Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy

CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER is structured much like most of Clancy’s books. We’re told a large number of stories from different places and points of view. At first they seem unconnected, but the threads will come together by the end.

It may seem somewhat “risky” in that, although this is a Jack Ryan book, Ryan himself is off-stage until the final two hundred or so pages. He doesn’t even know what’s going on. But part of the plotting is to dramatize what he does when he finally does figure out the truth. But the “real” heroes of the book are Clark and Chavez.

Clark is a CIA op who’s appeared in previous Clancy novels. Chavez is a young, talented light infantry fighter.

The most obvious focus of the book is drugs and the Medellin Cartel of Columbia that imported so much cocaine into the United States.

The U.S. sends several small squads of light infantry fighters into the jungles of Columbia — of course without the permission or knowledge of the Colombian government. At first, their job is simply to spy on known airfields, radioing in the location of planes taking off. Eventually they attack processing centers.

In the meantime, a Coast Guard ship happens upon a small yacht just after two men have murdered its family of passengers. Using illegal, unorthodox and unlikely methods, they learn from the killers that the man was a laundering money for the Medellin Cartel, but had been caught skimming and was killed for that.

I’m not so sure such low-level killers would know that much info. I think they’d just be told, “Kill and get away.” Their legal odyssey dramatizes how drugs are impacting out court system. Their lawyer is as slimy as defense lawyers for drug cartel murderers can be — but from good-heartened, good-liberal motives. Their final fate shows how drugs and drug money are whittling away at both the bad and good guys in law enforcement.

Yet it’s with the upper most levels of the U.S. government that this novel is most concerned. And the possibility of people at that level sending soldiers such as Chavez into danger, and then pulling the plug on them to save their own political careers or just to keep themselves out of jail.

And of course, there’s the whole issue of whether or not drugs do constitute a “clear and present danger” to the United States. Some people even refuse to believe that terrorists pose such a danger. Senator John Kerry said he wanted to return to treating it as a law enforcement issue, and many of President Obama’s actions lean in that direction.

The Medellin cartel is gone, but Columbia and other countries still manage to smuggle a lot of cocaine into the U.S., and will continue to do so because there’s a huge market for it. That’s the real problem, and it’s one that can’t be fought by special ops forces.

All in all, this is a novel that could surprise people who hate Clancy and even some of his fans may assume he’d take a more direct stance on these issues, but there’s also plenty of action for those who simply want the military suspense.

Presenting – The Garden Gate Restaurant a.k.a. “The Goof” – Good Food in the Beach since 1952

It was time for lunch after my extensive interview at the Balmy Beach Club, and all I had to do was walk up the street and head into the first restaurant that presented itself to quench my hunger. The Garden Gate Restaurant, affectionately nick-named “The Goof”, is a true institution in the Beach, and the restaurant’s sign certainly is one of the most frequently photographed landmarks in this area.

I sat down in this busy place and looked over the menu which contains a wide selection of Chinese and Canadian specialties, all on offer at a very reasonable price. The restaurant was bustling with activity, and people were just streaming in for lunch. Since I had another appointment in the afternoon I was looking for speedy service, and sure enough, the waitress approached me promptly. I ordered the special of the day: “General Tso Chicken” features hot chunks of boneless chicken, sautéed with the chef’s special sauce. I started my meal with a steaming won-ton soup, a great way to warm up on a freezing winter day. The General Tso Chicken was very tasty, with a crispy texture and spicy sauce, and the portion was so generous I actually had to take half of my meal home.

All the waiters were very busy, but I just had to find out a bit more about this culinary institution in the Beach, so my waitress connected me with the owner: Raymond Lee. I could tell right away Raymond is a rather shy individual and not one who enjoys the limelight. In addition he was tied up with some work at the back of the restaurant, but he graciously took a few minutes and sat down with me to answer my questions.

Raymond has co-owned the Garden Gate Restaurant for about 15 years now with a partner. Before he became co-owner he used to work here, so he has a personal long-standing history with this restaurant. Way back in high school he worked part-time in the restaurant business already. After graduation he went to Brock University and completed a degree in business and economics and started to work in accounting with companies such as Famous Players and Petro Canada. Raymond describes his situation with the words that “he was a small clerk in a big corporation”, but he always wanted to be his own boss.

In 2006 Garden Gate underwent a major restoration: everything was changed, a new kitchen was installed – the main reason for the renovation. The bar and all the furniture are new. The only original components left are the floor and the ceiling tiles. Of course, the treasured street sign has stayed intact, although the façade of the building has changed and was replaced by big full-length glass windows.

Raymond describes his restaurant as a “Canadian – Chinese restaurant” because he features both Canadian and Chinese fare. The restaurant opens early in the morning, and the Canadian breakfast is extremely popular. Sandwiches, pork chops and steaks are also offered along with a long list of Chinese specialties. The restaurant is fairly large: it can hold 70 people inside and 30 people on the patio.

“The Goof” has about ten staff members today, and one of them is Hazel, who with 54 years of service, has been here virtually forever, and has become a treasured neighbourhood institution in her own right. Hazel usually comes in Wednesday to Saturday from five to ten pm, so I did not have a chance to meet her, but Raymond added that she works here because she wants to be here. She has fun interacting with the clientele, and the patrons love her.

Prices at the Garden Gate Restaurant are extremely reasonable, and portions are plentiful. The restaurant also offers takeout and delivery and is open 7 days a week from 8 am to midnight. Raymond succinctly summed up the philosophy of “The Goof” for me: “Friendly service, good prices, good food”.

Five Presentation Techniques Not to Use as a Speaker

I hope you will learn some good presentation techniques by my pointing out what NOT to do when presenting. Remember the following are techniques to AVOID.

Be late for your presentation, or rush in at the last minute, just in time. This will convince the meeting planner and the audience members of how busy a person you are. You didn’t even have time to call them to let them know you were on the way. It will just make your arrival more dramatic and will also let them know how little you care about them or the impression you are making (or not making).

Don’t worry about your appearance. After all, they hired you for your expertise, not because of the way you look. You were in too much of a hurry to make sure that your clothes were pressed and your shoes were shined. Anyway, you are a creative person who doesn’t worry about looking sharp. Besides, the audience is dressed in casual attire, so why shouldn’t you? Even though we hate to believe it, their first impression of your sloppiness will remain as a lasting impression of you as a non-professional.

Start your presentation with a joke that has nothing to do with your topic. Isn’t this the time-tested formula that speakers have been using for years? How about an off-color joke, at that? That will really cement you as a far-from-professional presenter in their estimation. Or, if you don’t have a joke, you can always start with the lame opening, “It’s so nice to be here with you today.” That will knock them off their seats and get them to sit up and pay attention.

Become known for your large array of mannerisms and/or distracting habits. You can work to add many of these to your repertoire. Some habits to try are: filler words such as “um,” “er,” “you know,” pacing back and forth, swinging your arms, putting your hands in your pockets (jingling change will enhance this habit), picking at your clothes, wringing your hands, smoothing your hair, swaying from side to side, glancing at your watch continually, leaning on the lectern, putting your hand in front of your mouth, and laughing so hard at your own jokes you can’t continue. All of these are guaranteed to keep your audience from remembering anything you told them.

Do not pay attention to your voice and/or speed of speaking. After all, if you have meaningful information, it doesn’t matter, does it, if you speak in a monotone, or speed along so that you can fit it all into your limited time frame. Both of these techniques are guaranteed to cause your audience to “turn off” and take a needed rest. They may even thank you for the break.

Banish all of the techniques that I have highlighted, and you will give presentations that listeners learn from and enjoy. And, you will be asked back!