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Vancouver 2010: The Good, The Bad; The Olympics.

February 13, 2010 7 comments

 

From the 2:30 mark, “The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing that the 21st Olympic games in 2010 are awarded to the city of….(dramatic pause)….Vancouver.”

I still remember ducking out of my hated construction labor job for 20 minutes in July of 2003; strategically hiding from my boss, taking refuge in my car which I parked out of plain view, reclining the seat and turning up the radio to hear the announcement being broadcast on a local station.  My hair stood straight up and chills ran down my spine when IOC President Jacques Rogge finally said “Vancouver.”  Unfortunately I had to go back to hating my job and life prompty after that, but they were 20 minutes I’ll never forget.  I still get those same chills even when I remember back to it now.  For seven years, I’ve been excited for Vancouver, and Canada, to host these winter Olympics.  I know I’m not the only one either.

An event like the Olympics effects not only one entire nation, but the entire world.  Anytime things of that magnitude occur, opposition naturally follows.  And that’s part of the beauty of our democratic societies; that we allow free speech, and people have the right to balk at things they believe are worth standing against.  Are there bad things that will come out of Canada hosting the games?  Surely.  The $500 million+ dollars pumped into these games could’ve been spent a lot of other ways; especially amongst a recovering economic recession.  Would we have ended homelessness in our country with that money?  Tough to say.  Were we not careful enough with the environment when constructing facilities?  Did we not represent the Indigenous people of Canada, and our other cultural origins correctly?  Did we go overboard on security in an attempt to keep terrorism and other threats to peace out of the picture?  Are there another 100 things that were not done to the liking of our 30 million residents?  Probably.  Is anyone actually making the case that we did things perfect?  Not likely.  Sometimes athletes cheat, sometimes there’s corruption in the IOC.  Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t.  Some countries get more money to train, and some have to just make due.  Personally, I don’t like the fact that our politicans and corporate sponsors ALL managed to get prime tickets to ALL the events, and the public was subject to an inane online lottery system.  Oh, and that some of those tickets cost $1000 or more.  Athletes get hurt, and probably more unfortunate than anything else, sometimes athletes are fatally injured; as in the case of Georgian Luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili.  So yeah, there’s a lot of imperfect things that the Olympics bring.

But can we think positively for at least 2 weeks?  If anyone who watched the opening ceremonies that saw the 60,000 Canadians packed into BC Place draped in red and white, waving the Maple Leaf, and resounding in excitement, thinks that Canadians aren’t pleased as punch to be hosting these games, well they couldn’t be more wrong.  For every stick in the mud, there’s an entire tree full of green, growing branches, reaching for the sky and enjoying their time in the sun.  And that’s exactly what Canada has before it; 2+ weeks to shine in international light.

Canadians love sport, and we love our athletes that compete for us as well.  The thing about athletics is it has the ability to transcend even the thickest cultural and international disagreements in the name of sportsmanlike competition.  If you need any proof of that, look at the nations of Iran and North Korea; absolutely scorned by the Western world as being on the brink of nuclear war with us.  But through all that justified tension, North Korea has sent a speed-skater, and Iran’s sent 2 skiers to compete in the Games; and to, if only briefly, join and be welcomed by the international community.  Even Israel and Lebanon will put aside differences to be a part of the Olympiad.  That’s powerful stuff.

Look at Ghana, Ethiopia, Nepal, and other impoverished countries that may or may not even see a flake of snow in their countries, but come to the Games with the support of their governments and train between full-time jobs to earn spots on their national rosters to compete because they believe that the Olympics are worth the effort and sacrifice necessary to get to them.  And really, that’s exactly what the Olympics are all about in their purest form; the best amateur athletes in the world, putting aside barriers, competing cleanly, for their country, to showcase the best that their human abilities have to offer in terms of their unique sport.

The thing is, there’s so much good to be harvested out of such a criticized event.  We ran a little flicker of a flame from Greece, around the entire planet, and through the streets and neighborhoods of nearly every city in our own country.  In Kelowna, we had a kid with cancer cut out a few days of his chemotherapy treatments so he could be a local torchbearer.  Many similarly touching stories laced our national torch relay as well.

We’ve come together as 6 continents to show that there’s at least one thing we can all be civil and peaceful about, if only for a short time.  The world of sport blends together with art and culture to put on a show unlike any other.  Our troops fighting for our freedom overseas gather around a TV, dressed in Canada clothing and sipping Tim Hortons’ coffee to watch the proceedings of Canadian icons Rick Hansen, Nancy Green, Betty Fox, Wayne Gretzky, and others completing the Olympic opening ceremonies.  We bought pairs of red mittens, various apparel, grocery items, and pretty well anything we could get our hands on that we either knew would support Canadian athletes financially, or just emblazoned “Canada” on them to show our support.

So, through all the things there are to protest against, there are plenty of others that Canadians are rightfully excited about.  How bananas are we going to all go when a Canadian wins our first gold medal that we’ve ever won on home soil?  Our when our hockey team(s) (hopefully) strike gold as well?  Between the Olympics and Paralympics, it’s going to be an exciting few weeks, and a historical moment for our country.  I hope you choose to enjoy them with the rest of us.  Go Canada go!

Stuff That Sucks 2: More Pictures Worth 500 Words.

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment
acme final

customerus stupidus

I was in the Safeway on the corner of Richter and Bernard in Kelowna the other day when I noticed, conspicuously placed on the bottom of the doors was the above sticker, notifying those who saw it that the store was being monitored by  Acme Protection Systems, Ltd.  My immediate thought was, of course, HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING FROM WILE E COYOTE? Why do people continue to buy products from people dumb enough to name their company after people who supplied a cartoon Coyote with ineffective, often defective, and always deadly products for catching a roadrunner?  Why would you, as a business owner who could choose any name in the world, want that stigma attached to your products?  Is it worth the nostalgic reference?  I can just hear the Safeway manager saying to himself, “You know, the company I want to trust the millions of dollars worth of product and property in this store can only be safe in a company called Acme.  That makes sense to me.  Let me get my name on this contract right away.

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The Marketplace IGA in Glenmore recently supplied me with evidence of the

102220091743

the final showdown.

engagement of one of most epic battles of our time.  Yes folks, the people at General Mills have taken their flagship product of Cheerios into head-on warfare with Toucan Sam and his mighty Froot Loops.  Apparently, the Honey-Nut, Multi-Grain, Frosted, Apple Cinnamon, Yogurt Burst, Berry Burst, Oat Cluster Crunch, and Banana Nut Cheerios varieties have not been able to corner the market on the very lucrative colored-circle-shape-cereal gravy train that ever lovable/possibly high (have you noticed how much sniffing he does? Always following that nose of his…) tropical bird king of Kellogg’s has monopolized for so long.  Just you wait for the unauthorized biographies and movie rights from this one…

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washroom cups

thirsty?

Kelowna’s Capri Centre Mall recently supplied me with this gem in the men’s washroom.  Yes, you are seeing it right, there is a paper cup dispenser IN THIS VERY PUBLIC WASHROOM.  Apparently so many people were running in, cupping their hands under the tap, trying to corral a mouthful, that the big-wigs that make the big decisions around there decided to put a stop to the whole thing.  Instead of installing, say, a drinking fountain, this must have been the next logical cost-cutting step.  I knew there was some reason those guys were in charge…

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And last but clearly not least, Calgary’s Centennial Arenas, home of my sworn enemy Mt. Royal Cougars, has been working ever so diligently to install a new wheelchair ramp to improve the arena’s disabled accessibility.  At completion, the ramp will allow disabled spectators to enter the arena without having to navigate the stairs– they just have to figure out a way over the brick wall at the end of the ramp.

wheelchair ramp FAIL

“Aces & Asses” Volume 3: All Ass Edition.

October 29, 2009 2 comments

This edition features a double dip of despicable.

Recently, my friend Jeff (http://jeff-bourne.webs.com/) had an accident in his wheelchair that lead to an infection in his toes so bad that they needed to be amputated (I’m just going to sum up the story; for a more detailed account of the ordeal, click here: http://www.jtbourne.com/jeffs-ordeal/ ).  So Jeff took it like a man, and entered surgery for the procedure that removed the pinky, ring, and middle toes of his left foot, in hopes of not having to remove his entire foot due to a spreading infection.  The amputation occurred, but Jeff’s body struggled to adapt; he lost nearly 2 litres of blood, began seizuring, and quite soberingly, almost died.  Thankfully he came around, and is recovering now.

Now, here’s the Ass part.  Jeff had a backpack on the back of his wheelchair.  Inside the bag was a laptop; a great hospital time-passer.  Sometime between the initial amputation, room changes, and the life recovery episode, Jeff’s bag went missing. It was later recovered—minus the laptop.  Some jackass (speculatively a drug user looking for pawn collateral) walked into the hospital, and stole the laptop of a man in a wheelchair who was undergoing an amputation, and a life-saving episode.  Is this maybe the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever heard? 

We’ve since learned that Kelowna General Hospital will write it off as an insurance claim, and get Jeff a new computer.  Tip of the cap, KGH.

I don’t wish harm upon many people, but I can think of a few laws I would like to break if I ever ran into the culprit.

                                                                *************

Some people don’t believe in monogamy, and that is their choice.  But some people take this right to opinion a little too far, in my opinion.  I’ve been married for over 2 years now, and I believe marriage to be the definition of love, trust, and commitment between a man and a woman.

The people at the Ashley Madison Agency have created a service that facilitates extra-marital affairs.  Basically a dating site for married people.  You may have seen the ads on TV, or heard them on the radio.  One of their taglines is, “Life is Short.  Have an Affair.” They also offer a 100% money back affair guarantee, bordering the whole service on prostitution.

   I don’t feel like promoting traffic to their website, so I won’t even post a link, but this is all for real.  Oprah, Larry King, Fox News, CNN,Ellen, Dr.Phil, Howard Stern and others have all ran stories on it.  A YouTube search will show you Ashley Madision President and CEO Noel Biderman, a married man and father of two, being lit up by hosts and studio audiences all over the country while trying to justify his service and stance.

Whatever Mr. Biderman uses as a smoke-screen, this is a despicable service.  It promotes infidelity in the hopes that sleeping with someone besides your spouse will provide the happiness in your life that you’ve been missing.  Not only is this an abomination, it’s a flat out lie.  Somehow their guaranteed level of “discreet” will make sure the fallout of families, psychological impact on childen, divorce implications, and every other facet that is attached to cheating on your spouse, will somehow not be an issue. 

These people are making money in one of the most shameless methods I’ve heard to date.  Why don’t terrorists go after these kinds of people (I’m not promoting terrorism)?

A Comic’s Life: The Hustle and the Heckle.

October 24, 2009 7 comments

Over the last few summers, my buddy Justin Bourne and I (www.jtbourne.com) took a liking to our budding local stand-up comedy scene that a local pub in Kelowna had initiated.  What started as a night of amateur-hour at best, slowly migrated into a stop on the Yuk Yuk’s tour, a stage with its own faux-brick wall, and appearances by some top notch talent that has appeared on various TV shows.  After nearly memorizing Jerry Seinfeld’s “I’m Telling You For The Last Time,” and various other comics’ material, we had basically proclaimed ourselves connoisseurs of stand-up comedy; knowing what’s good, and what’s worth changing the channel in hopes of better entertainment.    

It’s always been so hit and miss; between the opening act and the “headliner” (in a few instances, the opener should have been the headliner), you never really know what you’ll get Forrest Gump’ed at you.  One night, both acts could be comedic gold, the next night one might leave the unnecessary sexual material in overdrive (male and female performers alike), and the next would have to clean up the mess, and some nights, both just stink.  It’s incredible how often a comedian will sense that his clean material isn’t working, and will auto-pilot into his dirty stuff as a failsafe, because it’s the lowest common denominator will get some sort of reaction.    

Despite all the variables however, there is always one constant that can always be counted on.  Every single time you show up at a stand-up comedy act, there will always, without fail, be that guy…that one guy—drunk enough that he’s been cut-off by the wait-staff–that insists on heckling, shouting incoherent and irreverent comments that inspire a chorus of “SHUT UP!!” ‘s from everyone trying to enjoy the show.  It’s incredible to try and understand what’s going through the mind of a person whose brain is telling them the smartest and funniest thing they could do at that moment is to shout the name of the comedian loudly, or offer a few inappropriate and off-topic words (not full sentences or coherent thoughts, just a few assorted words) at that moment in time.  Sometimes you’ll even hear an attempt at a joke similar to one that the comedian has already told that night; only this version does not get over in the least, and the amateur funny-man gets lit up like a Christmas tree by the one that’s actually being paid to tell jokes. 

The comedian’s ability to deal with the hecklers is nothing short of amazing.  I can’t recall seeing a comedian crumble under the onslaught of idiotics.  It’s always deflected rather impressively; and the heckler quickly becomes the heckled (only this time, the comedian has the whole audience on his or her side).  Think you could do this at your job, when a customer complains about your service?

There also always ends up being one audience member that ends up as indirect target of offence.  To avoid this, never, EVER, under any circumstances, should you ever put up your hand or offer a response to a question that a comedian is looking for one person to answer.  Trust me on this one, it is only a gateway to your own embarrassment.  As tempting as it might be to inform the talent about anything regarding yourself, keep in mind, it’s all being stored as ammunition against you.  You’ve been warned.  Further, never sit in the front row either; keep a comfortable viewing distance.  It’s for your own good. 

I’ve come to respect the comedian greatly.  If you haven’t, consider some of the factors with me.  According to

my friend, Jeff Dye, doin' it big.

my friend, Jeff Dye, doin' it big.

 Seinfeld (I’m sure there’s some actual research for this), most people are more afraid of speaking in public than of death; meaning they’d rather be dead in a casket than giving a eulogy at a funeral.  I know everyone thinks they can tell a few good jokes here and there, but to lace together a solid set of material that any generic audience will respond to positively, and have it last around an hour is pretty daunting when you think about it.  I’m sure most comedians could tell you more than one story of nights they thought that they had been booked at a cricket convention.  The time, effort, successes and failures accumulated and required over the years would likely break most people. 

You’ll never hear an up-and-coming comedian brag about how much money they’re making either.  They’re out there, night after night, small-town after small-town, telling their jokes about the last city they were in that the current city hates, peddling their merchandise… I respect the hustle.  They’re (usually) doing it because they love to perform.  Getting the kind of passion in a performance that is driven from “love of the game” is worth the $10 cover and my applause any night.

F You, Jenny Craig: The Fatburger Food Fiasco.

October 21, 2009 10 comments

All of us North Americans got the memo a few years ago that we’re facing an obesity epidemic.  So between the Atkins’ diets, wraps, smoothies, yoga, sushi, pilates, weight-loss based reality shows, low-cal, low-carb, and all the other health fads we could steal adopt from other countries, we’ve made a valiant effort to “shape up.”

It’s natural for new businesses to pop up in cities.  But one recent addition to the restaurant barrage my hometown of Kelowna seems to fit into the healthy lifestyle landscape like the one thing that was different in the “One of these things is not like the other” Sesame Street song.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZIvgQ9ik48

100120091432

Yes, the newly city approved and built food dispenser is none other than “Fatburger.”

I mean, come on. For one, give yourself a chance; and for the other, help us out.  In name alone, I don’t see how this restaurant chain can survive.  Until I noticed this:

 fatburger beer

There’s not a salad in sight, 1200 calorie shakes, and burgers that look so terrible on the nutritional sheet that they’re probably the best in town.  (Nutrition Info: http://www.fatburger.com/menu/Nutrition_Facts.pdf) Oh, and they also serve beer.  The one element that has eluded the fast-food industry for so long has finally come to fruition at Fatburger.  Beer and Burgers?  This place might have a chance after all…

100120091434

I guess if you’re the kind of person who has given up on diets and flipped the bird to exercise, then you may have found your haven.  This place is a Weight Watchers Cheat Day disaster den.  And with people like Magic Johnson, Pharrell, and our old friend Kanye West backing the chain, it looks like Lovie Yancey’s (founder, lived to be 92, somehow) eatery lovechild (along with all the other chains, mind you) will continue to trip up all the people making an honest effort to eat healthier.

I figure writing about this place probably means I have to go eat there, at least once (market research, right?).  Has anyone else eaten there before?

FatBurger

H-O-V? Not for Me: The Ongoing Ordeal that is Kelowna Traffic.

September 21, 2009 1 comment

My hometown of Kelowna, BC has decided to adopt HOVHOV_lane (High Occupancy Vehicle) Lanes, aka carpool lanes. It’s the stupidest idea our local government has come up with in a long time.

On paper, in an ideal environment, HOV Lanes are a good idea. They
promote carpooling, which theoretically sees less cars on the road, which theoretically leads to less traffic congestion and less pollution. I get that. It’s a great idea. On paper.

It works in big cities like Vancouver; they’ve got a zillion highways for an equal amount of residents, and plenty of places to divert traffic to. Kelowna simply does not have the extra space on its ONE main highway to allow only a select group of people to occupy 1/3 of the traffic space, not to mention in the area of the highest traffic volume in the city. If we had a 4 or 5 lane freeway complete with exit ramps, this might work, but we only have 3 lanes with normal traffic-light controlled intersection turn-offs. Every HOV Lane I’ve ever seen is located in the far left lane; Kelowna decided that the far right lane was the best option. This forces drivers to make potentially dangerous lane changes into the HOV lane to make right turns before crossing through an intersection, amidst the absurdly short distances between our lights.

Citizens watched, waited, and anticipated all summer while construction crews built an additional lane onto Highway 97. Everyone believed there was relief in sight for the gridlock traffic that resides on Harvey Avenue. I have not encountered one person in the city yet who was happy when they heard, “Suprise! Only some of you get to use the extra space! And if you dare use it without having people in your car, or you’re not a bus or semi, we’re going to give you a ticket! Oh, and also, we’re introducing a new tax called the HST! Enjoy!”

Everyone who gets up early to go to work on their own, who doesn’t live anywhere near anyone else who they work with, and lives too far away from their place of employment to bike, and doesn’t have a bus system near them better leave some extra time in the morning to get to work. Wait, that’s pretty much everyone in the city? Oh. Better get to bed early tonight then. Like I said, it’s a good idea on paper, but our city simply isn’t accessible enough by means other than our cars to allow for such drastic changes in our commuting schedules.

HOV_lane 2A problem once easily fixed by a simple lane change now becomes an 8 block headache if you’re driving alone. Sweet.

Another feather in the cap of the cluster**** that is Kelowna infrastructure and traffic. They better not use taxpayer money to buy the staggering amount of paint thinner they’re going to need to take the white paint out of that lane in a few months.   On the lighter side, I can’t wait to see the first person driving with a dummy seatbelted into their passenger seat to avoid a ticket.

“Aces and Asses,” Volume 1. The Heroes and Zero’s of the recent Kelowna forest fires.

July 22, 2009 6 comments

Welcome to my first instalment of “Aces and Asses,” where I take some time to point out some top notch people (aces), and some that I currently don’t think so highly of (asses).

For the second time in six years, my hometown (Kelowna) has been subject to home evacuation level forest fires.  This time is was West Kelowna that was subjected to threat.  After learning how to deal with such a disaster in 2003, our city really pulled together and got through the worst of 2009’s version, which featured not one, not two, but THREE simultaneous forest fires; all in danger of connecting with each other and causing a single fire that could’ve enveloped our whole city, if it hadn’t been attended to promptly (inaccessibility for firemen, water bombing cut-offs at dark, overnight winds, and unrelenting summer heat all could’ve made that happen, luckily it never got to that point).

Kelowna Fire 2003

an actual picture of the Okanagan Mountain Park fire in 2003 (photo by Steve Devries, used by permission. http://www.sayvee.com )

Who I’d like to recognize as Aces are quite an easy selection: the Firemen. Ever since our society redefined the “hero” after September 11, the fireman has gotten a lot of spotlight. I believe they deserve every watt of it. The civil servants that work on a volunteer basis, are on call at all times, answering 4 am calls to rescue cats in trees, constantly training for that one big fire that no one hopes ever comes. When it inevitably does, the grounds crews lug around heavy, sweaty gear and equipment, into dangerous environments conducive of death on multiple levels, literally putting their lives on the line so that Johnny Bravo, driving a $100,000 car, looking out for number one, living in his million dollar home on the mountain, won’t lose his abode. Granted, there are many other very kind people and their homes that are saved too that are much more deserving of such service. The air crews drop water and fire retardant from planes and helicopters thousands of feet up in the air with pinpoint accuracy. And NONE of them go home until the job is done. Good on ya firemen, and thank you, you’re Aces in my books.

Now, onto the Asses. First off are the idiots who still haven’t figured out that lighting a campfire in the middle of a forest that has been subject to heat levels that have dried the trees out to resemble a matchstick factory, is a POOR idea. “Sure,” they say to themselves over a campfire, “we might cause a blaze that could burn down the ENTIRE forest, spread to a residential area, burn down homes, destroy or damage property, maybe kill people, and incur millions of dollars in fees for the crews to put it out, also put said fire crews in mortal danger, and possibly get fined ourselves if we’re caught, buuuut I really do need these marshmallows toasted.” Nice going morons, accidental or not, you guys can never repay the debt to society that you’ve generated by your ignorant and idiotic actions.

Second are those who have decided that a home evacuation epidemic is the ideal time to loot the homes of the evacuees. This is the absolute lowest level of humanity that I’m aware of. The selfishness, greed, and desensitization of the people who decided to do this is absolutely staggering and appalling. It really takes a special kind of individual to take advantage of people in this manner. Not only are the victims already homeless, but now when they return home, they will find themselves possession-less as well. I hope that if these people are caught, they are charged the same, if not more, than the people who started the fires in the first place. Despicable.

In a time where a community has really come together, shown it’s true colors and helped each other to overcome such distress, it’s just plain unfortunate to find out there are such lowly people are among us. But on a side much more worthy of attention, there are still some incredible, selfless people, who really show what it means to “love thy neighbour,” and to have real pride in one’s community. From the fireman on the front line, to the lady who goes around her neighbourhood and knocks on doors to make sure everyone knows there’s an emergency and to help them prepare, to the guy who gets out of his car and helps direct traffic for the thousands of cars trying to flee, there are still plenty of good people left around here.

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