The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

October 29, 2008

Don't Dream It's Over


The strike at my newspaper, that is.

After 16 days of grief, stress, frustration, anger, angst, anxiety, walking a picket line for 20 kms per day, I'm back at work on Wednesday.

I compare these past two weeks roughly with the rollercoaster that the stock market has been, basically a free-fall of folly and f*ck-ups, and a feeling of how can this be happening.

Like someone had pulled a big chunk out of me and wouldn't give it back.

But after our company finally pulled all its concession demands off the table, we ended up with mildly improved wages and benefits in what is a very profitable market for our owner.

All I can say is:

October 25, 2008



At the very least, this RPG (Role Playing Game) is certainly what's taking up most of the time for my 16-year-old son (right, below) and one his buddies, Alex.

The game was released in Canada this past week. I drove my son down to the mall on Tuesday to pick it up. He paid for it himself, which is a departure from past experiences when I'd foot the bill.

And that's a good thing, seeing as I'm on strike at the moment and not bringing in any cash.

I have no idea what the game is about, but I'm very familiar with RPGs, I play some of them myself from time to time as a diversion.

I think this one involves a central character who battles the usual demons and monsters and stuff, but he can also get married, have name it.

In some ways, I'd like to be able to rail against these computer games and how kids are exercising their thumbs and fingers rather than their hearts and legs, but this is their culture.

What I care more about is that my son feels comfortable enough to bring his friends here to my place and to do their thing, not my thing, with me more or less being a fly on the wall.

The two of them spent hours Saturday afternoon playing this game.

And then they went to meet another friend at the pizza joint where several of them and their friends work for supper, although I expect them back here at some point.

I like their independence and that they feel cool hanging out here...I had offered to make them supper, but they said that's cool.

Although when I pick my daughter up from work, of course, they become secondary and will have to move out of the living room and into his bedroom to play the game on HIS TV, which is smaller...

That's the pecking order of life, they're learning.

And they appear to be learning it pretty well.

(This is my shot of the TV with them playing the game on it...)

October 24, 2008


Palin stylist draws higher pay than policy adviser
WASHINGTON (AP) — An acclaimed celebrity makeup artist for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin collected more money from John McCain's campaign than his foreign policy adviser.

Amy Strozzi, who works on the reality show "So You Think You Can Dance" and has been Palin's traveling stylist, was paid $22,800, according to campaign finance reports for the first two weeks in October.

In contrast, McCain's foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was paid $12,500, the report showed.

In recent days, McCain and his running mate have tried to douse a furor over how their side spent their money.

The Republican National Committee came under scrutiny after the party committee reported earlier this week that it had spent about $150,000 in September on wardrobe and cosmetics after Palin joined the GOP ticket.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune and Fox News on Thursday, Palin said the clothes bought for the Republican National Convention were not worth $150,000 and said most have not left her campaign plane. She also said the family shops frugally.

"Those clothes are not my property. We had three days of using clothes that the RNC purchased," Palin told Fox News in an interview that aired Thursday night.

There was no evidence of additional clothing purchases in the most recent reports.

It has to be said, however, that she IS kinda cute.

And isn't that all that REALLY matters?

October 21, 2008


What truly matters...

It appears that the strike at my newspaper MAY be coming to an end in the next day or two. This strike has shut the entire newspaper down, except for its website and its ability to deliver flyers.

The union I'm in represents everyone from us journalists, who earn as much as $90,000 a year, to the carriers, who earn way less. I've whined about the effects of the strike on my personal situation.

But this guy, who commented on our strike website, had this to say.

It touched me. And my comment to him, being a divorced father myself who wants to see his kids and be a part of their lives and as a fellow employee at another level, would be "I hear you and I support you."


Hi, my name is Dan. I am a FP carrier and I feel the need to inform people of what it is like to be a carrier and let me tell you right from the start, that it is not a glamorous job.

I do it because I have to, not because I want to, and I will explain shortly.

Before I start, let me explain my situation. I am a recently divorced father of four young children. My divorce has left me in financial bind that has forced me to take on a part time job in order to survive.

The high cost of living, and the cost of raising children has necessitated the need to get a part time job to make ends meet.

I chose to be a FP carrier for two reasons: a) to pay the bills and b) it is the only part time job that I could get that would allow me to continue to see my children on a regular basis during visitation nights.

By being a carrier I can still partake in my childrens activities like baseball, soccer, dance recitals, hockey games, school plays, etc. A normal evening part time job would mean not seeing my children at all.

I can’t possibly tell my kids to just hang on for a couple of years while Dad has to work part time to survive.

So, now let me explain to you what it is like to be a carrier.

Imagine yourself having to go to bed at 8 pm every night, wake up at 1 am, drive to the depot in the hopes of getting your papers by 2:30, so that you can complete your route by 6:30 (or else get docked for late deliveries) so that you can possibly catch an hour of sleep before you have to wake up again to get ready for your day job.

Now, do this 7 days a week, rain or shine, winter or summer, looking forward to the occasional stat holiday.

These however, have limited benefits to a carrier because even though we have a day off, our bodies are so accustomed to waking up at 1 am, that we can’t sleep through the night even if we wanted to.

If we want to attend a social function, like a wedding, we have take several days off in advance of the function in order to get our sleep pattern back.

I read earlier that the average pay of a carrier is between $12000 and $14000 per year. This may seem like a lot to some for a part time job however let's put it into perspective.

The cost of fuel, the wear and tear on a vehicle, and most important of all, the wear and tear on your body and impact on your mental health is a high price to pay just to make ends meet.

As a newly divorced parent who is trying to keep their head above water, and pursue a somewhat normal social life, can you imagine the reaction you would get from a woman when I say:

"Hi, my name is Dan, I can go out on a date as long as I am home by 8 pm (because I am a FP carrier and I have to be in bed early)."

The wear and tear on the vehicle is huge. My vehicle when I started as a carrier was valued at $16,000. After a year, the car was appraised at $7,000, and could not be sold privately at the market value, and no one would take it in as trade because of the wear and tear.

You can put a value on a vehicle, but how do you put a value on the wear and tear that your body endures from delivering papers in the middle of the night when it is -40c with a windchill of -60c, and you are loaded down with papers like a pack mule, and snow up to your knees.

How do you deliver papers when the weather advisory states skin will freeze in 30 seconds, and FP carriers are expected to be outside for 3 hours. Put a value on that and tell me, are we really overpaid?

Are we really overpaid when your kids say ‘Dad, why do you have to go to bed at 8? Why can’t you stay awake at my play or hockey game? or your boss gives you heck for being late because you got a precious few hours extra of sleep.

So, for those of you that think that a FP carrier is overpaid, call me, come walk with me, and I can guarantee you that you would not last a week in my shoes (which I replace every 3 months). To my fellow brothers and sisters on the picket line, rock on.


Ugly Dog Pictures For a Change of Pace


October 16, 2008

If this doesn't blow you away (Updated pix!)...

So the world's whole financial system is falling apart, I'm on strike and earning no money, winter's coming, yada yada yada...

And in a small corner of Northwestern Ontario in Canada, this miracle has happened with my youngest brother's and his family's dog.

s it has no doubt in thousands of other places across the planet while all this other crap is going on.

Does anything else really compare? Or, really, matter?

Gerry, thanks.

(Two following pix are right after birth)

Three days old (the first pic and these three below)...

October 12, 2008

On Strike -- Yechhhh



For the past month or two, the end to our previous three-year contract has loomed ominously for all of us. The newspaper business is changing fast.

In the U.S., thousands of layoffs have occurred. It's been the same in Eastern Canada. Advertising is drying up. Conventional readership -- the Baby Boomer generation -- is dying off.

And with those things and other factors, even though my newspaper is still by far the leading one in our province, is a money-maker and hasn't been affected all that much, the owner is demanding big changes.

For an example of just how our business is changing, go here to see a video of me (the balding guy on the left) interviewing a football player and his minpin.

This video is on our website now. It's part of the changing landscape of what newspapers have to be. They have to have a presence on the Web. Our company wants us to accept concessions and layoffs.

It wants us to agree to new job classifications for many journalists, so that fewer of those journalists can perform more tasks for fewer benefits. Personally, I would not be much affected by these changes.

But many others would and will be. And a lot of it is inevitable. Press room employees will lose their jobs as much more efficient presses come on stream that require fewer people to operate them.

It's all about efficiencies, declining revenues and all kinds of other economic conditions I don't have to spell out for you.

I'm at the top of the food chain in union jobs, just below management. I already can do a lot of the jobs that our company wants to lump into one job classification, so my job will likely be safe. But I'm in my 50s.

Yikes, it sucks to be this old in this environment.

Anyway, the company has avoided true negotiations, of course, until the very last minute.

Our union issued a strike deadline of Oct. 13, which is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and the day before our federal election.

While negotiations continued, the deadline arrived. We're now on strike. I've dreaded this moment for the past month or so. The two sides continue to meet but the strike could not be averted.

Hopefully it's not as bad as the famous Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

People died. They suffered, greatly. And if a strike lasts any length of time, so will I, financially. A strike fund of $200 a week doesn't pay all the bills, not even close.

But it is what it is.

I walked the picket lines six years ago when, if I recall, we were locked out before we could actually strike. We didn't get a lot out of that contract, it was more about staying the course, so neither side won.

We were out for nine days. I brought a football to the picket line and played catch with others all the time and tried to make it as much fun as I could. But it's a depressing thing.

I feel less like an employee of this newspaper and more like a member of a family. But business is business.

Personally, I'm more concerned with long-term job security at a decent wage with decent benefits. But others definitely feel differently, because their jobs and livelihoods are much more on the line.

I figure that I'm going to grow a strike beard. If I do, and if the strike goes ahead, I'll try to monitor its growth daily with pictures I'll put up on my blog.

Have to maintain SOME sense of silliness, after all. So instead of looking THIS kind of stupid...

Eventually I'll look like THIS kind of stupid, although I'll probably just do the little goatee thing and not the full Monty beard.

Who knows, maybe I'll end up looking like this woman after the strike?

What I know is that the building below is not going to be a place where I'm going to be able to go and work and kibitz with managers and fellow employees alike.

It's going to be a place I'll only be able to walk in front of, carrying a picket sign, withdrawing my services supposedly for the betterment of everyone from headline writers and photographers to circulation, advertising and mailroom employees.

And despite what our logo below and one of our advertising slogans maintains, I will not be there for our readers.

I won't be anywhere, except marching in front of the building outside as winter approaches.


October 10, 2008

Shift and ENTER...


You all have such twisted minds...

All 4.5 of you.

No, I mean SHIFT and ENTER.

On the computer keyboard.



That's how to get spaces between paragraphs on Blogger posts.

It seems to be that simple.

So simple that Blogger and all its Google-owned tall technological foreheads couldn't simply tell me that.

I found this tiny bit of info while surfing the Blogger Help Group site.

But it was a mention of it by some outside source, not Blogger itself, that brought it to my attention. I tried it. It appears to work.

Shift. Enter.


Why did it have to be so difficult to find that out?

October 9, 2008

Harper can go to hell

OK, so here's what an ignoramus our Canadian Prime Sinister Stephen Harper is. And just for the record, he definitely lost my vote on Thursday (not that he was likely to get it anyway).

After conceding the infinitesimal possibility in Vancouver earlier in the day that his Progressive Conservatives might -- shudder! -- actually lose the election, he showed up in Winnipeg.

And in the obligatory cute baby photo op above, it appears in his totally wooden way that he's asking the infant: "Can I have your soiled diaper so I can throw it at the guy in the back whose sign reads, 'Harper = Less?'

Because that certainly would be correct. He is much less than what Canada needs and deserves. And if there was any doubt about that, he proved it later Thursday night.

Because that's when he broke from his election campaign tradition of only talking to the media once in the day -- early, so reporters could not question him about other issues later in the day raised by other opponents -- to kick Liberal Leader Stephane Dion in the balls.

I know I've said on here before that I didn't think Dion, a Quebecker, can win the Oct. 14 vote because his English is so poor and he's difficult to understand.

But what Harper did and said Thursday night is an absolute act of unfairness, disrespect for all Quebeckers and a total lack of understanding that, right or wrong, whether he agrees or not, Canada has two official languages: French and English.

Harper and his henchmen trotted out a big TV to show the media a taped interview of Dion struggling, during a TV interview conducted in English in Atlantic Canada, to understand what the interviewer was asking.

Go here for the story on it, if you want:

The gist is that the interviewer asked Dion what he would do differently than Harper in response to the financial crisis if he was prime minister today.

He didn't understand the question in English and they required three takes to get it right, after which point the interview apparently went peachy-keen. Dion asked that the earlier takes not be used, and I believe that request was at first granted.

But long-time Canadian Television Network fatboy blowhard Mike Duffy (CTV, I'm pretty sure, supports Harper's Conservatives), aired the whole interview anyway, with Dion's blunders in English included.

So Harper, just magically, obtained the videotape Thursday night and showed it to the national media here in Winnipeg.

He claimed if Dion couldn't answer such a simple question, it showed how he was unfit to be prime minister.

This is the lowest of blows. A person's intelligence and ability to deal with an issue like this doesn't depend on their grasp or difficulty with speaking English, French, Swahili or Martian.

They might have trouble communicating their idea to the majority of people in the country, but that DOESN'T mean they're unfit to address the issue and solve the problem.

In fact, they may be far better able to handle such a crisis than a redneck dipstick like Harper, whose lead in the polls has dropped as his minority government has shown little understanding or compassion to the people over the crisis.

Just like his right-wing rowdy in America, John McCain, Harper is going into full attack mode with below the belt attacks that show both of them to be desperate, shallow and what they think might be opportunistic.

What it is, is classless. The people of Quebec, all French-speaking Canadians across the country and all Canadians should be appalled. I hope Dion wins. And he'll be getting my vote to help him do that.

October 8, 2008

Debating the Debates

Just a little cleaning up to do after the U.S. presidential debate this week...

Who knows for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if more Canadians tuned into this week's debate in Nashville between Barack Obama and John McCain than they have for the Canadian election debates.
Both countries, of course, have election campaigns going on now. Canada votes on Oct. 14. The Americans vote in early November.

Due to late work nights, some genuine apathy and other issues, I haven't watched one Canadian debate. The only debate I DID watch was the one in Nashville this week. So, s
everal observations.

First, I'd give Obama a B+ for his performance in Nashville. He looked polished, authoritative, reasoned, confident and showed great restraint, in my view, when McCain took stupid cheap shots.

I'd give McCain a D-. I thought he looked wooden, rehearsed, arrogant and he was constantly on the attack. He didn't speak TO the people the way Obama can. It was like he was talking DOWN to people.

I think it's pretty clear now that Obama will win. Any objective person who pays attention to body language and listens to ideas would come to that conclusion, as far as I'm concerned.

So that's my two cents as a non-voting observer who's not trying to hide that he's supported Obama from the get-go.

Now some other points.

If you didn't see the Nashville debate, look at the images above. It was an interesting, one-on-one townhall format that says something about the dynamism of America itself and its ability to make something exciting.

Now look at the image below.

Five politicians (L-R Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton, Progressive Conservative Leader/Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe) sitting around a table.


Now to be fair, and I say this proudly, Canadians probably have a worldwide image of being more global neutrals and pacifists and reasoned -- in other words, a lot more like Obama than McCain -- than Americans.

In other words, not so much flash and panache, as a nation, but more measured, maybe...more open to others' opinions, less likely to storm the bastions and invade Iraq without just cause and more likely to want everyone to sit down and talk.

And I don't say that as an insult to any individual American. Having backpacked through Europe, the Middle East, India and other places, I can vouch for it.

If you had a Canadian maple leaf sewn on your backback, you were always welcomed. Americans? Well, not so much, just because of worldwide perceptions and images.

Right or wrong, America is seen as the all-powerful invader that goes wherever it likes for its own benefit (most of the time) or at least for its allies' benefit and stomps on anything in its way. It's true.

As a Canadian who has loathed Dubya from the get-go, I see in Obama an open, intelligent, sensible saviour much like our own Liberal prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau of the 1960s and 1970s -- my lone Canadian political hero.

So that's a segway, of some sort, back into the Canadian election...and the nimrods we have to choose from that head five parties, only two of whom are credible and have a real chance at winning.

They are the Conservatives' Harper, a Bush clone/lapdog who has held a minority government for the past two years and who called this election, and the Liberals' Stephane Dion.

As much as I like the left-leaning Layton of the socialist NDP, the rest of Canada has never voted in his party for government. The other two are marginal.

Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois leads a one-province party from Quebec that wants to separate from Canada. He's intelligent but he's a one-cause party. Good luck. May's Green Party wants us all to, of course, go green.

We're not ready for that.

So let's focus on Harper and Dion. Dion, first of all, is from Quebec. He has a very heavy French accent and is hard for the rest of us understand.

He looks like a bookworm, isn't very verbose and doesn't speak fluently or very well in the language that most Canadians speak. I'm sure he's super intelligent and very able. But he's not smooth in an Anglais sort of way.

However, his party is the party I have almost exclusively supported throughout my voting years. So I'm caught in a conundrum.

If I had to vote today -- and actually, hell, I'll have to vote on Tuesday -- he'd get my vote.

He'd better be praying that millions of Canadians feel the same way.

But Harper, the ultra-smooth, say-nothing, do-nothing doe-head from Alberta, also might want to start praying.

This guy ran for the leadership of the right-wing Reform Party several years ago, and lost. So he ran away crying and became the head guy at a right-wing think-tank in Calgary.

The Reform Party, because of its ultra right-wing views, could never get elected east of Alberta.

So they quietly died and the Conservatives, who had been banished to the political wilderness, absorbed them all, including Harper. When the Liberals got involved in a messy political scandal, the Conservatives re-emerged.

Guess who was leading them? Harper. With the Liberals in complete disarray, they won a minority government and have been lame ducks ever since.

Harper called this election and here we are, voting before the Americans do.

And basically, we have to choose between a doofus conservative who hasn't a clue and a francophone scholar who can't communicate with the majority of the Canadian electorate.

Why, I ask, does Harper need six Canadian flags behind him? Wouldn't one do? Or is this an inferiority complex showing through?

Or is he just trying to outdo his political hero, Dubya?

My biggest wish -- for America and for Canada -- is that we end up with two governments, come the end of November, that are middle of the road, sensible, feeling, sensitive, reasoned and calm.

Which is anything BUT what we've had for past eight years in America and the past two years or so in Canada.