Child’s Rights

The law fails to recognize the upsetting of the balance of rights in allowing an individual to terminate his or her marriage, thereby causing an adverse change to the circumstances of another, perhaps weaker individual. A child’s rights are the worst affected.

Children need to participate in actions concerning their future. They must have standing as an absolute right; it cannot be conditional on being verbally articulate or on age. The form of participation should be full automatic legal representation and party status. The form of participation whereby a child’s views, in an age-appropriate and sensitive way, are solicited and made known to decision makers might be acceptable only if indeed the child’s views, and not the professional opinion of a psychologist, are made known to the court.

Legal representation is a child’s right under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Lawyers have a responsibility to determine whether any client, adult or child, is competent to instruct counsel, but when it comes to taking instructions from a child, most lawyers do not bother to assess a client’s capability since they do not want to take cases where they receive instructions from a child.

If children are not given the opportunity to participate, if they feel that important decisions about their future are made without consulting them or considering their wishes, then children will not easily accept the decisions made about them. This could have dire consequences for a child’s ability to adapt to custodial arrangements, with long-term mental health or other negative implications for that child.

For a child to be subjected to a court decision as to where he or she should live, made without any attempt to consult with him or her, sends an inadvertent but potent patronizing message of judicial disrespect; a message about “justice” that the child may later dangerously seek to return in self-destructive behaviour.

It is not about forcibly putting a child in the position of having to choose between his or her parents; it is about the child being treated with respect, especially one who is determined to live with a parent of his or her own choice based on the child’s existing relationship with each parent as it has developed during the course of the child’s lifetime.

The language of the law connotes the ownership of children. This perpetuates the notion that children are chattel, is antithetical to what is implied in the UN Convention, and is disrespectful to children.

Two child witnesses had this to say to the Senate of Canada during hearings which culminated in the 1998 publication For The Sake Of The Children:

“They think you are nine years old and you don’t know anything. But it’s your life.”

“They’re deciding your life and your future but they don’t even know you.”

Love and Care

If a woman were to tell her friends that she is the one that cooks and cleans, her friends would think that she was being horribly oppressed and they would tell her so, perhaps offering to confront her husband. Conversely if she mentions that her husband does all of that for her, her friends would say, “He really loves you”.

Women should not be embarrassed of admitting to caring for and serving their spouse and children, as their grandmothers and mothers have, and their marriages lasted longer.

Men like a woman who respects and appreciates them, cares and cooks for them, makes them feel important and on occasion even assumes the traditional role of a man, such as paying for a meal or initiating intimacy.

Women should not mar the kind act of caregiving by construing it to constitute gender privilege, weakness or subservience.

Female Chivalry

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and where we possess special powers or talents, we are supposed to use it for good, to help the weak, not to harm others.

Chivalry in medieval times called for male physical strength to be used constructively, such that women be treated better than how they were being treated at the time. Women possess greater emotional strength, and chivalry in modern society calls for this emotional strength being used for good; to protect and nourish men emotionally.

If a woman were to slap a man in public, other women would likely cheer her, and men might say he asked for it. If genders were reversed, other women would be appalled and protest, likely report to the police and a chivalrous man would step in to protect the woman. Why the difference? Women have men convinced that they are always the ones at fault, which in itself is abusive, so they believe that the man deserved it, whereas women as a collective look out for each other. The sexist double standards of modern society are evidently in reverse.

Women too need to be chivalrous and step in to defend a helpless man against a vile woman, since they have the emotional strength to deal with another woman. There should be no hesitation lest it be construed as emasculating. Chivalry is charming, and as long as it comes from a good heart it is not at the mercy of how it is perceived. If it is not appreciated, it is the recipient’s loss.

Internet Movie Rentals – Part 2

I have had quite a lifestyle change since my initial post on this subject.

I now prefer walking to driving, and so the video store no longer seems nearby. I do not consider it worth the time and effort to walk two kilometres each way twice, first to rent, then return a movie.

I appreciated the value of having a car in the past week when I did not have access to one, for two days. I now reserve driving principally for essential commuting to not too far beyond walkable distances and when and where walking is difficult to impossible due to time or weather. The video store is not worth the special trip.

Renting by mail is a reasonable option if one were to get postal mail delivered and picked up at the door. I do not like to specially dress warm and walk to the mailbox on a cold day if I am not otherwise planning to go out. I also do not like the physical handling involved, of opening and shredding envelopes, washing, loading and unloading discs and ensuring these are received and returned in a timely fashion.

Physical copies, not downloads, remain the only way to get 1080p high-definition content and movies not available for download. Buying a physical copy, especially on DVD, is in most cases cheaper than the comparable standard definition downloadable version and serves as a backup against data loss.

I now go for convenience and download movies that are either only available for download, bargain-priced, won’t benefit too much from a higher quality copy on disc or something I want readily available jukebox-style. I get movies on disc if they are only available on disc, are bargain DVDs, warrant getting the best available quality on Blu-ray or need to be playable on any disc player.

The lifestyle change also makes me feel the need to have fewer physical possessions grounding me, so to be as mobile as possible I am more open to owning downloads as opposed to discs.

Netbook vs Smartphone

I believe that a portable computer has utility as a portable only if one is inclined to carry it (and thereby use it), else it is an expensive desktop replacement.

A netbook is supposed to be an ultra low cost computer primarily for Internet activities and as such has minimal specs and is compact and lightweight.

I prefer an iPhone since it is there with me, even if I did not plan to carry a netbook, camera or maps. A netbook needs booting up, is not convenient and looks weird to use while walking, whereas I don’t hesitate to use the iPhone to lookup yellow pages, train timetables or walking/driving directions.

The features a gadget has are important only to a degree, beyond that it is the utility derived from it on an ongoing basis. That is where I find the iPhone to be the most valuable.

Internet Movie Rentals – Part 1

I believe that Internet bandwidth is precious. It need not be conserved as it is not likely to “run out”, but nonetheless used sensibly. It is very liberating to be always connected with no per-minute charges and seemingly unlimited data transfer allowances. It is icing on the cake to have a theoretical 10Mbps or faster connection with burst download speeds of 1MBps.

I did not grow up with all-you-can-eat Internet. I started using the Internet at the age of 25. I initially had UNIX shell account dial-up access, followed by dial-up TCP/IP access the following year. These were charged by the minute for both the phone call to dial in and Internet connection charges. One has to govern oneself in such situations.

It then naturally seems wasteful to me to use the Internet for downloading movies, or worse, renting movies and TV shows for one-time viewing. If you remember (or know) what telex is and how much it used to cost, you will appreciate the value of sending e-mail (and instant messages) at no cost per message, and thereby realize how precious bandwidth is given that legitimate e-mail takes up no appreciable bandwidth. Given the current state of the Internet, I have grown comfortable with using it for VoIP and video netcasts.

Using Internet bandwidth for renting movies routinely and as one’s primary source for TV shows still seems abusive to me. It is much more bandwidth-friendly to rent the same movie at a similar price from the video store on disc, and get better quality especially with Blu-ray disc. If you don’t have a video store nearby or don’t like getting out in the cold (except to the mailbox), renting by postal mail is much cheaper, usually $2.00 each inclusive of postage both ways on a $20.00 per month plan as you can average 10 movies per month. Buying physical copies of movies similarly gets you better quality and a backup disc, so you won’t need to buy that expensive NAS for storing all those downloaded movies. You could also inadvertently exceed your bandwidth limit and end up paying a lot more.

Mac vs PC

This could very well be the answer you have been looking for.

My first experience with Windows 2.0.3 was not a positive one, but I have used every version since Windows 3.0 was introduced in 1990. I even used Windows ME for 15 minutes and Windows Vista for a few days. I had been a professional PC repair technician for several years, troubleshooting Windows-based computers, so I was intimately familiar with PCs and Windows. I had setup and administered Windows NT Server, Windows 2000 Server and Windows-based server software such as mail, web and FTP servers. In essence I have been a long-time user of Windows operating systems.

I started using an Apple Mac Pro in 2007, less than a year after I bought a new Dell PC with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. Why? I realized that I could no longer depend on PCs with Windows. Yes, I mean both the hardware and the software.

The PC hardware had in its latest iteration become more closely tied to Windows-based drivers resulting in non-functional components or non-optimal operation when running other PC operating systems like Linux or PC-BSD which anyway lack the polished graphical interface of the commercial products.

Windows OS had become more fragile with the Media Center Edition 2005 update tacked on to a Media Center Edition 2002 disc customized by Dell and poor hardware drivers from Intel. Windows architecture wherein all settings are stored in a central registry rather than in individual human-readable preference files, make it inconvenient and time-consuming to reinstall and reconfigure the operating system and applications.

I was already very close to abandoning Windows due to my annoyance with its activation requirements and the nonsensical licensing restrictions. I find it suffocating to depend on Microsoft to get my otherwise working hardware up and running. Then there is the limit on the number of devices that can simultaneously connect to the computer and the requirement for such devices to have a Microsoft license, whereby syncing one’s iPod with iTunes on a Windows PC constitutes a violation of the terms of the license, in my interpretation. I called Microsoft Canada to confirm my understanding and was informed that the onus to interpret and comply with the terms of the license is on me and if my solicitors or I misinterpret it then doing so would be at my own risk. I asked if I could be referred to the legal department to clarify the matter. I was informed that only the specific person in Microsoft’s Redmond, WA, U.S.A. headquarters who drafted the license agreement would be able to interpret it, and such person might not even be working for Microsoft any longer, so I’m on my own.

What was nonetheless holding me back at the time I bought my last PC from Dell, was that Apple is no less high-handed than Microsoft. Apple does not normally sell parts for its Intel-based Mac desktops. I would be dependent on Apple to release parts to me at their discretion and have to needlessly suffer downtime since I could not neither stock nor readily buy parts, and would have to return and pay return shipping for defective parts!

I picked my poison. I decided that I would rather be hardware-constrained by Apple than software-constrained by Microsoft. After all I can go out and buy a new Mac if my Mac fails and I can’t await repairs, transfer the hard disk and be up and running. I would be paying for new hardware only if I suffer a hardware failure. Buying another copy of Windows to be up and running, on the other hand, is not as appealing. First because software is more “personal” than hardware; it is the software that makes the computer personal, second because the software isn’t really broken and third because I would have to reinstall and reconfigure the operating system and applications from scratch.

Fifteen years after switching to the Apple ecosystem, I am switching back to a Windows OS-based PC. Read my updated perspective, PC vs Mac

Real Estate – Part 3 – Conclusion

This is the conclusion of my three-part article on people I have encountered in the real estate business. I continue my discussion with developers, contractors and property managers.

I have come across some of the worst – the notorious breed of builders and developers. They are like car salespeople but mutated beyond the realm of humanity. They have developed (pun intended) the ability to bypass their conscience to amass wealth by unethical and devious means. They have no qualms about making false allegations and malafide claims to extort others while refusing to acknowledge bona fide claims against themselves.

Contractors can be good or bad. They tend to do business on their own terms, usually forsaking business principles. Estimates and quotes mean nothing to micro businesses; one must pay what they ask for regardless of what has been agreed to, for them to ever do any work for you again. They show up to perform service if and when they please. They do not take kindly to being made aware of their contractual obligations.

Property managers expect to be paid something for nothing. They shirk responsibility if anything goes wrong, and it usually does, because they expect a property to be taken care of just by dispatching contractors over the phone, without being on site to supervise. They care more about their relationships with their contractors (their “friends”) than about doing justice to their clients. Of course then, they will pay whatever a contractor asks for because it is not worth losing a contractor over one client account. They do not understand the concept of work being done right the first time, and in a timely fashion.

My operations manager presented a property management firm with a six-page written report of what the agent assigned to the property had done wrong. The owner did nothing except say that it was “water under the bridge” – based on the agent denying ever having received instructions, the purported lack of which led to the misdoings. When reported to the organization whose logo their tout on their advertising as an endorsement of their ethical standards, the organization favoured the “friend”, in this case the member who pays their ongoing sustenance. The report led to harassing phone calls every few minutes from the owner of the property management firm, calling our operations manager a liar and an extortionist, and threatened to reveal privileged information pertaining to the tenants to each and every tenant and sue us for libel, as a means to get us to withdraw the complaint.

Real Estate – Part 2 – Lawyers (Contd.)

This is part two of my experiences with people in the real estate business. I continue with real-life examples of solicitors.

I have always believed that a solicitor should represent the client’s interest vehemently and above all else. I have come across two solicitors who gave precedence to their “friendship” with an involved party over the client’s interest. I would term such “friendship” a “profitable alliance”, as the “friend” is merely a person with whom they expect to have a longer-term, ongoing profitable relationship as opposed to a one-time client.

In the first case, the solicitor who is also a landlord leasing his own property through this broker “friend” of his, wrote to me,

I have an ongoing relationship with [my friend]. I am not prepared to act in any way which adversely affects that long term relationship. Consequently, I am reluctant to act for you with respect to the request which you made regarding [my friend].

This was a simple matter of the “friend” splitting the legal costs with me since we were to equally share the potential settlement funds; and to which arrangement the “friend” had agreed, and that is exactly how it went down, albeit with another solicitor. But what about my time and costs for the other solicitor to review the case from scratch, having to pay legal fees and explain the case all over again? If such are the ethics of a Queen’s Counsel, it corroborates my belief that a rat by any other name is still a rat.

In the second case, I represented the vendor in a sale and purchase transaction that had closed. My solicitor continued forwarding requests when originating from the purchaser as a favour to my broker who in this case was the “friend”, who in turn was doing this on the behest of the purchaser’s broker who was his “friend”. When it came to my single request of my solicitor, to similarly forward my reply to the purchaser in response to their notice of claim, it met with the response,

Your file is closed. I have 300 other clients to take care of now.

I say if you have 300 or 800 or “whatever the magic number of the day is” clients and my file is closed, why is your valve still open in one direction?

One of my not-too-bitter experiences was with a solicitor who gave precedence to his image over the client’s interest. He did not want to argue my case to an extent that might lower his esteem in the eyes of a judge as he apparently banks on their favour.

Then there are the rude ones, who believe that they are entitled to any amount of money and treat their clients or prospective clients like dirt, because they foster the fallacious belief that they offer superior representation and clients are inferior beings. I once asked a solicitor of a prominent law firm if he would be willing to cap his fee. His response was that there are lawyers out there who would be willing to cap the fee if I am looking to cheap out, but if I want a good defense the fee would be whatever it takes, with a minimum $5,000 retainer and tens of thousands of dollars in trial.

Do these lawyers think we are stupid enough to pay them that much, that too in a civil matter which could be settled (with no risk of an appeal) for much less? They don’t tell you that, because they profit more from a trial.

To be continued…

Real Estate – Part 1 – Introduction

I recently retired from the commercial real estate rental business. It was a disillusioning experience at best. In this three-part article I categorically describe the kinds of people I came across. Let’s start with legal counsel.

Lawyers are usually deal breakers, as are lease coaches. If a client wishes to proceed with an agreement to lease, one would think their counsel would encourage them to disregard minor issues in the greater interest. Not so, because most lawyers and lease coaches only care about making themselves look good, to demonstrate how hard they are working for their client’s dollar by needlessly splitting hairs and nit picking on wordings. Who gains from the fighting? Only legal counsel. It is an entirely different matter if a client regrets having entered into an agreement, because then their counsel would deem it to be an appropriate course of action to find every loophole to get out of the agreement – not that it is ethical, but at least it is in the client’s interest.

Solicitors usually want a slice of the pie in any purchase or sale transaction. Why else would they ask what the value of the transaction is when quoting a fee? Their excuse is that they have to be that much more diligent in a larger transaction. Why would they be less diligent in a smaller transaction? For litigation, solicitors repeat themselves often and whet all correspondence to protect themselves, thus racking up billable hours. They even bill you if they misunderstand the facts, whereby you have to explain the case to them all over again – admitting to a mistake would not be profitable, both in terms of saving face, their job and billable hours.

They are all out to make money. However it gets worse when your solicitor has other interests that take precedence over representing you, that too on your dime.

To be continued…