Friday, April 29, 2005

Dumb litigants lose out.

Okay, one of the things that drives me most nuts about society right now, particularly in the US, but not exclusively so, is the tendency towards litigation. I know I have written about this previously, but there have been two cases recently that seem to be ending right, and I thought I'd share them with all of you.

  1. The finger in the Wendy's Chili: I know I mentioned this a few days ago, but I wanted to reiterate it here: This woman has been arrested for fraud. After what appears to be a pretty exhuastive investigation by Wendy's that concluded that no one anywhere in the supply chain from Slaugherhouse to Server had lost a digit, not had anyone working anywhere the chili had been. I still really want to know where the digit came from, though. This woman had made practically a career of trying to sue companies to not have to work. And she scammed a woman by selling her a trailer she didn't have the right to sell. But she does have balls. She sat there with the woman, who didn't speak english, and a Sales Agent, who only spoke english and translated what was being said into what she wanted the other to hear. Whatever, though, I only wish there was a way that Wendy's could get back the drop in sales that have been attributed to this "discovery."
  2. Finding Nemo: There was a guy in France who wrote a story called Pierrot, the Smiling Clownfish. It was about a little clownfish who had lost his family. He claims he registered the story long before Finding Nemo was around. He didn't publish it until after the movie was out in France, but he says that Disney still stole his idea. The court looked in to it. The story was not registered in advance. There is no evidence supporting any conclusion other than Pierrot being inspired by Nemo. So, the court nailed him for fraud, in thist stupid lawsuit.
And here is the thing. We need to not encourage people to think that "if I want to live well for the rest of my life, all I have to do is to sue Large Company X." That is not cool. Work hard and try to earn the living you want. Don't be part of the problem.

On the other hand, we don't want companies coming down on the little guy and abusing him. Reasonable lawsuits are necessary. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the problem is punitive damages. Yes, such a lawsuit has to cost the company enough to be a deterrent. But, don't give the person who is suing the money for punitive datamges, instead give it to a charity or something, in some semblance of "let the punishment fit the crime." That way, slipping a finger into your chili will be less attractive to people. And really, that can only be a good thing. After all, do you know where that finger has been?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Mortality Musings

Okay, so when I went a month without blogging, there were reasons beyond work, and some of the things that are plaguing me that I cannot talk about here, lest releasing my hideous knowledge on the world cause it to rupture in twain. Or in case there are people out there who shouldn't know what I am thinking about.

It was also a time of some personal issues. My father fell on the ice and broke his leg. That was earlier than I stopped writing, but it had a much greater effect on my than I would have thought. I'm lucky. There are a lot of bad parents out there, and I got none of 'em. Any of my friends would be quick to support that. My parents are not only supportive and helpful, but also relatively cool, as far as parents go. (I hope my kids, should we choose to have any, can one day be equally equivocal about my coolness.)

My father is pretty important to me. I don't have a lot of heroes in this life, but he is one. The thought that he is breakable - that I might lose him one day - hit home a lot harder than I thought it would. I mean, I'm a smart guy, and a realist. I know that my parents won't always be here. But it still catches you off guard when you are confronted with it. Here is a man who has always seemed larger-than-life to me. The fact of the matter is that while he is a bit taller than me, I am broader, and overall bigger than he these days. But I still feel as though his presence far outweighs my own. It isn't easy for me to think of a time without that presence around.

This entry is much less edgy, and far sappier than what I expected this blog to contain, but I thought that I should write out one of the things that was blocking my other writing, in the hopes of freeing up that block. Much like the one he has in his leg right now. He developed a blood clot from wearing the cast, which has since been removed. Unfortunately, there were some problems with the treatment, and after a month, he is basically back at square one for it. Blood clots are scary things. I know I'm scared anyway, and for those of you who know me, you know how seldom I feel anything like scared. My arrogance, and indeed the very attributes that help make me that way take the fear out of many situations. Now, I'm faced with a situation I can do nothing about, and which has perhaps the most frightening potential consequences I have ever had to deal with.

Of course, he seems to be fine, and is carrying on like everything is cool. I know he is right, after all, he is my father, and he's never steered me wrong, right? Right?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Politics - How do you stand?

So here's the question: why is it that people on both sides of the political fence tend to characterize the other in some kind of negative way. For my environment (Canada, specifically Toronto) I am definitely right of center. This has made me sensitive to the proliferation of terms that equate being on the right with being insane. And the same thing exists the other way. "Conservative Whack-job," "Pinko Liberal," "Right-wing nut," "Bleeding heart liberal."

I'm wondering why it is that we seem to be unable to respect the fact that others have different opinions than us. I have friends who are well left of where I am, but are still intelligent, decent human beings. I may think they are a little naive, or even misguided, but I know them well enough to know that their heart is in the right place. I hope they can have the same opinion about me. The problem is that this polarizing ends up leading to one of the worst things in politics - parties automatically gainsaying what the other person says, regardless of its merit.

For a good example from up here in Canada, some years ago, Pierre Trudeau, then Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal party wanted to introduce Free Trade with the USA. The PC party (Progressive Conservatives, for those not familiar with Canadian political terms) were dead-set against it. Some years later, Brian Mulroney, leader of the PC part proposed... yep. Free Trade with the USA. So, not only was the party that was strongly against something 10 years before now for it, but also, the very party that thought this legislation was the cat's ass a few years ago was up there saying "This is the worst idea in the history of bad ideas."

How can a rational human being trust either of these parties? I mean, what they stand for depends on who is in power, and what that guy stands for, far more than anything they believe for themselves. Note to the parties in question: We're on to you.

But really, is there any topic more divisive, with the possible exception of religion? Next time you read about/talk to someone with a very different viewpoint than you have, stop and think about what they are saying before you dismiss it out of hand because they are a "Whatever-Wing Whatever." Some of the most brilliant people in history have come from both sides of the political spectrum, while at the same time Stalin was an extreme lefty to Mussolini's extreme right.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Okay, so it was a month-long interlude

The serious interlude lasted a little longer than I thought it would. For a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that I was often doing these updates from work, on my lunch hour. For the last four weeks, we have been fighting a number of issues at work that have made such quaint ideas as a "lunch hour" seem like that night where you had a lot to drink, and you know that some stuff happened, but need friends to verify the reality of it.

The other thing is a struggle I have been having with the very nature of my blog. Those of you who I have sent this link to know most everything about me. The conundrum is what about those who might happen upon it through other means? There are things I'd like to say, but will not, lest the wrong person read them. Some of these thoughts have been consuming my consciousness of late like a hungry dog consumes.... well... anything. (See? I'm trying out similes. Let me know how it's working. I'm still trying to find the correct prosaic voice for this stuff.)

But there are a few things I can discuss that have been fluttering in my field of vision of late:

  1. I'm fat. Weighed myself yesterday. 255.5 lbs and 37.5% body fat. Of course, that was the start of a diet/exercise program that I hope gets me to a point where I am more comfortable. The first part will take some discipline. I hate exercising. I love playing sports, riding a bike, etc. I'm just in no shape to do this right now. So, the discipline comes in just doing Aerobics and such enough to be able to go back to doing that stuff. Maybe before too long I'll be taking a martial arts class or something. Oh, and shut up with that "255? Damn! You are fat!" crap. I know, that is why I am doing something about it.
  2. I'm going to Walt Disney World. Not soon enough. It's about 100 days away (were I doing this at work, I'd have an exact number for you - I have a counter installed there) and I'm going with Reay and Jackie, as well as my wife. I love that place like a virgin loves his beat-off rag. (Okay, that one might have been a little much... I blame National Lampoon's Dorm Daze. There's a guy in that who named his beat-off rag. Remember the fat kid from The Sandlot? He isn't fat anymore. ) The trip ain't cheap, but I know that it'll be worth every penny to me. I just hope that Reay and Jackie find it to be so too. My only concern is that we will be there in early August, and it'll be hotter than Hades. Not to mention some of us just think about going out in the sun and we burn. But, a little caution and everything will be fine.
  3. The Wendy's Finger in the chili lawsuit. This woman is as sharp as a bag of wet hair. Tests were done which showed the finger hadn't been coked at 170 degrees for 10 minutes or however long Wendy's cooks their chili. Does she not have a TV? Everyone out there has seen an episode of CSI. There was no way they wouldn't have discovered that eventually. So now she is under arrest, and the big question is: "Where did that 1.5 finger tip come from? "
  4. Wednesday night movies. A friend and I (the aforementioned Reay) have made a deal with each other - every Wednesday we will go and see a movie. Now, of course, the deal is not such that all other Wednesday activities must be ignored, but we both hold it as a high priority that we do this. And it has been great. Depending on the movie, we have gone just the two of us, or with friends. Either way, I have seen some movies I mightn't have had a chance to otherwise, and had a good time. See, the beauty of the arrangement is that we don't care about other people's opinions. Not even Tracy, my wife, or Jackie, Reay's girlfriend. The arrangement is that we will choose a film, and then pass along an invitation to others, who are given only a yes or no option. No "well, how about at this other theatre" or "could we catch a later show" or anything like that. We simply say "We are seeing X at Y theater at Z time. Would you like to join us?" It has worked out well. I look forward to it. Of course, given item number 1, I'm gonna cut back on the popcorn.
Okay, that is it for this long-ass entry. I'd say I'm sorry about the delay between entries, but I'm not. Hopefully this one will get me back in the habit.