Friday, December 2, 2011

This might be my last Christmas

Christmas time is a special time, a joyous time, a time of magic.

But it can also be a very stressing season. People worry about all manner of things: buying the right gifts, getting the right cards to send in the mail, adorning the house, picking the perfect tree. Many likely know of a street or a neighborhood where there seems to be something of an outdoor lights competition, with houses vying with one another for the Griswald cup.

I wonder though, how differently this season might be if everyone were faced with the very real possibility that this Christmas might be their last Christmas here on Earth.

Rather than tell you about myself right now. I want to tell you about a friend of mine. Someone who passed away very recently. My friend never realized that last Christmas was his last Christmas. Had he known that last Christmas was to be his last Christmas, would he have celebrated it differently? I can't help but think that he would have.

I imagine he would have taken in much more than decorations and gift giving. I'm convinced that a company holiday party and open houses would have seemed totally different.

Had my friend known that he was celebrating his last Christmas, I'm convinced his senses would have been on overdrive to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, even to the texture of this wonderful time of year. Most of all though, I'm sure he would have cherished the love that surrounded him, love that remains even though he is no longer with us in body.

Ironic that I should be contemplating these questions during the Yule season. It is at this time of year when nature goes to bed, when so much of creation hunkers down for a long sleep. That is how many regard death and passing on, as going to sleep.

But if nature teaches us anything, it teaches us that a winter sleep is not permanent. Trees shed their leaves and are blanketed with snow, flowers wither and disappear. The grass turns brown and becomes hard and frozen and seemingly dead, waiting for its blanket of white. But even as the days grow shorter and shorter with less and less of the sun's warmth, we know that rebirth and renewal are only a short time away.

That's what makes this time of year so special, its why we have celebrated this season for thousands of years. Its a time to cherish what we have before it passes on, yet we are joyful and full of expectation because we know that renewal is close at hand.

Is this my last Christmas? I don't know, it could be, but I hope not. I'm not dying, at least not in the clinical sense. Of course in reality, we're all dying, some are just closer to their final Christmas than others. But nobody is told when they'll pass on, my friend certainly wasn't.

There are many people who will be, in fact, celebrating their last Christmas, and the possibility exists that I may be one of that number. That's probably why some are reading this right now, we're all aware of our own mortality, no matter how hard we try to ignore it.  I'm not the first to say it, from the time we draw our first breath we all start to die. 
I'm going to celebrate this Christmas as I believe it is meant to be celebrated, as my last before rebirth.

Merry Christmas all.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Drinks, the donut shop and the fight

For reasons I will explain at a later time, I am in something of a reflective mood of late.  A comment on a recent post about the virtues of Canada's 10th province, Newfoundland, got me to thinking about an experience I had with a 'Newfie' some twenty years back.

A long time ago, when I was around twenty years of age, I got the tar kicked out of me.  It was the last fight I ever engaged in.  Yes, the individual whose clothes I dirtied with my blood, he was a Newfie.

I was out with a young woman named Annie, I wouldn't say we were dating though, we were out drinking.  Actually, drinking would be understating it, we were getting smashed, sloggered, sloshed.  Annie was a native Australian, and she had boasted that she could drink me under the table.  Being a proud Canadian I had to take up the challenge, so we headed to a local watering hole. 

Who won? 

Neither of us ended up under the table, so I'll call it a draw.  But given that I am the one telling this tale, and given equally that everyone likes to be the hero of their own narratives, I will include this.  I was mixing  between beer, rye, rhum and vodka, while Annie stuck with beer.  So maybe I did win.

After the bar closed Annie and I headed to a coffee shop close by.  Nothing unusual, two drunks sipping coffee and acting stupid.  And we weren't the only ones either, Frank was there too, the Newfie in this story.  I knew Frankie, he'd been a neighbour of mine years before, and we'd never had any problems, but then we'd never been in the same place at the same time, both pissed to the gills, with an attractive young woman present.

Frankie, oblivious to my presence, aside from a cursory greeting, took to flirting with Annie.  I tend to avoid confrontation as a rule, so I simply asked Frank to leave us alone...saying something banal like: "Frank, do you mind"?

It actually worked, Frank moved back to his booth, but being likely as drunk as we were, he came back again and again to flirt with Annie.  Finally realizing that polite requests to leave us be weren't going to work, I got much bolder, saying something close to:  "Frankie, would you just f*** right off"!!!

Now I'd done it, this was a challenge and Frank wasn't one to back down.  I have Irish descendants myself, and Annie was out with me dammit!!!  I know I said we weren't actually a couple or anything, in point of fact Annie had a bit of a reputation, she was considered by some to be the town bike.  Well it was my turn!!!

Once outside I took the full measure of my opponent.  He was maybe 6'2" and a roofer by trade, probably about 210 pounds of solid construction working muscle.  I had my 5'11 inches of 190 pound office working muscle to do battle with. 

In short, I was dead. 

Too add to the physical disadvantage I was at, Frankie I later learned, had only just got out of jail.  Realizing I had zero chance of winning this fight, but equally realizing there was no way to back down, I threw myself at him and actually managed to get him down on the ground in a headlock.  I believe I had the better of him for perhaps a nanosecond.  It wasn't long before I was on the ground getting the boots taken to me.  I use the word boots strictly as an expression, they were in fact running shoes, and thank God for that. 

The police came touring through the parking lot not long thereafter and were quick upon the scene.  They intervened, and with me being supported by two friends inquired: 

"What happened here"?

Now, like many people there have been times where, long after a particular incident, I think of the perfect thing to say, this was not one of those times.  Rather than coming out with something dumb I actually thought of the right thing to say on the spot.  I didn't want anything more to come of this, and I knew that Frankie had had his share of incidents with the local police.  I wasn't going to be a rat in other words.  My exchange with the cops was this:

"What happened here"?
"I fell".
Incredulous, "You fell"?!?!?

The onlookers even chuckled.  A note to anyone who wants to come up with snappy retorts on the spot, get drunk and be suffering from a slight concussion.

That should be the end of the tale, but its not.  A week or so later I was having a drink after work in a bar when the waitress brought me another that I hadn`t ordered.  Telling her this she pointed over to the bar and told me it was from a guy sitting at the end. 

That guy?  Frankie the newf :-)

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Living large in la ville de Québec

I am settling in nicely here in what is probably the most historic city in Canada.  This blog is of course suffering from a dearth of new material, something that I will be rectifying in the next few weeks.  

I am now an anglo living in a sea of French culture and language, and I am loving it.  Ma français c`est pas encore assez bien pour écrire, mais je débrouille sans beaucoup des problèmes.  For now I will stick with the English language, however as time goes on I might `ajoute` a little French "de temps en temps".

Keep well and keep checking back, its appreciated.  I likely will be publishing once a week once I am more settled in. 

Salut TLM

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On the train heading to la ville de Québec

Well, the adventure continues.  I'm departing Kingston and heading to my next posting in la belle province, ou pays if you prefer.  Since joining the CF in March of 2010 I've been to bases in St Jean Quebec, Kingston Ontario, Wainwright Alberta, Meaford Ontario, Gagetown New Brunswick, Shilo Manitoba, and now its onward to Valcartier. 

I haven't been able to keep up with news and world events as much as I typically do, and this political junkie has basically tuned out the Ontario election.  I'm looking forward to once again being engaged with current events and the challenging times many are facing.  There's plenty going on certainly, events of political and economic import are happening all the time, I've just been too busy of late to fully soak everything in. 

Stay tuned, once I've settled into a routine I'm sure I'll have more to say. 

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Sooner or later the left must unite

That the Liberals and NDP will eventually unite is a foregone conclusion in my opinion, the only question is one of timing.  Will it be sooner or later?

The old Progressive Conservatives and Reform/Alliance parties watched the Liberals romp to 3 consecutive majorities before resolving their differences and joining forces as the Conservative Party of Canada.  Will the NDP and Liberals wait as long?  Not if they're smart.

The progressive left is far too fragmented and the Conservatives are too strong for Dippers and Grits to let pride get in the way of common sense.  Of course there will need to be compromise on both sides, but a look at the Conservatives shows it can be done. 

Interestingly Stephen Harper has managed to keep the old socially conservative Reform/Alliance wing on board despite ignoring issues like abortion and same sex marriage.  Fiscal conservatives haven't been too happy given the rampant spending, but we're starting to see signs that a return to balanced budgets is once again a priority.

In other words compromise can be achieved, and Canada's very existence is the result of compromise.  The NDP and Liberals will eventually come to that realization, its just a matter of time.  I'm quite certain Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are hoping its a long drawn out process. 

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10 years after 9/11 questions still abound

We're less than a week away from the 10th year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, 10 years since the biggest conspiracy ever. 

Don't bristle at the use of the word  "conspiracy".  That 9/11 was a conspiracy is not in doubt.  The only question is who were the conspirators.  The official story is that it was Muslim extremists who conspired to attack the heart of American capitalism because Islamic extremists hate the freedoms enjoyed by citizens of the U.S.A.   Others have suggested that there was involvement to one degree or another by U.S. security and/or intelligence agencies. 

Conspiracy is one of the most common, (if not the most common) criminal charges laid in our courts.  By simple definition it means:  An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act.  In other words two or more people acting together.  We're not talking about the assassination of JFK here, where the lone gunman theory endorsed by the Warren Commission discounted evidence of a conspiracy. 

But like the shooting of Kennedy, questions about 9/11 are still around and far too many have yet to be answered. 

  • Why all the secrecy and foot dragging on having an investigation into the attacks? 
  • Why did building 7 collapse so perfectly when it wasn't even hit by a plane?
  • Who profited from all the short selling on stocks like UAL just before 9/11?
  • Where did the anthrax used to terrorize U.S. lawmakers come from, and why were laced letters made to look like they were coming from Islamic extremists?
  • Why did the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania practically disintegrate?

There are lots of questions out there, just go to 9/11 Truth Alliance for a quick primer.

Like the Kennedy assassination I suspect this will remain a riddle for a very long time to come.  Do I buy the official version?  No, there are far too many holes, too many unanswered - and in the case of mainstream corporate media - unasked questions. 

There's too much evidence of widespread foreknowledge of the attacks in my opinion to fully accept the official conspiracy.  But without a concerted and fully open inquiry I doubt we'll ever have all the answers.  Maybe Oliver Stone's grand kids will put out a movie in another 25 years. 

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review "Broken Words" Understanding the grip Neo-Cons have on evangelicals

As the author of a blog I get occasional emails asking me to review a book or promote a particular cause.  In most cases I decline, and I've never agreed to review a book before...until now.

The book I was asked to review is entitled 'Broken Words' its subtitled 'The Abuse of Science and Faith In American Politics'   and is written by Jonathan Dudley.  I quickly agreed because this is a topic I find extremely compelling, and equally vexing.  I was raised with the Christian faith, and I still consider myself an adherent, so it is with some consternation that I witness the strong level of support the U.S Republican party and Canada's Conservatives garner from people who identify themselves as Christian. 

My Christianity is about tolerance, forgiveness and helping those in need...and these are not the values I see on the right hand side of the political landscape, be it in Canada or the U.S.  

I'll dispense with traditional form and give you my recommendation up front.  I consider this an important work and very much worth reading for those interested in understanding the dichotomy between American style evangelicals and the neo-conservative right wing element of the political spectrum. 

Before reading a book as contentious as this its important to understand an author's frame of reference and his bona fides.  Mr. Dudley takes on what he calls 'The Big Four' issues:  Abortion, Homosexuality, Evolution and Environmentalism from the perspective of a person raised in the fundamentalist, evangelical Christian tradition.  Along with that perspective he brings a BS in biology from Calvin College and a MA in religion from Yale University.   

The author doesn't attack these issues, he dissects them while carefully avoiding the usual venom and hyperbole which typically dominates the debate on these issues.  With respect to abortion he often references Exodus 21 v 21-25 wherein it clearly states that a pregnant woman's life is more valuable and superior to that of an unborn child or fetus.  While many of the religious right engage in arguments that are nothing short of literary contortion in efforts to support their 'abortion is murder' view, Dudley will have none of it.  If you're going to take the Bible literally you can't pick and choose only the parts that support your agenda.

And that is his springborad to the other big issues.  Its fascinating reading to see how these issues (the other three are homosexuality, evolution and environmentalism) have been used to wed the fundamentalist/evangelical Christian community to the GOP in the United States...and as a Canadian I see distinct similarities with our Conservative Party. 

If you're looking to order this book its available on - LINK -

Whether you're a born again Christian looking for answers to these questions or someone like myself interested in better understanding the dynamic between Christians and Neo-Cons, then this rates as a must read in my opinion. 

FYI full disclosure.  I received zero compensation for this review aside from the book itself and I am not associated with amazon.  If you order the book here or elsewhere it doesn't matter to me one way or another. 

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Jack Layton's passing, let's leave the analysis for another day....

So what does the passing of NDP leader Jack Layton mean? 

Let's forget about that for now and just take a bit of time to admire the man for his energy, his convictions and passion.  They say a candle burns brightest before it goes out, and that is a fitting description of how Jack Layton captivated a significant portion of the electorate and vaulted the NDP to never before seen heights for Canada's socialist party in our most recent election.

I was as shocked as anyone at how gaunt and aged Jack looked during the news conference when he announced he was taking time off to battle cancer, but I'll relegate that image to the back of the photo library and instead remember the vibrant campaigner who exuded energy, even while using a cane.

Rest well and be at peace Jack Layton.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stock Markets Collapse - Time to panic or a buying oppourtunity?

Ah the stock market, where everyone knows the mantra buy low and sell high.  There's just one problem, if some investors are buying low there needs to be others willing to sell low. 

Nothing like some panic, this time brought on by the debt crisis in the U.S. and subsequent downgrading of the rating for the world's biggest economy.  Scary stuff, scary scary scary.  For rookies playing the market for the first time, this is new ground.  From the spring of 2009 until now the market has been very bullish, and bull markets can make even the most challenged investor believe he or she is the next Warren Buffet. 

Recent history has shown that the big winners over the past 10+ years have been those who bought into the market when all around them were running for cover.

Perhaps today's rally is evidence of that mindset, but personally I think there's more pain to come in the broader markets.  Capitulation is a word often bandied about, and we're no where near that point yet.  When Joe Sixpack and Sally Housecoat can't take it and bail on their holdings, that's when markets typically rebound. 

Look at a chart for the past 12 years or so as we've gone from bull to bear markets in the wake of: the meltdown, the toxic debt recession of 2008 and now the latest fears about US debt levels.  In the stock market history is constantly repeating itself, and I don't see any reason to see this time being any different. 

For those who have cash when the market bottoms out, history says they'll win big. 

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tim Hudak - Too wishy washy to lead Ontario?

Tim Hudak wants to be the next Premier of Ontario, desperately so by all appearances.  Canada is caught up in something of a Conservative wave right now, and Hudak looks eager as hell to cash in and grab the mantle of power at Queens Park.

But on important issues such as wind power Hudak needs to provide some clarity and do better than wavering weak rhetoric.  Polls show Ontarians are overwhelmingly supportive of green energy programs like wind power...but with that being said its fair game to oppose wind farms. 

The question is, with Ontario being a leader in the manufacture of wind turbines...How do the Tories propose to replace all the jobs being created given their campaing pledge to axe the program?  We in this province are at the forefront of a burgeoning industry, something I thought Conservatives would be supportive of.

It definitely has this voter thinking twice about Hudak, and I'm a voter who has voted for Ontario's Conservatives in the past.  

And the flip flopping wishy washiness doesn't stop there.  On abortion the PC leader says he favours the status quo, this despite signing a petition just a couple years back to withdraw public funding.  Then there's the Ontario Human Rights Commission, one day he's all for abolishing it, now he says he just wants to fix it.  

Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals haven't done a perfect job, no government ever does.  But if you want to replace them you have to do more than alter the campaign script every time your audience changes.  These are challenging time and leadership matters.  

Turbines need to move with the direction of the wind, but politicians doing the same end up looking weak and indecisive. 

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Feeling a bit depressed and needing a lift, Church revived my spirit

Its been an eventful couple of past weeks for this blogger readers, since I last updated my little corner of cyber space I celebrated yet another birthday, my 45th. But that's not the reason for my recent funk, at least not directly.

I'm currently situated in Kingston Ontario, and travel back to the Toronto area most weekends to see my father, my kids and my girlfriend. The past two weeks however provided me with a much appreciated break as the course I'm on shut down for a fortnight.

Wanting to give my kids a super holiday I rented a place here in the Limestone City and had them with me for seven full days, ending this past Friday. My girlfriend spent most of the week here as well, and on Sunday almost the whole clan came down for a get together. The Princess Raspberry and I even baked a cake, with a little help from a guy named Duncan.

Old Fort Henry, swimming almost every day, playing some hoops with Buddy basketball star, hikes to the lake, catching fireflies. What reason would I have to be depressed? None, well not until this past Friday at least. After having breakfast my ex came to pick up the kids, which is super of her, I'm glad we're getting along well.

But then, I was alone, and that's when a bit of depression set in. Being a divorced father is tough, especially when you're away from your kids. Friday night I was back in my room, no Honey Bunny to read 'The Secret Garden' to before tucking her into bed. No games of cribbage with the big guy before hitting the sack, just me and my thoughts.

Saturday to keep busy I took a long walk downtown , about 3 hours in total just shuffling around. Kingston has a number of beautiful old churches, and that's when I decided that a little worship time might just be what the doctor ordered.

Now, dedicated readers of this blog will likely be aware that I'm not big on religion. But with that being said I think my writings do give evidence to a strong spiritual side every now and again. Those of the fundamentalist persuasion will view me as something of a heretic given that I don't consider the Bible to be the irrefutable and undeniable word of God. As a matter of fact I don't even believe in the Trinity or in as Jesus as Lord. What I do believe in is a Higher Power, and calling that power God is acceptable to me given the limitations of human language.

So how does a heathen such as myself find peace and comfort in a Christian church service? I'll tell you.

One of the scripture readings yesterday was from Mathew, it was the story about the loaves of bread and the fishes. Readers of the Bible will know it well, thousands had gathered to hear Jesus teach and to be healed. Later Jesus' disciples came to their teacher and said the crowd was hungry, and Jesus instructed them to bring what food they had to him. It totalled five loaves of bread and two fishes, (or the other way around, it doesn't really matter though). The food was distributed to the multitude and all were fed with and abundance left over.

A miracle? Maybe, but personally I don't believe it, something doesn't need to be miraculous to have meaning. Probably some exaggeration from where I sit, that or a hidden cache of extra food. But miracle or not, the story still has spiritual meaning.

What this passage says to me, and the point the pastor drove home with his sermon, is that God provides. God, the Higher Power, (chose your own definition) is both a part of us and all around us.

Life throws things at us we don't expect, in my case divorce, for others it might be a death, job can be stressful. As stressful as trying to feed thousands with only enough for food for two or three.

The peace I walked away with Sunday morning was the peace that comes from knowing I'm not alone, that I'm part of something much bigger. Instead of being depressed about being alone, I rejoiced in the time I had with my kids, with more plans for the future.

Those of us who identify ourselves as progressive and liberal also tend toward being very humanistic and secular a lot of the time. That's all well and good, but sometimes religion can provide a much needed boost and a tonic for a depressed spirit.

It beats Prozac.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

IQT client Bell Canada should step up and help affected workers

Hundreds of Canadian workers should not be left in the lurch by the sudden closing of call centres in Trois-Rivières, Laval, and Oshawa. 

According to an on-line news article in the The Tennessean:

"The affected call center employees performed customer and technical help services for Bell Canada".  (READ IT HERE)

This is how the call centre industry works.  Companies like Bell Canada outsource their telemarketing to third party service bureaus like IQT, by doing so they avoid having to pay employees directly and have the flexibility to expand and contract telemarketing activity at reduced cost and bottom line risk.

But Bell Canada has a moral obligation to partner itself with companies that operate with integrity in my opinion, something they obviously didn't do in hiring IQT.  Now its  time for Bell to step up and help those workers left in the lurch by their business partner, and the same holds true for other IQT clients.

Companies that owe monies to IQT should divert any remittances to the affected workers first, and should give consideration to ever using IQT's services again. 

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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Tea Party movement - Defending the undertaxed from the overtaxed

Although the debt ceiling crisis playing out in Washington is an American concern, it is an issue with huge ramifications here in Canada and across the world. 

American historian Bernard Berenson is credited with this famous quote:

"Governments last only as long as the under taxed can defend themselves against the overtaxed". 

The wisdom of that statement is playing out right now as the U.S. rushes head long with August 2nd when they will hit their legislated debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion.  The Obama administration is putting pretty much everything on the table in terms of cuts to government and social programs to bring the debt under control.  That's the carrot for the so called Tea Party element of the Republican party, champions of the Libertarian ideal of smaller government.

The stick is increases to taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans and a closing of loop holes that allow both individuals and corporations to  avoid paying taxes they would otherwise incur.  Somehting to which Tea Party advocates are adamantly opposed. 

That is the beauty of the Tea Party movement.  America's über-rich have trailer park conservatives convinced that asking the wealthy to contribute their fair share is somehow un-American.  The argument is the affluent already do their bit by contributing to wealth creation through investment and hiring.  Increasing or requiring taxes on the wealthy will discourage investment and job creation, that's the argument being put forth.

I for one don't buy it. 

Increased taxation on those most able to afford it would likely mean lower bonuses, decreased dividends, a trimming of massive net worths for a very small percentage of those most able to afford it.  The benefits of increased taxation on millionaires  and billion dollar companies on the other hand would be enormous.

For the economy it would signal to the world that America's wealthy elite are serious about helping their government get itself on solid fiscal  footing.  But sadly I don't think the über-rich are that patriotic.  Its been said by many before me that money knows no nationality, the same can be said by those who possess it. 

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

On this Father's Day, let your kids believe in their dreams

For this Father's Day I thought I'd write about my kids.  They are 'Buddy Basketball Star' and his sister the 'Princess Raspberry' aged 6 and 12 respectively.

Kids are incredible, and when they're younger they're even more incredible.  There's a simple reason for that, its because kids haven't yet had life's hard knocks which tell them what can't be done.  So often parents believe they're protecting their kids by telling them to be realistic, that things don't always work out as planned.  The reason is simple, adults don't like to see their kids disappointed.  But there's a danger in being too realistic I fear, and the danger is that children stop dreaming, that they stop seeing the infinite possibilities that life affords. 

Instead, they learn to settle. 

I'm back for a weekend at my own father's place, and have Buddy and Raspberry with me.  Razz is happy mowing the lawn with me, nestling herself between my arms and pushing the mower.  She hasn't started dreaming about what she's going to be when she grows up, there's plenty of time for that.  Her brother though  has already decided, he's going to play in the NBA.  And you know what?  I believe him.

Some might suggest I'm setting Buddy up for disappointment, I don't think so.  There are over 300 guys playing basketball at the highest level, why shouldn't he be one of them.  Sure it'll be hard, but if he's prepared to work at it I don't see why not. 

I figure there are literally  thousands of kids with the same dream.  But I also figure the majority of them have adults in their life telling them...."It probably won't happen". 

If you start out on a quest figuring you won't succeed, chances are you won't.  If on the other hand you believe, then you're already head and shoulders above all the people who doubt they're abilities.

Roy Halladay is perhaps the best pitcher in baseball.  I heard a story about when he was in grade 7, he was told to write a paper on what he wanted to be when he grew up.  The teacher though said she didn't want any pipe dreams about being professional athletes.  Roy's father apparently went to the teacher and argued that his son should be allowed to write about what ever he wanted, that nobody should limit his son's dreams.

So Buddy, if you work at it and really want it bad....then you're already half way to playing in the ACC.  I think its a lesson those of us older could take to heart as well. 

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

No hidden meaning or lessons in Vancouver riots - Its just plain sad

I was in downtown Toronto when the Blue Jays won their first World Series in 1992, it was fun.  If there were isolated incidents of vandalism or violence I didn't see any, either live or reported.  People just running up and down Yonge Street high fiving one another.

Do I think the riots in Vancouver would have been avoided with a Canucks win?  Pfffft, no way.  Damn  we lost!!!  Let's wreck stuff.  Whooopeee, we won!!!  Let's wreck stuff.  Sad, just sad. 

The most upsetting video on saw was on CBC news, it showed a man trying to protect his place of business, and getting beaten up for his trouble.  Beaten up by a bunch of cowards.

So what is it?  Maybe all those violent video games guys love, where you get to drive around and wreak havoc on an urban environment?  The riot videos I've seen have 3 common denominators:   young, male and stupid. 

These idiots, most of whom I'd wager don't have the athletic skill for a game  of tiddly winks have severely tarnished Vancouver's image. 

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

While waiting for Harper to destroy the country...a bit about me

If you've only just stumbled upon this little corner of cyberspace, then you won't be aware of my political leanings.  You see, like many who observe the political arena, I have leanings.  Leanings however shouldn't be confused with conviction, leanings are just what they imply...leanings, inclinations, a tilt in one general direction.  This might sound wishy washy, far preferable for many is to fully embrace something, but when it comes to politics I prefer being wishy washy. 

I didn't vote for or write supportively of our Prime Minister during the election, but at the same time I didn't view the election of the Conservatives to a majority as an unmitigated disaster.  It might end up being a disaster, but if it does I think it will be of the mitigated variety...of course like many things that depends on one's point of view.

It has occurred to me though that Stephen Harper is upsetting many who campaigned against him and railed against the prospect of that which we now have, a Harper led majority government in Canada. 

How is Harper upsetting so many of those who proclaim themselves to be "progressive". 

Simple, he hasn't destroyed the country yet.  DAMN!!!  Canada's left is just itching to scream:


But so far Mr. Harper is frustrating the bejeebers out of them.  He could at least toss the naysayers a bone, a morsel....something.  Outlaw public health care, jail single mothers, make Christianity the new state religion.  But alas nothing, just the usual differences on matters of policy and the nuance of general legislative direction.

In an effort to fill this void for the anti-Harper camp I've decided to write about a subject close to my heart. One with which I am neither wishy nor washy.  Me!!!  When it comes to yours truly, I don't have leanings, I am a complete and full convert.  

Regular readers already know I'm in the Canadian Forces, my element is Land.  For those uninitiated in Canadian military speak, that means I'm in the Canadian Army.  I joined at the advanced age of 43 as a buck private recruit and I am currently on a training course for my chosen trade, communications.

I'm not alone being a middle aged member who only recently joined up, but I am in a decided minority.  There are 24 of us on my course and I am the oldest with the average age being somewhere around 25, remove my age from the equation and that average drops to 20. 

Ahhhhh, the army.  Up at 5am, going for a morning 5k jog with a bunch of kids, half of whom don't even need to shave.  Its great!!!  The best part is learning, when you stop learning new things you start to die...well I've got lots more life left in me because I love learning. 

The worst part?  That's easy inspections.  I wasn't aware of it, but apparently the success or failure of a military operation is based on the ability of members to properly fold underwear.  Everything laid out the same as everyone else and in the exact same place, attention to detail, got it.  I'm contemplating putting a fluorescent yellow soap dish in my top drawer, a bit of colour for an upcoming inspection...I'll let you know how that goes.  I might not be able to type if  I do it, it depends on how many push ups a colourful display earns  me.

On balance though the past year has been great and I'm looking forward to finishing my course and being posted to a unit.  I'm excited at the possibility of getting the chance to do a tour in Afghanistan before Canada fully withdraws in 2014.

I'll still be writing here so do check back.  Yes the housing market in Canada is going to get its butt kicked thanks  to all the no money down 35/40 year sub prime mortgages.  Prime Minister Harper will continue his march along the tightrope that balances him between his neo-conservative Christian right base and the far larger progressive population.  But in between polarizing issues I'll share a bit of how my life is unfolding.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Should getting tough on crime include jailing drug users?

So the Harper Conservatives want to get tough on crime, including the building of new super jails.  The question of course begs, with crime rates falling who's going to fill all those cells.

Attitudes on drug use tend to run the gamut, with some in favour of legalizing certain substances while others take a more hard line approach.   Regardless of where or how enforcement is carried out, the harshest treatment is typically reserved for those on the supply side of the equation, the dealers.

I think most probably find this a reasonable approach.  After all, users are often seen as victims, the real criminals are the individuals profiting from the addictions of those buying the drugs. 

But is this the best approach?  Is jailing dealers really going to help diminish the amount of drug use?

Wouldn't putting users behind bars make more sense?

Huh???  What???  I can just hear progressiveness questioning this basic logic, but bear with me and follow it through.

Let's look at it from a strictly economic perspective, taking the laws of supply and demand into account. 

Putting dealers into jail and confiscating their drugs squeezes supply, that means higher prices.  Will other criminals be willing to step into the breach?  Of course, meeting demand means even higher profits.  We're talking about criminal activity here after all, and the motivation up and down the supply line is profit.  When competition is removed and supply squeezed, profits go up.  If anything putting the clamps on dealers merely makes things worse. 

Think about it, if there wasn't money to be made dealing drugs...why risk going to jail? 

But what would happen if it was users who bore the brunt of the legal system.  I wouldn't suggest a first time pot smoker being put in jail...but someone caught three or more times maybe.

Now the demand side would be taking a hit.  Less demand means lower prices, which in turns means less incentive for criminals to engage in the dealing of drugs. 

Its an academic argument based on simple economics.  If the government ever wants to get serious about reducing drug use and the criminal activity that surrounds it, there are only 2 options.  Either legalize, regulate and tax it, or go after the users. 

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Let Israelis worry about Israel, we have enough problems

Should a new Palestinian state be created, and if so where should its borders be?


There are trouble spots all over the globe, Afghanistan of course, the Congo, Sri Lanka, all over the Middle East in general and of course in Israel. 

We get plenty of news about Afghanistan and the situation in Libya given our involvement in those conflicts.  There's the odd piece about the Congo, and once in a blue moon if its a really slow news day you might see something on Tamils in Sri Lanka. 

But it all pales in comparison to when Israel makes the news, such as recently when U.S. president Obama waded in on where to start when negotiating borders with a potential new Palestinian state. 

Things that Canadians should be worrying about include the devastation of floods in Manitoba and Quebec, governments struggling to bring runaway deficits under control, a fragile economic recovery with no ammunition in reserve to fight the next recession, pending interest rate hikes that will push many over extended Canadians over the debt wall.

What land should Israel cede to a new home for Palestinians?  Its a fun academic question certainly, and a nice little diversion from issues closer to home.  But let's focus our attention of getting our own house in order instead of worrying about two parties incapable of compromise. 

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Time for the post Rapture headcount....

May 21 came and went with no earthquakes or other disasters to speak of, unless you think this blog qualifies.  The Rapture was supposed to happen on Saturday, and near as I can tell we're all still here.  For those unfamiliar with what the Rapture means, some Christians believe they'll be beamed up to heaven before the rest of us are subjected to destruction. 

But even the Christian clergyman who raised and spent millions to warn us, Harold Camping, is still among I guess we'll dispense with the head count.

Should this lead some Christians to re-examine their faith?  Perhaps it should.  Those who believe the Bible to be God's authoritative and final word might do well to engage in a bit of re-think me thinks.

Taking words written down by human beings, and then translated over and over for thousands of years...and trying to discern some divine message from them certainly seems even more dubious now than it did before May 21, 2011.  And I'm sure that's especially true for those who emptied their bank accounts to plaster the message on billboards all over the world.

Apparently millions were spent on this marketing blitz.  What a waste.  That's money that could have gone to feeding the hungry, for food and clothing for the indigent.   But then Christianity has evolved into something far different from what the reputed words of Jesus professed. 

If you're one of those still hung up on the meaning of some 2,000 year old writings...consider this.  Jesus hand picked 12 disciples to deliver his message, and even they didn't understand what he was talking about most of the time.  Many Christians believe that Jesus predicted his own demise by saying the temple would be destroyed and that it would rise again on the third day. 

But his own disciples didn't understand what the heck Jesus was talking about, they expected the temple mount to be razed and rebuilt.  Only after the fact did they supposedly understand it....

"OHHHHH!  Remember when he called the body a temple?  He was talking about himself"!!!

Prophecy isn't really very useful unless you understand what it means BEFORE the event happens, not after.

If any future religious leader wants to pinpoint the day for the end of times...I suggest they pull a number out of a hat that's at least 100 years in the future.

And seriously, would God really end the world so soon after Stephen Harper and his Christian base finally got a majority? 

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sure hope God doesn't mess up my camping plans..

By now everyone knows that the world is supposed to be ending today, bummer.  Its on billboards, in the paper and all over the news.  I just checked and someone won $35 million last night on LottoMax.  Boy wouldn't that be a kick in the groin, becoming a millionaire and then having the world end before you could even cash in.

I realize many people are busy getting ready for doom and destruction so let me be the first to tell everyone to relax, the world will not end today.  Nobody is getting beamed up to heaven, and there's not going to be a massive earthquake for those of us left behind to contend with.

If you're cleaning the house so it'll look good when Jebus pops in, chill. 

Why am I so sure?  Divine revelation my friends, well, that isn't quite true.  I couldn't get hold of the Supreme being but I did contact heaven's press secretary.  What was revealed was more like a press release than a burning bush.  Here's what it said.

"It has been widely reported that God has ordained May 21, 2011 as the end of times.  Please be advised there are no events scheduled for that day.  God does not in fact own a calendar, thus any attempt to pinpoint a date is pointless at best.  There are currently no plans to end the world, however God does reserve the right to rain down hell fire at some future date if so desired.  Please refrain from inundating our offices with further requests for end time information.  If a decision is made to terminate human existence God will notify followers via twitter"
So relax everyone and enjoy the fireworks tomorrow.    

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Market research for a new religion

Having looked into various religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam I've decided that the marketplace is in bad need of a new faith, but given our modern age I think some market research is in order first.  After all, new products and services almost always involve the taking of surveys and an examination of things like demographics so as to tweak offerings.  The goal is to maximize public appeal and obviously profits. 

I don't yet have all the details worked out, just a sort of sketch in my head.  The overhead view, from say 100 miles up, is of something along the lines of "The Force" of Star Wars fame.  Unfortunately it doesn't look like I'll be able to incorporate the word Jedi given that it is a trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd, so there goes the name '1st Galactic Jedi Church - Reformed'. 

It doesn't matter, I'm sure I can work around it.  Religions have been borrowing from one another for thousands of years after all.  I know I've got a lot of work ahead of me, and that other faiths won't take kindly to a new messiah on the block.  I'm already anticipating stiff competition from the entrenched faiths and can envision them re branding themselves to avoid losing customers.  I wouldn't be surprised to see: Improved Christianity, The New Islam, or even Judaism II The Sequel.

The core elements that I've worked out are:

-It will be monotheistic, one God or supreme being/entity.  When you put Christians, Jews and Muslims together you have over 3 billion people in total, so why mess with success. 

-Taxes will be paid.  Instead of seeking tax exempt status like older religions, this new faith will pay its share.  This is part of a marketing ploy, given these tough times I think people will gravitate toward an organization that doesn't seek to avoid paying taxes.

-I'm not actually looking to assume a Mosaic or Messianic role myself, I'd prefer to work behind the scenes.  Jesus, Mohammad, Gandhi...too many murders.

-I'm open to the idea of franchising, so long as I retain ultimate control. 

As to the market research I'm inviting readers to answer a few questions in the comment section.  The questions are:

1)  Would you be more inclined to worship/venerate a supreme being that is portrayed as male, female or non gender specific?

2)  Should contributions be required at 5% or 20% of gross income?  I've decided that the price of salvation/enlightenment will be monetary, but can't settle on the amount.  While 5% is certainly more affordable, I'm thinking that making it 20% might bring with it some snob know like, "Oh I don't go to one of those cheap faiths that only asks for 10% of my income, my religion costs 20%...but its worth it".  

3)  What would be the best day/time to gather?  Sundays are real busy now what with Sunday shopping and all.  What about maybe a Wednesday evening around 8pm?

4)  Should followers of other  faiths be condemned to hell?  I don't like idea personally, but I do think it could be an effective tool in bringing in converts.  What better to persuade people than to tell them that rejecting this new faith will lead to an eternity of misery.

Okay...that's the outline.  Don't feel constrained by the questions asked, use the comments function to chime in with any ideas you might have.

May my force be with me.

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Is Christianity an evil religion?

It has become something of a common practice for those of the Christian faith to ask whether Islam is an inherently "evil" religion.  I've even heard fundamentalists question whether Muslims worship Satan.  Just type "Is Islam an evil religion" into google and you'll get over 42 million hits. 

Given that the golden rule, 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is a core belief of Christianity...I think its only fitting to apply the same question to the Christian faith. 

Rather than pulling quotes from the Koran let's look at the Bible and see what Christians regard as God's revealed word.  Now, before commencing with this task a basic understanding of the Bible and Christianity is warranted. 

The Bible is of course divided into two principle sections or testaments, the old and new.  The old testament, among other things, prescribed a set a rules and ordinances for observance and service to the God of Abraham...this is often referred to as a covenant or agreement. 

For someone wishing to get into heaven it was necessary to adhere to the laws set forth so as to be 'clean' because nothing 'unclean' would ever be allowed in paradise.  Of course given that pretty much everyone sins and becomes unclean, there were rituals and practices for cleansing oneself, and thus ensuring a place in heaven.

The New Testament is said to be a new covenant, one where God provided his only son as a sacrifice.  Jesus is a kind of like white-out for sin, belief and acknowledgment of Jesus as lord is offered as the ultimate cleansing which ensures salvation and a place with God. 

Of course the old testament is still God's revealed word...but if you look at it in legal terms it might be said that: 

In cases where the old and new testaments are in conflict the new testament shall be taken as law.  In cases where a law of the old testament is not in conflict the old testament shall retain its authority.
That's quite the preamble.  Alrightee then, what does the Bible reveal about the God worshipped by

From the laws written in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 it says:
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death.
Holy child abuse Batman!!!  The Christian God actually advocates stoning???  Okay, maybe not now, the courts would toss God in jail.  But this is still pretty harsh, even for a supreme deity. 

Slavery can be a pretty touchy subject, the concept of "owning" another human being rubs most people the wrong way...but not the God worshipped by Christians.  According to the revealed word of the Lord slavery was honky dory.  Here's what it says in Exodus 21:2-6:
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years.  Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom.  If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year.  But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him.  If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.  But the slave may plainly declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children.  I would rather not go free.'  If he does this, his master must present him before God.  Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl.  After that, the slave will belong to his master forever.
I know slavery still exists in parts of the world.  Perhaps advocates of slavery are just following the teachings of the Bible? 

Now, lest you think Jesus came along and repudiated slavery I'll include a quote from the New Testament.  One that clearly shows that even under the new covenant, slavery is still no long as slaves and slave owners are obedient followers of Christ.  From 1 Timothy 6:1-2:
Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed.  If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful.  You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts.  Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.
I know many regard Islam as a very misogynistic religion, one where women's right are given little if any respect.  Christians though can turn to their own Bible and read God's holy word in Numbers chapter 31:
Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went to meet them outside the camp.  But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle.  "Why have you let all the women live?" he demanded.  "These are the very ones who followed Balaam's advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the LORD at Mount Peor.  They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the Lord's people.  Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man.  Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.
There's plenty in the Bible that will give modern, educated and enlightened people cause for concern, and Christians would do well to look at the logs in their own eyes before commenting on the splinters is the eyes of Muslims. 

And as a final point Christians and Muslims actually worship the same entity, the God of Abraham.  Christians make their break with Jesus, Muslims with Mohammad.   

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are emboldended right wingers pushing the agenda? Fraser Institute chimes in on immigration

Maybe its coincidence, or perhaps its just me...but it seems like Conservative minded Canadians have felt their cajones swell with Stephen Harper's electoral triumph.  Yes, sixty per cent of Canadians voted for the so called 'reckless coalition', but in Canadian politics forty per cent has long been the litmus test for legitimate majority rule.

I think right wingers would be wise to take note of those numbers though.  Most Canadians did not want a Harper majority, but our system is what it is and I'm not going to bemoan the result.  It seems that Harper's Reform base is looking to push some issues quietly into the national discourse.

Remember the Reform Party?  They stormed into Ottawa and quickly earned a reputation as being something of a Bible thumping red neck party.  Against a woman's right to choose, against same sex marriage, and against immigration. 

Conservative commentators are starting to bring up topics like abortion, and main stream corporate media outlets are giving them a forum.

A great example of right leaning, corporate media is of course tabloid rags like the Toronto Sun, where headlines such as this are not uncommon:  Anti-abortion protesters hope Harper will re-open debate

Everyone knows the old line about: "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics".  Well the Fraser Institute attempts to use statistics to prove that immigration is a huge burden.  I can just hear Preston Manning's old Reform choir singing...'Hllelujah" and screaming "Amen Brother".   

Now, before going ballistic on a story like this I like to look at the source, in this case The Fraser Institute.  What I found out was interesting to say the least.  While claiming to be non-partisan and interested in doing "meticulous" research into a variety of issues...a look at their 2009 annual report is very telling. 

The numbers they provide show an organization that raised and spent in excess of $12 million that year.  But while individuals comprised 84% of their supporters, those individuals only chipped in with 12% of total contributions.  Where did most of the money come from?  Foundations and organizations at 54%and 34% respectively. 

In other words some very deep pocketed groups looking to push an agenda from where I sit.  One that is cleansed by the guise of being academic and non-partisan. 

Sadly I don't think Canadians are sufficiently engaged to notice.  They'll read a headline about "Immigrants costing us billions" and Canada will become just a little less opening, a little less tolerant and a little more mean spirited. 

I do hope I'm wrong.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Government probe into gas prices a waste of time....

Oh boy, there's gonna be another government review of the oil and gas industry over sky rocketing prices at the pumps.  And all the while Big Oil continues to rake in record profits.  I bet executives at Shell, Petro Can and Esso are shaking in their Armani suits right now. 

I can tell you the outcome right now and save all the time and expense.  The marketplace, we will be told, is competitive and the prices we pay are a function of supply and demand.  Accusations of collusion and price gouging will be pushed aside and we'll all just have to basically suck it up and dig deeper into our wallets when filling up.

Of course there's no collusion.  How could there be?  The fact that when prices go up across the Greater Toronto Area for example, its merely coincidence that different companies hike their prices by the same amount, on the same day, at the exact same time. 

Our only recourse is the economic principle of elasticity.  What that means is we're going to have to find alternatives to driving, change our habits so that we're driving less, alter vacation plans so that we can afford a meal or two when heading out for a summer break.

I'll reiterate a suggestion I made earlier about causing the gas companies some grief. 

If you're in the process of filling up your car at midnight and let's say the price gets jacked up to $1.50 per litre from $1.38....put your hand up in the air to let passing motorists know that the price at the pumps still hasn't changed, irrespective of the fact that the station has changed the price on their big sign. 

Gas stations first change the big sign to drive away traffic so they can change the actual price on the pumps themselves.  The price on the pump is the price you pay, so if the attendant comes out and says you have to wait until the price is changed, point to the price on the pump and tell them that he/she will have to wait until you're done to change to the higher price.  And while you're pumping put your hand up and maybe a few other cars can make their way in for the cheaper price.

Of course this will cause some grief for the poor gas station attendant, but that's life.  Its not like these guys are making big bucks, even with the Shells and Essos of this world raking in billions they somehow can't afford to pay much more than minimum wage to front line staff who bear the brunt of consumer anger.

I know this is just delaying the inevitable, perhaps by only an hour at most.  And its little more than a pin prick to multi billion dollar international companies.  But even kicking Goliath in the shins brings some satisfaction.   

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An idea for sticking it to the oil companies - No boycotts, just put up your hand

Canadians are getting hosed at the pumps again, just as summer has arrived and we all start thinking about jumping in our cars for a trip to the cottage, trailer or a simple vacation.  Raising prices 10 cents per litre at the pumps means we're handing over an extra $5.00 each time we fill up with 50 litres.  Drivers of mini-vans and SUVs are giving even more to the ESSOs, Shells and PetroCans...all of whom are drowning in record profits.

So what can we do?  We're screwed right?  I mean...we have to drive. 

I used to work at a gas station and I know the procedure when jacking up the price. First you change the big electronic sign.  The price at the actual pumps is still the lower price but the higher posted price on the big sign dries up traffic and then the new price is programmed into the actual pumps once the last car finishes.

You've probably heard the suggestion that everyone boycott one particular brand or another in an effort to effect a price war. Problem is it doesn't work...people collecting Petro points won't stop buying from Petro-Can, likewise with Esso and Esso Points or Shell and Air Miles.  Then there are people who are in the habit of going to the same station every time for reasons of convenience or location. 

Here's something I think might just work.

If you're putting in gas when the price changes, like last night...the station can't actually change the price until the last car is done filling up. Here's what I'm suggesting, when this happens use one hand to pump the gas and put your other hand up in the air...and start waving.

This will serve as a signal to other motorists driving by that while the price on the big sign is high, the price at the pump...the actual price you have to pay, is lower. Last night gas went from about $1.35 to around $1.40 per litre. If you were in the process of putting in gas when the price changed on the big sign it didn't affect the price you were were still paying $1.35 or so. By putting your hand up in the air you would be signalling to other drivers...


If people keep filling up the attendant won't be able to change the matter what the big sign says.  You might be asking..."How can we get enough people to do this"?

Most people know that when an on coming car flashes its lights at you, that the driver is signalling that there's a speed trap up ahead of you.  Not everyone does it but enough people do that its helped me on occasion.

Facebook is a tremendous utility. If you think this is a good idea share it using social media. On your news feed all your friends will see it. If enough of them in turn read and share it as well...I think you get the idea, its the whole '6 degrees of separation' concept.

Conversely you can cut and paste this and email/message it...I don't mind :-) And feel free to make any adjustments you feel are warranted.

Sound Good??? Tell me your thoughts and I'll share mine.

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