be good. Maybe spending hours alone with children as they pull each other's hair and have screaming contests in the living room is an efficient deterrent. Maybe work is the best punishment after all. I just hope that this forced labour comes with fridge privileges.

Thinking Green Costs Green

Let's take a quick audience poll.

Who wants to save the environment by taking on new green initiatives and learning to conserve energy at home?

Of course, yes, who doesn't want to save the environment? Would there really be such heartless, ignorant creatures out there who don't? What a silly question. Move on.

Who wants to pay more for energy?

Paying more? Don't we pay enough to those greedy companies? You can't make the average person pay more for essential life expenses such as energy. Everything already costs too much, how could you propose such a thing? Rising taxes, inflation, ridiculous bank rates, credit crunch, bailouts, new taxes and now, more increases? Surely you jest! Give the working family a break! Isn't it hard enough to get by as it is?

Well, this is where the problem comes in, at least for the province of Ontario, and a few others besides. The people of Ontario are good-hearted people who care about the environment, but they're also hard-working people who don't want to pay more to do it. And that's exactly what the province is asking them to do.

Ontario Hydro is going up and it's mostly due to new green initiatives that consumers said that they wanted. Not all the initiatives were voted on, but people in the province showed general support for them in principle. Unfortunately, going 'green' means that it's going to cost a lot of green to get there.

The recent studies say that this is a question of economies of scale, which means that although the initial costs for these new initiatives will hit people squarely in the pocketbook where it hurts, this trend won't last forever. After a couple of painful years, the costs should balance and level out nicely, meaning that current Ontario residents will be paying for the future and it will be a greener one at that.

Alternate energy sources are scarce and expensive. They're much harder to harness and use, and it's largely a work in progress as far as the science of it is concerned. We may not know for another decade how beneficial and efficient these alternate sources are and if the mechanisms used to access them are worth the effort. If it turns out that it's more expensive to access energy than what the energy itself is worth, some of these costly initiatives will ultimately fail.

Others may succeed, in which case, it will have been worth the effort and the investment. And nobody wants to be the heartless ogre in the room who would rather save money than save the earth for the children of the future.

So it is our responsibility as citizens of the earth to swallow the costs of energy, for today and for tomorrow. It's the right thing to do and we should all stop complaining about it. Because doing the right thing is often not easy, pleasant or cheap.

Bachelorette party rules

See news article from yahoo.ca:

Washington bride-to-be arrested on wedding day
By The Associated Press

BELLEVUE, Wash. - A 31-year-old bride-to-be heading home from her bachelorette party was arrested for drunk driving hours before she was to get married.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Christina Martin says the woman was driving over 90 mph Saturday morning and weaving in and out of traffic on Interstate 405 in Bellevue when she was stopped.

Martin says a trooper arrested the woman, processed her and let her take a cab home in time to make it to her early afternoon wedding in Burien.

Martin says the bride's alcohol level was nearly twice the legal state limit. The woman will face charges in King County District Court.

(end of article)

Important lesson to be learned from this article: don't party the night before your wedding. Bachelorettes and stags should take place one week before the wedding. This is not just the common rules of etiquette; this is common sense. Nobody wants to arrive hung over to their wedding, nodding bleakly during the ceremony and saying I do at innapropriate times during the ceremony. Nobody wants their bridesmaid to have to prop them up with their bouquet-free hand during the walk back up the aisle. And to top it all off, nobody wants to forget to show up that day.

At least, that's what you figure would happen for most normal brides. Normal brides generally want to be at their best on their wedding day, so they traditionally have the wild night hanging off of strippers with margarita necklaces the week BEFORE the wedding. The night before the wedding is generally a good night for a long hot soak in the tub, that green goo beautifying mask and those 1950s curlers in your hair and some quiet magazine time.

The two things that puzzle me about this article is whether or not this woman wanted to show up at this wedding, considering that she was plastered and probably unfit to make a lifelong commitment in her state. The other thing that puzzles me is why this woman was driving in the first place. Where were her friends? Doesn't everyone know that cheesy old message about friends not letting friends drink and drive? It's more than a public service message.

So here are some tips for Bachelorette parties that I hope that other women consider:

1- DO NOT PARTY THE NIGHT BEFORE THE WEDDING. Stay at home, have some tea with your parents, look at some photo albums, do some scrap booking. You're about to make a life-changing decision and you want to be lucid when it happens. Apart from the obvious panic of being late or the embarassment of being incoherent, most marriage officials can deny you a marriage ceremony if they suspect that you or your spouse to be are under the influence. One sniff of alcohol and they are well within their rights to walk away, leaving YOU at the altar and most definitely NOT waiving your non-refundable fee.

2- FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS DRINK AND DRIVE. It's tried but true. This bride to be was caught and faces a day in court, which is never a good way to start off a new life together, but at the same time, it could have been a lot worse. She could have easily injured herself or someone else in an accident, which means that she may never have made it to the altar at all, which would have been heartbreaking and devastating for all. It's not difficult to make a plan for rides, a sleep over, or even to just get a hotel room for the occasion where everyone can crash after hitting the bar scene. Taxis are just a call away and you can add them to your phone. They're really the only people that you should be drunk dialing.

3- MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR FRESH START. The Bachelorette party signals the end of your carefree single life. The wedding symbolizes a new beginning and a fresh start. Make the most of it and don't add to your criminal record before the big day hits. There aren't many chances in life to start over, and you don't want to let go of this one.

I'd like to conclude this article by stating that one cannot underestimate the importance of a good Bachelorette party. It's an opportunity to make memories for the future, if not for the bride, for all of her friends to remind her later. These special occassions should be met with a plan for going out and staying safe, pulling an all-nighter with lots of good food, booze and company, and lots of discretion on the part of the friends.

Be real friends. Take care of the guest of honour first and make sure that they don't put themselves in danger when they're in a state. And don't post stupid photos of them the next day. Only post the generic ones where everyone's smiling and clear-eyed and saying cheese. If your friends don't have this kind of decency, class or common sense, they shouldn't be your friends.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Maybe the World IS Awesome

The Discovery Channel commercials are really great. They have that catchy song, those astounding images, and all the incredible effects of nature in the form of lightning, tropical storms and hurricanes. It would really be something if Discovery Channel itself were as awesome as its commercials. Alas, it is not so, for every time that I try to tune in to Discovery, there's always some riveting documentary on... the praying mantis. The carpenter ant. The moth on its way to becoming a butterfly. You get really interested for about a minute, then you realize that while you're watching this insect move slowly over a leaf to slow piano music while it rains, that not only are you not interested, you have another 10 minutes of this to go before the segment moves on.

But it turns out that the world really is awesome and weird. Take two examples of articles that I perused online today. Two very important discoveries were made: mind control is real, because apparently it happens to zombie ants, and mythical creatures really do share the planet with us.

The zombie ants are apparently a common case of ants being taken over by nesting parasites that infect the brain and then spread to other ants in order to ensure its survival. Apparently this nefarious form of parasitic mind control is not just for ants, but has affected all of earth's creatures at some point, including the human mind. This hasn't resulted yet in cases of zombie apocalypses with madly infected people running around cities with red eyes and eating each other. Yet.

The mind control through parasites is apparently limited, and the parasites die out without a constant flow of hosts, so it can be contained and controlled. It's not clear whether or not the ants eventually make a recovery; it's too bad that they're not around to tell us their compelling tale. But then again, that may not be them talking. It may be the parasites.

Another online article has revealed that mythical animals, such as the giant squid which drags men to their deaths in twenty thousand leagues under the sea also exist, but are so far below the sea that they don't come into contact with ships and are probably somewhat camera shy given their girth. Other true myths? Dragons that eat flesh and move fast, but don't have wings or breathe fire. Animals with horns in the centre of their heads, like whales, but no unicorns. Mermaids may easily have been manatees seen from behind, as their tails have similar traits to most mermaids, but are nowhere near as aesthically pleasing or vocally talented as the Little Mermaid.

Tigers and lions have also been known to mate on rare occasions, resulting in Ligers. Inter-species breeding has been known to serve an evolutionary purpose as well, often during times of species decline. This kind of interaction not only saves the species, but forms new ones which can adapt to new environmens. It doesn't work out so well if that other species happens to be your first cousin, though.

Why doesn't Discovery ever do documentaries on these topics? I would watch Zombie Ants: The Night of the Living Ant Hill. I can think of dozens of people who would do the same. I would watch Mythical Creatures Come to Life as a documentary or even a game show called Real or Not Real, where the different myths are shown and the contestants have to guess if they really do exist or not and if they're right, they can take one of them home with them.

You're on the right track, Discovery. The world IS awesome. You just have to go out and get more of it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Common Sense according to Airlines

See article from yahoo.ca:

US kids buy plane tickets, fly alone
By The Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Three Florida children bought tickets with babysitting money and flew to Nashville, Tennessee, on Southwest Airlines — unbeknownst to their parents.

WJXT-TV reports that 15-year-old Bridget Brown had $700 saved and asked a 13-year-old friend where he wanted to go.

The friend, Bobby Nolan III, suggested Nashville.

Together with Brown's 11-year-old brother, the three took a taxicab to Jacksonville International Airport and bought three tickets at the counter. The children say no one asked them for identification.

They called their parents from Nashville and immediately flew home.

Southwest Airlines says the company's minor policy covers children ages five through 11 travelling alone, and that the 11-year-old in this case was accompanied by two older companions.

(end of story)

In light of this story, let's consider the things that airlines consider suspicious and put up the red flag for:

-an unattended piece of luggage
-a bottle of makeup that's more than 100 ml
-a person with their face covered
-scissors in hand luggage

Now let's consider the fact that they had 3 unattended minors as legally defined by state law. Anyone who's under 18 is considered to be a minor and even though the airlines' policy is to let these people fly alone, it's funny that nobody at the airline thought to inquire about the childrens' parents, the purpose of their visit and whether or not someone would be waiting for them when they landed in Nashville. These are questions that even a 16 year old babysitter knows to ask, and for some reason, were not given any consideration by the airline. If one of those children had a pair of scissors for their craft time in their purse, however, I'm sure that would have caused a stir...

To be fair, the airline representative who served them may have been having one of those off days where maybe they had been out too late the night before and they had mentally checked out already and all that they had considered when they saw this intrepid trio was the fact that they had come with cash in hand. And maybe this intrepid trio is very mature looking for the age. And maybe the airline representative is very fond of such movies as Home Alone and Home Alone 2 and thought that there was nothing more adorable than a group of children travelling together to the world's country music capital for some mischief.

The airline is surely going to hide behind their minor policy which defines minors as 5 through to 11, clearly in contradiction with state definitions of what constitutes a minor and may be subject to revision at some point. The airline will also be quick to point out that this minor was accompanied by two older children. That's all fine and dandy for the airline this time around, but perhaps this rule should be altered slightly to say a minor accompanied by someone over the age of majority (over 18).

This isn't just a question of making the airline look silly. This is a pretty serious safety concern. With more and more children being targeted by human traffickers, particularly within the sex trade, children travelling alone would be a pretty easy target. Children of that age may know the basic golden rule of not wandering off with strangers, but that won't protect them from possible abductors who see that they're unaccompanied, vulnerable and probably ignorant of the possible dangers around them. And if nobody knows the children are there, it may take days and even weeks for their parents to locate them.

There are other potential dangers once the children land at their given destination. Once they leave the aircraft, they are no longer anyone's responsibility, therefore, the airline won't be held liable for children abducted within the airport or outside of it. Meaning that the well-meaning stranger who offers them a ride into town may look like a good idea to the child.

The airlines should revise their policies and consider asking some various basic questions. They should be used to doing this by now, as they've had plenty of practice with adults (is this your bag? Did you pack it yourself? Did you leave it someplace unattended?)

The airlines should extend their minor policy to all minors (under 16 would be a reasonable age limit). The airline should also specify that minors should be accompanied by someone who is age of majority, and if not, they should have special written permission by their parents who fill in details for the purpose of the trip and the name and contact information for themselves and the person who will meet their children at the airport. If these kinds of provisions are not made, they should not permit children to board the aircraft without contacting the parents themselves.

And maybe parents should consider whether or not it's wise to let minors travel alone across the country. Even if their children are incredibly mature, travel can be intimidating and chaotic, even for adults, so careful consideration should be given prior to making travel plans.

And for God's sake, leave the scissors at home. That goes for all of you passengers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is it Change or is it the same same?

(see this article from yahoo.ca)

Canadian healthcare in Obama aide's tirade
By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON - White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has taken vitriolic aim at an unexpected target: the "professional left" for being unnecessarily harsh on U.S. President Barack Obama and pushing for something as outrageous as a Canadian-style health-care system.

"They will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon," the normally affable Gibbs says in an explosive interview published Tuesday in the congressional newspaper The Hill. "That’s not reality."

Those on the left who claim Obama as president isn't much different than George W. Bush, he added, "ought to be drug-tested."

The remarks sent immediate shockwaves through D.C., particularly among the very liberals who have expressed disappointment with the president since his historic election in November 2008 on a message of hope and change.

Calling Gibbs's rant "one of the most petulant, self-pitying outbursts seen from a top political official in recent memory," commentator Glenn Greenwald took the press secretary to task point by point Tuesday for his tirade against the Democratic party's base.

In a lengthy rebuttal for the left-leaning online magazine Salon, Greenwald wrote: "If memory serves, didn't the White House repeatedly insist Obama was committed to the public option, the central goal of those who Gibbs is now claiming want 'Canadian health care?'"

"Also, didn't anti-war sentiment play a pretty big role in electing Obama as president, given that Obama's opposition to the Iraq War was almost singlehandly responsible for allowing him to rise from relative obscurity to defeat Hillary in the 2008 Dem primary?"

Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, pointed out that Americans voted for Obama to make good on his promise of change.

"He has not come close to delivering on that promise," he wrote in an article on the magazine's website Tuesday entitled Back At You, Robert Gibbs.

"He has not met the challenges boldly. He has not given most Americans tangible improvements in their lives. And he’s failed to do so because he’s been afraid to act _ and to be perceived as _ a real progressive ... Robert Gibbs should be grateful that progressives aren’t even more critical of Obama."

By mid-day Tuesday, Gibbs was expressing remorse about his comments in a statement aimed at attempting to explain his frustration at the criticism confronting his boss.

"I watch too much cable, I admit. Day after day it gets frustrating," he said.

"So what I may have said inartfully, let me say this way _ since coming to office in January 2009, this White House and Congress have worked tirelessly to put our country back on the right path. Most importantly, to dig our way out of a huge recession and build an economy that makes America more competitive and our middle class more secure."

"Some are frustrated that the change we want hasn't come fast enough for many Americans. That we all understand."

Gibbs didn't helm the daily White House press briefing on Tuesday. Instead, deputy press secretary Bill Burton defended his colleague.

"I think what Gibbs was doing was having one conversation with one reporter and in response to questions about frustrations, he answered honestly, and it shouldn't be read anything more than that," he said.

The White House has been under attack in recent months not just from its usual enemy camp of conservatives and Republicans, but from those on the left who complain Obama was weak on health-care reform, is dragging his feet on closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba and has moved too slowly to end the ban on gays serving in the military.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, a popular liberal commentator, recently called Obama's key strategist, David Axelrod, a "human pretzel" for declaring Obama was against same-sex marriage but favoured equal benefits for gays and lesbians in committed relationships.

A recent attack from the liberal group Progressive Change Campaign Committee apparently angered Gibbs. Earlier this week, one of the group's founders, Adam Green, accused Obama of "caving without a fight" by dropping the public option during the bare-knuckled battle for health-care legislation earlier this year.

The White House, on the other hand, believes it's taken on several liberal causes without getting any credit. White House officials point to health-care reform, financial regulatory legislation, a fair-pay bill for women and Obama's move to end the war in Iraq, with combat operations concluding this month.

He's also nominated two female Supreme Court justices, including the first Hispanic.

"There’s 101 things we’ve done," said Gibbs.

But in his later statement, Gibbs extended an olive branch to the left.

"We should all, me included, stop fighting each other and arguing about our differences on certain policies, and instead work together to make sure everyone knows what is at stake because we've come too far to turn back now."

It's the second time Gibbs has found himself in hot water this summer.

On NBC's "Meet The Press" in July, Gibbs speculated Democrats might lose the House of Representatives in the crucial mid-term elections in November. Those remarks reportedly infuriated Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, and before long Gibbs said he thought Democrats would do "very well" in the mid-terms.

(end of article)

First things first: this man is the White House Press Secretary? Are you for real? Who makes such unintelligent, bold and aggressive statements when their very job description is to delicately tiptoe on egg shells when it comes to the world's most vital and controversial issues? Isn't it this man's job to shy away from and even eliminate controversy where he can, to contextualize and soften messages the way that you massage Kobe beef? Way to represent the White House, Mr. Gibbs. You've just become the Kanye West of politics.

Not only does Mr. Gibbs insult Canadian health care by insinuating that it's an undesirable system to adopt, he also adds in a jibe about eliminating the Pentagon. Of course, because pro-health care pundits don't care about the safety of the nation. That should be a given. A group of people who wants to ensure that their fellow citizens can be treated for health concerns without bearing incredible costs is obviously anti-safety for those same fellow citizens.

Mr. Gibbs then defends himself in a sheepish apologetic statement of "I watch too much cable." Are you blaming television for your frank remarks? Unless you suddenly burst into song because you thought that you were a contestant on American Idol, I don't think you can blame television for your scathing statements.

To further his point, Mr. Gibbs follows up this statement by claiming that the White House has been on the right path and that they've done a lot to help the economy recover, even within the context of a recession. Well, that's excellent news, however, the economy was not the platform that the President ran on, nor is it the change that people were hoping to see. Health care reforms and an end to the war in Iraq were major motivators for electing Obama. And the criticism surrounding his success rate to date are fair, even if the administration is on the rigth path.

Then there's this self-pitying statement here:

The White House, on the other hand, believes it's taken on several liberal causes without getting any credit. White House officials point to health-care reform, financial regulatory legislation, a fair-pay bill for women and Obama's move to end the war in Iraq, with combat operations concluding this month.

He's also nominated two female Supreme Court justices, including the first Hispanic.

"There’s 101 things we’ve done," said Gibbs.

Uh, no Mr. Gibbs. That's 6 things, if you're counting with real numbers rather than fake ones. It may feel like it was 101 things, but if you actually add them up, they only come up to 6. That doesn't mean that they're insignificant, though.

It's a given that Obama was elected on an agenda of hope and change that garnered the kind of high expectations that mere mortals can't be expected to uphold. But that doesn't deny the country's citizens the rights to criticize the administration even while applauding the positive things. Constant vigilance is the price you pay for democracy, and some of these criticisms may be reminder to stay on track, rather than telling the administration that they're on the wrong path.

Everybody Needs Nobody?


In this article, Bill O'Reilly comes down hard on Jennifer Aniston for expressing her opinion on being a single mother by choice in today's society. O'Reilly claims that Aniston's opinion that women have more options these days and don't have to forego having children because they don't have a husband, are socially destructive. He appears to think that Aniston's comments are an assault on the family unit, particulary, on fathers. He claims that this begs the question: do fathers matter?

This is a complex issue and deserves to be looked at from many angles.

On the one hand, what is a father and what is their role in a child's life? They're traditionally providers, male influences, a second opinion when mom says no, that person who gives the living room couch that special warm groove, and the one who magically makes garbage bags disappear from the house. As we get older, there are issues, political debates, fatherly advice, and those occasions when you need to talk to dad for money.

Is all this essential to a person's existence? No. Arguably, mom's influence is much more vital to our survival, as she is the womb, the provider of life, the provider of food and essential services like being driven to soccer practice, and an endless source of both informaion and unsolicited advice. Your mother is generally the person who cries at your milestone events and hangs your ugly kindgarten photos on the fridge. For many, they grow up in homes where mom rules the roost and makes the big decisions.

One can easily make the argument that dad is not essential in this scenario as long as mom has the time, money and support network needed to cater to her child's needs. Many of the single mothers by choice out there are affluent older women who have successful careers and substantial egg nests. It can be argued that they have no need for a secondary income or for someone to fill out that spot on the couch.

Unfortunately, a lot of these single women don't have the time to stay at home with their children if they're still actively working. So they hire a supporting cast of maids, nurses, nannies, cooks and all the of the rest, to help them raise their child. This child's needs are covered, but not necessarily by mom herself. So if dad is unnecessary, maybe in this case, mom is, too.

And what about those children who lose their parents at a young age? Their caregivers can range from a group of family relations, to adoptive parents, to foster care homes, to a large network of friends who basically are family to them. There's a wide range of options for raising a child, and they don't have to be the typical traditional family unit of mom and dad.

So if nobody actually needs parents, does anybody need anybody?

Following this logic, Bill O'Reilly's comments are entirely unfair. One loving parent who truly wants a child may be just as great a parent as two negligent parents who are resigned to their situation. But what about the fact of having a father? Is it important to have someone to call dad, or can a child simply rely on male figures like uncles, brothers and Clint Eastwood films?

Daddy issues make for great entertainment in JJ Abrams films, but they can have detrimental cross over effects in real life. Children lacking a male influence may grow up with mixed feelings about men and how they should behave. This may lead them to take their cues from questionable sources or accept certain behaviors that they may not otherwise know are wrong. This is not to say that all children without dads are screwed up in their relationships with men; but the absense of a strong male father figure can be disruptive to some.

Then there's the test tube factor. It's hard to say how children will react to being told that their father is an anonymous sperm donor who may have been collecting some extra cash one weekend. It can make a child feel that they're not rooted to someone, that they don't have a shared lineage or history and can affect their sense of identity. They will never have the opportunity to blame their father for a physical attribute that they hate like their nose or the size of their bum, nor will they be able to blame their neuroses on their father.

While it's unfortunate to be faced with the reality that you may not have those experiences, they're not exactly detrimental to our survival. What would be detrimental to our survival is a lack of food, water, shelter and a zombie apocalypse. Either way, though, people do need people while growing up, whether it's a traditional family unit, a paid supporting cast of servants or an impromptu support unit of friends. We need people to support and guide us, and the more of those people, the better. They don't need to be 'mom' and they don't need to be 'dad'. They don't even need to be family, really. They just need to be there when it counts.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The world's turn to invade Britain

See this article from yahoo.ca

LONDON - Are Canadians easily offended?

New guidelines from Britain's national tourism agency ahead of the 2012 London Olympics warn that Canadians can be overly sensitive, especially about their national identity.

Seeking to help the country's sometimes snarky citizens offer a warmer welcome, VisitBritain has updated its advice for anyone likely to work with travellers arriving from overseas — from hotel staff to taxi drivers.

The advice says Canadian tourists are likely to be quite annoyed about being mistaken for Americans, the guide suggests — urging workers to keep an eye out for Maple Leaf pins or badges on tourists' clothing.

Hold off from hugging an Indian, the guide says, and don't be alarmed if the French are rude.

Other tips: Don't go around asking Brazilians personal questions and never be bossy with visitors from the Middle East.

"Giving our foreign visitors a friendly welcome is absolutely vital to our economy," said Sandie Dawe, chief executive officer of the agency. "With hundreds of thousands of people thinking of coming to Britain in the run-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, this new advice is just one of the ways that VisitBritain is helping the tourism industry care for their customers."

About 30 million people visit Britain each year, spending about 16.6 billion pounds (C$27 billion). The 2012 Olympics is likely to bring in an additional 2.1 billion (C$3.4 billion) in tourism revenue, according to a government estimate, and about 320,000 extra visitors from overseas during the games in July and August 2012.

VisitBritain said research it had conducted found tourists believe Britons are honest and efficient — but not the most pleasant. Britain is ranked 14th out of 50 in the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index on the quality of welcome offered to visitors, the tourism agency said.

The frank etiquette tips were written by agency staff about their own native countries.

Polish tourists are likely to be hurt by stereotypes that imply they drink excessively, while the French are notoriously picky in restaurants, the guidelines claim.

U.K. workers are told to brush off common Argentine jokes about a person's clothing or weight. Belgians take offence at people snapping their fingers while Australians are fond of coarse language. Japanese people consider prolonged eye contact impolite and smile to express a range of emotions — not simply to show happiness.

Tourism workers are advised to show extra patience when dealing with guests from India or the United Arab Emirates.

"Indians are in general, an impatient lot, and like to be quickly attended to," the guidelines claim. "The more affluent they are, the more demanding and brusque they tend to be."

Indians also don't like being touched by strangers and may be suspicious about the quality of British food, the guide said, without noting the latter might be a common concern.

Travellers from the Middle East are likely to be demanding with staff and "are not used to being told what they can't do," the guide warns.

Guests from China and Hong Kong may find winking or pointing with an index finger rude, while "mentioning failure, poverty or death risks offence," the advice claims. Chinese visitors may be unimpressed by landmarks just a few hundred years old, tourism staff are told.

Workers are advised against discussing poverty, immigration, earthquakes or the Mexican-American war with visitors from Mexico — who prefer to chat about history and art.

And Americans? They can appear "informal to the point of being very direct or even rude" and won't ever hesitate about complaining, the guide says.

(end of article)

How insightful! Good for Britain, figuring out all the stereotypes that can be commonly applied to certain groups based on their nationality and doing a polite finger waving at all of their employees so that they should handle all of these weirdos from other nations with kid gloves so to speak and be sure not to offend their various odd sensitivities.

While known as not being the most tolerant or open-minded of all nations, it's a refreshing step forward to see that Britain is taking responsibility for playing a good host for the Olympics and putting on its best cheeky face. It's also refreshing to know that Britain wants to make this sort of effort, and not just to bring in badly needed tourism dollars that they are so lacking. But they have a real desire not to offend the visitors from around the world as they watch their athletes compete at an international event.

And a round of applause should go to the International Olympic Committee, who embraced their traditional roots of supporting lesser-known destinations in the world to host an international event that will bring them instant recognition and inject much-needed funds into their uneven economies. Hurray for such sportsmanlike and courteous behavior, upholding the less fortunate countries in the world and foregoing such luxuries as four star treatment by potential host candidates and making a real decision based on fairness and integrity rather than commercialism and greed.

This is all quite practical advice to be sure. One would not want to be seen as a rude, ignorant jack ass in front of guests by doing something as untoward as mentioning poverty to a poor dirty Mexican. And one would not want the shock of an outraged impatient Indian who is not tended to in a timely manner, therefore putting a big black eye on the entire British nation, never mind the history of vicious colonization that may have harboured some of that impatience in the first place. It's also quite unpractical to mention poverty, failure or death to Asians, especially considering how every other nation on the planet considers those to be the preferred small talk items over tea. Nothing says polite company like a long, frank discussion about death.

Perhaps it would have been more practical to send out a pamphlet to organizers for the Olympic Games in London with 2 words on it: Be Nice. It's a fairly standard practice to attempt to be nice to people who aren't from your country and to treat them with basic respect, tending to their needs when you can and looking for help when you can't. And I'm not sure that grown adults need to be told to stick to neutral topics when talking to other adults, save for those precious few unbalanced people in the street who love to reveal stark, intensely personal details about themselves to random strangers for no apparent reason. And those people have no particular nationality, they're just that crazy part of the human rainbow that exist in every country.

Last, but not least, Canadians don't like being mistaken for Americans, no more than Welsh or Irish people like to be mistaken for Britons. But we don't expect Britain to be sensitive to this either, considering that they haven't shown the same consideration to either of these nations in the past. And Canadians aren't that different than Americans in the last sense: Americans will complain without hesitation, but Canadians will do the same. They just won't complain to you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Colonies on the Moon

Stephen Hawking has recently declared on the website BigThink that humans may have to consider making a new home for themselves in space in order to keep the human race going.

You know what this means, right? It's time to make those colonies on the moon that we've been talking about for so long. Yes, the time has come to find a new home planet and so far, it seems that the moon or Mars is the best new candidate.

The moon has the advantage of being fairly remote and full of interesting craters. It does, unfortunately, lack gravity, but it has wonderful potential to be a rock-collector's haven. Mars, which has been suspected of being able to sustain life and produce water, is also an excellent candidate, but has the mifortune of being substantially further away and red. It does have a cool name and a chocolate bar named after it, though.

While there's no arguing that Hawking is a brilliant, gifted man and an excellent guest star on the Simpsons, I'm not so sure what to make of this statement. It could be theoretically sound, all things considered, but logistically odd. On the one hand, Hawking argues that humans should consider a new planet because of the wear and tear on our current planet. Pollution, climate change (if you believe in that) and human disasters brought on by such international incidents like the Cuban Missile Crisis, have all contributed to our planet's demise and it is slowly deteriorating as a result.

Which begs the question: if we do all of this to our current planet, won't we just damage the next planet? An apocalyptic disaster that destroys the earth may be inevitable, but if this is triggered mostly by human error, do we really deserve a new planet to destroy?

Granted, it does take us millenia to destroy a planet, so there's the remote possibility that we will learn from our past mistakes and make the new planet a better place. But haven't we already been saying that for a millenia? And don't we generally recycle the same mistakes in the same way that we recycle fashion?

Are we worth saving? Some people would argue that humans are worth saving because we're intelligent life forms that have self-awareness and great potential to create beautiful things like music, art, literature and other remarkable things. Other people would argue that we're one of the only species that knows how to love and that the meaning of our relationships is worth saving because they're true bonds that defy simple concepts like natural selection or basic survival.

And then there's the crowd that says that humans are just arrogant apes, that we're not much different from any other species on the planet. Many have come before us, many of us will come after us and we will die out. We're a species like any other and not some gifted group of chosen people and that our relationships are the evolved result of basic survival, but no better.

So maybe we should consider this and all the things that we've done in our history to ourselves, the environment, the planet and each other before we start selling time shares on the moon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thanks for the Tip


This personal Finance article from Forbes online has stated that the 5 expenses that will consume 50% of your lifetime earnings are home, car, kids, education and retirement. While it does provide interesting facts and figures as to the ideal percentage of our income that we should be saving to have these things in our lives and still live comfortably above the margin line, it's surprisingly unhelpful otherwise.

While most of us know that there is an ideal pie graph out there that spells out what we should spend on what areas of our life and colour coordinates different categories of expenses that make up our daily lives, it doesn't spell out how this is feasible in the real world. Let's face it, personal finances are easy when they're on paper. They're controlled, they're carefully calculated and some of the most judicious of us even put in anticipatory inflation rates so as to calculate our future costs.

But give me a break. How many of us in the real world do this?

We all know that life is expensive. We also know that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. We also know that you need to plan for and make sacrifices for the things that you really want and that you can't afford to have a champagne diet on a beer budget. But none of this really helps.

The truth of the matter is that life, unlike finance, is completely unpredictable and messy. Sure, we're smart and we can plan on a 5 year interval to complete our Masters degree and then put 5% of our income aside for a downpayment on a home. But then life steps in, unwelcome and unannounced: the heater breaks, your car needs serious repair or it will collapse in the middle of the highway, your mother gets sick, your partner gets pregnant (surprise!) or your cousin gets kidnapped by revolutionnaries while traveling to South America and needs you to pay a ransom.

And then there's the choices. Education may be expensive, but what if you need to get a better job or your current job makes you unhappy? And maybe you want to own a home without having to ride a bus a half hour into work one way every day for the next 25 years of your life. And are you really going to let an Excel spreadsheet of numbers from the last fiscal year dictate to you whether or not you can have children? Come back down to planet Earth, friend.

If this article wanted to offer some practical advice that real people may actually use, it could have pointed out that cash is often lost in unnecessary places and eliminating these black holes for cash may be a better option than calculating percentages for the next 25 years with a 3% inflationary rate.

Practical advice like dropping little extras like coffee and bringing your own from home or bringing in lunch. Buying in bulk for those things that you always need and that don't expire, such as household supplies and cleaning products. Going generic for certain items. Handwashing your own clothes or taking public transport. And one of the most important: don't buy now and pay later. Save up for the things that you want and then buy them with cash that you have.

Pretty simple when you think about it.

Not so easy to apply in real life. But a heck of a lot easier than calculating future inflationary rates and rotating colourful pie charts that are supposed to represent your life.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Wheelchair Ride to Disney World

Air Canada, one of the most reviled airlines in the world, has added another notch under its belt for outrageous, careless and negligent behavior. After destroying a $15,000 specialized wheelchair for a young boy suffering from a disease who was on his way to New York for a charity run in his honour, Air Canada decided that the best way to resolve this incident was by offering him and his family a free trip to Disney World. A trip to Disney World was on his list of things that he was hoping to do, so they do have the benefit of fulfilling his one of his wishes. That's great, and it was no doubt a popular idea with the PR squad who's afraid of controversy, but it fails to gloss over some pretty obvious problems.

First off, why did Air Canada dismantle such an important piece of machinery without consulting the owner? A wheelchair is not a pair of skis for someone's vacation to Aspen. At $15,000, this wheelchair was probably a complicated and specialized piece of equipment. What would have possessed them to dismantle it? Was it because it was easier to board? Space limitations?

Fair enough, there may have been space limitations, but why not consult the people beforehand? And if it wasn't possible to fit the wheelchair, maybe it was somewhat irresponsible of them to board the owner of the chair. Airlines are obligated to accommodate clients with accessibility issues, and one of those things should be to ensure that their equipment will be transported in a manner that is safe and functional. And if they can't do it, they should not accept the client. It's a safety issue, not a nuisance like bags of peanuts or the surly look on the faces of flight attendants when you ask them for blankets.

It seems that Air Canada can add "treating clients with accessibility issues badly" to their list of things that they do wrong, along with canceling flights at the last minute with no consideration for alternate arrangements for their clients. While it's annoying that they treat their regular clients like mindless cattle and throw their bags with angry abandon on board, it's just criminal for them to treat their special needs clients badly. It's negligent and disrespectful, and in some cases, it could potentially be dangerous.

Air Canada will have to do a serious check on its attitude and how it will treat these clients in the future, because there's no amount of Disney World trips that will make up for this kind of treatment which could potentially have implications down the line. Being known as the airline which can't accommodate special needs properly is not the reputation that this airline wants to have.

Note to Air Canada- when you take this kid to Disney World, don't dismantle his wheelchair or lose it along the way. Because then your reputation will be sealed. But it would be a great chance for a new slogan for the company: Air Canada- treating everyone badly, equally.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Is Nothing Sacred?

As if Facebook wasn't bad enough, serving as a useless time vacuum sucking in people away from their real lives to occupy a self-interested online vortex where friends are mouse clicks rather than real people, it turns out that Facebook can also nail you if you're cheating on your partner.

While it's well-known that suspicious spouses will use phones and other techniques to spy on their cheating mates, it appears that Facebook has made catching a thief a whole lot easier, particularly when that thief is dumb enough to broadcast to the world that they're successfully cheating and getting away with it.

It's funny that it used to be a source of shame to be having an affair, that there used to be an actual social stigma associated with cheaters and that in certain places, the local known 'cheater' often became a social pariah. But now, it appears that not only is cheating socially acceptable, it's also become something of a source of pride for people, who brag about their exploits to their many online friends and even create separate accounts to keep track of their numerous conquests.

An article posted to yahoo.ca today tells the interesting and twisted story of a woman who found out that her husband had a second wedding through his Facebook account. It's a rather convoluted story where the husband denies that they were ever married, despite their wedding ceremony having been performed off the coast of Italy, facilitated by a wedding company that still features their wedding pictures as part of their advertising campaign on their current website. The husband then got engaged to a new woman in a different state, proposed to her, and then married her in a Walt Disney Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty ceremony. He then posted these photos to his Facebook account, because, of course, wives don't look at Facebook and women don't google their partners online.

Further to this craziness, the husband then decided that he had enough of divorce proceedings from the wife he claims he's not married to and then stole the 2 children from the home that he shares with his not-wife and ran off with them to the home of his Sleeping Beauty Facebook wife.

The most hilarious part about reading this article, with its tangled web of lies, deceit and audacity, is this line here:

"Aftab, a lawyer who runs the online protection site WiredSafety.org, says the lesson to be learned from the Frances' case is that no form of communication is sacred anymore."

Is nothing sacred? Facebook, MySpace, cell phones? Oh dear Lord, say it isn't true! A man can't cheat on his wife and then brag to the public about it because his communications can and will be used against him? Who would have thought that incriminating text and photos could be so, well, incriminating? And who would have thought that (gasp!) they could be used against you?

It surprises me that the observation was made that communication forms are not sacred anymore, but the person didn't mention that other sacred thing which is obviously being undermined in this situation: marriage. Once considered a sacred institution, marriage is more in danger than ever of becoming as obsolete as the paper it comes on. Why? Well, with more opportunities to cheat and to become anyone that they want to be online, the inconveniences of working at a relationship and the unpleasantness of real human contact may just be a thing of the past.

Is this man really astonished that communication forms can be used to catch cheaters and is not in the least astonished by the selfish and mean behavior of actually being a cheater?

Betraying someone's trust is probably more damaging than having unauthorized people peek at your online profile where you aired your dirty laundry in the first place.

I'm guessing that the conversation to follow would look something like this:

"How dare you betray my trust and love for you by marrying another woman behind my back and then adding to the humiliation by posting happy photos of you online for all of your friends and family to see? And what if our 2 children had seen it? They would then know that you're a cheat."

"How dare you look at my Facebook page when I haven't right clicked your request to be added as a friend?"

It's pretty obvious where the bigger crime is.

Is nothing sacred? Is there no way to protect a man or a woman's right to cheat on their spouse and then brag about it in peace?

Who would have thought that behavior online would have such real consequences in real life?

The real lesson here is not that no form of communication is sacred. The real lesson is that mean, underhanded and sneaky behavior should be kept to oneself and not shared with the world. Cover your tracks, people! Facebook can't save you from shame.

Don't Work It In Dubai

See this story from yahoo.ca:

Bikini-clad Briton briefly detained in Dubai mall
By Michael Casey, The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - A British woman was briefly detained after stripping down to a bikini and walking in her beach wear through a five-star mall in Dubai, a police official in the Gulf emirate said Thursday.

According to the official, the British woman was shopping in the mall Wednesday, when a conservatively dressed Emirati woman came up to her and criticized her for wearing a low-cut top.

The two woman started arguing, then the Briton stripped down to her bikini and walked away like that through the mall, popular for its many luxury shops.
The mall, one of the world's largest, has signs asking shoppers to dress modestly, although Westerners in short skirts and revealing blouses routinely ignore the advisories.

The mall security subsequently detained both women and took them to a police station for questioning.

They were released later in the day, after the Emirati woman lodged a complaint for public indecency against the Briton, said the police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The British woman's name was not released.

British Embassy spokesman Simon Goldsmith said embassy officials were aware of the
incident and had offered consular assistance to the woman.

The incident is the latest in a string of cases involving frisky Westerners in Dubai, a cosmopolitan city-emirate with the most lenient social codes in the Gulf but a tendency to crackdown on foreigners who ignore the rules.

In March, a British couple were sentenced to a month in jail for passionately kissing in public while an Indian couple was sentenced to three months' prison for exchanging steamy text messages.

In 2008, two Britons accused of having sex on the beach got three months behind bars, though their sentences were later suspended.

(end of article)

While it may seem contradictory to create a lush, luxurious desert playground for adults and then tell them that they can't be free like adults, people seem to be forgetting something very essential here. Yes, Dubai has been created as a sort of pleasure palace for the well-heeled to go and party, but it's still part of the conservative Gulf. It is not a separate state entity where everything goes. In short, it's not Vegas. What happens there doesn't necessarily stay there, and can sometimes cause incidents, that, while they may seem trivial on the surface, only contribute to the widening ignorant views held by both Westerners and Easterners.

What ever happened to that old saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans do?" It's more than just an expression. It's a belief that when you're a guest in someone's country, just as you might be a guest in someone's home, that you respect them. This means that you don't snoop around in their cupboards or make out in their pantry. And that you don't get tipsy and say obnoxious things while wearing a lamp shade on your head, thinking it's a fedora.

The basic tenet of respect is huge. It says something meaningful about the way that we perceive ourselves and the way that we perceive others. It shows that we value ourselves and other people and their rights and freedoms. Showing respect for another person's values and traditions is an indication that you're a self-aware, confident person with an open mind who recognizes that other people are just as valuable in their own way. It shows maturity and class.

That's why I find it unbelievable that Westerners, who are supposed to be the most open-minded, educated, worldly, and tolerant of nations, can't show basic respect to people in the Gulf. While you don't have to agree with the conservative practices of their people and their religion and you don't have to prescribe to their ideas, you should be respectful while on their territory. Cover yourself because it's the custom, not because you believe in it. Refrain from public displays of affection. Put aside your hedonistic ways for a couple of days and grow up.

Of course, it doesn't help that Dubai is marketed as a sort of pleasure island that's above all of these rules and attempts to sell the five star luxury vacation package to rich foreigners, excess and all. It's a funny sort of place, rife with contradictions and high end boutiques, sandy beaches and general anomalies like an indoor ski hill and rooftop tennis court. Despite all of this, though, people should remember that their pleasure islands are home to someone and that someone has their own values.

All of these little signs of disrespect are part of a festering wound that is just continuing to grow between East and West. Both sides are very critical and opinionated about the other and hold many ill-conceived notions of the other. There's a lot of stereotypes and newsreel images that continue to feed the ignorance and mistrust that already exists between Westerners and Easterners and travelers to and from are not doing a good job of undoing this.

That's because there's no willingness to learn or to respect one another and all of this will climax in more violent conflict later on. It's just like that bad relationship you have with that one person who undermines you all of the time with small jabs, joking and ridiculing your worth, until one day, the resentments grows too strong. And when it comes to the surface, the outcome is often disastrous.

But it doesn't have to come to that. Just as little incidents like these will cause the relationship to deteriorate, little actions of respect can help repair it. Travelers to this part of the world should be more considerate of the fact that even though they're on a personal trip, they do represent us. And we want them to represent the best of us. That's the only way we'll get closer to bridging an understanding and a peace.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The American Empire: Gorging to Death

For those who are wishing for Death to America, they may be slowly getting their wish. Countries battered by abusive and instrusive American foreign policy in the past and in the present may be able to get some satisfaction out of the pounds of deep fried batter that is slowly, but surely, killing America, one new obese person at a time.

Recent studies have shown that in the past 16 years, the rate of obese people in the US has risen to almost 27% of the population and that this increase is causing a serious decline in the quality of life and life expectancy of these people. While this has been a boon for the diet supplement companies and reality tv producers, it's proven to be less than stellar for rates of diabetes and risk of cardiovascular diseases, not to mention kidney failure and other ailments which are a drain to the US's non-existent health care system.

The study also reveals, shockingly, that poor diet and physical inactivity may soon be the leading causes of death in the US. That hasn't happened since the Depression. And it's equally shocking given the accessibility to information about healthy living, the rise of healthy living new wave trends such as yoga and organic whole foods, and the prevalence of overpriced gym memberships. How did this happen?

Has fast food culture and the dependence on the car really reduced people to such inactive, drive-thru blobs? Or is it the failing economy that often forces poorer people to work multiple jobs and as a result, have no time for proper healthy meals and light exercise?

Or could it be a question of prioritization? It's a heck of a lot easier at the end of a long, pointless day at work to come home to a cheeseburger and your favourite show while sitting on the couch. Nobody really enjoys peeling, dicing and chopping when they get home. And a lot of people find walking around for no reason to be boring and unfulfilling. Not to mention how unflattering workout gear can be on more rounded individuals. Nobody wants to walk around with their stomach flab on display.

Maybe the anorexic models are too much for us to take? Maybe we're tired of trying to look like a Victoria Secret Angel and would rather have a tub of ice cream and look over magazines that have celebrities with cellulite in them. That actually sounds really nice.

As nice as all this sounds, and as much as we make excuses for ourselves, this all really breaks down to one thing: lack of discipline.

The real key to all this is discipline. Good old fashioned, no-nonsense tough love discipline. The kind that has your parents' nagging voices behind it, telling you to get some fresh air and exercise and that eating brussel sprouts won't kill you. None of this "I don't like vegetables" crap. None of this "exercise bores me" crap. None of this "work's too hard" crap.

It's all just crap that people use to justify laziness and procrastination. The American culture is one that is so grossly entitled and narcissistic that it seems to believe that regular rules don't apply to them and that there's no reason for them to work hard to get good results. Everything which is not pleasant or doesn't contribute to a person's pleasure of life is viewed as a hassle and waste of time, when they're really just life. Life is hard. And you have to work at it.

America, like the Roman Empire, may be another decadent, self-indulgent, self-important people too busy staring at themselves lovingly in the mirror to realize what is going on all around them. That's when empires fall. They die inside before outsiders even make it to the gates. Invasions occur when they're busy feasting and looking for sweets.

Those who are wishing for the death of America may have to wait awhile, but it seems like waiting is all that they will have to do. Americans themselves are slowly gorging themselves to death, dying out sooner than expected and living shorter, painful lives with diseases linked to their negligent lifestyles.

The most powerful nation in the world may be taken down by its own ravenous appetites. What a sad and appropriate fate.