Superb Ru

Well, i did it.

Last week at least. I visited the local Subaru dealer, which in my case was extremely local as they’re 2k away.

I spoke to the rep I had met with upon my first visit. My first visit and meeting with him was for a simple test-drive. I had only gone out for one other test-drive and that was with Mini. And as much as I loved the driving feel of the Mini, I knew it wasn’t for me. (But if you’re in the market for one and live in Markham, go see Alex at MiniMarkham). Realistically, I had already made up my mind. I did my research and the test-drive only confirmed what I had felt then. I was seeing stars before I even got behind that demo.

So, fast forward a week and I’m back at Subaru to iron out the details and do the paperworks, like getting credit-approved for the lease.

It’s the lease/credit approval that had me worried for a bit. I had a rough year or two, that encompassed my return to school. Financially, I was in a bad state after I finally started working again. It was so bad that when I switched banks, I was effectively denied on the spot, a new credit card. OUCH!

Pleaides

Through hardship, to the stars

And yet, while I was in the process of submitting my information to Subaru, I was getting approved for new credit cards at my old bank (Long story, I use two banks). So, apparently, after the last year and a half, I’ve repaired my credit score a bit.

Even still, the credit approval was dodgy. I was not informed before leaving the dealership that I was good to go. No, that came a day or two later in an email. The following day he sends me an email to inform me that the car is on a boat, on its way to Vancouver. Yay!

I'm on a boat! LOL!

                     I’m on a boat! LOL!

Transit time has my new ride arriving at end of August. Couldn’t come sooner. But in the meantime, i should probably consider selling my current car. Yeah, I should get on that.

But no matter, the road is life

From the pages of Kerouac. I find myself ecumenically in similar situation. The suitcases are going to be removed from the vehicle, to await loading to something new before the journey continues.

I’ve been working for the last nine months or so for a large distribution company, that provides third party logistics to an even larger company called Unilever. My role at this company has been that of handling the most boring, yet high-paced and high impact issues – easily summed up in one easy sentence: When will my shipment be ready? (I don’t know, so stop asking already!).

Brochures, only two, need just one

Brochures, only two, need just one

This job has put me into a position where I spend a lot of time on the road. More than I would like. More than my car would like. Alana (so named by an ex-girlfriend) is getting on in years; long in tooth. She rattles; she shakes; she rusts. She gets me from A to B, although sometimes while making funny noises. That leaves me non-plussed. Funny noises are my gig! At least, when I’m not trying to sound like a certain high-placed Newfie working at CBC.

Thus, I drive a lot. Average* ~55km, one-way, each day. Five days a week – 50 weeks a year. That’s pretty much more than 28K/a. This is naturally, until I find myself in a new residential situation that cuts down that mileage to a more respectable and sane level annually.

And because of all this mileage, Alana is getting tired. I worry for her. She needs to be retired from this daily routine of highway abuse. She needs to enjoy the existence befitting of a 13+ year old car. An existence as a winter beater, or maybe in the hands of a young punk, desiring to build an awesome sleeper car.

So, this morning I departed to the likes of Mini Markham and Subaru Markham, for a closer look at my top two choices. Two surprisingly different vehicles, each with a rap sheet of pros and cons to them. Strangely, both are reduced to simple truths

Mini = efficient fun
Subaru = safe and practical

The mini, while a fantastic drive, had me concerned for weird reasons. I am not a claustrophobic person, but i felt that way while behind the wheel of the demo I drove. The compact size of the german-made, british wonder-car had me feel like I was trapped in a very fast moving box. While I loved the idea of an engine that shuts off at intersections, I felt that that feature interfered with the car’s acceleration from a stop, in a rather jarring manner. It was like I was driving a car with two turbochargers, both improperly tuned for my driving style. The car would lurch upon start and then again a second later as the turbo kicked in.

End result and decision = not for me, even if the ***hole side of my driving self wants to say otherwise.

Now, the Subaru was a different story. It was a familiar story actually. In which the hero defeats the villain and gets the girl kind of familiar, but with a twist. That twist being the girl was perfectly able to save herself, except that she didn’t have shoes and was in a room full of broken glass. The hero saves her only because he had a spare pair of shoes in his bag.

That spare pair of shoes of course is my euphemism for four wheel drive. When the temperatures drop, the rest of that analogy will make sense.

And that’s why I am considering Subaru in the first place: Four Wheel Drive.

History – I had a huge scare this past winter when going to work. Short version: It was a dreadfully snowy morning and there was ice underneath the snow on the road. I hit a patch and slip diagonally across lanes on the 407 — into the path of a plow truck. All that went through my mind then was “bye-bye Alana”.

All that happened was a twoonie-sized dent in my front passenger side wheel-well. I was lucky. Alana was lucky.

So, that’s when the problems started to get worse for her. Since then, I had a mishap with a raccoon, late one night. Said raccoon would’ve survived had it not crapped itself and changed its mind when crossing the highway. Alas, he cracked Alana’s air dam, and possibly screwed up her shock absorber. I can only guess, because I’m not that big of a car-nut, but every so often, I hit a dip, pothole or speed bump and that’s what it feels like.

As I said before, I drive a lot. I’m on the highway a lot. I need to be able to enjoy those hellish minutes and hours that I lose each time I hit the road. Its not enough for me to have a new stereo and functional parts, minus funny noises. I need to feel safe and sane when facing the nutbag hordes that traverse the 401 on their daily routine at the same time as I do. FWD will help with that, other Subaru options/features will take care of the rest.

Here’s to finding a new way to drive, and not having to put my suitcases on the side of the road when I need to get moving most.

A funny thing happened on the way to my blog…

It’s been some time since my last post and I frankly cannot tell you why.

I’ve had time. I just didn’t make time.

I picked up some work in December that led to a regular 40hours for the last couple of months. Sadly, the work I am doing right now does not even scrape the surface of my skills and abilities. Though, I have been learning stuff along the way and building on my skill set. First and foremost is an adoption of LEAN philosophies. I kind of wish I knew more about LEAN when going into a job interview months ago that would have resulted in a really amazing opportunity.

Two pieces of advice I received some time ago were that:
One)  it was important to network and,
Two) never stop writing.

I have followed neither in the past few months. I regret the latter. I feel networking is a false gateway into productivity, with the focus being on how well someone can sell themselves and not on how well they can actually do a job. I’ve witnessed the result of good networking and its not pretty. Individuals who are given roles and responsibilities, that do not have the skills or talent to handle said roles and responsibilities.

So, this has kind of rekindled my need to write. So, I’m going to try my best to get back on task and continue my personal improvement.

But for the time being, if you know anyone that needs a really awesome forklift driver, give me a shout. Cause that’s one of things I added to my skill set recently.

Of Faith, Power and Glory

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

– Lt. Col John McCrae

November 11 marks a sombre time of year. A time where we remember those who have served; those that have fallen; those who have watched others fall.

East York Civic Centre Cenotaph

East York Civic Centre Cenotaph

Each year, millions across our beautiful country, congregate around silent monolithic stone sentinels. These simple structures are cenotaphs, and they stand on perpetual guard as reminders of efforts taken long ago. While a cenotaph is supposed to represent an empty grave, lying in place of those who have fallen, it represents so much more.

They exist to commemorate the sacrifice, the service and the result of both: peace. A peace that was hard fought; hard won. A peace that was not necessary to our way of life, directly at the time of the quarrel. But a peace necessary to us nonetheless.

In Canada, it is almost a given certainty that a cenotaph stands in every city and town. It is an icon to which we pay respects. While its shape, its artwork, may vary from place to place, its meaning never changes.

There is no way for us to light our own way. 
We have endured by following the torch carried by those before us.

It does not necessitate being pointed out but the cenotaph is not the singular icon by which we pay respect. In Canada, it is very much joined by two other iconic pieces of artwork: the poem and the flower.

The flower, a red poppy, has a distinct significance as it relates to Remembrance day. It signifies the wearers need and desire to pay respect to those who have served, fallen and come before us, so that we may know peace.

However, the red poppy has come under attack this year. While not a new idea, the white poppy has made a resurgence in popularity with those who do not seem to grasp the meaning of the red poppy. They are claiming that it glorifies and romanticizes war. That its colour represents the results of battle: spilled blood.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

In fact, if anything the white poppy, despite it’s supposed claim of representing peace, is actually a disgraceful and offensive symbol that trivializes everything the red poppy represents.

A few have tried to argue to me that the White Poppy was more than a symbol for peace, that the red poppy and all that it stood for was bullsh*t. I took exception to the ideas postulated by this person because they were very critical about Remembrance day and the Red Poppy. Truth is, they have failed to be critical of the white poppy. They have failed to consider where the money they donate to that cause goes. Donations to the Red Poppy go to veterans, they go back into the community. For all I know, donations for the white textile/fabric poppy go into someone’s pocket. THAT’S BULLSH*T. (I will continue to believe that until someone can prove otherwise)

As Brett Wilson of Dragon’s Den fame put it on twitter:

To the @WhitePoppy movement – be clear – the #RedPoppy does not glorify war nor does the #YellowDaffodil glorify cancer. #RespectOurVeterans

Truth is, the Red Poppy has significance that I cannot even begin to cover. It represents all the things mentioned above that a cenotaph represents. They became the symbol they are not because of the tragedy that befell the fields they grew in, but the result of those tragic circumstances coming to an end. They grew up and out of the soil disturbed by battles that raged across their meadows. The fact that they are blood red, is merely a coincidence.

As much as Mr. Wilson’s statement highlights the absurdity of the white poppy, I am not afraid to take it further. The simple fact is, the offensive nature of the white poppy is on par with those that protest at funerals, because quite frankly that’s exactly what you are doing when you put on a white poppy. You know what kind of person protests funerals? These people.

As unfortunate as it is, we must contend with the reality that peace is the result of war. But it is not the only result of war.

The fact that I am able to share my words on this matter… I have war to thank. Do not confuse my statement for a veiled glorification of war for it is not. It is a glib reflection based on the case of many modern conveniences being developed from war-time needs. Television, Radio and Cellphones; Computers, Circuitry and Components; Plastics and Textiles… all of these were developed either directly or indirectly because of technological development during war-time.

So, as a lover of technology, a descendant of someone who experienced WWII, a civilian instructor and former cadet in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets – I have much to thank and pay respect to. This is why I proudly display the red poppy on my lapel every year.

The red poppy is our torch; be it ours to hold high.

– CI J. Laflamme
Civilian Instructor
330 Danforth Tech
Royal Canadian Air Cadets