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Remembrance Day vs. Christmas Decorations: The battle begins.

I was listening to talk radio as I drove home from wherever recently and there was a discussion about Christmas decorations, and the discussion was whether or not it is inappropriate (In Canada) to put up Christmas decorations prior to Remembrance Day (November 11th).

One of the commentators said that Christmas decorations before Remembrance Day is disrespectful to veterans, and of course as these shows are set up (primarily on slow news days) the other host disagreed.

remembrance-poppy-247x300The commentators hedged their bets, in case that topic had no interest, on whether it is appropriate for people who do not recognize the sacrifice of veterans to wear the poppy.  For those Americans who do not know, Canadians (and the entire British Empire as far as I know) wear poppies sold by the Legion (Our version of the VFW) to commemorate the veterans as well as the fallen.  The symbol dates back to a poem by Lt. Col. Robert McCrae called In Flanders Field.

Now I served my country and while that country was not Canada I still feel sentimental about our Canadian soldiers.  While I do not think that it is necessary for all Canadians to support the government, I feel it is incumbent upon all of us to support our soldiers – past AND present – and that wearing a poppy from November 1st through November 11th is a simple way to do so.  The argument of the host was that if the wearer does not feel it, they should not wear it as a fashion statement just to fit in and be recognized as ‘one of us.’

For anyone who has ever worn a poppy from the Legion you will know that you would be hard-pressed to find a flimsier accoutrement, and as such it is common to see people who are not wearing it, simply because it has fallen off.  I usually go through 5-6 of them in any given year.  As such I do not think anyone would look at anyone and say ‘Oh, he or she is not wearing a poppy, he or she must hate Canada and our soldiers!’  The corollary to that is I doubt anyone has ever said ‘Oh look! That person is wearing a poppy, we can happily include them in all our reindeer games!’  It’s just silly.  With that being said, every time you buy a new poppy – whether you support our troops or not – the money you put into the tin does go to help our veterans… and whatever your politics or beliefs, your money is just as needed.

As for the first topic – the Christmas decorations – I strongly believe they should not go up before November 11th, but that has nothing to do with veterans or respect, rather the fact that, assuming the decorations do not come down until the second week of January, do we really need Christmas decorations in our face for 1/6th of the year – all of November and December? 

My ex-wife used to think I was anti-Christmas because I am Jewish, and that I did not want to have a Christmas tree in the house because I was some sort of Christmas Grinch.  That is not the case… at least, not entirely.  I think the vast majority of Christmas decorations that we see in this day and age are just gaudy and tasteless.  I also don’t believe they need to be (or should be) out for two months of the year.  I lived in Israel for four years and cannot remember seeing a Chanukah decoration even a week before the holiday started – nor three days after it ended.  Assuming twelve days of Christmas, would it be so unreasonable to put decorations up December 15 (10 full days before the holiday starts) and take them down by January 15 (about a week after it ends)?  That gives the people who love that ‘most wonderful time of the year’ an entire month – 1/12th of the year – to enjoy it, without either over-diluting the (ridiculously commercialized) message or making the rest of us overdose on it?

As a veteran I have tried to figure out the connection between the two and I still cannot.  I assure you that I am not offended by Christmas decorations on Remembrance Day… and if you want to wear a poppy because everyone else is then as long as you put your loonie into the tin then please by all means… but rather than looking at it from a ‘someone has to be offended’ standpoint, why not look at it as ‘MAYBE it’s just too much, and smaller doses can be a good thing!’ ??

And with that, shortly before midnight on November 3rd, I just heard my first Christmas Carol on the radio, and am going to go throw up.

Thanks for reading!

The Technology Life… From anywhere!

When Emily from ChargeTech reached out to me recently and asked me to blog about the new ChargeTech Plug she sent me a video that their CEO had recorded.  It talks about the ability to work from on the go and to power any device from anywhere, eliminating the need to sit on the floor at the airport to be near the power outlet.  I watched the video, seeing people work from the beach and from other places I would love to work.  It shows a picture of Emily camping, and people sitting on the beach watching a large screen TV.

Copy of PLUG Park - IMG_3721_3 ScreensSo yes, the video does demonstrate that the new device (ChargeTech Plug will retail for $199 for the base model), with 48,000 mAh, is their most powerful PPO (Portable Power Outlet) yet.  I get it.  It shows that it has two 3-prong outlets (the ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet that I discussed here only had one outlet, and boasted a still-impressive 27,000 mAh).  It even shows someone (for reasons I cannot fathom) who brought their computer AND printer to the beach.  It’s the sand in the printer part that scares me… and I still wonder who needs a printer that bad.

However in my opinion, and what I wrote back to Emily, is that the video falls short of demonstrating the truly revolutionary feature of this project, the optional solar panels that will continuously recharge the Plug out in the bush, on the beach, and wherever you may be.  How incredible is that?

Plug10 TextSo with that in mind, I told Emily that I wanted to get one of these for my next Cuba trip, for a couple of reasons:

  1. How cool would it be to be able to spend a week without having to plug anything into the wall, and
  2. Did I mention that in some parts of Cuba the power can be a bit iffy? 

Here is what I have in mind:

  • Arrive in Cuba with a fully charged device, plus the two solar panels (you can get along with a single solar panel… but why would you? Smile)
  • When I arrive at the hotel I would set it up near the beds, and Eduardo and I would plug both of our CPAP machines in for the night.
  • In the morning I would set up the solar panels near the window so that the Plug could charge.
  • In the afternoon I would sit by the pool and blog, call my girlfriend and my kids, and do whatever else I might need (or want) to do on the computer and phone.  I would then go back to reading my eBook reader.
  • Before dinner I would plug all of those devices that need to charge in to the ChargeTech Plug.  I would also break down the solar panels because by now the sun would be setting… and the Plug should be fully charged anyways.
  • Because I will be taking a lot of pictures while there I will remember to charge my camera battery as well… there is little more frustrating than wanting to take pictures with a dead camera battery.
  • When it’s time for bed we would plug the CPAP machines back in… and start all over again.

Now let’s face it… What I just described is exactly what will happen when I get to Cuba because, frankly, it is exactly what happened the last time Eduardo and I were in Cuba.  But how cool is it that we can do all of this… without ever plugging a device in to a local power outlet?

Plug6 TextI’ve spent a lot of time reading about the ChargeTech Plug, and I am impressed.  With 250 Watts you can power just about any two devices short of your washing machine and dryer (remember that most airplane seat plugs will not charge a laptop if the charger is over 65W).  Its 48,000 mAh capacity is incredible, but even moreso that unlike the original PPO you can do Pass-Through Charging… in other words, power your device even when charging it. 

The Tesla battery cells are truly industry-leading, and with the ability to recharge either by plugging in or with solar panels you can truly plan to live off the grid indefinitely.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no plans to leave the grid for any extended periods of time, but if I ever wanted to I could Smile

The company is launching a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo, which means you can get in on the very ground floor.  That page is at https://www.indiegogo.com/project/preview/24f0c4e7#/.  If you want to help them to get the buzz going, click here and get the conversation started.  And if you want to join me for my week in Cuba, feel free to e-mail me for details Smile

Canadian Politics…

A month ago I sat down with my Member of Parliament, the Honourable Karina Gould.  Ms. Gould is a member of the Liberal Party, and is a very nice young lady who despite knowing I did not vote for her was happy to meet with me and listen to my issues.

I should mention that I have been a Canadian citizen since the day I was born, have been eligible to vote (and have voted) in Federal, Provincial, and Municipal elections for some 26 years now.  Okay, I have missed a couple of Municipal elections, but excepting the election of Jean Chretien in 1993 (when I was living overseas) I have not missed a single Federal election.

Throughout my childhood because of my mother’s political activism I met many politicians (and future politicians).  As an adult when I was in the army and then following my army service when I was in Security I met many more.  Additionally I had not only signed petitions but I wrote letters to Members of the National Assembly (in Quebec), Members of Parliament, Prime Ministers, Presidents of the United States, and even two to successive Premieres of the Soviet Union.

It was not until the second month of my forty-fifth year that I made an appointment to sit down with my Member of Parliament to discuss issues.  To be fair, I think I started the ball rolling in the tenth month of my forty-fourth year, as Ms. Gould is a busy lady… but that is understandable.

So one bright and sunny Friday morning last month I walked in to her Riding Office to speak with her.

Mitch & Karina GouldI had met her before.  Ms. Gould had made a number of appearances at events that I was at, and we had a couple of very nice conversations.  She is really nice and easy to talk to… I suppose those are among the qualities that helped get her elected.  I told her straight out that I did not vote for her in the last election, but that I would give her and her party leader a chance to earn my vote in the next one.  I also told her that at some point I might make an appointment to speak with her… and finally I did.

We had a great conversation.  We probably spent 25 minutes speaking while her aide took notes, and while I was certainly calling her and Prime Minister Trudeau out on something that offended me, it was still a cordial and friendly meeting with respect on both sides.  If truth be told, I suspect she strongly agrees with my position, but has to toe the party line and so reserved any enthusiastic agreement she might have otherwise expressed.

I promised her I would blog about our encounter, and so I sat down to do so.  Several times in fact.  I have sat down on numerous occasions to write, and on at least three of these tries I wrote over five hundred words… and then erased them.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will likely have noticed that it has been rather bare of late.  The professional side of me – that is, the IT Professional – has been experiencing a drastic case of Writer’s Block.  I have decided I would rather leave the page stagnant than publish the crap I have been able to write over the past few months.  A product review here, a silly commentary on the US Elections there, but not much more.  I did not even blog about the four magnificent concerts I have seen this year.

I have had no trouble writing about my meeting with The Honourable Karina Gould, Member for Burlington.

More than a decade ago I sought career advice from a man whom I still know and respect named John.  He gave me plenty of advice, some of which I followed and benefitted from, some of which I did not and have suffered for.  He is one of the people responsible for my blogging.  He told me that I should be blogging, and not just for www.MITPro.ca.  Hence MitchGarvis.com and later The World According to Mitch was born.

The other bit of advice that stuck – and which I remember although I have not always followed – is to keep the politics out of it.  I think that overall I have done a decent if not a complete job of this.  My politics – especially on many of the world’s hot-button issues – are strong and fervent, and I will gladly discuss and debate them over a beer at the pub, or better yet over a cigar.  However my days of writing political opinion pieces – as I have over the years – are for the time being behind me.

And so we come to this productive and enjoyable meeting with The Honourable Member from Burlington.  The topic was indeed one of the hot-button issues I was warned by John to avoid.  How do I write about what we discussed without once again advertising my strong political opinions in a space that should be apolitical?  Several times I sat down to write, several times I wiped my screen clear and promised to try again later.

I left the Riding Office with a Canadian flag and a pin.  I left with the promise that Ms. Gould would speak with the Prime Minister and get the answers I seek.  I left with the intent of writing strongly and learnedly of this positive meeting.  The promise and the intent remain unfulfilled… although I am patient and assume that for a freshman MP to get time with the Prime Minister may take time, and so I hope that her promise will indeed be fulfilled.

The Writer’s Block remains, and over the next few weeks I hope to break it.  I make no promises, except that if you reach out to me I will try to reply.  Have a happy Friday, and a great long Labour Day weekend.

Applying Hockey Rules to Elections…

In hockey, before a face-off, if the two players can’t settle down and play nice the referee kicks them both out of the circle and the teams have to send two different players to start the play again.

Who thinks it would be a good idea for someone to tell Hillary and Donald to skate out so the two parties can replace them with new players to play nice? 

With the American Elections Coming…

For all Americans who say they will move to Canada if one or the other jackass wins the election: 

1) The War of 1812 we kicked your asses. 

2) You had better be prepared to know and understand our geography. 

3) Learn Metric. 

4) it is important for the gorgeous women to understand that in Canada middle-aged fat guys who are not wealthy are considered absolutely hot so if you want to fit in you had better come after us with both nipples blazing. 

5) It is important for the wealthy men to understand that in Canada we believe in helping others so you will be required to support the middle aged fat guys throughout their relationships with he hot young ladies. 

6) Colour is spelled with a U. So is Favour, Flavour, and Endeavour. Get used to it, we are right and you are wrong. 

7) Any positive references to Honey Booboo and anyone similar will be cause for immediate expulsion with no appeals process. 

8) Leave your guns behind… Unless you want to hunt, then bring a single shot gun; in Canada we don’t need seventy assault rifles and handguns to hunt an unarmed deer. 

9) Hockey is better than football, and by the way some of us call soccer football, and if you don’t like it then stay home. 

10) You are either allowed to complain about the heat in he summer or the cold in the winter; never both. 

11) All of the American hockey teams that have won Stanley Cups in the last 23 years have been replete with Canadians (replete means there were lots of them). So stop trying to brag that the US has won them. 

12) It is not only suggested, rather it is obligatory to have friends on both sides of the political spectrum, and it is a requirement to treat them all with respect … Even when you disagree with them.

13) Our comedians are funnier than yours, and we are accepting of most everyone… Except rude people, so don’t be rude!

14) We are just as patriotic as you are… We just don’t think it necessary to choke everyone on it. On that note, we are generally not in-your-face like you are… So stop that.

15) Our beer is better than yours. Always.

16) If you are a huge fan of a particular American micro-brew that you think might be better than Canadian beer, please refer to Rule 15.

17) Yes our taxes are higher. It is the cost we pay for people not dying because they can’t afford health care.

18) You will hear most Canadians complain about our healthcare and roads and politics and schools and and and… Before you chime in please remember: We didn’t elect anyone so objectionable that people are moving out of the country.  So shaddap!

19) We are pretty open minded here… Leave your pre-conceived notions and bible-thumping behind.

20) We like Cuba and Cubans… Maybe better than we like America and Americans. Live with it… They are nice people and you shouldn’t ostracize an entire country for 50 years because they prevented you from invading them.

There’s more to it, but this is a good start. Memorize this and follow the rules and you will get along just fine.

Single Sign-On Woes

I love the idea of Single Sign-On.  The fact that I can use a single set of credentials when I log on to my laptop, and then not have to keep entering passwords for subsequent actions, is in theory a great idea.

However there are four ‘great ideas’ that, when combined (as they so often are) lead to a big pain in my neck.  Those are:

  • Single Sign-On
  • Password PINs
  • Ticket-Checking Tickets (such as Kerberos, Active Directory, etc…)
  • Periodic password changing

I know why we have to change our passwords, and I am glad to do it… but when you do, and especially when you are working remote, it leads to all sorts of headaches.  Does anyone have a really good solution that will let me, in the middle of my session. change my password and continue working… without having to reset, refresh, log-off, re-enter?

I am open to ideas…

Why I Need to Be Escalated…

I got a message from a faithful reader yesterday pointing out in rather interesting terms that I have not been posting as much as I should.  Sorry about that! –MDG

Recently I noticed that a ticketing system that my client uses was taking an unusually long time to apply updates.  Every month it would take as long as three or four days to apply the regular updates.  This was a problem for many reasons, not the least of which was that company policy stated that patch management should be performed during off-hours, and there are precious few four-day stretches when the company was completely closed.

I complained to the company (which I shall not name) and they told me that this was not normal behaviour.  I rather figured that out on my own, but I am glad he agreed with me.  He asked me to connect to a remote support session from the application server, which I did.  We sat and watched the patches applying normally… and by normally, I mean that the ten minute session showed no anomalies.  It did not seem relevant to the second-level support tech that this was Tuesday afternoon, and the patch process had started Friday evening.

I decided to very calmly waste his time.  After all, patch-management of this system seemed to be close to a full-time gig for me.  We chatted for 15 minutes.  It wasn’t so much that we chatted as it was me telling him that we were looking at the problem from two different perspectives – he did not see a need to escalate the case, and I did.  While he kept telling me that unless there was a noticeable crash he could not escalate it.  I asked him while he was in my system to look at the log files… he wasn’t quite sure where they were.  Who was wasting whose time exactly?

As we chatted and the patches seemed to move ahead, the Updater crashed right in front of us.  His words were: ‘Oh, now that I have seen it crash I can escalate this case to our engineering team.’

This was 35 minutes into our call.  Had he escalated me 25 minutes earlier I probably would have been appreciative of his help.  But as it stands I am just really turned off by this company.

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