1998.09 (updated : 2008.03.14)

These are my many articles. Given a chance, I'll hold forth on nearly any subject.

the nature of reality

I am very wise. I mean I must be, I have a website!


Reviews of books, watches, and cameras.


I don't know much. And according to my wife, I don't parent much.

my grandfather's funeral speech

This is the text of the speech I gave at my grandfather's funeral, along with some notes for anyone who has a speech of their own to right.

on management

Much has been written on management but everywhere I go - and I've worked at about twenty companies in 27 years - I see that not a lot is sinking in. Let me suggest we toss out whatever the teach in business school and get down to real management.


I've been interested in genealogy for many years. These are some of the interesting findings

a difficult name

My last name is German in origin, and most English and Japanese speakers (and spellers!) can't get it right.

favorite experiences in Australia

I did some things in Australia that I couldn't have done back home, and some things that ten years later remain my favourite memories.

how I got kicked out of Japan

When I first came to Japan, I let my employer take care of the paperwork, just as many of my colleagues had done. Big mistake.

remembering my father

My father was a man haunted by a crushing childhood marred by violence and terror.

a smuggler in the family

my grandfather was a smuggler during WWII

avoid plastic bags

Advice for my son on avoiding the worst of personal impact on the Earth.

completing a Canadian PR application

Having gone through the process myself, I've put together some notes on completing the forms of a "Family Class" sponsorship. Note that I'm only commenting on details that arose from our succ

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Non30tattoocaffeineaustralianphotog comment

I just wanted an opportunity to ask about the readership of this site.

Are you all late 20s caffeine addicted australian tattoo hunting photographers with fucked up dreams that you want psychoanalyzed?

What the fuck?

2004.04.08 00:00:00

Seems that way, little bro'.


where's my flying car??

Johnny Rotten was wrong. There is a future and we're in it. Except it doesn't look like it's supposed to -- much more Blade Runner than Jetsons.

Oh well, at least your website's looking good, Michael.

And, if your looking for further proof that the future is now: June Jetson just died of old age. See below:

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 14 (AP) -- Penny Singleton, who brought the comic strip character Blondie to life in a popular series of films and was the voice of the mother on the television cartoon series "The Jetsons," died here on Wednesday. She was 95. ....

Ms. Singleton went on to do the voice of Jane Jetson in "The Jetsons," Hanna-Barbera's futuristic counterpart to its highly successful "Flintstones" cartoon. The show ran in prime time for just one season, 1962-63, but has been widely seen in syndication.

rob c.
2003.11.16 00:00:00

Sniff. Goodbye June! I am reminded of a passage in a "Red Dwarf" sci-fi book by "Grant Naylor". In it, two characters are recuperating in adjacent hospital beds. They've been watching the Flintstones. One asks the other, "Is it just me, or is Wilma Flintstone the sexiest woman in all of time?" The other says, "I could be with Betty, but I'd be thinking of Wilma...."

Actually, that's only tangentially relevant, but thanks for your comments.


With the amount of crap you're rambling on about here, its no wonder you are unemployed.

2002.07.29 00:00:00

Thanks for those brave words, anonymous Arsen.

This actually touches on something I've noticed; people tend to view unemployment in a negative light, regardless of the circumstances. It's like we equate unemployment with failure, even though many of us hate every job we take: even whole careers.

BTW, if you'd care to express a real criticism, I'd be happy to discuss anything I've said, even in my contentious political section. Meanwhile: it's "it's", not its.


web & email hosting?

hey Mike

i have harassed your brother a couple times—but i guess he is too busy—so now on to you.

a few things:

1 you can kill (my old site) & (my dancer friend who is no longer around) and j.lamb

but is it possible to tranfer a new site to your server?

my ex is running from my shaw SOHO account and i would really like it gone.

I will still be administering it. but all she really needs in web space and a couple pop accounts (1 primary and a few alias's)

any chance?




jeff lamb
2004.04.12 00:00:00




Gambling is a fun hobbie for many people. Id rather spend $500 at the casino and have a fun time then spend $500 on a stupid toy that i will get tired of in a day.

After all life is about having a good time. I don't really care much about money, i did when i was yonger. I have everything i need in life, now i enjoy gambling.

I do know all the house edges for every game. I know that Baccarat is the one game with the lowest house edge and my personal fav.

I go up with $500 or $1000 and if i lose it oh well, still had good time, but last night for example i turned my $500 into $1200 and went home. Im up down up down, and i get all the comps and free drinks. I love it. You may win you may lose, but in the end the casino has the edge.

you make it seem like if you go up to the casino you will lose no matter what, this is indeed true if you keep playing even when you are up.

Ari Yoplay
2003.11.14 00:00:00

Well argued, Ari. As the song says, "Win some, lose some, it's all the same to me!"

While you don't always lose, you do often lose. And the way it gets its hooks into people is frightening. Seeing an elderly woman on assisted breathing at the slot machines left me with a lasting impression of the whole business.


hiring sheridan co-op students?

2003.03.26 00:00:00

Sorry, my friend. I'm not gainfully employed at the moment, myself.



Thank-you you're page really helped me with my project why does it have to be so much colder in Canada than in Hawaii.

2003.03.20 00:00:00

Really.... (no, really?)


Maybe Buchanan has the right idea. If the US can be autarkic so can we. But the pro-American Canadian American-wannabes have it wrong. Our military policy shouldn't be some Maple Leaf auxillary of the American legions. Away with the US! Away with the UN! Forget "peacekeeping forces," mass armies, or buying friends. What Canadains need are their own nukes and means of delivering them. After all, if North Korea can do it, so can we. We have 90x her land size, 150% her population, and perhaps 30x her GDP. We have the resources, know-how, and vast areas to test. We can deal with other countries. E.g. we might trade fusion technology with the Indians to help them develop their hydrogen bomb technology while they help us with mid-range/long-range/ICBM technology. We could play states off each other. If the Indians won't deal with us, the Pakistanis might. Ditto N & S Korea, Israel & Iran, China & Taiwan.

With such weapons we can anihilate any foreign invader. We wouldn't need America's protection or UN's love. We'd have a sort of Jeffersonian/even Buchanan attitude, "Peaceful (strong peaceful) relations with all nations; entangling alliances with none." As for Quebec, the US and France are also vulnerable. We could incite sepratists movements among the Corsicans, Provencal, Basques, and Bretons. We could excite the Arab immigrants. We could tell US Hispanics that California and Texas are occupied territories and that Monticello and Mount Vernon rightfully belong to the descendants of the slaves whose labour provided the capital for the construction of such.

We Canadians don't have the guts for these endevours, but after a term or two of a president Buchanan, they will get the spur.

2003.05.16 00:00:00

Wow. There's a different view of the country. Canada as powerbroker and arms dealer (well, I guess we're already arms dealers).


Re: the following two messages. Please forgive the duplication. I'm still somewhat new to this internet thing and I wanted to vent about Pat Buchanan. Read at your convenience and inclination. Thanks for your forum.

2003.05.16 00:00:00

The duplication is okay; I have a tool to hide duplicates, and have done so with yours (and a number of others).

You're welcome to the forum. Just as long as you don't mince words, o anonymous contributor.


'Canuckistan, Truthfully?'

Let us take a second look at this for the moment

A single nation, from sea to shining sea, imbdued with the unifying aspect which it has lacked up until now...absolute unity!

We have the land to be self-sufficient. Truly!

We have a relatively small population.

We have mother nature on our side in times of conflict & tribulation.

Let us not decieve ourselves!

We must stand down the Behomoth!

A central and prominant gold maple leaf on a field of crimson...make it the banner!

Martin Warren
2004.07.01 00:00:00

I don't know that I'd go as far as to call Pat Buchanen a 'behemoth'. ;)


Article on Dominican Republic/Haiti

It is probably better if you didnt write anything on the Dominican are not helping our tourism which in turn causes more poverty.

If this trip caused you so much sorrow then I must warn you against visiting Haiti. If Haiti had a tourism industry then maybe it would no longer be the "poorest country on Earth".

It might be better to start looking at the politics of poverty then just at 'the poverty' itself.

If it wasnt for the European tourists we (Dominicans) would probably not have a tourism industry. We have it so good here in North America that we can't even bare the site of 'poor' people being near us not even while on vacation. Only the 5 star resorts will do so that these luxurious hubs can further shield us from the rest of the world no matter where we are.

Fior Espinal
2003.06.10 00:00:00

Thanks for your comments, Fior. Actually, I think it's just that my article was poorly written. I'll re-write the thing.

What I meant to say was that an all-inclusive resort is not the way to see the country. "All-exclusive" is what they should call them.

I've rarely found people who have the kind of relaxed nature that the Dominicans have, and of course you have to admire a nation whose national pass-time is a dance. Certainly the food down there was quite good. Mmm, fresh grilled fish and really fresh coffee!



We canadians know what a quarter, nickel, dime, penny, toonie, loonie, etc. is. Aussie's don't have any such names for thier coinage. For them, it's a 10 cent coin, 5 cent coin, 20 cent coin, etc. You'd figure they'd "ie" them.

2003.04.08 00:00:00

Good point, Spencer. It is surprising they're not tennies and fivies. Happily, the Australians did away with the penny and don't seem to miss it. I wish we'd ditch them; I understand they cost about a cent to make, and the only reason that's true is that we make them from steel, now.

I once asked a clerk whether the Aussies didn't have 'names' for their coins, and she said, "No, that's just you Americans." (sigh)



"Plonk" originated with British troops in France in World War I. It was their pronunciation of "vin blanc" (white wine) but soon came to mean any cheap wine. Note that "Rumpole of the Bailey" goes to Pomeroy's Wine Bar for "plonk."

2003.10.15 00:00:00

My grandfather made wine. Dreadful stuff. Some of his 'winemaking' habits (such as upping the alcohol content with vodka) would surely have landed him trouble in some parts of Europe. He called his wine 'Chateau plonk' or something of the sort.

There were many things he did well, but by God winemaking wasn't one of them.


I came upon this site by mistake but enjoyed having a read. Your comments on Australia are interesting. As an Australian that has lived and worked in Canada both coasts, travelled the country extensively and continues to visit the country where I made some really good friends, I see it all the other way.

I find that Canadians and Australians are incredibly similar in so may ways, with some distinct differences. Yes we have a lot of similarities to the Brits, Scottish and Irish but that makes sense as it is our heritage. It is also our humour that allows us to bond well (a major difference between Canadians and Australians).

Essentially both nationalities come from huge countries with tiny populations, essentially living in city areas. Both countries are incredibly beautiful in different ways, with very varied landscapes. We were both colonised by Britain (in totally different ways). We both have been very heavily influenced by the US, which we both do not like.

We both are both viewed as being very safe, clean, trouble free countries, but lacking in personality (more so the case for Canada).

We are both going through the same growing pains and coming to terms with our identities. Our ethnic mixes are now some of the most diverse in the world. Toronto is now the second largest Italian city in the world, Melbourne the second largest Greek city.

We are both incredibly proud and patriotic, and sports mad—you see we think Canadians are sports mad.

We are well educated and well travelled, and have good knowledge of the world.

In relation to work—we are both very hard working nations—we tend to think Canadians are a bit too intense and very anal, but Canadians think we are too laid back and casual. At the end of the day we tend to achieve the same result.

Canadians constantly fight their close proximity to the US and being an extension of the USA—and not being recognised as their own identity.

Australians are so conscious of their isolation and being so far and insignificant to the rest of the world—they are constantly seeking recognition and attention.

The major difference between us is our sense humour and intensity. Canadians are much nmore intense in their outlooks and beliefs.

Personally I would be proud to be from either, and are both two of the best countries in the world to live.

But heh I am probably biased

2003.04.17 00:00:00

Thanks for your thoughts. I'll never again think of Australians as 'laid back', now that I've worked for two Australian firms. No, sir.


know what you say

I'm upset to hear that you put 0 out of 5 for transat. But what really pissed me off is your rumor about them hiring restaurent staff....

This is kind of an ignorant comment. Their are laws in canada about safety for the passengers. ALL canadian airlines have to train their flight attendants the same way. And if you have less than 85% in one exam, you cannot graduate from the course. You should think an read some books before making a comment like that. It is just proving your ignorance.

And by the way when you shop at WalMart do you except to buy Armani? You wanna be cheap and save a couple of hundreads, then you get what you paid for.

2002.02.07 00:00:00

I'm not sure how many books one should have to read in order to relate one's experience with an airline. I'm sorry you took offence at what I wrote, but I only have my own experience to convey.

As for your 'question', I don't shop at Walmart, nor do I have any interest in Armani. But when I fly with an airline, I don't *expect* my bording pass to be taken away just because some check-in clerk accepted a few $. I do *expect* to fit in the seats. Air Transat offers neither of these.

Also, the rumour came from a former employee, I can only relate what I hear.


Weird airlines


If anyone has any ideas of weird airlines that operate around the world could they email me... I already have naked air and Hooters... any others. My email is alexpoulson / at /



alex poulson
2003.04.01 00:00:00

Hmm! As another comment on this site indicates, the Australians equate the verb 'root' with 'to f*ck'. In Canada there was briefly a 'Roots' airline (owned by the people who run the clothing line). I imagine that would be interesting to an Aussie. I'm not sure if you Brits use the same slang, Alex?


airline ratings

I have a page about airlines, and will probably put a link to your page. if you want to have a look at mine, there it goes:

all the best


2003.09.07 00:00:00

That's a decent home page, fellow former Geography major!


Dilbert strips

You used to have a collection of Dilbert strips on your site. I'm after a list of filenames of strips with the embedded code in the date. I have a couple of months worth. Do you have such a list? If so, I'd be very greatful if you would send it to me. I'm not after the strips themselves, only the filenames. Thanks in advance. --Jim

Hi, James;

Unfortunately, the dilbert site only seems to keep about four weeks worth of comics online. I'll forward my perl widget for retrieving them. It contains the bits that indicate where the files are stored on the Dilbert site. I think the code appears somewhere on my site, but I'm not certain where! ;)

James Smith
2003.08.13 00:00:00

Whereabouts are you in Austrlia? I lived down there for a while. 'twas very good. Mmmm, baramundi and Aussie wine.


i happen to love that oh so brilliant piece of british comedy that is monty pythons flying circus and if you know of rowan atkinson, (well that wierd lookin' guy called BEAN, another of his works)

i believe you have one of his quotes

"drink and be merry for tommorrow you may contract a horrible skin disease"

which makes more sense in the movie's context being in the dark ages) anyway, this great series that i've been ranting about is called THE BLACK ADDER i think it's great and just wanted to inform a possible future 'Rowan' fan you don't have to email back, i just wanted to send this out into the void

check it out


2002.08.16 00:00:00

Thanks for your comments. One of my favourite bits from Black Adder was in the "Black Adder Goes Forth' series, when he dodges an order for his men to go "over the top" in the trenches to their certain death. He points out that the orders are to "Catpain" Blackadder, rather than "Captain" Blackadder....


"I know this, this is Unix!" scene in J

In that scene, it WAS Unix, SGI's Irix to be precise. At one time someone posted a link to the source of the 3d file browser that was used in the movie. It was some sort of experimental VR file browser. Sure, most Unix or Unix like OSs are not like that, but then my 128mb AGP8x 3D card can render a very nice "#"

SGI's FSN - 3d Filesystem Navigator []. For IRIX 4.0.1 - 5.3 only.

2003.12.02 00:00:00

Yup. But the scene associates that visual context with "UNIX", thereby earning at least some cringe factor. ;)



i'm aware that you like scorpio, but i need a design desperatley for cancer and libra together somehow.I'm having difficulty with this. If you can help that would be great. This is for lower back. I have 2 others on my left arm. Thank you.

stephanie radmore
2003.05.12 00:00:00

Hi, Stephanie. Unfortunately, I don't have access to any drawing programs at the moment. I've been looking for an old copy of CorelDraw or whatnot. Don't wait on my account!



2002.06.21 00:00:00

Um.... I assume you mean a tattoo design with the happy and sad player's masks common to stage acting? If so, then no.


life is bizarre

Interesting site, to say the least...

2002.07.20 00:00:00

Thanks! Alexandrianna is a beautiful name.


I'm back!


I was organizing my fav's and clicked on your site again. I had forgotten I had visited here a few weeks ago. (Pre-alzheimers?) I re-read my post to you, and low and behold, I DID get a TATTOO!! As well as my daughter getting her eyebrow peirced (which was just plain ICKY to watch, even with me being a surgical nurse). I decided on something small, and unique to me... something that would be a constant in my life... for my tatt. It's my astrological sign of Cancer, but the glyph, not the actual crab. I had it put on my right ankle and it's about 2 cm wide. I was very excited and showed my co-workers and surgeons. Can you believe they all thought it was a sideways 69? For God's sake!!! I obviously have a wild reputation for them to ONLY think I would get something sexual, LOL!! Anyway, I love it, it is sexy, and I am very happy with it. And yes, when you get an income and back to Toronto, you must dine at Dantes.

2003.04.14 00:00:00

Congrats, Lynne, I'm glad you're happy with the tattoo. I'm working once again, so I guess I've got no excuse not to run out and try this place.


Need your help

I like your work and thought you might know where I could get a pic of an all BLACK lion. I have searched the net for many days with no results and dont want to pay an artist tons to have one made. If you can help id so appreciate it


2003.09.02 00:00:00

Thanks for the comment, Brian.

Not sure what you mean by a black lion. A panther or jaguar or rather a lion that is in black (I've never seen the latter)? Try the 'images' search, or the version. They're both quite good.

result 1

result 2

Good luck!


Shane Faulkner....

The website you posted is where he's working now....He's a great artist, as some of my friends have work done from him. And the other guy Dameon Rowanchilde (sp?) is another excellent artist who's working at urbanprimitive in toronto....

2003.11.03 00:00:00

Thanks, Gina.


Fire House 357

Do you know where I could buy that fire house 357? I looked on legos web sight.

2004.05.20 00:00:00

I have no idea, Amanda. Sorry.

I've found that LEGO doesn't really hold up that well past maybe fifteen years or so. I doubt you'd find that any of the old LEGO Town stuff would still be in good enough condition even if you did find it....


Like a previous poster I now have 2 young boys and my parents recently brought out the old "stack O Lego" and all the parts are there but the manuals have been long gone. Any updates on the originals?

R. Babiak
2004.05.30 00:00:00

No. I have the old manuals, but no way of scanning them!



instructions can be found at:

2004.07.19 00:00:00



Just curious if Patti Rempel was formerly Patti Bradley of Moncton.

2002.12.11 00:00:00




Your scheme worked!

I googled myself and found you page.

What a Great Idea.

Drop me a line.

But don't post my email please

Richard Seabright
2003.07.10 00:00:00

Haha! You just posted your own email. Hang on, I'll edit it out of the message that gets left on the site when you do that. So, that's three people caught by my little autogoogling page....


maria nadia H P

i am looking for nadia maria from sverige your DAD FAR sharif

2003.08.24 00:00:00

Uh, are you looking for your daughter on my web site?


cindy chudyk

hey...i'm not actually cindy chudyk, but she was a former teaCHER (at E.L.C.S.S.) it was weird to see her name here...she IS a geography teacher....don't even ask why i was googling my teahcer.s

cindy chudyk
2003.11.18 00:00:00

I won't ask, "lovely decay", I won't ask.


I am looking for a woman from Tulsa named Debbie Sowell. Sorry to use your page this way Mike but if it worked for you maybe it will work for me too! Her parents were Homer and Ruby Tremble (or Trimble) This is NOT the Debbie Sowell who is Dean of Instruction in the Math Department at Oral Roberts.

2004.01.13 00:00:00

Good luck, Leslie.



I arrived via a search for quotes on the topic of an impending 30th. I must say that I wished i had no come across this site as now I feel utterly unaccomplished.

Canuck, where is the Hockey, my boy? have I in some way overlooked your thoughts on the national sport or is Lord Stanley rolling in his grave as i write these words?

Outstanding site, by the way. There is something so telling about your attention to order & detail in a friendly way. Certainly a far cry from the gif-riddled abominations I & my kind foist upon our visitors.




2002.02.01 00:00:00

Well, I guess there's not a lot of hockey cos I haven't played it in years and I don't have the $$ to go watch it here in Toronto.

God help us when *I* make someone else feel unaccomplished. I'm currently sitting on a year of unemployment!


Your website

Boy oh boy was I having a brunette moment or what took me 5 min to figure out the guestbook and they say it's just blondes who are dumb lol Anyhow enough of my rats I'm going to be short and sweet here Your site impressed me great job . Much enjoyed blah blah blah :)


2004.04.04 00:00:00

Thanks, Rose. Gouod luck with your website.



I found the same zip file images a year but since my computer crash, all those images were lost. i've been also looing for the it ever since. just wanted to say thanx

2001.12.16 00:00:00

Errm, yeah! A real confederacy of pirates, we are.


S10 problem in XP


My name is Wil and i live in a small village in Holland. I worked with the S10 Photosmart scanner in Windows 98SE on a SCSI-card. I Have now a new computer with XP. I put the SCSI-card in the new computer and installed the S10 software. It doesn’t work. I found a new driver S10/S20 and it works. But now occured a problem with Photoshop 7.0. After the first scan he refused to scan again with the message An other programm is using it, but there is no programm in the background. I wonder if you hear of this problem.

Many thanks for your answer.


PS: I will return to your site to read it totally.

Willem A Kok
2002.06.25 00:00:00

It doesn't sound like anything I've faced -- best contact HP directly (and good luck with that!)


do not think of dying but live life to the full

2008.02.18 05:57:03

Yes, sir, bob! 8)


hey this site is great, i stumpled across it while looking for a simple maple leaf design to inspire me to great my tattoo. I was wondering if it would be alright to take some of your maple leaf ideas and alter them a bit for my tattoo? let me know anyway. Id be happy to take a picture of the finished thing if you agree and give your design credit of course :)

2008.02.25 00:00:00

Yes, Michelle, please do. Next time, send me your email address!


i like pie and pickles but no no 1 likes

George W Bush do they........

BiN Lager
2008.03.01 03:05:42

That's for sure. Well, aside from the satirists.



Quite a bit of information on here. Good stories, pictures are very nice as well. Loved the Japanese Toilet story, you forgot to mention that not all toilets are blowing scented air. Most of them are just blowing warm air which of course floats upwards...

Michael Hansard
2008.12.19 01:32:16

Thanks for the comment.

I didn't know that toilets blew scented air! :(


places I want to visit

When you're in Hungary, i think you really should visit Croatia too—adriatic sea, cities of Zagreb, Varaždin, Pula and Split, Plitvice national park, for example.


Neven, pentaxian friend

2009.04.24 00:00:00

Thanks for the tip, Neven! I've always liked the looks of the Dalmation coast region.


creationism versus evolution

I object to your second last paragraph.

The scientific approach requires statements of theory to be verifiable and replicable. In case of evolution, this is being done on a daily level, and hence it is the theory that is regarded as most likely to be true.

In case of creationism, it is simply a belief, that you can not argue against (I believe this, you believe that).

So a more accurate statement would be—Evolution is currently the most prevalent scientific theory to explain how life develops.

Creationism is one of many mystical beliefs of how live develops, and it draws against other mystical explanations, such as the Shinto, Hindu or various Pagan religions.

Your overall advice may still be valid: Someone who understands science and deems evolution most likely will not be dissuaded by a creationist, and a true believer will not see reason if faced with scientific evidence.

Patrick Niessen
2009.04.27 00:00:00

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Patrick. I think the overall point is not to take these things too seriously: I hope that my son will make up his mind and leave it at that.

P.S. Living in Japan I've been exposed to Shinto through fairly frequent ceremonies and some modest reading. I look at it as something of a Pagan religion due to its emphasis on ties to nature (Pagan shrines are typically situated at a notable location such as a small island or hilltop, by a spring or even in the shadow of a great tree) as well as the reciprocal nature of the relationship with the many gods.


received wisdom (har har)

You should check your source on the stella awards referred to above... According to the stella awards website, they are not real stories, but fabrications.

Tokyo, Japan
2009.05.20 00:00:00

Oh dear. Will check it out. Thanks for the tip!!


Japanese toilets

Hi ya,

I too find Japanese toilets strange at times... interesting thing about the alarm in the toilet. BTW all these features are mainly for the old people to use. Since Japan has a large population over 60 (and oldies may have problems wiping their ass etc.) they put these special features in the public toilets...



2009.07.27 00:00:00

Interesting insight, Stephen. I hadn't considered that angle as it were.


gloria stockdale

if anyone knows the wherabouts of gloria stockdale(maiden name) who lived in cooksville in the 50s plse let me know cause its very important i talk to her. thanks elliott

elliott haviland
port hope on ca
2009.07.28 00:00:00

Anyone interested in responding to Elliott of Port Hope Ontario should contact the owner of this website, I've got Elliott's email address.


obtaining a visa for China (from Tokyo)

The HOSPITAL where you'll be staying? O.o

Also, when I went to China, the travel agent took care of the visa for me, but maybe that's because it was "for business", I donno...

2009.10.19 00:00:00

Nuts. I've changed it to HOTEL. Thanks for that. (facepalm)


This mechanism of expats not paying taxes only applies AFAIK for countries with which Canada has tax treaties. For example, I pay US taxes, and because of that treaty I do not have to pay Canadian taxes as well. Or at least that was the case when I went abroad.

2010.03.14 00:00:00

What they seem to be getting at is taxation on world-wide income regardless of tax treaties. Another question mark on the whole idea!


Excellent writeup Michael! Interesting to hear how the process went :). By the way, could you give us some more information on how you conducted the surveys? What websites/methods did you use? What size user groups? How did you get people to take part? Would be very useful to know!

2010.05.31 00:00:00

Thanks for the feedback, Michael. Sometimes it feels like I'd signed up for an education more than anything else. Every month a new and fascinating topic of study.

As for the surveying, we evolved with time. In the initial round, we had about sixty participants, almost entirely native Japanese speakers, mostly women. Some were people we knew and had contacted for the purpose, but at least half were people who found our "coming soon" webpage on Google and happily clicked on the survey. The latter group were all interested parties who'd found our site looking for products like ours, so that was helpful. The toughest part was writing questions in a way that would prevent split answers and other undesirable effects. I researched survey writing to do this.

We wrote the initial survey software ourselves, but in subsequent surveys (used for the beta testing process) we used and have since partnered with Google's "Google Docs", but I hope that that's only augmented their service and not imported the hideous restrictions we found with trying to use Google Docs directly for surveying. The thing requires that you add each party to the permissions for the spreadsheet before you've sent the survey—this spawns a notification to the user directly that they suddenly have write access to some Google Docs thing. This is very awkward to use and put us off using it on its own in any serious way. supports Japanese.


Hi Michael,

Japan poses a lot of hurdles for the startup, thanks for sharing your experience. I had a look at the site and can tell you really spent time on this, the homepage really pops!

I'd love to know how easy/hard it was to actually develop the site in Japan/Japanese? Getting the content translated, building the DB, working with and finding Japanese programmers/designers, hosting, updating, payments, etc. I've found that it is far harder, than say in vietnam or China, to easily, quickly and smoothly bring these people into the fold and build the relationships that are required to get to launch in a reasonable time frame. Without getting into an in depth culture analysis, the formality seems to pose an added complexity. Any development keys you could give an aspiring web start-up in Japan in this area?

Thanks, and good luck with Caritas.


2010.06.02 00:00:00

Hi, Tim!

Thanks for the comments.

Yes, the hurdles were really something. And yes, we couldn't get anyone local interested in what we were doing. So we cheated, and did it this way:

1. I wrote all of the copy in English, and did the photography myself (all professional services here in Tokyo are obscenely expensive, and a pro photographer's time was unattainable).

2. I went around establishing deals with vendors either in English or in my very broken Japanese. Almost none of the Japanese places we approached would do business with us, as we'd be undercutting their other retail clients. But over time we won out, and connections were a real factor.

3. My partner wrote most of the software, and I provided the database design. We're both long-time veterans in IT after all. 8^)

4. We relied mostly on English-speaking parties outside of Japan for the assistance we needed (logo design, site design, the creation of the image on the home page, etc).

Now things are different because we have twenty hours a week from an intern who's a native Japanese kid. He's really sharp and motivated, and has pulled a bunch of rabbits out of hats in the past few weeks. He's also opening a few doors for us just simply by being Japanese and being able to put people at ease.

For translation work, we've been paying a pro. No way around it, when you cut corners in that area you get unusable results.

Thanks for your good wishes!



Thanks for the details. Actually my partner and I also decided a few weeks ago a college kid with some quality programming skills could really help us out with some of the details. We approached a local college but no luck yet. Did you post for such a position or did you find your intern by word of mouth?


2010.06.03 00:00:00

Are you in Tokyo? We went to Temple University and talked to the intern administrators there. They were very helpful. But I'm not sure that they have software developers. You could try "Hello Work", perhaps? Or or even perhaps.


This viewpoint has so many errors of appreciation it is horrifying. First of all, having lived overseas for over 30 years I can attest that NOBODY outside the country takes Canadian citizenship lightly, neither foreign or expats themselves. Secondly, the idea that Canada is an "easy" immigration country is, sadly, not true. How many immigrants have YOU attempted to get into the country recently? I have. Genuine, put-upon, threatened refugees who needed a country, any country, in which to escape persecution. You think Canada helps? You think we aid refugees? Then why does nobody in the Refugee office in Canada pick up the phone—EVER? Why do they refuse to respond to emails? These boys were willing to come to Canada (or anywhere at all that was safe) and work at the lowest possible level—agricultural labour. They speak fluent French. They had finished compulsory schooling. THEY GOT NOWHERE and that was with ME helping them and I am a former Federal Politcal Assistant. As for "regular" immigrants, there is currently a FOUR YEAR waiting list to process immigration applications at our Paris embassy, and we are supposed to WANT French-speaking immigrants. What reasonable professional person wants to fool around waiting for four years for bureaucrats to get on with the job? People can get a bone-marrow transplant in less time and that requires finding a DNA-match.

Oveseas Canadians take ZERO dollars out of the economy. They are not entitled to public schooling nor the health care. They don't use the roads. What they DO do, is to work as "mini-ambassadors" across the globe, attempting to further Canadian business interests. I myself tried. When the big Scandinavian company STORA was looking for overseas lumber partners, I hustled in to suggest Canadian partners. They came back sadly, telling me that "Canadian lumber companies only want to do business with the Americans". Not surprising since the Canadian lumber companies seem all to be managed by Americans. Bravo Canucks. How clever is that?

At the end of the day, you do not need a country full of lawyers only. You need plumbers too. You do not want a Canada full of English-descendant immigrants only. You want a mixture. And you do NOT need a country with a bizarre, frankly "American" attitude towards overseas citizens. You NEED those citizens, their input, their efforts. Not all will contribute. Not all resident citizens contribute either—some just live on benefits. But to wipe them all off the map based on a jingoistic rhetoric is to cut your own nose off in spite of your face. Please get to know some non-residents.

Jill Monney
2012.06.26 00:00:00

Hi, Jill. Thanks for the comments on my site.

You started with, "This viewpoint has so many errors of appreciation it is horrifying. First of all, having lived overseas for over 30 years I can attest that NOBODY outside the country takes Canadian citizenship lightly, neither foreign or expats themselves."

Well, we've had different experiences obviously. I've been approached by Americans about obtaining Canadian citizenship. In two cases, they thought that Canadian citizenship would make a nice tax dodge if they could get it in exchange for their own citizenship. I've also met parties from African and Asian nations who've used Canadian citizenship to further their aims in living in third parties such as the US and Japan (e.g. spend 3-4 years in Canada, then migrate to where they really want to be). I've also worked with Europeans in Canada who decided that Canada was "second best and good enough" when their visas in the US expired. And lastly, I've met and been contacted by Canadian expats who wanted advice on avoiding their tax obligations in Canada - in fact as a volunteer warden for Canada's consular services in Tokyo I was forbidden from contacting even those Canadians in my jurisdiction who'd registered with the embassy because those expats wanted to minimize all official contact with Canada (and yet had registered so that people like me could help them in case of an earthquake). What can we make of this? Do these cases not sound like they've taken Canadian citizenship lightly?

You asked, "Secondly, the idea that Canada is an "easy" immigration country is, sadly, not true. How many immigrants have YOU attempted to get into the country recently?"

I've brought in my wife. It was a long process, and yes it was an opaque process and no I have no idea why the spouse of a Canadian is made to wait before being eligible to work, support themselves, and pay taxes. But my wife became a Permanent Resident within seven months of applying, something that would have taken ten years for me to achieve in her country. I have to assume from your belligerent tone and ignorance of my case that you've not spent any time either reading my article of anything else on my website.

You also said, "Oveseas Canadians take ZERO dollars out of the economy. They are not entitled to public schooling nor the health care. They don't use the roads. What they DO do, is to work as "mini-ambassadors" across the globe, attempting to further Canadian business interests. I myself tried. When the big Scandinavian company STORA was looking for overseas lumber partners, I hustled in to suggest Canadian partners. They came back sadly, telling me that "Canadian lumber companies only want to do business with the Americans". Not surprising since the Canadian lumber companies seem all to be managed by Americans. Bravo Canucks. How clever is that?"

Sounds just like my attempt to sell ethical Canadian diamonds when I lived in Japan. Not sure what your point is here, but I would posit that a Canadian expat community that is better integrated with Canada's economy would help present Canada's case.

And then you finished with, "At the end of the day, you do not need a country full of lawyers only. You need plumbers too. You do not want a Canada full of English-descendant immigrants only. You want a mixture. And you do NOT need a country with a bizarre, frankly "American" attitude towards overseas citizens. You NEED those citizens, their input, their efforts. Not all will contribute. Not all resident citizens contribute either - some just live on benefits. But to wipe them all off the map based on a jingoistic rhetoric is to cut your own nose off in spite of your face."

But that's the very situation that I'd like see addressed. Again, I have to wonder if you even read the article.

"Please get to know some non-residents."

And now I know you haven't read a thing I've posted. I've lived both in Australia and in Japan for a total of six and a half years, having lived and worked with expat Canadians in both countries. I honestly don't know what you're arguing, it sounds like we want the same thing - to make use of our expats wherever they live.


The issue with Mister Griffiths view is that he argues that certain inalienable rights (like the right to vote, enter the country freely, etc.) are now tied to your income tax status. That removes the "inalienable" status from those rights.

I also should note that the minute I begin to work in Canada again I am immediately taxable on my Canadian source income. However I am not allowed to avail myself of healthcare or education rights for six months. Until then I have to provide private cover for myself. The moment I am eligible for healthcare and education is the moment I am taxable on my worldwide income. So it seems the system is largely equitable as it stands and needs no further tweaking.

The case of the Lebanon evacuation was extreme and not representative of the norm by the way. The Canadian Government makes it clear that I am largely on my own when abroad. IF I can get to a consulate THEN the Government will TRY to help but for the most part I must care for myself (and do). IF the Government has resources to hand to get me out THEN they will try and do so but again, otherwise, I am on my own. That said if a fair fee for consular registration is the answer then so be it. I'm not averse to paying for that service. It is no different to paying for insurance but note here that if the proverbial hits the fan I then expect a proper rescue effort rather than using a conveniently located warship to come and get me (and then apply full costing to justify taxing ex-pat Canadian workers as if they lived in Canada).

Focusing on the more important issue though much of what is argued should be tied to tax status above are supposed to be inalienable rights of Canadian citizens -

Ability to enter Canada freely at any time; (This is my birthright. Nothing more needs to be said here. For those that got citizenship and later left, for any reason, it's a perq but not one that infers any real cost on Canadians. FYI I see loads of non-Canadians at YVR subjected to much more rigour to enter the country and they aren't handing over a credit card to cover the cost of entry either so not sure where the "user pays" model fits here Professor Chant!)

Easier entry and exemption from visa requirements when traveling to many other countries; (FYI this is a benefit of our Nation working well with our neighbours and, to a much larger extent of Canadian expatriates such as myself not being troublesome visitors to most countries—with the last point in mind you have to ask who is earning the benefit for who here? To an extent its us Expats, like the author living in Japan, that make it easier for Canadian residents on holiday to get in as the ex-pats demonstrate that Canadians are low risk, good value visitors)

Consular services including protection if charged with criminal offences and assistance with other legal matters; (Generally assistance and protection here is limited at best and families must still fund their own legal defense in a criminal proceeding. Most legal assistance is provided to corporate citizens seeking to establish businesses abroad which is supposed to drive taxable income back to Canada but thanks to corporate tax structuring rarely does).

Transfer to Canada to serve sentences for offenses committed on foreign soil; (Really? This applies to how many of the 2.7 million Canadians living abroad? really? this is a material benefit? This is the most absurd thing I've ever read—Professor Chant )

Eligibility for resident tuition fees and post-secondary financial assistance; (Only once I've been in Canada six months and am paying taxes)

Easier qualification for healthcare benefits on return to Canada (Ummm that's because access to Government sponsored Health Care is a RIGHT for all of Canada's citizens...but despite that I still have to wait six months, which, (not so) coincidentally is when I'm fully taxable on my world wide income, to avail myself of this benefit).

So the good Professor who wrote this is clearly talking out of his left ass cheek. I agree with Michael—if we are to be taxed as Canadians then we definitely get FULL rights as Canadians...even if one can strongly argue that if they were truly "RIGHTS" then it would have nothing to do with tax.

2013.07.10 00:00:00

Brilliant commentary, Rory! I hadn't really considered the inalienable aspect of some of those rights. Possibly because I put up with following the rules on severing all of my ties with Canada when I left, and eventually of course my right to vote was taken away. I guess like to many Canadians in too many circumstances, I just did what I was told!

One small point - I discovered that health coverage started for me three points after arriving. Maybe the distinction between three and six months is provincial? In any event, my son, Canadian by birth but born in Tokyo, was granted health care coverage immediately. Something that no one bothered to tell me about, causing me to needlessly spend on the very limited private coverage available here.

In the end, the whole concept seems like easy vote buying from the portion of the Conservative base that's xenophobic and/or probably never had the opportunity to live abroad. And not a matter of any particular rationale.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


rand()m quote

It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

—Wendell Berry