Friday, October 22, 2010

Figuring Out Whom To Vote For is Hard

I figured out my choice for mayor weeks ago. While I was intrigued by Sarah Thompson, I was less impressed with her after seeing her in a few debates. Joey Pants seems like a hell of a nice guy, and I can support most of his platform, but it's clear he's far out of the running. In some elections I would still vote for him, but not this time. I find Rob Ford so intensely objectionable that I am quite upset at the thought of him being our next mayor, and representing Toronto. His statements about HIV, Asians, bicycle riders and the homeless astonish and horrify me. I think he is a rude, ignorant loud mouth who is completely unqualified to be mayor, and I'm shocked at the level of support he has gathered.

So I'm voting for George Smitherman for Mayor, and not even holding my nose to do so. I think he is a smart, capable man who will represent Toronto well and do his best to improve things in the city. I think he deserves some of the blame for the eHealth mess, and I think he has gone far enough in accepting responsibility for that.

So that's the easy choice. I still have to figure out who is the best choice for City Councilor and School Trustee. In my ward there are 10 candidates for Councilor and 6 candidates for School Trustee. It's much harder to learn about these candidates, with little or no TV coverage, and not much in the newspapers either. I've had a few come to my door, and I've looked at their web sites. Some of them have robo-called me, which I don't enjoy. That has helped me narrow down my choices to 2 or 3 in each contest, but I haven't been able to settle on one candidate yet.

Last night I attended a Town hall meeting with all the City Councilor candidates for Ward 10. It was held at B'nai Brith seniors residence, so the audience was mostly older Jewish people, which tilted the conversation towards their concerns. The meeting lasted only an hour, so with 10 candidates there was only time for opening & closing statements and a couple of questions, which focused on affordable housing and city funding of events that are perceived as being hateful towards Israel. Each of the candidates made a point of claiming their "Holocaust points" with the audience, citing their parents or grandparents who either perished in or survived the Holocaust. I found that pretty distasteful, though maybe with this audience it was important for them to do. Nancy Oomen was the only obviously non-Jewish candidate (I'm guessing the other 9 are all Jewish, though I'm not certain of that), and she tried to keep pace by telling us that she was raised in the Netherlands, which tried to help the Jews during WWII, and was an environment tolerant of all races and religions. I can see the importance of showing a community that you can represent them, but all the pandering went too far for me. There was some bickering over the time each candidate got to speak, and an elderly man made a fuss over the lack of Russian translation, disrupting the meeting for a few minutes.

At the end of the meeting I managed to ask my top 2 Councilor picks who they support for mayor. Brian Shifman wouldn't answer the question, except to say that he can work with whoever is mayor. That's nice, but I still want to know who would be his choice. James Pasternak was good enough to tell me his choice, but since it's Ford I'm now far less impressed with him. So probably Shifman gets my vote, though I may be disappointed enough in his smart political move to refuse to name his choice for mayor that I may vote for Eric Plant, who seems like a sharp young guy, but is unlikely to crack the top 3. My guess is the race is among Oomen, Pasternak and Shifman.

For school trustee I'm still unclear. I'm in Ward 5 (and why are there different ward numbers for Councilor and School trustee?). I'm probably stuck between Robin Shugar and Howard Kaplan, but I don't feel like I really know either well enough to be sure. Shugar has lined herself up with Pasternak, and has robo-called me a few times. That may be enough to shove me to Kaplan's side. It's sad that I'll make this decision based on so little real data. I'm not likely to go out of my way enough to track down the candidates for a live conversation, and I haven't been able to find any all-candidates meetings for this race.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Banned From My Own Gym!

I have been banned from my gym for today and most of tomorrow. No, I haven't been behaving badly (no worse than usual at least). I've been convinced by my staff to compete at our SummerSweatFest competition Thursday evening, and that means it wouldn't be fair for me to be around the gym while they're setting for it. So I get a couple of days off, which I actually desperately need right now anyway.

Don't get the wrong idea here; I am not a serious competition climber. I'm a V1/V2 boulderer, and generally finish very close to the bottom of the Men's Recreational division, able to do perhaps a quarter of all the problems in a given comp. The point of my competing tomorrow is really to set an example for those who think they are not good enough to enter a competition. If you can do the white problems and some of the yellow ones in our gym, you'll be able to do enough of the comp problems to keep you busy for a while, and you'll have a lot of fun. These comps are friendly and the other climbers will be very supportive. If you have ever even wondered what a bouldering competition is like, come on out and "compete" Thursday evening. Think of it as a chance to come have fun bouldering with an enthusiastic group of like-minded individuals.

As added incentive, there will be some raffle prizes for the Youth & Recreational divisions, generously donated by some of our sponsors. We'll have about a dozen prizes to give out, so the odds are decent. Those in the Open category will be competing for a cash prize funded by their registration fees.

Full details about the comp are available at
We encourage you to register in advance and print out your scorecard. If this will be your first visit to our gym, you can save time by bringing a completed waiver form (signed by your parent if you are under 18). Waiver forms are available for download from

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why I Will Never Again Shop With

I had a bad experience shopping with that I would like to share. My goal is both to prevent others from running into the same trouble, and to keep my promise to that if they didn't make things right, I would tell people what happened.

I'm starting a new business (maybe some of you have even heard of it). I needed some Point of Sale equipment to work with the software I'm using to run the gym (Rock Gym pro, which is pretty cool actually). I needed an Epson Thermal receipt printer to print receipts and an MMF cash drawer to hold the money. The two get connected by a cable so that the printer tells the cash drawer when to open (sounds a bit strange, but it's how these things work).

Somehow I managed to order the wrong version of each device. The printer I got had a parallel port but I needed USB, and the cash drawer had a serial connector and I needed an RJ12 (phone jack) to connect it to the printer. It was my mistake, though it was tricky to figure out the exact model I needed.

So I contacted to exchange the devices for the right ones. I filled out the form on their Customer Support web page, explaining that the items were misordered, and were in their original packaging, unused. Their response was that they do not accept any exchanges at all, and I'm out of luck, stuck with items I cannot use. It turns out they do have a web page that states this awful policy, but it was certainly not brought to my attention during the course of ordering from them.

So I will never do business with this company again, and I suggest any of you who need point of sale equipment or any of the other technical gear that sell find another vendor with a more reasonable policy of taking good care of their customers. Like perhaps, who wound up taking care of me to get the right version of the printer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Sure Do Have a Dream!

I read something this morning that really got me going. Lucien Bouchard, the former leader of the Parti Québécois and premier of Quebec, was quoted as saying that the PQ's raison d'être - Quebec independence - is unattainable. It was the response from Bloc Québécois leader Gille Duceppe that caught my eye. He said, "(Bouchard) says sovereignty is a dream. I say we should realize our dreams. ... So we have a dream. Federalists don't even have a dream."

I am a federalist. First off let me say I respect the right of Quebec separatists to have their dream and pursue it. If there was ever a referendum on a clear question that could get the support of a clear majority of Quebecers to leave Canada, I would (sadly) respect that.

But how can Duceppe say that we do not have a dream? And how can he say it this week? We are living our dream every day, and no more so than as we host the world in Vancouver. I live my dream when I look at the scoring plays from the first period alone of last night's women's hockey game against Sweden:

06:58 CAN Meghan Agosta (Cherie Piper, Caroline Ouellette)
09:16 CAN Marie Phlip-Poulin (Meghan Agosta, Hayley Wickenheiser) PP/AN
13:00 CAN Cherie Piper (Hayley Wickenheiser, Colleen Sostorics)
15:27 CAN Sarah Vaillancourt (Rebecca Johnston, Colleen Sostorics)
15:57 CAN Tessa Bonhomme (Meghan Agosta)

I live my dream when I see Marianne St-Gelais celebrate her 20th birthday in style, and when I see Chris Pronger clear the net in front of Martin Brodeur. I don't count how many members of our team are from Quebec and how many are from "the rest of Canada". I cheer for them all because they are all Canadians. This country is the great place it is in large part because we are all in it together.

I have a dream of Quebec as an essential part of my country, and it has been reality for almost 143 years. It's about much, much more than French Canadians helping earn Olympic medals of course, but the ironic timing of Duceppe's display of ignorance of how federalists feel is priceless.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Good Anniversary

A year ago today I was laid off from my job as a software manager, when Autodesk eliminated 10% of their work force. I am celebrating this anniversary.

The past year has been a great adventure, as I've left behind a job and industry I had grown weary of, and thrown myself into a whole new world. I have learned a phenomenal amount (about climbing, business, construction and other things), and met a lot of great people. It's very exciting to be doing and creating something new.

A year ago:
  • CGI stood for Computer Graphics Imagery
  • I had just lost a job
  • I was facing a final pay cheque
  • my future was uncertain

  • CGI means I'm a Climbing Gym Instructor
  • I'm recruiting people to fill a large number of part-time positions (see
  • today was the first pay day for myself and my 2 full-time staff
  • we're looking forward to opening the doors of the new climbing gym in a little over 2 months
It's been a good change...