Firefighters and Fireworks

I ask those who from time to time come to read this blog. Is it corrupt for the family of firefighters and their friends to spend an evening shooting off fireworks without fear of punishment, given it is illegal in NJ to do so? Are they, as active and visible citizens in their roles as firefighters (volunteers, but still), entitled to leniency when it comes to the rules, or should they be held to a higher standard as they may be considered role models?



In between the intensity of my project at work, I’ve had an opportunity to start enjoying some Netflix DVDs again now that the current tv season is finished. I just got through Mondovino, a 2+ hour documentary on the global wine industry. I’m still not sure exactly what to make of it all, so I’ll just throw out my key observations.

1) Jonathan Nossiter (or at least his cameraman) really, really loves dogs. They make an appearance continually throughout the documentary no matter what country / city he’s in, from the remote parts of Argentina and Brazil to cities in the US and Europe.

2) The French blame the Americans for “globalization” of the wine industry and the decline of French traditional control over the wine industry. Robert Mondavi and Robert Parker are locked in a gigantic conspiracy to destroy the French. They especially dislike the fact that Americans use a dirty tool called “marketing”.

3) However, the French applaud the work of Bernard Magrez, essentially a French version of Mondavi, who is spreading the same brand of global wine and has a similar up-from-the-bootstraps kind of story. Even though he’s basically cut from the same cloth, he’s ok because he’s French.

4) The Italians (or at least the many marquises interviewed) liked Mussolini, are split on the Mondavis, and were concerned about the Social Forum.

5) The global wine industry, like so many things, is heavily afflicted by racism and nationalism.

6) Everyone interested in producing competitive wine at an international level should just call Michel Roland.



Having watched CNN International’s broadcast channel while overseas, I’m even more appalled by the US version of the channel and the website. Just think of the total lack of “newsiness” there are with the following top stories on right now:

  • Driver plows through street festival at high speed

  • Organizers G8 protest condemn violence

  • Officials: Terror plot targeted JFK airport

  • Castro stands, talks with Vietnamese official on TV

  • Cavs finish off Pistons, make first finals

  • Report: Six militants killed in Somalia

  • Larry Birkhead sues attorney in baby fight

  • War front-and-center ahead of debates

  • Agent’s good looks help net butterfly smuggler

  • Only girl’s foot shows after oak falls on house

  • Democracy stuns Polish man 19 years in coma

  • Baseball manager rants, crawls, plays in dirt

Admittedly, when I imagine what is truly news-worthy, I rank stories by their potential impact from a regional, national and international level. A top story about a driver crashing in to a street festival is sad, but basically local news. What’s the impact, the larger importantance, of a car crash in D.C.?

The G8 protests, Castro’s TV appearance, a terror plot, the presidential debates, and militants killed in Somalia, all have a potential news-worthiness value, if the stories are given context and aren’t just the usual CNN dumbed-down smut product that is put out. Same thing is true for the Polish man who wakes from a coma, if the author of the article uses it to discuss the evolution of Eastern Europe from Communism to democracy and capitalism. Unfortunately, this kind of journalism seems to be far more than CNN, at least for their domestic audience, can handle.

Or take the G8 protests. What are these groups that became violent? What are their objectives, what goals do they have? What about the actual G8 summit? What discussions are taking place? What kind of outcomes are to be expected? What have been the objectives and participation in past summits? Have the desired results been realized from those summits? If so, why? If not, why not?

Unfortunately, the kind of news programming I’m looking for is becoming rarer, not more common. When John Stewart offers the most in-depth discussion on some of these topics, you know you’re SOL.


Like Fox and the Hound

I found myself sitting on the flight from Amsterdam to Toronto with about 5 to 6 hours to kill, so I started up the video on demand system and browsed through the choices. Night at the Museum was not as bad as I expected, and provided a fun diversion. Moving on, I watched Rough, a Japanese love triangle-ish movie with a whole lot of plot potential that ended in a pretty conventional way. I did appreciate, however, that a live-action movie still used some of the tricks in regular Japanese TV and anime. Go figure.

And then there’s Bridge to Terabithia. I watched this movie adaptation of the book that I read easily 15 or so years ago. I actually hesitated before I watched the movie, knowing that the book had left me in a funk of its own after I read it all those years ago. And, yes, the movie was a fairly straightforward adaptation that tugged the exact same emotional strings the book did.

Exactly, I’m willing to admit, like that old mainstay the Fox and the Hound.


When a Good Deal Isn’t a Good Deal

The tickets were a pain even before I left. Never, ever get paper tickets if you can avoid it. When I booked my trip back in October, at a phenomenal price of$255 round trip from YYZ-AMS-VIE-AMS-OTP-AMS-YYZ, I didn’t notice that I’d picked an Austrian Airlines flight that forced me to have a paper ticket. If I did, I might have reconsidered my flight choices.

In theory, this ticket was upgradeable with miles. In practice, paper tickets make simple things much harder. Like, three trips to the airport, a set of phone and e-mail conversations, and still having to again get the tickets reissued in Toronto right before the start of the trip complicated. But business class for an overnight flight does make everything better.

I’ll keep my thoughts on Vienna short. If you have an opportunity to spend a few days there, do it. It was a great, compact, historical city with architecture to die for and a certain charm and culture that easily matches Paris and London, only with lower prices. When the random street car conversations you overhear are discussions on the depth of various indie films playing at some theatre or other, you know what kind of place you’re in. And the Austrian countryside is pretty nice, as well, with some great biking opportunities.

Romania, on the other hand, was a whole other set of experiences that require some posting of their own.


Radio Silence

So I’ve been maintaining my silence here on the blog, not for any specific reason such as a big change. In truth, up until last week I’ve been caught up in a new project at work with some extremely aggressive deadlines around Merck’s new SAP implementation, all while transitioning off my old project to a new project manager. That pretty much consumed all my time while I tried to bring some stability to the project, which I’m sure survived well enough without me while I was away this past week.

I’ll give an update in the not-so-distant future, I swear, after I’ve recovered from the sights of Romania and the movie version of Bridge to Terabithia.