French waiter says firing for rudeness is ‘discrimination against my culture’

❝ A French waiter fired for being “aggressive, rude and disrespectful” says his behaviour wasn’t out of line – he’s just French.

Guillaume Rey, who worked at a Vancouver restaurant on Canada’s Pacific coast, filed a complaint with British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal against his former employer, claiming “discrimination against my culture”.

❝ In alleging discrimination Rey said French culture just “tends to be more direct and expressive”.

He owes his sacking to his “direct, honest and professional personality”, which he acquired while training in France’s hospitality industry.

Both parties agree Rey performed well at his job despite his allegedly disagreeable demeanour.

Dunno if questions like this can be broadly codified or case-by-case investigation is useful, warranted, affordable.

I’ve not only known truly professional wait-staff who fit the description, the only serious, qualified French restaurant back in the New England factory town where I grew up was owned by a chef who was even crankier. His cooking was superlative.

My family rarely had the spare cash to eat there; but, we didn’t go to be entertained by anything other than culinary excellence.

Thanks, Honeyman

IT firm thinks it will boost productivity by eliminating email – WTF?

Global technology giant Atos, which plans to stop using email internally by 2014, says it is already seeing the benefits of the initiative.

Atos, a French firm with 80,000 employees around the world, first announced the plan — described by some critics as “stupid” and by others as “ingenious” — in February.

The company said an internal review found that on average, employees spend 15 to 20 hours a week on email, and only 15 per cent of the emails are actually useful. It also found that younger workers barely used email, relying more on social media, said Holger Kormann, general manager of Atos Canada, which has 250 employees.

The company is currently in the early stages of creating awareness of the initiative and introducing replacement tools such as instant messaging, video conferencing, Facebook, and collaboration software such as Live Meeting, Kormann told CBC’s The Current…

Already, he said, instant messaging has proven to be more effective for time-sensitive communications, and Kormann has reduced his own email load by 20 per cent.

Over time, the initiative will help balance people’s personal and professional time, he said, as people are no longer contacted while they are away from the office…

William Powers…said Atos isn’t the first company to consider phasing out email. “Other companies including Intel the chip-maker have been doing experiments of this kind for a decade or more,” he said. “In fact, the tech companies have always been leading the way in rethinking the very tools that they make.”

And after “a decade or more” they’ve added additional services and do a better job of filtering email.

The fact remains that for legal reasons – ranging from truthful accounting practices to recording relevant dates on the creation of intellectual property – email will be preferred either as the time-line record or some replacement which does the same thing.

Communications over social networks add nothing to record-keeping and probably open up information about procedures and decisions to competitors. Yup – let’s make communications more efficient by blocking them. Absurd!

Thanks, Cinaedh

Beer and frites in honor of contradictions and political failure

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

What does it take to form a government?

Belgians are not sure, but a lighthearted mood prevailed Thursday as Belgium overtook Iraq’s record in trying to form a government: 249 days and counting.

To mark the occasion, 249 people planned to strip naked in Ghent (though apparently only about 50 people got down to their underwear), while students in Leuven tucked into free frites and downed beer — Belgian, of course.

After general elections last June 13…the political deadlock has increased fears that Belgium, made up of French speakers in the south and Dutch speakers in the north, may actually split apart.

Forming a government has proved so difficult because Flemish nationalists want a new constitutional settlement to give regions more power over issues like the economy. In Flanders, the more prosperous part of the country, many voters hope to limit transfers of cash to subsidize Wallonia.

Historically, French language and culture have dominated Belgium and Dutch speakers once suffered discrimination, a fact that overshadows relations between the country’s two main groups…

Analysts believe that new elections are coming and that the issue of dividing Belgium will move up the agenda.

Jean Faniel, a political scientist in Brussels, said that, despite the crisis, it was important to Belgians to keep their sense of humor. The stripping, beard-growing and beer-drinking protests bore a distinctive Belgian character, he said. “Here we have an acute sense of self-mockery.”

You might be a redneck…?

Head of France’s King Henri IV found

His assassination was a popular topic

A team of scientists say they have positively identified an embalmed head, presumed lost in the chaos of the French Revolution, as that of King Henri IV of France who was assassinated in 1610.

The head was apparently lost after revolutionaries desecrated the graves of French kings in the royal basilica of Saint-Denis near Paris in 1793.

Few remains of those bodies have ever been found and positively identified since.

But a team of experts using advanced scientific techniques say they have conclusively identified the head, passed down over the centuries by private collectors, as that of the monarch.

Ah, the 19th Century. There’s an epoch that truly could have used eBay and Craigslist, eh?

Residents banned from beach have it declared – a village green

The beach looked busy in the 1950’s

The French owners of historic Newhaven port closed the town’s pristine West Beach in February 2008, claiming it was a health and safety hazard.

Campaigners launched a legal battle against Newhaven Port and Properties (NPP) to get access to the fenced-off shoreline, which is the only sandy beach in the area.

Now a planning inspector has ruled the stretch of sand should be classed as a village green, meaning locals would have the right to use it.

Even though the beach does not have grass, a piece of land that has been used by a town’s inhabitants for more than 20 years can legally be registered as a village green. Newhaven Town Council assembled an archive of more than 1,000 family holiday snaps dating back 80 years to show the beach has been in continuous use.

NPP previously threatened to halt their Newhaven-Dieppe cross-Channel ferry service if they were forced to open it.

Ironically, the beach is overlooked by a famous 19th century fort built to fight off a possible French invasion…

Har! A truly grassroots victory.

Swiss win the Gruyère war

It was nicknamed the Gruyère War: a bitter three-year battle between French and Swiss cheesemakers over who made the real celebrated cheese.

In the end, the conflict was over before it began after the Swiss – backed by European Union experts – emerged victorious.

Makers of French Gruyère and Swiss Gruyère, which have a different taste and appearance, had both claimed the prestigious mark of quality the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in their respective countries. AOCs are an official mark of quality awarded to regional products with specific characteristics and taste produced with traditional methods.

But the French got greedy and sought to have their gruyère recognised more widely with a prestigious Appellation d’Origine Protegée (AOP) handed out by the EU as a mark of international recognition. The Swiss complained, arguing the very name Gruyère comes from one of their towns nestling in the Alpine foothills, and that they had been making the celebrated cheese for centuries…

The EU was called in to adjudicate and found the French argument had a few holes of its own, namely that it was matured outside of the area it was produced in – mostly near France’s border with Switzerland – and so did not appear to qualify for an AOP. Having digested the official report, which said the French case was “weak”, Gallic Gruyère makers threw in the towel.

Swiss Gruyère rules.

You needn’t be a Packers’ fan to be a proper cheesehead.

So, what two countries will Belgium be next? UPDATED

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Belgians vote in a parliamentary election today for a government that could move toward breaking up the country and that will need to curb the third-highest debt ratio in Europe.

The Flemish separatist N-VA (New Flemish Alliance), which advocates the gradual dissolution of Belgium, is forecast to be the largest party in Dutch-speaking Flanders and possibly the country.

“The ballot box question is not whether but by how much the N-VA will win,” said Dutch-language newspaper De Morgen…

This is the first federal election from which a party advocating the end of Belgium could emerge the winner, although the N-VA were allies of the Christian Democrats in 2007.

The party’s lead in opinion polls has triggered a nationwide debate about the possible break-up of the 180-year-old nation, with Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia going their separate ways…

In the midst of a euro zone crisis, with financial speculators ready to attack budgetary laggards, Belgium, a country of 10.6 million people, can ill afford drawn-out coalition talks.

Belgium’s debt-to-GDP ratio, set to rise above 100 percent this year or next, is behind only Greece and Italy…

Some 7.7 million Belgians are eligible to vote. Voting is compulsory, with first-time offenders risking a fine of up to 55 euros.

Wow. Try that one on in some of our lazy-ass primaries.

UPDATE: Flemish separatists were the biggest winners in the election.

French warship destroys mother ship – captures pirates

Three pirate skiffs captured by the, um, somewhat larger Nivose in the background
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Twenty-eight suspected pirates were taken into custody Friday by the European Union Naval Force after a handful of failed attacks on fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean.

In the first incident, the mission intercepted a mother ship and two skiffs early Friday in the southern Indian Ocean between the Seycelles and Mombasa, Kenya. The mission said the suspected pirates were in an area where an earlier attack had occurred.

A helicopter from the French warship FS Nivose then tracked the vessels and saw the suspects throwing things overboard, the mission said.

When a French team arrived at the scene, it found 11 suspected pirates and “pirate paraphernalia” in the skiffs: a rocket launcher, grappling hooks and several fuel barrels.

The forces destroyed the pirate ship and a skiff and took the suspected pirates into custody. The fate of the second skiff was not immediately known.

Soon after, pirates tried to attack a French fishing vessel near two other fishing boats, said Cmdr. John Harbour, spokesman for the EU Naval Force.

The French fishing vessel collided with the suspected pirates’ vessel and sank it, Harbour said. Six suspected pirates were picked out of the water by the EU force, he said. It was not immediately clear if they had been transported to the FS Nivose, although that had been planned, he said.

Later, pirates tried to attack a Spanish fishing vessel, Harbour said. The boat alerted the EU Naval Force, and air and naval units intervened, he said.

Eleven suspected pirates were taken into custody and were on board the Nivose, Harbour said.

Harbour said an increase in pirate attacks was likely over the next few weeks as the monsoon season was ending and the ocean was becoming calmer, he said.

The pirates have been preparing for it. … We are prepared as well,” he said.

I like that man’s style. I think I detect a theme.

Part of the drumbeat underneath that theme is these are navies from nations that remember when they were invaded. The US trots out the B&W footage of Pearl Harbor once a year. Marines in boot camp get the Tripoli lecture. But, the country club set in Congress want to make everything a question of ideology – when sometimes it’s just gangbangers in different t-shirts and no sneakers we’re dealing with.

You stop crime by no longer accommodating criminals.

Canada considers return to gender-neutral anthem

Canada’s federal government plans to look at changing the country’s national anthem “O Canada,” to make it gender neutral.

When parliament reconvened Wednesday and the minority Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced its agenda, the anthem was one of the smaller items that would be addressed in coming weeks, the Toronto Star reported.

The gender issue, politicians claim, rankling female constituents is the third line, which says “True patriot love in all thy sons command…”

The “O Canada” music and lyrics in French were first performed in Quebec City on June 24, 1880. They are gender neutral and have not changed. The English lyrics were written in 1908, the report said.

Sing along!