Friday, June 28, 2013

A brief excerpt from 'The Note.'

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“Ah, hell.”
The whole damned crew stood around Dev’s desk, with the note out of the drawer and showing signs of being passed from one sweaty hand to another.
“Sorry, but this is just too good.” Doug Pinton slapped him on the shoulder while Devlin resisted the urge to punch him in the head.
He should have known, of course.
Mr. GreenJeans, which was what everybody called Ed Milliken, grinned voraciously. He was the editor and sole reporter for the Garnerville Gazette, circulation three thousand but an additional two thousand went out as mailbox stuffers in the surrounding rural areas. Mr. GreenJeans loved the production area and spent a lot of time out there, but he laid out his own paper and Park did their flagship, the News.
“I’ll bet she’s a big fat sloppy thing, all sweaty, with hairy armpits and ever-so-desperate for your body.”
Pinton and Milliken laughed, and high-fived each other.
Ed Milliken, ‘Mr. GreenJeans,’ had bypassed the company dress code, which was, in a word, ‘no jeans,’ by wearing tan work boots, green work trousers and the matching farmer’s work shirt with two pockets from day one. The pocket on the left had a plastic protector and two or three pens and pencils sticking out of it at all times. Ed was the only one who had a mini tape-recorder, for example. He’d gone to the extent of having a pin-on plastic tag made up with his name, and The Garnerville Gazette on it. He wore it on his shirt pocket.
Dev didn’t even have a cell-phone. Although polite hints had been dropped, he just didn’t have the cash to even consider it. So far, he’d managed to do the job without one.
Devlin’s mom had bought him a whole shit-load of clothes, putting it on her credit card when her boy left town for the big new career. She was so damned proud of him. With his grey Italian-made blazer, dark blue shirt and hot pink silk tie, usually a pair of charcoal trousers and black shiny leather shoes, he was arguably the best-dressed guy in the whole town. He had a couple of other pairs of shoes as well.
Maybe that was part of the problem. At his height, and in that get-up, he was the best thing to hit town in ages.
Lately he’d been getting some weird vibes out the place. It was like he stuck out like a sore thumb.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Selling off Canada for short-term gains.

Photo by David Samuel. (Wiki.)

     The incredible rise in foreign ownership in this country is a kind of economic suicide.   

     In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s foreign ownership reached over one-third of our industries, and foreign share of income generated reached 37.6 percent. Pierre Trudeau promulgated the Foreign Investment Review Act of 1975; and it began dropping, to a low of 21.4 percent. Official Statistics Canada figures show that by 2000, it was back up to the old levels again. This was because Brian Mulroney scrapped the Act; replacing it with Investment Canada, a body in charge of rubber-stamping foreign acquisitions.

      As of 2008 we are proceeding rapidly to record levels of foreign ownership of our industries, resources, high-tech companies, and many other businesses including banking, communications, and insurance. Between 1985 and 2007 more than 10,500-plus companies had been taken over. Investment Canada monitored an incredible $834.86 billion, of which a paltry 2.3 percent was for new business investment. Essentially it was open season on takeovers by foreign corporate predators.

      Foreign ownership is predominantly American, and many of our most prominent politicians, business leaders, and journalists encourage more direct investment into all facets of the Canadian economy. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives is constantly whining about the lack of foreign investment in this country. But in 2006, foreign investment in this nation amounted to an impressive $78.3 billion, while foreign
investment in all of the huge Chinese market amounted to only $83 billion. In all of India it was only $8.8 billion, Russia $31 billion, in Mexico and Brazil less than $21 billion. So don’t believe everything the right-wingers tell you. They have an interest, and it is not the public interest or the interest of working families in this country. According to BMO Capital Markets, “One area that often suffers is research, technology, design and development.”

     A ‘secret’ 2006 Industry Canada document proposed that Ottawa should encourage even more foreign takeovers of Canadian industries. Many key pages of the document, prepared under the aegis of that paradigm of integrity Maxime Bernier, were heavily censored.

     The Harper government’s enthusiasm for selling off that portion of our resources and industry that isn’t already foreign owned or dominated should not be underestimated. Jim Flaherty and David Emerson were in Beijing not too long ago, encouraging the Red Chinese to come in and buy up whatever the Americans don’t already own. Investment Canada has not, since 1985, turned down one foreign takeover! A former Finance official says, “Foreign takeovers will result in less tax at both the federal and provincial levels.”

     He also says, “Private equity will load up debt in Canada, rendering the operation basically non-taxable, interest crossing the border will be free of withholding tax.”

     Year after year, Canadians have expressed their concern in poll after poll about foreign ownership and even 66 percent of Conservatives said they wanted limits to foreign ownership and takeovers. Thank God Mr. Harper is listening! Not.

     He’s real good friends with the bankers.

Harper government ready to smooth way for more foreign takovers.(CTV News.)

Harper approves Nexen, Progress takeovers. (Globe and Mail.)

Canada should reject Chiese state-owned takeovers. (Huffingtong Post Business.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Ongoing Saga of My Car: idle air control valve

A red Neon by a Norwegian fiord. (Matti Paaviola. Wiki.)

The ongoing saga of my car has been an interesting one. Within two weeks of buying it, I had some trouble getting it into reverse.
I only paid $1,900 for it, and there was a kind of characteristic whine to the transmission, which I never noticed until the weather warmed up and I was driving with the window open. A rebuilt transmission would cost a hell of a lot of money.
She has a heck of a ka-chunk from somewhere underneath when I let the clutch out, too. It’s part of the mystique or something.
Within a month I had no reverse at all. I’d just bought the thing. I was pulling up in front of my parking spot and leaving it in neutral. With the engine running I had power steering. So I would push the car back into the spot, turning the wheel with my left hand. In the morning, and it was winter at the time, I would fire it up and just drive away. Around town, I chose my parking spots carefully. I went two month without reverse.
On the internet, I searched the problem. It might not be the transmission. I could get shift cables for $311.00 plus tax. Or I could try simple bushings. On the engine end of the shift cables,  I saw there was definitely a pin sticking up through a big empty hole. The other bushing was crushed but still in place. So I tried the bushings for about $12.00 plus shipping and handling. Voila!
All of a sudden I had reverse again. I felt pretty good about that. Just the cables, plus tax, plus shop rate for labour would have been anything up to six or seven hundred bucks. 
One day I was in Petrolia walking around in the park by the Discovery site. When I got back in the car, I started it up. There was a squealing, squawking noise and I shut her down. Looking under the hood, I saw a belt had come off the front of the engine.
Oh, great. I pulled it out and sure enough the inner part was cracked all over the place. It’s all dried out and ready to break. I got in the car expecting to drive thirty kilometres on a dying battery. I assumed it would start.
Turns out it was the belt for the power steering and the air conditioner—no lights on in the dash or anything. Driving the car without power steering for the first time was a revelation, but my arms are stronger now. When I took it to the garage, they said it would cost $989.00 to put a new plate on the front of the engine. The plate holds a ‘belt tensioner.’ They said it was jammed. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I said no. I drive without power steering or air conditioning now, and hope that other belt holds on for a while.
One day I was driving down the road, enjoying the sunshine. All of a sudden the engine goes. It was spitting and sputtering and running on something less than four cylinders. I pulled into a parking lot and checked under the hood.
Lo and behold, the number one spark plug was missing…just gone. The wire was hanging loose. I took a walk up the street and I couldn’t find that damned plug anywhere. It’s probably jammed in the undercarriage or the exhaust system somewhere. My fault, I probably didn’t torque it up enough when I did a tune-up last September. It took six months to work itself out. I drove across town with three cylinders, bought a single plug for about four bucks and put it in. She runs just fine.
The other day, I noticed that when coming up to an intersection, the revs didn’t drop like they should. It should drop to about 950 rpm, just under a thousand, and it hung up at about 1,500 revs.
The problem persisted, and one time it even stayed at 2,000. One day it dropped all the way to about 600, idling a bit rough, and that was unusual too.
So looking on the internet, I found the most likely cause of the problem. It might be the ‘idle air control valve.’ Looking for parts, I could pay anywhere between $86.00 and $137.00 from U.S. websites. The Canadian price might vary widely as to source, but of course I would call around.
I was on the internet, just trying to find out what the part looked like and where it was located. I stumbled across some guy on Youtube—just another link on a page, right? And he was showing people how to clean an ‘idle air control valve,’ and there was some other guy cleaning a ‘mass air sensor,’ and that caught my eye.
I watched the video. If I can clean it, why buy a new one? The cleaner cost $11.00 and I put it on my credit card. The job took twenty minutes. When I went for a drive, the revs were dropping to about 1,050 rpm. We’ll keep an eye on it.
Also on Youtube, there was a video where they showed how to clean the throttle body on a fuel-injection engine. It’s a big round flapper valve in a tube, a venturi. A rubber hose connects it to the air-box. At idle, the flapper is closed, and a ring of guck can build up around the rim of the valve. This interferes with proper idling. The same type of cleaner is used for this job. When I take the air-box apart to get at it, I’ll take off that other sensor and clean it again.
The internet has saved me hundreds if not thousands of dollars in car repairs. The key is patience, and then looking further, even when you might already have an answer.
One thing I want to do before winter is to put the rear tires, which have plenty of tread, on the font of the car, where the tires have scrubbed down to near-slicks from under-steer and hard driving.
With baldies on the front, secondary roads, when driving in the rain, with their washboard effect and intermittent puddling can lead to an unpleasant snatch-and-grab steering even when you should be going straight. This is due to wheel-spin, and floating around in general, even when you’re just cruising at eighty kilometres an hour.
Without anti-lock brakes, the back end will tend to come out on ice under braking, but going through snow requires grip on the front tires, especially true with front-wheel drive.
There’s still a bit of tread on there and they tend to last longer on the rear of the car.
How to clean mass air sensor. There are a bunch of tutorials on Youtube.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A little sponsorship.

Jenson Button for Prime Minister. Photo by Ryan Bayona.

Dear editor;

Sometimes, when the cost seems a little too much to bear; you might need some sponsorship.  If the trend towards privatization is to be successful, it must be employed across the board.

Sammy’s Police Services, Achmed’s Fire Protection (2004) Ltd; Bob and Doug’s Welfare Office. Hank’s Jail, Acme Hospitals Inc., RJR-Macdonald Cancer Clinics, Timmy’s Soup Kitchen. (Poor people could drive through in their 4X4’s.)  McDonald’s Elementary Schools. Coca-Cola emblazoned on the tail fins of CF-18’s.

Bids for cabinet positions are now being tendered. And they’ll be wearing Nascar-type coveralls splattered with sponsor’s patches.

“Join the Intel/Pentium Navy and see the world.”

Oh, yeah, eh, I hear the Royal Bank/Kia Canada/NAPA Auto Parts/ Gov.Can.Com Legislative Session will be running this spring. Looks like we got us a game. How can you tell when a politician is lying?

Their lips move.

And what if smart bombs demand better contractual conditions? Chrome tail fins and a racing stripe, a retirement plan? It’s the least we can do for them, if they agree to carry our corporate logo.  Hey: a new career path might open up: ‘Unexploded Bomb Negotiator.’

“Hey, little buddy…you know you want to do this…it’s your destiny…of course you’re scared…who wouldn’t be…”

If all them little drone aircraft attempt to bargain collectively for bigger engines, higher octane fuel; let’s label them “terrorists” and shoot ‘em down ourselves. We created ‘em, you know.

Don’t ask what you can do for your country. Just go to Disneyland, spend lotsa money. War is heck, eh?

But if we can consume stuff faster than everyone else, we win.  And we had a lot of spare bombs laying around gathering dust. No good to anyone.  But I have other worries, too.

Remember that Canadian cabinet minister, boasted to the microphones, “We broke the secret Afghan code!” (This was some time ago. –ed.)

It’s called, ‘Sanskrit,’ buddy. Here, this stone tablet holds an important clue. Take it firmly in both hands and whack! Yourself in the freaking head with it. Now  promise me you’ll never, ever, ever tell anyone you broke the secret code…if you can remember.

It wouldn’t confuse most of us if the cop cars had ‘Labatt’s’ or ‘Frank’s Red-Hot Sauce’ painted on the doors and hood.

“Hey! I put that sh** on everything.”

(Promise you won’t monkey with the restrictor plate. That’s cheatin’.) Guess if we wanted to save money real bad, we could always try a little harder. There are lots of ways to save money. Put a couple pounds more air pressure in the tires.

Clean some of the useless junk out of the vehicle.  There’s never any air in the spare so why carry it around?

When you search someone’s vehicle, keep all the winning tabs – you know, like…winning tabs…?

Someone said they didn’t want to fight over oil. I got an idea. Why don’t we fight over something sensible…like religion?

Like that Noah guy coming down the mountain: “I bring to you direct from God Himself these Fifteen (Kersmash!) Oops! I mean Ten Commandments…”

It caused a big controversy at the time.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

What now?

What is this, some kind of filibuster?

by me, Ian Cooper.

Dear, um; editor;
It seems that we face a lots and lots of challenges in the future.

Bearing in mind Napoleon’s dictum, ‘In order to make an omelette, one must break a few eggs,’ it seems that one should, like a good Boy Scout; ‘Be Prepared.’

The early bird gets the worm – what the heck I’m supposed to do with these things I don’t know, but we also know that the squeaky wheel gets greased first, or you can put up and shut up. We need to put our noses to the grindstone and confront a few issues, like hospitals, crime, the economy, and common-law bigamy. ‘Cause after six months, you’re legally married now. This will hurt me more than it will hurt you. But if I don’t do it someone else will. That’s just capitalism at work, ladies and gentlema’am.

The citizens of this great place must learn to pull together, or surely we shall all hang separately. A house divided against itself cannot be re-decorated with any prospect of success or even cheaply. (And, “YES, I DID SEE THAT EPISODE OF ‘KILLER

Taxation with representation still appears to be tyranny, but if we work hard and if we try to all come out to play every night; and if we can gel together as a team,  if we set our sights a little higher and hitch our wagon to a star, anyway you know what I’m getting at.

A stitch in time saves nine, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Rome was not built in a day.

Much of our law is based upon Roman precedents; but lately it seems to me that the law has gone crazy. I can remember when gambling was a sin, for example.

Now spanking is against the law. Tell you what; ‘Dad, I forgive you.’ And thanks, strange as that may seem to the government.

It is now legal for women to bare their breasts in public. (It’s the LAW, ladies…)

(Just promise me you won’t smoke.)

 (By the way, that law has been around here in Ontario since about 1993, but it was only last summer when I saw a topless woman on the beach. My head did not explode. She looked O.K. from the neck down.)

I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but several days ago was the first day of the rest of my life. And you are only as young as you feel. So if the dog days of March are getting you down, it’s always good to realize, “Somewhere in the world, there is always someone better off than yourself.”

Ladies and girlymen, I stand before you in this chair to tell you that despair is bad although my bark is worse than my bite. When all seems lost, try to remember where you had it last. The only thing we have to fear is that the village next door, which is one-tenth our size, will attempt to annex us; thereby causing a whole lot of angst, a great deal of ‘sturm und drang,’ in the local ‘Volksblatt.’ Yes; the next village will annex us. And a few other things. (Bears, for example.—ed.)

If the Mayor lost his job, he would have to go out into the real world and take one away from someone who might have some real abilities.

If at first we don’t succeed, then we’ll quit, right? How long can we be expected to put our shoulder to the wheel, keep our eye on the ball and never let ‘em see you sweat? I’m a middle-aged man, I’m gonna sweat. My back hurts and my eyes ain’t too good. It’s not impossible, but it just might take a little longer. Some people, women mostly, prefer that. I’m at that age when I’m damned grateful that I don’t have to have sex with anyone anymore.

They say, ‘great minds think alike,’ however they also say, ‘fools seldom differ.’

So I don’t know what to think, except, ‘who the hell is, ‘they?’’ (And how do you punctuate that?)

{There’s no middle ground here. – ed.}

I’m glad we had this little talk; it’s long overdue, but I’m pleased to announce that when I’m done talking things will get a little quieter around here.

It’s been more fun than a barrel of dead monkeys, but I’m tired and cranky and need
my nappy-time. Just always try to remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Too many cooks spoil the broth; you can’t have your cake and eat it too; and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Or turn the stove off. Or open a window.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, especially if you throw it at him.

{Hey, Buddy!--ed.}

Keep on truckin’ and if you don’t have all the answers at least try to spell your name right. You know, fifty years ago it was a scientifically-proven fact that masturbation causes mental illness. Now look at society. (This is not specifically confirmed in the Bible.—ed.)

Sometimes you just have to take it on faith.

{Buddy, is this some kind of filibuster? –ed.}

So just for the record, my question is; “O.K. Now what?”  

Or even “Who cares?”

When you turn on the daytime talk show and Maury Povich is using DNA-based paternity testing in an attempt to prove that one of several aliens is some poor child’s father, just remember I said it first: “Why did she even go with the guy in the first place?”

{Okay, that’s it. Get out of here, ya bum! –ed.}

“I shall shut up for ten dollars…No! Make it twenty.”

(Out! – ed.)