A Letter to ELW

Dear Extra Long Weekend,

You can’t possibly know how excited I am for your arrival tomorrow. I’ve been looking forward to this for so very long. You just don’t come around often enough, my love. Once every month or so just makes me crazy with desire for you. It’s not enough to  satisfy the insatiable hunger I have for you. I need you – crave you – constantly.

Oh, ELW! I love you so. I love you so much it’s almost unbearable.

When I sit at work anticipating you, I tingle. Literally, tingle with excitement. I can’t focus on my very important government job because I think only of you and the things we will do to each other – the things we will do together. I think of lazing in bed with you in the mornings. I think of your extra long, glorious days stretching out before me. I think of indulging in things with you that I would never think about doing with ordinary weekends.

Ordinary weekends bore me. They are so pedestrian; so dull; so lacklustre.  I can never relax and enjoy them the way I always enjoy you, ELW.

You complete me.

How I long to be with you all the time. How I wish there were no other days but you in my life, my gorgeous, beautiful extra-long lover. How I hate those horrid, brutal workdays;  those insipid regular weekends. My god! How I yearn for the time when my life will consist of nothing but you, ELW. And then — and then we will be inseparable. Together forever; free to explore each other with wild abandon.

But for now– my darling, my heart-and-soul– for now we will have to make do with the stolen moments.  Those sweet, but all too infrequent intervals. We will make the most of them though, won’t we, ELW? Oh yes, we will. We always do.

Already I can feel you beckoning me into your soft caresses; enveloping me in your extra-long, languid hours. I love your extra-longness so, so much. It fills me up with its smoldering passion. It leaves me weak and spent and weepy when it’s over. Oh yes!

Oh ELW! Soon — I will be with you soon, my extra-long, extra-precious love. With excruciating longing, I remain —

Yours always,

XUP

PS: A VERY HAPPY CANADA DAY TO ONE AND ALL. I hope you all get to enjoy an Extra- Long Weekend of your very own! Seriously, is anyone going to work on Friday? OC Transpo is going on “special reduced service” like they did the weeks before Christmas because they figure no one needs to get around on days that are sort of close to a holiday.

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The Universal Plan “B”

With the recent giant jackpots for the LotoMax lottery, I’ve been hearing a lot of people speculating on what they would do with $30 million or $50 million. The odds of winning the top jackpot are 1: 28,633,528 but I guess people think those odds are good enough to waste five dollars on.

The real fun of a lottery, to me, is it gives you a teensy-tiny glimmer of hope of the possibility of something amazing happening — maybe. So that while you’re dropping off to sleep at night, you can think about what you would do with all that money, as you fade away into a lovely dreamland slumber.

When you think about what you’d do with that kind of money, do you ever try to think of all the people you know who could really use a little extra money and how much you would give them and how you would give it to them and what it would mean to their lives? This is where I get really bogged down. And then I can’t sleep from trying to figure it all out. Because pretty much everyone I know and/or am acquainted with could use extra money.  So how does one decide who to give money to or even if to give money away at all?

Are you going to start making up some sort of Venn diagram of levels-of-need compared with where the money would be best put to use? Because you wouldn’t like to think of the money being wasted, right? So then you have to get into some tricky moralizing.

For instance, do you give all your siblings/family members an equal amount of money or just give the ones who really need it some money or give them all money according to what you think they need? Or do you let them tell you what they need? What if you know one of them would just blow it on stupid stuff and then be just as destitute in a year as they are now?

How about friends or coworkers? Do you give them all money? Would they still be your friends if you didn’t give them any money? If a good friend of yours or a family member won $50 million, would you expect them to give you some? How much?

And what would you do about all the sad sacks that will inevitably come crawling out of the woodwork with gut wrenching stories? Will you give money to strangers? Charities? Dole it out randomly to panhandlers and homeless people?

Whenever you read about people winning millions and going broke a few years later it’s because they couldn’t say “no” to all the people in their lives who “really needed” stuff. Because people get really odd when it comes to piles of money. They expect you to share your good fortune. They insist on it even. One guy’s brother even hired a hit man to kill him so he could inherit his brother’s lottery winnings. Having a pile of money land in your lap changes everything about you and your life, no matter how grounded and well-adjusted you think you are. You have to be really smart if you want that money to enhance your life instead of just messing it up.

As Susan Bradley, author of “Sudden Money: Managing a Financial Windfall,” says, winning plays a game with your head – “ too many people fail to address the emotional connection to the windfall.”

What about your kids, for instance? How would you handle the fact that they now have to find a motivation beyond survival to keep going to school, getting good grades, developing a career? I’ve known a couple of intelligent people whose parents died when they were fairly young and who ended up with a substantial inheritance. They both always seemed very rudderless and aimless – bounding from one flight of fancy to another. Sometimes it’s good to have something to work toward – a goal to achieve.

And how would you avoid always feeling afraid? Afraid of unscrupulous people taking advantage of you or your kids or attempting more nefarious ways of getting their hands on your money?

Anyhow, these are the questions that plague me in the wee hours of the night even though I have no chance in hell of ever actually having to worry about this.

But, even with all these questions and dangers and pitfalls, I’m still willing to take the chance of being saddled with millions of dollars. I think I’d hire a team of financial advisers right off the bat, though.

What about you? Do you think you could handle having 50 million dollars? Have you itemized exactly what you would do with it?

Table for Two?

Now that XUP Jr.’s part-time, after-school job is finished for the summer, she went and got herself a summer job working in a restaurant. Gak!

I guess it’s a rite of passage for pretty much every female on the planet to do some sort of restaurant work at least once in their young lives. Restaurants have a high turn-over in staff, so jobs are not that difficult to get. And once you have some restaurant experience under your belt, you pretty much never need to worry about being out of work anywhere, ever again. So, in that respect, I guess this was a good move on XUP Jr.’s part. That, and the fact that eventually there is some big money to be made in tips if you’re a good, experienced server.

But for now XUP Jr. is just a hostess – learning the biz from the bottom up. And what a learning curve it been!

She comes home exhausted and smelly. Her feet are killing her and she’s starving because she hasn’t been allowed to stop for her entire 6 hour shift to grab a bite to eat. So far she seems to like it, though. She’s even been getting into the restaurant-workers’ tradition of coming in early or staying late after her shift to hang around and socialize with her coworkers.

Perhaps this is why I never really got the allure of  restaurant work – I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there at the end of my shift. I’ve had many friends though who loved being servers and the whole weird other-worldliness of working in a restaurant. They loved it so much they kept taking evening or weekend shifts even after they got real full-time jobs after university.

To me, restaurants are like some sort of prison or Lord of the Flies island society where normal life stuff doesn’t apply and where crazy, quirky things like labour laws just get in the way of running an efficient dining room.

What is it that makes restaurant work so bizarre?

  1. The Customers: Some people get peculiar when they go out to eat. They figure this is their one big chance in life to be prima donnas or something:
    • They are rude and haughty to restaurant staff;
    • They demand unreasonable things like “turning the music off” or asking why, in a seafood restaurant, there is nothing but fish on the menu because they’re allergic to fish;
    • They quibble over the bill acting all outraged that it’s so high when they could have made the same thing at home for a fraction of the cost; and,
    • A surprising number of people just dine and dash, which gets the server in big shit.
  2. The Tipping: Personally, I think the whole tipping thing is outrageous. Restaurant staff get paid next-to-nothing and have to rely on tips to make a living. If it’s not a busy night or customers choose not to tip, they’re screwed. Then servers have to share out their tips with hostesses, bus staff, dishwashers, bartenders, prep crew, etc. Why can’t we just, across the board, add 15% or 20% to the price of the meal and pay restaurant staff a living wage?
  3. The Work: It’s an incredibly hectic work pace. There’s no time or place for breaks in a restaurant, labour laws be damned. Unless there are no customers and nothing else that needs doing, you’re running non-stop from the beginning to the end of your shift. And if the place does clear out, they just send you home and they save a few hours’ pay.
  4. The Coworkers: You learn pretty quickly that there’s a hierarchy of people you have to suck up to in the restaurant business:
    1. Bartender – he or she is kind of the god of the restaurant. If you don’t do serious, serious kissing up and sharing of tips with your bartender, he will not look upon you with favour and will make your life miserable. (NB: I think when I retire, I might take a bartending course and make that my old-age career. I think being a god might suit me.)
    2. Manager – why are restaurant managers all power-mad cretins? They love to throw their weight around in the most demeaning possible ways. They love to devise bizarre little schemes to pit staff against each other. They love to screw with schedules just to keep people on their toes.
    3. Lifers – there’s usually one person who’s been in the same restaurant, in the same job since the place opened in 1953. The manager is afraid of her and the only person she’s chummy with is the bartender. After you’ve worked there a few years and haven’t screwed anything up too badly, she might say something nice to you.
    4. Cooks – I don’t even know what to say about them. They’re pretty much all psychotic in some way from what I’ve been able to gather. They’re allowed to yell and swear and throw things and reduce staff to tears and no one dares object. They’re all “about to open a place of their own that’s run properly,” so everyone walks on eggshells around them so they don’t walk away in a huff in the middle of the dinner rush.

Well, that’s my take on the industry anyway. I was a terrible restaurant employee, which may somewhat colour my view of the business. But, I would love to hear some of your love/hate stories of working in restaurants — and I know almost all of you have some.

Meanwhile, if you’re dining in an Ottawa restaurant this summer, please be nice to the hostess – she might be XUP Jr.

Everything Sucks

Just when I was really getting into this World Cup thing, I see an interview with a guy called Declan Hill . Hill is an investigative journalist and former researcher with CBC’s the fifth estate and has won several awards for his work.

In 2008, Declan Hill published The Fix: Soccer & Organized Crime.

Over four years, he interviewed more than two hundred people, including professional gamblers, Mafia hitmen, undercover cops, top-level international soccer players, referees, and officials. He met men who claim they have bribed their way into fixing the results of some of the biggest matches in the sport. Initially very sceptical, Hill travelled across four continents to corroborate their stories. He found soccer leagues where mobsters have fixed more than eighty per cent of the games.

The book, however, is not just about match fixing in soccer, the world’s most popular sport. Throughout the text, Hill uses examples from other sports – tennis, hockey, even rowing – to show that the credibility of professional sport now lies on a fragile foundation, and it provides enough hints to suspect that all sports above amateur level should look nervously over their shoulder.

Hill’s book has been translated into 14 languages and within 3 weeks of its publication, the Union of European Football Associations set up a special unit comprised of gambling experts and police officers to conduct a thorough investigation. The unit helped German investigators identify some 200 matches that were fixed in Europe and arrested 75 people.

Unfortunately, FIFA (which Declan Hill calls the “Vatican of Soccer”) refuses to conduct an investigation into World Cup match-fixing. He reckons with 40 billion dollars in bets on World Cup events, there’s a lot at stake.

During the last World Cup, Hill befriended the former goalkeeping coach of the team from Ghana and was given the results of an upcoming match in advance.

They said the game against Brazil was going to be three goals and above two days before the game actually happened,” Hill said, adding that he believes that game was fixed. The goalkeeping coach was later fired after being caught fixing games.

According to the Globe & Mail, the most dangerous time for match fixing in the World Cup is coming up now that the preliminary eliminations are out of the way. On Hill’s blog this week he suggests a couple of things to be aware of during upcoming matches which might indicate fixed game possibilities:

  1. Games where one team has nothing to play for. Even if they win the teams will not progress to the next stage of the competition.
  2. Teams which have a history of not paying their players properly. It is the phenomenon of relative exploitation which drives fixing. The officials receive lots of money, the players comparatively little.

Check out the blog for further details and information.

Is anyone shocked and/or surprised by this? I kind of am. Probably I was being naive by never even considering that these things could be rigged. D’uh!

When I was watching the Declan Hill interview last night I felt kind of deflated. Is there anything left to enjoy that isn’t rife with corruption?

Sometimes I Want to Hurt People

Sometimes when I read the paper, I come across an article that makes me look around to see if I’m living in some kind of surrealist nightmare.

Like the story about James Westcott. I had to re-read this story 3 times and then went to look it up on the internet because it just seemed way too absurd to be real. Also, I was getting very ticked off.

See, this Westcott person, 66 years of age, former elementary school teacher, was arrested in 1999  and charged with 24 counts of sexually abusing 11 girls at the west-end Ottawa school where he taught. The girls were between the ages of 6 and 10 and the wise judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice Roydon Kealey, dismissed all the charges because he reckoned the girls had made it all up in the throes of some sort of mass hysteria.

At the time, Westcott admitted that he did have a “very tactile” approach to teaching which was probably misinterpreted by those silly school girls and their parents.

So, I hope old Judge Kealey had a twinge of conscience when Westcott got caught a couple of years ago molesting a 3-year old girl.

This time he pled guilty this time – sort of.

Actually, what Westcott pled guilty to was “not thinking clearly”. See, the little girl poked him in the chest, so he figured that meant she wanted to see his penis, so he let her touch his fly. And then to make it even easier for her, he took his penis out and “let her touch it and squeeze it.”

Just to be absolutely clear, Westcott wants us to know that he ““did not initiate anything” and that “he didn’t get an erection and has no sexual interest in children.”

Westcott is being sentenced for that crime finally, which is why he’s in the papers again. His lawyer thinks he’s suffered enough and should be released since he’s already spent 31 days in jail awaiting sentencing. That this whole ordeal has been very tough on poor old Westcott and his wife, especially now that everybody is now going to think he’s also guilty of those crimes back in 2008.

Also, his psychiatrist says he’s at a “very low risk to re-offend” and that he’s learned his lesson; and that he’s really sorry because he’s lost the valuable reputation he’s built up over a lifetime and that even his wife is unable to get a teaching job anymore.

Boo hoo.

Westcott will be sentenced on Friday. He could face up to an entire year in jail.

Are we insane? “Up to a year”????

I don’t know how they treat pedophiles in other countries, but they’re pretty damn soft on them in Canada. For some time now, this country has been reknown internationally as a safe haven for pedophiles. We finally raised our age of consent to 16, but pedophiles still get very light sentences or probation most of the time.

I don’t understand why the criminal justice system doesn’t realize that these people are the most unique offenders out there and that we need to devise some unique way of stopping them. A few years in jail isn’t going to change their sexual deviances. Because, pedophiles don’t believe that what they’re doing is wrong. They are never going to be rehabilitated.

In general, I’m pretty liberal about the whole crime and punishment thing because I think a lot of criminals are victims themselves and could have been steered in a better direction when they were young and/or could still be steered in a better direction with a little or a lot of education and other rehabilitative measures.

I worked in a parole office when I began my federal public service career. I worked with murders and rapists and armed robbers and drug dealers and all manner of crazy, stupid and nasty criminals and saw how the system, — damaged though it might be – is successful in a lot of ways and can help people.

Pedophiles, however, are not helpable. They are the scariest people I ever encountered in that job. They are angry because they were caught; they are angry at their victims for turning them in; and they’re angry because they actually believe that there was nothing wrong with what they did and that the rest of us have a problem of intolerance.

And it doesn’t help that they are often supported and even enabled by spouses, friends and other family members.

The victim impact statements were heartbreaking to read.

Kids whose mothers would rather give up their kids than the freak who’d abused them. Kids who no longer have a home or family because everyone blames them for getting dad arrested. Kids who are thoroughly messed up for life because some guy just will not understand that children are completely out-of-bounds whatever bizarre sexual urges, ideas, thoughts, notions or proclivities he might have.

Dang! I feel all red-neck, string-em-up, irrational about stuff like this. I don’t like feeling like that because I think there must be a real solution somewhere, but I don’t for the life of me know what it might be.

Not-So-Pretty Cup

Have you seen these? They’re being distributed to South African women for free during the World Cup. They’re  Rape-aXe — female, anti-rape condoms.

Rape is a big, big problem in South Africa. It has one of the highest rape rates in the world with over 28% of men surveyed saying they had raped a woman or a girl and one in twenty saying they had done so within the last year.

South African doctor, Sonnet Ehlers, has developed these “devices” which women can wear if they’re going out on a blind date or feeling otherwise vulnerable.

If a man rapes her, the teeth on the inside of this condom clasp onto his penis. It hurts. The guy cannot walk or pee and the thing can only be removed by a doctor. If the guy tries to remove it himself, it only grabs on tighter. The condoms are also impenetrable to prevent any bodily fluids from being tranfered.

Dr. Ehlers has spent 40 years of her life and has cashed in her house and car to get these things developed and distributed. She consulted with engineers, gynecologists and psychologists all through development to ensure safety and effectiveness.

However, critics like Victoria Kajja with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Uganda say it’s a form of enslavement:

The fears surrounding the victim, the act of wearing the condom in anticipation of being assaulted all represent enslavement that no woman should be subjected to…. the device constantly reminds women of their vulnerability. It not only presents the victim with a false sense of security, but psychological trauma. It also does not help with the psychological problems that manifest after assaults.

All that might be true, but they do mete out some sort of justice in countries where rape has been normalized by frequency and lack of legal or medical resources for victims. Women are already walking around in extra tight bicycle shorts or with razor blades inserted in their vaginas to try and protect themselves.

If nothing else, having these things on the market might make guys think twice about sexually assaulting a woman. Then again, it might make them angry enough to come up with more sadistic means of punishing women. What do you think?

A story like this, amidst the glamour and glitz of putting on a smiling face for the world, is also a kind of grim reminder that there are a lot of other dimensions to South Africa than the World Cup.

Gee Billion

Well, it’s G-20 Summit week in Toronto. I understand the city is pretty much under martial law since dragging these 20 extremely important people into town for a few days makes Toronto the target city for hordes of protesters, terrorists and attention seekers – some of whom might possibly be dangerous.

So, the whole of downtown Toronto is locked-down and turned into a fortress with– 10,000 uniformed police and 1,000 private security guards, snipers and fleets of Canadian Forces personnel conducting air, water and land surveillance.

Fences, barricades, checkpoints and a lot of other barriers have been constructed. Streets around the perimeter of the Convention Centre and nearby hotels have been closed and encircled with a double layer of unscalable fencing. All garbage cans, post boxes, and anything else where a bomb or a person could be hiding have been removed. Cell phone signals have been jammed.

Travel agencies are offering Torontoeans Escape the Summit getaway deals so they can get the hell out of Dodge to avoid getting caught in any crossfire.

Oh, and Gay Pride Week has been postponed!!

The price tag for this 72 hours of fun is over One Billion Dollars – more than the last nine G-20s put together – more than 17-days of the winter Olympics in Vancouver. I can’t even wrap my head around a figure like $1 billion. To give it some perspective, that money represents:

  • The combined annual incomes of 25,857 average people; or
  • The combined lifetime incomes of 312 average people; or
  • The combined lifetime incomes of 2,402 people living in poverty.

That’s a hell of a lot of money, isn’t it? All the slashes Harper made back 2006 to social programs, employment, adult literacy, status of women, youth employment investments, etc. only totalled $160 million, but devastated a lot of departments’ programs.

And what momentus stuff is actually going to happen with 20 people sitting around chatting for a few days? From what I understand, almost nothing has been accomplished over the last ten years of these summits. These people are supposed to be sorting out the global economy. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the global economy is far from sorted – especially in light of the little financial meltdown we’ve been experiencing over the last few years.

Also, I don’t understand how these 20 countries can decide policies that are going to affect the entire world. Developing nations don’t seem to have any sort of input into these proceedings and yet are going to be hugely impacted.

Actually, as I understand it, it’s the host country gets to decide what is going to be discussed – so the whole G20 is really all about Stephen Harper’s agenda and what he thinks is important?

Funding for safe access to abortions in developing countries isn’t going to be discussed even though (or maybe because) most member countries are in favour?  Harper has also fought tooth and nail to keep an even bigger bone of contention – the imposition of a world bank tax (Financial Transaction Tax or FTT) – off the agenda.  I’m the furthest thing from someone who understands world finances or even my own finances, but from what I’ve read, the FTT is a small levy on world banks, the money from which would be pooled together:

The FTT would earn a very substantial amount of money each year.  Something in the order of $650+ billion per year.  Half of the funds raised would remain in domestic hands, and could be used in the event of another financial meltdown, or to shore up domestic social programs.  The other half of the funds would go into a global fund to aid development in the world’s poorest countries and to help developing countries adapt their economies to the realities of climate change. 

Ya, that does sound terrible.

But anyway, here’s a question for those of you who regularly attend business meetings. How much gets accomplished when 20 people with very different perspectives sit down for a few hours and talk?

So, what are these G20s/G8s really all about?