Sunday, November 28, 2004

I have almost finished reading Good to Great, which contains some entertaining anecdotes about once-powerful companies which subsequently turned to dust. One such company was Bethlehem Steel, which chose to build its new headquarters in the shape of a cross, so that it could provide a corner office for it numerous VPs.

This reminded me of how when I was a child, I thought I wanted to be a "businessman". I imagined that a businessman had only to get the right education, know the right people and work at the right company and then all you had to do was show up at the office, and everything else took care of itself. As a "businessman" you made decisions that others acted upon. You didn't do any actual work, you just sat at a desk all day and received phone calls.

It turns out that Bethlehem Steel would have been a perfect fit for me at the age of 8. Alas, the business culture of the 1970s is no more, which is probably a good thing. But can you imagine the sheer joy of smoking in your workplace?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Bonjour le Weekend

It was Grey Cup Weekend here in Canada last weekend, with Toronto and Vancouver facing off for the oldest professional sports title in North America. The competition between the two cities sparked off the usual ridiculous comparisons between the two cities; Toronto is ugly, polluted and too focussed on making money, while Vancouver is lazy, shiftless and hopelessly idealistic.

CBC Radio was talking up the games each morning, which I listened to on my drive to work. One morning featured a city councillor from each city boasting about why their city was better. The Vancouver councillor touched on the familiar themes of Vancouver's superiority: its mountains, the ocean, the islands, the wildlife, in short, things that were here millions of years ago and have nothing do with the accomplishments of Vancouver's citizens.

This is what Vancouverites usually boast about during their endless comparisons with larger cities. But we're cleaner! We're more beautiful! Yes, but that has nothing do with you've done with your life. At least in Toronto they never had a chance to be beautiful, and are doing the best with what they have.

The game itself was interesting until late in the match, after Vancouver embarassed itself by letting the play clock run out not once, but twice on a 2 point conversion attempt, only to botch the ensuing 22 yard convert kick.

Michael was cheering for Toronto, as he wanted Pinball Clemons to win the Cup, and he wanted the Vancouver media to have nothing about which to bitch for the next few weeks, given the current stalemate in the NHL.

Speaking of the NHL, Rob predicts the players will eventually capitulate under financial pressure. Going from $5 million a year to nothing is quite a shock for someone with a grade 9 education, and many of the players are just "one bad restaurant chain away from bankruptcy."

The Vancouver media has indeed run out of things to talk about, so they are making small issues into class and race wars. One friend of ours was on the radio defending the condo owners who led the charge to enact the odor law. He deftly avoided the interviewers attempts to portray him as a racist, stating that it's not the kind of food odor, it is the intensity and the duration of the nuisance. The interviewer thanked him at the end of it, and Ken, in his posh English accented muttered only one word, "right".

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ha Ha!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Sorry about the delay. I wrote earlier about July being a busy month, but October was even worse. Anya and I began the renovations on our new East Van slum, in an effort to turn it into a decent family home. I even took a few days off work to do menial labour, as I don't like to pay trades people their hourly rates to take out trash. Leave that to an expert like me, who has acutally worked as a "garbologist".

As expected, the plumbing and electrical ended up costing way more than we forecast, which required us to leave the basement unfinished. That leaves us with the equivalent of a 900 square foot appartment with a 900 square foot storage locker.

The dirtiest and most time-consuming task was removing loose fill insulation from the attic. Imagine crawling into the corners of an attic with a low, sloping roof, wearing a respirator, so that you breathing sounds like Darth Vader's; reaching with a makeshift rake to pull recycled newspaper covered in chemical fire retardant from the corners. You have been laying on the joists for so long you have 2 -inch bruises across your ribs. The goggles do nothing. The roof above your head is so close that you can feel the rusty nails sticking through scrape along your scalp as you move. Pull it all into a pile and shovel it into a garbage bag.

This was how I spent my evening in October. This was how I listened to the greatest comeback in sports history. It was work so horrible that the only people I could ask to help me were relatives, and even then I felt guilty about paying Michael to do it.

Speaking of Michael, he has a new commercial on the air, which I think is his best to date; better than the dancing tongue or the cup-chasing fisherman. He has already become tired of it, and has begun to pick apart his performance as Beauregard.


I feel compelled to observe Remembrance Day because of my grandfather, who spent 4 years on Royal Navy destroyer. Brad and I went down to the Cenotaph for the ceremony, which caused me to get teary-eyed, looking at all the old vets. I think what chokes me up is the selfless sacrifice they made for others they would never meet or know. For that, I am truly grateful.