Monday, 30 May 2011

Trouble in the Local Catholic School Board

There's trouble in the local Catholic School Board, and many will take this opportunity to suggest that the problems begin in the "Catholic" part of that title.  I've have my own concerns regarding that as well, not the least involve statements that are decidedly un-Catholic from some of our Catholic teachers.  I've heard Catholic teachers make statement supportive of same-sex "marriage" and another make statements supportive of couples living together.  Regardless of what is now considered to be mainstream and acceptable in society, it's not what Catholics believe and it is not what teachers in the Catholic system can support, even privately.

It's not my place to judge others, however as a parent in the system and a taxpayer contributing to the system and as a Roman Catholic Deacon, I would like to see at least one change beyond trimming the administrative ranks in the local board.

I believe any teacher and administrator or trustee in the Catholic school system who does not attend Mass on a regular basis should resign her / his position in the Board, and go and find work in the Public Board.  I am not advocating they should be fired, far from it, I believe people should have the courage to admit when they can't support what their employer supports, when they can't fully perform the job they were hired to do.  In the case of the Separate School teacher, that includes teaching the Gospel - always.

Teachers in either Board do not just teach the three R's, they develop young people into responsible adults, they shape character, they mentor and encourage while they teach.  Catholic teachers have the extra responsibility of doing all that in Christ's name. If they don't attend Mass themselves, they can't pass along the Church's teachings because they aren't participating in the Liturgy of the Word, or of the Eucharist.  Don't talk to me about praying in a field or a forest; don't talk to me about being a good person.  Go to Church, participate in the Mass at least weekly or stop pretending.  This isn't just a job you're doing, folks.

We don't need to amalgamate two boards into one to save money, each board is funded per pupil so we'd roughly need the same amount of schools and teachers whether there is one board or two.  To all those who want to see the Catholic Board shut down, I say "be patient."

It's ours to lose, and frankly, we Catholics are presiding over its demise quite nicely without any secular help at all.

Read more here:

Friday, 27 May 2011

Why an NDP Opposition is good for Business in Canada

This week marks an historic first - a meeting of Her Majesty's Official Opposition and it isn't either the Liberal or Conservative party.  You might be tempted to suggest that the Bloc Quebecois got there first in 1993, and I'd clarify that I said "Her Majesty's Official Opposition".  The Bloc had no allegiance to Her Majesty, no matter what they raised their hands and swore on a Bible.

Here's why an NDP in official opposition is good for business in Canada:

Jack Layton is a scrapper.  Business people everywhere can relate to that, even if they don't agree with his politics.  He'll engage in real debate, listen, and offer well-considered opinion.  It will be good to have a little integrity on the Hill.

Business needs consumer confidence.  When the average Canadian realized that, even in Canada, change is possible, it inspired us to dream for a better Canada.  Again, you don't have to like the NDP or agree with them to sit up and take notice that maybe, just this once, the future could be different than we were told was a pre-destined eventuality.

Sometimes the little guy gets noticed.  Little guys everywhere rejoice - and go and buy some new duds and a haircut while you're at it.  If you're going to get noticed you might as well look good.

This ain't your fat union NDP.  These guys are lean and hungry, the way labour used to be, they won't be pushed around by beer-bellied bellicose single issue unionists.  Labour will have a greater voice on the Hill, and it won't have to yell and drop f-bombs in the process.  Respect for the worker is good for business. 

Respect for all people is good for Canada.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Faith in Business

When I think about being a man of faith at the same time as being a businessman, the usual "don'ts" come to mind.  Don't sleep around, don't take advantage of others, don't lie, don't steal...the kind of stuff that even an atheist would agree is wrong.  Yet we're able to turn a blind eye to our own transgressions with excuses, like "it was only one time" or "it had to be done in this instance" or "if I don't do this, someone else will', or my absolute least favourite, "it was the best of two evils."

Faith in business, to me, goes much deeper than the basic rules of social behaviour with a threat of vengeance hanging overhead, as some might describe the handcuffs that bind the faithful.  Or do they?

I'm not handcuffed by my faith.  Christian faith is actually quite liberating.  Knowing that your Father is in charge of the whole universe makes the trials of everyday business life seem so inconsequential.

There are only two guiding principles on which all the others are founded, for the Catholic business person:  Love God, Love your neighbour.  Matthew 22:36-40

When we Love God, we don't love other things ahead of Him.  We don't worship money, or promotions.  A corner office or a nicer car (at the expense of someone else, at the expense of our soul) are not our motivation.  When I think of all the gods in my life that have come ahead of the one, true God I can trace all my most miserable times to when I had forgotten about God.  The years when my mantra was "40 at 30, 40 at 30" (meaning I would make $40 thousand a year before I turned 30 years old), I managed to do just that but then was promptly laid off from a bankrupt company after achieving that goal.  In my debt-ridden misery the first place I found myself, before I could even drag myself home to tell my wife that we were destitute with no severance package, was to my church. I've never looked back.

When we love our neighbour, that includes our co-workers, our clients, our competitors, and yes, even the boss.  It means we don't talk behind their backs, unless it's complimentary.  We celebrate their success.  We still want to beat our competitors in the game, but we do it with integrity; "winning at all costs" seems foolish.  We don't lie to our customers because it shows a profound disrespect for them.  We assume the best intentions when the boss makes impossible demands and have the respect to point out the impossibility of the demands that perhaps the boss didn't realize.

That's it, only two rules, into which lie the 10 commandments.  The first three are "love God" rules, the next seven are "love your neighbour" rules.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Guys' Guys

The lost art of being a guy is being "frittered away" (as my dad used to say when he'd lecture me about my misspent paper route earnings) by the wrong headed (but very funny) portrayal of dads as dolts, young men as nothing more than walking erections, and all men as bumbling fools.  Add that to the abdication of responsibility by many fathers today, and we've got a society of thirty-something men who don't even know how to shake hands properly, don't know why they should put in a full day's work which might mean staying late and coming in early, or don't know when to go home to their wives and families.  That's a two-parter - first you have to go home, and when you do, you have to be there.  Put down the game controllers gentlemen, you have a three-year-old of your own now.

Here's some guys who are real guys (in spite of the fact that some are fictional):
  • Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie in the Dick Van Dyke Show, yes, he was a bit awkward, but he knew his stuff and his family and friends were important to him.  He was the boss, but felt no need to flaunt the title; he was in there with the troops.  A reformed alcoholic in real life, Van Dyke recognized his failings, hit rock bottom, and did something about it.  Still working hard into his eighties.
  • Daniel Craig as James Bond because he can and does get hurt.  He isn't very pretty at the best of times but like most men, he looks pretty good all cleaned up and wearing a tux.  He doesn't take any crap from the boss because he's just that damned good.
  • John Spencer as Leo McGarry, the boss who doesn't take any crap from his reports in The West Wing; he's all business; loved by his underlings and by his friends but always from a respectful distance.  
  • Pope Benedict XVI - he's an unapologetic expert in his field, a leader, and he gets straight to the uncomfortable point without messing around.  You may not want to hear what he has to say, but that's precisely why he has to say it.  I know a few priests who are just like that - damned hard to argue with them in matters of faith; damned glad that we're on the same side.
  • Donny Osmond and all the real life dudes like him who have stayed true to their faith, their wives and their families, guys have have stuck with their careers when times got tough, and guys who are driven to succeed not at the expense of others, but by sheer determination, hard work, continuous improvement and talent.  Guys other guys secretly respect.  My financial advisor, our favourite grade school principal, a school Superintendent I know and a VP I once reported to are all men like this - stand up gentlemen, perhaps even a bit boring to some, but guys who just get it done and stay true to themselves in the process.
  • Mark Wahlberg and Mario Lopez, my son's hockey coach and any other guy who is unashamedly Catholic, as best as he can be.  No one's looking for perfection in this department fellas, but one's very best effort is a shining beacon for others.
  • Gary Lautens, the Toronto Star columnist who was gone too soon in 1992 (almost 20 years ago!) at the age of 63.  His writing inspired young dads like me to hang in there.  There's humour in the strangest of places, our families.  I had the chance to meet him a couple of times, and thank him for my favourite of his columns - the time he catches Jackie (his wife) eating garlic.  I loved the way he wrote about his daughter and about his sons, the oldest is my age.  His heart attack and untimely death has been one of the key motivating factors in my own exercise and healthy lifestyle; he's the reason I see my doctor annually.  I may not ever be the dad he was, but I'd like to stick around to keep trying.  God bless the Lautens family.
  • Craig Kielburger / Neil Patrick Harris - boy wonders who still amaze now that they're all grown up; each making a difference in his own way.
Any man who respects his marriage vows, keeps Christ in his marriage, comes home when he should, gives his all in a job he can be proud of, and works hard to raise the best children he and his wife can send out into society is doing OK in my books.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Movie Review - Bridesmaids

At the suggestion of some of my Facebook friends, I took my wife to see Bridesmaids the other night.  As I told the kids, it had been far too many years since I have seen a movie that was laugh-out-loud funny, can't catch your breath hilarious, hurt-my-sides laughing as I struggle to catch the dialogue in between snorts and guffaws.  It will be a few more, I fear.  Some FB comments indicated this would be that movie.  It was not.

GREAT:  Kristen Wiig as Annie and Chris O'Dowd as Rhodes.  She's funny, he's believably a vulnerable cop, and Melissa McCarthy is, as always, comedically impeccable.  Actually, the entire cast is great in their roles, which could have been spectacularly clever if the writers had just managed to stay away from "poop" jokes and unnecessarily bad language.  Seriously, these ladies don't need it.

GOOD:  The premise.  This ain't The Hangover for chicks.  They never make it to Vegas, thank goodness.  Probably the last thing I want to shell out $13 for is another full-length commercial for Las Vegas.  On the other hand, maybe a few situations other than Annie's ruining every moment not due to clutziness or awkwardness, but from jealousy of the Bride's new best friend.  This was less comedy and more a story of childhood friends drifting, nay, torn apart when one of them makes the commitment to marriage.

ROOM for GROWTH:  Judging by the forced laughter from the young "ladies" in the audience at every sex joke, fart joke and vomit joke, Producer Judd Apatow has hit his mark and has no need to pay attention to what guys like me think.  But if he did, I'd ask him to lay off the unnecessarily bad language.  The only time the bad language was perfectly timed and as a result funny, was when the step child tells his prissy "mom" to f-off.  It was completely uncalled for when Annie calls a young girl the c-word.  Seriously?  And this actress agreed to say that word?

Would I recommend this movie?  Only for what it could have been with some courage and better writing; only for those who just don't aspire to better.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Road Test - 1996 Ford Thunderbird LX

This picture on the right isn't a Thunderbird.  It's a 1996 Saab 900S.  I'm a Saab guy.  I don't mind admitting it.  I own two of them, but not for much longer.  One of them is off to Saab heaven, which is located somewhere between "GM doesn't own us anymore" and "people are buying our cars faster than we can make them."  Sadly, this heaven doesn't exist.

When I took the Mighty Saab off life support (I cut off access to my credit card and my mechanic had to take a night job as a bartender), finding it's replacement was destined to be a challenge.  It had to be cool, it had to be versatile, it had to be fun to drive, and if possible, upscale but not ostentatious.

The 1996 Ford Thunderbird is all of that except the versatile part (my Saab's glove box was wider that the T-Bird's trunk).  It's built to drive, and to drive hard.  It's fun.  I'm glad I bought it.  Here's why:

GREAT:  This car has power!  I haven't felt the surge of 8 cylinders and rear wheel drive in so long I had forgotten what it was like.  I felt like a guy again; I actually felt 'em growing back after 32 years of front wheel drive.  I had so much testosterone flowing after the first time I opened it up on the highway I had to shave twice that day.  It's nickname?  THUNDERBEAST!

GOOD:  Suprisingly not bad gas mileage on the highway.  18 mpg (hey, it could be a lot worse).  Comfortable, well laid out, very masculine cockpit.

Room for GROWTH:  (as if Ford's designers are headed back to the design board after they read this).  That trunk is not very deep.  Seriously, the cargo room in my hatchback Saab with the seats down was enough to bring home from Ikea an entire living room set, to whit:  one couch, one love seat, two armchairs, one coffee table and two side tables; mind you that's what both Ikea and Saab were designed for.  If I go to Ikea with the T-Bird I will be bringing home in the trunk, at most, a catalogue, a Boomjaga cutlery tray and Flimsgaard magazine rack.

Overall recommendation:  If you can find a 1996 Thunderbird with only 200,000 kilometres in mint condition, buy it.  I'm glad I did.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Marie Osmond, Married Again

On the occasion of Marie Osmond's wedding (again) to her first husband, I think it's only fair to remind her of the one that got away.

Just sayin...

Friday, 6 May 2011

First Class Travel - First Class Pool

The Mayor is traveling to faraway lands to check out swimming pools, of all things. Read the story here

City administration has proposed a new travel policy that would allow Mayor and Council to fly Executive, First Class, Business Class - however it's marketed, wide seats and free wine - when flying outside of North America to, say, faraway lands. Read the Report Here

The Mayor is lauded, rightly so, for his extensive travel to bring jobs to our region.  It's worked.  Read all about it here

I'm just not sure we need to send him first class to have a swim in an Irish pool.  Perhaps someone from Parks and Rec could handle it, and Eddie could stick to an agenda that includes job creation, which he has done so very, very well.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Library...Street Smarts vs. Book Smarts

I make no secret of it; I think Alan Halberstadt is a hell of a journalist, a hell of writer, and a hell of a bad city councilor (and I like the guy, though I don't blame him if the feeling is not mutual).  Full disclosure - he kicked my ass, figuratively, in the 2003 Municipal election; fair and square, no excuses.

He writes a fantastic blog article about the Windsor Public Library, which to those who haven't been paying attention, appears to express his unreserved support.  For those who were in the room when he said "we'll just get a Private Members Bill to take over this place" when the Board wouldn't capitulate to political influence, his words today are either a conversion come too late, or deceptive.  Read his blog here  - it's really quite good.  It just doesn't jibe with his behaviour in the past.  Read part two here .  Well written, sir (and well played).

This isn't about my arch-nemesis ("To the Batmobile Robin!  We haven't a moment to lose!")  This stuff with the Library has to stop.  Council and the Mayor absolutely HAVE to be "hands-off" when it comes to Library locations, types of books, resources available, hours of operation or any other means of control.

When government controls and influences access to information by any means, we're just one step closer to losing our democracy.  It seems impossible in today's day and age, but is it?

I'm not worried about our current Mayor and Council turning into dictators. Laws have to be in place and strictly observed, both the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, to protect us from the megalomaniacs we haven't elected yet.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

On Majorities and Minorities

The 2011 election was historic in so many ways, and here are a few that matter to me.

1.  The Conservative party was able to unseat the Liberals as the party of the immigrant.  It used to be taken for granted that the new Canadian vote would go, in gratitude, to the party in power that got them here.  No more.  The Conservatives actively courted these voters, and say what you will about their methods, it worked in the GTA where they needed it.  Never take your best friends for granted.

2.  If this wasn't the nastiest campaign in history, then I'm glad I missed the one that was.  I'd congratulate the Conservatives on their majority except for the way they did it; by good old-fashioned character assassination.  They never let Ignatieff (or Dion before him) talk issues, they just kept up an unrelenting monlogue of, well...meanness.  If you think the kids weren't paying attention then you deserve to be shocked when the school calls you in because your kid's been slandering another kid on Facebook.  You may reach your goal, but at what cost?  If their only goal was power - mission accomplished.  If it was a Canada of civility and respect, a model of leadership and debate, a better Canada?  As they say in baseball, "Swing and a miss!"

3.   The defining moment came in the debate when Jack Layton refused to be written off as a fringe candidate, a leader of losers, as though the NDP's place in the back corner of the house was their raison d'etre.   Harper and Ignatieff never saw it coming, and it was too late to stop the orange tide after that.  Even the little guy's got something to contribute - ignore him at your own peril.

Are there lessons in this for us in our daily lives?

Monday, 2 May 2011

Holy See on the death of Osama Bin Laden


VATICAN CITY, 2 MAY 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., released the following declaration on the news regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden.

  "Osama Bin Laden, as is known, claimed responsibility for grave acts that spread division and hate among the peoples, manipulating religion to that end. A Christian never takes pleasure from the fact of a man's death, but sees it as an opportunity to reflect on each person's responsibility, before God and humanity, and to hope and commit oneself to seeing that no event become another occasion to disseminate hate but rather to foster peace".

To Vote or not To Vote...Thank you for NOT voting

I still think some people just shouldn't vote, and I haven't changed my my blog from 2008