Friday, November 28, 2014

Our Math SUCKS!! A look at NB's Education System

like the Marine's motto “...leave no man behind”

I really hope that a representation of our New Brunswick Teachers provide their thoughts on this article, as I am very aware that I am poorly researched in this topic, however, as our newspaper editorials and government is making all of their opinions public, why can’t I?

This Link does a pretty good job identifying how our middle school math scores are well below the National level.
Almost 32,000 Grade 8 students in New Brunswick took the 90-minute test in the spring of 2010.
Mean scores by province in mathematics
Canadian average
British Columbia
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
New Brunswick students scored an average of 478 compared to the national average of 500. The standard for their grade level was 358.

I firmly believe that Math Scores are the best litmus test on how we are doing across all of programs that our students are taking, as there is no room in math for subjectivity.. right or wrong.. that is all.. Having a national evaluation on History or Social Studies would be near impossible to generate any analysis on how our education program is doing versus other provinces. Therefore, I suggest that we can use our math rating as a general statement on our entire curriculum.

I laughed out loud as I saw the justification from John Grant McLaughlin (a UNB Math Professor) suggesting that our failing grade was a result of socio economic factors, fewer international students (as I guess they are smarter), teachers can’t teach math,  and that our students are not “inspired” by math.

Not inspired?? Show me a middle school student who is inspired – ESPECIALLY about math, and for my extrapolation – education in general. If we have a method to inspire teen angers – I think second to a cure for cancer, the world will be a much better place.

Another common “excuse” is the fact that our children miss a good number of days at school due to weather closures, or Teacher Professional development days. Although this may be frustrating to those parents who see our education as a daycare service, I stand firmly in a belief that if we added two, or even three weeks of education to offset these days.. it would have ZERO impact on the improvement of our provincial standings.

We look at the symptoms, and that is great for a politician.. we can spend millions on addressing the symptoms and get votes, and cut ribbons. We can write articles to the paper complaining about the number of field trips.. we can pay millions to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.. but these efforts, and actions (at massive tax payer expense) have been going on for years – and we continue to have poor education for our children.

So what is the cause? I am positive that it is a complex issue, but I think the fundamental issue is the fact that it is no longer acceptable to let a percentile of our students fail. More than ever, the pace of the curriculum is slowed to a snail’s pace. Our curriculum and expectations are progressively being tailored to the small percentage of the class of students to those experiencing the most difficulty. 

Pace, Content and expectations are targeted and designed for a small number of students, who years ago, would simply fail, and be forced to repeat the year. But now, for the love of god, like the Marines motto “we leave no man behind”, our average and advanced students are slowed to allow ALL to progress.

There is much more to the activity of teaching to the lowest common denominator t than leaving a handful of stellar student  bored and unchallenged - we are setting the bar so low to accommodate the lowest, that the majority of the average students now will strive only to that bar. The average student will achieve only what is expected, and will not find internal motivation to exceed goals that have been set for them. With the goals set only to make sure every student gets a passing grade,  we are setting a level of performance well below what is truly necessary.

The solution? Accept the fact that the children with challenges may be forced to repeat a year, sure this may seem cruel to the handful of children this applies to, but is in not worse to strip the challenge and education of most of our students..

Pick of the pace, raise the bar, and manage the few that are unable to meet the requirements. The world, Universities, Trades will all welcome the fact that our students have been conditioned to reach to bar, to meet challenges, to accept occasional failure. Not a graduating class that believes coasting is an acceptable result. Programming our children that they need only be a bit better performer than the worst performer of the group will not fare well in the fast paced challenging world that they are walking into.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Internet Lynching - Efficient Yes, But Fair?

" some cases, the accused are actually innocent"

With Bill Cosby, Jian Ghomeshi and the two yet un-named Liberal MP’s being the latest of high profile sexual assault allegations, maybe it is time to take the typical Soapbox sideways observation of this media circus.

I have written for several years now, how the internet, although much more than a household word now, has crept into our lives, not only providing endless new applications, and value to near every man woman and child one earth, it has without much fanfare, fundamentally changed us as a society, and crept into, and not always to benefit – who we are, how we behave, and decisions we make.

Would the four people that I referred to in the introduction of this article still be scrutinized in an world without the internet, no social media, no instant multimillion person audience? I would say yes, the traditional media I am sure that these are significant enough public personalities that the accusations against them would be made public. But possibly the life span of the news coverage would be much shorter in duration, and the thousands of “experts, analysts, pundits” would be limited to a select few in covering the story.

I do think the value of the vastness and instantaneous sharing of information is a significant benefit of uncovering unscrupulous law breakers and even more so, of those creating criminal acts relating to sexual assault, as the accusers can see that they are not alone as victims in regards to specific criminals, as well as the anonymity of the internet allows accusers a voice, in the safety of remaining nameless.

Each day, there is a release of a new asshole who has abused women and children, some with public personalities and others, just sick spineless loners that have taken advantage of individuals.

But like anything progressive – this is a double edged sword. As Bill Cosby, Jian Ghomeshi and the two Liberal MP’s, this mass of humanity that is within data reach, has deemed them guilty of all charges. Their careers are destroyed, jobs lost, dragged through the mud. Families destroyed.. Guilty, guilty, guilty. But, with the viral accusations, of dozens, maybe hundreds, and the acceptance of their guilt – where is their right to defend themselves, where is the reliance on evidence, where is the judge and jury.

There has always been, guilty until proven innocent back to the days of drowning witches. Even traditional news has “hung” many a person well before they have had their day in court. It is a flaw we all share of assuming guilt, leaving the onus on the individual to prove his/her innocence. It is a shame but it is true.

With the social media afire with accusations and support for the accusers.. this guilty before proven innocence is outrageous. The speed and breadth of being deemed guilty will thoroughly destroy the defendant almost immediately – financial, professions, social and family destruction.

I think for the guilty – this destruction is a risk and deserved result of committing the crime, and punishes far beyond a few years in prison.


What if, just if, the defendant appears to have enough evidence against him/her, and stands trial. And in some cases, the accused are actually innocent of the crime they are accused of. The result being found (in a courtroom) innocent, changes nothing.. Their lives are still ruined, the public still hold them guilty. Yes, this horrible situation has existed from the beginning of law.. but the damage was localized, the defendant still stood a chance to regain some form of life, by relocating, starting anew. But if, just if Bill Cosby or Jian Ghomeshi or the Liberal MP’s are found innocent.. They will never have opportunity to start anew – they are already being punished and a courtroom is nowhere in sight.

What if you, as a reader of this, was accused of a sexual assault, (or any crime actually) and before you even have your first cup of coffee – your name is associated with a crime – on Facebook, on twitter, in the news. You have accusers who are nameless, and there is no evidence. You are helpless, your job will be in jeopardy, the momentum of accusations grow out of control.. you can defend as much as you wish but you are completely unable to defend against the barrage of accusations against you.. A person or persons who may have a vendetta against you have had you declared guilty.. and you may never have a day in court, as your accusers are anonymous.. a nightmare.

As public personalities continue to be added to the list of alleged scoundrels – maybe a proper trial should be our time to place judgement – not before.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Please Don't Vote

Stay home and please don't vote.

Every election, as the case of our upcoming election, there is talk of voter turn out. We look in disgust at the low percentage of people that take the time to enjoy one of our greatest freedoms, democracy, and the right to vote for representation. Some even suggest that this is not only a right, but a requirement.. even to the extreme of making voting mandatory.
I firmly believe that so many wars have been fought, so many lives have been lost in the worlds history for people to be provided the right to vote and chose their representation - that indeed we are obligated to respect this right and get out and vote.

But, I would like to adjust the phrase of "we have the right to vote", to "we have the obligation to make INFORMED choices and vote"

I suggest that higher percentages of voter turn out, or god forbid, mandatory voting would bastardize the democratic process, and ad genuine risk to the outcomes of such elections. You need only consider the fact you may have paid close attention to all of parties platforms, you have watched debates, you have looks at the costs/benefits of the political promises, you have considered long and short term affects of these promises, and with this information you make a decision to support a party. Behind you is someone that has no idea of any of the information that is readily available, but votes for a party, because his/her family always supports a particular party.. And that persons vote negates yours. I think, if it was public knowledge, within the existing low turnout of what percentage of votes are not based on any fact, or even worse -the "eeny meeny miny moe" voters, we would be disgusted as informed voters,

We can only hope, as the statistics of non-informed voter percentage will never be available, is that those that do go out of their way, leave their homes and stand in line, have enough respect for their time and the election process that they at some level have informed justification for their vote.

So with this understanding, maybe we should be thankful for low voter turnout. As public opinion is that we should have a much higher turnout, I would support that whole heartedly if every voter needed to qualify, or prove their understanding of exactly what and who they are supporting.. although tongue in cheek, maybe a little quiz on each ballot - you get all the answers correct, your vote counts.. if not - it is shredded and not counted.

What could a little quiz look like?
Question #1 - Name all of the party leaders in your district
Question #2 - Name one party platform item for each party
Question #3 - Are you aware of the costs (economic, financial, environmental, social) that must be paid to meet your parties promises

If you are able to answer all of these questions, thank you for voting.
If you are unable to answer all of these questions, get the hell out of here and go home.

So yes, we all have the right to vote. We have the obligation to be informed before doing so.
You do not have the right to negate my vote by ignorance - Stay home and please don't vote.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Anti-Gay, Anti-First Nations, Anti-Feminism... Anti, Anti Anti.

I had a difficult decision to make as I set up my account several years ago when creating this blog. Do I write anonymously or use my real name (and photo)?. It was a challenging decision as expressing ones business, personal and political views can be risky when you associate your name with it. Of course, blogging is not my sole income, and I have a professional persona that I must protect.

I decided, in order to have any credibility to the articles I write, I should be prepared to stand behind them.. Thus my decision to associate my writings openly.

I write so often motivated by our public radio station (CBC), and although I now have a well developed "filter" on how they deliver interviews, news stories and human interest stories, I tongue in cheek think of the old drinking game we had as teenagers was to watch the children's cartoon series "The Smurfs".. which required every time the word "Smurf" was spoken, all participants were to take a drink. Of course the program offered up the word "Smurf" so frequently that the game rarely lasted the duration of the 1/2 hour programme, due to over consumption of alcohol.

How does the "Smurf drinking game" tie to this topic??  "Smurfs" was chosen as the television show, as  the word was used in almost every sentence. Likewise, my regular listening to CBC offers an equally disproportionate reference to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), as well as First Nations, and coming up a close third - Feminism. So, the Adult "CBC Drinking game" could be equally destructive to ones liver, as the Smurf game, if, one were to take a drink every time a reference to LGBT, First Nations or Feminism was made - I think one could take any hour of CBC radio, and easily need assistance in finding ones bed.

If you think I am off base - try it.. any hour, any day.. but be prepared for a nasty hangover.

So, the reaction to your reading this is clearly I don't understand the issues of these minority groups and I am a callous, bigotted, homophobic social outcast.

Well, NOTHING could be further from the truth. I have a great deal of respect for the above mentioned groups, and strive to understand all of the issues surrounding each of these groups.

But, to the point of this article, speaking publicly about any negative aspects of ANY minority is taboo.. or done at the risk of being called a bigot or prejudiced (now there is an antique word). Without exception, these minority groups demand (and deserve) equality and fair representation in the public  realm. Protests, parades, lobby groups public demonstrations are almost solely presented for a demand of equality.

Part of equality within our social system, of course deserves equal treatment of rights, and community acceptance - and again, I feel it necessary to express that I agree and support this status 100%.

However, with this equality, one must also accept scrutiny and challenges as all non-minority groups receive, it should be acceptable to question First Nations spending, natural resources utilization etc, or appropriateness of LGBT parades, etc, or women's rights issues.

But, it is socially and (small p) politically incorrect to challenge any activity of these groups - as well (large P) Political suicide to counter the positions held or presented by these groups.

Questioning a Native Blockade of a major highway is not accepted as a public disturbance, rather questioning the heritage and rights of a First Nations Society. Even this statement I am sure will raise hairs on the neck of teh average reader.. But a non first Nations Blockade is certainly looked on with a different view that a Native one - and is reported on, and justified at a completely different level of acceptance.

So, the deserved equality should be a double edged sword, to obtain the rights and the respect that are deserved, but as an equal, should be willing and publicly accepted to be questioned and challenged.

The cake and eat it too seems to be a fit, where it is Taboo to publicly challenge these groups as equals, yet, equality for all of the rights and freedoms. Equality is a broad state - the good, the bad and the ugly.

My "in jest" suggestion of the "Adult Drinking Game" for CBC listeners, is not a critique of the minority topics that are woven into near every story, rather questioning the balance of this programming.

Next time, before tagging a challenger of a minority activity as an anti-minority bigot.. maybe it is just a step that these groups are actually gaining equality thus the scrutiny that comes with it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How I Failed as a Father... Maybe

"... there are 2 sides to every coin, so lets flip that coin over"

I expect that for every parent suffering from empty nest syndrome has similar thoughts. And I am equally confident that each parent asks themselves similar questions, with a wide variety of internal responses to these questions.

My thoughts always end up hovering about the fact that I am guilty of being a helicopter parent (yes, pun intended). I was totally immersed in my sons educational, social and athletic growth. The school years were spent at the table "helping" with his homework (and now I feel safe to confess, that a good number of times, I was the person receiving his grades, not him. Athletics were a combined effort, I continually packed his equipment for his various sports, I paced the sidelines, and ski hills - just searching for time to sneak him some advice. I was probably the only father that stood at the side of the skateboard park, complimenting him on his manoeuvres, and making sure a helmet was permanently affixed to his head. I think this paints a bit of a picture.

What makes these confessions of being a helicopter parent even more engrained in my retrospection is the increased awareness of the poisons and damage a parent does by over parenting a child. Talk shows, call in shows, social media - all in unanimous believe that we (I) irreparably damaged my child.

It is key, to clear the difference of a helicopter parent, and a parent that suffocates a child. I believe that a parent that refused to let a child leave the yard until they are 16 or makes scenes and sporting events, or completely stifles a child's personality is beyond what so many of us helicopter parents believe, and to be frank, this type of unquestionably unhealthy parenting method is a psychiatric problem and needs professional help. There is a clear line that differentiates a helicopter parent, and a suffocating parent - so I want to be clear that I speak only of the former - the latter is better addressed by professionals.

So based on the accepted belief that we now as a culture are harming our children's maturing by being a helicopter parent. We MUST let our children fail, in order to learn and grow. When our children show up at volleyball without their footwear, then we must let them sit out the game, be punished by the coach - because accepted knowledge is that our children will learn from these mistakes, and learn to be more responsible.

Never in a million years would I allow this scenario to happen, I would jump in the car and race back home to get his volleyball shoes or even run to a sports store to purchase new ones, to ensure that he was able to play in the game.

Again, current belief is when your child forgets his lunch, let him go without that day, as they will remember that, learn from that mistake and never forget it again. Well, I have left work, driven home many times to make sure the forgotten lunch was delivered before lunch time.

The examples of what NOT to do are endless, but basically all the same, let them make mistakes, let them fall down a few times - they will suffer the consequences and learn and become productive, learned adults.

So - with this line of beliefs, I am a complete failure -  I intercepted many, many opportunities for my son to fail, countless actually. So he MUST be scarred and have a adulthood of challenges dealing with the real world ahead of him. Well DAMN IT.

WAIT, maybe it is worth thinking along the lines of "for every action, there is an equal and opposite action".. or simpler yet - there are 2 sides to every coin, so lets flip that coin over.

So as a helicopter parent, one makes every effort for your child to avoid failure.. but what in fact is that also doing? That is at the same time, letting your child experience success. So what is a better influence on a child's raising, doing a school project alone, unassisted and getting a 60%, or having significant input by a parent, and getting a 90% - This is certainly an arguable outcome. But, does the sense of self worth, pride, and accomplishment of a top of the class grade, not stay with the child, and in a generation of low self esteemed children, successes breed success. (this too is an accepted axiom).

So delivering my sons volleyball shoes (or the like) to allow him to participate, feel success, not overrule the accepted failure lessons by sitting on the bench?

A weakness in the "learning by failure" also has a bit of a chink in the logic.. Anyone who have parented, knows for a fact that teenagers or younger, in their self centered world, in fact more frequently than not, do NOT learn from failure - as frustrating as it is as a responsible adult to watch. A forgotten lunch (and resulting hunger pain filled afternoon of school) is far from a guarantee that they will not forget it again. But, with my realizations that being a helicopter parent may offer more pro's than cons - a delivered lunch to school DOES guarantee one thing, you have a well nourished child that is will equipped to be in a learning state of mind, not one with low blood sugar and resulting near zero attention span.

Yes, I am beating this scenario to death - but this logic of embracing success versus learning from failure can be applied in near every case of "helicoptering".

So I feel refreshed in knowing that having my son raised in an environment of self confidence, long lists of successes... and yes, due to my intervention, a short list of failures.. I may not have failed as a father.

Would I do a lot of things differently??? - of course. Is this realization perfect, of course not. But if you are like me, a helicopter parent feeling beat up from all the naysayers.. feel good about creating this positive environment for your child.. They have a long adult hood to experience failures, and learn lessons, but as an adult they are much better equipped emotionally to manage these.. and will have a solid foundation of self confidence from their childhood to rely on.

Time to eat my lunch now - ah DAMN IT - I forgot it.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Plans - Building a Canoe Rack for a Ford Ranger

I was not prepared to drop the big $$ to buy a retail rack for my 2001 Ranger, and the cumbersome heavy wooden rack that I had borrowed finally gave up to rot, I had a few things in mind when I designed and built my rack.. Inexpensive, Easy to Build, Light, Strong and wide enough for 2 full sized canoes - I also wanted the full space of my truck bed available for use, and for it to be easily installed and removed, and NO HOLES drilled in the truck.

I have been using this design now for lugging a VERY heavy 18' Chestnut canoe and Kayak, and it is working extremely well and has met and exceeded all of my design requirements.

ALSO - I have an old truck with an old beat up bed liner, so a scratch or dent in my truck is of no concern if it is a concern for you - read a few of my after thoughts to help avoid any dings on your truck - I can't promise anything, as I have not designed with this issue in mind.

IMPORTANT - ensure that the width and height
will fit your bed post holes
Materials List:

2 - 4x4x8 Pressure Treated 
2 - 2x4x8 Pressure Treated 
2 - 2x4x8 Pressure Treated 
2 - 2x6x10 Pressure Treated 
3 - 2x6x8 Pressure Treated 

8 - 3/8"x4" Hex Head Galvanized Bolts (and nuts)
28 - 3/8" Galvanized Washers
12 - 3/8"x5" Galvanized Carriage Bolts (and nuts)
8 -  3" decking Screws
40 -  1 1/4" wood screws

Make Sure these hangers can be screwed
 in both directions
(some only have tap in metal tabs)

2  - 2x6 Aluminium Joist Hangers 
1 - 4' Pre-drilled Angle Iron

Tools List
Measuring Tape
Hand Saw
Hack Saw (or cutting grinder)
Rotary Saw (or table saw)

3/8" X 5" Carriage Bolt (galvanized)
Screwdriver Bits
Ratchet Set
3/8" Drill Bit
3/4" Spade Bit
Metal file
First Aid Kit 

3/8" x 4" Hex Head Bolt (Galvanized)


Step #1 - Measuring
Measure, measure measure. Measure the post holes in your bed (mine were 1 1/2" x 2"  - this is key when you go buy your angle iron, I was fortunate enough to find 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" pre drilled angle iron. Measure your canoe widths (if you are planning on carrying 2 - I landed on 76" wide, this is also the distance from to outside of my rear-view mirrors, so in tight places, if my mirrors wont touch, then my carrier wont either.
I have not done any research on the placement of post holes, bed widths, lengths and heights on other years of Ranger, so keep this in mind when you are using my measurements - it is worth a double check before you start cutting lumber,

Step #2 - Cutting Angle Iron
With a hacksaw or grinder, cut the angle iron into 4  - 1' pieces, file off the rough edges or get your first aid pack out to bandage up your cut hands. Test fit these in your post holes - you may have to do some filing, or grinding to make a good fit.

Step #3 - Cutting Posts
Cut the 4x4 posts into 4 pieces  - 29" each (these are your carrier posts). Cut both the 2x6x8's down to 76" each (this is the width, or cross members of the carrier and you may want a different width, cut accordingly)

Step #4 - Attaching Rear Post to Carrier
On the end of the 2x6X10 mark a line across the width 1 3/4' in from the butt. From each edge mark a short line (across the line you just marked)  1 1/4" in. These two "X"s are your drill holes to mount to your rear post. I suggest (unless you have a drill press) to position the rear post under the 2x6X10 you just marked and a alight it carefully - use a square. As you only get one chance on this - double check square and alignment before you drill. With a 3/8" bit drill  BOTH HOLES on your "X" marks through both the 2x6x10 and the 4x4 post. I expect your drill is not long enough to get all the way through, so after drilling as far as possible, lift up the 2x6x10 and drill the rest of the way through both holes the 4x4. Stop Drilling when the wood shavings turn to concrete - you are now drilling a hole in your driveway.
On the rear of the 4x4, where the drill hole came through, with a 3/4" bit, drill a countersink hole approx 1/4" deep.
Take 2 Carriage bolts and connect the 2x6x10 and the 4x4. Add as washer and bolt in the countersunk hole and tighten. Do not do final tightening until the angle is confirmed at 90 degrees, and alignment to edges and butt suit your fancy - otherwise, get in your truck and go buy more lumber and try again.

Step #5 - Attaching Front Post to Carrier
Measure the distance from the farthest two edges of your post holes along one side of your cab. So the edge of the hole closest to the tailgate and the edge of the hole that is closest to the cab. (Mine is 65 1/2")On your 2x6x10 that you have just attached the rear post, measure from the butt of that board to the distance you measured from your truck bed post holes. With a square, draw a line across the board at that mark. (this is the edge to edge distance that your posts will be. 
Measure and mark a straight edge 1 3/4" from that line toward the end of the board that has the post already installed. (this will mark the centreline of the 4x4 forward post) as following the same drilling and countersinking process as STEP #4). Again, as STEP #4 bolt the forward post to the 2X6X10.

Step #6 - Notching the Front Lap Joint
At the front end of the 2X6X10, with a square, measure a line 1 1/2" from the end. From the end of the board, down the center (2 3/4") to intersect with the perpendicular line that you just marked. With a handsaw, cut the top notch out of the end of the board. ENSURE that you are cutting the notch out of (what will be) the TOP if the carrier. 

Step #7 - Mounting the First Side
With the angle iron placed in the post holes, place the newly constructed side to align the 4x4 posts into the corner of the angle iron. Make sure the posts are resting on the edge of the truck bed, and that the angle iron is firmly fitted to the 4x4s. With a 3/8" drill, select a hole on the side of the angle iron, and back of the angle iron and drill a hole through the angle iron holes, through the 4x4. Insert a 4" 3/8 Hex Bold through these holes and affix with a washer and nut. Repeat the process with the forward post. You will have to remove the assembled piece off the truck to drill the rear hole in the front post as the truck cab will no allow space to drill.

Step #8 - Building and Mounting the Second Side
Repeat STEP 4 through STEP 7 for the other side of the truck bed. Lay the pieces out before any drilling to ensure that you are placing the 4x4's on the correct side of the 2x6x10.

Step #9 - Attaching Rear Cross Member
Measure outside distance from the outer edges of the 2 rear posts (mine was 58 1/2") inches. Take the width of your rear crossmember (mine being 76" - cut in Step #2). Subtract the outer measurement from the crossmember measurement and divide by 2, then add 1 3/4". 
76" - 58 1/2" = 17 1/2"
17 1/2" divided by 2  = 8 3/4"
8 3/4" + 1 3/4"  = 10 1/2"
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS??? Well, this will be the center marks for the required drilling location to mount the rear cross member centered.
From each end of your cross member, with a square, mark this calculated measurement (10 1/2" in my case) line across the cross member. Next mark a tick 2 " in from each edge along these 2 lines. where these lines intersect drill a 3/8" hole (2 one either end of the cross member).
Using the line marked on each end of the crossmember (with some help) hold the cross member in place connecting the top of the 2 rear posts. Line the marks you made on the crossmember with the CENTER of the 4X4 posts. You may need to apply some pressure on the posts to get these to align, as the sides may not yet be square. With everything square and plumb, insert your 3/8" drill into the holes you just drilled in the cross member, drilling through the 4X4 posts. 
At the rear of the posts, with a 3/4" Spade bit, drill countersink holes as done previous. 
Insert the 4 Carriage Bolts, with washers and nuts and tighten.

Step #10 - Cutting Lap Joint on Front Crossmember
More Math!! To mark where the cut-outs for the front lap joint it is similar to Step 9, so I hope you wrote down all your measurements.
Overall length of crossmember MINUS post outer distance from step #9 (again mine is 58 1/2"), divided by 2.
76" - 58 1/2" = 17 1/2"
17 1/2" divided by 2  = 8 3/4"
From each end of of the crossmember draw a line with your square this measurement in (8 3/4"). From EACH of the lines, measure in (towards the center) 1 1/2" and draw another square line. 
From the edge of the board, mark a line lengthways 2 3/4". This should now have 2 notches marked with dimensions of 1 1/2" W x 2 3/4"D.
With a handsaw, cut the notches to meet the 2 3/4" line, at both ends. With a hammer and chisel, and some care and caution, chisel out the notch. 

Step #11 - Mounting Front Crossmember
Almost done, As per the illustration, this is a simple step. Screw the joist hangers ( with 1 1/4" wood screws) on the ends of the 2X6X10 side members, taking time to ensure that they are aligned to meet the crossmember. 
IMPORTANT - These are to be mounted upside down to their traditional use - this is designed to help support the load on front crossmember.
Slide the front crossmembers into the notched side members. They may need a bit more chisle work to ensure a good fit - DON'T wail on these joints with a sledge hammer to make them fit - split wood would be a major setback at this point.

Step #12 - Cross Supports
I have racked my brain on how to detail the cutting and construction of these - but, for me was a lot of test fitting, adjusting angles, and a few thrown hammers and saws. So I hope that the photograph offers a good amount of direction for you. So my apologies for no measurements or angles detailed below. But here is a brief detail of the trail and error I followed.
Place an uncut 2X4X8 in the location of one of the crossmembers. Mark the angle of the cuts required for top and bottom. (I used a square to extend the angles onto the 2X4). Measure twice and cut once when working with these two angles. 
The good news is that once you have cut the angles to fit exactly how you want one crossmember to fit - the other crossmember is IDENTICAL, and you can use that one as a template for cutting the second one. 
After you have both pieces cut, Tack the two in place  - one will fit perfectly, the other (until you notch out the center joint) will have to be tacked as best as possible in place.
When they are both in place, with a sharp pencil, mark on BOTH 2X4s where they intersect.. you will need these to notch BOTH out for final installation.
Set the cutting blade depth on your rotary saw or table saw to EXACTLY 3/4". Follow the lines that you marked on the 2X4, this will cut though exactly 1/2 of the width of the 2X4. Hopefully by know you see what I am getting at - by cutting both of the 2/4's along your marked lines, you will see how they will fit together. I cut many lines between the 2 edge lines to simplify chiselling out the notched out areas. 
YES - this is a crappy way to explain this step - but one could write a book on this joint alone. 

Step #13 - Installing Cross Supports
FINAL step, and maybe the easiest. With 3" deck screws, attached the crossmembers in front of the 2 front 4x4 posts. The bottom attachments will need to be screwed in at an angle as the cab of the truck is in the way -or if you have help, you can remove the rack from your truck to add these screws. 
Where the joint is at the crossover of the 2 supports - use 1 1/4" wood screws to connect the 2 braces - and do a neater job than I did (see photo of step #12)

Optional Steps
There are a few things that I considered in this design, but at this time decided to pass.
1. Protecting my paint job - It may be worth a try to cover the angle iron with rubber (possibly a section of bicycle tire tube) to reduced the potential of scratching your truck bed post holes.
2. Additional crossmember - as my purpose is to carry a 18' canoe, the 10' span between cross members is fine. But, you may want to consider a 2x4 crossmember just in front of the "X" bracing. Using 2x4 joist hangers would provide a simple mounting and strength solution
3. Keeping the rack from blowing off... I am still considering cutting 4 short pieces of light chain, and attaching quick latches on one end and the other end to the bolt on the angle iron. These 4 short chains could be attached to the tie down mounts in the inner corners of the truck bed. 

I look forward to any comments, improvements or questions.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Our RCMP Loss.... Oh, Canada!

It causes me to wonder -
 what if?

With the recent events of the shooting death of three RCMP members and the wounding of two other officers in Moncton NB, there was a significant rare event that may have gone unnoticed, or maybe better stated, came and went without a true value being placed on it.

The outpouring of such national support for the officers, their families, and the RCMP as a whole was a rare case of genuine emotion. 

We have politics, social issues, wars, environmental protests, etc, that draw large groups of people in support. These always leave me with a question of their motives, and genuine belief of their positions - these other national issues, have thousands of people behind them, and I suggest thousands of motivations for their support - and I extrapolate to suggest that in most of these issues, and that support is self serving and driven by ulterior motives.

But the murder of these RCMP brought people together, and with no statistics, I can only guess many times more people than the special interest groups muster. And this mass of people was a blue moon in my life, thousands upon thousands of people - across all walks of life, offering genuine emotion and non partisan support. This emotion was not only directed to the victims of this crime, but to each other, and the community of Canada at large. 

I am not in any way minimizing the tragedy of the cause of this community closeness, as the catalyst for it was a terrible event, and hope to not be repeated. But I was affected by the resulting tearing down of social and economic walls, and our populous coming together.

It causes me to wonder - what if?

What if, again to divert attention from the cause, but focus on the result, if only once in a while we as Canadians found reason (positive) to come together like this. What we could all achieve as a single minded group of thousands, maybe millions. If just for a day - we all shared that spirit of sharing, caring, taking time from our lives to come together.

So to question - on this day, what could we as a whole accomplish? Fundraising for Cancer? Providing homes for homeless? Clean up our cities? Volunteer? - I don't know, but I do know the day of the funeral, we had a very powerful mass of population all caring about a single topic all at the same time. Unprecedented power to change whatever we would want to.

It is an unspeakable thing that happened that brought about this unprecedented sense of national community, I hope that I am not the only one that noticed that there was a positive side to this. An awe inspiring, encouraging, moment that shows that if we as a nation find good reason, we have a massive potential for improving our country as a whole.

I feel I have even more now to thank our fallen RCMP member for, not only for protecting our communities - but showing up how to be a community.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Executives Dirty Little Secret

"...Skip the idea that all around you are in their underwear..."

I suppose in a way the title I chose for this article is a bit of a misnomer, as the "Dirty Little Secret" applies to all of us, from those just entering the workforce to senior executives (Even Carol Neal - Chief Auditor of the Bank of Montreal confessed to this secret).

But, taking time to admit this dirty little secret is a key step to having confidence in your present role, and assist in moving up the ranks, if this is a part of your career ambition.

We have all attended meetings, either a formal boardroom setting, or a more casual exchange of information with senior staff.. and we have all had that feeling in the pit of our stomach that we are not completely prepared for the discussion, or that we do not know near as much as what is expected of us to know. There is the anxiety of being "discovered" as being less than suited for our present function. We worry that a topic will come up that we need to discuss that we are less than an expert on.

We sit in these meetings, with that grade six feeling of the teacher asking us a question that we do not know the answer to and being embarrassed and chastised by the teacher. We look around the other attendees of the meeting and clearly they are all qualified for their roles, they are a wealth of information and have a complete understanding of the meeting topics.

I have spoken to many peers about this dirty secret, and almost like removing albatrosses from around their necks, each and every one, experiences these same insecurities. In meetings, alone in their office or workplace, at home pondering work or standing in front of a mirror. Men, women, young, old, senior managers to retail cashiers - we all suffer insecurities about the ability to do our jobs to the expectation of the rest of the organization.

This realization is a powerful step in fact of becoming much better at your role, and building confidence in your abilities. Simply put, we all must embrace the fact that if you were truly incompetent, and unprepared to do our jobs we would not be in that job. And a close second for significant realization, is that as you look around that meeting or that boardroom - each and every participant is hiding this dirty secret.

So how does one overcome this insecurity and self doubt - you cant, and you wont.. so don't try. The confidence comes with the acceptance that you are in your role for a reason, it is what you DO know; what you don't know is irrelevant. Of course, excelling at work is being motivated to be constantly learning, to fill those gaps in your ability, but it is human nature to continue to focus on new gaps in our knowledge, and drain our confidence based on those.

We see in our business interactions, leaders, peers that exude confidence and make the most difficult decisions without pause. These people are comfortable in their shortcoming, are motivated to learn what is required to make these decisions, and very often are very forthcoming in vocalizing areas that they are weak in. It is only us, internally, that confessing shortcomings appears as a weakness, When we hear it from others, we don't (or should not) judge them on this.. we just see it as an area that they will "go and find out and return with answers.

In grade school, I expect we all were told when forced with the daunting task of public speaking, to imagine the audience all sitting wearing only their underwear. A truer lesson could not be expressed. Skip the idea that all around you are in their underwear, focus on at that moment they all are listening to your words worried that they themselves do not have the knowledge you have, and lack confidence in their ability to participate. You ARE an expert in the area you speak, or you would not be speaking.

To excel? Embrace your insecurities as human, be confident in what you do know, strive to learn what you don't and never expect you will be an expert of all aspects of your role.. otherwise you will blend into the crowd, and never be looked at for advancement. It is a strong message to speak out loud to your peers or superiors "I don't know, but I will find out:"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Top 20 Stupid Questions

There was a recent study done by somebody somewhere that the most viewed items on the internet (I am assuming other than porn) is "Top Ten Lists". Maybe we can thank David Letterman for that, but regardless, if the study was done, and stated on the internet - than it MUST be true - therefore, as traffic to my site means, ads being clicked, means I make money  - then here is a list I created a couple of years ago that anyone who has ever performed music will relate to, and for those that have watched and interacted with a performer, you too may see some items that you thought were original when speaking with the performer.


Q: Where does the name ``My Other Brother Darryl” (what I call my band) come from?
A: If you have to ask that you are not going to recognize three quarters of my set list.

Q: There is no Jagermeister left, you seem to have had it all, what else would you like to have instead?
A: That’s easy, I will have some Jagermeister

Q: Will you play “Bobby McGee”
A: No

Q: Do you know that you can’t sleep here?
A: Just have the cleaning staff clean around me, thank you

Q: Why do you have so much sound equipment, with just you playing?
A: It make me feel important, and it is nice to know that if the mood strikes I can break every window in a three block radius.

Q: Have you won any awards?
A: I won a “Most Sportsmanlike” trophy for bowling when I was in grade 3

Q: Are you almost done tuning your guitar?
A: Jezuz, I am three songs into my setlist

Q: Can I have $40 for Gas?
A: Go away Lincoln (my son), I am gigging here

Q: Have you seen my freshly opened beer I set on the stage here?
A: Nope

Q: When I asked you for a request an hour ago, you said that you need to remember it and you would play it later
A: I have no idea how to play it, I was just hoping you would have left by now.

Q: What motivates you to get up alone and play all night
A: NB Liquor Commission

Q: You know you missed a chord in that last song
A: Sorry, what song was that... I was daydreaming

Q: May I have your autograph
A: May I have your wallet

Q: How much do you charge?
A: How much you got?

Q: Will you play at a party where there are children present
A: Only if you agree to pay for their therapy later in life

Q: Will you play something by Justin Beiber?

Q: What happens when you forget the words to a song?
A: I read the lips of the crowd

Q: That song did not sound like Pink Floyd you know?
A: Pink Floyd does not sound like me

Q: Can I get up and sing a few songs
A: As long as you don’t mind if I sit down and drink and get paid for it

Q. Do you keep playing when a fight breaks out?
A. Wanna find out?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Magic Money

As we are just wrapping up Tax Season, now might be a good time to take out your T4 and take a peek. You will see two very stomach churning boxes, with painfully large dollar amounts within. Federal Tax and Provincial Tax - and if you can stomach it - add these two numbers together. This total is what (for the sake of this diatribe) is what I will call - MAGIC MONEY.

It is also timely to look at this Magic Money, as it is spring time here in New Brunswick Canada, after a ferocious winter, and spring and winter is a time that Canadians rely heavily of the government for many of the services that we have learned to rely on to help us survive our climate. Such as snow removal from roads and side-walks, door to door mail delivery, road conditions (or poor road conditions) etc. Not for a moment to I suggest that we are accustomed to relying on our "mother government" for so many of the socialist benefits all year round, but seems the freezing and thawing time of year - these issues seem to be more present in the press.

A hot topic as of today is potholes in our roads and highways - everything from on-line competitions, to phone in programs, front page news.. and now drivers calling for the government to pay for vehicle damage as a result of the overstressed roadways.

Now, on the flip side  - our Government also has Magic Money. An endless supply of funds to quell all of the citizens complaints, and those complaints that are vocal enough are quieted with a dispersement to the very few whose voices are the loudest. Minuscule percentages of the populous that have the knack to get recognition of their issues. And for this case, bent tire rims, misaligned steering and other vehicle damage. These few unskilled drivers now demand that the government give them some of their Magic Money to repair their vehicles. What a great system. A outspoken negligent driver, gets his/her car repaired for free - vocal groups call out in celebration for this as of course it is the governments fault that the frost has cause holes in the road. It is Magic Money the government has anyway, so free alignments for all!!

The unions are incredible in accessing this magic money as well.. This winter, they were kind enough to offer a 1-800 number for citizens to call and make complaints about roads that are uncleared or not to the satisfaction of those that live off the beaten trail.. or as freezing rain is still falling this 1-800 lights up with complaints about slippery roads. It is unfortunate that many the gullible believe that this 1-800 paid for and answered by the Union is a selfless act of service that they offer us poor citizens. But as these unions approach the government for more and more, and more of the Magic Money - they have lots of anecdotes and horror stories to back up their demands for a unreasonable share of this Magic Money.

Again, a minority of our citizens become enablers for our provincial government to almost annually flip flop on language immersion programs - each change in policy costing millions - but millions of dollars of Magic Money - so what does it really matter.

City folks ranting about the loss of home mail delivery... a cost that has ballooned beyond the ability to make any fiscal sense whatsoever (again, Unions are the experts in hauling endless buckets of money from the governments bottomless pit of Magic Money)

Well of course - this Government stockpiles of Magic Money is the one and the same Magic Money on your T4 Slip. 

So, as we hear of the bent rim repair because of a pothole, or a car in the ditch because the driver was not capable of driving at safe speeds on a not yet salted road (If we had a sand/plow truck for each and every car on the road, the union and the tiny percentile of complainers would be pleased) and so one.. Just be reminded that it is your money paying for these repairs. You drive attentively, you watch your money, you appreciate how luck we are to have government service. But you, we, work every day to pay directly for these few.

Consider, as you are tempted to complain about anything beyond your own property - that you are paying for your neighbours protests for access to a bilingual ambulance attendant so their life can be saved in their official language.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Business of Morgentaler

It will be virtually impossible to take a look into the effects of the loss of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton NB without wading into the Pro Choice / Pro Life debate, but I hope that I can stand as clear of this debate as possible and suggest a more solution focused approach to this situation.

Yes, I am Pro Choice, so that is out of the way. Do I carry pickets, or preach my believes at social gatherings - nope. I am Pro Choice, and one of the choices of my belief is that I chose not to try to influence or simply care of what others position on abortion is. As personal as the decisions are around abortion, my reasons, my justification (so to speak) are just as personal. Kinda wish both side of the debate had this philosophy.

OK - nuff on that.

With the recent closure of the only abortion clinic in Atlantic Canada we are now in a bit of a dilemma. Abortion is legal, and if deemed medically necessary by TWO physicians - abortion is available in the safety of state of the art medical institutes and paid for by our Medicare system. Previous to the closure, Abortions were available at Morgentaler's Private Clinic for $700 - $850 (depending how far along the pregnancy is)

Aside from the moral endless debates - this seemed a pretty good solution. Non approving taxpayers were not burdened with financing non-medical related abortions, and medically necessary (with approval checks by 2 doctors), were treated like any other necessary medical procedure and paid for from public coffers.

I suggest that a out of pocket cost of up to $850 was a pretty solid deterrent for being completely oblivious to the chance of unwanted pregnancies - a box of condoms, or other forms of birth control comparably are a much cheaper and less uncomfortable option. But, for those cases that a pregnancy is unexpected or unwanted, the cost was not beyond reach for young couples, but would certainly be a financial punishment for being irresponsible.

I will not address the availability of the 2 doctor approved medical availability of abortions as that has checks and balances and is unchanged before and after the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic.

So where are we now? The only option for private abortions is a trip to Montreal - which now upsets the balance of reasonable financial pain, to encourage responsible birth control. It now becomes so cost prohibitive that several unsavoury consequences may be in the works. Self administered abortions are not unheard of for desperate couples, desperation for finding the money to now afford a trip to Montreal that could run well beyond the financial means of young couples. Or (yes this is debatable) the fact that couples will have babies that they do not want, and are not mentally, financially or mature enough to raise. Yes, Adoption is an option.. that unfortunately looks much better on paper than actually applies in real life - but I will leave that for another article some day.

My interest in this situation is one of economics.. a service that is legal, and required, is artificially overpriced by the now cost of travel.. that is will have significant ripple effects on the health and well being of young couples. So what is the solution??

Clearly the clinic was not financially viable to remain in business (like any other business), so how can that be resolved? An interesting business challenge.. not a simple supply and demand as it is so influenced by others that do not agree with the service, it is not a luxury that can simply find a price that the business can exist profitably, as there are couples entire lives at stake.

In situations that a (health and wellness) product or service must exist at such a high cost to maintain the providing business, our socialist (small "s") government typically steps in to make it available to all levels of financial status. But, and I respect the Pro Lifers on this, they do not want their tax dollars spent on providing a services that they are so morally opposed to.

Yet to add to the challenge, to reduce cost to to patients, again, supply demand would require a higher volume of business, which, whatever side of the fence you stand on this debate - is not a positive option.

As far as I can determine, (and I look forward to being corrected) - a clinic with a reasonable priced service, must be subsidized by an outside investor. Which should not be the government, It would required a clear understanding of the required, reasonable profit margins to operate this clinic, determine the shortfall of revenue based on historical traffic - and find funding to augment the shortfall.

Maybe the Pro Choice group would be better served by organizing and fulfilling this financial shortfall to make safe abortions available, and spend less time screaming at Pro Lifers and attending rallies. As Pro Lifer's make lots of noise - Pro Choicer's can quietly go about their business of raising money, and making local couples indeed have a choice.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Buy Local - Not Rubber Lobsters

"...phenomenon called the 'Briefcase Syndrome' - it is an unfounded and almost laughable belief..."

So much has been touted about supporting local business, but it appears that this whole movement has us conditioned in thinking if we purchase a rubber lobster at a mom and pop souvenir shop that we have done our part. Or picking up a jar of strawberry jam at the local market is what all the hoopla is about. 

I do my best in my writing to keep my professional career out of my editorials, and I will do my best to keep my thoughts as generic as possible.. but I am near at the END OF MY ROPE with the hypocrisy of Provincial Governments and Large Privately owned local businesses.

Large Businesses - I don't think I need to name them, but my disappointment is focused on those multinational employers of thousands of people that have germinated from New Brunswick family enterprises into world leaders. I wont bother googling and putting links up here of endless press releases from their owners, leaders of "being proud to be a New Brunswick (or Atlantic) business", and the value they hold on being a local business. The pride of the people that helped them grow to world industrial leaders. How they tout government (and utility) grants and discounts under the flag of being a New Brunswick Company. They ask for our support and understanding as they steer local political directions. 

Provincial Government - We (as it really is our money) pay millions on retaining our local workers, grow tourism, "buy local" campaigns.. Millions and Millions of our dollars are spend annually based on the pride we have to live and work in New Brunswick.

All good right? Well, simply put, these folks standing making speeches (for both private and public enterprise) CLEARLY do not speak to the actual decision makers in their own organizations. Or, and hopefully this is not the case, have set a mandate to those decision makers inside their organizations to disregard all of their wordage and philosophy on supporting New Brunswick.

I work in a business that started with 3 entrepreneurs that ran the risk and went on their own into a very competitive market. A true success story - and now exists as a healthy Mid Sized Organization. Virtually every dollar of profit, is either spent or reinvested in New Brunswick.

I (in my line of business) count on business from these above mentioned Private and Public Clients. A New Brunswick company - offering goods and services to organizations that very loudly proclaim supporting New Brunswick Business. Seems a pretty good model. But it is a severely broken model.

NEVER would I suggest that ANY organization when selecting vendors for good and services, even consider choosing a vendor that is more expensive or in any way a lesser quality - as business is business and I cannot support that fact strong enough. I am not in the least bit irked when we are provided an opportunity to do business with the our New Brunswick customers, and for ANY reason are not the best pricing or the best quality. That is a free market and the way it should be.

HOWEVER, almost weekly I am made aware of contracts being signed, purchases being made, services being procured from the government or these Local Enterprises that we were not even invited to show our wares, provide a price, detail or offerings. And although difficult to gain access to the nature of these awards - on the occasion that I do find details, we can offer a much less expensive and higher quality product. But we were never invited to even be aware of the opportunity. I could even sleep at night if these awards were made to other New Brunswick grown companies.. But almost without exception they are awarded to US based vendors, or Central Canadian Vendors. 

HOW, HOW, HOW can these back room procurements of good and services be awarded endlessly by both Private and Public Enterprises without even making the slightest of efforts of considering a local vendor as a viable option. Again - not for a second am I suggesting favourable treatment.. I am suggesting that local companies are at the very least invited to state their offerings and costing.. If we cant compete, we cant compete - that is fair ball.. BUT PLEASE let us compete,

To listen or watch a CEO make a tear jerking presentation on how proud they and their family are to be New Brunswickers, and at that exact moment back in their corporate offices - procurements are being made from foreign suppliers, without providing any opportunity for local companies to even bid. 

I have (not to be too specific) worked for months making Public Sector Decision makers aware of lines of business that are available a 5 minute drive away from their offices.. Only to find out at a later date that they awarded a contract of the exact lines of business from a US based company without even making me aware that they were making the purchase. This is not a single occurrence -this is habitual.. and 180 degrees counter to what our elected officials are saying about supporting New Brunswick Businesses. 

THE QUESTION: Why do these purchases for goods and services get negotiated and awarded to foreign vendors. Primarily because of a phenomenon called the "Briefcase Syndrome" - it is an unfounded and almost laughable belief, that if good or services come from a bigger business hub (Toronto/New York/Japan etc) then they MUST be better. If a consultant gets off a plane, carrying his briefcase, then he is clearly more skilled and knowledgeable that a consultant that you may run across buying groceries at your local store. THUS, clearly if you want the best - then you better have the best come in from the airport. 

This belief as ridiculous as it is, is engrained in our government, and local multinationals. How would it ever be possible that New Brunswicker have same or better skills than someone from New York? So therefore our Industrialists born and raised in New Brunswick have no other choice than not even consider a New Brunswick business to do business with, and not even inviting them to the table... but my sarcasm is wearing to read so I will stop.

So what is there to do - I think reluctantly we need to let our Government and Large Enterprises continue with their hypocrisy, and begin to personally act on this. When we in our professional roles require good or services, certainly shop the International Vendors, but source a locally owned business and provide them an opportunity to compete. They may or may not be able to  - but providing them the chance is all that is needed. I would suggest, that as a local business, with a much more limited geographical base with provide much superior commitment behind their products - and a company who appreciates your business with almost always offer the most aggressive pricing and attention to detail. Give it a try. I do.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Olympic Experience

"I no longer chuckle at the less than perfect performances of these athletes - I hold them in the highest regard of all"

It is typical in human nature I suppose that after the excitement of a moment in time, that excitement quickly passes and we move back to our mundane, routine lives. As I think is the case of the Sochi Olympics. It was only mere days ago that offices shut down, bars opened at ungodly morning hours and Liquor laws were even changed.. It was a proud time to be a Canadian to watch our hockey teams march to gold.

These Olympics were different for me. I did feel an unusual pride in being Canadian, and I am not generally a a flag waver, but I think it is because I watched as many of the events in a much different light.

My son, had a budding career, that was cut far too short, as an Alpine Ski Racer. I brag far too often on his successes and accomplishments, and in retrospect, probably had a bit of Hockey Dad syndrome. Financially I was unable to allow him the training, the travelling, the coaching that was required to continue on past the already very high level he was competing at. A regret that I will carry to my grave. But, even with his career cut short, I was witness to a great deal about elite sporting commitments that are required to be in the game, and I also was witness to pure love of the sport by him and his comparators at all levels,

We watch sporting events, and watch the leaders as the approach the finish line to win one of the 3 medals, listening to snippets of commentary of the background of the athletes, and even on a rarer occasion hear mention of the training regime that gets these athletes to the pinnacle of sporting events. But often these comments are just the necessary background chatter of commentators, and we never pause to really consider what it takes just to make it to the Olympics. We even (or I have before my enlightened realization) would chuckle at that poor bastard that came in last place.. "man he sucks and how did he ever get in this event."

I watched my son, EVERY night, immediately after school, without prompting and more frequently secretly, disappear down to the basement to do stretching, and muscle building. A backpack stuffed with books and a camping water carrier filled to the brim stuffed  in a backpack for weight as he did endless push-ups. An exercise bike jammed in a corner beside his ski tuning bench in a cramped unfinished basement space to work on endurance. Home made weight sets to tone his muscles. A daily routine, hours in the basement, then back upstairs to finish the night doing homework. Home made starting gates were built in the back yard to work on saving thousands of a second on his starts - back and forth, back and forth. Weekends spent training on the ski hill. Finding that balance of social enjoyment and unyielding focus often times working on something at the same time he was fulfilling the requests from the coaching from the group.

High School was simply an effort of catching up on missed work and then leaving school for another week for another trip - always in a state of catching up or preparing to be away. Often up to 8 weeks was spent away from the classrooms of his Junior and High School Education. Weeks on the road travelling, racing, were even more strenuous, Filling a day with morning warm ups, competition, hours tuning and waxing his skis and then head in his school work, and one final work out for the day. Then to start all over again at 5:30am the next morning.

Was my son special - no, he was a committed athlete that made tremendous sacrifices to his sport. Like EVERY athlete in the Olympics. From the gold medallist, to the sorry dude who comes in dead last. Each and every athlete ever seen on TV has made this commitment (and much more I assure you to be present at the Olympics).

But, I watched these Olympics with something more significant than the above preamble in mind. Being a spectator of a sport such as Alpine Ski Racing from when the kids were less than 10 years old, to competition that had no age limits, I often shared the sidelines with parents of children that will never feel the reward of stating atop of the podium. These competitors also had the commitment, braved the ridiculously cold windy days wearing nothing but a helmet, and a one piece nylon racing suit. These competitors shared the work ethic and desire of podium dwellers, but knew deep in their hearts that winning will never be in the cards. One may even suggest that these are the true champions. Just imagine for a second, giving your whole life (socially, financially, physically etc) to a sport, knowing as you are pushing your self to the brink of exhaustion in a training workout, that you will never win.

What emotional and mental strength these athletes must have. No TV interviews, no press - just alone as they tear the safety fencing down knowing that they had an incredible performance of their own, and that alone providing enough motivation to start training the next morning at 5:30am in the freezing cold.

What makes the podium dwellers and last place finishers different, I have no idea, but I suspect what keeps them going, continuing in the sport and all of the associated sacrifices is very different. I no longer chuckle at the less than perfect performances of these athletes - I hold them in the highest regard of all.