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Here in Canada we are in the early stages of the ice hockey Stanley Cup playoffs. The whole league season is basically a qualifier for the cup with the bottom few teams failing to make it into the knock-out competition, which is played out on a best of seven games basis. No-one ever remembers who wins the league competitions, the only thing that matters is who wins the Stanley Cup in a given year. The only other team sports competition that gets any attention in Canada is the Canadian Football League, which has slightly different rules from the National Football League. But the rules are similar enough for most of the CFL stars to be rejects from the NFL. Both the final stages of the ice hockey and the football league attract so-called bets from civic leaders keen to precariously latch onto the brief fan enthusiasm for the home teams. So we have the mayor of city where the team is based betting on "their" team going through to the next stage against the mayor of the rival team's home city. Sometimes, the provincial premier will bet against the premier of whichever province the other team is from, or in the case of American ice hockey teams, the governor. The bet usually consists of the loser having to wear the winning team's shirt at a big official function or occasion. Sometimes a case of locally brewed beer is involved. It's all too often a bit bogus and sad. I suspect that many of the politicians involved might be hard put to name three members of the local team and haven't chugged a beer since they left high school. And I hope the tax payer isn't funding this blatant electioneering. Any costs involved should come out of the party's election treasure chest, not provincial government or local council funds. Let's not pretend its about boosting civic pride. I find it hard to stomach a politician whose loud support for team can often span as few as four games a year.

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There are a couple of things I hear regularly on the radio or read here in Canada that drive me crazy. One is when it is reported that police are seeking a suspect in a crime. The giveaway is when a description of the supposed "suspect" follows. That says to me that the cops don't actually have much of clue who was responsible for the crime and certainly not a name. So, who is it they are supposed to suspect?  I think what the so called journalist means by "suspect" is perpetrator. But that's a long word. I used to just say "gunman" "robber" "raider", "knife-wielding thug", or something along those lines. But I never said "suspect". That's just stupid. The other one that really bugs me at the moment is when it is announced that such-and-such a country is sending 30,000 forces to some other country. I suspect what is actually happening that 30,000 troops or, more accurately sometimes, 30,000 military personnel are being deployed. The confusion may be when the so-called journalists remember that there is something called the Armed Forces. Sadly, this ignorance is now deeply ingrained in the media and I fear there is no turning back the tide on this one. But really it's one force of 30,000 that is being sent. I would question if someone with such a lack of grip on matters military, or alternatively on the English language, can really be trusted to get the story right.

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I remember a worried colleague coming to me once. It looked like he might get in big trouble with the authorities. But our bosses would back him up, he asked, wouldn't they? What do you say to that one? It would be nice to say, yes, of course they will. After all, you only did what they told you to do. And that is what I told him. He seemed relieved. The thing is, I didn't believe they would back him up. The first sign of trouble and I was pretty sure that the bosses would leave him swinging in the wind. They would paint him as an out-of-control rogue operator. That is how far too many bosses work. To a large extent that's how many of them got to be bosses; taking the credit for other people's work and successfully denying responsibility for their actions when things go wrong. It's Standing Operating Procedure. I know I considered starting to tape one of my bosses when he was doling out instructions. And when things went pear-shaped and he denied stuff, I could play the tape. Then again, that's sadly a sure-fire way to win a battle but lose the war. But back to my colleague; why add to his worries? Why make him feel worse and more scared than he already was? Go on, tell me you would trust your boss 100% to tell the truth when it's you or them face the sack as a result of their stupidity. 

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I was disappointed to see a well respected Scottish historian apparently blindingly accepting that there is a photo of jubilant Adolph Hitler in a 1914 crowd scene welcoming the outbreak of the First World War. I am not convinced the man in the photo is Hitler and I'm suprised that this historian didn't mention that many people also doubt that it is. The problem for me is that it looks too much like Hitler - the Hitler of 1929; the year when he was supposedly found in the 1914 Munich crowd photo. The guy in the photo even has the famous "Hitler Moustache". But all the First World War photos I've seen of Herr Hitler show him with a full moustache, sometimes a very full moustache. The guy in the authenticated First World War photos does not look much like the Hitler we all would easily recognise. The guy in the 1914 crowd scene, however, does look very like the Second World War Nazi dictator. Apparently, Hitler was talking to the photographer, Heinrich Hoffman, in the 1929 about his 1914 crowd picture and said he might be in it. At the time, he was a still a politician and was keen to show the German voters evidence of his patriotism. The photographer got out his magnifying glass and "found" Hitler in the crowd. "Is this you?" he probably asked the dictator in waiting. "Why, yes, it is," we can imagine a delighted Hitler saying. But he would say that, wouldn't he? He was after all still a politician in those days.

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Many years ago I applied for a job as a public relations guy. I didn't get it. But if I had, the chances are good that I would have done very little work to earn my pay packet. I worked out after the interview that all these guys really wanted was a name to put on the bottom of their press releases. The press releases would in all probability actually be written by the guy who interviewed me, who would have been my boss if I had got the job. I knew from the research I'd done on the company before the interview that a couple of the senior executives had had their wrists slapped for insider trading. They had dumped their shares in the company before some very disappointing trading results had been made public. A big no-no according to the regulator. What I didn't know was that the head of the public relations department had been among those executives. His problem was that he couldn't deny that he knew about the trading results in question because he had written a press release about them before dumping his shares. He got away with a slap on the wrist. This was where whoever got the job I applied for would come in. Theirs was the name would go on future press releases and the head of public relations would have what is called "plausible deniability". Next time around, he would be able to say, "I didn't know the trading results were so bad, Paul (or whoever) was handling the latest figures and did the press release". But of course, actually he wouldn't have trusted anyone but himself to have written the press release on such a sensitive issue as another major round of losses. This may also be known as employing a "cut-out" In places where libel could result in jail time, I understand some American newspapers used to have what was called a jail editor. He was legally responsible for what appeared in the paper and went to jail if it broke the law. This guy, and it was nearly always a guy, was probably familiar with a jail cell as he was often a down-and-out kept around the office for the sole purpose of going to prison. Meanwhile, the real editor made sure he was not legally associated with the contents of his paper. Legend has it one of the big New York department stores operated a similar dodge. If a customer made a complaint, one of the high-up store managers summoned the supervisor of the department involved. This supervisor was harangued and then fired in front of the customer. The customer was naturally very impressed by this. What the customer did not know was that the "supervisor" was just a smartly dressed guy who spent most of his time playing cards in the boiler room with janitors and could be summoned several times a day to be fired in front of customers. I can only imagine that the ploy was found out when one literally awkward customer encountered the supposedly sacked supervisor apparently more than once on the same day.  

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