Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A New Christmas Poem

The following poem was brought to my attention, through a couple of sources including Reg Whynott, the former Chairperson of the old Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth.

As much as I don't like wrapping up my support for military endeavours, including the current one in Afghanistan, in the Canadian flag I thought it was appropriate in light of the content of the poem. For me, the flag symbolizes not necessarily the country of Canada, but all the freedoms we enjoy, which are paid for in the sacrifices of our military.

I thought it appropriate to reproduce in this period between Remembrance Day and Christmas. I'm sure Reg wouldn't mind.


The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,

I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.

My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,

My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,

Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,

Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,

Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.

In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,

So slumbered I, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,

But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.

Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,

Then thesure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,

And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,

A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,

Perhaps a Ranger, huddled here in the cold.

Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,

Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,

"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!

Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,

You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,

Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts…

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light

Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,

I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,

That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,

I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died in Europe on a day in December,

"Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers.

"My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',

And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,

But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,

The red and the white ... a Canadian flag.

I can live through the cold and the being alone,

Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,

I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.

I can carry the weight of killing another,

Or lay down my life with my sister and brother…

Who stand at the front against any and all,

To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,

Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,

"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?

It seems all too little for all that you've done,

For being away from your wife and your son.

"Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,

"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.

To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,

To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,

To know you remember we fought and we bled.

Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,

That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Recently, my employer, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, finally blocked access to the wildly-popular "". I guess they feel that, in spite of YouTube's efforts to keep porn off its site, there was too much inappropriate stuff being posted. Or, at least too much junk that was distracting students from using the internet for legitimate educational purposes.

They may have a point. There has been an unfortunate trend - and a lot of media - for students to post things like fights and idiotic stunts of the "Jackass" film persuasion. This isn't the type of stuff we want kids looking at. At least not during school hours.

Nevertheless, I found the blocking of the site unfortunate as it coincided with my first ever uploading to YouTube. There are now four videos of my greyhound, Dinsdale, available for viewing. Now, I can't share them with my students and teaching least not during school hours.

If you want to look at one, go to the link below. Its called "Dinsdale at the Dog Park" Once there, you can access the three others:

Is Quebec a nation?

Yesterday, the House of Commons passed a motion recognizing the "Québécois" as a "nation". Not the territory of Quebec, but just the people therein. In advance of the resolution, the country had been engaging in hair-splitting as to what exactly constitutes a "nation". Since the resolution, the discussion has focussed on what or who actually makes up the "Québécois".

Many have a confused notion as to what, exactly, a nation is. People have pointed out the contrast in which the term is defined in English and in French. In English, we often use the term nation interchangably with "state", meaning an autonomous country with borders, an independant government and international recognition. In French, it is said that the term merely means a people with a common and distinct history, language, culture, customs, etc. I would sugges - and I have a degree in political science - that the French definition is also the English one, but English-speakers, particularly those blind unitary Canadian nationalists of the Pierre Trudeau ilk, don't distinguish between nation and state.

The government lost a Cabinet Minister over it. Michael Chong, who had held the post of Minister of Amateur Sport and Intergovernmental Affairs (hows that for a Cabinet Combo? Maybe we can settle those federal-provincial scuffles with a cross-country race, or something!). Chong, now merely the M.P. for Wellington-Halton Hills, believes that the notion of Canada as a nation is indivisible. Thus, he could not support Prime Minister Harper's motion and had to leave cabinet. He believes, like many others, that we cannot have a "nation within a nation", or, as Joe Clark used to call it, a "community of communities".

This is unfortunate, because I think the strength of Canada is that we can and do have nations within this nation of ours (although I often ask myself whether Canada is, in fact, a nation. Its certainly a state, but not every state is a nation, just the same as not every nation has its own state). In my view Quebec, or Quebeckers (I hate when they use the term "Québécois" when speaking English) at least certainly constitute a nation. I believe the Acadien people, although smaller in numbers, constitute a nation. Heck, for anyone following the whole Caledonia debacle, we've got six nations right up Hwy. 6 from Hamilton! You don't want to tell the various aboriginal sects, from the Six Nations, to the Cree to the Dene, that they don't constitute a nation.

Where I would agree with Trudeau - and I don't often admit to agreeing with that bastard, at least not when it can be traced back to me in writing - is where he dealt with the issue of national self-determination in his seminal essay "New Treason of the Intellectuals". In challenging the notion of "national self-determination", he argued that nationhood does not necessarily lead to an automatic claim to statehood. If so, we would have national groups claiming statehood on a daily basis. Once the Quebec nation achieved statehood, then certain "nations" within Quebec, chiefly the anglophone minority and aboriginal groups, such as the Cree, would have an equal claim to sub-statehood. Whether or not he would admit it himself, I think Trudeau was tacitly agreeing with the notion that nations can exist within nations...or states. Erego, he would have had to have supported Harper's motion this week.

In any event, many see this as a cynical ploy on the part of Harper and the Conservatives to shore up support in La belle province....or la belle advance of an impending election. They're currently getting killed there in the polls, thanks to Kyoto and Afghanistan. Others suggest it was a shot in the arm to the Liberal leadership campaign of Michael Ignatieff, whom Harper feels he can thump in an election. But when it comes down to it, because it lacks constitutional authority, this whole thing may be little more than a trumped up version of a similar debate following the 1995 referendum, where a weak-kneed Jean Chrétien had his government pass a similar motion recognizing Quebec as a "distinct society". This, after basing his whole leadership campaign on opposing the Meech Lake Accord.

Typical Liberal. F***ing hypocrites when it comes to national unity.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Hamilton Spectator

I recently wrote to Dana Robbins (picture), the outgoing Editor-in-chief of the Hamilton Spectator. Shortly after I wrote him, he announced he was leaving the Spec to take on the post of Publisher of both the Kitchener Record and the Guelph Mercury newspapers.

I wish him well. I think the Spec has become a marvellous paper under his leadership. Its too bad I'm cancelling my subscription. I explained why in my letter to him below:

Mr. Robbins:

I love the Hamilton Spectator. I always have. Its not only because I've written for the paper twice (a Spec Huddler in 1984 and a member of the Community Editorial Board 2000-2001), but I happen to think you run a high-quality operation.

My one hour in the morning with the Spec is the highlight of my day. I love sprawling on the couch with a cup of coffee while my partner and baby are still sleeping. This is a ritual I have been undertaking for ten years since I returned from studies out west. I used to read the paper on my stomach on the living room floor growing up. I consider those who write (and have written) for the Spec as close friends, if not family. My favourites over the years have included Don Lovegrove, Wade Hemsworth, Tami Paikin-Nolan, Mike Davison, Tony Fitzgerald (even back when he had the black fro'), Alge Borusas and many others whose names I can't even remember. Your current crop delight me every morning with their observations, insight and witticisms. These include Terry Cooke, Andrew Dreschel (even though he hates road runners), Lorraine Summerfeld and even that annoying Sheryl Nadler, pretentious head shot and all. Sometimes I wish she'd take her thinly-veiled husband search to your parent paper up the highway, where she wouldn't have to bemoan the absence of funky lofts and gay art culture. She seems to spend all her weekends there anyhow. But I digress.

I am having a crisis of conscience that I thought you may like to help me with. As much as I love - LOVE - my daily ritual of reading the Spec (I always start with the front section, cover to cover, and then the Go section, leaving the comics to the end. I won't tell you what I'm doing by the time I get to the Sports section), I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable as a home subscriber. Every Wednesday night when I put out the blue box I can't help but feel a twang of conscience at the amount of paper that has accumulated over the week. When I go to school on a daily basis and see the number of copies of the Spec that are consumed, or in many cases ignored in a pile in our main office, I get visions of clearcuts and greenhouse gasses and overflowing landfills.

I know, I and many others are recycling our newsprint and I'm certain the Spec makes every effort to use recycled paper in their massive daily circulation, as do hopefully most other broadsheets and tabloids on the planet. But is it really enough? Disgraced, and now ex, Conservative M.P., Garth Turner has recently commented about the age of "digital democracy". Can the same be said for news media? Every major news outlet on the planet, newspapers included, have websites. What you can access in your daily paper, you can get on-line. You can even purchase an unlimited amount of daily comics, delivered to your e-mail inbox, for about ten bucks a year!

Mr. Robbins, I'm thinking of cancelling my subscription. This would have seemed unthinkable to me even a year ago. However, I recenlty became a father and have been thinking more and more about the planet I want to leave for my son when I'm gone. I'm cycling to work every day, even in the winter. We've just purchased a new extremely high-efficiency furnace. We're slowly but surely replacing all lightbulbs in our home to those ridiculously low-wattage, yet oddly shaped ones. As much as it pains me, I think my daily Spectator may be the next thing to go.

There are obvious drawbacks for both you and me. For you, the business is all about circulation. You need to reassure advertisers that your paper is reaching however-many-hundreds of thousands of homes on a daily basis. If everyone else does what I am thinking of doing, you start having problems meeting your payroll. You may even have to lay Sheryl Nadler off from her photographer job! For me, I lose the luxury of my daily ritual of sprawling across the couch, hot cup of coffee in hand, with my paper copy of the There's only so much sprawling you can do if you're reading the paper on a laptop.

Do you have any insights to offer me as to how I can reconcile the pleasure I receive of taking the Spectator out of my mailbox at 6:15-6:45 on a daily basis with my increasing desire to do more and more to save the planet? If not, I may be forced for the first time in my entire life (at least that spent in the Greater Hamilton area) of living in a home that does NOT have a Spectator subscription.

Mr. Robbins, talk me out of this!

Rich Gelder

YouTube and Dinsdale

This very day, my employer, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, has seen fit to block via its netsweeper. Oh well.

In the mean time, I have uploaded my first ever video to the notorious site (at least in the minds of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board). The video I have uploaded is called "Dinsdale at the Dog Park", but was originally entitled "Pesky Greyhound". Have a look and you'll see why.

I hope to be able to upload more greyhound videos, although Baby Liam is off limits (mom's orders).

What I wrote to my teacher's union rep

The following is a note I wrote to my OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation) representative regarding the "PAC (Political Action Committee) Files" publication they put out.

Basically the PAC Files is a mouthpiece for the small minority of N.D.P. and similar left-wing activist types in our union. They tend to "borrow" heavily from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, whatever the hell that is. Recently, our union circulated a survey regarding what we would like to see canvassed in the PAC Files. Below is my modest response:

Dear Joanne:
As our Branch President, I understand it is to you whom I am to address the PAC Files Member Input Survey. Thank you to you, to Mr. Uhrig, and to the Federation for the opportunity for so doing.

With respect, if I were to fill out the form provided, I would have to score ("-4") for all categories, as I feel that the publication ought to be discontinued in its entirety. It serves very little purpose other than a forum for the personal political views of a small minority of our membership and for the further dissemination of publications from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Periodically, our membership receive this publication in our school staff room mailboxes. Most routinely, after our Branch President and her delegates diligently slide one into each mail slot, they are even more quickly discarded into the recycling box placed below. Copies of the PAC Files accumulate in the recycling box as fast as snow during a raging blizzard. This is sad for two reasons. Firstly, people are not taking seriously the efforts of those who put together the PAC Files. Secondly, it is an affront to efforts to save our environment through the lessened use of paper.

However, I can scarcely blame those who see the publication, roll their eyes, and then toss it into the waiting blue box. The material that has usually been canvassed, at least in my seven years of teaching, has tended towards "global issues" (read "Bush-bashing") and not sufficiently close to those issues that affect teachers qua teachers. Interesting though these pieces may be, is it really appropriate for our federation to be expending resources on them, when we have bigger "political" battles to fight (eg. Bill 52)?

I must also object to the one-sided ideological bent that is routinely present in these pieces. The editors can claim that the publication is a "forum for discussion", but how much discussion is really taking place when only one side of these issues is ever really presented? Would the PAC files be open to submissions from pro-life groups, or those opposed to stem cell research, or those opposed to same sex marriage? Should a teachers' "political action committee" publication even be concerned with such?

Also, I have been bewildered with the PAC Files recent tendency, which in fairness has abated in the most recent issues, to merely reproduce opinion pieces from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. If we wish our membership to be subject to the editorial views of this organization, could we not just point them that way through the use of weblinks or subscription cards? What is the point of the political action committee spending federation resources to cut, paste, print and deliver something that is already available elsewhere? Do we really want our organization's political wing to consistently parrot the views of an outside organization that 90% of our membership have never heard of, let alone agree with?

Whatever the point of the PAC Files is, I submit that it is not an appropriate use of federation resources and ought to be discontinued forthwith. If the routine contributors to the PAC Files, other than the CCPA, desire a forum for sharing their personal political views I invite them to forego our limited federation resources and blog their thoughts, like the rest of the world.

If it is the will of the federation membership to have this publication continued, may I at least make one request in the name of the trees and the planet we are trying to save? The reality - and most of my colleagues at Sir John A. Macdonald would agree with me - is that a majority of copies of the PAC Files are ending up, unread, in the recycling bin. Can the PAC consider no longer printing the PAC Files, instead moving to an on-line version, or even one that can be saved in a .pdf format and deposited in a First Class conference? I understand that the federation also has issues with the Board's First Class platform, issues which I have yet to really understand. However, the fact of the matter is, like the First Class platform, the staff room, the mail boxes therein, the recycling bins and the buildings themselves are also Board-owned and controlled.

I make this submission with the greatest respect for those individuals who have given freely of their time to contribute to both District 21's Political Action Committee and to the PAC Files itself.

Rich Gelder
Sir John A. Macdonald branch
District 21

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A really neat greyhound comic

Here's a really cool comic strip that appeared in The Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, Novembrer 4th(November 5th for those American Sunday papers).

Its from the "Mutts" comic strip, and accurately chronicles the life - and after-life - of a racing greyhound. I post this is in dedication to our very own Dinsdale and hope I'm not breaking too many copyright laws.
In case you can't read the text (it shows up really small), here's what the greyhound says in each frame:
1. Shelter Stories: "Flash"
2. I'm a greyhound, a racing greyhound.
3. I spent the first three years of my life either in a cage or out racing. Racing, racing, racing.
4. I always lost.
5. I was determined "useless" and was to be "weeded out".
6. Then a greyhound rescue group saved me and found me a loving home and family.
7. I raced to their open arms.
8. I finally won.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Garth Turner

Garth Turner has publicy disossociated himself from the Conservative Party and will likely have to contest the next federal election as an independant.

I really like Garth Turner. I really do. I first encountered him as an assistant to a Cabinet Minister in the Mulroney government back in the early 90s. I found him dynamic, full of ideas and different from others in public life. I harboured a secret desire to support him for the leadership during his 1993 run, but went with the flow and "drank the (Kim) Campbell Kool-Aid". I always hoped he would be back.

Well back he came, along with other former Tory M.P.s I admire, such as Rob Nicholson in Niagara Falls. It was rejuvenating to see this class come back; almost as rejuvenating as the Conservative victory itself, at the very least because it turfed the evil Liberals from office. However, much has changed since last January. Did it start when Garth Turner was passed over for a Cabinet post? As a free thinker, you would expect that Turner might become a thorn in the side of the government; being outside on the tent pissing in, rather than in the tent pissing out. And everything must be examined through the prism of the control the Prime Minister's inner circle seems to be trying to exert over "the message" being delivered to Canadians.

I don't think Garth Turner would ever have survived one week in Stephen Harper's Cabinet. I don't want to suggest that Ministers and Tory caucus members have become gagged eunechs, but how else do you explain the reasons for and the manner in which Turner was unceremoniously dumped from caucus? I can't imagine it was really unanimous, nor could I imagine, in the current climate, any other caucus members speaking up on his behalf.

Was the reason for his departure the issues he was raising outside the control of the so-called "inner circle", or was it because he has been blogging it? A la Marshall McLuhan, is it the message or the medium? Turner frequently asserts that "digital democracy" is the wave of the future. I wonder, however, if he's ahead of his time, as how many people actually read his blog (or mine, for that matter). Here in Hamilton, a minor buzz was stirred when mayoral candidate (and eventual winner) Fred Eisenberger ran an attack ad on "". Routinely criticized for running lacklustre campaigns, people are now wondering whether this act was a stroke of genius. How many people are surfing YouTube as routinely as they are their television sets? And are these people looking for campaign ads when they do? Late on election night, after Eisenberger had been declared the victor, I had a look at the ad, which kind of screamed U.S. Republican Party. Slightly over 2,000 people had viewed the video to that point. Eisenberger's margin of victory was 452 votes. Is Garth Turner on to something?

Many were disappointed either that Garth didn't join the Green Party, nor expose secrets on the Prime Minister /his government. With the type of control that PMO has, what kind of information did they expect Garth Turner to actually be in possesion of? For my part, I may be most disappointed that Garth Turner's return to the House of Commons may be short-lived. I don't think he's going back to the Conservatives and I hope he has enough scruples to stay the hell away from the Liberals. In fact, if you are to believe what he is saying on his blog these days, he's finished with party politics altogether.

Oh well. Maybe he can pull a Joe Lieberman (what I used to call a Chuck Cadman) and win it all in Halton as an independant. As a Conservative, I don't know if that would make me happy or upset! It would be worth it, though, to still have Garth Turner around, rambling MPTV rants and all!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fred Eisenberger elected mayor

Who knew? Just goes to show how accurate I am in picking winners. I had Mayor Larry (DiIanni) winning in a landslide - a two-to-one margin I suggested to someone. Perhaps I won't quit my day job and go into the oddsmaking business, at least where elections are concerned.

I had hoped that Mayor Larry would win re-election, but Mayor Fred I can live with. Not the most inspiring leader I have ever encountered, having first seen him in "action" in the early nineties, when some Beach Strip residents were up in arms over an emissions issue. Whereas his wardmate at the time, the late Dominic Agostino, took the lead in being vocal about an important local issue, Fred seemed to have this deer-in-the-headlights demeanour that suggested he either didn't know what was going on, or that there were about 1,00o other places he would rather have been than at the Beach Strip community centre that evening.

Every campaign he has ever been involved in, including that as a Conservative in the recent election, having placed third behind NDP winner Wayne Marston, and Liberal bagman, Tony Valeri, has been lacklustre.

Can it really be that a U.S.-style attack ad on, of all places, made the differnece? Or did Joanna Chapman's witch-hunt really bear fruit? I hope its neither of the above.