Friday, May 26, 2006

Policy Data Source

What information does the government use to set policy?

The article I referred-to in my previous post was a bit of an eye opener for me.  I had thought about the labour shortage problem before, if only to see if a career of interest to me would be in demand.

Then everyone talks of missing government moneys for the soon-to-be retirees.  

Then we hear about immigrants willing to take those jobs that the local workforce presumably shuns.

Then… well the list goes on.

The first obvious observation from Mark’s article, is that it is much, and I do mean much more practical to open the borders to willing immigrants than it is to invest in training up the local workforce.  The business case is so easy, it’s not even funny: training/schooling = $$$, open the borders costs nothing.

And it kinda solves the afore-mentioned problem of providing the government with a cash cow to pay for the Canada Pensions.

A bit short sighted in my opinion, but industry will go along.  What the hell else are they going to do?  The business case is a no-brainer.  Heaven forbid they should contribute to the community by offering local trades schooling, providing sponsorship for students, etc.  Nah, it is much easier to import qualified immigrants.

The real problem is that we have conflicting information from the medias.   One says we are running out of money, the other says we have a surplus.  It goes again for labour; one says we need more people in the workforce, the other, less.  Same again for immigration.

I have been a manager for several years, and would often, if not always, make decisions based on hearsay, and dire lack of supporting data.  Indeed, many a decision was made on manipulated data, see my blog entry on this.  

So I ask the manager-type rhetorical question: what data does the government use for establishing policy?

Is it real? Is it accurate?

Has it been manipulated?  To wit: is it geared to be self-serving?  Is it supporting of election promises?  Is it targeted towards subjugating the populace?

If it has not been manipulated, who makes the interpretation?  Self-serving politicos, experts in the field, captains of industry, lobbyists?

Some conclusions at least, make sense: I take comfort in knowing that our beloved Prime-Minister read my blog and took heed upon slashing the budget for the useless firearms registry!  

Labour Shortage Where?

In lieu of my own words, I've decided to be lazy on this and pass the buck... to Mark Swartz

I like what this guy is saying and to my own heart, the way he says it, so I thought I would share with this with you, just this one time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Mother, the Daughter and the hooker

This sounds like a trashy novel… indeed not, it is the story of my last official job.

My wife’s truck had a busted windshield that I got replaced in January of last year.  I made an appointment with a local glass-replacement centre.

And I do say replacement, since I’ve never ever had a chipped windshield that could be repaired.  How do they come about such nonsense as presumably repairing glass?  In any event, if a business counts 99% replacement and 1% repair, they really should call it glass-replacement.  Anything else is misleading at best, crooked at worse.

The owner of the glass-replacement joint was this really hot looking 30-something babe.  I make no apologies for the term babe, by god she was.  This should have been my first clue that something was amiss.  More on this later.

She had a set of very nice acrylic nails.  Very nice indeed, but I could do better.  I engaged her in conversation.  Small talk first and managed to wrangle my way into suggesting I could do a better job on her nails, without sounding insulting.

She took me up on it, and even allowed as to how she’d just opened a Day Spa in Gatineau the previous November.  I moved in for the kill and got the nail-technician job after giving her a demo a couple of weeks later.  The conditions were simple I’d give 25% of my take to the house, in return for including me in their marketing strategy.  Since I didn’t have an assigned cabin, this seemed like a good trade.  So we shook on it.

I will call her “the Daughter”.  She is the owner of the Day Spa.

It was a small studio, with esthetical services, spa, massages, spray-tan and now manicures, pedicures and false nails!  A nice little joint with 3 private rooms.

The manager of the joint was this early-50-something Mother of the Daughter.  They weren’t twenty years apart.  At first glance, she seemed to have a good head on her shoulders and obviously had been in business for herself in the past.  She was a bit of a battle-axe, but generally quite a nice lady.  She was specialist in emotional-massage therapies, as well as kinesotherapy and regular massages.

I felt more at ease knowing this spa was going to have serious management at the head.  

The last nail-studio I worked at was run by this twenty-year-old Barbie-doll with a 3 size-breast-augmentation-surgery (padded B-cup to DD) on a size-3 body.  She was another gorgeous babe to be sure, but somewhat top-heavy after the surgery.  She was a nice kid, but just that, a kid.  Not a clue to save her life, and utter refusal to listen to anything.  I wish her well.  She’s going to need it.

So this Day Spa had Mother as a general manager and was picking up steam by the time I moved in about March.  In the meantime I took a shift-to-be job at Sitel – which I discuss in another blog.  The job at Sitel was very severely pissing me off so I decided to drop it. So I volunteered myself at the studio as full-time receptionist hoping for walk-ins.

Throughout April and May the walk-ins were few, but given that it was a new studio, I expected as much.  Nevertheless I was generating some business and was determined to stay the course.  

The spa was a century-old house with Daughter living on the second floor, and the entire first floor renovated for studio use.  It sat across a huge parking lot from a posh restaurant by the Gatineau River.  It was a really nice location, plenty of parking obviously, but not very busy for walk-in traffic.  Besides, business success hinges on marketing as well.

The reception area, where I spent most of my time, was heavily decorated with knicks and knacks of all sorts, to be sold.  But it was cosy and pleasant.  It had a rustic appearance with orange and brown trim and chain-lights on the walls gave it a light-hearted and welcoming feel.

The massage studio, was completely enclosed with no windows. It was warm with light brown walls, diminutive decorations and subdued lighting.  The esthetics room was a much lighter and brighter room with one-way privacy windows.  It was a solid yellow, with branches and leaves in a trellis on the ceiling.  There was a wicker princess chair in a corner draped with see-through lace hanging from a light-shower.   Very nouveau-deco.  While not my first choice, it was nevertheless luxurious and functional.  The Spray-booth was basically a huge 3-person ceramic-tile shower.  There was also a spa-bath-tub using up a small room at the back.

There were a few problems with the house, like rotted and cracked foundation.  The electricity for half the house was driven off one dimmer-type switch.  This wreaked havoc with the depilatory wax heater.  Come to think of it, it was a miracle nobody got injured with the sometimes burning-hot wax, before I realized something was wrong and plugged the heater into a decent outlet.

End-May saw some action with Mother’s Day gift certificates and now I was getting excited at the prospect of weddings and especially the graduation parties in June. The Mother and our black Central-African massage therapist were all geared up for father’s day as well.

And then… nothing!

The phone just stopped ringing.  Appointments were becoming a rarity and the only clients coming to see us were the handful of massage regulars.  And even they were diminishing!

At first we suspected something was up with the massage therapist.  She just wasn’t booking clients like the first months she was there.  On occasion, she’d be sitting behind the reception desk and would zone out for minutes on end.  Mother was concerned even more so, since she’d seen her pinching her nipples while zoning out.  I was never witness to this, but I could imagine the spectacle.  

We’ll call her Jay – not her real name.  She was a bible-thumping Jesus freak and a condescending one at that.   As a case in point, I broached a subject I had already talked to Mother about.  

Mother had already made some inroads into the Russian and Jewish communities through some friends of hers.  My contribution could be from, shall we say esoteric, communities.  Mother was all for it.  Any business is good business in her book. Not quite so for Jay.

When I suggested that I had some friends who could make good publicity for us in the alternate lifestyle, Jay just lost it.   No way was this ever going to happen!  These people were ugly, and God subscribes to beauty.  If it’s ugly, it’s unnatural, it is Satan’s doing!  She ranted on for another few minutes.

I just sat there, completely dumbfounded.  I can understand reluctance and refusal, but a 10-minute tirade on how ugly is un-Godly?  I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  It took my every ounce of self-control not to level at her that there were a lot of bible-thumping freaks in white cloaks and pointy hats coupla-100 miles south who would say the same about her!  Stupid bitch.  

No, instead, I just sat there smiling quietly, and thinking: I’ve got your number now, honey.

A week or two later, we were both sitting in the reception area when she hauls off and tells me that someone always loves me.  “What?!?” I say, taken aback.  “Yes” she says “someone will always love you.”  As deadpan as I can muster: “My mom?” “No, no” she replies, “it’s God!”  Fuck and a half.

All throughout March, April and May, there was always a car parked across the parking lot, whether the restaurant was open or not.  It was actually a couple of different cars with different gentlemen in it.  They would stay there for a couple of hours and leave or swap. I was thinking stakeout.   Definitely stakeout.

There was a seedy bar just up the road from us, which wasn’t surprising since this was a seedy part of town.  But when the bar came under complete renovation and the cars were still there, we started to suspect that the stakeout was for us!

Mother had mentioned that cops had been in a few times.  Just dropped in to say hi!!@#? When is the last time a copper says hi just for the hell of it?

I then found out that this house had been previously used alternately as an illegal casino and bordello.  New ownership, but was there a change of activities?  I could see why they showed up.

Back to June and the deadening of appointments.  The only telephone calls we got were from a syndicate-hunter looking to recover some money from Mother’s ex-husband.  Eventually he caught on and started going after Mother, herself, for the misplace money.  I don’t know how many times I covered her ass, or rather that of her ex- with this annoying bastard.  But that’s what good receptionists do.

Finally, Mother had a discussion with Daughter as to the state of affaires with the lack of calls.  This yielded nothing.  I suspected at this point that Mother and Daughter didn’t really get along, or at least were clearly not on the same wavelength.  

Daughter had wrangled a deal on TV for some air-time to market the Spa.  It was short but it was brilliant.  It was a local news segment, for 30 seconds.  It was wonderful grand. Right up until the end, where the voice over said: “welcome to day-spa such-n-such in Gatineau.”  No phone number!  NO NUMBER!


Did I mention a century-old house?  People would drive by after the TV spot, but no one would stop.  I can’t say I blame them.  We just had a small little plaque in guise of road signage, but again with no phone number.  I duct tapped a large piece of cardboard to the front deck with our phone number in large black felt-marker.  To no avail.

After this fiasco, Mother made some more calls to the Daughter’s publicity contacts, only to find out that Daughter did not subscribe to any publicity for June whatsoever.  Furthermore, none for the entire summer!  We were all floored to say the least.

It was too late to pay for our own publicity since the due-date for submissions had passed a week earlier.  Basically, we were completely invisible to the world at large for the next 3 months.  And the TV ad helped not at all obviously.

I got some 6 calls on my cell-phone for graduation appointments, which I directed to my home studio.  I wasn’t about to hand over 25% of my take for this.  It turns out the girls in my neighbourhood did more publicity for me than the Spa did.

I returned after the 3-day graduation blitz to find the Spa just as dead as when I left it.  Even the massages had dropped to zero.   May of 2005 was very sunny, and the Spa had no air-conditioning, so the massage room went from warm and cozy to outright stifling.  The esthetics room was too hot for any kind of waxing or facial service.  We were pushing 40degC in the reception area.  The spray tan was an unholy mess and would run right off the client’s skin with the sweat.

Furthermore, in this kind of heat and humidity, acrylic nails will not set properly, so we demanded of the Daughter that A.C. be installed and pronto.  In lieu of setting up with in-wall A.C. for a paltry 5K$, Daughter got a roll-around air-conditioner for the reception area.  She saved 4200$.  The other rooms would have to fend for themselves at 35+degC.

Needless to say, when you want to get pampered, you don’t want to be sweating like a pig.  As of early July, not even the regulars were coming in any more.  And Daughter was bitching that we weren’t booking!

I left.  I told Mother to call me if I had any requests.  She never did.

Around November, I get a call from Mother.  She had started a new massage and therapy studio and wanted to let me know the address and contact info.  I went for a visit.

The story had now expanded.  The Mother and Daughter got into a fight in September.  Daughter was claiming that Mother owed her some 3 or 4 thousand dollars.  I was already smiling, since I knew full well that Mother had kept all her take.  She had also been manager since November and was never paid a single red cent.  I thought it was fitting that Mother would keep her entire take, since she wasn’t getting paid by the house for any of her manager work.

Upon hearing this the Daughter, all 105lbs of her, decided to assault Mother, at almost a twice the size.  Indeed a losing battle.  Mother decided to sue instead beating the crap out of her daughter.  And there was a witness in tow.

Mother knew that Daughter had registered the Spa under the glass-replacement franchise, to save incorporation money, so she named the concessionaire as co-defendant.  This was a brilliantly evil ploy.  Daughter would stand to lose her franchise if the head-office ever found out.  Mother was banking on an out of court settlement.  I am assuming she won her point if not her money.  I don’t know and I don’t want to ask.

So Daughter decided it was time to cut her losses, shut down and sell.  So she had a jobber throw up a deck to hide the cracked foundation and slapped a for-sale sign on the front lawn.

But just before Daughter closed up shop and threw everyone out, the cops showed up again.  This time they weren’t just dropping by, they were looking for some guy and low and behold, they were looking for Jay.

Why Jay?

It seems she had been trafficking in drugs, possibly as a mule, but definitely a junky.   They were looking for her dealer and pimp.


This was new.  Although looking back on it now, we did suspect some shenanigans but never really had any proof.  A few guys came in looking for special services, which we didn’t offer obviously, and they got scared off when they saw me.  I thought nothing of it at the time.  I did now.

I appeared that Jay was offering mouth and hand services beyond traditional massage therapy.  She was not a therapist at all she was actually a masseuse!  The bitch of it is that she would sign insurance receipts for her services.  Brilliant really.  I don’t have any love lost for insurance companies, but this is a bit much.

The cops were there to haul her ass off to jail.  Of course Jay had not been in the Spa for over a month.  Mother swears up and down she saw her trolling on Pointe-Gatineau, stoned out of her mind.  So she had finally become a full-fledged hooker.

As for the dealer-pimp, he had reported his car stolen, which Mother corrected the nice policeman.  “He drove by not 20 minutes ago.”  He’d been doing this all spring checking up on Jay, we now knew.  We all knew this car very well; it was an old Crown-Victoria beater with a ripped landau top.

I assume that the stolen-car gambit was to somehow get rid of some evidence.  

The nice police officer thanked Mother and was on his way to arrest our bible-thumping hooker.

While I was visiting with Mother, she got a call from the Canadian Massage Therapist Association.  They wanted to know how she would pay for the extra booklet of receipts she ordered.

“But I didn’t order any new receipts, my other booklet is still half-full.” She listened intently on the phone.  “No, no, my address is XX such-n-such street.”  She listened again. “That’s the old address.”  Utter confusion appeared on her face. “Ok thanks.”

“I don’t get it, why the hell would they send me a new booklet I didn’t order and to the old address?”

I sat back and laughed.

Her face grew sombre for a moment and then the lights came on.

“Oh shit… Jay re-ordered one of my booklets…”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Supreme Rules Court Disaster

There has been a major ruling issued by the Supreme Court on responsibility over others.  I do not know the details of the case, and I don’t want to research it just yet.  I don’t want to do a commentary on the case, but rather the discussion of the issue with my friend is what I want to talk about.  

We were in his car going to get some last-minute groceries for my wife who was building one of her usual spectacular suppers.  We had run out of first cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil.  A mouthful to be sure, but apparently it is the healthiest of oils in this class.  I am not going to debate the point.

The subject turned to responsibility, and the fact that society has deemed it necessary to pass personal responsibility onto anyone else but themselves.  The court case was something like “homeowner didn’t prevent his guest, who got drunk, from driving away.”  Some death may have been involved, certainly some mayhem.

As with my rant on the 800-pound-bundle-of-pass-the-buck in Love Thy Selfless – part 1 this just begged for my screaming.

I can understand… well, really I cannot.  I cannot fathom a society where you hold someone else responsible for your own actions.  And yet… that’s exactly what we have here.

The discussion turned to people holding the governments responsible for pretty much everything.  This is a fact we both agreed on – my buddy and I are really in sync.  It is normal and indeed very Canadian to do so.  I’m not saying it is right mind you, I’m just saying it’s normal.

Further speak yielded that government of the past, well, forever really, has systematically taken responsibility away from the good citizen and kept it at bay.  Laws are precisely this: take personal responsibility away to replace it with an absolute guide of conduct.  The person becomes accountable towards the law, and not so much a moral responsibility towards his/her fellow man or woman any more.  

Usually this works pretty decently in a typical society, since the lack of moral imperative of some people is largely at odds with the majority.   Not that laws are going to change this lack of morals, indeed not, but it gives the rest of us a warm fuzzy feeling that we can punish them into submission.  Yeah.  Right.  Anyway…

Jurisprudence is the act of deciding on something unclear as an example to hold in effigy for future, presumably similar, circumstances.

Now, if responsibility is aimed at the law, instead of being humanistic as it should be, then the humanistic side is destroyed in favour of what we comfortably call due process.   In fact, this will yield only one thing: the ever-lasting question of what’s against the law and what ain’t?  Jurisprudence has then replaced the moral imperative, pretty much forever.

So it goes that the homeowner would be responsible for the drunkard, and the drunkard’s potentially deleterious future actions.  In fact, the homeowner would be a criminal whether the drunkard produced mayhem or not!

Luckily jurisprudence was set against it in the end.  Otherwise, imagine the damage?  

“If I let Steve write his blog, I might be committing a crime against humanity, the court could hold me responsible for Steve’s blog because I’m encouraging him by reading it.”  

Sounds kind of insane doesn’t it?  

“If I let Steve drink his scotch, I might be committing a crime against humanity, the courts could hold me responsible for Steve’s drink because I’m encouraging him by providing a glass.”

Does the latter drive the point home better?

The discussion subsided quickly since we were both in agreement, but then a thought sparked as to who in their right-mind would not be in agreement with us on this?

I don’t know about my buddy, but this sent a chill down my spine: The fact that there are at least some people able to debate this point up to the Supreme Court is chilling indeed!