December 31, 2006

I have talented friends

"On days like these I feel so blind."

-- Jamie Macdonald, The Orchid Highway

"I had a dream the stars were holes we made with tacks
in giant cardboard boxes, laying on our backs.
You know, we both looked so relaxed."

-- Rory Macdonald, The Orchid Highway

December 24, 2006

I don't care about your faith...

No matter your gods, deities or lack thereof of choice, may your 2006 end peacefully, and your 2007 begin with smiles and music (unless you don't believe in that sort of thing; in that case, I wish you insert your desired state of mind here.

Sending prayers, friendly thoughts or just a positive vibe or two to your friends, family, neighbours and mortal enemies will bring us a little closer than we seem to hover most of the time. Show a little patience in the post-Xmas shopping frenzy, people. That PS3 just ain't important enough to be throwing elbows around.

December 12, 2006

George Carlin is still brilliant

If crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?
-- George Carlin

December 8, 2006

Obligatory Canucks rant

For years, I knelt at the temple of Brian Burke, in awe of two things:

1) He assembled a marvelous nucleus of great in-their-prime players -- par exemple, Naslund, Morrison, Jovanovski, Salo, Ohlund, Carter, Cooke and the pre-Steve Moore Bertuzzi -- and promising youngsters such as the Sedins. He did this with a reasonable budget before the salary cap was forced upon everyone by that ugly lockout.

2. With all his team-building moxy, Burke for some strange reason decided to stand behind perennial loser Dan Cloutier.

With management's brilliant decision to oust Burke (and hey, what a surprise, Anaheim's where in the standings now?), the new guy had to show everyone he could play with the big boys. Dave Nonis displayed major-league stones by getting Roberto Luongo, but now he needs to buck up for a few scorers. Need a couple of ideas, Dave? Put those cojones aside to read this:

Tell Vigneault to bench the Swedes for a game or two. And hell, sit Sami Salo, too. Every blonde is playing like bonkers right now, and they're the only ones who are finding the net (even if it is only once a game). Not since Thomas Gradin have the Canucks seen so much Swedish stickhandling with so few goals to show for it. Shame them into scoring more, and embarrass the hell out of the rest of the crew when they play 55 minutes in the Canuck end of the rink without Markus, Daniel, Henrik and Mattias.

How about grabbing John LeClair off the wire? He may not be in his early 20's, but now that he cleared the first round of waivers, you'd only have to pay half his salary, with the Penguins grabbing the other. That's less than $800K for a proven veteran -- this guy has scored in the regular season and the playoffs (should we get there, we might need that experience), has killer power play instincts, and could teach a few guys how to hit the freakin' net on a 2-on-1.

Make a promise and keep it. Let fans know you actually care if there are ticks under the W column. If the Canucks don't make the playoffs, offer ticket refunds, or at the very least, reductions for next year. Hell, give out a few concession items at less than a 700% markup; something.

December 7, 2006

Pop culture doesn't always suck

"It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
-- Winston Churchill, about the political machinations of Russia

"I am a cipher, wrapped in an enigma, smothered in secret sauce."
-- Jimmy James, NewsRadio, about his autobiography

December 6, 2006

Why popular culture ain't all that bad

"In the words of A.A. Milne, 'get out of my chair, dill-hole.'"

--Chandler Bing, Friends

December 5, 2006

Postive thinking

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're probably right."

-- Henry Ford

December 4, 2006

Quote for the day

"Our problem is not ignorance, but inaction."

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

December 3, 2006

Another life-altering event

My friends are all either getting married, moving out of town, having babies or combinations thereof.

Nadia and me? We just bought a PlayStation 2.

I'll post more after I've finished rolling the bejesus out of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe.

November 23, 2006

Second time's a charm

We thought we'd escaped the furious stress of getting married, since we had our nuptials in January 2005. At a family dinner, you see, with a grand total of 10 people in the building. Thus, when our recent visit to Nadia's homeland evolved from "Hey, let's throw a party or something for your friends and family in Mexico!" to, "Holy crap, this dress, cake, hall, dinner, booze and photographer are expensive!" we were shellshocked, to say the least.

The stress -- mostly Nadia's, to be honest -- aside, it was worth it. Things went well, we had a damned good time, and when all is said and done, who doesn't like a Mexican wedding? I mean, we were serenaded by mariachis, for goodness' sake!

Renewing vows in Monterrey

We're thinking that now we only have one more NAFTA country left in which to get married. Look out Vegas, we've got our eyes on you!

November 20, 2006

The Angel of Tequila

Yay, me!

I recently lived out a dream that would make even the guysiest of guys proud.

After renewing vows in Monterrey, the hometown of my lovely Mexican bride Nadia, we were lucky enough to travel to, among other sites, the dusty tourist town of Tequila. There, in full witness of Nadia and our Guadalajara-based galpal Karina, I walked off the beaten path into a seven-square metre watering hole for the locals, sidled up to the bar and ordered me a good, stiff drink en español.

Hola señor. Traigame la mejor tequila que tiene, por favor.

That's right: I drank tequila. In a cantina. In Tequila.

Angel of Tequila

October 15, 2006

Gulliver's Travels

As a precursor to the 18th Century lit course I'm to take in the new year, I recently perused Jonathan Swift's 1726 masterpiece, the brutally honest sendup of the British superiority complex called Gulliver's Travels.

Most of us know it only through a single image: the everykid fantasy of suddenly finding oneself a giant amongst little people. After his ship is ripped asunder, a victim of the sea, Gulliver wakes up on a beach, prisoner of the Liliputians, a race of people barely 10 centimetres tall. Since the mid-18th Century, this is the image we've all grown up with, that we've all identified with, that we've all taken for granted:

The sad, joyous, tragic and compelling part is that Gulliver's Travels is so much more than a single child's play painting. What starts as an exercise in Swift's hatred for travel books soon moves out of mere sarcastic disdain for self-absorbed writing. The author uses the monstrously large Brobdingnagians to ridicule human illusions of grandeur; the misshapen Laputians (whose name literally translated from Spanish means "the whores") to mock navelgazers, artists, religious zealots and psychologists; the Chicken Little-esque Balnibarbians to skewer both sides of the British-Irish conflict; the form-over-function Luggnaggians to spank both Asian traditions and those in the west who refuse to respect them; the immortal Struldbruggs to shame dreamers who refuse to grow old gracefully; and the equestrian Houhnhums to out-and-out name humankind -- henceforth known as Yahoos, a term still used today for people whose actions are neither appropriate nor explicable -- as the single greatest scourge to slither, crawl, swim or walk the face of the earth.

Even paintings rendered fairly early on decided to run in unintended directions with Swift's work; every representation has Gulliver wearing his hat while being staked to the ground by tiny creatures. If you read with even the slightest care, you'll find that the cap was actually recovered and returned to its owner days later by a scouting party. Notes in my Penguin edition bear out Swift's claims, even centuries later: from the very first, publishers edited, rewrote, renamed and otherwise bastardized Gulliver and his Travels for fear of reprisals from politicians and readers alike. Since then, the holier-than-everythou scholars have spent nigh on three hundred years arguing over which pronouns are preferred, what chapters ought be renamed, and how many lines may have been redone by Swift himself or a jealous compatriot. Some of these debates have, in their utmost importance, brought academics to tears, shouting matches and even bloodshed.

That may sound silly, but today our problem is worse. It's truly unfortunate that our soundbite-driven modern society has reduced such an opus as GT to a single image. (Even more saddening when such a biting portrayal of colonial missteps is so wholly ruined by association with an American C-list actor such as Ted Danson.) Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point is an aptly simplified look at how we juxtapose all the information we encounter: we are so bombarded with imagery and popular culture minutiae, we're forced to take even the most pointed message and flatten it for easier placement in our cerebral filing system. No longer do we roll phrases around our mouths to find hidden meanings, or labour to read up on an author's influences. Instead we reiterate half-baked conspiracy theories handed us by writers of The X-Files and memorize inconsistencies between episodes of CSI: Miami; we look up quotes on the internet, sans context, often sans citation or even accuracy.

As a culture, we've stripped & sold parts of hundreds of amazingly detailed pieces of historical commentary rather than take time to study them in detail. This is why our modern runaway hits are so bland by comparison; The Da Vinci Code is already flat, uncomplicated pageturning that has spoonfed the masses a two-thousand-year-old mystery unravelled in a weekend by a middle-aged college prof and his twenty-something love interest. Rich Dad, Poor Dad is fast food for the financially illiterate: complete with its large print, oversimplified repetitions & numerous typos, it's pre-digested pablum that's more improbable for success, but much easier to swallow than, say, the semester or two of Intro to Financial Management that should be mandatory in junior high school.

Even the sacred tomes of Harry Potter are simply watered down Norse, Greek & random collected myth. Boy-child vs unimaginable arch villain: David & Goliath, anyone? Child pulls magic sword out of... well, you pick: a hat for Harry, or a stone for Arthur. JK Rowling is an astute pupil of reshaping myth; so was her countryman Shakespeare, as was Ovid in Rome, and Homer for the Greeks. They've all created stories that look great on the surface and invite voracious first reads. What the mother of the Harry Potter franchise has managed to do, however, is decidedly different: she's pre-flattened the story for easy entry into the mental hard drive, and by doing so, removed the meaty, subtextual flesh that makes for good study.

Jonathan Swift compared his melodramatic travelogue to the song of Sinon, the Greek who sold the Trojan Horse like a car salesman with a good-looking lemon. Both Vergil and Swift, but by a few staid classicists, have long since been dumbed down. Only time will tell if or how Harry Potter and the Overhyped Ending will fare with audiences three centuries down the road. If Rowling's hero is still in the collective memory by then, here's betting it'll be in a single pictograph and an advertising catchphrase.

September 28, 2006

Interesting flora

Interesting flora
Originally uploaded by stodmyk.
My buddy Jamie and I have been up Taylor Meadows way twice now. Last time we tackled Black Tusk with Rebecca, but this time we hit Panorama Ridge, which is probably the more spellbinding of the two. (Hey, there's nothing wrong with Black Tusk; it's just that the view from Panorama Ridge actually includes a spectacular view of the Tusk itself.

Along the way, we encountered some lovely late summer foliage, including this odd-looking , down-gazing purple flower. Anyone know its name?

September 24, 2006

Gastric juices unite!

My acid reflux problems are subsiding somewhat, but the dietary changes necessary have been frustrating, to say the least.

No wheat.
No rice.
No spelt, oats or grains of any kind.
No pineapple, grapes or tomatoes.
No broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage.
No spices.
Limited meat intake.
Watch combinations carefully.

Did I mention I've lost over 10 kilograms in six weeks?

September 13, 2006

Life marches on...

... except when it doesn't.

Colour me cynical, but when the doctor's eyes go big when you tell him you've lost more than 10 kilos due to your recent acid reflux attacks, and blinks repeatedly when you report your frequent dizzy spells, you've gotta start thinking, "what if...?"

Hence, I've been focusing on other things than blogging of late. Like finding things to eat that don't make me want to puke until my damned esophagus actually exits my body. Like remaining upright and placing four to eight inches of pocket books under the head of the bed so gravity can help pull the acid back into the stomach. Like learning so much about esophagal anatomy that I feel like I should get back into the sciences after all. Like dropping my Spanish class to reduce stress.

But hey, all that dropped weight has me lookin' pretty dang good in a Speedo.

June 19, 2006

You got a problem with the hat?

You got a problem with the hat?
Originally uploaded by stodmyk.
After jumping out of a plane, you feel like you can take on the world.

More later.

June 7, 2006

"Behead Harper," huh?

The arrest of 17 people in connection with a terrorist plot in Canada has now been reported to have stopped the beheading of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Forgive me for my conspiracy-laced reaction here, but come on. Just as I thought wow, Bush bombed his own country the minute I saw the first plane hit the World Trade Centre in New York, it took less than a blink of an eye for the political machinations to make themselves obvious. I'm nothing if not arumourmonger, so here goes.

Minority government leader Stephen Harper, clearly a sufferer of the political equivalent of small man syndrome, has been trying to act bigger than his britches from the moment he emerged upon the national scene. That he has become Prime Minister hasn't helped any; his squabbles with the national press corps and flaunting of his office (David Emerson, anyone? The Kyoto snub? Upping the military risk in the Middle East against the wishes of a majority of Canadians?) are little more than screams for a federal penile implant.

This plot to storm Parliament, so efficiently stopped by the Mounted, is much too convenient for Harper for my liking. This guy will now have the same carte blanche that Bush received after 9/11. My theory? Whether or not this terrorist threat was fabricated, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the decapitation factor is a ruse to help Harper create a Secret Service-style circle of protection for the Prime Minster of this country. Where Jean Cretien beat the bejesus out of anyone who got near him, and his wife hit burglers with candlesticks and paperweights, Harper wants a fancy-dancy, gun-totin' posse like his homo-hating brother in the White House.

Good or bad? Well, no one will begrudge a head of state a little security. But the fact that Harper is more American than Canadian is a mite spooky. The power structure hereabouts is on a smaller scale, of course, but take a look at what Bush has done: plummeting American dollar, skyrocketing military spending, exorbitant debt, and more high-profile terrorist activity aimed westward than at any time in the past 30 years.

Stephen Harper has benefitted from the end of the Liberal empire -- stronger Canuck dollar, for now anyway -- but watch as we end up with similar results, probably sooner than later. Our army's peacekeeping role has been upgraded to active fighting and offensive manoeuvres -- result: terrorist attention north of 49. He's spurning
Kyoto; how can that lead anywhere good? He wants to revisit the gay marriage issue, and therein lose Canada's reputation as a world-leader in human rights & open-minded, educated thought.

Quick, someone convince me Harper, head attached and powers heightened, is a happy ending to this story.

May 29, 2006

My wife...

... she's passionate, she's fiery, she's gorgeous, she's mine. She's the only thing that keeps me from blowing up ICBC buildings for revenge. Here's a picture of her near Hume Park in New Westminster -- we stopped a few metres away from my parents' house so she could get pictures of the cherry blossoms for her family in Mexico.

May 27, 2006

I'm being sued by ICBC!


About eight years ago, I was hit by a truck driver while commuting on my bike. ICBC refused to pay my wages during the first three months I was unable to work, which forced me to a) collect EI and b) ignore my doctors' advice and return to work before being fully recovered. Not only did ICBC use their teams of attack dogs to quite literally add insult to injury, they then used my Employment Insurance claim and early return to work against me in court.

That's right -- their offers of settlement throughout this process sat between $1,000 and $3,000. Period. No expenses, no costs, no disbursements. I had lost more than ten grand in wages alone, and spent another three or four on physiotherapy appointments in BC's lovely opt-out medical plan. If I had accepted the $3K, my own lawyer would have tagged me for an additional $2K. I had no choice but to go to court.

By law, either the plaintiff or defendant in any Supreme Court case -- which this had to be based on the amounts of money involved -- can elect a jury. ICBC's lawyers always request a jury for cycling cases because, statistically, a jury hates cyclists. While the truck driver admitted in court that he hadn't checked his blindspot before turning into me, the jury proved this point by deciding I was 2/3 at fault.

I have permanent shoulder damage, often wake up in pain, and haven't been able to play tennis, volleyball or, understandably I think, cycle -- for the last eight years. My credit was shot by the time off work, leaving my wife and me unable to even sniff at a house in this or any other market. And now, ICBC is suing ME for upwards of $40K. The truck driver didn't even have his rates affected, and if I even call the guy on the phone I'll be cited in contempt of court.

Forget Gordon Campbell's drunk driving conviction in Hawaii; soulless agencies like ICBC -- WCB, from anecdotal evidence, is at least as bad -- are a scourge on the face of BC.

May 25, 2006

Pulp classics

Slate Magazine has done something brilliant: they've asked graphic designers to come up with mock pulp fiction covers for classic literature.

My favourite is this cover for the Iliad, below. I plan to print one and slap it on one of the copies I've had to buy in my pursuit of a Classical Studies degree.

Check 'em out!

It takes money to...

I've been salivating at the real estate market for nigh on 15 years now, but have never had the finances or the credit rating to play the game. My wife and I are slowly building a nest egg to make a down payment, but prices have gone through so many roofs that if we ever buy, we'll have to commute to our downtown Vancouver jobs from oh, somewhere in central Russia.

For any of you who aren't laughed at by banks, the CBC has a good real estate primer on their website.

Enjoy, and please, when you flip your property for a 50% profit, think of us!

March 25, 2006

Thirsty for Knowledge?

The online magazine The Tyee is the only Canadian media organisation to accredit a reporter at the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City. Out of 800 international journalists, former MacLean's editor Chris Wood is the only Canuck -- pretty amazing, considering most of the countries with representation here would like to buy water from us, divert water sources from us, or invade us to have their thirst sated.

He has filed three stories, all of which exhibit something the mainstream media rarely provides: shock, not produced by sensationalism, but by thoughtful presentation of information.

In a Thirsty World, Canada Comes Up Empty
Water: Commodity or Right?
Sinking Cash into Water

March 12, 2006

My friend Kevin

Originally uploaded by kev calgary.
Kevin, the poor confused lad, has moved to Calgary. One day, I'm sure, he'll recover his wits and move back to Lotusland.

Until then, I can only revel in his lovely photographic skills from afar.

March 11, 2006

El viejo pescador

El viejo pescador
Originally uploaded by Ram!.
Surfing flickr today, rediscovered one of the most character-driven faces I've seen.

"The old fisherman" is the literal translation of the photo's title.

March 3, 2006

Promise to self

PEI - Lover's Lane
Originally uploaded by stodmyk.
Resolution #18 for March 2006:

Walk hand-in-hand along an unpaved, treelined path -- PEI isn't necessary; any province, state or territory will do -- with my lovely wife Nadia.

February 27, 2006

It's all about perspective

Reds Rails
Originally uploaded by cisley.
I love pictures that, for however long or short, play with your ability to suss out just which is up and which is down.

Thanks to Cisley for a great post on Flickr.

February 26, 2006

Humour's a funny thing.

Minamiko is super cute... When she walks down the street, men crash their cars and swallow their gum. Yow!

There's nothing more relaxing than utterly ridiculous, twisted shite. Like early Python. Like grey tube socks. Like Pat Benatar.

Like The Very Good Adventures of Yam Roll in Happy Kingdom.

A moment of silence...

... for Don Knotts.

Jesse Donald Knotts
1924 - 2006

February 24, 2006

What am I missing?

Question Vent
Originally uploaded by stodmyk.
I recently returned to school, celebrated my first wedding anniversary and 35th birthday, and enjoy my job.

So why do I feel like something's missing?

February 20, 2006

Map your money

Geist has a great feature called Caught Mapping. They take a cartographic representation of Canada, then find all the city and town names that satisfy a bizarre theme of some sort. This month's contribution: Filthy Lucre: The National Money Map.

Look for predictable destinations like Dollarton, BC; Bounty, Saskatchewan; and Dime Lake, Ontario. Don't miss clever monikers like Enterprise, Northwest Territories; Bras d'Or, Nova Scotia, and Lac Spendet in La Belle Provence.

February 18, 2006

Anybody need a book?

Guess Where Vancouver
Originally uploaded by stodmyk.
The University of British Columbia has one of the most technologically advanced book retrieval systems in the western world. This picture was taken last week through one of the ground level public viewing windows opposite Buchanan Tower.

It's all very 2001, or THX1138, if you watch long enough.

February 17, 2006

35 and counting...

Is there any sort of tradition one is supposed to observe on one's 35th birthday?

February 11, 2006

House on a Stick

House on a Stick
Originally uploaded by stodmyk.
I don't have anything to say about Stephen Harper or his first-week cabinet-choice blunders. Therefore, I'll show you what architecture, Conservative Party style might look like.

It's... a house on a stick!

February 8, 2006

Intelligent Design

I've been memed, it seems, by a raving lunatic who frequently answers to the name of Will. It seems his sister Jocelyn tagged him, so he tagged me... It's a vicious cycle, which I'm only too happy to perpetuate this time around. I hereby tag Rob, Nadia and Sharon.

The task: If you were a scientist designing the first bionic human, what would you improve upon, and how?

Will: "Remove inner ear. Replace with solid state tuning fork system... Fill sinus with elasto-polymer or metallic fill. Encase in said elasto-polymer a gyroscopic balance device to compensate for the loss of the inner ear. Benefit includes the ending of sinus infections and the inability to get dizzy."

Jocelyn: "Give humans a blowhole so that we can breathe properly while our mouths are full or when we have colds. I would get rid of that pesky 'funny bone' problem, and make a 'go-go-gadget arm!'"

My response

Proof that Intelligent Design is bunk: any divine engineer worth his/her/its all-seeing salt would know better than to route a sewage line through a recreational area. Solution: seeing as I quite enjoy the recreational aspects just the way they are, thank you very much, I vote for diverting urinary activity through the navel. Perhaps a retractable, innie/outie combination -- I'm sure there are myriad medical supply companies that would compete for the contract -- would allow for flexible disposal, and prevent unwanted dribbling of excess materials into the hairy region just south of the belly button.

Look forward to improved functionality of the pubic parts, lower rates of unpleasant surprises from partners, and fewer infections for our female contestants (boys & girls, please wash yourselves before going anywhere near it).

Potential drawbacks: intense abuse of urinary tubing by drunk college guys and schoolboys, and jihads in countries where women are prohibited for religious reasons from standing up in the bathroom.

I wrote a song for you...

Yellows are motivated by fun. They are inviting and embrace life as a party which they're hosting. They love playful interaction and can be extremely sociable and persuasive. They seek instant gratification. YELLOWS need to be adored and praised. While YELLOWS are carefree, they are quite sensitive and highly alert to others motives to control them. YELLOWS carry within themselves the gift of a good heart.

YELLOWS need to look good socially, and friendships command a high priority in their lives. YELLOWS are happy, highly verbal, easily bored, and crave adventure. They can never sit still for long. They choose friends who, like themselves, refuse to allow lifes boring details stifle their curiosity. They embrace each day in the present tense. YELLOWS are charismatic, spontaneous, positive, and can be irresponsible, obnoxious, and forgetful.

When you deal with a YELLOW praise and adore them, take a positive, upbeat approach, and promote creative and fun activities for and with them.

What Color Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

February 7, 2006

I don't heart Rona Ambrose

Okay, she may be the hottest MP this side of Belinda Stronach, but am I the only one worried that Canada's new environment minister, Rona Ambrose, hails from Alberta?

Not to challenge Stephen Harper's cabinet choices — I mean, that wouldn't be my style at all, especially considering the new PM's clear understanding of social issues and the consequences of backwards right-wing thinking (such as pulling Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol and rescinding our boast of being one of only four countries in the world progressive enough to allow same-sex marriage — you know history is going to look well upon those decisions).

Just because she's under 40 and looks good in a pantsuit doesn't mean she's not a beef-slurpin', oil-totin' farmstress from Edmonton. No matter how many Stepford-perfect haircuts she gets, what the hell can an Albertan named Rona possibly know about being green? This is just a little too much like putting a strapping young teacher in charge of the Grade 12 girls' swim team, if you know what I mean.

January 25, 2006

Conservative cabinet, according to Rick Mercer

Rick Mercer was Jon Stewart before Jon Stewart was Jon Stewart.

The Conservative Party of Canada, who will form a minority government after this week's mystifying election, contain some of the most socially inept, globally ignorant WASPs Canada has to offer. Here's Mercer's take on who Stephen Harper might pick for cabinet include these culturally sensitive, open-minded members of the intelligentsia.

"Nelson Mandela is a terrorist.”
-- The terrifying young Conservative Rob Anders, who won with nearly 60% of the vote in Calgary West.

“Immigrants are choking welfare systems, contributing to high unemployment, and many cannot read.”
-- What a surprise! Another ageing white Conservative! Art Hanger garnered 64% in Calgary Northeast.

I don't have a quote for her, but the sheer Stepford plasticity of Cheryl Gallant, re-elected in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, scares the bejesus out of me.

“I think every Christian's under an obligation to change laws to reflect biblical values."
-- Right-wing nut Darrel Reid, who thankfully lost in Richmond, BC to respected Liberal incumbent Raymond Chan. It was closer than it should have been.

January 23, 2006

Harper is the devil

I've not once been ashamed of being Canadian, until today.

Stephen Harper wants to abolish gay marriage, prohibit women's right to choose, and minimise or eliminate every social program on the books. He thinks Kyoto is a waste of time, plans massive restrictions to immigration and refugee laws, and favours reduction of minimum wages while cutting taxes for corporations.

I'm beyond embarrassed. After years of feeling superior to those idiots in the red states who made Alfred E Newman their president -- twice in a row -- we in Canada just elected our very own George Bush!

January 2, 2006

NEVER fly on America West (or US Airways)

My wife booked flights to and from Monterrey, Mexico for a 10-day visit with family and friends. Arrangements were made, agencies were paid, other plans scrapped. And then America West decided a stress-free holiday wasn't in the cards.

A month before Nadia's departure, America West -- in the midst of being subsumed by US Airways "to create the world's largest low-fare airline" -- decided to cancel their morning commuter flight to Las Vegas. Well, Nadia's itinerary just happened to involve a transfer in Vegas. Their options: 1) arrive in Las Vegas at 3 in the afternoon -- which wouldn't have been a bad idea if that weren't two hours after her connection flight was scheduled to leave, or 2) fly to Vegas the night before, stay in a hotel, and take the second leg of the trip as scheduled. Also not a bad option, if the airline was prepared to pay for the hotel. Needless to say, they weren't. "You're welcome to refund your ticket, sir, and as a show of good faith we'll waive the cancellation fee for you."

Gosh, thanks.

Okay, okay, so we booked a hotel on the strip and ate the cost -- "Oops, there's one more problem, sir: Because your wife had a paper ticket issued, we can't rebook the flight."

Well, the "paper tickeet" was issued at the behest of none other than America West. You see, the connecting airline -- Aviacsa, with which AW has a partnership, of course -- doesn't do electronic tickets. So in order to get this ticket in the first place, America West had insisted upon a paper ticket. Now they didn't want to help us because we had a paper ticket. And -- get this -- because America West proper doesn't use paper tickets anymore, my agency was forced to print the ticket with a Delta Airlines imprint. Again, this is some sort of agreement America West has with Delta; when they need to print a paper ticket, they use Delta paper stock.

"Perhaps you could rebook with Delta, sir."

Hours on hold, arguing with America West, Delta and Aviacsa, and finally we ended up with the night-before-hotel-at-our-cost deal. Everything was sorted out three weeks before the flight, and Nadia got to Mexico for a good visit.

Today she's stranded at Las Vegas International Airport; her flight from LV to Vancouver has been cancelled by, you guessed it, America West / US Airways. They won't tell me how or when she will be 'reaccomodated' -- "All of our other flights are sold out, sir... and I'm sorry, but I can't deal with this situation any longer as she's on a paper ticket from another airline..." Maddening.

Apparently over 125 people are displaced by this cancellation; there is no information forthcoming about how any of them will be getting back to Vancouver. I wonder how many people, non-English speakers especially, are taken advantage of in this way -- their infuriating refusal to share any real information with their own customers is baffling.

The customer service personnel are trained automatons without recourse or true ability to help people; the flight scheduling is a complete sham, with cancellations and delays thrown around without care for those affected; the sense of duty and responsibility to those who matter most -- the customers -- is embarrassingly shoddy.

For these reasons, I hereby boycott America West, US Airways, and any affiliated airline. For any and all future flights into, out of, or near Vancouver, Vegas or Monterrey, or any other city for that matter, neither I nor my family will be marginalised by corporate bullies any longer.