Sunday, December 4, 2011

Road Trip!!!!!


Clarabelle with her Valet
 One of my favourite phrases in the English language is “Road Trip!” I just happen to like going places whether it’s to an exotic tropical paradise or a short two or three day out of town with Clarabelle. I am now going to proceed to bore you with some of my likes and dislikes about travelling.
In previous postings I have told you about a few of my adventures to Costa Rica, San Francisco and Cuba so I won’t go into much detail about these places again.
Lorraine in San Francisco
Up until recently with the exception of a few jaunts to Las Vegas , I did all of my traveling with someone else; either with family or one or two road trip buddies. Now that I am at least temporarily on my own, I’ve taken to exploring new and old places on my own. I must it admit it takes a little bit of courage to “fly solo” but there are some advantages to it. I am able to choose where and when I want to go.  I am able to go on excursions that maybe I only want to do and when I want to do. However the best thing about travelling alone is one tends to meet more people from other parts of the globe because you are forced to communicate outside your own comfort zone. The biggest bonus of course is to you, my potential travel companion. You are not stuck travelling with me; I can be the tour guide from hell because I want to see everything and I want to see it now plus there have been a few rumours that I snore. ;-) That being said there really is no better thing than discovering new places with someone else. Two places that I have no current intentions of returning to again alone are San Francisco and Cuba especially Habana because these locations are just meant to be shared. There are also a few new locales I don’t have plans on visiting alone for the same reason; Paris in particular comes to mind.

Automobile road trips are always a treat. It’s fun just to jump into Clarabelle and head out to a “not so exotic” locale. One of my favourite short haul destinations is Portland, Oregon, my second favourite US city; after all what more can one say about a city that has an unofficial motto “Keep Portland Weird”. This is a city that embraces its working class heritage. When you go into a restaurant or bar and see what appears to be antique furnishings you know they really are antique furnishings. Portland is also known for having the largest number per capita in North America of microbreweries and strip clubs; not that a good Catholic school boy like me would frequent either such establishment. ;-) Portland also has Voo Doo Doughnuts!!!
Another road trip favourite is Vancouver Island which is another world unto itself. The island pace is much more laid back than Vancouver. I’m sure anyone from Toronto or Montreal would go nuts trying to deal with this casual lifestyle. Road trips were the only thing I ever enjoyed about working for an employer I absolutely hated. At least four times a year I was sent out on sales calls throughout BC and got to enjoy the beauty places like the Kootenays, and the north central part of the province. Everyone should drive through the Rockies at least once.  And while we are talking about “just once” road trips, everyone should drive the Pacific Coast Highway between San Francicsco and Los Angeles at least once and only once. I highly recommend you do it in November where the powers that be add frost and fog to the curves and hills. ;-)
I am not one for roughing it when it comes to travel. Even when I was younger, I was not a fan of camping. I enjoy the outdoors and cooking over an open flame but my downfall comes when it is time to retire for the night. Having had a sleep disorder for most of my life settling down in a tent is most unpleasant. If you think I snore loudly in a comfortable warm hotel bed, you ought to hear me sleeping on the hard ground. I heard it described as a wart hog mating with a chainsaw! I prefer to stay in hotels with a minimum four star rating. My idea of roughing it now is when room service closes before midnight. Yes, I am a “Princess” and proud of it.
However, just because I like my creature comforts does not mean I plan to stay and soak up the sun by the pool while sipping a fruity cocktail. When I go places, I like to explore the country or city I am in and take a few risks but only to a limit on the adventurous risks, after look at the title of this blog.
One of the things I try to do especially in southern climes is to learn a little of the language. This shows the natives some respect and they appreciate your efforts even if they would ultimately want to learn English so they can get a better job in the tourist industry. I get totally peed off at a certain group of people from a certain country that expect servers to be completely fluent in English. Of course, these are the same people that chow down on burgers and fries rather than the local cuisine.
What don’t I like about travelling? Well the big thing I’m not fond of is flying. Not because I’m have a fear crashing or am claustrophobic but for some more realistic reasons. First off, one has to waste time getting to the airport ridiculously early for your flight so you can go through a pointless security system that is totally ineffective and only in place so the government can justify spending ridiculous amounts of money to look like they are actually doing something about safety and security and to give the masses that “warm and fuzzy” feeling that nothing bad will happen to them. The other problem I have with flying is that I am of above average size and height so I am usually wedged into a seat. I need an aisle seat so I can get a little bit of extension in my knees. Of course, I always seem to get stuck behind recliner guy as well so it’s even worse. Lately, I have been flying to my tropical destinations via Air Transat and they have a reasonably priced upgrade to their “Club Class” that provides added seat width and leg space as well as several other amenities. I find this a much better upgrade for your money than the more popular resort package upgrade to an ocean view room which by the way you can quite often get for free just by asking politely at the front desk.
Jakub and Yolanda from Czech Republic
What do I like best about traveling? Besides seeing amazing sights and doing crazy things, I would have to say it is meeting new people and making new friends even if it is only for a brief period of times all the people you meet permanently become a part of you.
Given an infinite amount of time and money, I would travel just about everywhere and return to all those places I loved. I won’t go into the very few places I wasn’t happy visiting.
Next stop Panama and the big ditch!! I promise I’ll post about a little quicker than Costa Rica. :-)
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

¡Pura Vida!


¡Pura Vida!
My last adventure to southern climes was to the tiny country of Costa Rica. “¡Pura Vida!” or “The Pure Life!” is the standard toast you hear throughout the land.
Being a lifelong British Columbian, I have been spoiled by the natural beauty of my home and did not think anything could rival it. I was wrong;  Costa Rica could be considered as being on equal terms as my home province when it comes to natural beauty. In fact, travelling on busses through the different provinces of Costa Rica reminded me a lot of a road trip through BC. There are areas reminiscent of the Okanagan Valley, the rain forest and the east coast of Vancouver Island. And being such a small country you can see all the changes in vistas in a matter of hours.
As per the name of this blog, I am one to be a tad adventurous but at the same time a wee bit cautious. I am not one to “rough it” it or venture out too far on my own so I did stay in an “all-inclusive” resort near Liberia in the north eastern province of Guanacoste and all my trips outside the resort were on guided excursions. That being said some of these excursions did involve me going outside my comfort zones.  The horseback ride I went on was not your ordinary tourist friendly walk through relatively flat well cleared trail; it was a trek up a steep mountainside and down a rocky creek bed on narrow paths that the guide had to continuously re-clear with the aid of his machete.  I also managed to climb up and down a 150 foot ridge in the dark to view a Pacific Green Turtle burying her eggs in the sand on the beach and crawl back into the ocean. Although standing around for an hour and a half watching some large dinosaur like creature slowly move her fins back and forth seemed a bit boring; it was probably the most exhilarating thing I did during the two weeks in Costa Rica. Very few people ever get to witness this natural process in person.
However, I should tell you that my “safety scissors” side took over when it came to zip lining even though this form of forest/jungle canopy transportation first became popular in Costa Rica long before all other places. I just did not feel comfortable with idea for two good reasons; no one could assure me it was safe for someone of my height and weight and the fact that I have a bit of a phobia when it comes to descending. (I can climb up a ladder without out fear but on at least one occasion I’ve had to have been talked down a ladder, one step at a time.)
Tobacan Hot Springs
None of the other excursions I took were disappointing and I would highly recommend all of them. The first tour was to the Arenal volcano northwest of Liberia where we toured Lake Arenal by boat viewing the countless species of birds as well as a few caimans patiently floating around waiting for some unaware fowl to become their lunch. Unfortunately we were unable to get a good view of the volcano because of the rain and fog. Then again one does have to concede such inconveniences when one is in a rainforest. But our disappointment was soon forgotten with a visit to the Tobacan Hot Springs and spent the afternoon luxuriating in the pools heated by Arenal. However it can be it bit disconcerting when notices are posted throughout the resort telling guests what to do in case of a volcanic eruption.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is probably the best place to experience the vegetation of the tropical rainforest. By forgoing what is described as one of the best zip line adventures, I was most fortunate to receive a private tour of the reptile refuge and the butterfly pavilion as well as the hummingbird sanctuary at Selvatura Park while everyone else was buzzing down wires above. After everyone saw the forest canopy as a blur of green, we all set out to walk along a series of fifteen suspension bridges where one can view the fauna from high above. All the plants in the canopy were so oversized you would have thought you were in a 1960’s Sci-Fi film. I would love to see the size of the 1980’s cocktail lounge that could fit even one of the ferns!

Sergio
The trip to Palo Verde National Park and cruise up the Tempisque River was simply amazing. We were lead by a guide, Sergio that introduced us to countless birds, monkeys, lizards and a few crocodiles. Sergio was a fascinating character. His is primarily a biologist and environmentalist has conducted several other studies for the Costa Rican government and others that may have embarrassed the government.  He has lived in the rainforest on his own to collect data on monkey and bird colonies and produced several documentaries including two with Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. He also is one of the primary teachers of tour guides in Costa Rica. Basically anything about the country’s wildlife that Sergio didn’t know hasn’t been written yet and in fact he probably wrote a lot of it himself.
Granada
I travelled north on a day excursion to Nicaragua. While both are naturally beautiful the contrasts between these two neighbouring countries outweigh the similarities. Costa Rica has a literacy rate in the nineties and most students attend some sort of post-secondary institution, the literacy rate in Nicaragua is about 38%. This dissimilarity is reflected inversely in each countries’ poverty rate. However Nicaragua and more precisely Granada wins out in architecture. Granada is the oldest Spanish city in Central America and reminded much of Habana. Costa Rica does not have the long history of many of its neighbouring countries.
The people of Costa Rica, commonly referred as Ticos, are bit more reserved than their cousins in places like Cuba and Mexico where everyone is your amigo. None the less the Ticos are just are warm and generous. Also the language is a bit different in Costa Rica. Ticos speak a much more formal version of Spanish similar to that which is traditionally spoken in Madrid and they tend to speak it much faster so those like myself trained in “Spanglish” have a more difficult time. However key phrases like “¡ dos mojitos por favour!” and “¿Donde est el bano?” still work. :-)
While I didn’t do it myself, travelling unguided through the country is relatively. It is not uncommon to rent a car and drive to several places mentioned above. However, driving at night is not recommended. Costa Rican roads are notoriously in bad repair and directional signs are confusing if and when they do exist.

Close encounters with Costa Rican wildlife is not restricted to the jungles and rainforests mentioned above, the resorts are teeming with birds, howler and Capuchin monkeys, coatis (tropical raccoons) and huge iguanas that casually stroll around the grounds.
I look forward to returning to this paradise soon.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Getting The Deal Done

Before I get into the details of the actual tentative deal, I would like to say a few things about collective bargaining and negotiating in general.

Collective bargaining will always begin with both sides making what the other side would consider outrageous and completely unacceptable proposals. These are there just to test the waters and usually quickly dismissed or at least set aside to be trashed later. Other less “outrageous” proposals are also tabled merely as warning to the other party that even though it may not be acceptable now assume that it is not going away and will be brought up again in the next round of bargaining. A collective agreement is a living agreement that evolves over several rounds of negotiations not a document that is contrived today and remains in one form forever.

Once this “pissing contest” is put aside both parties get down to brass tacks and hammer out a deal. Collective bargaining is not like bartering for a blanket on the beach in Puerto Vallarta where you try and get the best price and then both parties walk away never to see each other again. Both parties in collective bargaining have it as being in their best interest to come out with the most workable deal for both sides.

In any type of negotiations there are four possible outcomes: win/win, win/lose, lose/lose and neutral. The ultimate goal would be win/win but a more achievable goal would be neutral. A win/lose or lose/lose outcome is toxic because you have at least one very unhappy party and will lead to a toxic workplace.  With regard to our deal, I would put it into the neutral category.

One of the best tools a party can use in contract bargaining is the use of professional negotiators because they will take the personality aspects out of the equation and keep everyone’s eyes on the ultimate goal of a mutually satisfactory agreement. Our bargaining unit was grateful for the efforts of CUPE national rep, Dave Fleming assisted by CUPE 1004 agent, Steve Varty and 1004 president, Mike Jackson. The PNE was also lucky to have an equally competent negotiator in John Thorne.

Before I get into the actual details of the deal I would like to point out one thing. During the process it became apparent to our committee that the Pacific National Exhibition truly is in financial difficulties at least for the time being. As with all problem-solving there is no benefit in casting blame. Once the problem is identified there are only three questions that need to be answered. How did it happen? How do we solve it? And how do we stop it from happening again? This will always lead to a collective effort moving forward. Hopefully this will happen at the PNE.

 Now on with the deal highlights in general:

-          Wage increases of 1.5% per year effective January 1, 2011, January 1, 2012 and January 1, 2013 and will be retroactive for all current employees and any 2011 retirees.

-          A new joint committee will be set up to review all contracting out on the PNE site. The ultimate goal is to increase the amount of work our members do on site and will likely lead to more cost effective solutions for the employer.

-          A fairer scheduling system for full time Playland employees

-          A two percent increase in the “in lieu” pay for Playland seasonal employees with seniority

Items effecting part-time Public Safety employees:

-          Qualified part-time employees will eligible to join the pension plan. This will be a great benefit because the employer contributes to your plan as well and will help reduce your taxes while you save.

-          All public safety personnel carrying a security license will have their license fee reimbursed provided they work at 200 hours in the previous year.

-          Rate upgrades by seniority will now be in the contract. Up until now there was no contractual onus on the employer to do so.

-          The ability for PNE security personnel to work at Playland provided the Playland roster has been exhausted.

My biggest regret in this round of bargaining was not being able to get a better deal for the lowest paid Playland workers who next season will be getting a wage only marginally better than the provincial minimum wage.

Am I elated with this deal? No.... Is it a good deal? Only time will tell....Do I think it is the best deal we could get at this time? Yes.

For this reason I am recommending a “Yes” vote when it comes up for ratification in the next weeks. It is your right to vote “No” on the deal but before you do so please consider the consequences and what your next step will be.

In closing I would like to thank the above mentioned Mssrs. Fleming, Varty, Jackson and Thorne as well as the other members of our committee of Rob Froescher, Ron Flanders, Dion Bellay, Gary White, Paul McGraw and Aaron Martinello and the PNE management committee of Stacy Shields, Jeff Strickland, Meredith Holmes, Rob Crema, June Goudron and Heather Beckley for all the time and energy everyone put into making this happen. (Hopefully, we will see a few females on our side of the table next round.) 

  Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hi Teach...Hi Pupe!

For those of you too young to recognize or like a lot of us, too old to remember the literary reference in the title it comes from the late sixties novel “Up the Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman chronicling the woes of a new teacher struggling through the frustrations of the public school system’s bureaucracy.
This being the first week of the school year for a lot of students and educators, I thought it would be n*** to salute one of the two most underappreciated professions, teachers and also add my humble musings on education in general.
I take pride in calling so many of you life-long friends. And on my Facebook list there are several more of these beautiful dedicated people both currently active and retired. They include kindergarten teachers, elementary school teachers, high school instructors and at least one university professor. There’s even one dude trying to fake his way through teaching Chinese students English in Beijing.
I cherish the efforts that my teachers put forth in aiding me along my journey to where I am today. I can even appreciate the infamous Sister Miriam Henry for making sure we learned all the basics necessary in grade one even though her methods could have been described as brutal. In fact, most of the Spanish Inquisitors would have winced at some of her antics.  I’m pretty sure one of my favourite current grade one teachers uses much more civilized methods to control her students. Right, JS?
The most important thing my teachers instilled in me was the desire to learn more by encouraging my curiosity. This desire did not stop just because I stopped going to school. In the work place, I always made it a habit to stick my nose into every aspect of the business because I wanted to know how every operated not just what went on in my little corner of the office. I’ve always found that the more I learn the greater my appetite to learn becomes and as well the more I want to share my gained knowledge and/or opinions thus I’m inflicting my love of writing upon you.
It would be a lie to say that all the teachers I ran across were excellent and some I would even question their competence but I do not recall running across one teacher that was only in it for the money or the benefits. Oh sure there probably are some teachers in this category but there are much more lucrative ways to accumulate wealth. Despite rumours very few teachers spend their entire summer at their villa in the south of France planning their winter vacation in Aspen.
With regard to education in general, I am saddened to see the path our system is heading. There seems to be a misguided movement that believes marks and test scores are the ultimate goal. It is one thing to use the rote method in teaching basic skills and even then it is not necessarily that beneficial. I can remember being an abysmal failure when it came to rapidly reciting or worse writing out the times tables but I was always the first to identify the answer in a word or logic problem. We have calculators to do the actual multiplication now; the real trick is in figuring out the path to the answer. And would someone please tell me the logic in having to know that 11x12=132 when our entire system is Base 10?
The best way to instil a love of education in a child is not to point out his or her weaknesses but to encourage their strengths. This is where our current system is starting to fail us. Art, music, PE and other creative programs are being cut. This will only lead to more students giving up on education.
The current attitude to post-secondary education is heading in the wrong direction as well. There is a major movement for universities to become job training centers rather than places of education. I think the world would be much better off with more MA’s in Medieval Languages and less MBA’s. (Does that make up for the earlier cheap shot, RD?)
Note to all the English teachers reading this: I couldn’t give a rat’s ass if I made a few grammatical errors here! ;-P
Once again, Thanks, Teach!! :-D

Just in case you are wondering what the other most underappreciated profession is, it would be nurses. Although I have several fabulous friends who are in that calling I don’t plan on writing about them. Personally, I am not really fond of being in the position where it is necessary to deal with a nurse. However, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the wonderful things you do to help people in their times of need.

Postscript - June 15/14 - You can read about my new found increased respect for the nursing profession when you read about my adventures in "How I Spent My 'Fall' Vacation"

Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I Remember

June 2, 2011 - Today marks the third anniversary of Lorraine succumbing to that horrible disease, cancer. I thought it would be a good time to share a few thoughts about loss and remembrance.
People including myself always wonder what to say when someone is terminally ill or someone has lost another. Maybe I can help you with a few answers. I used to shy away from those who had lost a loved one because I didn’t know what to say. I now know better. Guess what? Try saying “I never know what to say”. Realistically what you say is irrelevant and for the most the actual words are meaningless to the person. It is not the words that comfort them because there really is no magic phrase that will make them feel better. It is the fact that you acknowledge their loss that gives them a little boost.

As far as terminal illness goes, believe it or not the most ridiculous question is the best to ask. “How are you?” It seems stupid but we heard that question every time we visited the cancer clinic and it helps both the sick person and the one asking. If they answer “Fine” it means, “I feel horrible today and I don’t want to talk about it right now.” In that case change the subject. If they are having a “good” day, they will tell all about how they are doing. In that case encourage them to talk about their illness

Finally, I’d like to give some advice to others that have suffered the loss of a loved one. He or she wants you to go on living each day to its fullest. Just because you are enjoying your new life doesn’t disrespect their memory in fact by not you may be disrespecting them. They will always be on your mind and the hurt will never go away but as you heal you will find that even the tears that sneak down your cheeks will meet the curled lip of a smile as you remember all the good times.

Although I continue to move forward with my life, I will always honour Lorraine’s memory. As many of my regular Facebook followers know, I make it a special point during all my adventures to find a beautiful place to leave some of her ashes. And of course, the Pink Hat will travel with me until it’s completely threadbare. (The picture shown is from Lake Tahoe where we were married)

As far as remembering me when I’m gone, I have set aside instructions in my will that a party be thrown and for every one of you to rejoice in knowing that I got to know was a great honour for me. I also want you to remember that it isn’t officially a party until the police report is filed so go nuts! Note: I have no plans on leaving anytime soon. I plan on irritating you for a long time to come.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Friday, April 1, 2011

100 (or is it 101 or is it 55 or is 34?) Years of Fun

Today, April 1, 2011 marks the beginning of my 35th year working part-time for the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE)and I always have a good laugh about my starting date because after all isn’t April Fool’s day a great anniversary. I think would be an appropriate time to write about how these 170 or so acres have intertwined with my life.
Growing up in East Vancouver in a area historically know as Hastings Townsite, the PNE site was always part of my life. The park area was basically our playground as we grew up. We would ride our bikes all over the grounds, explore all the nooks and crannies of the facilities and basically being a nuisance to the security staff. (How ironic!)
All our pickup games of baseball, football, soccer and hockey were played on a small patch of green adjoining Callister Park, or on the BC Lions practice field in the northeast corner of the grounds. The home rink for my brief hockey career was played at the PNE Forum home of the Western Hockey League Vancouver Canucks where I scored an amazing total of two goals in my best year thus the reason for my “brief career”. My peewee football team was sponsored by Playland the company that operated the amusement park on the grounds. Although my athletic abilities could at best be described a somewhat suspect, I take pride in the fact that during these organized and not so organized games I had the honour of playing with and against several local, national and international sports heroes.
In addition to my youthful athletic adventures, the sports connection continued into my adulthood, the Nightowls Softball Club that I played on, coached, managed and babysat for twenty-five years was originally formed as departmental team challenging other PNE departments.
The annual fair was always the highlight of the year taking place the last two weeks of summer vacation. From the time we were allowed out on our own, we would spend every day on the fairgrounds causing havoc. Last spring, I was invited to an affair marking the 100th anniversary of the PNE and it dawned on me that I had attended more than half those fairs and worked at over a third. (Crap! I’m old!)
As teenagers, the PNE became an even more important part of our lives. We would attend sporting events both amateur and professional (Vancouver Canucks and BC Lions) and most importantly rock concerts at the Pacific Coliseum. My first concert was Led Zeppelin in 1970 but the most outstanding was the 1972 Rolling Stones show that cost a whopping $6.00 per ticket. I was also very lucky to be dating Version 1.0 during Grade 12 and college and her mother was the switchboard operator at the PNE so we managed to get a lot of free concert tickets. (More about Version 1.0 later)
The memories of the PNE during my early life are so vast. One of the most vivid was sitting on the front porch of the mansion on Dundas Street listening to the screaming coming from Empire Stadium while the Beatles played their 22 minute set. (The concert itself was broadcast live on the radio.)
 I also remember watching two major fires from the fourth floor of our old rooming house. The most spectacular was when the main hill of the wooden roller burned down. The sadder one was when the stables at the race track caught fire and several horses perished. Years later, while working on the grounds during one fair another fire broke out on the docks of a nearby grain elevator and blanketed the park in noxious smoke. The area had to be evacuated of all guests and we were held on site on standby because the overnight shift could not get near the park. The horrible part of this ordeal is my beer garden security staff got stuck in one of the bars with nothing to amuse us but a pool table, two televisions and an open beer tap.
The PNE has always been a source of employment for youth and others living in East Vancouver and North Vancouver. Most people I grew up with worked on the grounds at one time or the other either directly for the PNE or one of the many exhibitors. My grandfather, dad, mom, brother, sister and nephew all worked on the grounds at one time or another. When The Crown Prince signed on to work in the parking department in 2005, he became the fourth generation of Donnelly’s to work on site. My first paying job was during the annual fair was in the Food Building for Principe’s Roma CafĂ© run by one of Vancouver’s more colourful characters, barber, boxing promoter and restauranteur, Al Principe. After two weeks of straining soup bones out of  Al’s secret family recipe spaghetti sauce your skin was so saturated the orange glow it didn’t fade until October.  The skin tone it produced made John Boehner and the clowns from “The Jersey Shore” look pasty faced. (Side note: Thankfully, Al’s secret family recipe went with him to the grave; the taste was reminiscent of tomato flavoured dish soap.)
My marriage to Version 1.0 ties in closely to the PNE. Our wedding reception was held on site at the PNE Board Room, now known as the Hastings Room. After we got married and while I was still seeking a full time career my mother-in-law arranged for me to be hired as a part-time usher. So if any of my co-workers or managers are looking for someone to blame, there you go. (Co-incidentally the last time I ran into Version 1.0 was a few years ago at the fair while I was heading for lunch at the Hastings Room.)
For me to go into the many work related stories of my time at the PNE would take forever. However the most vivid memory was in August of 1984 when I was recruited to be one of the VIP drivers in the annual PNE Parade through downtown Vancouver. The guests of honour that year were medal winners from the Los Angeles Olympics. I was lucky enough to draw the lead vehicle with Lori Fung, gold medalist in Rhythmic Gymnastics and Hugh Fisher, gold medalist in Canoeing. It was then that I got to hold an Olympic gold medal in my hands. The funniest part of event was stopping the entire parade so Lori could buy a balloon. The TV people just about had a fit! I got to repeat the driving performance the following year when we saluted the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Navy; my passenger was a World War 1 veteran who shared some salty tales of downtown Vancouver as we passed through.
The best memories of any workplace come from the people we meet and I have made so many friends working at the PNE. The co-worker I miss most is my dear friend Barb (BJ). BJ and I were as thick as thieves and would do all kinds of silly things together including several road trips. One of our favourite PNE related activities was, along with a small group of friends, on Friday nights in the summer walk down to the racetrack and place a wager or two on the ponies then win or lose we would walk back through Playland and ride the Roller Coaster. (Yes, the same one that burned down previously.) The best thing that BJ ever did from me is introduce me to Version 2.0, Lorraine.
Although Lorraine didn’t ever work at the PNE, the picture at the bottom of the page does bring it back full circle. This was her being crowned Queen for the Day at the fair in 1967. More than likely I was in attendance that day seeing as I was always there as a kid.
The picture at the top of the page is really cool. In a bit of serendipity, in the midst of planning out this article, I took a trip out to Hope to visit my cousin, Colleen, and sift through a pile of photos that once belonged to my grandmother. Amongst all, “who the heck are these people?” shots, I found a few gems including this one of my mom and dad outside the main gate taken sometime in the early to mid-fifties by the famous Vancouver street photographer, Foncie Pulice.
If you would like to read more about the PNE, may I suggest ordering "100 Years of Fun". It's a great coffee table book full of photos and personal anecdotes.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Monday, March 14, 2011

No Power Greater

Solidarity Forever - The events of the past month in Wisconsin and several other states in the US have compelled me to write a few thoughts about unions and collective bargaining.
I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Vancouver where the majority of families were connected to trade unions. Most members of my family have been proud members of a union at one time or another in their lives. This tradition has extended at least four generations from my grandfather being active in the Seaman’s Union to the Crown Prince who was a member of CUPE while he worked part time going to school.  I have been a member of CUPE for almost 34 years and have served in the thankless position of shop steward for a brief period and will now become more active again as a representative on our bargaining committee.
There are several misunderstandings and outright falsehoods about unions here are a few:
I pay dues to the union but it’s never done anything for me” – For starters, the union is not some separate foreign entity; it is you and co-workers on your right and your left.  When was the last time you attended a union meeting? Have you ever asked for assistance from the union? The living wages and decent benefits were attained by collective bargaining not by the generosity of your employer.
“Union wages are too high and create unemployment” – This exactly the opposite. Employment only increases when the demand for goods and services increases and production of these goods and service requires more manpower. When an employer pays a decent living wage the employees will have more disposable income to purchase their and other employers products. This causes a multiplier effect in which rather than each party taking either a bigger or smaller slice of the pie; the pie becomes bigger for everyone. The idea of trickle-down economics has been proven time and time again to be a failure. No employer ever created a job magnanimously; the demand for his product created the jobs so he could keep up with the demand.
“Union employees are lazy and you can’t fire them” – Workers, both union and non-union, as a rule take pride in their efforts. There are lazy workers and employers. People do not want to work alongside or for slackers. As for firing, every collective agreement contains to very important sections; the management rights section that allows the employer to operate his business in a productive fashion and to lay off employees for economic reasons and a disciplinary section which includes all steps required both for discipline including dismissal for cause. What the contract does is protect the employee from being unreasonable or vindictive disciplinary action.
“I don’t need a union. I make more than a union worker gets for my job” – Yes, maybe this is true but the reason you are getting that wage is because your employer is trying to stay competitive with similar union shops. Also, more than likely when you include benefits such as extended health, dental and pensions at best you are getting equal compensation. If similar skill set positions were not unionized, your wages would be lower. Again an employer is not going to just pay high wages because he is a generous person, he is going to pay the market price for labour just as he is going to pay market prices for raw materials.
“Unions are too politically powerful” – It is the political influence of unions that has brought about changes that we have all become accustomed to. It was labour’s influence that brought about universal healthcare, pensions, workers’ safety, paid vacation, overtime compensation and a reasonable work week. However, the actions of the Wisconsin governor and other governors throughout the US have proven that a lot of what has been fought for is fragile when large corporate donors  attempt to distort the balance of power.
“I will lose everything I gained from belonging to a union when we go on strike.” Over ninety percent of contracts are settled each year without even the threat of a strike vote being invoked and an even greater percentage of unionized workers will retire without ever spending one day on the picket line.
“We should have ‘Right to Work’ laws here” – Jurisdictions with “Right To Work” laws have the lowest mean average incomes, highest poverty rates and lowest literacy rates in the United States. Right to Work really means the right to work for less. A good dramatic example of this can be seen in the movie “Norma Rae” which is based on the Garment  Workers’ Union  fights against the J P Stevens Textile Company in the southern United States.
To continue to protect your hard earned rights as a worker, I urge everyone to become politically active and seek out and support candidates that are friendly to workers’ rights and to defeat candidates like Scott Walker in Wisconsin that take their marching orders from anonymous corporate donors.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What?... Me Wear Pink? ;-)

February 23 – Today is "Pink Shirt Anti-Bullying Day" and yes, I will be wearing pink today. Okay, I know for all of you that know me or have read a few any of my long boring submissions, you realize it’s not a big stretch for me.
Today, I would like to share a few random thoughts about bullying.
On occasion throughout my life I too have been a victim of bullying. Yes, I was always been the one of the tallest kids in my classes during both elementary school but I would describe myself even now as a gentle giant. Because I was a bit more sensitive and caring than most boys my age, more aggressive boys tended to pick on me usually by incessant teasing and sometimes physical intimidation. However because of my caring nature I also tended to befriend more of the “different” kids in school.
During my adult life, I worked for several companies whose owners could be described best as bullies. Rather than encourage good results, they tended to berate you , and chastise you in front of others for your mistakes.
I was lucky enough to have a strong enough resolve to overcome the schoolyard bullying and in fact befriended some of the offenders later in my high school days as they mellowed and I became stronger mentally and emotionally. As far as those bullying bosses go, they can all burn in hell especially my first full time employer. He was the most despicable person I ever met and believe me, I have met some evil characters in my life.
Some schoolyard bullying can be attributed to our pack/herd mentality where competition for the alpha position. Where a would be contender cannot rise to the head of the pack using his or her legitimate leadership skills, he/she will resort to physical, mental and emotional threats and actions to gain status. A more diabolical form of bullying could be more equated with sadism where the bully truly enjoys inflicting pain on the victim.
Through friends’ children, I have been witness to both types of the above. One of my neighbour’s granddaughters was harassed so much by other girls in her high school she was forced to transfer to a school a considerable distance from home. Luckily, this was for the most part the end of the harassment and she is happily working and in a loving relationship.
The second occurrence involved the 12 year old daughter (“M”)of the woman who lived across from me. I was a bit puzzled when they moved from a three bedroom townhouse in North Vancouver into a basement suite 30 kilometers away. I originally assume it was to reduce the mother’s commute to work from 45 minutes to 5 minutes. I was still puzzled why “M” would be so happy to move away from the area in which she grew up. This would not be the normal reaction of an adolescent girl. I later found out that the real reason was “M” was being constantly picked on by a group of neighbourhood girls and moving was the only solution. The bullying became sadistic when these same girls continued to harass “M” online long after she had moved and was no longer a threat to their pecking. I know my young friend is a strong person and she will eventually persevere. Unfortunately there are way too many children and young adults who are not that strong and they will be scarred for live or face much worse consequences.
We all have these stories about either being bullied or witnessing bullying but what we never admit to is our own transgressions. Can anyone truly claim they have never made anyone do something by using intimidation or threats be it physically, emotionally or mentally? Have you ever teased anyone for your own or others amusement? It is only when we look inward at ourselves and rectify our own behavior will we begin to clean our own homes of this disease. Once we do that we need to help others clean their houses.
Will wearing pink bring an end to bullying? No, of course not! But if seeing your pink T-shirt makes one person aware of the harm they may be doing  we are on our way towards winning the war.
So today I will be wearing my pink golf shirt, my pink flamingo socks, pink shoelaces and as you can see I painted my nail pink.  And to stay in the colour scheme guess what 80s teen classic I plan on watching this afternoon? Hey, just call me Molly! (Make that Andie if you’re a John Hughes fan!)
Note: However I am sorry to report that the pink cupcake fell victim to a bully. But she died for a good cause.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ch-Ch-Changes




For over thirty-five years I have adorned facial hair in one form or the other with the exclusion of one or two brief periods being clean shaven. Some of these changes in style were for the better while others... Well you be the judge. BTW – Don’t judge the fashions, you all wore polyester at one time. ;-P
The first picture was from my pre-‘stache life at the beginning of my senior year in high school. We then progress to end of the year where I first donned a moustache. Not a great one but good enough to get me served at the LCB.



We then progress into the late seventies with my Vegas – Sonny Bono look. (The photo with Version 1.0 was actually taken in a Las Vegas showroom) Not bad especially when you see the consensus worst look I ever had, the Fu Manchu. Eww! Luckily I listened to my all my distaff friends and lost this ‘stache.



In the early eighties, I decided  to try a full beard and the next photo is the start of this plan where it all began camping at Lightning Lake with my friend BJ and the rest of the Four Mousekateers. BJ wasn’t a fan of beards but for some reason she really liked the look on me and even chastised me for briefly shaving it off until she found out I was starting a new job hunt. That search failed so next chance I got grew it back and that brings us to the next phase where it was at its thickest and darkest. Shortly thereafter I wore it lot shorter and thinner.

As I grew older the hair on my head remained its mouse turd brown colour (no gray) but as you can see in the photo with Lorraine my beard had begun to show my age turning a telltale white. Lorraine was the other big fan of my beard although her main reason she thought I should keep it was to hide all my extra chins. :-(
This brings us down to the big shock I warned you about. This was a decision that took me several months to make and it finally came down to wanting to expose parts of my body that have rarely seen daylight to the topical sunshine. SURPRISE!!!


Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park!