Friday, August 31, 2007

Do Not Laugh

Apparently there is a Japanese game show in which the only rule is you cannot laugh while watching your fellow Japanese try to speak English (one presumes the contestants themselves are fluent). If you do laugh, you are taken off to the side and masked men beat you with a rod.

!!

If you appreciate slapstick humour (no pun intended) you WILL find this funny.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Done Our Part"

I get very tired of people who are completely uninformed as to what our troops are doing in Afghanistan and the good they are bringing to that troubled land.

Popular conception of the mission there is that our troops either sit around in our bases, waiting for mortar attacks launched from who knows where, or else they're driving in between bases and hitting the occasional improvised explosive device or IED, AKA a home-made bomb.

You want some education? Browse the Army's discussion forums. Look especially for the topic of Canadian politics. A thread on a poll from last year which asked Canadians about their feelings on the war displayed the following results:

1. Should a decision to send troops to Afghanistan require parliamentary approval?
Yes: 73%
No: 20%
Don't know: 7%

2. If you were an MP would you vote in favour of sending troops to Afghanistan?
Yes: 27%
No: 62%
Don't know: 11%

3. Would your position change if you knew it might lead to significant casualties?*
Yes: 31%
No: 64%
Don't know: 5%

4. Do Canadians think Canada should be participating in the war on terrorism?
Yes: 48%
No: 43%
Don't know: 9%

*This question asked only to those who voted yes to the previous question.
A commenter on the thread noted the inconsistency between items 2 and 4; most Canadians feel we should participate in the war on terror but don't think we should send troops in the effort. I'm not exactly sure how else a nation could participate in a war.

This thread is a year and a half old, but is still getting new comments. Newer polls cited indicate support for the Afghan mission is holding steady at around 50%.

But screw the polls - they can be worded to elicit any response desired. Besides, a government which forms policy based on polls is like a man walking backwards through a maze. He is ignoring the urgent need to plan ahead; he is also only finding his path after bumping into dead ends several times. Real leadership surges on through criticism and adversity, and it must be grounded in a conviction of what the truth is before it can weather that storm. Real leadership knows that if there's a wall in between you and your destination, it's sometimes necessary to go through it by whatever means necessary. But not everybody in our Parliament is capable of real leadership.

Take Liberal Party leader St├ęphane Dion - please. He thinks that Canada should pull its troops out of Afghanistan. "The fundamental point is that Canada needs to be clear about its commitments, and that after three years of difficult and dangerous combat missions, Canada will have done its part," he said to reporters last Thursday. “It’s not lacking honour to state that well, we’ve been there two years, there has been an effort deployed, and that another country should replace us.”

We've done our part and now it's somebody else's turn. I've heard that same sentiment recently... where was that... oh yeah! It was my 5-year old lamenting that her sisters weren't doing as much work as her. Is that how you're trying to sound St├ęphane? "Norway and Poland only picked up one toy, and I picked up two!" Give me a break. The room's a mess and somebody has to clean it up; if we don't, nobody will. That's how life, how responsibility, and how good old fashioned rural common sense work. We're done when we're done.

How do we translate that into the purpose for the Afghan mission? David Warren:

We misconceive our role, in Afghanistan, if we think it is to bring democracy. Instead, our job is the modest one, of helping the Afghans re-establish their own way of life, by killing as many of their Jihadis as possible. In this cause, we are truly the allies of the peoples of Afghanistan. In any other, we are foreign imperialists, playing into the hands of the enemy who flew aeroplanes into Washington and New York.

Monday, August 27, 2007

St. Poemen

Quote:

The nature of water is soft, and the nature of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above the stone, allowing the water to fall down drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the Word of God: it is soft and our heart is hard, but the man who hears the Word of God often opens his heart to the fear of God.

-Saint Poemen

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Job Satisfaction

I hesitate to post this on my personal blog, as I try to keep a certain distance between it and my work environment. Yet I think the odds of somebody drawing the connection are minimal, and this has been on my heart since July.

Right now my job satisfaction is at an all-time low. For those of you who don't know, I'm a team leader for about 20 call center associates at a multinational outsourcing call center. Our client is an American cable company, and our project requires us to up-sell our client's products to their unsuspecting customers who contact us looking for support on unrelated issues. It's kinda like a used car salesman who sets up shop next to the auto-wrecker, or the taxi driver who waits outside the local bar for the next drunk.

I have a huge problem with the modern communications industry, in that they generally promote products and services which I cannot in good conscience encourage my team to sell. When I look at customers' accounts, it's more unusual to see people who have not ordered scads of pay-per-view porn than to see those who have.

But even on a simpler level: In my home I receive five English-language television channels via my amplified rabbit ears. On those channels much of the content is objectionable and even more of it is of minimal artistic merit. Even with that, I watch too much and waste too much time. All this for free.

Were I to sign up for any cable package, I would receive more channels but more objectionable content, more material of minimal artistic merit, watch more TV and waste more time. Plus I'd be losing money, and I'd still have to put up with the ads. It's a lose-lose all the way.

I therefore struggle to encourage my associates to try to up-sell their customers. Instead, I sometimes feel like bursting, "Tell them to cancel their services and go spend time with their families or read a book or fly a kite or something, anything, which builds up the soul instead of crushing it!" But alas, I have not worked up the courage to say such things.

On top of that, management has its own frustrations, the top two of which are:
  • Seeing the fruit of my labour either vanish the next day, or else reflect itself in a 0.3% increase in an entirely forgettable element over a month-long period
  • Fighting against the immense downward pressure of executive managers to try to get them to see the inefficiencies their pet projects create
And if I'm ever successful in either of those ventures, what have I actually done? How is the world a better place if I convince a service manager to enact a strategy which will raise our service level (which means calls are answered within 30 seconds instead of 50 seconds)? Why put so much effort into such an unworthy goal? Why not spend my life doing something with more of a ripple effect on my society?

So after seven years at this job I find myself looking outside the company for a more laudable career. Your prayers are appreciated as I discern this through.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Have You Hugged Your Priest Today?

Zenit.org today featured an article about a recent exhortation to priestly celibacy which Australia's Archbishop Wilson gave.

He was right on the money when he explained, "We need to see a vocation as more than just an individual or personal life choice. Each vocation is a call from God in the context of the Christian community and for the service of the community."

He also said, "John Paul II reminded us that 'No one is called to walk alone.' The context of a loving, supportive Christian community is important."

This reminds me of the wise foundations upon which the Companions of the Cross built their order. One of the main points of their vision centers on the word "companions":

We make an essential commitment to living the common life. We believe that the effectiveness of our ministry will be largely determined by the quality of the life that, with the help of God's grace, we can develop with one another. We will pray an extended time regularly, not only alone, but in common. This necessitates, among other things, that we live in local communities of sufficient size (minimum of four) to allow community to grow, and that we invest a lot of time in it.

I once heard the group's founder, Fr. Bob Bedard, say that one the main challenges in a priest's life is loneliness. Many struggle with alcoholism, and any amateur psychologist can interpret the frequent stories we hear of sexual deviancy in the clergy as a cry for help against a dysfunctional social molding.

The Companions seek to reduce or even eliminate that problem by maintaining the importance of community, but most priests without affiliation to the Companions have few if any close friends.

We are called as a laity to pray for our priests, and I strongly encourage all my readers to do so. But in addition to prayer, we must support them by offering our friendship. Know also that since many of our priests have been friendless for so many years, if not decades, it may be difficult for them to develop meaningful relationships with you - you might need to be very persistent.

I'll always remember a late night spent playing video games with a priest friend of mine, who is still relatively young and hasn't become too jaded or lonely. I was amazed to realize, "Wow, this guy is really good at this, and even has a bit of a mean streak." It was a key moment in my own decision to break out of my introvert's shell and try to welcome priests into my home socially.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Solitaire

So I was playing Solitaire on the computer the other day, and I lost $368.


I felt kinda stupid later though. Microsoft sent my cheque back. They said it's not a real betting game and that I don't need to pay them.

So how come they waited until the fourteenth time I sent in a payment?

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That reminds me of a thing I saw on the Discovery Channel the other day. They were doing this feature on bush pilots who fly up north in the Canadian wilderness to deliver mail and supplies. They interviewed this one pilot, and apparently he has been told by the federal aviation authority to pack among his survival gear a deck of playing cards. If he ever has to bail out of the plane and live off the land until help comes, regulations say the first thing he should do is pull out the cards and start playing Solitaire.

Why, you ask?

Simple: it won't be more than five minutes before somebody comes up behind him and says, "Hey buddy, you know you can put that 8 of Clubs on that 9 of Hearts, eh?"

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Thank you, thank you, I'm here all night.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Small World

This is an amazing picture:


Check out this guy's gallery here.

H/T to the guy who's getting married today but hasn't updated his blog in six months.

Good Movie

The other day I was looking in the "Film Festival" collection at BlockBuster and saw the title "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu." The cover art features an empty hospital stretcher with a bunch of cats on it.

It's the story of how a poor Romanian alcoholic (and cat lover) dies one lonely evening. He has a headache, has been throwing up since the morning, and calls for an ambulance late into the night. The responder on the other end of the phone asks if he's been drinking, and he admits he has, and his request for help is thus more or less ignored. As the evening wears on, the poor man eventually gets an ambulance, but nevertheless descends into bureaucratic hell trying to get the care he needs.

As it's a foreign film it's subtitled (and it took me a while to get used to their font choice) and starts off quite slow, but once I was accustomed to the pace I was riveted. It's a compelling, brunt sketch of the human condition, and I'd highly recommend it. Its gritty verisimilitude moved me.

Here's the US Catholic Bishops' enthused review of the film, and Rotten Tomatoes also gives it a 93% rating.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Been a While

My apologies for the infrequent posts as of late. My wife's 30th birthday was this past Wednesday, and in the midst of the planning of a surprise party for Friday, she requested to have people over for Wednesday night.

Not exactly able to say no, her family and I scrambled to plan two parties: one with her knowledge & cooperation, the other without. Happily, the surprise went off without a hitch. However, the time we invested in keeping the two separate meant no blogging for Doogie. I'll be back in the swing of things again shortly.