The Full Buyer's (remorse) Experience

by Mark Zaugg 10. June 2017 12:26

I know, I'm getting really curmudgeonly lately.  I don't think this is entirely my fault.

My son's Magsafe Apple Adapter finally completed it's long, slow, death.  Wait, tangent time right now:

I love the Magsafe adapter.  I love it beyond reason.  It releases with enough of a tug that it has saved my computer from being pulled off a desk when someone trips over the cord.  It comes apart cleanly from the computer so I don't have to worry about the tip of the charger getting bent and no longer fitting into the laptop.  It's solid enough to hold when I'm typing in bed and shuffle a little one way or the other.  Apple found a great compromise with how to make it work for charging and detaching.  Then Apple did what Apple does and kept it proprietary.  No one's licensed it, you can't find a laptop that uses one that isn't a MacBook.

Then Apple did what Apple does and came out with the Magsafe 2.  Which is obviously not compatible with the original Magsafe except that you can get a Magsafe to Magsafe 2 adapter (although ghod forbid, you can not get a Magsafe 2 to Magsafe adapter which is just lunacy because no one would want one of those!)  [Sub-tangent, I think the proper naming here would be "Magsafe Power Adapter to Magsafe 2 Power Adapter adapter", but I would like at least one of you to be able to read to the end of the post.] 

Now, to be fair, there are sometimes good and compelling reasons to force upgrades and break backwards compatibility and that may be the case with the Magsafe 2 upgrade, but Apple fails full force here.  They have 45 watt, 60 watt and 85 watt options, all of which are the same size and they are definitely not equivalent.  I have used a 60 watt adapter in a MacBook Pro 15 - it'll sort of work, but it's not up to the job, it won't provide all the power you need, and you want to stick with the 85 watt option.  Meanwhile the 85 W Magsafe Adapter is compatible if you get the Adapter adapter.  Hoo boy.

I don't know for sure if Apple needed to change to the Magsafe 2, but if they can't stick with one, they definitely should provide better distinction between what is currently on offer.

THEN Apple did what Apple does and has killed the Magsafe adapter for USB-C for charging.  It makes sense -- if you're willing to throw all all the great things Magsafe had to offer for detachability.  I'm not willing to do that.  Thanks Apple.

Back to the main story, which at this point is still two sentences long.

I need one (1) 85 Watt Magsafe Adapter.  Forget ordering it online from Apple, they've purged it from their retail memories.  Clearly they can not stop making Magsafe Adapters, there are a lot of older Macbooks still being put to good use.

Okay, I'm driving the boy to band today, I happen to be going past Chinook Centre, I'll swing past the Apple Store and grab one in person.  I know what I want, it's early in the morning, I'll be quick, right?


The first point to mention is that I aggravated my left hip again this morning, so to begin with I'm walking slowly.  Naturally, I park at the wrong end of the mall and have to walk nigh the length of Chinook.  That's on me.  I'm starting off grumpy and impatient.

I find the Apple Store, walk past the gizmos and gadgets I don't much care about and head to the wall at the far end of the store that will likely hold the power adapters.  Success!  On my first go!  I am a geek, after all.  So I reach around the people blocking access to what I want, pick up the adapter I need and then...

Where the hell is a cash register?  How the hell am I supposed to pay for what I want to buy?

A woman in a green shirt cradles an iPad in front of her.  We get each other's attention and she asks if I need anything.  "Yes, how do I pay for this?" I ask.

"I'll find someone."

'Are you NOT someone?' I think to myself.  I mean, the whole idea of a greeter playing traffic cop is fine, I guess, but I tend to find the experience creepy.  The premise is the traffic cop can triage the customer's needs, direct them to an appropriate sales rep (ahem, customer service representative) and flow people through the store more efficiently.  In my experience, it feels more like an intelligence gathering operation where the iPad wielder gathers my name, email address, phone number, social insurance number, credit card information, mother's maiden name and the middle names of all my children both born and unborn.  Yes, an exaggeration, but I have literally had name, email and phone number collected at this point which is also literally creepy.  It's also really creepy when the traffic cop is collecting this info when I'm the sole customer in the store, or when there are multiple people I can actually see standing around waiting to help customers.

She gestures to one of the people who were blocking my way to the adapters in the first place and throws a "When you're done there" nudge.  Again, there are other people standing around.  I'm wondering if I had the sad misfortune of having to wait for the one person who has authorization to take payment on Magsafe adapters that day.

Did I mention my hip?  It's really starting to hurt from standing around now.  I'm shuffling around, trying to not appear too anxious while not supporting all my weight on my sore leg.

Someone walks up behind me and asks, "May I help you?"  Aww, yiss!

"I just need to pay for this."

"Did you find everything you need today?"

Now...  REALLY?  Hold on.  I'm the guy that walked (well, hobbled) into the store, walked directly to the one thing I wanted to buy, got it off the shelf and immediately looked for a way to pay for it.  This IS what I needed today.  Shut up and take my money.  I think I managed to keep it to my inside voice, but I'm sure my dirty look gave me away.

"The price will be $103.95.  Will that be okay?"

My silence was stunned.  We all know that Apple as a company is foundational to the barter society we have today.
  "Ah, the lady is a friend of Rick's?  For friends of Rick we have a small discount.  Did I say 700 francs?  You can have it for 200."
I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to talk down the price or have you throw in a new MacBook with every power adapter, so how about we just run this and get me out of here, okay?

"Is an emailed receipt good enough?"

"Uhm...  No.  I need a printed copy."  Also, it's just creepy when everyone expects to collect my email address for everything.  I get enough spam.  Stop it.

Okay, now I'm sore, I have what I need, I just want to get the unholy hell out of there, head home and soak in the tub for an hour.

Crazily enough, there's a reason behind writing this.  Apple has spent so much effort crafting the Buyer Experience that they've made an entirely craptastic experience for me, the guy that knows exactly what I want and wants to get in and out as quickly as possible.  Somehow I've fallen so far off Apple's target audience that they just don't care I exist any longer.  And I'm a geek and I'm supposed to be one of the people they rely on for positive recommendations!

That iPad traffic cop is supposed to be the person who figures out 1) I know what I'm doing, 2) I don't intend to stick around a second longer than absolutely required and 3) I won't delay a sales rep from helping someone else who actually wants the full Buyer Experience.

I thought Apple was famous for a good User Interface that was intuitive.  Not having registers or even a check out area is breaking that shopping expectation.  Some people are going to like that, I just want to get in, get what I need, and get out.  If you can't allow me to have what I want, at least do not throw up barriers seemingly at every step to keep me in the store longer than I want to be.

Next time I'll take my curmudgeonly self out of my way and go to WestWorld.

Dismiss Robin Camp now.

by Mark Zaugg 20. September 2016 20:45

"Lady Justice is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems.  Her attributes are a blindfold, a balance and a sword... Since the 15th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favour, regardless of money, wealth, fame, power, or identity; blind justice and impartiality."  - Wikipedia

 Lady Justice

Scales of Justice, Vancouver Law Courts. The blindfolded Lady Justice symbolizes the impartial manner in which our laws are administered: blind to all considerations but the facts


Every single person walking through every single court room in every single courthouse across the entire country deserves at the very least the expectation that upon entry into chambers that person will be treated fairly and equally to everyone else.

That expectation is not met in reality, to the detriment of our court systems and ourselves.  Privilege is not always stripped from the powerful.  Race taints the outcome of trials, leaving an entire group of people disproportionally sent to prison

Let me be clear - every single person has a stake in this.  You, the reader, may find yourself in court tomorrow.  You may be accused of a crime.  You may have even performed a crime, minor as it may be - speeding, littering, smoking less than 5 metres from a doorway.  Not everything will land you in court, but some things most certainly will.  Or maybe you haven't been caught in a crime, but you're getting divorced from your former spouse.  Or your parent passed away.  Or you were simply a witness to an event someone found noteworthy.  Or you did literally nothing

You are involved.  Every single one of us needs to care about this.  Right now it is probably only theoretical that your life and well-being are at stake.  For a few of us, this literally matters at this exact moment.  The line between being pulled into court could be as fine as a police officer's mood.

That is why everyone deserves to be treated fairly in court.

Federal Court Justice Robin Camp has demonstrated how he treats people walking through the doors of his court room

No, he has not treated everyone in the same way that he treated that one particular witness in his court room.  The premise of Lady Justice is that he will do so.

In Mr. Camp's case, treating every person in his court room sinks to the putrid depths of the lowest common denominator.  Every witness becomes "The Accused."  Everyone witness under the microscope to examine every misdeed.  Pardon me; every person present in that room is treated that way.  Not just the witnesses, but the lawyers, the police officers, the court workers, the observers, the people there for other cases -- everyone.

It is ridiculous hyperbole - no judge could treat everyone in such a way.  However if we're going to believe in the principle that every person attending court be treated equally, then no one attending court should ever have been treated in the manner that Mr. Camp did on that occasion.  These are diametrically opposing, it can not be both ways.  Without question or doubt, Mr. Camp has demonstrated how he sees fit to treat people in his court.

"He's not a misogynist, he's not a racist," said Justice McCawley in Mr. Camp's defence.  No, Ms. McCawley, his actions were misogynist and racist and unacceptable.  It does not necessarily mean that Mr. Camp treats all people, particularly yourself, in such a manner.  But the fact that he behaves in such a manner to anyone demonstrates that Mr. Camp can not be expected to treat everyone fairly and equally.

That is pure poison in a role of justice that bears the power of actual life and death.  Mr. Camp cannot be trusted to treat all persons fairly.  If you can not walk into his court house with the trust that you will be fairly heard, he can not sit on the bench.

In the case of Lori Douglas, I argued that her poor decision making and the blind denial that confidence in the court was shaken from her circumstance meant she could no longer stand as an effective judge.  I said, "No one knows better than I that bad things sometimes happen to good people."

Unlike Lori Douglas, I believe Robin Camp has definitively shown that he is not a good person.  While in a position of great power, he treated a woman shamefully.  His own shame.

Mr. Camp is fighting for his job.  We, the citizens need to be able to trust the judgement of the judges.  When a justice can not be trusted to recuse himself when he fails to understand the very law he's passing sentence on, he (or she) has no right to sit on the bench.  If Mr. Camp does not understand his actions have disqualified him to sit as a judge, his very judgment cannot be trusted.

Robin Camp is fighting to retain a job he has no right to hold.  This needs to be shouted from the rooftops.  He must be fired immediately.

Have after. To what phone will this come?

by Mark Zaugg 8. August 2016 23:57

There’s something rotten in the state of mobile phones.  It saddens me a great deal.

I’ve had yet another problem with my keyboard on my BlackBerry Q10.  The A key has given out again and the C and K keys insert 0’s when I type.

Now, you’re not going to know this by reading it, but I type relatively quickly.  By no means am I the fastest out there, but my typing speed is limited only by the speed of extruding thoughts from my brain.  Yes, that makes me about 10 words per minute.  Hardee har har.

However, when I got my Q10 you’ll remember that I was really, really thrilled with it and typed an entire blog entry on that very keyboard.  The responsiveness is fantastic.  My BlackBerry doesn’t dick around with the words I type trying to autokorrupt what I type into senseless stream of consciousness.  (Or, quite literally according to my work phone, “A senseless stream of the year and a half hours of sleep and I have to be a good day to be a good time to get a new one.”)

I can actually put two thoughts together in my head and I do not want a phone getting in the way.  Nor do I want to press glass hoping the phone can anticipate what it is I’m trying to express.  My BlackBerry stays out of my way and for the bargain I can get those thoughts out quickly and efficiently.

So I am now in a quandary.  I have to choose to pay to fix my Q10 or look towards getting a new phone.  My choices are bleak, and I’m finding it very depressing.

My first criteria is a physical keyboard.  They’re faster to type on, I’m a great speller who is not reliant upon auto-correct, and they give great physical feedback and I prefer them greatly to pushing glass.  That leaves me…  The BlackBerry Classic or the Priv.  Crap.

The Classic leaves me stuck on the Dead Horse BlackBerry 10.  By no means am I ignorant of what my beloved BB10 has on offer, but the developers have dropped it in droves and although I need very, very few apps that don’t come with my phone the ones that I do need now are quite important to me.  So I’m looking at the Priv.

It looks pretty good on the face of it and I’m impressed with the camera (although perhaps less so after reading a bunch of reviews), but I really don’t think I want to buy a slider.  I’m concerned about build quality (remember, this is my second keyboard failure in my Q10) and my concerns double with a phone that’s meant to move over it’s keyboard.  I really wish BlackBerry stuck to the Canadian persnicketiness they used to be famous for.

However, the real problem I had with the Priv is that my Thumbs of Thunder simply mashed against the edges of the slider and it was uncomfortable to type on the Priv’s keyboard.  I gave it my best shot and I really wanted to love the keyboard, but I hated it.  I hated the slider.  I hated the onscreen keyboard that just wasted space.  Can I get a physical keyboard there instead?  Please?

If I give up on the physical keyboard, I could go with the DTEK50 I guess, but I may as well go with any other phone.  My son has a Samsung S4 and seems pretty happy with it so far, so I spent nearly two hours tonight comparing the Priv against the S7 and S7 Edge.  No, sir, I am not in the market for a middling BlackBerry phone.  So I think I’m stuck in a waiting game hoping they produce something that doesn’t suck soon.

And here, in a nutshell, is the horrible situation BlackBerry has been stuck in for years now.

People who need 10,000 apps that do nothing have jumped long ago.  People who were willing to accept atrocious battery life in favour of big, shiny screens have been gone for ages.  People who don’t mind mashing glass or those that actively disdained the physical keyboard have already left the station.

But there’s a whole lot of us who are fiercely loyal to BlackBerry for the very reason that a physical keyboard is efficient and conducive to communication.  The Hub remains fantastic and a glorious point of contact with all things important to me.  Can I not get what I love with software that isn’t horrendous to use?  Apparently not.

So, Mr. Chen, we need to have a serious discussion.  I’m one of your loyalists that really wants a new BlackBerry.

I want a physical keyboard as good or better than my Bold 9900.
I want a great camera - not just a big megapixel number, the entire camera needs to be responsive and workable.
I demand my phone accept an SD card.  Size is less important to me, I can buy two cards.
I want a replaceable battery.  I shouldn’t have to take it into the shop when the battery goes bad.
I know I can’t have BB10, but I’ll settle for Android with the Hub.
And I need to know if this is coming down the pipe or not.  I have to make a decision now, damn it.

You’ll note what I’m not asking for is the cost.  Give me the great phone that I want and I will happily pay full cost.  A good BlackBerry is worth it.  Unfortunately, it seems a good BlackBerry is pretty hard to find these days.

So you want to be a Calgary Band Parent?

by Mark Zaugg 18. June 2016 22:01

Well, chances are, you may or may not want to be an actual "band parent" but maybe your child is interested.  There are a number of routes to getting here.  If you've played in a marching band while you were growing up, you'll probably already know much of what I'm talking about and this is probably not meant for you.  But if your child comes home clutching an application to join the band and you don't really know what you're in for, I want to share some of my experience over the past three years to encourage you to say, "Yes, absolutely you can join!"

A little background: I've always been musical, but I've never played in a marching band myself, so almost everything I came across was new.  Everyone who knows the Calgary Stampede knows of the Calgary Stampede Showband, but I wasn't sure of the relationship of the two or how Calgary Round Up Band or Stetson Showband fit into the mix.  I knew they were in the parade each year, and they popped up all over the place during Stampede.  I also know that musically, they're pretty good performers and you have to be talented to play with them.  Beyond that, I filled in a lot of the detail with supposition.

Going to the parent orientation meeting helped me and if you have a child remotely interested in band, attend one if you can.  A couple meetings have just wrapped up, but ask the bands if you're interested, there will probably be more over the summer.  You're going to hear glorious stories about how wonderful of an experience it is for the students, you might not hear how great it feels to be a Band Parent, too.

On commitment

Participating with a marching band is not (and should not) be for everyone.  It takes a lot of time and effort from your child and if they lose their desire to be part of it, it's completely fine to say, "That's okay, let's find something else that is for you."  As a parent, please understand you'll probably see the most apprehension over the first three months.  If it's totally not for them, you'll both recognize it quickly.  However, by the time you get to about Christmas the butterflies start settling out, you all start understanding the rhythm and flow around you, and it becomes more enjoyable and the waffling tends to go away.  In our case, I knew my son loved it once he started talking about what it would take to audition for Showband.  There has been no looking back, and I'm grateful he stuck through the early apprehension.

Practising at home

Part of commitment is the desire to become good at what you play.  My musical career ended when practice became unenjoyable rather than just playing what I loved.  I never have to tell my son to practise.  Usually I'll hum along and he'll correct me when I get a part wrong.  Or he'll stick a melody in my head and catch me whistling one of his songs while I'm washing dishes.  Playing his instrument is fun - it is play!  The people who go are interested in bands will find it within themselves to practise.  The rest of the band rallies to help everyone around them get better.  Let that encouragement come from the band, all you need as a band parent is a little patience and willingness to let them play the songs in their heart.  The squawks and screeches you loathe vanish quickly when they love what they're playing.

Flutes are pretty easy on the ears played at home.  The brass instruments can use mutes to keep it bearable in the house.  I feel a little for drumline parents who don't like constant drumming.  Personally, when I rode the bus with the drumline, I slipped into the groove and bopped along all the way home.  It can be comforting having a steady rhythm tapped out around you.  Find enjoyment in your son or daughter's practise.  Which leads to:

Instrument choice

In my case, my son had to carry his instrument up a steep hill every day so he chose something light.  Smart kid.  There is an instrument and role for every child - leave it up to them as much as possible to choose what they like.  It leads to better commitment and makes the practising easier.  Choosing an instrument might happen in school, long before you have any input.  That's a good thing!  Let your kid find something that works for them.

Rent your instrument through the school program, at least to start with.  Give your child the flexibility (and the safety) to change instruments as their interests change -- or even grows!  Multi-instrumentalists are fantastic musicians, but there's no way you can afford to buy everything up front.  When they settle on a favourite, buy one if you can.  There are some great beginner's instruments available.  Don't settle on the cheapest either, they're going to have to sound good out there.  In our case, we got a beginner's flute and we're currently saving for an upgraded model.  It's been a bargain for the amount of time he's got on it.

And most importantly, I've heard of a band member deciding to stop playing an instrument and join the Colour Guard.  You do not need to be a musician to be part of a marching band, Colour Guard is an essential role, too.  The work put into choreographing the Guard got my attention early - they work every bit as hard as the musicians into honing their craft.  The visual effect during a parade or a field show makes the difference between a good band and a great one.  My stereotype was crushed early:  Colour Guard is not for girls in goofy outfits.  They carry replica guns for good reason!  Boys in Colour Guard can massively increase the range of things Colour Guard can do.  If your son is interested, encourage him to try it!

As an aside, this post is very much inspired watching the Stampede Showband's Colour Guard come off the field beaming triumphantly after a performance, then I saw them go through 30 seconds of recovery realizing they spent every ounce of energy they had, then forming up and proudly leading the band to their muster area.  I will never think of Colour Guard as anything but gifted, graceful, talented, and elite endurance athletes.  Which leads me to:


I have always believed that everyone needs to do one sport passionately throughout their entire life.  Sometimes the sport will change, sometimes you'll do more than one or play sports seasonally, but one's physical and mental well-being requires a sport.  If you're concerned about raising a console crazed couch potato because they're not interested in sports - encourage them to join a band.  To paraphrase Matt Dunigan, "Nothing goes together better than marching bands and football!"

Marching band fully qualifies as a life sport.  Those kids are working hard, not only exercising chest and lungs but also stepping in time, sliding to one side or walking backwards - all at the same time!  They don't just walk a parade, they are walking a parade blowing full tilt into a tuba!  When's the last time you walked a couple miles?  How about doing it at a set pace, carrying something heavy, while modulating your breathing and embouchure?  (Your embouchure is basically using your face muscles to provide a good sound.)  They are all athletes.

Personal development

I touched on it a bit when I talked about practice, but much of what I've observed is the band improving by supporting other band members and a growth of the people within it.  If I told you that in just three years your 12 year old kid will turn from awkward and apprehensive to a solid, upright person who is proud of who they are and confident in their skills would you be shocked and amazed or clamouring to sign up?  All adolescents are going to grow leaps and bounds over those years, but kids in Round Up are light years ahead of the average kid.  Having been around Round Up these past three years makes me proud of each and every one of them.  They are well behaved, polite and decent people - it is my honour to know those people.

The practical

Okay, you're child's interested, you're convinced it's a good idea to give it a shot.  What are the practical things to know?

Calgary Round Up is for students Grades 7 through 9 and Stetson Showband takes students Grade 10 through 12.  Both bands will accept any student, and you can (and should!) join even if your child missed the first year of eligibility.  Stampede Showband requires auditions, and I see a lot of interest in wanting to eventually play with them.  Round Up and Stetsons each have great pages on joining the band and I'll send you there to answer your questions.  The instructors are mostly people who have been through the program and are professional and top rank musicians.  This is a Grade A, top class organization from instructors to support staff to parent volunteers.  In my experience, the board is always thinking about what's best for the band families.

Fees this year are $850 for both bands.  On top of that you'll be paying for tour and some incidentals like show tickets.  Tour varies each and every year - my recollection is Round Up tours have cost $1200 - $1500 depending on the year.  They have optional fundraisers to help defer tour costs, they have been high quality fundraisers and I usually buy plenty of burgers, Spolumbo's sausage and steaks to help me get through performance season.  The fundraisers helped me out on several levels.

Call it around $2500 that I spent last year on band.  I'm not wealthy by any stretch, so that's a significant cost to me, however the outright value behind that has been immeasurable.  Not only has it been a weekly (and towards Stampede, daily!) activity, but it's been a fantastic way to plug kids into events in and around Calgary.  Parent's don't go on tour as a rule, but the kids have gone to fantastic summer adventures where they become better musicians and fantastic people.  I think most band parents will tell you they get extraordinary value for what band costs.

Time-wise you'll have to get back and forth to practice every week.  Thursday for Round Up, Wednesdays for Stetsons.  The bands try to keep it as central as possible for parents across the city and you will learn the venues very quickly.  Most months they will hold a band camp over a weekend.  Band camps are often centrally located, but treat them all as special, weekend-long events you could potentially chaperone (more on that soon!)  You will also need to set aside time to work 7-10 Bingo's, possibly a casino, and one day during Stampede to help with Kinsmen lotteries.  If you have a flexible schedule, it's easier to pick up Bingo's on short notice.  I try to book about half my bingos early on, and half later in the year on weekends or evenings (if possible).  It has always worked out, so far.  Extended family helps a lot (and I thank them for the help!), but if you're like me, you'll find all of the Round Up community becomes an extended family in it's own right.

The performances are incredible.  Yes, there's the Calgary Stampede, but there are also parades in several towns around Calgary that are also fun and fabulous.  There is an annual Christmas concert at the Jubilee.  There are several "Field Show" competitions in and around Calgary where the bands put on a themed performance.  They're a joy, and bands compete against each other - usually as a way to test their own progression.  You'll regularly see six or seven really great bands playing one after another.  You're going to want to attend as many as you can to watch the band play.

It all takes volunteer time and effort to put the whole thing together.  You can offer as much of your time as a volunteer or chaperone as you wish.  I really enjoy being around the band and love being a parent chaperone on weekend band camps and as many performances as I can hit.  "Hell Week" occurs just before the band puts together their final performances, and the kids work incredibly hard to polish their show and make it as wonderful as possible.  The final opportunity of the year is to chaperone on tour.  I haven't made it yet, but I know a bit about how much work and fun those tours are by the photos and the stories.  Show your kid how proud you are, go volunteer and make it possible for them to be part of a magnificent band.

My son is moving up from Round Up to Stetsons this year.  Ultimately, this is a thank you letter to everyone involved with the Calgary Round Up Band for the incredible program they've put together.  I sincerely hope that I can encourage other parents to let their kids enroll and be part of something historic in Calgary, current in song and style, and one of the best things imaginable for your child's future.

Let them try it.  It'll be magically for them and you.

Join the band.

To Gordie and the Hip, with deepest love.

by Mark Zaugg 4. June 2016 19:58

Gord Downie will almost certainly never read this, but if he does, what I’d most like to say to him is this:

Gordie, baby, I know exactly what you mean.

Well, in fact I don’t and never really did.  But I’d love to tell you something special and precious and as dear to my heart as I can possibly get.  For years I have heard people discussing what “New Orleans is Sinking” really meant.  Mr. Downie (forever “Gordie” to me, although we’ve never met) I need to tell you what it meant to me.  Not want, this is a need.

In the early 90’s I was just out of university, typically underemployed, working extremely hard, and struggling to find a way to a career that would sustain myself and my fledgling family.  I was working in crop research not too far from where the Great Plains ended, and there was never a day me and my crew didn’t go out into the field without the Hip keeping us company.  There were the radio hits, and the songs off the albums that meant just as much to each of us.  For me there was especially Bobcaygeon, Thompson Girl, Wheat Kings and Fifty Mission Cap which was the first song I sang to both my kids.  But there was particularly a song so powerful and so special to me that it changed my entire life.

My memory is muddled, what’s this river that I’m in?

I was 32.  I had a two year old daughter and an unborn son on the way.  I was not in a happy place for a guy that wanted nothing more than to be a Dad and a family man.  New Orleans is Sinking took a very special place in my life.  One day, my ex-wife happened across me out of context just as I was singing, “Hey North, you’re south / Shut your big mouth” and shot me the foulest dirty look I ever got in my life.

The joke’s on her.  I wasn’t telling her to shut up.  "Now Orleans is Sinking” was a metaphor for my marriage to me.  It was going down, and I really didn’t want to go down with it.  As my world eroded around me, one of the very basic things that kept me going through literally one of the very darkest moments of my life was the realization that as my marriage / New Orleans sank, I didn’t have to swim it out.  I could, and did, take another route through life.  It hurt, it sucked at times - and still does on several levels - but I tried as hard as I could to be true to myself.


“Ain’t got no picture postcards, ain’t got no souvenirs,
My baby she don’t know me when I’m thinking ‘bout those years.”

More than just stuff, I left behind a whole lot of hopes and dreams in that time.  And I’ve accepted that no one is going to even care about it beside me, so I need to stop caring and move on.  No bullshit, this is a man alive because of words you crammed together.  More than just alive, I’m trying to make my corner of the world a hell of a lot better than the New Orleans-in-my-mind that I left behind.  Not to be confused with the real New Orleans which is definitely on my list of places to visit.  I’ll pay my dearest tributes to you once I get there.

Today I’m in a much better place.  If you will, my hands are in the river and my feet up on the banks.  I’m feeling pretty good.  Good enough to scream.  That’s okay by me.

I’m definitely sad I won’t see you play live.  I won’t go knowing some profiteering fuckbot scalper took advantage of us.  Gordie, please understand that my heart’s there.  My heart will be working backstage and doing all it can to ensure you and the boys put on the best show of your lives.  I would do almost anything to be there live.  But not that.

I don’t swear much on this blog, but fuck the scalpers.  Fuck Ticketmaster for their shitty process.  Fuck the unadulterated greed.

Please Gordie, you make sure you and the boys put on the show of our lives.  Let’s get the last one televised.  And I swear to ghod, I won’t be there in person, but I’ll be there in spirit to say thanks for everything you’ve given me.  You know you mean the world to Canadians.  You mean my very life to me.  Rock on.

A long road trip for a short view of an old piece of sheep skin.

by Mark Zaugg 27. December 2015 08:42

Today after my son and I woke up, we packed ourselves into the car and headed on a three hour drive north of here to visit Edmonton.  A copy of Magna Carta is on display for the 800th Anniversary of its first signing.

Magna Carta means “the Great Charter”.  It’s sometimes oversold and sometimes undersold in terms of it’s historical meaning.  It is not, as sometimes told, the foundation of all of English Law.  Most of the provisions have been repealed or diminished in importance.  However there are four incredibly importance principles that trace directly back to Magna Carta.

First, no one, not even the King, is above the law of the land.  Every single person in the land deserves equal treatment under the law.  Always and without exception.

Second is the principle of habeas corpus - the principal that one’s self should not be held without charge. 

Trial by a jury of one’s peers was established and is still held today.

And a woman could not be forced to marry against her will, forcing her to cede her property, one of the earliest examples of women's rights.

It was not a magic document that made life better for all people.  But it is a document that is foundational to building our current law.  Unquestionably we, as citizens, draw benefit today.  No one can properly claim immunity to the law.  No monarch, prime minister or president can abrogate a law at their  whim.  There are rules by which we change our very rules, and Magna Carta is one of the earliest of documents to establish those rules in writing.

Habeas corpus is still debated, as recently as the G20 protests in Toronto or with respect to prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay.  On the whole, in Canada one is not hauled to prison without charges laid in a timely manner and the courts, although grindingly slow at times, at least make attempt at a speedy trial.

Trial by jury remains today.  Juries remain imperfect, sometimes rendering incorrect or skewed verdicts.  But all in all, I believe a jury trial remains a proper and beneficial tool in our justice system.

The life of a woman did not instantly change and become a life of equity and abundance in 1215, and our society continues to struggle with equality in gender balance.

So…  WHY?

Why travel three hours to see an ancient text written in Latin that I could not even read?

If you value even some of the above values, you have Magna Carta to thank.  Should you be aggrieved by bad law, you should remember Magna Carta and consider that binding every citizen under the law will survive bad kings and rulers - in this case for 800 years.  Bad laws will be overturned and together we as citizens will forge a better future for ourselves.  Every citizen in every country that holds credence to Magna Carta derives some of their freedom to a group of English Barons forcing King John to accept an unpalatable agreement.  This is not a document derived from a Kumbaya moment, this is literally the peace and freedoms won from war.  When Canadians talk about defending freedom and liberty in war, this is precisely the earliest of the agreements we talk about.

Your life as it is stems directly and indirectly from a parchment signed 800 years ago.  If that is not compelling, I don’t know what could convince you.

Secondly, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a copy of this magnificent document.  The truth: I’ve had two opportunities in my life.  In the late 1980’s a copy of Magna Carta was displayed at the Nickel Museum at the University of Calgary and I missed it.  I have regretted it ever since.  I was determined to not miss this opportunity.  Even better because I was able to take my son and I’m sure it had a positive impression on him.

Go if you can, and go quickly because it will not be here much longer.  It is at the Federal Building on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature until December 29, 2015.  If you can make it in the next two days, seriously go.

You may face a line up to get into the hall.  It’s worth the wait.  We were in line about 30 minutes, the line was somewhat longer by the time we left.  I salute each and every person waiting.  I saw a true assortment of every Canadian in that line today, and every being there deserved the equal treatment meted out from Magna Carta.  Only 50 people are allowed in the theatre in order to keep temperature and humidity proper for the parchment.  You will enter and circle clockwise, seeing a display explaining the times and circumstance when the charter was signed.  I knew the story, I just wanted to see the parchment itself.  Don’t touch the cases, don’t take photographs, just go to enjoy being bathed in history.

First you’ll come across the Charter of the Forest - in it’s own right a document probably as practical if not moreso than Magna Carta.  You’ll see Magna Carta to your right, but we held off and circulated.  The next section speaks to your values and invites you to consider which are most important to you.  Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest are ultimately about values that bind us all.  Take a moment to reflect on what bridges 800 years. 

The translations are posted, but I have already read it (and planned to purchase a translated print) and there was an opening at the case showing Magna Carta, so my son pulled me towards it and I admired the script.  It remains ancient and beautiful, with significance even today.  There and then, my eyes took in 800 years of justice and core values of our society.

It was so worth the trip.

A few notes:  There are many existing copies of Magna Carta.  The one I observed today was from Durham Cathedral.  This copy was made in 1300 and is beautiful in it’s own right.  My humblest and deepest gratitude to Durham Cathedral for allowing us this great honour.  May I see it again in situ.

Lastly, if you are one of my British friends reading this, if you have never taken the time to visit a copy, please do so.  Magna Carta is a treasure beyond value and a gift to mankind and deserves to be honoured as such.

As a bonus: The Legislature looked beautiful today under a cloudy sky.