MAIL BAG

‘Knowing that Ken Thomson had spent $641 million, I sent him a Ronald McDonald watch’

July 24 2006
MAIL BAG

‘Knowing that Ken Thomson had spent $641 million, I sent him a Ronald McDonald watch’

July 24 2006

‘Knowing that Ken Thomson had spent $641 million, I sent him a Ronald McDonald watch’

MAIL BAG

MAKING THE GRADE

IN SPITE OF your findings that students at small universities are generally more satisfied than those at big institutions (“No, this time we’ll test you,” University Student Issue, June 26), I appreciate my alma mater, the University of Toronto. I am currently attending the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich after graduating from mechanical engineering at U of T, and despite my undergrad whining about teaching assistants, assignments and labs, the quality of the educational experience there was miles above the norm at one of the supposedly best schools in Europe. Now I wish that the fellows here could get their act together.

Nie Piatkowski, Zurich, Switzerland

YOUR SURVEY has confirmed what I have suggested to advice-seekers for nearly 50 years: if your program is available in a smaller university, go there because you will get a better education and your professors will know you by name. My basic contention is that in most universities the teaching-focused approach brings few rewards to the teacher. Appointments, promotions and merit increments are almost always reserved for those doing research. “Publish or perish” seems to be the guiding principle of faculty evaluation committees. Unless good teachers are rewarded, the importance of teaching will remain on the back burner.

Lochan Bakshi, Professor Emeritus, Athabasca University, Edmonton

WHERE WERE YOU in 1991 when I was choosing a school? I attended the University of Calgary and was not surprised to see it near the bottom of your results. I can honestly say I was not inspired, moved or impressed by any of my forgettable instructors at U of C. I came from the Yukon and chose U of C because it was relatively close and Alberta had no sales tax. I know your article will help others make wiser decisions than I did.

Duncan John Harwood, Oslo, Norway

I WAS DISHEARTENED to read that the University of Western Ontario was named a favoured institution by first-year students. I was forced to go to UWO because I grew up in London and my parents said they couldn’t afford to send me anywhere else. I believe at a less pompous institution an instructor might

have taken an interest in my abilities. As a high school teacher, I advise my students to choose any university over UWO.

Angela St. Michéal, London, Ont.

TURN ON THOSE SAD SONGS

WRITER BRIAN BETHUNE’S and author Tom Reynolds’ shared contempt for the likes of Anne Murray and Mariah Carey (“A brief history of melodic misery,” Music, June 26) reminds me of an old Lawrence Welk quip that everyone hated him except the public. I suspect these two know as little about Carey as they claim she knows about some of the music

she performs. Carey only occasionally does remakes, “heart-grinding” or otherwise. Her normal category is that of a singer-songwriter who has evolved from the middle-of-the-road genre to more of a rhythm and blues style. Oh, and that “bloated choir” in Carey’s 1993 rendition of Without You consisted of her overdubbed voice and three backup singers. Chris Carss, Chemainus, B.C.

THOMSON AND TIMEPIECES

I READ with interest Peter C. Newman’s article about Ken Thomson (“Goodbye to a gentle giant,” Profile, June 26). Thomson was a valued friend and a true gem of an individual. I have a slight correction. Thomson never called to ask me for anything. When we first met, I had a McDonald’s watch on, and in answer to his question, “What do you do, George?” I showed him the watch and said I work for this company. His response was

“Gee, it’s really neat looking.” Seeing his interest in the watch and knowing the day before he had spent $641 million on a corporate takeover, I immediately sent him a Ronald McDonald watch with a note that jokingly said, “Now that you’ve spent all your money, wear this watch and it will be a constant reminder of the one place in the world that you can eat where the price is reasonable and the food is consistently good.” For years, whenever new fun McDonald’s watches would come out, I’d send one to Ken and he’d periodically wear them and would always write me a wonderful note of thanks, often critiquing the design of the watch.

George A. Cohon, founder, McDonald’s Canada /McDonald’s Russia, Toronto

RIGHTING WRONGS

I APPLAUD the Canadian government’s continued efforts to obtain the release of IranianCanadian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, a man whose only crime is that he’s a thinker (“A prisoner’s desperate hope, and brave words,” World, July l). His arrest and detention by the predators who pose as prosecutors in Iran is a sorry story. May efforts to free him pay off, and may those who are responsible for the murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi be brought to justice.

Mahasti Afshar, Los Angeles

I AM PLEASED to see that Darfur is getting more coverage (“Remedial math and the Canadian Forces,” National, June 5), but why does it take three years for a genocide to be noticed? I hope this new awareness moves us to stop the mutilations, rapes and killings. Let’s not have a repeat of Rwanda. Never again shouldn’t mean until next time. Barbara Frensch, Burlington, Ont.

BOMBARDIER AND BLAME

THANK YOU for your rebuttal of Laurent Beaudoin’s attempt to blame the Bank of Canada for his company’s substandard performance (“Bombardier’s always-outstretched hands,” From the editors, June 12). As a Canadian businessman, I have always wondered what secrets Bombardier held that made it so easy for it to tap government for huge sums, seemingly at will, over several decades. In most companies, management performance is based on corporate profitability, stability and growth. With a record such as

Bombardier’s, the entire management team would likely have been gone by now. However, it appears that its performance criteria may be based on the ability to plunder the public purse. It’s time to tell Bombardier to pull its own weight.

G.P. James, Edmonton

I AM SO GLAD someone has had the courage to draw attention to Bombardier’s greed. Now how about Magna Corporation? How about Air Canada?

Rita Williams, Guelph, Ont.

NOW YOU’RE TALKING

AFTER READING Kenneth Whyte’s Q&A with author Stephen Miller, I wanted to say thank you for illuminating the problem of the lost art of conversation in our culture today (Interview, June 12). I am often struck by how few people cultivate themselves to become interesting people. Women are pathetically boring with their obsession to detail a laundry list of their inner feelings. Men fail in that many of them don’t read literary fiction, foolishly believing it is only for women. A cultivated person travels, reads, knows art, history, religion, politics and geography. But to cultivate ourselves is foreign. Instead, we have become a nation of me’s and I’s.

Irena Karshenbaum, Calgary

READERS LAMENTING the loss of good conversation may want to start up a philosopher’s café (www.philosopher.org) in their communities. These groups provide a venue for the very type of face-to-face socialization that Whyte describes. In London, we have been running one for more than five years, first at a bookstore and now at the downtown library where I work. The people who attend always comment on how refreshing it is to have meaningful conversation in these times when cyber-communication seems to be the norm. Jacqui Dénommé, London, Ont.

HBO AND COJONES

CONGRATULATIONS TO Maclean’s on being named Canada’s Magazine of the Year. That’s the good news. Now, tell me why you continue shilling for HBO to be included on Canadian television. That’s the bad news.

Russ Germain, Toronto

I AM DELIGHTED with your newfound cojones. Congratulations for bringing Mark Steyn to a national Canadian audience on a weekly basis. He and Barbara Amiel are your two most incisive commentators, and I now buy Maclean’s for the savoury pleasure of their articulate destruction of the long-cherished assumptions of linguine-spined leftists. Dave Sanderson, Barrie, Out.