Monday, July 30, 2012

Match Point

Ah, the Olympics.  That quadrennial competition when the world focuses on the "faster, higher, stronger" elements of humankind.

I guess the feats of athleticism in beach volleyball in London, however, have been sparse, as the attire, not the competition has received the most press.

For those who are unfamiliar with the sport, a female beach volleyball athlete wears little more than what the masses would call a bikini as a uniform. As for those, including some members of the media, who have evidently been put off by this, I can only ask, "What did you expect the uniform of choice to be for a sport that evolved on beaches in sunny climesParkas?" We assume that a sport using such fashionable parlance as "chicken wing", "kill", "cobra", and "missile" would feature athletes who are contemporaneously attired.

Are the toned, tanned, scantily clad proving too much for some in the press?
I don't pretend to be a fan of beach volleyball. Nor am I a fan of judo, weight lighting, syncho-diving, or a bunch of other sports that we see only once every four years. I'm guessing 95% of those watching some of the obscure Olympic sports would claim the same. But if you're patriotic and looking for a proud moment, then you'll support your nation's athletes and cheer them on, regardless of the sport. We can do without the banter of the media asserting that guys only watch beach volleyball to ogle pretty women jumping around in bikinis. Most of us can keep our hormones in check long enough to watch a match and don't need to smoke a cigarette and take a nap between sets.

Besides, are beach volleyball athletes any less scantily attired than some track and field athletes? Not really. The only difference is that one is wearing shoes and the other is barefooted. Perhaps the podophiles are having a field day? Please excuse the pun.

As always, some phenomenal stories will come out of  the Games. Let's dwell on those and devote a little less press to uniforms.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Reshoring to Reinforce the Rebound


When the very last American manufacturing job was finally outsourced overseas, I couldn't help think of the sad Once-ler from Dr. Seuss's The Lorax after all the Truffula trees were chopped down. He entrusted the last seed to the boy representing the next generation with hope that someone would care enough to make things right, again.

For decades, manufacturing jobs, call centers, and back-office functions were shipped to distant shores in the quest for a tidier bottom line. At first, no one seemed to mind as we all enjoyed cheaper goods, but as our children moved back home, our neighbours lost their jobs, and families lost their homes, we began to wonder if sending jobs away made the most sense in the long run.

It's refreshing that some big corporations have done an about-face on this and have now started to "reshore" jobs back to North America.

Despite the obvious benefit of giving economy a much needed shot in the arm, there are other lesser known advantages.

1) Corporations don't have to worry about laws quickly changing to their detriment in countries with shaky governments.

2) Managers needing to visit local facilities may spend 2 - 3 hours commuting rather than the 30 hours required to visit Chennai or Bangalore.

3) Customers are more likely to remain loyal to companies who are perceived to be creating local jobs, rather than jobs that have no benefit to the domestic economy.

Will you "speak for the trees?"

Monday, July 16, 2012

If I were "cop" for just one day

Some dream of winning the lottery. Others fantasize about outrageous fame. I guess I'm a simpler sort because I often find my mind adrift and full of wonderment on the pure satisfaction I'd derive from being a cop for just one day.

I'll admit that the vision usually comes to me while I'm in traffic and bearing witness to all the events that make us ask, "Where's a cop when you need one?"

I think Officer Imaginary's first visit would have to be paid to the cyclists who want to be treated as though they were operating a motor vehicle except at those times when it's inconvenient to do so.  I'll state for the record that I have nothing against bicycles and own one myself, but if cyclists want to enjoy the same benefits (as the law allows) as those in cars, then they can damn well expect the detriments, too. I'll give them a full lane to turn left, just like they were in a car, but then they shouldn't expect special consideration at 4-way stops and red lights, as if they were a pedestrian.  That's not how we play the game and would certainly earn a well-deserved ticket in my cop fantasy game.

There's a new sheriff in town!

Next on my list would be the cigarette-but flicker or chewed gum wad tosser. I'm not sure why there are those among us who would never consider pitching an empty can or a wrapper out of a car window, but won't thick twice about it if it's the residue of their nicotine addiction. Guess what?  When it comes to littering, size doesn't matter. Save the excuses for the judge because the cop I keep in my head doesn't want to hear them.

I'm not sure how long the arm of the law is in the land of make believe, but I'd hope long enough to snare those with fancy sports cars who feel the need to occupy four spots at the mall parking lot. You know the type, don't you? He's usually blown four times his annual salary on a ride once reserved for the rich and famous and another $10K on a custom paint job. I call these vehicles, "compensation cars", but that's another story. I'm perfectly aware of the rationale behind parking diagonally through a grid of four parking spaces; cars like this, after all, need to be preserved, free of dings and knocks from inconsiderate neighbours. Not my problem, nor is it that of my mirage cop. Ticket, please.

Last on the docket are truck drivers, presumably lost who pull their big rigs over on a two-lane city street to read a map, make a call, or wander about looking for directions, thereby creating a snarled mess of cars in their rearview mirror. I'll admit that the one time I witnessed a real live cop issuing a ticket for this misdeed, I actually honked and applauded loudly as I rolled on by. I'd like to believe that my fabricated flatfoot would work hard to eliminate this evil.

You may not find a cop when you need one, so feel free to dream as I do.  It's very therapeutic.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Ewwww La La!!!

I had never been to Paris, but doubt I’ll return.

It’s easy to drift about the City of Light in a dreamlike state, absorbing the sites, enjoying the cuisine, and soaking up culture. That dream, however, is bound to dissipate in a puff of smoke, literally when some pretentious types exhale the residue of their addiction in your direction.

Although smoking is officially banned in Parisian cafes, restaurants, museums and trains it would appear that enforcement is woefully lacking. So while most other First World urban centers have branded those who smoke in public as pariahs, it appears that Paris has embraced them.

Hey Paris, the 70's are over!!!
There are few things more repulsive than trying to enjoy a meal while a haze of carcinogens wafts through the air. A short trip using public transit is bound to involve an episode of breath holding as fellow travelers puff away seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. And a romantic stroll down one of Paris’s characteristic narrow streets yields results that are no better as the smokers are everywhere.

When it comes to culture, the French are perhaps second to none. It’s too bad that smoking remains an entrenched part of that culture.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Congestion Question

I've always considered myself fortunate to have never had more than a twenty minute drive to work, avoiding highways altogether.  In the summer, this time gets halved as it seems like once July rolls around, the school buses cease, educators are off the roads, and at any given time 10% of the population is on vacation. This usually makes for a smooth and pleasant commute, void of congestion.

The journey today, however, was anything but smooth and pleasant. While I'll admit that the road I travel on is only 2 lanes in each direction and a traffic jam on it would pale in comparson to what the average North American suburban dweller likely experiences, it was still enough to sour my early morning mood, as I inched along.

What could cause such a back-up on a normally free flowing route?  I didn't recall any construction on recent trips. Accident?  Traffic light out? Nope. It was another case of what I've come to dub, "cop-caused-congestion".  It would appear that the good officer found it necessary to ticket a motorist for a presumably minor traffic violation during the morning rush. The subsequent rubber necking and slowing by those judicious types who make nuisances of themselves any time a cop is around exacerbated the delay.

I appreciate the value of fines associated with tickets as a means of bringing dollars into city coffers, but what is the value of the lost productivity when 1000 commuters are snarled in traffic for thirty minutes? Certainly that handily dwarfs the $125 fine levied for an improper lane change. If only someone explained "the math" to Constable Fastidious.