Good Karma

I was taking my grandmother shopping the other weekend, and as we were walking away from the car, I’d remembered something that I needed from the back seat so ran back to grab it. I usually put my hand in between my car door and the car parked next to mine so that I don’t accidentally scratch it and, wouldn’t you know it, I forgot to do this for the first time in my 20 years of driving (God, that makes me sound old), and scratched the back right wheel well of the car parked next to mine. It happened to be a Mustang. The scratch, by the way, was not big, about the size of my pinky fingernail, and had left a bit of my car’s burnt umber (read: orange) paint atop the royal blue of the Mustang.

I did the right thing and left a note on the windshield of the car, and received a call later that evening from the owner, who effusively thanked me for my honesty, and said that she’d obtain a quote for the repair, and get back to me for next steps. Later that week, I received a call from her, and the quote for the repair, because apparently there was a tiny dent as well (tin can ‘tang? it’s not like I slammed the door): $825, before taxes.

I almost fell off of my chair. Thank goodness I was sitting.

I told the owner that I couldn’t afford that so would likely have to go through ICBC (our local auto insurance provider that we’re all provincially mandated to have as car owners) or, alternatively, would she mind seeking a quote from a fellow that my dad knew. She said that, because I’d been so honest about having scratched her car, and she understood that costs like that could be significant, she would do what it took to make sure that I had the most minimal impact to my wallet and she have her scratch repaired.

The place that originally quoted her the $825 had offered up an alternative to her: this mobile dent fixer whom the collision place used to fix their company vehicles (which is ironic in and of itself). She said that she’d give him a call and see what he thought.

I sent her the photo that I’d taken of the damage, which she then forwarded to the dent guy. The dent guy said he should be able to fix it for about $100. Amazing! The owner then invited me to watch the repair job the following Sunday, as the dent guy was coming to her house to fix the scratch.

The three of us converged that Sunday. Success. The dent guy was able to work a miracle by using some glue which adheres to the car surface without damaging the paint, and pushed most of the dent out (there actually was no scratch after all). He needed to get behind the metal to do the final push out, and the owner figured out a place where the dent guy could get his tool behind the metal sheet. Dent guy managed to push the remainder of the dent out.

The owner was completely happy with the fix, and the dent pushed out to her satisfaction (we’re going out for a beer next week to celebrate, so I have a new friend out of this whole experience, to boot).

The dent guy was super awesome and also so impressed that I’d been honest about owning up to the scratch that he said he’d only charge me $60 for the job.

Thank you, Karma! Doesn’t always happen so obviously but yes, honesty does pay.good karma and buddha

Duck, Duck, Goose Bay

A plane full of passengers had to do an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador, and the passengers were accommodated in an army barracks overnight, much to their chagrin. Social media took up the banner of the United Airlines poor customer service at housing passengers in the barracks, while the crew got to stay in the only available rooms at a local hotel (nothing else was available for the passengers).

CFB Goose Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador

My initial thought on all this is that making an overnighter in an army barracks sound like a fate worse than death does an enormous disservice to our soldiers who make a barracks their home. You don’t knock people’s homes, that’s just rude.

Additional backlash commentary that I’ve come across, and with which I concur, are as follows:

  • Better to do an overnight in Goose Bay than crash land.
  • Short memories, my friends: Goose Bay housed the passengers of 7 planes during 9/11. Give the town credit for taking one for the team at the drop of a hat.
  • As for the crew being housed in a hotel, isn’t it a good thing for your pilots in particular to be superbly well-rested for the second leg of the journey?
  • United did comp the flight for everyone, plus some additional compensation (whatever nebulous amount that may be).
  • Better to overnight in a barracks than on the plane.

This whole incident really amounts to a case of #FirstWorldProblems. Fair enough, not an ideal situation, but a clean room, a roof over your head, a working bathroom, and a place to stretch your legs….not so bad.

Liberating Orthodox Religion?

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey.So Turkey’s ruling AKP party has again won the general election, albeit with a minority government. This is the same party that notoriously quashed with relative brutality a relatively peaceful protest in 2013 against the proposed conversion of Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park into some sort of urban development, a mall I believe. The protest was, arguably, a pivotal moment in the movement against the perceptibly authoritarian and pro-Islamic, non-secular AKP (Justice and Development Party….on a side note, I find it interesting how these right wing parties always seem to robe themselves in words like peace and justice and people’s party etc. etc. etc. but really are looking to suppress things like justice and freedom and the people).

At any rate, the BBC described the orthodox Turks, who voted the AKP in for yet another four years, as “a substantial power base, mainly of the more religious, conservative Turks, who feel liberated by the party and the president.”

I found the description rather ironic, as standing against liberty seems to be the one thing that all religious conservatives, regardless the religion, have in common. This sentiment puts me to mind of the beauty of our democratic system, which, on a fundamental level, provides the safety and security, and liberty, to practice religion pretty much to whatever degree the individual member of the democratic society sees fit, whether non at all atheism all the way to ultra-orthodoxy.

In a theocratic state – and you know where I’m going with this – there is no¬† such spectrum of religiosity as it is simply not permissible or, when it is, those who are not of the ruling religion suffer. Look at ISIS/ISIL: it’s their way or you’re dead. No highway even (and I would encourage you to have a read/watch this article on life in Mosul under ISIS:.

So Turkey’s religious conservatives should thank their lucky stars that the Ataturk turned Turkey into a modern secular state, enabling them to feel liberated. It’s the BBC words, but I think the sentiment rings true for the 41% of the population who voted for the AKP.Mustafa Kemal Ataturk democracy quote


Key Performance Indicators in the Middle East

Reuters (et al.) recently posted an article about the number of ISIS militants killed in the past nine months: 10,000. Perhaps ironically, this statistic put me to mind of the gains made by ISIS in recent months, which would suggest that someone in the press farm churned out a seemingly significant number to help alleviate negative press over the coalition mission in the Middle East. However, the KPI of “average number of ISIS militants killed per month by coalition troops” ends up just that, a number, rather than any measure of efficiency and effectiveness.

The objective of the US mission is such: “The president has authorized U.S. Central Command to work with partner nations to conduct targeted airstrikes of Iraq and Syria as part of the comprehensive strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.” (US DOD)

5 Lines of Effort are involved:

  1. Providing military support to our partners;
  2. Impeding the flow of foreign fighters;
  3. Stopping ISIL’s financing and funding;
  4. Addressing humanitarian crises in the region; and
  5. Exposing ISIL’s true nature.

With such a broad mandate, the 10,000 killed seems an appropriately broad KPI to support the mandate of the operations. That kind of breadth still needs the proverbial depth. Thankfully, in researching what the actual mission statement was (or equivalent) for the operation led me to the following image, which shows that there are some KPIs out there that are actually more reflective of the mission’s efficiency and effectiveness:

Operation Inherent Resolve targets damanged/destroyedStill, when greeted with KPIs, it would be good to know what the benchmarks are against which to measure these numbers. How many tanks are being used by ISIS? How many buildings? What kind of buildings? A breakdown of building types would be great; if militant homes are being destroyed, the global benefit is obviously less than if a central base is destroyed. What is defined as a fighting position? What are ‘other targets’ and should there be a breakdown? Numbers without context might as well be Greek to a Frau.

And, Bless the US. They also provided this important number: As of May 7, 2015, the total cost of operations related to ISIL since kinetic operations started on Aug. 8, 2014, is $2.44 billion and the average daily cost is $8.9 million.

This kind of fiscal transparency is particularly welcome, and a useful figure to know how much it costs, at least from a US perspective, to try to squash a very dangerous mosquito.

Holding the 10,000 KPI alongside the ones above makes the 10,000 seems somehow more relevant. What makes the 10,000 even more relevant is the number of ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria combined, which I came across the Canadian DND site: 30,000. If this number of 30,000 is correct (and, to be fair, it seems a bit conservative), then in the past 9 months, coalition forces have decimated a third of ISIS’ force. This mission is apparently a three-year operation, so to wipe out a third before the end of the first year, is doing rather well. On this note, it would have been useful if Reuters had made mention of the benchmark ISIS militant population against which to compare the 10,000, rather than just bandying about the figure.

The point here is two-fold: when releasing KPIs, even if they are relative to military operations, then those KPIs should be more meaningful and be placed in a context which the public can understand (this comment is for Reuters and all like news agencies).

Secondly, this seemingly impressive number still belies the question of why ISIS seems to be claiming so much ground in Iraq and Syria in recent months?