The loser now will be later to win

(or: “Why I fell out of love with Apple”)
You could chalk it up to a preference for the underdog — and you’d probably be right — but even that considered, you’d have to admit, Apple is not the company it once was. And if you’re an Apple fan/user/cult-member now, it’s not likely for the same reasons that us faithful few were 10 years ago.
The original Macintosh was a dream — or rather it was the combination of dreams seized by one charismatic, but arrogantly demanding young leader, then shaped into something he saw as perfect (even in the spots it wasn’t.) It was a rag tag group of creative engineers and code poets, flying a pirate flag, working insane hours, and pouring parts of their soul into a little computer that changed everything… even while it was scorned by the industry it would re-create.
Steve Jobs was that imperfect perfectionist, and the team he assembled were some of the brightest ever to put a product together. Their names were engraved inside the case of every Mac that shipped in its first few iterations — something only the privileged would see, because Mac’s weren’t designed to be opened by their users. (Why would you need to open it? It was already perfect. Never mind that the first version barely had enough RAM to boot!)
Although it never got the respect it deserved, and although the CEO Steve brought into to run the company that grew so fast he couldn’t control it had him ousted fairly quickly, throughout the 80s and 90s, the Mac remained different. And different is good. It stood as a challenge to beige, boring and impersonal. It made technology beautiful, and delightful to use. Even in their darkest years in the mid-90s, when vision drift, product confusion, leadership paralysis and technology stagnation all added up to some less-than-stellar computers baring the Macintosh name and the aging Mac OS, a Macintosh computer still had an intrinsic value — magic, even — that no other piece of technology, save maybe for the Walkman upon its introduction, could evoke.
When Steve slowly but triumphantly took back the reigns of Apple Computer, following the acquisition of his follow-up act, the revolutionary but under-appreciated NeXT Computer company, and its impressive technology portfolio, we Apple faithful sat on the edge of our seats waiting to see what would happen. His next moves: enabling the talented in-house designer Jonathan Ive to build the first iMac, the re-purposing of the entirely object-oriented OpenStep OS from NeXT as the long-awaited re-creation of the Mac OS, shocking the world (and eventually the music and media industries) with an MP3 player and music store that people actually loved to use, and finally changing I.T. irrevocably with the iPhone, made us all cheer as the company we loved finally took its rightful place as an admired and chased-after leader in technology.
But for me, that’s when it all went downhill. I can only imagine Apple is now what Steve always dreamt it would be. Certainly his exacting and demanding pursuit of perfection, from chassis design to software stack, although infamously making him simultaneously terrifying and inspiring to work for, has lent itself to the creation of some truly beautiful and usable products. But success has put them in the position he so sharply criticized throughout his younger, more idealistic years as a passionate, egotistical, but often-right visionary. Now Apple is “Big Brother” dictating what users can and cannot do with their gadgets they’ve purchased. The friendly Mac face is gone, replaced by the App Store, where Apple takes a 30% cut of every piece of software (and content) that runs on their gear — a brash, monopolistic and cloyingly controlling move that even Bill Gates at the height of his career wouldn’t have dreamt of trying to foist upon an industry.
Steve’s top-to-bottom approach that created that imperfect but perfectly lovable Mac, with all its eccentricities that could be tolerated only because so few of us used them that all of us could share the work-arounds and unofficial upgrades that voided our warranties but kept our Macs ticking long after we were supposed to have purchased a new one, has now created generation after generation of disposable gadgets that are really only supposed to be useful until the next shiny Cupertino-produced iToy comes out to make last year’s purchase seem foolish and out-of-date. Love may still go into their design and manufacture, but its a fickle love who’s expiry date is looming almost as soon as the product ships.
I confess, I work for the other side now, and maybe this new perspective has tainted my outlook. There was a time, though, that I wouldn’t have dreamt of working for the other side. Apple was something to believe in and cheer for, and everyone else was the lumbering, uncreative, bureaucratic evil empire of technology, trying to lock individuals into corporate I.T. guidelines and scheduled maintenance plans. Now Windows is actually a pretty “insanely great” product, and Bill Gates is working to cure malaria and finally rid the world of polio, while the underpowered iPad continues its short march to planned obsolescence in the face of next year’s model (which will have the built-in webcam that they pulled at the last minute from the first generation device to give them something to sell the drooling, mesmerized iPublic in 12 months.)
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still proud to have been a faithful Mac user for the nearly 20 years I spent nursing those eccentric but intrinsically wonderful old Macs along, while cheering for each success my favorite computer company claimed in the face of overwhelming odds. I still love seeing Steve’s first keynote (and many of the following ones!) as iCEO, and those “Think Different” ads still tug at my creative side. But its been a long time since Apple was that company, and although they’ve found the success we always hoped for them, I think they’ve lost their soul in doing so.
For those of you who are “new to Mac” and think you’ve bought into something special, I won’t begrudge you the feeling you get when you open that beautifully designed box — just know that what you’re experiencing is a fraction of what it might have been, had you had the guts to buy an Apple product before they were the latest fad.
For those of you who have been loyal all this time: here’s to the Crazy Ones! I was going link to the “Think Different” page on Apple’s website, but all it says now is “Page Not Found…”

The Affordable Care Act is not anti-Christian

To Pat Robertson‘s wackos, who think its unconstitutional and against our religion to have health care insurance:
Obama is right, and you don’t know your Bible. “Do not test the Lord your God” (Luke 4:12, Deuteronomy 6:16) means don’t take stupid risks on the assumption that God will rescue your from your own stupidity.
Stop confusing politics and religion. “Republican” is not the same as “Christian” and you’re just making the rest of us look insane. Just because you don’t agree with legislation, that doesn’t automatically make it blasphemy.

The Device Has Been Modified

The CRTC has been all but forced to re-consider its decision to allow Usage Based Billing, when Canada’s Minister of Technology responded to public outrage by stating that if they didn’t, he would have it over-turned. Nice to see democracy at work!
Of course, Bell isn’t done posturing for more money, but at least Canadians are being heard. The CRTC has put out a call out for comment as they re-visit their position. Won’t you consider articulating an opinion on the matter of maintaining a usable and useful Internet in Canada? Here’s what I had to say…
Its obvious that content providers using traditional delivery networks are in opposition to an open and democratic Internet, where content can be delivered in ways they cannot control or monotize according to their archaic business practices, but an individual company’s failure to adapt to a changing market is not the burden of the consumer — we should not be forced by a government sponsored organization like the CRTC to pay for Bell Canada’s lack of innovation or broken business plan.
This is nothing more than Bell claiming to be “too big to fail” and demanding anti-competitive considerations from the CRTC to prop up their increasingly irrelevant properties by placing a costly stranglehold on the public Internet.
An action such as they are requesting would stunt Canada’s technology growth, encourage entrepreneurs to start their businesses elsewhere, abuse the consumer, and continue to endorse the monopolistic practices of an aging business still clinging desperately to their once innovative image, and unrestrained bullying in their space.
Demand that Bell Canada, and other interested parties, spend their time researching and developing new solutions for the Internet — do not make the consumer pay for their laziness. Do not make Canada the laughing stock of the technical world.

Imagination Movers (Sponsored)


Disney’s Imagination Movers are coming to our area, and we’re looking forward to taking Ben to check it out. These are four guys from New Orlean’s who literally had to salvage their homes after Katrina to keep their children’s music going — and have been a huge success since then.
We haven’t seen them yet, but from what we’ve read on the ‘net, they seem pretty fun. If you want to check them out with us, they’re in London on April 2 at Centennial Hall and in Hamilton on April 3 at Hamilton Place.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azIoIP4xlPU&fs=1&hl=en_US]

I Am an Elastic Firecracker

Not too many friends have been with me since my first apartment, through college, marriage, 8 moves – 4 different cities in 2 different countries – and 2 kids. Few have kept up with all the changes in my life, and stood by me through all of them.
Daisy, my cat, is one of those few. For over a decade, my faithful, fat fur ball has been by my side (although she did occasionally stay with others for awhile!) Tomorrow, we say good-bye to our fifth family member.
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I rescued Daisy, then named Kika, from a shelter in my second year of college. My roommate was somewhat frustrated that I brought her home without consulting him, but he got over it. She was somewhere between 1 and 2 years old – they didn’t know for sure – and healthy, just lonely. Her new name came from the band, Trippy Daisy, who’s song “I Got a Girl” was something I sang to her when I danced her around our little apartment.
She’s been through a lot since then, and with nary a visit to a vet since her first year with me. Now she has diabetes – not a big surprise given her weight and lack of activity lately – and at 13+ years old, we’re not going to start the expensive treatments to keep it at bay. The kids will miss trying to ride her around the house (which she tolerated with good humor and patience), Nicole will miss her little bed warmer when I’m away for work (although Daisy never quite forgave Nic for moving in and taking over the other half of my bed!), and I’ll miss my old friend. But her constant urination is becoming unmanageable and although she’s enjoying the extra love she’s been getting for the past couple days, she’s obviously ready to go.
Good-bye Daisy, you were fat, lazy, occasionally smelly and frequently whiny, but we’ll miss you!

IMHO, all day kindergarten is NOT good for all children

One of the most confusing parts of the American tendancy to mix politics and religion (where to be Christian means you must be Republican) is the right-wing position on the role of the government. I understand how this is a “conservative” view point — I don’t understand why its a “Christian” view point.
In Canada, its the Liberal party leading the fight against government interference in the telecommunications marketplace. Maybe this is just one of those areas where Canadian politics don’t map well to American ones. (Which of course begs the question, are any Canadians really Christians according the Republican definition?!)
That’s not the point of this particular rant though. In fact, the point of this rant is that despite not being a “Republican”, I’m a little peeved with the government interfering with my children’s growth and development.
Ontario-wide our government has begun a 3-year roll out of all-day/every-day Kindergarten (including JK.) This means that 6+ hours a day, 5 days a week, if your child is enrolled in school, they must be in school.
Put another way, if we want Benjamin to experience the benefit of Jr. Kindergarten, we must relinquish our role as his primary care-taker to the public school system’s “Early Childhood Educators.” At 4 years old, a government paid employee will have more day-time access to our child than we do.
I went in today to register Ben for JK, and to ask the principle about flexibility in this new system — which will be province-wide soon, but right now is only targeted at “low income” schools. I was surprised when she opened with “I wanted to explain some of the options you have when it comes to all-day Kindergarten.”
Great, I thought, I’m not the first parent to be upset by this. Then she pulled out a brochure that explained that we could pay money to have our child come to school earlier and stay later if we wanted! Apparently there are parents who are so inconvenienced by their children, that they aren’t satisfied with having them gone most of the day, they want someone else to take care of them all day!
When I explained that we’d actually like our child to be in their care less, she clucked disapprovingly and condescendingly explained that its crucial to our son’s social adjustment and education for him to be in school as much as possible. What, the public school system has a lock on playing with other kids and large-lettered books?! We’re talking about 4 year olds here, lady.
I guess I can understand that if you’re a low income family, you want your kids in school so you can work. I’m trying to be compassionate about that, but for the government to mandate that all children must be treated that way, just because some portion of the population would find it more convenient, is a little bit insane. In our case, we’re both home almost every day — there’s rarely a time when one of us can’t be around, and when there is, there’s a line-up of wonderful Christian young ladies, or grandparents, who love to spend time with our kids. When we send Ben to school it should be for his benefit — not our convenience. And the fact that they’ll allow no exceptions to this government-dictated policy (unless you want to give up MORE of your parenting responsibility) just makes me furious!
So furious, in fact, that we’re going to seriously consider alternatives. I’m not sure we’re entirely back around to the home school discussion, but we’re definitely going to see what other options there are. Sending my 4 year old away to be raised by a stranger all day is not my idea of good parenting.
Who the heck runs this country anyway? A collaborative and democratic Internet gets sacrificied to the alter of the idiot box and our children are sent off to provincial institutions as soon as they can pee on a potty so we can go to work and make minimum payments on our credit card bills. There are days I’d give up everything we have in a heart beat, if it meant our kids could grow up in a culture that wasn’t increasingly self-destructive and moronic…
I’m going to end this, slightly crazed rant, with some quotes, cause its been said better than I can:
Give me your 4-year-olds, and within one generation I’ll construct a socialist state. — Lenin
First they came for the fathers, then for the mothers, and now for both parents in intact families. In the end all children will be in the care, custody and control of the State. — Walter H. Schneider
[The state] must set race in the center of all life. It must take care to keep it pure. It must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people.  —  Hitler, in Mein Kampf

Thanks Ma Bell, for breathing new life into the Postal Service!

If Bell has their way with the CRTC (which they always do) pretty soon it’ll be cheaper to buy a hard drive and stick it in the mail than it will be to go over your allotted Internet useage in Canada!
If you live here and use the Internet  (which you must if you’re reading this post) then stop, and do something about this — before Bell Canada drives us into the dark ages!
And hey Bell? Your business plan is dead — 80+ years or so was a good run. Now its time to roll over and die already. Stop getting laws changed to prop up your obsolescence!
Update: Once you’ve signed the petition, register a complaint with the CRTC and write to your MP!

Books for Siberia

This is the passion, and current ministry, of our friend Dave Brubacher, who, with his wife and two young boys, is serving in Siberia — a cold and barren place not just in weather alone.
His desire is to provide resources for pastors and spiritual leaders, many of whom have little equipping in spiritual formation, counselling or helping, and are surrounded by people with all kinds of spiritual and emotional hurt and need.
We’re blessed to have them home with us for a brief season, due to visa issues. Our kids love playing with theirs, and we are very encouraged by their family’s compassion and faithfulness. Check out their video and stop by their blog
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPPjfrE8gdw&w=500&h=304]