Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Art of a Believable Lie

Climategate exposes a far more serious problem than just how our climate is mis-behaving.

In the global temperature graphs presented to the world there were originally two significant periods: the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) and a Little Ice Age (LIA). They are discussed in Wikipedia:


They appear to have been "smoothed" over in some of the climate researchers "graphs". This blog shows the infamous hockey stick graph and tries to defend the practice:


But it can't be done. You can't justify manipulating the numbers.

Science -- some unfortunate souls seem to have forgotten -- is about producing rigid verifiable TRUE results.

If two different independent groups study the same phenomenon, and they both use a properly rigorous processes, then they will come to the same results. The results are reproducible and verifiable.

If one group has used some "complex technical" manipulations on the data to "enhance" the results, it is certain that if the other group wasn't directly involved in the deception, then their results would be different. The manipulative study would be invalid. It would not have followed the scientific method:


Science must be objective and verifiable. That is at the heart of Science, it is an absolute necessity. Otherwise it just ain't Science!

Marketing, on the other hand, is trying to spin various things so that an unsuspecting public will buy into them. It is about manipulating people, in order to achieve concrete results. It's main weapon is spin, it is NOT rigorous, and most people know enough to not believe what they have see.

In marketing, people are free to use whatever sleazy practice they desire, fiddle with the numbers, "enhance the data", etc. just so long as it is believable enough to manipulate some of the targets some of the time.

Because Science is rigorous, something is scientific or it is not. If the results are not real science, then they are marketing. They can only be one or the other, and marketing covers everything that isn't properly scientific.

If you can't reproduce the results, then it is marketing. If you fudge the results, it is marketing. If you're description is too "technical" to be understood, then it is marketing. If you employ "tricks" to make people perceive the results in a different way, then it is marketing. If it isn't really scientific then it is marketing.

Marketing is about manipulation, science is about truth.

We live in a age of bad science. Results have been littering our media for years and we've all suspected many were not worthy of being called "science". Often, they're not even good marketing.

Climategate isn't alone, but it really shows how far down the well we have sunk. It's the desperate state of our failed global society that we can't even trust the label "science" anymore. It has been robbed of its meaning, another victim to a marketing farce.

If you present marketing materials as "scientific" then it is fraud. You are lying, and there is no getting around it. A cause doesn't change it. A PhD doesn't change it. Nothing changes it. Nothing justifies it. Marketing is not science, precisely because it is not objective. It has a purpose.

Whatever Climategate turns out to be, it is clear that the "researchers" removed both the MWP and the LIA from their diagrams. Once they did that, they gave up any and all claims to science and turned towards a more insidious marketing campaign. Truth is truth. If you bend it, even a tiny bit, then it is no longer the truth. It's not really a hard concept to grok.

When its defenders try to call the corruption and fraud "normal scientific process" we should all be offended. If they think we wouldn't have understood, they are correct. If they think they're so intelligent that it is up to them to save us from ourselves, then it is their arrogance that defines them as idiots. They destroyed so much more than they realized.

Do I believe in Global Warming? I certainly did, as the supposedly "scientific community" presented irrefutable evidence that it was happening. But thanks to these clowns, I no longer have that certainty.

I have no idea who or how many from this particularly small academic community have succumbed to their god complexes. I no longer have any reliable truth on which to base my decisions. If one of the key institutions switched over to marketing and the others didn't rat them out right away, then we have no idea how deep this corruption runs.

If you're being scientific -- really scientific not just this fake marketing version -- then you have to suspend your opinion on Global Warming until there are rigid, properly carried out, properly presented, verifiable results. With most of the known results thrown into question, and with some of the studies even appearing to contradict the whole theory, an honest person is force to admit that it just ain't certain anymore.

Which is bad. Hugely bad. If the planet is really in peril, and our accepting a harsher, lesser quality of life now means that it won't be far worse later, then we'd be stupid to not try and fix this right away. On the other hand, if this is just fear mongering to suppress the masses, and keep us occupied while the rich get richer from selling fake carbon resources, then we be stupid to fall into this delusion and donate some of our wealth to their yachts and mansions.

We have a hard choice to make, and no trustworthy information on which to base it. And the people we trusted to help, have let us down.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Impending Doom

Some may think that humanity's impending doom comes from the recklessness in which we treat our world. We consume and pollute without consequence or remorse.

Some may think that it comes from our out-of-control population growth. Like an evil tide, we flow over the land bringing destruction and mayhem to each and every corner.

Some may think that it comes from technology. That our limited intellect allows us to create things faster than we can understand them.

But the real truth is that it comes from our own arrogance. From our ability to easily lie and cover up the truth when it turns out not to be convenient to our world view. From our ability to justify our loathsome methods, if we think the cause is even mildly noble. From our belief that we can fool each other and won't ever get caught, even though history is proof to the contrary.

Our impending doom comes not from our possible changes to the climate, but from the scientists supposedly studying it using "scientific methods". When we can no longer tell the difference between aggressive marketing campaigns and real science, we've descended to a dangerous new low. One that will pull the rest of our edifices down on top of us.

Climategate (if true) will easily be the greatest scandal of the 21st century:


Thursday, December 3, 2009

TTC: Why are we even paying for it?

Free trips on the TTC?

I came across a site that suggested that ALL mass transit systems should be FREE. At first glance, I figured the idea was crazy, but when you think about it:

- it wastes tonnes of money to figure out who paid
- it means way more infrastructure: people, tokens, tickets, transfers, booths,
- it means horrible line-ups
- it means people won't just wait, if the system is too busy

If it is free, people will get on and off a lot more. Which is actually a good thing, particularity in this age of green awareness. It may just be so easy to bus there, then walk home (or partway home).

Dropping the cost to zero liberates the system.

Why do we waste all of this money? So that people who use the system "more often", pay more? Who are these people anyways? The poor?

If we just made it free:

- more people would use it, and for shorter trips,
- line-ups would be easier.
- people choosing to use their cars would pay "extra" (for unused services)
- tourists / visitors would be impressed (we could quietly tax their hotel stays :-)

We'd finally look like we were actually ahead on something, instead of always looking so dysfunctional and backwards.

It would be really simple to fund this at a provincial level. Then we could make all "short" haul systems free, and all long haul systems private (and competitive). To make it fairer, we could base in on regional property tax, i.e., if you live up in the north where there are no systems, you don't have to pay. If you live in a big city like Toronto, or any of its suburbs, or nearby towns, you would pay in taxes. If you chose to use your car instead, that's your choice, but the system is always there is you need it. Fair and simple.

It's just so simple.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fight Back: Demand a TTC Audit

I've decided to take this one personally. According to the following two links:



the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) public transportation system has experienced a relatively minor 20% bump in token sales (according to their own spokesperson); a normal event in any sales process. Token shortages shouldn't occur with such a small increase in sales.

And, they are clearly exaggerating about losing any millions in revenue. Any non-defective organization should easily be able to deal with an extra windfall of cash. Normally people buying ahead of an increase is a good thing. Particularly if you announce the increase nearly two months in advance.

So what's happening here?

I figured the first round of this stupid game -- punishing the riders by limiting tokens -- was just some type of power-play.

A typical TTC vs. the government maneuver, where the riders get shot in the middle. A way for management to try to inflame people in hopes that they would apply pressure to the government for funding. You know, the usual BS that the TTC has been dishing out to us for years.

But this new thing with not allowing us to have any tokens anymore. This is different. This goes too far beyond incompetence, I think it is deliberate.

I suspect that the rider's protest and strike, however minimal the impact, might have angered TTC management, and that they've decided to punish us by depriving us of some of their services. A sort of "crappy" work-to-rule type game. Keep the staffing levels the same, remove the tokens and then create massive lineups. Great punishment tactics, particularly around a busy season like Christmas.

Perhaps someone deep inside the TTC feels that we the masses, need to be humbled.

I know it all sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory, but truthfully it is either that or the TTC is actually the world's worst run organization. Ever. I mean, every other company, charity, ministry, branch, commission or any other medium to large organization on the planet would be happy to deal with a bunch of customers paying in advance. It's normal. Nobody turns down money. Never has IBM denied selling people laptops, nor Chrysler just stopped selling cars. This is "pre" business 101. They don't even need to teach this in business school, it is just understood.

And if people pay you in advance, thanks to the magic of reinvesting in the areas like the money-market -- the same way all other large enterprises have to -- the unused capital accumulates interest, which is a good thing. Businesses have dealt with this for hundreds of years. Unsteady cash-flows are a normal part of business.

So what is the problem with the TTC?

Our choices are either to believe that: a) they are completely incompetent, or b) they are vindictive, spiteful and punitive.

Now, Ontario sure has certainly had it share of intellectually-challenged management, but certainly as of late, our biggest problems have been the super-villains. Corrupt management that does what it pleases without even trying to deliver anything tangible anymore. E-health, Ontario Hydro, our city contracts. We've had a long and glorious history of indulging these super-villains.

Still, most people in Ontario would rather pretend that we don't have any of this type of third-world corruption here. We quickly turn a blind eye, while executives fill up at the trough without any resistance. You might say we're, ummm, what you call "suckers".

That we live with this is shameful enough, but when they start making our lives more miserable, punitively, particularity at a busy time like Christmas. Well, that is a dangerous line to cross, and this time they have chosen to go way too far to the other side.

They might figure they have us over a barrel. That there is nothing we can do about a government run monopoly right? We are helpless, we have no choice but to just take our lumps and shut up. But they are wrong!

Were there is smoke there is usually fire. Where there is such abuse of power, there are always other infractions.

These managers, malicious or incompetent are no doubt guilty of far more nefarious things than not just bothering to order enough tokens. Or despising their customers. Their vindictive or lazy behavior -- either way -- is probably just the tip of the iceberg for their more serious transgressions.

But it doesn't even matter if the sorry state of our system is due to incompetence or negligence. The truth is, the money is gone either way. We just keep sinking so much money in, and they just keep under-delivering. It's about time that this changed.

We are tax payers, the system is ours, and we've paid for it. We have a right to demand that our money was well spent, that it was all reasonably handled. And if it wasn't, then heads should roll. As many as are responsible. If it takes wiping out the entire upper layer of management, I'm sure we couldn't actually do worse at this point. 

So, if we care and we want to fight back, we should all call for an open audit of the TTC. An independent review. The books should be throw open wide to the Auditor General. The Federal one (I'm not sure the Provincial one is all that independent). We should get a full, in-depth and fair accounting of how our money has been spent over the last five years at least, if not longer. They should do a comprehensive audit looking for both mismanagement of funds and for possible inappropriate, or illegal dispersals.

We hate the system, it is too expensive, and we are not getting value for our money. In fact, on a world wide scale, the whole system is just embarrassing. We've got one of the weakest, most expensive, poorly functioning systems out there. It would be nice to know why.

So I am taking this personally. Wanton corruption, or mismanagement, I don't care anymore, they went way too far this time. I just want it cleaned up. I want the money we spend to provide us with value. I want a system that works.

If you're fed up like me and you want to do something about it, then we have a very simple, tangible and achievable goal. We need to demand an audit. It's our right. Spread the news, tell your family, friends and co-workers.

Then we all need to pressure the newspapers, politicians, the Auditor General of Canada and any one else who will listen, into pushing for an immediate audit of the TTC finances. Starting now. Right away, not in five years time.

And, if, as one expects, there are some irregularities contained under the hood, we also need to push to insure that the responsible parties are removed from the organization immediately and forever. Criminal proceeding can be an issue for later, right now we just need to clean up the management levels.

If enough of us demand that this be done, they will have little choice.

It is time we clean up this mess. It is time we actually pushed for a change towards a decent reliable transit system. It is time we stop being suckers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Boycott the TTC on Friday Nov. 13th

Normally, I wouldn't be interested in promoting mass action, it is not really my style. Still, after a lifetime of irritation, frustration and general annoyance, I think it's about time that we -- as disenfranchised TTC riders -- make a point to the management that we think that they are doing a bad job. A really crappy one.

The TTC, for all of my international readers, stands for the "Toronto Transit Commission". It is the organization directly in charge of making sure that Toronto has some type of public transit system that reflects our status in the world. They run our late buses, hulking streetcars, overcrowded subways and our silly little rapid transit system. Apparently they still subscribe to the idea that Toronto is "hogtown", since that's the appropriate level of service that they shakily provide for us.

In Canada, Ontario has always had a long, sordid history of running really pathetic, hopelessly inept bureaucracies. We seem gifted at gathering together unmotivated near-lifeless peons, packing them together like cattle and getting idiots with overly-simplified theories of process to lead them. We keep setting these abominations loose on the province to stagnate slowly in a stew of bad rules, inefficient processes, bitchy unions and perpetual political scheming that usually results in little more than them just squeaking through the minimal day-to-day requirements while wasting copious amounts of money. We are good at wasting money. Very good at it.

Our transit system is a shining example of this type of moronic accomplishment. We've long been treated to a pathetic history of wasting money, forgetting that we live in a "winter" city and a type of sever disrespect for the actual "riders" of the system that borders on nasty.

Recently TTC mis-management has decided to raise the price again. I'm not necessarily against that, although I'd feel it wouldn't be a requirement if they'd just stop wasting their money all of the time. Still, until they actually learn to control spending, they have to do something.

What pisses me off about this fare hike is the usual "contempt" that management has for its riders. Once again, in expectation for this hike, they've placed a "limit" on the number of tokens we can buy.

"What the hell?" all you non-Torontonians say "they won't let you buy stuff?". Yes, and it is totally brain-dead.

Every time the TTC raises it prices, they announce it long in advance, and then in expectation they limit the sales of tickets and tokens, so that we -- the "evil riders" -- don't stock up on them.

Normally I might buy 10 tokens, once a week. It's OK, I don't mind. But for a couple of months now I'll be limited to only buying only 5 tokens at a time. A pathetically small number of tokens. Primarily because some paranoid delusional door-knob somewhere in that decrepit organization can't get their head around buying a whole lot more tokens to meet the increased load, or to just announce the hike with a shorter lead time.

Why do either reasonable option, when instead you can be an asshole to your riders? Just because no other "sane" organization (in the world) would show such total dis-respect for their customers, isn't a strong enough reason why our bloated government monopoly shouldn't do it.

This from the bozos that accidentally priced their last metro-pass offering too low, and were complaining about being short by 14 million dollars. From the bozos that scream about litter and eating food on the subway, while exploiting their own employees for selling unhealthy pizza slices for a mega pre-charity collections agency. From the bozos that think "street cars" and "light transit" aren't somehow effected by snow, and that "outside stations" aren't freak'in cold in the winter. From the bozos that think "full" isn't cramped with enough people, until it means that everyone has to hold their breath in order to fit.

This from people who obviously don't use the TTC; who have their chauffeurs drive them to work everyday to avoid the masses. Who aren't there with the rest of us, in the trenches, trying to survive another awful day, in a badly run, overcrowded, dirty, subway system that some douche-bag marketer had the audacity to refer to as "the better way".

So, if you've had enough nonsense from these people, and you'd really like to send them a message that "their management techniques suck", like me you should consider not riding through the mess on Friday. I'm talking the day off. I'm going to boycott them.

If enough of us participate hopefully it will be noticed by the press, if not by the head incompetents themselves. Maybe someday they'll figure out how to get past their own uselessness to actually fix something, to make it work smoothly, or even just to motive their own employees to not be so grouchy. Maybe. Someday. We can dream.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Honestly, I'm tired of being a target. I'm tired of people trying to figure out how to extract my income with whatever stupid trick they currently think is clever. I'm tired of people trying to play on my sympathies in order to own fancier cars and larger houses. I'm tired of people assuming that I'm just too stupid or lazy to notice that they are ripping me off. I'm tired of turning a blind eye to their deception, just because realistically there are no other choices; no alternatives. I'm tired of them thinking, in any way, form or shape, that I've somehow been hoodwinked by their entirely obviously, facile, pathetic attempts to propel themselves forward at my expense. I'm tired of people playing games; stupid ones that they think they are getting away with. I'm tired of people hiding their knowledge, because somehow, they think that it is their only shot at getting their little slice of the pie. I'm tired of people thinking that whatever pathetically incorrect jumble that they know even has value; that they even deserve a slice of the pie. I'm tired of any of their last ditch attempts to come from behind; to redeem themselves for all their selfish, mean, cruel deeds done while they were under that spell that youth might be eternal. I'm tired of the bad designs, the ugly colors, the lack of patience and the total lack of believing that anything not understood is far far simpler than it actually turns out to be. I'm tired of watching people on TV that seem to self-inflict the types of stupidities that only lessor animals should be obvious of. I'm tired of interference. I'm tired of people thinking they know what's good for me; for their holier than thou attitudes; for their false sense of superiority, as if I never bothered to or was entirely incapable of being able to come to an appropriate conclusion myself. I'm tired of people standing on street corners, completely unaware that the world is revolving. I'm tired of people huddling in masses, terrified that something, somewhere is watching them in total disapproval; that it even cares. I'm tired of mean people, and bitter ones. I'm tired of people venting their problems, their issues or just their lack of contentment with the world at large in my direction. I'm tired of thinking that my species is entirely oblivious to its fate, that it is going to crash, then curl up into a ball, whimpering right to the very end that "it didn't know, it wasn't told". I'm tired of watching the same stupid mistakes, come one after another, again and again, over and over again; ignored, displaced or just bypassed by a mass of people who are obviously too busy trying to make it through another day of dreariness in our overly complex, under rewarding, crazy-ass modern life style to still care. I'm tired of bad writing, and rants, and long rambling posts. I'm tired of people thinking that I care, or should care, or want to care, or may even possibly change my mind someday and start caring. I'm tired of writing this again. I've tired of being targeted.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Douchebag Lane

Sitting patiently on the left, you can't help wondering about the endless stream of cars passing on the right. Passing because they are trying to slip in somewhere farther up there in the line. Passing because they no longer have the patience to sit and wait. Passing because they think they have some divine right to be allowed to avoid this particular lineup. Passing because they think that the rules do not apply to them. That the rest of us "common folk" are just saps to be avoided wherever possible. When ever possible.

And we know, as we see this endless stream of BMWs, Mercedes and Hummers, that these are truly important people. Important enough that they shouldn't have to sit and wait with the rest of us. Important enough that we should forgive them for their callous rudeness, their disrespect, their "oh-so-clever, I've figured out how to leap to the head of the line, and no one else has" attitude. Important enough that their lives just can't afford the extra minute it might have required to have politely waited with the rest us, until the traffic starts moving again.

Of course, if it were only one or two cars, or it really was of great importance, or it wasn't just because the occupants are such total douchebags, then one could easily understand their haste and the need to bud in front. I mean sometimes we do have to work our way to the front, in whatever fashion is necessary. Sometimes.

Sometimes it is even an accident. Just poor planning, that's all.

It is just that deep in the heart of Toronto, this daily practice for these emphatically-challenged, selfish, self-centered, total wankers is to recklessly weave their cars through traffic at the highest possible speeds cutting off other drivers and causing more delays; further creating new wankers to foolishly follow in their exhaust. If they can squeeze their cars into the worse of all possible places just to save themselves a mere 30 secs, then it really doesn't matter to them if that somehow causes everyone else to be delayed in their wake. Why should that matter to them?

After all, they have important things to do, unlike the rest of us. Stuff like demoralize employees, or paying bigger bribes or cheating the system or even critical things like moving and shaking or perhaps vibrating stuff. You know, all that important negative stuff that keeps the rest of us in line. Stuff like that stuff. Stuff that matters.Unlike manners.

It is clear that cars absolutely bring out the worst in people, and the worst people. It is as if they somehow think they are anonymous, invisible perhaps, that somehow people won't know who they are, or detest them, or judge them for being the horrible, greedy, loathsome creatures that they really are. That somehow by wasting way too much of their money on their fuel-burning, planet-choking, leather-coated, fancy-rolling smoke-mobile, that they are somehow absolved from all of those horrible acts that make up their sorted history. All of the people they treated badly, and all of the times they simply made things worse.

And so they pass, car after car, filling up the douchebag lane with a never ending stream of expensive vehicles, like a river of mucus running from a itchy red nose. Like pus flowing from a nasty wound. The joke on them being that we wait patiently in line not because we too can't figure out how to jump pass everyone else, but precisely because we choose not to.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

This Strike Stinks!

Recently some of Toronto's city workers, including our garbage-men have gone on strike. Ceased work. They hope that this action will help them negotiate a better deal with the city.

A key issue in the negotiations seems to be that they are currently getting 18 bankable sick days per year; they can cash these in to retire early. The city wants to take this away.

Meanwhile the trash that is no longer being collected is piling up in people's houses, and some massive dump sites. A smelly problem, quickly growing worse.

There are a couple of things I find interesting about this situation.

The first is that I find it hard to get around the idea of a person actually retiring from a career as a garbageman. People have to do something I guess, but does it make real sense in our modern world for every job to be a "career" oriented job? Is "garbageman" really an answer for kids on career day? Should this be something that you plan to do for the next twenty years?

It's madness to think that each and every menial, crappy transitory job is any thing other than menial and transitory. Somethings you do on your way to somewhere else. We don't expect people to retire from working as McDonald's cashiers, or to make a career out of washing dishes, so why would being a garbageman be any different? Can't we admit that not all jobs are long-term?

In fact, we are treading on very dangerous ground as more and more of what really should be short-term jobs are rapidly become lifetime career positions. In the above paragraph, I was even having trouble finding examples of "joe" or "grunt" jobs. So many have moved onto career status. It's a bad trend.

It is really bad because it limits our opportunities to change jobs, or find a lessor job during an economic meltdown. If everything is a career, then it is nearly impossible to just take some stupid job for a while. It becomes hard to hire, hard to fire and the whole economy becomes so much more fragile as the cost of even the trivial-est bit of labor gets out of control. In a sense we all lose, since falling from our current position means there is nothing out there to tide us over. Nothing but rock-bottom. If you're taking a hiatus from your long-term goals, and everything else is a career, then there is nothing left to do.

There should always be a layer of lower jobs that are easy to get, don't pay well and are easy to leave. It's a good thing.

Garbageman should clearly be an interim job. A fleet of garbage trucks run by 55 year-olds on their way to retiring is neither efficient, nor cost effective. It is simply unsustainable. It's a position for younger people to fill for a while. Somewhere to start out perhaps.

The other thing I find interesting, is how some unions have become the very thing that they were originally fighting against. They have become their own worst enemies.

Back in the day, unions formed to save helpless workers from evil executives that were clearly abusing their roles and taking advantage of the situation. A noble and necessary cause.

However, since then, many of these same unions have stayed around and have gradually solidified into the point where they are run by the very same types of evil executives. Their management is indistinguishable from the company's management (and the two talk about working together).

The company executives get their fancy stuff by exploiting employees for all they are worth in order to get more for themselves. The union executives now also get their fancy stuff by exploiting their employees for all they are worth, in order to get more for themselves. See the difference? No? Perhaps because it's not there. The "terms" are different, but it's the same type of people abusing the masses, for nearly the same reason.

Many unions have outlived their usefulness and their original goals. What may have started out for a good cause, has turned dubious with age.

A union that hangs around too long is one that has to gradually eat away at the company year after year just to justify its own existence; to keep its customers, err, members happy.

Once the real big issues are gone, the continued presence of the union burrows away at the foundations. Each year, more union executives have to earn their higher pay by getting more and more for their people. If they don't push it, they'll be replaced by another wave of younger more aggressive players that will.

More and more concessions eventually becomes "too much", and like the now struggling car companies, all of the sudden the employee costs are outrageous, impossible and dangerous. Good bye company.

A good union executive will gradually kill off the company, a bad one will do nothing for their pay. Is this really a good situation?

These days, the circumstances have changed so much that many employees really need to form a union to protect themselves from their own stupid union, not the original company. It's a sad state, as these once necessary and good organizations have turned evil and destructive.

The solution of course is simple. Unions should be free to form, but they should also be free to disband when appropriate. A union cannot and should not be for ever. A permanent union is just another body out to exploit the workers, and unlike the original executives, they don't even give back anything valuable. Unions are good, but permanent unions are evil.

Unfortunately, in our haste to protect unions, we've often made it nearly impossible for them to fade away. So many unions now have become worse than the original management, in both their demands and their exploitation. They only exist now to protect themselves.

This whole strike leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, and a stink in my nose. I've sick and tired of people having the expectation that the world owes them something more than they deserve. It's nice to have a good stable job, but not every job can or should be good and stable. Somethings just suck, but still need to be accomplished.

I'm a strong liberal, I really think we need to take care of all of our people, it is a huge key to being a civilized society. But I also think that we can't let that go too far. We can't allow people to abuse us, just because we want or need to help. We can't build an unsustainable society and expect it too survive.

Being a garbageman is about one of the lowest positions we have. It's not something that someone should aspire too, it's not something that they want to be doing for a long time. They are simply doing it now on their way to some where else. There is nothing wrong with that, it should just not be considered a permanent position. It is not a career.

As for this strike, I find it to be a cross between bad egos and stupid people. If it were up to me, I legislatively sever the union in half, since I realize they represent more than just the garbage-men. For those jobs that are menial and temporary, I would order them back to work immediately. For those other jobs, I'd allow them to continue their strike, but the 18 day bankable sick leave option is gone (it was just wrong to begin with).

If the garbage-men refused to go back to work, I'd fire them immediately and hire replacements. I'm sure we can find some people willing to work at these positions.

As a longer term fix, I'd also split their salary into two categories, one for unionized employees and a slightly higher one for non-unioned employees. Yes, if they leave the union, they can have more money.

As a society, we have to protect the worker's right to unionize, but clearly we also have to provide some mechanism for the unions to eventually dissolve. Unions should be easy to organize, and we should allow the members themselves to leave easily so that they can be disbanded. Workers should always be allowed to opt out of the unions, particularly when they have reached the stage where they are just another crowd of evil executives out for their own means. Easy come, easy go.

We need unions to help protect against evil executives exploiting people, but the unions themselves also clearly need help in protecting against evil executives exploiting them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Decency Manifesto

The world is a cruel and harsh place. In spite of this, a few of us realize that our fates and those of our species depend on how quickly we are able to lift ourselves out of our lowly behaviors, and start acting with a higher degree of civilization.

Some people foolishly believe that money, power or fame are the keys to success, but many of us know that the only real measure of our worth comes from how the world sees us. Greed and selfishness are only the keys to loneliness.

Throughout all of the trials, troubles and tribulations of this life, we can all choose to walk a path of decency. It is a choice that each person has to make for themselves, and it is that prevailing choice that defines us. We can all choose to be decent, but few of us have the real strength to see it through. For those that try, it is an admirable road.

Being decent means:
  • accepting that there are other people around, lots of them.
  • having real empathy for others, and using it were appropriate.
  • knowing that the means are far more important than the accomplishments.
  • choosing to reserve judgment.
  • forgiving others for their faults.
  • not just mindlessly following the crowds or trends.
  • seeing the other perspective, especially when it's difficult.
  • choosing not to exploit an advantage just because it is available.
  • standing up for what is right, because it is right.
  • trying hard to understand, even when it is complex and difficult.
  • never expecting a reward, never being bitter about not receiving one.
  • understanding that quick fixes only ever make the problem worse.
  • letting go of bias and bad information.
  • taking responsibility, even when it is unpleasant.
  • doing it correctly so that it lasts.
Some people have huge piles of stuff. Some people have great tracts of land and gigantic houses. Some people have servants to do all of their bidding. But none of these things is sufficient enough to make up for inflicting any pain or suffering on innocent people. None of these things justifies horrible actions or rude behavior. And all of these things act as a reminder of how they were acquired. We cannot easily wash our hands or rewrite the past. We can't just simply act better tomorrow and expect a brighter future. We will always wear the stigma of our actions, good or bad. It is our choice. One that we are constantly making.

Inevitably, for most of us, the price of being decent won't be a big promotion, a shot at the top, or even our share of the pie. Decent people choose to behave better whenever it is necessary, which is also when it is most awkward. Decency is a hard path.

For those that try, we will just have to accept that our rewards come from far simpler things. The respect of the people around us, our guilt-free conscience and even the idea that we are leading the way forward for our species, gradually helping them to ascend from our origins.

Being decent isn't the way to wealth and power, but it isn't a path into darkness either. It's simply the greatest single thing we can accomplish with our short lives. The world needs more decent people, in fact it is in desperate need of them. It doesn't hurt to try.

Disclaimer: The use or abuse of this text for any or all 'decent' reasons is encouraged. Do the right thing!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bag This!

"Would you like to purchase a bag with that?" she said sarcastically, as if the mere idea of someone purchasing a bag for just one item would be distasteful.

I'd congratulate the city of Toronto on its latest eco-friendly concept of applying a 5 cent charge for shopping bags, but I actually think it is yet another shiny example of the sort of moronic idiocy that is helping to define the 21 century as the time when a large segment of humanity became completely unglued to the reality of the world around them, and instead, started flip-flopping between ever increasingly stupid fear-inspired fads. Last week it was safety through SUVs, this week it's remembering to toss your whole collection of moldy dirty recycled grocery bags into you SUV before you head to the store. Sure, that ought to make my life better.

The plan, or perhaps plot is a more appropriate term, as conceived of by the usual pack of short-sighted rich politicians who clearly never shopped a day in their lives, is for the government to encourage us into over complicating our already pathetically out of control existence by eliminating some infinitesimally small amount of garbage, and once again finding trivial annoying ways to increase taxes for more deserving projects like getting nicer limos, bigger houses and more servants. Taxes for ineptitude.

Never mind the fact that few of my grocery bags were actually ending up in landfills, well not directly. Instead, when their increasingly cheap quality wasn't invalidating them, they were used to collect the output of my pet canine instead of leaving it there to fester on the streets. No misguided idiot is going to convince me that I should bring a special reusable container or big shovel or some other awkward object out on an evening walk in order to bypass the decades old convince of being able to clean up a biological mess with a simple scoop of a bag. Screw the environment, if it means the streets are paved with dog poo. Wait, isn't poo an environmental problems too?

But seriously, how can over-complicating our lives to do expensive, yet trivial things like sort our garbage into thousands of different expensive piles before paying more to recombining them at the dump, or shutting down the lights for a mere one hour, once per year, counter-balance the fact that our world is completely out of control and we have no idea how to fix it, other than by creating more running-shoe-company slogan-inspired make-world projects while we gratuitously avoid the real and serious problems like over-population, rampant pollution and massive environmental destruction that are threatening to shut down our pathetically little planet's first, and probably last, partially intelligent species.

Driven by the increasing hoards of sadly uninspired rock-throwing, protein-starved activists, that cleverly think depriving their pets of necessary nourishment is somehow in line with their pathetically shallow eco-religions of just making things worse, while they accumulate more and more income for their rich bosses and elite patrons to buy bigger houses and more expensive cars, we seem to be arriving at a new low point in our long history of clueless pawns being easily manipulated. The rich always find diversions for the populace while they hide out in their vast estates, as the constant flood of reckless, hungry and destructive humanity tears away at every crack and crevice left for grabs on the planet. But who'd want to admit that our aimless existence, massive population and wanton selfishness are significantly more challenging problems than just finding more cheap meaningless ways to trick the local population into pretending that their sacrifices in making their own lives more convoluted are anything more than just nother shallow hopeless fad.

Sure, screwing with our lives so that they are so outrageously complex that everybody without servants, is on the brink of a major mental melt-down because they can no longer cope with what the micro-brains in our society seem to keep wanting as a pathetic excuse for normal, has got to be a great way to fix our problems and re-direct mankind towards a more sustainable existence. Sure, that's going to work.

Huge, vast new industries have been formed to fix our world or save us from disease or some other easily digestible trivially-inspired "concept" meant to enrich the few and enslave the many. While they are unlikely to fix anything, or save us, and in fact are far more likely to slowly aid in making things tragically worse over time because their concepts are so shallow, stupid and mind-numbing that their real destructive side-effects get completely ignored, the masses are still heavily drawn to them as some sort of cheap alternative to having to actually think about the problems, change stuff or possibly fix things. Fix things? You can't just make a few new stupid rules, and expect that to work, our world is just not that trivial. If it fits well into a 30 second infomercial time-slot on TV, chances are it really isn't much more significant than that. Chances are that it is actually just adding fuel to an already massively out of control all-consuming fire, instead of trying to help us avoid any one of a huge number of impending major catastrophes that wait patiently on the horizon.

Personally, I'd rather work to simplify my life, and hopefully have some small amount of time leftover, to at least not pretend to change things, instead of just hopelessly piling more crap onto an increasingly bad problem. Fake, transparent ideas that make life more annoying, are clearly never going to amount to much more than some idle wasting of our already too short lives. If you're not really fixing the problems, then aren't you just making them worse.

"Yes, I'd like three bags please! I know, I know.... I only have one small item, but would you mind triple bagging that for me?"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Zombies, Door Knobs and Brat Packs

It's a huge mass of metal, cloth, plastic and who knows what else flying through a dark tunnel at high speed. The wind rushes before it, displaced like a wave of toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube. You hear the metal on metal screeching to a halt, opening its doors and disgorging the contents all over the platform and into the bowels of Toronto's transport system. The subway has arrived.

You'd think that we would appreciate the might and magistery of these massive machines, but in that frantic never-ending rush-hour-like jostling there is little time or energy to concentrate on their wonder.

It's in these cramped tunnels, deep below the earth that we meet the most fascinating creatures. An underground labyrinth filled to the brim twice a day with a mass of wide-eyed zombies stumbling off for another unproductive day in a miserable bureaucracy somewhere. It's the way they look through you; as if you don't exists, or they don't. That's how you know they've given up. They are caught in that an endless ping-ponging between some soulless position in the city, and some soulless hovel in the burbs. Each feeding into the other as its justification, neither giving much back.

Moving around in this subterranean world would be easier, except for those near-zombies that clump up together near the entrances and exits, like silt choking in a river. More commonly known as door knobs, they collect as do dust bunnies under a couch, gravitating towards what -- to them -- seems like the most convenient spot. Easily ignoring the pleas written in big bold letters on the doorways themselves to not block passage, they look indignant if someone ruffles them while trying to escape the train. Door knobs represent the most stubborn, yet only half-hearted zombies, because they still have hope that somehow their little position in life, in as much as it inconveniences all around them, is entitled. Blocking other people, so what?! The true zombies just shuffle into a respectable position in the center of the train.

The darkness in the tunnels may be eerie, yet nothing terrorizes in the depths quite a marauding packs of brats. Masses of screaming school kids, and shouting teachers, on their way to some extracurricular activity. Future zombies to be sure, but their exuberance sends ripples of lost and forgotten dreams through the weary denizens. It's like a rush of bad memories from days gone by, values that used to be intact, and that lost impractical belief that the world was not nearly as harsh and ugly as it turned out to be. Brat packs evoke old memories all while dishing out new headaches, a true terror worth avoiding whenever possible.

The metal whines and the speakers crackle with more inaudible noise announcing another delay on this badly managed mass transportation mess. Somewhere some administrator justifies the poor service, dirty cars, crowed people, all while traveling to and from work in their air-conditioned limo. You know they don't eat their own "dog food" so to speak, because if they did, after all of this time, they'd at least try to fix it in some way, rather than just allowing the slow decay that has set in over the decades. It's a testimony to yet another over-paid anonymous egotist that thinks their negative contribution has far more value than the rest of know its really worth.

Still, to save money, or the environment, or something possibly noble like that, millions of Torontonains venture into those depths on a regular basis. Most make it out in one piece, more or less. Big cities need big transport systems, and someday hopefully this city will get one too. Until then, we'll just have to plumb the depths, carefully avoiding the dangers that lurk there, once in a while catching a train that hasn't already exceeded the definition of overcroweded and dirty. Afterall, the system does manage to work once in a while.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


It was another long tiring day; I was on my way home from work, having first swung by the grocery store to purchase a couple of bags loaded with food. As I turned the corner onto my side-street, the woman walking in front of me approached a van precariously parked halfway on the road, and halfway on the sidewalk. It appeared to be loaded with people; you could see a video playing on a mounted little TV inside. The position of the vehicle was such that there was only enough room for one person to get between the van and a fence bordering an adjacent yard. Briefly I considered crossing the street, but seeing as I lived on this side, that seemed an awful long detour just to avoid an annoying obstacle.

The woman, middle-aged and carrying a bag containing several cartons of take-out food from one of the multitudes of neighboring restaurants, reached for the side door on the van, but realized that I was right behind her. Instead of opening the door, she turned sideways, allowing me to awkwardly pass.

All of that: the van parked on the sidewalk, packed full of people, the tired woman fetching food, was pretty much normal for the our area. It's a popular spot full of restaurants, which attract a large number of agitated type A people, so you get used to it.

Type A personalities, for those unfamiliar with that all too common distinction are aggressively "action-oriented" people who chase after results without concern for the consequences; the "just do it" crowd who believe that "done" mitigates the means. The ones that, as in this case, are far too busy accomplishing "stuff" to have to follow any silly, little things like "parking rules".

My encounter was yet another normal neighborhood occurrence happening at regular intervals, which typically would not have sparked any notice or burned itself into my memory. What changed this was that this particular woman, in a loud, unmistakably sarcastic (and almost hurt) voice said "you're welcome!", as I passed. Apparently, one could easily assert, she felt somewhat slighted by my not saying "thank you" in response to her effort of getting out of my way.

I had in fact started to mumble "thank you", but the better side of me caught my feeble attempt and stifled it. This woman, after all was brazenly violating the local parking laws, and most rudely blocking my way on the sidewalk with her van. I really had nothing to thank her for. A last minute attempt to redeem herself by not making me wait for her to hand the food to someone in the back of the van was not some huge gesture done for my concern. I was already there waiting, she was blocked by my presence.

I'm sure she was quite busy, and had rushed off to a restaurant to save time from cooking. Proper parking in our neighborhood is difficult, so it isn't unusual to see people breaking the rules. In fact it's so common that it's extremely irritating. Some people, I guess, just assume it's acceptable, despite the number of parking tickets being given out on a regular basis.

There are real parking spaces, and proper parking lots, but it's busy, they're slower and they often cost money. It's far easier just to plop your machine down in the middle of the sidewalk and block everything while you rush off and wait for food. Convenience is a big issue.

That, I think is the crux of this matter: one more A type, with an overcomplicated self-imposed rushed lifestyle, gratefully sharing their current inconveniences with me, as if somehow it should be my problem too. There are an awful lot of people who feel somehow justified in bending or breaking the rules in order to get things accomplished. More astonishing, they feel unabashedly owed the right to break the rules whenever they please, as if by some divine gift. Rules, that were clearly meant for lesser people. People like me.

This all too common scenario plays out often enough in big cities. Nature played a big joke on us by making us all intrinsically selfish, we often fall back on our instinct to survive. While it is necessary sometimes to act entirely for one's self interest, some people have managed to use this as an entire philosophy on how to live out their lives: constantly pushing on the boundaries.

To make it worse, these people usually ignore their own behavior, restarting the clock from some arbitrary time of their choosing. This woman, for example, was clearly offended by my rudeness, but seemed unable to grasp the concept that she had initiated that reaction. People are so consumed in their own issues, and by their need to flourish rather than to just survive, that they quickly forget about the rest of world around them.

Call it a simple flaw or just a quirk of our behavior; it may seem nearly trivial, but our self-centered nature is the driving force behind most of the world's problems. Occasionally the planet helps, but the true miseries of this world are brought by people, and particularly those people who believe that they are right. Action -- in a very strange way -- has become our single greatest problem, with all sorts of foolish people solving all sorts of unrealistic problems in very bad ways.

Most people want to do good, but too many people just want. And they make their place in this world at the expense of those around them, without care or concern for what they are really doing. What starts with little things quickly becomes the justification for all sorts of horrible behavior. The cause in this case, blocking the sidewalk to get food, was an act unlikely to be justified by the sheer busyness of the woman's life, no matter how important she thought she was.

Had she not been so aggressively looking for a conflict, I would have passed by that woman and her van full of kids, not giving it a second thought. Cities, which are always tight quarters, which means you have to forgive all sorts of trespasses on a regular basis. Sometimes we can't help stepping on a toe or two, particularly in a dense crowd.

It was her protestation -- an all together too common act in this world lately -- however that just seemed so above and beyond what her expectations should have been, that I was forced to take her into account. Did she have a point? Was I the one not behaving well? Should I have been more forgiving?

Overtime I've tried very hard to learn to pay as little attention to most people as possible. What used to pass for interest, often comes out now as just disappointment or frustration these days. If you watch enough people, read enough newspapers, and pay enough attention to the world you start to see the same horrible patterns repeating themselves over and over again. The only way to not let it constantly depress you, is to try to ignore it whenever possible.

Still, while trying not to let it in, I don't want it to drag me down either. The only way to fight rudeness is to be excessively polite. The only way to fight selfishness is to try whenever, and wherever possible to not let oneself be dragged down to that level. In time, we'll no doubt become less selfish as a species, but the true test of one's character is to be that way, most of the time, right now. It's the examples we set that matter, not how they respond.

So, in many ways that woman was correct. I should have said "thank you", but not as she might assume, because of her actions, but in spite of them. "They'll never learn if you don't ...", goes the counter-argument, but to be fair: they'll never learn anyways. Those people -- those more self-oriented members of our species -- are not going to change in their lifetime or mine, they'll dish out the same misery in their wake, no matter how people act around them. They are all lost causes at best, but we shouldn't allow them to use us to justify their lowly behavior.

And we shouldn't let that sway us from trying to be better than them. If we want to rise above, we have to do it with our actions not just our desires. The measure of our lives isn't the wealth we accumulate, the jobs we do, or the kids we breed, but it is actually the consequences we leave behind us. A good life lead by a good person, even one with few material rewards, is the greatest thing that any person can achieve, and these days it is achieved so rarely.