Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Banderman Odyssey

The Banderman Odyssey has been released - on my daughter's birthday, no less. It is available from the publisher or from Amazon. In the case of Amazon, make sure you pick the right country to order from. It's doing very well and has spent a lot of time over the last month in the top ten best sellers of the all of the the books in print from the publisher. That means that when it was #6, it was 6 out of 18,000. I thought that was pretty good for an unknown author.

If you're local and know me, I can get a signed copy for you. You can be local in two places - the Salem Oregon area or the Vanderhoof British Columbia area.

check out the website:
email me for the book:

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Higher Power Stepping In?

We do a ton of things while we’re in college, but we hope things will just fall into place when we have all that education behind us. More often than not, I suppose, it doesn’t – fall into place.

All during my university years I’d come home to warm welcomes and since the superintendent was once my principal he was always telling me how loyal the district was and how much he was looking forward to seeing me on staff. One practicum was at the local high school. I was lucky enough (not) to work under a controlling woman who at one point stated that she was my future employer because without her good comments no one would hire me.

Interestingly enough the vindictive hag did have some impact on my career, but it was relatively short lived.

When I returned from school that summer the principal of the high school that I’d hoped to teach at was gone on holidays. I didn’t see him until he showed up to get pictures developed at the one-hour lab that I worked at as a summer job. I knew that there was an opening at the school and as far as I knew, it had not yet been filled. You can imagine my surprise and disappointment when he made the announcement there and then that the job had indeed been filled and by someone I might know. (You need to understand that my majors were in theatre and geography and this job had those very needs. If there was such an opportunity to support a local boy, there would have been none better.)

Of course, I was disgruntled. I spoke with the superintendent, who informed me that he was not the one who did the hiring. Then I spoke with the principal and challenged him. He claimed that he knew what my teaching was like, though he had never been in my classroom (the jerk), and as far as he was concerned, had made the best decision. Since I had a little saved up (from an investment that I’d made from what was left of my lottery winnings, which I used to put myself through university) I decided to go to Montreal with my wife who was born there.

Off I went.

After arriving, the school board informed me that there were no teaching jobs available and there was no use applying for substitute-teaching work either, as those too, were full time positions in Quebec and were all filled up.

It didn’t take long to use up the funds I had available and as things became more and more dire, I began to worry. It didn’t help that the wife was a high-strung French woman who was more prone to yelling than helping.

And this is where the job story starts.

My wife told me about a temporary jobs from a place called Express. I didn’t know too much about such things, but the bottom line was that I could get daily work. All I had to do was show up. So at 9:00 the next morning I arrived at the door to see 50 people in line. I made my way to the office window and after some time made myself understood to the French woman behind the counter. She informed me that if I wanted to guarantee myself work each day, I’d have to be there when the office opened. I took my seat and waited along with everyone else. The hours trickled by and at 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon I was called with a group of others. We were told to meet back at the office at 3:00 and a van would pick us up, where we’d go out to a work site. “Dress warm”, she said, because we’d be working in a refrigerated room.

I a drove home - a 45-minute drive – got my stuff and was back in plenty of time. Again, we waited. Finally, around 5:00 the van showed up and we were hauled across town to a vegetable packing plant where we chopped vegetables until 11:00 that night. There was no van to take us home when we were done, but we were able to catch the last bus and I arrived back home at 2:00 in the morning.

A guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. I slept a bit and then was back in the car by 4:30. I got to Express in plenty of time and was one of the first in line when the office opened. The lady could see that I was willing and ready to work, but she was disappointed at the clothes I chose to wear that day. “If only you’d brought a pair of boots”, she said with some disappointment. “If you had a pair of boots, I could put you to work all week.”

“They’re in my truck”, I replied excitedly. The idea of working for a week was mouth watering.

"You have a truck?" she stated even more impressed. Apparently she wasn't used to such high class clientelle.

An hour later I found myself at a pressed board finishing factory. It was my job to unwrap bundles of raw pressboard and keep the area clean. I was working alongside an eighteen year old.

We worked hard that day and the next. The boss came by to inform me that he was moving me up to the line – an unheard of promotion for an Express employee. He confided that usually Express employees were given jobs where they could neither hurt themselves or damage the product since most of them were druggies and drunks.

In the next few days I was advanced several more times, until one day the supervisor approached me. He broke the sad news and stated that he wasn’t allowed to promote employees hired from Express. Without further ado, the eighteen year-old took my place and I took up a broom once more. My new job was to clean the debris from around the equipment and sweep the floors of the entire complex. I got right on it.

The week passed and they requested that I work there again the following week. It would be the last week, as working any longer would mean that I would need to become a union member and since it was against the rules to hire from the Express pool, I was soon to be history.

That day, as I was working, contemplating my bleak future, but working hard nonetheless, a tall man in a dark perfectly creased suit passed by. I smiled and off he went on his way. Later that day, he returned. “You know”, he said, “these floors have been swept many times, but this may be the first time they’ve ever been swept. You know I started the way you are now. If you keep this up, one day you’ll be where I am.”

I have to admit that my thoughts were somewhat sarcastic. After all, I did have a teaching degree.

Later that day the supervisor called into the office. He wanted to know why a guy like me, with a bachelors of education, was working for Express? Well I told my story and you’ve heard it already. Then he confided, though it was policy not to hire workers from Express, there would be a job for me at the end of the week.

Now you would think that this is the perfect ending to the story, but it does get better.

I returned to work and was quickly moved along the line until finally I was running the stacker. Then one day the supervisor called me into his office once more. He said, “You know, my wife is a principal and I know for a fact that there is teaching work out there. Let me see what I can do.”

A day or two slipped by when I was interrupted to take a phone call. It was a principal from one of the local schools. “You know,” he said, “I have a job and I think it would be perfect for you.” He then went on to describe the teaching position which was a limited duration position that would start in January and end in April. It was November at the time. He paused at the end as if not knowing how to say good-bye and then went on, “Now I know I’m shooting myself in the foot, but I know of other position and it starts right now and goes to the end of the year.”

He gave me a number to call, which I did immediately. I wasn’t sure about much other than to go directly after work to the school board office downtown Montreal. I told the man that I’d be coming from work and in less than ideal attire for an interview, but it made no difference to him.
I arrived at the board office more aware than ever of my foul stench. I spoke briefly to the secretary and then was escorted to what I was soon to find out was the superintendent’s office. Asit turns out, he was most impressed with the story he’d heard. Of course, the only way he’d heard it is through the grapevine from supervisor, to wife, and so on and so on.

He invited me back for a further interview the next day; it was to meet the teacher I’d be working with. As it turns out, the teacher and I got along very well and I began my new job teaching for the Montreal public school system the next day.

Although that is the end of the story, I hope that you are amazed at the series of events that took place and the number of individual who knew nothing of me, yett helped me anyway.

The story didn’t quite end there. I did have further problems getting work in my hometown. Apparently, one of the assistant superintendents was closely involved with the hag who promised me her ill will. I returned to Vanderhoof after having applied for numerous jobs (I had gotten myself on the mailing list at the board office). I spoke with the new superintendent and she wanted to know why I waited so long to apply for work. I explained that I had applied for many jobs and had sent in my resume with each application. Hmmm. How can that possibly be...

Regardless, I was hired by summer’s end and still work in my hometown.

More on War - How about Peace?

It sounds to me like the UN needs slightly more power. Veto should not be an option. If the UN's job is to solve conflict, you don't allow the warring parties to veto. The US shouldn't have more influence in the UN because it invests more money. That’s like letting the rich kid rule the nest.

Of course it’s not working. Power needs to be yielded to a group where every member agrees to the same kinds of solutions.

Countries need to agree that one body will determine the direction of peacekeeping. The decisions made should be based on a set of rules and then apply those rules worldwide. All countries need to be involved in supporting the peacekeeping process working.

A country that invades another is wrong –simply wrong. Period. No exceptions.

In the case of Iraq, Saddam made promise after promise and ignored each directive. He was wrong. Simple.

But when the British and the US invaded, together, yet without the support of the rest of the world, they were in the wrong. They were acting as vigilantes.

Canada was also in the wrong. When it had the opportunity it should have supported the cause, as should have everyone else. It was time.

The correct thing to do is to unite countries to stand against crimes against peace. It is not a war when the teacher steps in. It is not a war when the world acts as one to correct a problem before it escalates.

What’s going on in Iraq is still perceived as children squabbling because it is not the US’s right, whether it can or not, to usurp the power and influence of the rest of the countries.

Again, imagine if the richest and most powerful kid ran the classroom and was able to control the actions and decisions of the teacher. It doesn’t make any sense and is certainly not going to be a sound practice.

To remake a point from above, the United Nations has to operate in a workable and responsible manner. It has to command the confidence of the world and all countries need an equal share in decision making regardless of wealth or their size.

Friday, January 19, 2007

World Conflict Simplified

Is it a question of escalation?

Let’s put it in context.
As a teacher, I often deal with these kinds of issues and frankly, I prefer using the classroom as an example of human interaction to my family. With 24 – 30 kids to deal with, I see and deal with a wider variety of issues.

I think we need to have some ideals. Let’s agree, for the sake of argument that:
1) people are good (which puts someone like Saddam in a whole different category. There is no excuse for genocide.)
2) people want to protect themselves.
3) people will act on their beliefs.

You have to buy one idea more. Kids experience frustration and anger for the same reasons that everyone else does.

What causes a conflict in a classroom?
a) a right seems to be infringed upon
b) an action is misconstrued
c) a pre-determination is made about the other party’s motive or interest.
d) Others?

I have found that in only a few cases (and these few cases represent those kids that you worry will grow up to be ax murders) kids are not mean. They express needs that they cannot meet – however ineffectually.

If you buy all of this, I would like to say that adults are like little children. The greater our fear that we will loose rights, freedoms or property, the greater our capacity to behave like children. We throw problem-solving skills out the window. We are not concerned about why there is conflict. We want to retaliate. Our first step is to position ourselves politically and then if that fails we leap right to step two - all out war.

And like children, there is no figuring out who was right or wrong at the end of it. We pick up the pieces and carry on.

If you listen to two children who you’ve pulled apart, each will know exactly why they are in battle. They know exactly what the other did. Usually, they cannot express what it is that they did to get them there.

My solution has been to discover where the conflict became unacceptable. Conflict is normal. It is only the outcome that determines whether it has been acceptable or not. That moment is the first act of aggression. That’s it.

Kid number one called a name, broke a pencil, pulled some hair. Kid number two retaliated. They are both wrong. I make it perfectly clear to each kid where it was that he or she went wrong and we go from there.

What role does the teacher play? Big brother? Do we have an organization that is supposed to deal with these kinds of issues on the world’s stage? I think we do. The United Nations?

This is why countries should not unilaterally invade other countries. In the world playground, countries are kids trying to bash out solutions to their problems. It didn’t work when we were kids. It won’t work now.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

From Whence came the Wench?

The wench we had, to us was lent.
A courier came and requested rent.
But sad to say, the rent, we'd spent.
And far worse still, we’d shared the wench.

How could we know she would be queen,
Betrothed to Harry Mold, a king?
Who said our limbs he’d gladly rent
If we did not return his wench.

King Harry came, and well prepared.
He found our gate in disrepair.
Aligned beneath the cot we cowered,
While the keep, king Harry scoured.

He found us all beneath the bed,
Then saw his wench and shook his head.
He called her out and out she came,
Disheveled hair, a happy dame.

He would not take his wench that way,
So his betrothed he chose to slay.
A bribe we tried, without success,
Since rent was owed… but I digress.

The drawbridge winch was severely broke,
And from it he removed some rope.
A watchman’s bench stood closely by.
Up she went and then let fly.

And so her grave became the trench.
We’re sorry now, there was no wrench.

Friday, January 12, 2007

One Damn Cold Winter

Let me tell you about BC.I remember back in ’95. That’d be 1995 for you older folk who might be under the impression that I’m speaking about a time long before yours. (You read this with an old timer’s drawl like I’m some old fart who only has a few lucid moments and those only now and again). Anyway, it was October. The fall was rainy and that prevented me from getting my wood in. I had an old 4X4 Ford Ranger, 1987, but the tires were getting bald and it was easier to get around when the mud wasn’t as slick as a freshly dropped ice cream sandwich. (Don’t ask why I didn’t get my wood in during the summer. I have no excuse for that, other than the fact that I was an idiot.) So the wood wasn’t in and I didn’t get it in.The months passed and the snow continued to fall. Winter piled up outside and what there was of a woodpile steadily diminished. No worries though, Christmas was coming.When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes ask me, “what are ya doing... waiting for Christmas?” That was when we were kids and though I’ve always been a procrastinator, up until then the answer had always been no. This year, however, I was most certainly waiting for Christmas.Lest you have forgotten, I will remind you that I am a teacher. We are a fortunate lot and so I bided my time and stretched the wood as far as it would go, waiting for Christmas.Christmas came that year and it was ushered in with the coldest temperatures that I can remember (-45C). For those of you more familiar to Fahrenheit, that would be -50F. Let me tell you that it was crazy cold. I wore long johns, jeans, my snow pants, a pair of coveralls and a winter jacket after that, one over the other and still I could feel the cold all the way though. Let me say that I did as little as I could outdoors. But chores still had to be done.The Christmas holidays trickled by. The truck (which was a diesel) sat frozen in the driveway. It had more sense than I did. I waited for as long as I could.On January 1st, with only a few days from having to return to the classroom, I could wait no longer. There was no wood left in the shed and the whether had still not let up. Thankfully it had warmed to a balmy -35C and I set about coaxing the truck out of its hibernation. It was none too pleased and the most I could get out of it was a slow idle. The situation was dire, and so dressed in my getup and piled into the driver’s seat with the seat back as far as it would go. In this way I was able to get my legs, with all of the extra padding, under the steering wheel. And off I went.The truck never did get over an idle and that was just as well. I’d been in a vehicle once when the cold wind reduced the engine temperature so much that the car wouldn’t run at all. The solution was to drive in low gear with high rpms. That wasn’t a problem today. I could develop neither speed nor rpms. Thankfully the truck puttered along.In the early afternoon I reached my destination and left the truck running while I sawed up enough wood to fill it high above the racks. It gets dark at 3:00 in the afternoon and so I puttered home in the pitch black night with the temperature steadily dropping.My parents met me in town, worried sick that I was stranded out on some logging road, but other than that, the whole adventure was uneventful.I know you were hoping there’d be some sort of climax, and there was. I got home and filled up our wood stove, opened the damper right up and celebrated by heating the house as hot as that fire would make it – chimney fire be d**mned. The house didn’t burn down and I didn’t run out of wood again until spring.The Truth.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Banderman Odyssey - Progress!!

The Banderman Odyssey is only a couple of weeks from being available to the public. It's been a long process and a hard wait. Of course the only way to make the process of waiting easier is to busy yourself with something else. This is just a way to suggest temporarily forgetting about whatever it is that is so exciting.

Oh well, the waiting is nearly over and whether I've waited with patience or not, it has not eased the excitement, anticipation and fear of what is about to happen.

A book will arrive on the market. Some will choose to purchase it, others will want to for no other reason than it is my first. I thank you!

Will you like it? Of course you will! Tell me all about it regardless. In a couple of weeks it will be available for order from any bookstore, and from You can also request a copy from me. Keep an eye on my website for further information about this -