Month: November 2017

Falling Stars Still Shine.

From “The story of the sun, moon, and stars (1898)” by Agnes Giberne. Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

“America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” 

– George W. Bush. Past President Of The United States Of America.

NOTE: The mentioned in this post are innocent before proven guilty in a court of law, not the court of public opinion.

Another falling star.

Every day I turn on the radio, I hear news of sexual misconduct involving a public celebrity.

Harvey Weinstein, George Takei,  Kevin Spacey, LouisCK, Dustin Hoffman, Mark Halperin, the list goes on and on and on.

So does the outrage. Names are removed from credits in decades-old movies, films currently in production are reshot after recasts are made, past awards are revoked. The history of the accused is being wiped clean, all that was accomplished is being blasted into nothingness.

Is this fair? I feel it’s not.

I’m not saying there should be no justice for the victims of the crimes committed by the accused. I believe people should be punished for their crimes and after a trial serve the sentence given to them. The guilty must pay for what they’ve done.

Having said this, their crimes have nothing to do with the past accomplishments they earned. They are mutually exclusive. There is no link of causality between the two.

It’s clear Weinstein has behaved in an absolutely horrific manner. He has to take responsibility for his past actions, and accept whatever punishment for committing them. He was also a very successful film producer and executive. He was co-founder of Miramax. He is an Academy and Tony Award winner.

He is the personification of the American Dream by achieving success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. The fruits from that labour should not be taken from him.

To do this is to set a precedent right out of George Orwell’s “1984” where one day if any of us commits a serious crime, we could lose our diplomas and degrees, our trophies and awards, our titles and medals. The current power of digital video sharing and virtual reality technology makes it possible to erase people completely from the public record through de-pixilation. Each of us would be effortlessly and efficiently un-personed.

This un-personing could also go so far to prevent those individuals from rejoining society and contribute in a positive manner. For example, what are the chances of landing a job if your past employment and education history and the associated certifications that qualify you for the position are *POOF* gone?

Thanks for reading!


What Lies Beneath

Just like figuring out how big an iceberg is, sometimes you have to look below the surface. Image by Andreas Weith. Click the link to get more information about this image.

The amount of time a resident stays at the House of Friendship will depend on a few factors, such as the individual’s situation that got them homeless in the first place, their current state of mind, and their ability to turn things around before getting thrown out. Some only stay for a day, maybe two, while others are residents that have been around long before I arrived. My own stay is coming up to the second month mark on November 12th.

This means that I will see roommates come and go. Every time I get a new roommate, I have to figure them out quickly in case they are mentally unstable or have anger management issues that require me to sleep lighter than I usually do. This is an important life-skill: one past roommate not only made slanderous remarks about myself and two other roommates but also threatened me.

This latest arrival is another homeless person who sleeps a lot in the Kitchener Public Library. My previous post had a picture of him. I figured since he sleeps a lot during the day that he would not sleep at all while in the shelter. Apparently that assumption was wrong: he does sleep at night during albeit rather restlessly. In fact, it seems all he does is sleep.

An observer of his behaviour might assume he’s lazy, or doped or sloshed out of his mind to the point he can’t do anything to turn things around. That might be correct: I don’t know enough about him to counter that claim. He’s not much of a conversationalist if all he does is sleep.

Having said this, not all assumptions are true.

I want to stress that homelessness is not like camping. It’s extremely depressing, especially for those who have no family or friends for support. It’s also very stressful and can make you sick. It’s a very unpleasant reality that requires the individual to find a way to cope with it.

Before my residence at the rooming house I stayed in for two years, I was homeless in Toronto for a couple of months after I moved out of my aunt’s home. This happened during the dead of winter and boy oh boy, was it cold. I would stay up all night at a 24-hour McDonald’s near Eglinton Avenue East and Yonge Street after sleeping on the TTC subway for a total of four hours. Sometimes the subway train would stop for a few minutes at a station that was open to the elements. With the doors open to let in the passengers, it got pretty cold on that train after a few minutes, even while wearing winter clothes and long underwear.

To keep warm, I carried a metal flask containing Forty Creek whiskey.  I’m not a regular drinker of whiskey or even beer but I was told by another homeless person I met that whiskey dilates the blood vessels and causes a temporary release of core heat.  I took a few sips and within a few minutes my cheeks were flushed and the cold didn’t bother me as much.

Anyone who smelled alcohol on me might have assumed I was homeless because I was a drunk. The same erroneous reasoning could have been applied to my sleepy roommate. He might be sleeping in the library because he cannot sleep with four other men who snore during the night. It’s also possible he is suffering from SAD or is so depressed from living a homeless life that sleep is a form of escape for him. It’s way to cope.

Dealing with poverty issues like homelessness, chronic unemployment, and poor wealth distribution is like trying to suss out the size of a floating iceberg. You need to look at what’s under the surface to get the bigger picture.

Thanks for reading!



Why, Not What.

Homeless Guy Sleeping In Library
A homeless person who frequently comes to the Kitchener Public Library for a nap on the second floor. Helping people like him must address WHY he comes here, not WHAT he is doing here in the first place.

It’s important to understand a problem before trying to solve it. This is especially true in the case of resolving my homelessness and unemployment issues.

Having said this, there’s a difference between understanding what the problem is and understanding why the problem is happening. To explain this more clearly, I need to take you back to a time when I was a night-shift computer operator in the 1990s.

One of the things I did in that job was to submit the overnight batch jobs that applied the business transactions to the financials, printed off the necessary reports, statements, and invoices, and on occasion performed monthly, quarterly, or year-end closings.

During my shift, one of the batch jobs might abend because a required file for updating was locked by another process. At first my employer thought it was I performing my backup while the batch jobs were running, but the system log cleared up that misunderstanding. A check of all production environment activity showed no one was online during this time (I would kick all the users off and shut down the interactive subsystem to prevent logon) and no other production batch jobs were running.

The programmer assigned to fix the abend issue had a quick solution: before running the update portion of the batch job, he added control language coding in the batch job to request a lock of that file. The request would wait indefinitely until the file was successfully locked, and the job would then continue on.

It worked, but it introduced a new problem. Sometimes the lock was immediately carried out, while other times it might take as long as 20 to 30 minutes for the lock request to work. This pushed back some of my other duties like printing and separating the invoices for the accounting staff, causing me to work later than I should.

Since I had control language and operating system experience (OS/400), I decided to find out what was causing the lock on my own time.  After some effort, I discovered that there was a separate test environment batch job that copied production data from that needed file to the test system. It’s a valid copy to ensure a program being tested will operate as expected once moved to production, but it was also the culprit. Had the programmer took the time to research further, he would have found the proper solution to the current problem without creating a new one.

In short, I addressed the WHY of the problem, not the WHAT.

It’s the same thing with my current situation. I’m not in a shelter because I don’t have a place to stay. I am in a shelter because I cannot hold down a place of my own. There’s a difference.

Why ask WHY? Because it gets to the heart of the matter every time.

Thanks for reading!