Monday, December 29, 2008
I'm so thankful to have had such a beautiful, loving, amazing baby, companion and friend in my life for 14 1/2 years. We've experienced a lifetime together and she will always be in my heart.
Thank you for everything, my Maggy May. I will love you always, xoxoxo.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The Conservatives had the opportunity to pull parliament and the country together in a concerted effort to overcome the extreme economic crisis. Instead, the Finance Minister and Prime Minister opted to take the low road, taking on all other political parties by reducing their public funding as well as introducing ideological no-gos including forbidding the public sector's right to strike and lodge pay equity disputes - ostensibly to tighten the public purse. (This at a time when international experts are all saying the economy will not respond to restraint, but requires stimulus).
Following years of holding their noses and swallowing their pride in the House of Commons, this time around it wasn't going to fly. Suddenly all three opposition parties coalesced in a concerted effort to rid the school yard of the bully.
Since then, however, the coalition has not demonstrated the competence required to take on the leadership of Canada either.
I have tried to remain open-minded toward Dion and have to admit there is no way he has the qualities required to bring together our country, as he cannot even do so for his Liberal party. His lack of consultation with his caucus as well as inept communications tactics do not indicate a sign of better things to come.
Even with recent opportunities to soften his approach, Harper has yet to demonstrate any ability to consult with the rest of the house. His partisan style and ideological stubborness is still to be guarded against. He simply does not seem to be trustworthy to most of the 62% of voters who did not support him. (And who by the way, still have the right to voice their opinions and yes, support the toppling of his minority government).
It's difficult to have an opinion on what the best direction is now. Do we opt for the continuation of the mean-spirited, close-minded Conservative leadership or do we choose the disorganized and fragile coalition - regardless of who among the shattered Liberal party leads it? This may become our so-called choice, as it's pretty doubtful that these politicians are capable of working as a team for Canadians.
Let's hope that the holiday spirit takes hold and effects real change so that we can look to the government for collaborative, stable, competent leadership - at a time when that's what is needed most.
PS: I also wanted to note that the efforts of both the NDP and BQ to work with the Liberals seem to be laudable. The fact that the Conservatives chose to demonize the BQ (and potentially jeopardize stability in Quebec) is deplorable. And the fact that the Liberals may back away from the coalition in order to protect the aspirations of the top leader-in-waiting (versus for the good of the country) is pretty uninspiring as well.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The election of Barack Obama has represented this and so much more to the majority of Americans as well as many, many internationally.
To see Obama's conciliatory approach as well as McCain's gracious concession speech on Tuesday, was inspiring and yet unsettling too. There is no question that there exists a tremendous rift in the US that will hopefully begin to be repaired in the next four years. More than that, however, the economic and ecological crises that we're now experiencing are on a global scale, affecting everyone. The US has the power and the responsibility to attempt to chart a new course - one that hopefully is inclusive, progressive and peace-oriented.
As much as I've reacted to what has seemed to be negative conservative posturing over the past few months, I'm feeling less comfortable with my own words now looking back. I have come to realize, or remember, that everyone truly is entitled to their views and their politics. Although we don't all agree philosophically, we live in a world where our interconnectedness becomes more and more apparent all the time. The need to accept our differences and work together seems more important now than ever before.
I'm hoping that everyone will accept the outcome of Tuesday's US election and move forward together. I'm trusting that goodwill for all will now necessarily take over - as is being seen in the international approach to the economic meltdown. And I'm praying that we can all move on from choosing warfare as a suitable choice in dealing with disputes, no matter how dire they are.
Today we heard of the release of CBC journalist Mellissa Fung who had been abducted a month ago while on assignment in Kabul. Thankfully she had not been hurt and will be returned home to her family soon. She was taken two days prior to the Canadian election and the decision was made not to announce her disappearance in order to protect her safety and to help in securing her release. It took international cooperation including direct contact between Stephen Harper and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, daily work by Afghani and Canadian government and security officials, and the agreement by journalists at the CBC, throughout Canada and around the world not to publish the story.
And now just days following the US election, Mellissa's worried family and colleagues - as well as the rest of us who were unaware - hear that she is safe. Thanks to nonpartisan, collaborative and wise action on the part of hundreds of people on the international stage. This one example gives me some hope. That said, Mellissa wouldn't have been put in this dangerous position if we weren't at war in Afghanistan. And we wouldn't be in Afghanistan if...
With all the promise that potentially rests with Obama and his government, there remain other setbacks and challenges - including the regressive repeal and/or banning of legalized same-sex marriage in California, Florida and Arizona during the same election.
With all that's going on for good and for bad, idealism is definitely not what's needed now. Pragmatic humanitarianism might be the ticket though.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Whether brand new or wonderfully old, they form much of the fabric of life. And it's especially heart-warming to know we can count on each other. Cause that's what friends are for - each and every one.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I'm so grateful to have had the chance to live and work and be in BC for 10 years and every now and then am reminded about how wonderful the people are there. Tonight was just that - thanks Margaret for the catch up! As the team at TBC ramps up to the 2010 Olympics it's an exciting time and I know everyone will do an amazing job.
While I'm definitely at home back in Ontario, I do miss Vancouver and everyone there. Guess it's time to start planning a return visit!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I truly hope that Harper's mean-spirited agenda is defeated. And that Obama wins and leads the US towards a kinder, gentler and more unifying domestic and international approach.
Some time ago, I realized how important the following principles are to me, no matter what. Honesty, integrity, fairness, compassion and what can simply be called 'niceness'. When looking for a new job in Toronto, my mission was to do meaningful work with nice people. Luckily I found exactly that at Toronto Public Library.
I've also seen many signs of others looking for the positive in life and in each other. A Toronto businessman who held a "Thanks for being Nice" party for his colleagues and suppliers. The psychologist in Colorado who studies the states, symptoms and contributors to happiness as opposed to depression. Many people who leave or eschew prosperous private positions to work in non-profit organizations. Numerous young people who haven't yet lost their desire to make a difference in the world versus striving just for monetary advancement. And of course all those who have always been advocating devoted, peaceful, compassionate committment to the good of all in many, many walks life.
Before this double-barrelled election year, I hadn't fully comprehended what a significant philosophical difference exists between today's conservative and liberal factions. To hear the aggressive, negative, untrue and personal attacks launched by the Palins, McCains and Harpers of this time is not just offputting, it's shocking. What truly puzzles me is how so many can align themselves with this type of thinking and action.
I'm also perplexed about why political parties exist with the goal of winning the right to govern when they don't believe in government. In both countries right now the governing parties espouse de-regulation, privatization, tax cuts for the wealthy, corporate favouritism, minimal environmental protection, declining health care and educational standards and infrastructure, as well as questionable social policies such as the right to own (and thus use) guns, the expansion of prisons and imprisonment, attacks on the arts and on it goes.
Jane Jacobs, in her 2004 Dark Age Ahead, described the two different types of societal influencers as 'traders,' who champion markets, and 'guardians' who look out for universal wellbeing. While she claimed that a balance of both is essential for a healthy society, she was leery of 'traders' taking over the governing role of the 'guardians'. 1
That's my feeling as well - I will sleep much better if well-meaning, compassionate, open-minded, trust-worthy guardians are in government in both the US and Canada. Just look where the traders have led us.
1. As cited by Thomas Axworthy in Restore political trust with vote for guardians of public interest, Toronto Star, Saturday, October 11
Monday, October 6, 2008
You'll not meet nicer, more generous or wonderful individuals anywhere. And while both are as modest as can be, they're worldly wise, always engaged, hilariously funny, supportive, compassionate and loved by many.
I first got to know Mika while we worked together at Tourism BC and we've known since that we're destined to be lifelong kindred spirits, even if living a country apart. Whenever we're in touch - which is a necessity every few weeks - the miles melt away.
Tom and Maggy and I bonded during our 3,000 km road trip from Vancouver to Toronto and it's an adventure we'll never forget. Especially as it was one of the kindest things to do - pick up and venture across the country in the middle of December while playing driver, tour guide, protector and fellow spiritual explorer.
Maggy and I both thank our lucky stars that Mika and Tom (and Tex and Maggie too) came into our lives.
Hope you two had wonderful birthdays and are enjoying time together following some intense travels. Love you!
Photo: Tom and Mika, by Tom (we think)
Sunday, September 28, 2008
There were hundreds of different organizations promoting literacy, freedom of expression, the joy of reading, storytelling, political awareness & advocacy, and everything in between. There were also different stages devoted to authors, performers and personalities participating in readings, panel discussions and concerts. Everyone from age 1 to 100 could find something of interest, including refreshments around every corner.
I was there primarily to see our Toronto Public Library presence which was strong with a children's booth and bookmobile, another youth and adult-oriented booth, participation in an adult literacy display and support for the City of Toronto's Toronto Book Awards effort. A combination of librarians, program staff and others were there to let everyone know about our amazing programs, services and collections.
Along the way I happened upon legendary Maple Leafs goalie Johnny Bower reading from his new autobiography - and heard some great anecdotes including his memories of team mate Tim Horton starting his now-prolific donut business. In the audience were a whole group of 60-70ish men looking not unlike my dad, eating up all his stories.
Further along, I was handed a complimentary copy of Towards Understanding Islam which I gladly took and will definitely read.
The TVO stage was just setting up for a performance with about 40 young audience members waiting somewhat patiently for their favourites to come out on stage.
2008 Toronto Book Awards finalists Elyse Friedman, Barbara Gowdy, Glen Downie and others were onsite for readings of their new works.
The most crowded of the tents I saw was featuring a discussion on Graphic Novels which had attracted a youth-oriented audience hanging off the words of the panelists.
A whole host of Canada's large and small publishers, many periodicals, the Toronto Womens' Bookstore, PEN, theatre groups and many other organizations were all there offering books, magazines, subscriptions, tickets and other cultural wares.
Upon leaving at the end of the day, I realized that next year I'm going to get there early as there is way too much to see and do in just one afternoon.
Photo: Toronto Public Library children's booth at WOTS, Toronto Public Library
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I've also been trying to get caught up on outstanding taxes, finding and seeing physicians, locating the finishing touches for our new home, getting to the gym, finding appropriate cards and gifts, catching up with friends and family, keeping on top of Maggy's appointments and ointments, cleaning off my pile-high desks at home and work, finding time for a hair appointment, joining a yoga class, getting out and about in Toronto, etc., etc.
Maggy and I will celebrate a year of living in Toronto on October 1 and it still boggles my mind that we've accomplished and accommodated so much since leaving Vancouver. Sometimes, it seems like just yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
We stopped to chat with some of the walkers who said the weekend had gone well and they just had 13 kms to go. One mentioned she wished she could have brought along her labrador retriever 'training partner' who had to stay home for the actual event. She seemed to welcome a Maggy break before striking out again.
Everyone we saw seemed in good spirits and physical condition following the almost 50 kms already under their belts since yesterday. It was inspiring to feel the energy and hear the hooplah around an event that means so much to so many. Good luck to all.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Relationships at work, in love, and in friendship are all over the place. The good news is that based on past learning, the challenges are not as disconcerting and I'm able to consciously guide myself through them with some clarity.
The other good news is that the saying 'when a door closes, a window opens' appears to be accurate. A budding love relationship is now likely to become a lifelong friendship instead, and current work conflicts may lead to bigger, better options down the road.
While we don't always know what lies ahead, it's important to have the faith and groundedness to hold true and keep looking forward. Life is wonderful and these transitions make it richer - as long as we keep our eyes, minds and hearts open. (And remember that talking like this is supposed to make us feel better :).
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
The words, the speakers, the delegates, the candidates - all espousing a primarily privileged, selfish and fear-based position - are too much to bear. God save America is all I can say.
Friday, August 29, 2008
It was a momentous opportunity to witness an audience of 80,000+ in that Denver stadium, as well as the other enthusiastic gatherings around the country, celebrating the making of history. To see an event of that scale marking this new era in American politics is stunning - especially when we consider the rumoured upcoming Canadian federal election. What a contrast in style, impact, outcome and, frankly, inspiration.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the US from now until the election in November. Can't say that it will be anywhere near as compelling to participate in our own process though. Too bad.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Ok, so admittedly I've been watching a little too much television over the past week as the Olympics have been incredibly compelling.
Some more highlights:
Eric Lamaze (Lamazing!) winning gold with Hickstead after a well-known absence from Canada's equestrian team over the past 8 years. A wonderful story of second chances, redemption, faith and determination. This followed his silver medal showing as part of Canada's equestrian team (including 61 year old veteran Olympian Ian Millar and Jill Henselwood) a few days earlier - momentous events both.
Emilie Heymens winning silver in 10-metre diving in a stunning performance that was bettered only by the perfection of the Chinese gold medallist Chen Ruolin.
Usain Bolt winning the 200 metres in his second of three world-record performances. He's a pleasure to watch - both racing and celebrating - despite what Jacques Rogge says.
Jessica Zelinka was impressive to watch finishing sixth (changed to fifth due to a doping charge to the original silver medallist) in the heptathlon. In her first Olympics she has an excellent future ahead of her.
Sprinter Jared Connaughton's passion and grit helped him make the finals of the men's 400 metre as well as the men's 100 metre relay.
Thomas Hall was a surprise bronze medallist, giving it his all before collapsing, in the 1000 canoe race. Seeing him interviewed following, he was excited, gracious and eager to compete again next time. (This was a nice diversion from the disappointed Adam van Koeverden following his eighth place finish in the 1,000 kayak. Hopefully, he'll be able to rise to the occasion tomorrow during the 500 kayak race in which he is the favourite. I'm sure he will).
Tourism BC family member & favourite Riley McCormick came 14th in the 10-metre diving qualifying round sending him to the semi-finals tonight (tomorrow Beijing time)! His teammate Reuben Ross finished 15th and is also diving in the semis.
There are so many others too; however Maggy's insisting we actually turn off the tv, sign off the computer and go outside into the sunshine. :)
Photo: Eric Lamaze and Hickstead winning gold, Susan Walsh, Associated Press
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The past day at the Olympics has been outstanding with a mix of inspiring talent and heart-pounding excitement. The highlight of the games for me so far was watching Simon Whitfield race to a silver medal in the triathlon. Jumping up and down in my living room I couldn't believe how he had come from behind the leaders and sprinted to the front looking like he might even have scored his second Olympic gold (Sydney). He was overcome by the German Jan Frodeno in the last few seconds, but his gritty performance was absolutely wonderful to watch. The triathlon is one of the most gruelling events and in my opinion the performances of those athletes are truly amazing.
Another highlight was the bronze medal win by Canadian hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. Not considered a favourite, she demonstrated determination and confidence in grabbing the medal from an extremely close field of finalists. During the entire race I kept my eyes on her and while most observers had been focussed on the leader American Lolo Jones as she faltered, I saw how close Lopes-Schliep was to medalling. You could see from her reaction following the race that she knew she was close - and a few minutes after analysis of the photo finish she was pronounced to have taken third. (I was jumping up and down watching once again :).
Alexandre Despatie in diving was also a joy to watch as he maintained second place throughout his six dives in the three-metre final and won silver against the tremendous and crowd-favourite Chinese divers He Chong (gold) and Qin Kai (bronze). This was his second Olympic silver (Athens) amid countless national and world titles. Despatie has always been beautiful to watch and it was great to see him succeed in Beijing - especially as he had come back from an injury earlier this year. I find diving to be one of the most impressive and yet stressful events to watch and am always blown away by the combination of athleticism and artistry.
There have been many outstanding moments over the past few days for many other athletes as well. The really fun instances are when we see the absolute thrill and delight of being there and competing well, such as the Russian women's pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva in beating her own world record to win gold, or to see Michael Phelps win his eight golds, or witnessing the rise of spectacular young runners Usain Bolt from Jamaica and Kenya's Asbel Kipruto Kiprop, or... The number continues to mount as the days progress and it's a pleasure to be able to watch these achievements unfold.
Monday, August 18, 2008
I have to admit though, I'm not a fan of 30 degree temps and humidity, so this climate has actually suited me just as well as Maggy. And there's still hope for a normal autumn - my fave season of the year. Sweater weather, coloured leaves, beautiful light and a bit more energy as we start a new school year. I still feel that anticipation of getting back to the books even after all these years and once again I'm looking forward to that sense of a new start, kind of like New Year's Day.
Luckily, I'm on vacation this week in order to enjoy some of this last minute summer. Just in time before fall begins to roll in - and with it new chapters.
PS: Well, maybe the summer weather optimism was a bit premature. Maggy and I just went for a walk and out of nowhere came a rainy deluge while blue skies were all around. Strange.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
While it's tempting to get caught up in nationalistic emotions during something like the Olympics, the wonderful complement to that is the fact that the Olympic games offer the chance for all countries to participate in a United Nations-like forum.
I readily admit I am a proud Canadian. I take pride in what I feel are Canadian values. I love that we espouse multi-culturalism and universal access to education and health care. We also enjoy the benefits of one of the most wealthy economies in the world. As part of the international community, Canada is seen as a terrific place to live based on various measures of quality of life.
However, we also demonstrate inequalities and issues like any other nation and these things cannot, and should not, be overlooked.
Rather than saying "Canada is a great nation," I feel more comfortable saying "We live in a wonderful place that offers freedom, equality and opportunity to its citizens." It would be truly great if those same things could be said not just within our borders but everywhere else beyond.
I feel so fortunate to live here and yet keep in mind that many other nations have so much to offer as well. For me it's not about one nation or another, but the sharing of what unites us all - our humanity.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Then I heard some of the commentary and comparisons to Australia's and China's and other nations' athletics programs. Interestingly while Canadian athletes tend to be coached and developed within a more individualistic culture, we also have to remember that we as a nation aren't especially great at supporting our athletes (especially the summer ones).
We tune in every four years and then question why we aren't doing better. What encouragement - financial or otherwise - do we provide in between? So, when our swimmers or gymnasts or rowers say that they are happy with their non-podium-earning performance as they've achieved a personal or national best, they are simply reinforcing the culture in which they live.
Canada does not really provide a concerted, well-funded athletics program. Our athletes (with support from their families and sponsors) are on their own much of the time and most of the credit needs to go to them for their diligence, talent, skill and passion. The fact that we sometimes do score medals is wonderful; however, how much of the glory can Canadians at large really claim?
All that said, I actually don't think that the 'we did our very best' approach of most of our athletes is a bad thing. Isn't this simply an insight into our oh-so-difficult-to-define Canadian personality?
Isn't it true that most of us go about our daily lives striving for success, while emphasizing a well-rounded, balanced quality of life? It's actually quite remarkable how healthy and positive most of our athletes sound and they truly do seem to believe what they're saying.
If we as a country decide that our Olympic-class athletic program is a priority, perhaps to inspire better national fitness as well as international pride, our athletes will become the benefactors of better training, support and opportunities. As a result, we all might be happier every time we sit down to cheer them all on during the Olympic games.
In the meantime, I wish them a world of success during these games as well as in their lives as a whole. They are representing us well and are indeed making us proud.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Zhang Yimou, renowned film director, created a stunning show that translated wonderfully to television - from the initial synchronous drummers filling the screen like a tapestry, through to the awe-inspiring lighting of the torch.
Watching it with my friend Lily, we were both caught up in the beauty of it as well as in the emotional connection it inspired. That's what I love about the Olympics - the other stuff aside. It's a chance for us all to become united, as part of a movement that's universal. And it's also a chance to get a glimpse into another place, other cultures and histories.
My good friends Mika and Tom are in Beijing and sharing their experiences and photos. I can hardly wait to hear their first-hand stories as well.
And best of all, my friend Margaret's son Riley is there on the Canadian diving team! See her blog for news from a mom's point of view as well as periodic posts from Riley himself. There's a wonderful photo of him during the opening ceremonies speaking by phone to his mom back in Victoria - how cool!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
That said, the politics, bureaucracy, cheating, security fears and other non-Olympic-like elements are becoming increasingly difficult to overlook. Whether I'm remembering the unbecoming jostling for glory by ego-driven government, corporate and other individuals regarding the upcoming 2010 games in BC, or observing the disturbing reports coming out of Beijing.
I want to revel in the goodness of it all and yet that's not possible knowing what is being done in China in order to 'put their best face forward'. Displacing thousands of people from their homes and eliminating authentic neighbourhoods, muzzling the parents of children killed in the recent earthquake, indoctrinating thousands and thousands of citizens to 'act' and 'cheer' appropriately, shutting down and arresting bloggers, cracking down on Tibetan supporters, preventing international journalists from reporting - it's all much too much.
I'll be curious, however, to hear the stories of friends who are going, to get a sense of their individual experiences. Hopefully they'll enjoy authentic connections with the true culture and people of China versus the sanitized, westernized, 'beautified' image that the Chinese government and the IOC seem bent on presenting.
This really is a wonderful opportunity for the world to see China and for China to see the world. Let's hope that becomes the prevalent story.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Dawn and I just went for our morning walk and to my dismay, I turned back early. I never do this - rain or shine, cold or heat. I love my walks and will go as long as you let me. But today, the rain drops were so big and cold and fast that I couldn't take it. I couldn't see as they were going right into my eyes. Kind of reminded me of Vancouver!
Anyway, I had something else to do this morning - tune into my fave blog by none other than a cat!! Check it out: Life with the Big Cats. It's pretty funny, even with the disparaging canine comments.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I love Joni Mitchell - her voice, songwriting, sensibilities, strength and creativity. Not that I know her personally or anything, but what I do know I very much admire. And I have had one personal encounter which, if nothing else, confirmed that I would go ga ga if ever I had the chance to actually speak with her.
A few years ago, in Vancouver, some friends and I were out for drinks at Bacchus - a very popular piano bar on Hornby Street. Located in a boutique hotel, it often attracts celebs (e.g. Vicki Gabereau, Goldie and Kurt). On this evening, in walked Joni Mitchell with a friend and they were coming directly toward me. All I could manage to do was make some strange sound to indicate something was worthy of our attention. She walked toward, beside and then behind me enroute to her table. Which drove me nuts as I couldn't see her any longer. Until my friends suggested that I move seats as I was obviously in crisis. And so I did. And then as a good Canadian I pretended not to be gawking at her while she nibbled on her salad.
I was shocked at how much seeing her affected me. I'd never understood those crying, screaming, fainting fans before, but now I had some new insight into how we can't always predict our own reactions.
The best part though was just how much fun it was to be able to sit there in complete awe of a truly talented, iconic artist. And to realize how much it meant to me.
Note: I'm getting excited all over again just thinking about it!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
One friend blogged recently about how excited her young son and daughter were to attend a summer wedding and though she felt she needed to let them know it was for two 'grooms', the kids were simply happy to be attending a wedding celebration that included dancing. The fact it was a gay marriage was just not an issue for them at all.
Another friend's best friends were married this weekend and in attendance were the two very young children of the 'brides' - who are and will grow up to be, I'm sure, perfectly fine with the arrangement.
Back to the 60 Minutes piece. What became glaringly clear was that younger generations do not have the same objections that the older, mainly white, conservative males currently in charge have with gays serving in the military. This actually presented some hope, as it may just be necessary to wait for the retirement and ultimate destiny of those less enlightened before this becomes the non-issue that it actually is.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I love them, but it could be said they're not exactly my forte. Especially the online kind where you have limited time and must type madly while trying to think cleverly and quickly. Thinking and acting at the same time. At lightning speed. With people who are sometimes a decade or two younger (read much quicker reflexes and much more web savviness - at least that's my excuse!).
They can be oh so challenging and humiliating even. And yet, so very, very addictive. And I'm told a good way to stave off dementia in later life... so there you go, word twist here I come. Again.
Wish me luck.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Granted, there are different perspectives and sometimes we may be having a challenging day/month/year, but on the whole we should be able to conduct ourselves authentically and with compassion.
How simple life would be if we all could do so. And how wonderful a world we'd have if everyone could respect and trust one another. (While an idealistic vision, one can dream right? :)
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
As we entered our building she stopped short and stared at the window. She then proceeded to approach the "other dog" slowly until they were face to face. Next she swerved to the side and watched. All very curiously and seriously. She wasn't even deterred by my laughter as I watched her.
I haven't seen her react toward her own reflection since she was just months old. It was quite fun to see and remember as well.
Monday, June 9, 2008
The big questions moving forward will be:
Saturday, June 7, 2008
And the union has also had an impact on the situation now at hand.
While the "Big Three" have dominated the NA car market for decades, they have failed to be responsive to several key emerging trends over the past 20 years:
- the rise of the efficient, affordable, consumer-oriented car makers (Toyota, Honda, Hyundai etc.)
- the move to consolidate and streamline product lines and brands - is there really a need for the same cars to be branded as Pontiac, GMC, Buick etc.? And why so many? How can this be cost-effective?
- the improved nimbleness of plants that provide great environments and benefits without heavy-handed, fat-cat, self-justifying union bosses
- the move from the old industrial model to a new paradigm that features products that respond to consumer needs and wants, and less emphasis on big-budget, ineffective marketing tactics
My experience last summer is a good indication of how GM has lost such tremendous ground to Toyota in its own back yard. I tried hard to buy a GM Vibe as I had done my research and knew that the Vibe is the same car as the Toyota Matrix. Given that I'm living in this area now, I figured I would show loyalty for the home-grown. Following weeks of online research, test-drives and quotations, I found that Toyota's sales and service model was by far superior. My final decision was based on the fact that Toyota could provide the model and specs I wanted, quickly, and for the same price as a Vibe. Plus when I asked for online quotes and timing from 20 dealerships from both GM and Toyota (still trying to find a way to stick with the Vibe), I received responses from Toyota from between 1 and 24 hours later, versus GM who took days, weeks and even up to a month to respond.
That was the clincher as I realized that GM, as big and powerful as they have been in the past, has not recognized what's clearly in front of their face. The consumer now comes first - not their executive bonuses, union packages, nor old-paradigm business models. And that's not even taking into consideration their slow-off-the-mark response to developing fuel-efficient cars, and elimininating gas guzzlers from the roads. Now with the current focus on eco-friendly transportation, high oil prices, and struggling US and Canadian economies, this old-time company may well simply collapse before our eyes.
(Interestingly, one of the reasons Toyota was able to provide the model I requested much more quickly was because their plant in Cambridge, Ontario is much closer than the GM/Toyota plant shipping the Vibe from California. So, in the end, I went with a home-grown solution anyway...)
Sunday, June 1, 2008
This wouldn't be a big deal, except that Maggy's park and our home seem to be in the middle of a wind tunnel which I'm sure exacerbates the speed and force of the gales that can sometimes take my breath away.
We've had a few glimpses of spring/summer weather over the past while, but nothing has stuck. I may rue the day I said this, but I'm really looking forward to some sustained summer heat as I'm tired of feeling cold all the time. That said, I suppose the longer we wait to turn on the a/c is much better for the environment, so I will hold that thought as Maggy and I go out for a stroll keeping the 'wind at our back and the sun on our face'.
Monday, May 19, 2008
As I watched the credits, I noticed that the director was Julie Taymor who also directed Frida (another favourite). I wasn't surprised to see this as both films are beautifully rendered. Incorporating art and effects in order to further communicate the essence of the story. And I wasn't surprised to see that Across the Universe was directed by an American woman born in 1952.
For many years, I was envious of those who were 5-10 years older than me and and who actually lived the love, peace and music of the 60s era. Funny enough though, in 1979, my first university room mate, Jan (also too young to have lived it), epitomized my ideal of the 60s persona. Long blond hair, sweet and pacifist personality, played the flute and guitar and was seemingly of an earlier time and philosophy. I'm not still in touch with Jan, but last I heard she was living in a cabin in the wilds of Alberta with her husband and son. Although I only knew her for 1st year before she went to another school, I will never forget her ethereal and loving presence.
Throughout my life I've been blessed to know several other like-minded souls who also seem to harken from that time of peaceful, values-based beliefs. Driven by their devotion for the earth, animals and humanity. Sandra, Debrah, Mika, Venetia, Yael, Kim. Of different ages and yet similar approaches. All in their unique ways. And all subsequent to the 60s - which makes me ponder what created that 'peace and love' momentum in that particular decade. Was it a unique culture or was it simply that there were more empathetic people living at that time (led, of course, by early boomers).
Regardless, my heart is still pulled back from time to time to what I grew up knowing as an idealistic and (mostly) peaceful, revolutionary period in our history. And with a soundtrack consisting almost entirely of songs by The Beatles, it's hard not to get all happily nostalgic while experiencing this wonderful film.
Monday, May 12, 2008
One of today's keynote speakers embodied that this afternoon. Google's Avinash Kaushik, described as Author, Blogger and Analytics Evangelist, appeared onstage in blue jeans and white shirt and peered into the audience saying he doesn't even own a suit. He proceeded to present a colourful, dynamic and provocative case for "putting the marketer back into marketing with web analytics 2.0." Like most web people I've met, he's irreverent and challenges traditional business structures and approaches. He laughs at decision-making by 'hipos' (highest paid person's opinions) and counsels innovators to prove them wrong and then move on with customer-centric solutions.
Mostly he prods us to pay much more attention to the 'whys' and 'what elses' versus just the 'whats' and 'how muchs' of online results. And to intelligently use the amazing tools available to do so.
A key metric = bounce rate "- if 67% of visitors to your site don't click through once you should be crying."
Key questions to ask your users:
- why are you here?
- were you able to complete your task?
- if not, why not?
Main message - let customers tell you - capture their voice and don't just interpret their actions.
Important approach - experimentation and testing.
Key takeaway for me - Avinash's blog has been recreated in book form for sale and he and his wife decided that all proceeds will go to charity as he doesn't want to be paid for something that was already free nor for something he loves to do. So in addition to the clothes, this is one of the big differentiators between geeks and suits, at least that's the way it appears.
Next week I get to hang out with web people at MESH - Canada's Web Conference. Tomorrow I'm wearing jeans.
Photo: Avinash Kaushik
Sunday, May 11, 2008
This past week, while getting lunch right at Yonge and Eglinton, I found I only had my visa card which the small shop didn't accept. Just as I was standing in line deliberating how to make cash materialize out of nowhere, the young man next to me said he'd pay. At first I said, no that's ok, but he persisted. He was offering a random act of kindness to both me and the sandwich shop owner and both of us were quite appreciative. I asked for his business card so I could pay him back and he said, 'no, no, don't worry about it'. And so I said thanks very much and that I'd pay it forward. To which he replied 'exactly!'
When I told my friends at work what had happened it made their day - just as it had mine.
Monday, April 21, 2008
When 'heel,' 'leave it,' 'come,' 'now,' 'this way,' and 'no' once garnered the appropriate responses, not so much right now. This is not a new phenomenon in springtime, however the strength of conviction that still reigns is unexpected. When I find myself regularly paying attention to Maggy's breathing or gait or energy level and administering oodles of naturopathic concoctions, this burst of independence and strength is both a shock and a welcome surprise. Though some better manners would be nice too.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I've just finished the "Eat" section, in which author Elizabeth Gilbert nurses her physical and sensual self back to health in Italy, while savouring the language, food, wine and beauty that is everywhere. While Italy provides the ambience, it's the friends, food and fun that help Gilbert come out of the depths of depression that drove her on a year-long journey of self discovery. Her account is heartwarming and humourous as well as inspiring. And it reminds me to feel much gratitude for my own journey.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
She also expressed many of her ideas in several books, articles and on her website. One of her writings featured the decision to pursue more fun in her life, to break away from being such a mature, professional, restricted adult:
"... My creativity was buried beneath layers of responsible adult behaviour... how dull!
To reclaim my creative inner child I began to watch children at play. I heard them sing out their laughter with no heed for who might be listening... or frowning. I watched them run and jump and skip without any regard for smudged clothing, disheveled hair or proper behaviour. Their faces beamed with vast reserves of joy and giggles long forgotten in the maturity of adulthood. They have so much to share if only we allow their wisdom to touch us... their innocence to soften our worried view of the world.
Then I let my creative inner child run and jump and skip, too. We played on the swings and climbed the inside of an old tree trunk (I got thoroughly soaked and smudged in the rain - it was so worth it!). I ventured further outside my box... stayed up all night to see the sun rise, watched several movies in a row until 3 am with a girlfriend, lazed in bed until noon on a sunny day 'just because', enjoyed red wine without guilt for the first time in a dozen years, indulged in exotic foods simply to tingle my tastebuds, dug out my watercolour pencils to draw for the first time in years, sang out loud with the windows down in my car, listened to new kinds of music... all for the sheer joy of it!
As a result I feel freer, more playful, more open, more creative, more loving. While I am not advocating that you disintegrate your health with nasty new habits in the name of fun, I am suggesting you experiment. Give yourself the pleasure of discovering what lives outside the box you have declared home for your spirit. Take your inner child to the playground... join the fun. Cook something unusual. Drive a different way to work. As the author Sark says, "invite someone dangerous to tea." Use your good china. Wear a new colour. Change your hairstyle. Go to an unusual play or movie. Finger paint. Let your creative spirit begin to move a bit more freely and stand back to watch what shifts in your life. You will be happier and, as idealistic as it sounds, so will the world around you. One more cheerful person on the planet contributes to all our well-being!..."*
With spring in the air, it feels like a very good time to embrace this suggestion. :)
* pp 28-29, Christmas Musings, 2005, Debrah Rafel
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Years ago, my friend Sandra and I were on a canoeing trip to Temagami and in the dusk at the end of a long day of paddling she walked off a cliff while searching for firewood. I saw her disappear over the ridge and ran, heart in throat, to see where she had landed. She had fallen about 8 feet or so and was completely fine. At the time she said it was as though a huge hand had cradled her descent downward, gently placing her on the ground below.
I've thought about this image many times since then and can honestly say I've had that sense on a few occasions as well. Driving in traffic and feeling the pull away from a wayward driver. Walking along the sidewalk with Maggy and feeling the need to stop suddenly - to be missed by another wayward driver. Or simply feeling the positive influence of something greater than me, assisting me on my way.
All that said, this past few weeks it hasn't felt as though things are falling into place at all. Instead challenges have arisen. These are the times when I've learned to put down my head and keep on going. And/or to simply observe what's going on to hopefully see the bigger perspective and lesson to be learned. Some glass-is-half-full-thinking and a bit of resilience may be all that's in order for right now.
Monday, March 24, 2008
In my five days away, TO hosted two major snowfalls. Since then, we've had more snow and the forecast is for snow tomorrow and Thursday. It's unbelievable how long and cold and windy and snowy this winter has been. Everyone is grumbling about it and perhaps most of all those that have escaped to sunnier climes only to return to this uncharacteristically bitter weather.
Today while sitting around my parents' kitchen table we were glancing longingly at a magazine that featured lilacs and magnolias and sandals and spring/summer clothing. Then we watched some golf on tv where it was warm and bright and we could only dream of smelling the cut grass and balmy air. Stir crazy doesn't do justice to the unrest that many are feeling, especially now that spring has officially arrived - on the calendar at least.
Though I tried to declare a moratorium on my winter boots and down coat last week (and froze in the process), it appears they are still required for a few days or weeks yet.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
One thing I learned living in Vancouver (from Debrah as well as Georgiana, Luanah, Venetia, Yael and Evelyn) was the practice of the pause. Taking time to stop, breathe, breathe and breathe again.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
A true example of this was the relationship of Debrah and her husband Don. While it is sad that he must now continue without her, we all know that her spirit, memory and legacy will live on.
Don has posted this beautiful tribute that he created for Debrah's memorial, including the song that he wrote and performed for their wedding.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
In husband Don's words, Debrah was "a bundle of energy and the picture of health" as she was a yoga instructor, health and wellness consultant and coach. She practiced what she preached, including healthy diet, exercise and self-care, and was truly an inspiration to others. The most common terms used to describe Debrah at her memorial were "luminous" and "radiant".
The fact that she gave birth to twin daughters in July - at the age of 46 - was a testament to her vitality. And so it has been a shock to all that Debrah could succumb to a health crisis. How could this happen? Although medical terminology may describe how it did happen, it seems unacceptable and unfair. Is it simply a random example of the state of our health care?
This has resulted in many saying we should all stay away from hospitals and surgery unless it's absolutely critical. This, on top of Debrah's untimely death, makes me very sad as I fervently believe in Canada's universal health care system.
I truly hope that the awareness generated by Debrah's story, and of the many others struck down by mysterious infections, will result in the better understanding and prevention of these viruses. It is no secret that the shortage of personnel, training and funding are affecting the standards expected and required in hospital wards and operating rooms across our country.
It is difficult to reconcile how someone who practiced a holistically healthful approach all her life has become the victim of a system that's there to care for us all.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
I arrived with sadness and disbelief that such a luminous soul was no longer with us. And yet this visit, including reconnecting with very dear friends and attending a wonderful celebration of Debrah and her life, has left me inspired.
I am blessed with so many genuinely great people in my life. And I feel the impulse to pay that forward as Debrah would do.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
My thoughts and love go out to Debrah's beautiful young daughters Ava and Marlowe, step-son Tyler and husband Don, as well as their family.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The first author, Governor General's Award-Winner Diane Schoemperlen, read from At A Loss For Words, a current-day look at how email correspondence is no substitute for real-time romance, or even love letters of old.
The second author's novel, Town House, features the agoraphobic son of an Ozzy Osbourne-like rock star, and explores the influences of nature and nurture in cultivating anxiety disorders. Interestingly, this very first book by Tish Cohen is being adapted into a screenplay to be produced by Ridley Scott.
Both readings were great, and the audience asked a lot of questions about the process of writing (and having one's writing chosen for film) as well as about societal and cultural influences on their respective themes.
I have to say, though, the highlight of the day for me was sitting in the beautiful concourse of NYCL with huge windows letting in gorgeous sunlight and through which we could watch lunchtime skaters. This is not a typical "Toronto" image and it was a reminder that TO has way more character and charm than it is often given credit for. It was a very enjoyable afternoon combining both my new hometown and new workplace. Very cool indeed.
Monday, February 18, 2008
I'm taking a week off to hang out with Mags, do a bit more settling in, explore the neighbourhood, and do some of those errands that never get done when life gets hectic. So far this weekend, I've discovered a wonderful Thai restaurant just down the street, Maggy and I have had some good walks, and we're both feeling quite well rested thank you very much.
Tomorrow it's more of the same, plus some shopping and maybe checking out Juno before the Oscars on Sunday. I also want to go to some Keep Toronto Reading events this week (just for fun, not for work) and to take Maggy to a physio appt (to help out with her arthritic hips).
And at the end of the week it's off to a family birthday weekend - bowling with Ben (turning 5!), Claire (just turned 11!!) and Brenda and Bret (won't say what they just turned...).
So all in all, things are going well and we're both quite grateful about that.
Hope you're all enjoying this Family Day in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan and Louis Riel Day in Manitoba! BC'ers - at least you've had some amazing weather over the weekend, which is more than we can say here in TO! ;)
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Maggy has been a bit under the weather over the past few days, so of course that becomes the priority, though today she has bounced back and seems to be feeling better.
Family stuff, work stuff, home stuff have all needed attention. And thankfully, Yasmin came to visit over the weekend which was a much needed break. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it was the coldest weather so far this winter so we ended up staying inside for a few low-key days of chatting, eating, sipping tea and just hanging out. Every now and again we'd venture out for a few hours into the frigid city, including being dragged by Maggy to the park, but as Yasmin had anticipated visiting the milder and much cooler big city of TO, she had not brought along her below 40 (and practical) Ottawa winter gear. Next time, she'll bring it, or better yet she'll visit again in the spring or summer! Thanks Yasmin for hanging with Maggy and me and let us know when you're coming again. :)
All that said, I'm feeling the need to communicate with many of you 1:1 and will do so in the next while. Hope all is well so far in this new year.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
In the spirit of focusing on what's meaningful, I'm passing along this wisdom originating from Charles Shultz and most recently touted by friends Susan and Faye at TBC.
"The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read straight through, and you'll get the point.1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Contest.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.
How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. They are not second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
Easier? The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are NOT the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who care."
A rather nice acknowlegement at any time of year. :)
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
There's much to be grateful for and much to look forward to. Family, friends, a new job, a new home, finding our way in a new place, and rich connections to the past, present and future. Maggy is doing really well - thriving on her new health regimen and tons of attention.
As much as possible, I'll cherish and nurture this feeling of goodwill and thanks. And wish everyone the same including much happiness and good health and well being in 2008. Cheers!