The Plan Plan

Have you ever been part of a strategic planning session? I always picture Napoleon Bonaparte doing strategic planning. He’s in uniform at the front of a group of generals sitting on the grass and he’s got a easel with a big wad of lined paper, and he’s writing on the paper with magic marker.

Meanwhile, the other side, without a mission statement or a strategic plan or a list of stakeholders, has attacked from the rear and our noble conqueror is slain or captured.

Napoleon Creates a Strategic Plan:

Napoleon: All right, let’s talk about who we are. Anyone? Who are we?
General #1: conquerors?
Napoleon: (writes it down) Conquerors. Do you spell that with an “e” or an “o”? “O”? Okay. Anyone else?
General #2: soldiers?
Napoleon: Okay. That’s good, but too general. What do soldiers do? Pierre?
General #3: Well, we loot, and pillage, and burn houses down.
Napoleon: That’s good. Loot. Burn. Pillage.
General #1: And we rape.
Napoleon: Rape? Do I put that down.
General #2: Well, it’s not really part of our mission, as soldiers. I don’t think it belongs in who we are. It’s more like a strategy.
Napoleon: So, you’re saying that our goal is not to rape, but if rape facilitates the achievement of our goals–
General #1: Yes, like our mission.
General #3: To conquer. I think killing and burning belongs under “strategies” too.
Napoleon: Okay, but we’ll get to that later. Now, I think we need a mission statement to put on here so we can reflect on it and discuss it in terms of appropriate strategies, and resources, and other stakeholders. Then we come back to it at the end of tomorrow and discuss if it still reflects our thinking as a group? Agreed?
General #1: To conquer Europe?
Napoleon: That’s good. That’s simple, easy to remember. (writes it down).


The first thing to know about a “strategic plan” is that the term itself invites ridicule: a strategy is a plan. So what you have is a “plan plan”.

The second thing to know is that no group of employees who is using all of their time to contribute to the success of their company has any time for a “strategic plan” or “missions statement” or any other such nonsense.

Small is Beautiful and Other Momentary Lapses in Justice

Twenty-five years after E.F. Schumacher published “Small is Beautiful” the Ontario government still doesn’t get it.

It is about to close hundreds of small schools across Ontario because they are “inefficient”. The Ontario Public Schools Association predicts that 600 small schools will have to be closed to meet the demands of the Harris government. In Toronto alone, 128 schools are slated to be shutdown. In response to the public outcry, Harris tells the boards to cut their own “bloated bureaucracy”. He tells them, to give up some of their administrative space, though he must know that even if they gave up all of their administrative space, it would still be less than 20% of what is required.

The Toronto Board has already implemented the following:

  • School superintendents (making $100,000 a year) cut from 92 to 47.
  • Trustees cut from 74 to 22.
  • Trustees’ salaries cut from up to $50,000 to $5,000.
  • Administrative staff of 2,000 to be cut in half over three years.

Well, hey, we all hate bureaucracies, so way to go Toronto School Board! I’m too stupid to figure out what 2,000 administrative staff do in a city the size of Toronto, so let’s turf them.

Well, what do they do? The truth is, I have a feeling that a lot of what they do is administrative masturbation. You need a clerical worker to do the filing for an administrator who organizes training seminars for other administrators who run the human resources department which administers the pension plans and benefits packages for the secretaries and the administrators. Other administrators spend a lot of time doing “the vision thing”, going on retreats, and making strategic plans.

Anyway, speaking of Napoleon, I’ve had enough the Harris sniveling about “improving” education. He thinks we are stupid enough to believe that reducing the money spent on education will result in smarter, better students and teachers. Just as you know that if you reduce the amount of money you spend on a car, you will end up with a better car, right? And if you spend less on plumbing, you get better pipes, right? And if you hire the cheapest computer programmer, you get the best software, right? Riiiiight.

Now, obviously, spending more money does not guarantee a better educational system, just as it doesn’t guarantee better software. But you certainly can’t have a good educational system without spending the money necessary to do the job well, attracted good people, and provide adequate resources.

I attended small schools all my life. My children attend a large high school. The larger high school has some advantages, but the biggest difference between the two, by far, is that it is relatively easy to coast unnoticed through four years of education without learning anything in a big school. And it is hard for parents to get to know your kids’ teachers. You see them once for the one semester your child is in their class, and then you never meet the same teacher again. You never develop a strong enough relationship to feel that wonderful sense of accountability that teachers in small schools feel.

Small schools are often an important social and cultural force in the communities they are located in. They are where everyone goes for Halloween parties and the Christmas pageant and graduation. Parents volunteer to help in the classroom and to improve facilities. Everyone meets there at 3:15 to bring their children home. Everyone cares about their safety.

Harris wants to put them all on a bus, demolish or sell the schools, and convince the parents to place all their trust in an institution he has been slamming ever since he came into office.

Does Harris really care at all about education? It’s hard to believe that anybody could be so stupid as to not care. But all of the policies and directives and initiatives he has taken seem far more concerned with reducing costs than actually improving anything. The truth is, improvements do cost money. The truth is, even though we know schools and school boards waste a lot of money, they do still accomplish things. Students need good lab equipment, computers, books, field trips, art supplies, film, paint, desks, and so on. Having all those things doesn’t guarantee a good education, but you can’t have a good education without them.

* * *

The government has stacked a committee that was supposed to hold hearings, listen to varying viewpoints, think about the information gathered, then come to a rational and fair conclusion about how 46 million hectares of publicly owned land in Northern and Central Ontario should be used. This committee heard from loggers, industrialists, commercialists, environmentalists, cottage-owners, and the general public. They then adopted a very thoughtful expression and said, “hell, let’s turn everything over to the loggers.”

The Committee’s official conclusion is that 7.6% of public land should be set aside for preservation. “Hell, let’s give everything to the loggers.”

Now, this is a government that says no one gets a free ride. No more welfare bums. No more government handouts for people who don’t contribute. This government wants to charge user fees for fresh air. This is a government that wants schools of 10,000 students, taught by video camera from a windowless cell in Port Elgin. This is a government that wants MacDonald’s to operate our prison system. But then they turnaround and offer all the trees in Ontario to the logging companies for practically nothing.

If you’re poor. If you’re destitute, and living on the streets of the Toronto– this government says, tough luck, fella. I can’t help yah. But give that bum a chain saw, and the government says, hey, you want some trees? We don’t need them.

* * *

Hey, I’ve been saying this all along! You know those late penalties they charge you on your utilities bill (in Canada)? Like, about $20.00 if you’re one day late on a $200.00 bill? The real interest rate on those charges is, according to actuarial experts, about 5,000,000,000%. That’s right, five billion. In Canada, it is illegal to charge interest rates higher than 60% per annum (which is pretty ridiculous anyway). Well the Supreme Court just ruled that these interest rates, contrary to previous rulings, and with the complicity of the Minister of Energy for Ontario in the 1970’s (under Premier Comatose, Bill Davis), may well be subject to Federal law after all.

This was just another example of the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. Now it looks like there’s a chance that the law might be applied equally once again.

The court case is based on a challenge of the penalty filed by Gordon Garland against Consumer’s Gas, on behalf of the 30% of customers who pay late.

* * *

The Blue Jays are demanding a “better deal” from the Skydome or, so they say, they will play at the “mistake on the lake”, Exhibition Place, next season.

Watch your pockets. A “better deal” means the Blue Jays want the taxpayers of Ontario to subsidize the cost of playing baseball in the Skydome so they can pay Jose Canseco $28 million over four years to bat .234.

Why don’t they just pay Jose Canseco less? Because the New York Mets just agreed to pay Mike Piazza $91 million over seven years to play catcher for them. How can they pay this guy so much money? Well, they can’t. Buy we can. You and I will gladly hand over our money for stadiums and police and road construction so Mike can have an extra limo, three or four extra houses, body guards, and a $25,000 stereo system.

If we don’t pay, undoubtedly, they will move the Blue Jays to Sarasota or someplace that has more suckers per capita than we do.
* * *

How many wars are there in the world this year? How many conflicts between two or more nations in which people are shooting or bombing or shelling each other?

None. Nada. Not a single one.

Yes, there are conflicts. But every conflict in the world this year, involving military action, is a civil conflict, between two factions within a single nation.

It’s true– you can check it out. Is humanity making progress? I think so. Eeyore says, “oh, there’s sure to be another war soon.” Pooh says that’s dumb.

My Cars

love cars.

I mean, public transit is great, and we should use it more often. That way, there’d be less of you people in the way when I get on the road with my car.

As you an see from the list on the right, I have owned 12 different cars in my life. Well, the Studebaker was my brother’s, but I ended up with it. The Impala was my Dad’s, but I drove it most of the time. The Beetle never made it to the road.

Not one of them is a mini-van. I am trying to round up pictures of all them just so you can see how wonderful they all were.

That’s a quite a pile of cars. Where are they now? Oh, just anywhere. I got rid of them. They have disappeared from my life. It was easy: you tow them off somewhere and leave them. Someone else takes care of it. It’s not my problem anymore. Two tons of rusted, decaying metal and rubber and plastic— poof! Gone! You try to get rid of a gallon of toxic herbicide like that! Forget it. They make you fill out a form at least.

When my 1964 Dodge Dart, a car I dearly loved, broke down for good, in Calgary, I called the Ministry of Fear and told them that though the car was registered in Illinois, I would like to junk it in Calgary. They nearly had a fit. You couldn’t do that, they said. You had to import it first. When you import a car, you pay taxes based on the assessed value of the car. But the government liked the car a lot more than I did. They thought it was still worth thousands of dollars. A government official warned me that there would be dire consequences if I didn’t pay up.

I didn’t want to pay a lot of money just to tow it to a junk yard. We argued for days. I was ready to try to fix the thing just so I could drive it down to Montana and ditch it in the first Forest Preserve I could find. I got an estimate for fixing the broken starter motor and the transmission and the door. Then I realized it might be cheaper to import it after all. I called the government back.

Then I read an article in the paper about a man who had bought some golf clubs in the United States and then smuggled them into Canada without paying duty. You know what the police did? They seized the golf clubs.

That was good enough for me. I called the government back: seize away, it’s yours. The government official said, well, we’d rather not have to tow it. Could you drop it off at the compound? So, my friend Sid came over with his Malibu and we towed it to the government compound and left it there to be seized. Gone. Poof.

If you put all twelve of those cars in my backyard today, it would make a pretty cool tower of jagged steel. It would stand about 80 feet high, towering over the houses in the neighborhood. It would tell you something: this is the kind of monumental mess a single human being can create in only twenty-five years here in the affluent West.

I never paid a cent to dispose of my old cars. Usually, I got a few bucks. Think about it. In our society, do people ever do anything for you for nothing? Would your neighbor like it if you dropped five bags of leaves onto his driveway? Does he want your old stereo? Your old freezer? No, never! This leads me to believe that there are people out there who want your old car. Old cars are so good for the environment, that the government doesn’t even charge you to dispose of them, the same way they never charge corporations to clean up their big polluted dumps or poisoned rivers. I’ll bet there are lots of people out there just crawling over each other for a chance to have a wrecked car. And that’s where my next wrecked car is going to go.

But in the meantime, here I come! Out of the way, you slow-moving eco-baby freaks! I’m coming by at 120 kilometres per hour! I don’t care where I’m going: I just want to drive!

My Cars and the Years I Owned Them:

1960 Mini Morris [1970]
1961 Studebaker [1970]
1965 Peugeot [1971]
1965 Chevrolet Impala [1972]
1965 Volkswagen Beetle
1964 Dodge Dart [1975]
1967 Plymouth Valiant [1978]
1972 Plymouth Valiant [1979]
1971 Dodge van [1981]
1983 Lada [1983]
1978 Ford Fairmont [1987]
1983 Chevrolet Malibu [1989]
1987 Toyota Camry [1998]
1987 Toyota 4Runner [1998]
1999 Honda Accord (1999)
2004 Toyota Corolla (2007-11)
2001 Honda Accord (2005?)
2002 Honda CRV (2010-11)
2010 Toyota Corolla
2012 Toyota Rav4

I Came Upon a Wedding

When I was seven years old, I used to chase girls around the school yard and try to kiss them. Especially Elizabeth, whom I loved because she had long pig-tails.

I can’t remember a stage of life where I didn’t like girls. Just loved them. I loved the way they looked, the way they talked, the way they walked…. I had girl “friends” when none of the boys I played with wanted anything to do with girls. I had an immense crush on my Sunday School teacher, and erotic dreams about her. I had a crush on a bride I saw at a wedding in Holland. A substitute teacher. A friend’s mother. The babysitter. Well, not my babysitter, like Paul Anka. Someone else’s babysitter. She was fifteen and I was about thirteen and she invited me upstairs to watch tv and “neck” during the commercials. She really wanted my older brother, Al, but I was a temporary fix, I guess. Our relationship started to deteriorate when she kept asking me to get her some milk for her “ulcer”.

Tonight, I went to a wedding, that two college students had contrived.

It was held in the Court House Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the scene of my very first date with a girl named Leslie, to see a musical based on the music of Leonard Cohen called “The Sisters of Mercy”. We thought it was great. It was our first play. I think it closed a week later.

The reception itself was right in the auditorium. The stage, the proscenium, is still there. I still like girls, and I especially like watching them dance. There were two spirited young women at this party: Christine, who danced like a maniac, all arms and legs and outrage and torrential energy unleashed, with earrings in her nose, and a tattoo, and who was more interesting to talk to than anybody else. And then there was Kim, who was dark and mysterious looking, who teaches dance, and who moved with elegance and style, but also exuberance. Kim was dramatic in a black dress, with spaghetti straps, and long black hair, moving around the floor like some healing gypsy with a gift of uncharted rhythms for everybody.

It was wonderful night until– I’m not kidding– they played a polka. The halls of my beloved courthouse rang with “e-i-e-i-e-i-o”.

I watched someone make a move on an attractive young woman with big hair. I watched them intently. He couldn’t dance worth a lick, but she was sporting and patient and tried to teach him the steps and keep her feet out from under his. I went out for a smoke and found good conversation with a gent who looked like Einstein and had traveled to the Arctic. I wasn’t sure I believed him. He said that when aircraft land in the Arctic, they have to keep their engines running because it is too cold to restart them. Once, a C-145 Transport was shut down for two hours. It never flew again. It is now somewhere beneath the pack-ice, a hundred miles from where it stopped.

So I learned four things tonight. Firstly, always keep your engines running. Secondly, there is a dance for everything, and for some people, that dance is a polka. I don’t know if that guy went home with the girl, but he at least had a polka. Thirdly,: in the dance of spirituality, someone, somewhere always needs a polka. Fourth: dancing is like keeping your engines running. In this arctic life of ours, this world of spiritless tundra, if it takes a polka to keep your engines running, go outside for a smoke.

[The wedding was of my nephew, Steven, and Noemi.]

That Darned Subversive Cat

Remember all the stuff you heard about democracy and freedom and so on when you were kid? And how the Russians were supposed to be so evil because their government spied on their own people and arrested and imprisoned them just for daring to criticize Communism? And how the United States and Canada were so great, because here we were free to vote for whoever we wanted and think whatever we wanted?

Well, let’s keep things in perspective. What follows is not meant to suggest that the West was as bad as Russia was then (and China is today). It’s just meant to balance out a fairly idiotic image of who and what we were during the cold war. The truth is, our own governments were spying on us, and arresting people who spoke out in dissent and attempting to control the free flow of information, just like the commies did.

Actually, none of this is news. We already know about McCarthyism and the excesses of J. Edgar Hoover. I merely want to add a little tidbit here to help put the extent of government control into perspective.

It seems that in 1965 Walt Disney wanted to make a movie based on a book by former FBI agent Gordon Gordon and his wife, Mildred, about a cat who belongs to a kidnap victim. When the cat turns up one night wearing the victim’s wrist watch, the FBI puts the cat under surveillance. Hayley Mills, Dean Jones, and Frank Gorshin starred. Hilarious concept!

Anyway, the FBI heard about this movie, and, when informed about it, J. Edgar Hoover immediately turned to his faithful sidekick, Pedro De Loach, and told him, “Hey, it’s a free country. People can make movies about whatever they please.”

No, he did not.  As a matter of fact,  Mr. De Loach dispatched an FBI agent to investigate this movie to ensure that the Bureau’s “interests” were protected.  I’m not making this up.

Think about this. The FBI, using your hard-earned tax dollars, dispatches a highly-paid agent to Hollywood to investigate the possibility that a Disney movie about a cat might be dangerous to civil order and the justice system.

Did they have time? Well, Groucho Marx might have been retired by then, so I guess that freed up a few agents. Maybe Lucille Ball had let her communist party membership lapse. Perhaps Ring Lardner hadn’t ordered any explosives recently. Maybe Dalton Trumbo had started hanging out with Ronald Reagan. Who knows?

It is tempting to laugh at this bizarre episode and just shrug it off. When you were a kid and you recited the pledge of allegiance to the flag of America and the liberty for which it stands, did you think for a moment that your own government had it’s own little department of thought control?

Did you watch the television drama called “The FBI” on TV in the 1960’s? Did you know that the FBI virtually controlled the program? They could veto any line of dialogue, any shot, if they didn’t like it. And do you even have to think for a minute to realize that their first priority was not “accuracy”, as they claimed, but depicting the agency in a favourable light?

Ever see that episode where the FBI tapped Martin Luther King’s phones? Yeah, me neither. Or where they collected information about President Kennedy’s mistresses?

Even today, with all the so-called sophistication we now have, TV is still inundated with police-approved TV shows that labour mightily to convince you that the police never make mistakes. I watched one episode of “REAL TV”, which showed tapes from a police helicopter chasing a “suspect”. What was the man suspected of? We never find out, for the only thing he is ever charged with is resisting arrest– a chilling echo of Soviet Russia’s “enemy of the state”. All during the chase, the voice-over narration laboured to assure us that these reckless and insane pursuits were necessary because the felon might very well have done something unspeakably evil, if the police had not damaged five cruisers chasing him at speeds of 100 mph through populated suburbs and snarled highways.

Is there a single TV police show that does not show police officers assaulting suspects and violating their civil rights with approval. The program is careful to let you “know” the one thing that, in real life, the police almost never know with any degree of certainty: that the suspect is guilty.

Back to the FBI: I’m sure if you asked the FBI today, their official spokesman would chuckle and say something like, “Oh, well, yes, J. Edgar did get a little carried away back in the 1960’s, but I can assure you that the FBI today is too busy tracking down militant survivalists and murderers to waste time on Hollywood movies.”

Like the Branch Davidians, in Waco, Texas?

To see a copy of the FBI report on “That Darn Cat”:

Marketting Lennon

Well, Apple Computer has done it again. They persuaded Yoko Ono, presumably, to sell them her vampirish endorsement of their computer products. “Think Different” is the theme of the campaign.

But wait– isn’t that John sitting beside Yoko? Isn’t that a picture from the “bed-in for peace” in Amsterdam? John Lennon, who wrote:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
Nothing to kill or die for
A brotherhood of man

Well, this takes the cake. It reminds me of Rolling Stone Magazine, emerging from the flotsam of the 1960’s as the first, supposedly, “counter-culture” magazine. In actual fact, it was no more counter-culture than dental floss. Jann Wenner, the publisher, simply realized, before almost anyone else did, that there was a lot of money to be made in the “money can’t buy me love” business. A lot of trinkets to be sold. A lot of images to make and remake and sell. And all of it while pretending to be “different” from the materialistic older generation.

There ought to be a law against exploiting the dead. There is something particularly offensive about taking someone like John Lennon, who genuinely did stand for something, and using his image to market consumer products for one of greediest and most self-centred corporations in Silicone Valley. Yes, Apple, not Microsoft (Dracula, not Frankenstein).

John isn’t around to mock the whole idea the way he probably would. “Imagine there’s no Windows/It’s easy if you try”. He was one of the few rock stars of the 1960’s to stay relatively true to his own vision.

The vampires of Wall Street has no shame.

Avast, Ye Scurvy Software Swabs!

Have you ever considered the fact that the BEST thing that ever happened to Microsoft was software piracy?

Forget about today. Today, everyone buys Windows whether they want to or not, because, first of all, you usually have no choice, and, secondly, all of the software you want to use is written for Windows.

Let’s go back to 1985, before MS-DOS and Windows were dominant. The point of critical mass for the computer industry. Large numbers of people were buying a personal computer for the first time. These people were very, very important. These people were on the cutting edge. They were smart and willing to learn new things when most other people were content to keep using whatever it was they had been using before computers even existed.  When corporations, schools, and institutions bought computers in a big way a few years later, these people decided which computers and operating systems they bought.

So, it’s 1985. You are shopping for a computer. Some of your friends already have computers. You look at an IBM clone for $2500.00. You look at an Apple MacIntosh for $3000.00. You know the Apple is a better computer– that’s no secret. But the biggest factor is money. Okay, but you own a Toyota: you’re willing to pay a bit more for quality. Okay– it’s the Apple.

Wait a minute! Once you get your computer, what are you going to run on it? Well, you’ll need a word processor. Actually, you lust for a word processor. You check the prices: Word for the MacIntosh is $450.00. Word Perfect for DOS is $450.00. What about a spreadsheet? Lotus 1-2-3 for $565.00, or Excel for about the same price for Apple. Graphics? Accounting? Games? Music? Are you ready to spend $5000.00 for enough software to really go to town with your machine?

Are you nuts?

But, hey, Bob, your accountant friend, has a copy of Lotus, and he also has a little application that removes the copy protection from the disks. Same for Word Perfect– which is about to drop copy protection anyway. And you know someone else with a copy of Flight Simulator. Hey, now we’re in business! How about ACC/PAC? Newsviews? ProComm? Now we’re cooking. But these are all DOS applications. You don’t know anybody with MacIntosh software for obvious reasons, not the least of which is this: the MacIntosh is much more difficult to hack.  Why?  Because it is a better computer and because Apple maintained tight control over how software is written for it.  That’s why there are few bugs.  That’s why it runs better.  But that’s also why it’s much hard to copy their software.

So, the IBM clone, of course. You get your pirated copy of Word Perfect 4.2 and love it.

Next year, your company buys computers. Do you want to retrain yourself in Word for the MacIntosh? Are you crazy? So you recommend IBM computers, or compatibles, and your company buys lots of licensed copies of Word Perfect, fearful of avenging squads of Software Police.

Why are pirated copies of DOS applications freely available? Because Apple uses proprietary hardware and software on its systems. You can’t buy an Apple clone and hack into it. If you want an Apple, you have to buy an Apple. But hackers and pirates are not big spenders. They buy the cheapest clones they can get. They take their computers apart (something Apple discouraged, with it’s sealed case and integrated monitor) and hack and pirate away. And because of the plentiful IBM clones there also plentiful IBM clone accessories, add-in cards, peripherals. At another critical moment, colour monitors became cheaply available for IBM clones while MacIntosh, inexplicably, stayed wedded to their tiny little black and white integrated screen.

Piracy was the best thing that ever happened to Microsoft.

Imagine for a moment that there had been no piracy. Imagine that Mr. Computer Buyer, above, knew that he would have to pay for every piece of software he acquired for his computer. Imagine.

I imagine he probably would have bought the computer he thought was the best. He would have acquired the best software for the money. And a lot of people would have chosen a MacIntosh instead of an IBM clone.

Sure, a lot of people would have bought the cheapest hardware out there regardless of quality. But at the moment of critical mass, a very large number of people would have bought the better product, the same way that large numbers of people started buying Toyotas and Hondas instead of Cavaliers and Escorts, even though they cost more.

So Apple died the death of a thousand cuts.

Well, Apple is trying to make a comeback with its new Imac. Is it too late? It is a tribute to the bitter disappointment many influential computer people feel about the Microsoft product that Apple even has a chance. In fact, never in history has such a bad product, Windows, been so successful in the marketplace.

Back in 1985, I owned an Apple IIc. It wasn’t much by today’s standards, but it did one thing that Microsoft Windows still isn’t able to do: it ran reliably. Every night, I turned it on and went to work. I wrote and calculated and listed and printed and compiled and researched and edited and drew and composed… I worked. It worked. It was great. I had Appleworks, which combined a spreadsheet, word processor, and flat-file data base. It ran great and I loved it. I installed it once. Once.

Then I got myself an IBM XT clone. For the next year, I spent most of my time trying to figure out to get the damn thing to run decently. Word Perfect was nice, but there was no DOS version of Appleworks, so I lost my data bases and spread sheets. Lotus was powerful, but I didn’t need macros: I needed to be able to switch efficiently from one application to another. The IBM clone couldn’t do that at all for another five years, and couldn’t do it reliably for another ten. So what did I trade my precious IIc for, really?


Yes, fonts. That’s about it. The main advantage of the IBM clone was… fonts.

What do I spend most of my time doing with my mighty Pentium 133 with 6.5 GIG hard drive, 64 Megabytes of RAM, 32 voice digital music card, laser printer, SCSI drive, ATI Rage graphics adapter? Configuring. Fixing. Reinstalling. Debugging. Patching. Figuring out.  And doing the same work over and over again because the damn thing crashed while the file was still open.

This year alone, I have had to erase everything on my hard drive and reinstall everything from scratch three times. This takes hours and hours and hours. And then it takes weeks to get the system tweaked back to a level of usefulness. By that time, your fresh install of Windows is back to its old tricks: locking up, freezing, slowing to a kludge.

This is insane.

The Naked Truth About Police Chases

A 46-year-old woman in Indiana decided to go for a drive. Naked. A policeman spotted her.

Okay, let’s say you’re a cop. You see this woman drive by, and she appears to be naked. You immediately realize that this naked woman is a serious threat to public safety and security and MUST BE STOPPED. On go the lights. On goes the siren. Maybe you even make little “woo-woo” sounds with your mouth as you wheel your muscular Chevy Malibu 360 degrees and step on the gas. Maybe your trigger finger starts twitching: what if she’s got a concealed weapon? Well, all right. What if she has a gun on her lap? You think back to police school– what did they teach you about handling naked women drivers? Should you call out the SWAT team? You get on the radio, anyway, and call for assistance. From the looks of things, could be trouble. “Naked woman in a car. Am proceeding to apprehend.”

Five different police departments respond to your call.

This naked woman doesn’t want to stop for you. She steps on the gas. Soon, she is driving 160 kilometers per hour (110 mph).

Well, now you have a threat to public safety.

At least five other police cars get involved in the chase. Let’s say it takes them about 30 minutes to join the race, catch up with the woman, pull her over, sort out who gets to lay charges, and then get back to other duties. That’s probably about $1000.00 for the officers alone, benefits included. Then there’s the cars (fuel and maintenance) the paper work, the processing time for the charges, the court appearances, the District Attorney and his assistants, and so on. I’ll bet by the time you’re done, it’s going to cost the taxpayer over $5,000.00 to deal with this naked woman. What if one or more of the police cars had been damaged in the chase? What if a child had been hit by one of the speeding cars?

Sometimes I think privatization might be a good thing. Suppose I was an ambitious businessman and I owned my own police force and I contracted my services out to the State of Indiana. Suppose one of my employees radioed in that a naked woman just drove by and he wanted to pursue her.

Come on. Are you nuts? I’d tell him to go check to see if a bank is being robbed somewhere. I’d tell him to go to a pool hall and cover a few games for a bunch of teenagers. I’d tell him to park his car downtown and take a walk and chat with at least five merchants. I’d tell him to find a school basketball court, take off his tie and gun, and play three-on-three with whoever’s hanging out there. I’d tell him to go to a liquor store and get himself onto a first-name basis with the proprietor. I’d tell him to go find a milk carton and see if he can memorize the faces of the missing children.

If I was really conscientious, I’d have one of the receptionists from the office get into her Toyota and see if she can find the naked woman, follow her around, and see if she’s in some kind of trouble. I pay her $15.00 an hour and cover her mileage. Net cost: $25.00. No lives lost. No cars damaged. No big deal.

* * *

Just read today that the police in Mildmay, Ontario, found out that a local Radio Shack dealer had purchased some parts from a cruise missile at a flea market in Ohio. Oooo! SWAT team for sure. On May 13, 1997, they invaded his store with 15 flak-jacketed camouflaged armed commandos (I am not making this up), terrifying the law-abiding owner, an electronics hobbyist with plans to take over the world but who was not charged with anything for four months. I’ll bet this operation cost more than $5,000. I’ll bet the Ontario Provincial Police ask for–and receive–more money next year, to handle this epidemic of terrorism: naked ladies and Radio Shack managers.

I would have sent that same secretary in her Toyota. Let’s have a chat. I’ll give you a thousand bucks. (According to the owner, he would have accepted less than that, if they had only offered.) Maybe we can work this out.

But the, what would the police do with all those flak jackets and commando gear? Paintball?

Mickey Rat

We were about to see the “Mickey’s Day Care Centre”. With a big picture of Mickey Mouse on the sign in the front yard. Yes, the day was coming.

But not yet. Right now, if you own a daycare, you can’t call it the Mickey Mouse Day Care, and you can’t put a picture of Pluto or Goofy on the sign. Mickey and his friends were copyrighted by Walt Disney way back when, and the copyright stays in force for fifty years. And The Disney Corporation has generally been quite ruthless about enforcing it’s copyright, taking day cares, schools, and other institutions to court to force them to remove Donald and Mickey and Goofy from their advertisements or classroom walls and pay up.  That’s because Disney loves children.  That’s Disney’s “family values”.

Well, in 2003, Mickey is “Public Domain”, which means anyone can use him.


Let’s say for a moment you’re the Disney Corporation. The law says your copyright is going to expire because the first legislatures who created copyright law decided that you should not be able to cash in forever on your creative work, to sit on your assets, indolent, dependent on a legislative teat. After a reasonable period of time, you should have to do more work to continue to make money.

But you make a lot of money off this copyright.  It’s had work coming up with new ideas and new products.  So you go to the government, like any other citizen in this great country of ours, and say, “Please, can I keep my copyright?” The government says, “No, of course not. Ideas belong to everyone. Copyright, you see, is not about protecting your rights as an owner. It is merely designed to encourage innovation and creativity by giving a temporary period of protection. Your Mickey Mouse did not come from nowhere. Mr. Disney benefited from all the artists and innovators and creative persons who all contributed techniques and language and styles to our culture before him. Now, Mr. Mouse goes back where he belongs: to the greater body of culture.”  (And, of course, we discover that Mr. Disney did not, as it were, actually invent Mickey.  Someone else did and Mr. Disney took credit.)

“Well,” says Disney, “would you change the law if I pay you some money?” And Congress says, “Money! You have Money! Why didn’t you say so! Of course we can. We are a group of utterly corrupt and gutless wimps who always pass laws that favour the people who keep us in office by providing us with an endless supply of money to spend on election campaigns. Ask Archer, Daniels, Midland! Ask Jack Valenti! Ask anybody with money! It’s true! And since you have a lot more money than all of the day care owners in the world, you win!”

And so it was.

Disney’s Political Action Committee (PAC’s are created to bypass election laws that restrict the amount of money corporations can give a candidate, just so this sort of thing can’t happen, ha ha) gave election money to 10 of the 13 sponsors of the new copyright bill.

Now you might naively think, “that’s bribery!  That’s corruption!”  Well yes, but those same congressman wear flag pins in their lapels and promise to stop protestors from burning the U.S. flag and illegal immigrants from taking your job.

The new copyright bill extends legal protection for an additional 20 years, from 50 (after the death of the creator) to 70.

Now in 2023, do you think, by any chance, we will see another extension of the copyright law? Why don’t they just go for the gold: “in perpetuity”?

Maybe that would be too expensive for them.

Video Rip-Off Terminals

Video Ripoff Terminals

Should the government allow video lottery terminals? Should the government be in the gambling business?


Well, maybe they should. I didn’t think so, but, hey, the arguments in favour are pretty persuasive. They say that people should have a choice. Maybe you think gambling is stupid, but, other people might not. If they want to gamble, what skin is it off your teeth?

Well then, what’s holding them back? Maybe nothing. Maybe they already have plans to set up brothels too. Why not? It’s about choice. If a woman decides to make money by selling her body, who are we to complain? And if a man chooses to pay for sex rather than earn it by marrying someone and giving them a house and car and large appliances, then who am I to stand in the way?

Of course, the difference is, when you pay a prostitute for sex, you generally get the sex. But gambling is founded upon a different principle, namely, that people are stupid. People are stupid enough to walk into a fabulous casino, see all the people and equipment and furnishings and security guards and entertainment, and come to the conclusion that this place has been losing a lot of money lately.