Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Brief confessions of a reformed global warming skeptic

I have
commented briefly about my views on global warming in the past. I was perhaps rather hasty in my comments on such a complex and important topic. I apologize. I was also likely guilty of flipping trendy Gore movie moments around a little too quickly (although I did intro some controversial element).

Since the movie, I've been
guiltily open to opposing views and content and I've been carrying around an article from The National Post dated Oct 13th. It was titled Nine Convenient Untruths. It was next to an article about the UK judge that ruled Gore's film "exaggerated" (here's the link to the same story carried by the Washington Post). I finally got around to reading it this week and the first impression I got was - this article really doesn't provide a lot of real data against what Gore (and of course the many other advocates) say.

Today I received an email from my sister-in-law about signing a
petition to speak up and get our prime minister to uphold Canada's values, stop blocking UN climate talks and immediately start working with other countries towards a new international climate agreement.

I typically make pretty quick decisions on matters of petitions, donations, good causes etc. But this one is of course a big one. I first researched
Avaaz.org and I was a little annoyed to find out that this was not a Canadian organization. How can they speak for me as a Canadian, I thought ? Anyhow, I got over that and tried to satisfy my need-to-know questions and try and become an informed and caring global citizen. If any of you have spent a lot of time with the subject of global warming, then perhaps you can appreciate how truly complex the topic is. It was very easy to get the general fact that the earth is in deed warming. But the hardest part is to ascertain whether (man made) CO2 is the main culprit. So I've spent the last hour or so reading a lot of (very well organized) info on this topic. There is a great many scientists investing a lot of their time in trying to explain this to us peons. A great source I found today was RealClimate.

So my decision on this is that there is just way too much scientific evidence that says man is the largest cause of global warming, and global warming is a big problem. There's no shortage of neigh-sayers, but I don't think there is enough weight in their anti-proofs. When I would easily be swayed into believing that global warming is a trendy, alarmist and politically motivated mission, it appears the opposite is true. There is just too much being said by very smart people about man's effect on global warming. The other side appears to be the one stirring the pot, throwing skeptic grenades in to the discussion and be more politically motivated.
I have signed the petition and hereby apologize for doubting the experts.

I think it's easy to take the side of the skeptic. It's less work. With a subject as complex and important as global warming, it's probably a very good use of all our time to use our brain power for a few hours and get to know the topic a little better. That way we can be an informed advocate for doing the right thing and saving the planet for future generations.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Does mess equal stress ?

After writing Messy is cool last night, I kept thinking about it as I was heading to bed. Although I said that chaos appears natural and may be a thing of art in my life, there can be too much of a good thing ! Too much or constant chaos in my life definitely brings on stress and shows me glimpses of a life of dysfunction and waste.

So, I was thinking that perhaps the easiest and maybe the only way to really reduce the amount of chaos in my life is to limit or reduce the things that could fall victim to this natural energy. For instance, in business, maybe reducing the amount of products I try and learn and sell would help; at home, perhaps the dream of adding a bedroom or family room extension would only create two more junk rooms. Of course, having one email address, one credit card and one car would make my life so much easier. Then you start thinking about other categories, food, clothes, um - maybe. Then there are some things in my life that I definitely want lots of choice in, lots of variety, and they tend to be entertainment pleasures, more music, movies and books !

Sure, I'll relax and accept the natural chaos in my life, I may even try and enjoy it. But why not try a few things to simplify my life.

The picture is
a plot of the Lorenz attractor for values r = 28, σ = 10, b = 8/3, whatever that means.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Messy is cool

I saw this American Express print ad this weekend and thought what a great photo ! For some reason this shot appealed to me as a photographer, a techie, and someone struggling with organization. And also because of Tina Fey, it somehow says Hey, it's cool to be messy, what's the big huff ? And I like that.

What I'm trying to tackle these days is organizing my life, the things in it, how much time I spend with its things, and perhaps indirectly hoping to
see the forest. But images like this and realities in my life suggest that the natural state of affairs naturally returns to a state of chaos. The tidy and paperless office; the empty inbox; fully indexed and categorized music, movies and photos; a budget; and knowing what things you have to do this week, are all either mirages of an organized life or examples of unstable equilibriums. And there is art and beauty in chaos, you just have to look a little harder and change your point of view.

If you're not familiar with Tina Fey, she came from Saturday Night Live and produces, writes and stars in
30 Rock.

The pic came from geeksugar.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Rant

So today I had a meeting in Welland, Ontario. Nothing special, except that it's just past the distance limits of what my company feels they want to reimburse me for using my own car. Therefore as a good corporate citizen I rent a car today. The day started well, great service from the manager at the local Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and a nice drive to Welland enjoying XM satellite radio (especially the uncensored comedy on XM Comedy) - a sunny, 90 minute drive.

The first of my (petty) annoyances began when I was trying to find a reasonable stop for lunch. I had at least a 30 minute window before my meeting and drove past a Tim Horton's by the meeting location to find a better option. After circling around the depressing downtown area I decided back on Timmy's because the state of the local greasy spoons wasn't really appetizing.

The meeting went well and quite long. I knew I was facing rush hour traffic heading back home. But first I had to fill up. I circled the small downtown core of Welland without finding a decent gas station (i.e. one I could use my express transceivers, thus limiting my exposure to sub zero temps and making a speedy getaway). No luck, so I thought, hey I'll hop back on the main road and check out the next major exit, ok a few more clicks, past one-second choice gas station to a preferred Esso. Some of the pumps were cordoned off, and the opened ones had plastic no-gas covers on the pumps. I head in - are you serious ? Yes, we ran out of gas ! Pause - the traffic lights in Welland must be on some old-timer timing schedule - man they're long - or is it just me? So I settle on Canadian Tire gas, but the place is jammed, cars in all directions, some maintenance guy working on one of the pumps and a line up out of the pay cube hut !

So, I'm fueled up, warm and heading home with a fine selection of XM satellite music and comedy.

A quick check on the traffic report provides some guidance on avoiding an incident on the 401 East (I take the the 427 route). Traffic warning at Burloak. Not a biggy. I'm back in Toronto in predictable time and traffic. Ok, I can deal with this. But there do seem to be a few more nutters than usual on the road today. I head off the 401, thinking the worst is over, for the last stretch down the Allen - ouch ! Huge back up across 3 lanes all heading off at Lawrence. I play the 2 lane game trying to discourage the lane 3 drivers, it seems to take forever with cars separated by inches.

Off at Lawrence, almost home. Then the little things start bugging me. A poor last-minute manoeuvre has a car's ass end in my lane at the Bathurst light - sure go ahead idiot - 2 cars go through on red.

Turn on Avenue, almost home. Typical wait for left turn at Castlefield, but cars going out of order, and taking handfuls of my patience (I'm trying not to curse too much at this point) with polite little F* waves.

I actually drive past home to park the rental car at the lot at the end of my street. A few close passes avoiding protruding cars in snow banks (yes, we have quite a lot of snow and ice at the moment). The street is narrowing and becomes more and more clogged as I get closer to the last left turn of the day. I'm almost there, ok about a dozen Volvos and Lexi picking up little "preciouses".

I'm looking for a gap to turn into the lot, but no. So I'm stationary, signaling left and a car passes me on the left to get ahead to the next light - sure go ahead madam. Another car passes on the left - I go left block the road with I'm-almost-home-optimism. Then one guy can't reach the ticket dispenser, sure ticket lady give 'em a hand...

I'm in. I pack up my stuff and about to lock up, when the nice manager spots me - he's locked up but offered to take the keys - sure I say, here you go, great service mate ! Hold on, briefcase still in the car, got it, Good night.

I get home. My Blackberry is still in the car, for the night.

The story was going to end there, but I just got home and remembered where I'd put my Blackberry - ending the day on a good note.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Rio box score

Rio #1 Point Guard
North Toronto Basketball House League - Suns vs Raptors on Saturday Nov 24th

















A very proud Dad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some shiny bits of online tech

Shiny, as in "ooh, shiny - that's cool", not as in bling.
  • Digg - finding and rating surf content, filters, connection with friends, really nice shiny bits on digg labs.
  • StumbleUpon - another surf content tool, it may require a toolbar, but I already found some great music stuff here.
  • Del-icio-us - smilar to the prev, two, but keeps your bookmarks handy, connection with friends, toolbar may be needed.
  • Musicovery - streaming music site, really groovy visuals, interesting choice behaviour and content.
Let me know if you use any of these services - I haven't signed up for any yet and not a favour of adding toolbars. Musicovery works well for finding new music without a subscription.

A small step for peace in the Middle East ?

Don't worry, I'm not going to try and give you any educated comments about the chances of long term success from the peace conference being hosted by Mr. Bush in Annapolis. Whenever potential milestones make front page news, I try my best to understand the details and also see the big picture. But, man, the politics of The Middle East is almost as complicated as trying to understand how to install Citrix Access Gateway Advanced Edition (don't ask).

So I just thought I'd pick a few items that got my attention in the paper today.
1. In the Post Editorial "From Annapolis, a whiff of hope" I liked the last paragraph:
As unfashionable as it may be for jaded observers to express any optimism about the Middle East, we find ourselves heartened by events in Annapolis. Give Messrs. Bush, Olmert and Abbas this much credit: Thanks to their performance in front of the cameras, the world seems a slightly safer place now than it was 24 hours ago.
2. In Letter of the day "Israel has little to gain at Annapolis", I couldn't help but feel discouraged that this man is just so negative, the last two sentences seem to summarize his views:
There really is no choice but to confront the jihadi evil sooner rather than later. The alternative is a greater war within a decade.
I hope I can safely say that I feel that it's better to at least continue to try and settle this dispute, no matter how painful the compromise. Doesn't some optimism and faith help take us closer to the end goal of peace more than ongoing intolerance.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tough Love

I've been watching top chef, Gordon Ramsey lambaste (nice word choice eh?) failing chefs and restaurateurs in the UK TV show Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares for quite a while now. The appeal of the show is something between watching a train wreck mixed with The Office. Mostly, a painful show of blunt honesty and criticism, but with a pinch of heart felt joy, generous portions of humour, a few tablespoons of oh-my-god-can-you-believe-that and all that vigorously mixed with a genuine passion for food.

The results of his efforts in the show are mostly positive, but on occasion his victims just can't take the heat and abandon their kitchens. Would you be able to take a good dose of harsh criticism ? And I'm not talking just about your efforts in the kitchen, but in all aspects of your life. Come on, Mr.fancy pants, PJMixer, you can do better than that you lazy bastard !

I think I could take it. I'm not very confident in saying that the loved ones around me could take it though. For example, as my son gets older and his attitudes appear to be a little ahead of the other aspects of his adolescent maturity, I'm trying to balance the tough love with the right amount of empathy for a 21st century Dad.

I think it comes down to knowing the right time to apply tough love to the situation. In the TV show, Ramsey steps in when things are at their most dire and the business is about to fail. And most of all, he is allowed to let loose when he has been invited to do so. It is just a little harder to make that call with respect to your own life and the lives of the loved ones around you. And rarely do people really want to get a full strength dose of what, may be in fact, be something that's good for them !

(The nicer side of Mr. Ramsey.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Investing in bad reviews and negativity

Most people don't waste their time reading or listening to bad reviews. But perhaps they are missing something ? What about writing a bad review, don't you owe it to the world to tell them how bad a movie or book really is ? The added benefit of reading or writing a review is the truly the entertainment factor. You have the sheer pleasure of conjuring up whole new ensembles of words and phrases to make your negative points, humour takes on a whole new angle, and cruelty, cynicism and sarcasm are your best friends. And for the reader, well, there seems to be much greater prose found in negative reviews that the positive ones. You also see and hear some of this highly entertaining work with comedians, they just love to rant about people, places and situations. Perhaps we should call it "complaining for fun" and use it ourselves to vent a little without it bringing too much negativity into our lives.

A person close to me recommended The History Boys the other day. I watched it a few nights ago and although it was completely horrid and I found myself drawn more to it's negative online reviews than the typical rave reviews that all sound the same. See http://imdb.com/title/tt0464049/usercomments and then filter it by "best" or "hated it" (like this) - you be the judge - what's a more entertaining read ? BTW a good review site for all kinds of multi-media is Metacritic.

For what it's worth, my review on Facebook was
"A pretty uncomfortable experience. Decent acting and soundtrack. I was lost in a lot of the dialog - maybe I should have paid more attention in English Lit". I gave it a 2.5 out of 5. Maybe I should watch some really bad ones to practice this new found art form !

The day the leaves fell

On Saturday, Rio and I did a great 8-bag job on the back yard. This was the first big push for the fall leaves. But, of course, this must have just reminded God that, oh, I forgot fall this year, because Sunday was the day the leaves fell. All of them, all at once. It was raining leaves. 8 more bags, by back hurts a little this morning.

I've uploaded a bunch of pictures I took yesterday to
Flickr !

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Supporting Houston and Israel

It was the MLS cup final this afternoon. After watching a good junk of TFC's games and beginning to appreciate having a professional football league here in North America, I thought I'd watch the last few games of the season. I watched the western semi-final last weekend and chose to cheer on Houston because of their two Canadian stars - goalie Pat Onstad and striker, and local lad Dwayne De Resario. De Resario had a great goal to clinch the semi and then he won it in the final this afternoon with a fantastic header. Meanwhile, Onstad had a game saving point plank block late in the game. Let's hope these guys can help Canada make some moves in the World cup qualifiers.

Yesterday, I was cheering on Israel as they pulled out a miracle and beat Russia in Euro qualifying to give England a chance to advance when they play Croatia on Wednesday.

It goes to prove how excitement in sport can be created by crafting some meaning in a game where you don't immediately have a local team to cheer for. I love it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yeah, I just came up with that #3

You know when you have a brilliant, spontaneous and deep comment about life and your spouse says "did you just come up with that ?", and you say "yeah", well I had one a few nights ago.

We're watching Grey's Anatomy (well, Suzanne is watching, I'm searching for any signs of humour, good acting or an actress I can fantasize about). At the end, there is of course, the obligatory sad scene, either: family member dies; ex-lover doesn't return sentiment; best friends realize they're special, etc. So I observe and comment - "
why do you think women enjoy being sad ? Is it similar to the reason that men like being scared watching a horror movie ?" Yes, I know I'm being stereotypical and I'm big enough a man to say I enjoy a good cry now and again and I know a few great ladies who'll watch a horror movie with the lads (thanks Caro). I believe adrenalin is released in times of fright and that gives you a good high. Is there similar chemicals for tears of sadness. Is the attraction more in line with thinking that you life is just so beautiful (with your great bloke), but you have to be reminded now and again what hardship other women have to go through.

Now, the kicker and a big difference between these emotions we artificially subject 0urselves to is...wait for it...we have a better chance of getting lucky when we go up to bed after a good cry. Forget that after being scared out of our pants - it's dark and a little chilly in the bedroom when you go up, a hand reaches over a softly touches your leg - "argh, get away from me, you scared the bejesus out of me !".

No, you didn't miss #1 and #2, I just forget to the write them down. Don't worry I'll have more, I'm sure.

Re: adrenalin, (from Wikipedia),
epinephrine (adrenalin) is used as a drug to treat cardiac arrest. This is kind of funny, since we usually feel like we're having a heart attack when we watch a good horror flick. It's saving your life !

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thoughts from Michelangelo

Life is like sculpture: a matter of seeing what others can't, then chiseling away the rest.

This is not an exact quote but a paraphrase of what I just read in The Rule of Four this morning. I thought it is a great analogy, one that perhaps I'm aspiring to.

Re: the book, from the reviews in metacritic I hope there are a few more gems to reference. (And yes, the pace of the book is far from The Da Vinci Code - this is the 3rd time I've started the book.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Being gullible isn't so bad is it ?

I think I hate to say it, but I'm gullible.

Most people, including me (until recently) think this is a negative trait. However, I'm starting to think otherwise, or at least reduce it's negative scoring a little on the personal assessment meter.

But I've been giving this some more thought. I've looked up some antonyms for gullible -
smart, sophisticated (which I like to think I am) and wary (which I don't like being). I've also found some interesting thesaurus entries including trusting (ok) and tolerant (good).

I (perhaps,
naively) believe that trusting something someone says to you isn't so bad, you honestly believe people are good at heart. Of course, you're surprised and sometimes hurt when you find out they are not genuine.

On the flip side, there are many people I know that are very cynical and untrusting about anything anyone says. Most of these people are also pretty pessimistic. I often feel on guard with these kinds of people and rarely can I be myself - not the greatest company.

I think I can say that most of my very good friends have a good dose of gullibility about them (no offense guys), but that's why I can be myself with them.

This unfortunately became evident in the movie Borat which I watched last night. My facebook review: "Better than I expected...great ability to mix crude humour with matter-o-fact exposé of the American culture, politics and society". The gullible targets in the movie were just being honest, they had no clue that Borat was "having them on". But unfortunately for them, they had some pretty serious ugly characteristics or beliefs that they probably didn't want to be exposed so colourfully. I don't really think I have anything that Borat could really pick on that is that ugly or entertaining, perhaps how serious I am about electronic music or that I'm not as funny as I think I am [flash to the scene in the move where Borat is taking comedy lessons - great stuff, that guy wasn't funny at all]. Interestingly, Borat himself is very naive !

I don't mind being honest, trusting people and wearing my rose coloured glasses. I just have to remind myself about those other people sometimes. Maybe I'll just picture Borat in his underwear as a visual cue to engage my smart guy persona when I see Johnny-I've- got-one-for-you next !

Monday, October 29, 2007


Just got off the subway - a middle-aged African lady caught my attention as I was standing waiting to exit the train. What was so beautiful about her was her smile. If she hadn't been smiling, I'm sure I have have ignored her and gone about my day and not written this blog. But her smile was infectious. She just looked so happy in conversation with a friend.

The other smile I saw today in the paper was Paris Hilton. I don't have a lot to say about Ms. Hilton and I don't find her that attractive. But the picture in the Post this morning was a very unusual shot of her, she was smiling, a big open-mouthed happy smile (not her usual smirk). I almost didn't recognize her. It was a beautiful photo.

So, looking elsewhere today, see how many people you see smiling, ignore the others (unless they're the customer on the other side of the table, your boss or someone in need). Look at those smiles, those happy faces and let it put a smile on your face. Just think how nice it would be to ride the subway or sit in traffic and everyone around you was smiling.

I heard a few weeks ago about the positive tone in your voice when you smile (even recognized when you're talking on the phone). So, smile when you're on the phone today too !

Friday, October 26, 2007

I think Canada may be a little too focused on hockey

For those not close to the current sports setting in North America right now, the biggest event currently happening is the World Series. Game 2 was last night.

Now I'm not a
big baseball fan, but as stated on previously occasions, I can get pretty interested and excited about the finals of almost any sport (ok, maybe not curling).

I'm also not a huge fan of hockey, sure I'll watch the Leafs play now and again in the regular season (painful as that might be) or when local rivalries occur against Ottawa or Montreal. And of course, I get excited following the months of playoffs in the spring.

Canada as a whole has a very diverse population and I'd assume any sports fan would have their home sports, their new city interests and pay attention to the big sports events happening across any world, especially those in North America.

With all that context, I must say I've been surprised at the priority of sports coverage here over the last 18 hours.
After my ultimate game a few of us went to a local sports bar for a beer and something to eat. We walked into the relatively busy bar and every TV I could see was showing the Leafs v Pittsburgh game (and the volume was very high). I did glimpse a TV showing the baseball game in another room later on in the evening. The Leafs actually scored a lot of goals last night, but interestingly the folks at the bar didn't appear to get that excited. I went home and watched a few innings of the baseball game, but got a little sleepy around 11 and headed off to bed. This morning I get up and I'm looking for the highlights. It's 7:50ish, ok, I'll wait to the top-of-the-hour...ok, missed 8:00 but I switch on the TV at 8:03 and TSN is already wrapping it up and moving on to the Leafs game (which is still continuing when I give up). Come on people, don't you think you need to spend a little more time on the biggest sporting event in North America ?

I get into the office the morning...um, I wonder what the Canadian web sites look like, phew...turns out baseball is story one on most sites, and #2 on CBC and The Star (not surprisingly).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Canadian Anniversary

I am Canadian.

I came to Canada 29 years ago today.

I am glad we came and made our new home here.

I am very proud to be a Canadian, proud of our heritage, our tolerance and civility, and the difference we make in the world.

I am happy I met a fantastic Canadian woman and I love her family. I'm very happy to be raising two wonderful Canadian children.

[End of gushy sentiment, on with controversy]

[photo courtesy of Pardeep Singh]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A picture tells a thousand words

Canadian soldier in Afghanistan (Reuters). I tried to find this on Reuters, no luck, but I did come across lots of great shots on their web site - see: http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures
and http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/topnews. I found this shot from The National Post's web site - it was the front cover of the paper this morning.

The other football

This blog topic came up quite a few weeks ago when I had the oh-so-familiar discussion regarding the merits of football (soccer) in world sport today. You've heard a lot of my views on this in the past, but let's sum up by saying football is such a great sport because of the physical demands, the dexterous skill level, the ebb-and-flow of the attack, control and defense, the difficulty in scoring and last, but no means least, the passion and history of the world's teams and their fans.

The discussion was with a Californian who loves football (American Football). paraphrasing his argument and my post-thinking - football is the ideal TV sport - short sound bites, lots of time for replays and commercials, but most of all, every play is a mini drama. In soccer, the excitement of a near miss, a hard or controversial tackle, a big save, a penalty or a goal is obvious. In North American football you are almost guaranteed one of these types of exciting plays in every snap of the ball !
(On a side note, there's even some new technology available that condenses the football game to even smaller gobble sizes, see Cyberlink MagicSports.)

I haven't watched a lot of American Football yet this season, but each time I do, I try to watch it from this new perspective and it may make sense and it may even be enhancing the viewing experience. I do like football, but I've only been a big fan of the big games (post-season, college bowl games etc.) in the past. If I'm looking for new reasons to enjoy TV sports (especially in HD), this may be one of them.

On a related note and why I chose to complete this blog this morning is my son's victory in their semi final conference game yesterday. Before you ask, this is touch football (no tackling), but the elements on yardage gains, passing patterns and 3-down strategies (Canadian rules) all apply. Yesterday's game was also a fall classic as it was played in pouring rain on a soaked field against a formidable opponent. There were big plays (including a fabulous 20 yard gain by my boy), big hearted defense and must-make intensities. It was absolutely fantastic. I love this game.

Now if only the Detroit Lions could put a few more wins together.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blood Diamond

Great story telling. Full of emotion. Leo - a completely believable performance.

Some of the quotes that really stood out to me...

On good versus bad...
"Would you say that people are mostly good ?"
"No, I'd say they're just people"
"exactly, it is what they do that makes them good or bad"

On the value of life...
"People here kill each other as a way of life, it's always been like that"

On humanity...
"How can my own people do this to each another"



Links: Blood Diamond. Sierra Leone - Conflicts in Africa.

According to UNICEF: Recent developments in warfare have significantly heightened the dangers for children. During the last decade, it is estimated (and these figures, while specific, are necessarily orders of magnitude) that child victims have included:

  • 2 million killed;
  • 4-5 million disabled;
  • 12 million left homeless;
  • more than 1 million orphaned or separated from their parents;
  • some 10 million psychologically traumatized.
  • There are an estimated 120,000 child soldiers in Africa.
It's really a shame that movie makers feel they need to splatter in scenes of brutal violence (although the occurrences here were minimal) to make a point. I think, the film can be just as effective using elements of cinematic tension. I wonder how many people (beyond SRS) miss these feelings because the subject matter is too disturbing (or worse too Hollywood). I feel it's important to feel this and for me, it's a way to feel connected to the world. Although, taking action on what I see, feel or read still seems difficult ?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Why space missions are still out-of-this-world

Murray provided this link from a secret source at NASA. Simply beautiful photos.


More on Keith: The Sun Tan Guy

I saw Keith (previously referenced in Is it just me) this morning. I had to stop and say hello and comment on what Suzanne and I had witnessed in the neighbourhood recently.

Suzanne saw Keith picking up garbage out of one of the large concrete tree planters up near If you know Keith or heard talk about him before, you'll know he's this guy that's always chatting with people in the neighbourhood and when he's not chatting, he's looking for the best sun tan spot on the street. He has a real job and all, but manages to have lots of time for his extracurricular
activities. Sporting Life the other day. Then I see Keith sweeping the sidewalk outside Pizza Pizza a couple of days ago. So I ask Keith this morning - what's up ? He says he's been doing it all over the neightbourhood recently - working up and down Yonge street as well as over on Mt Pleasant, picking up garbage etc. He says you've got to do it yourself it if no one else is going to do it.

I said thanks and bye. Nice guy. Nice story for the day.

In a related story...in doing my part to clean up the street, this morning - I wheeled an incredibly noisy Future Shop metal shopping cart from just outside my house (left there by fun-loving teens I imagine) about 3 blocks to it's parking lot origin. My ears are still ringing and my hands are still vibrating !

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Weird weather and golf at the edges of the earth

Yonge and Dundas Streets, Toronto. A few minutes ago.

Olympic View, Victoria, BC. Last week.

Hurst Family, beach on Strait of Juan de Fuca, Victoria, B.C. Last week.

Rocky Crest, Muskoka, Ontario. Summer '07.

A few pics snapped using my low-res Blackberry Pearl camera. I'm finding I snap quite a lot of everday pics with the convenience of always having a camera with me, but it would be nice to up the quality a little. Franky had a nice new Sony (phone) model that seemed to produce some great shots, plus it was super swank.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Political commentary

I haven't written about politics in a while but with the provincial elections next month and some interesting contentious topics, I thought I'd dabble.

One of the big topics is education. I'll try and net it out...Conservatives want to provide funding for religious based school; Liberals don't want to take money away from current public school funds. Most interesting aspect of this argument is that the Catholic school system is already included in the "public" system but few are really talking about this fact, although the editorial in the Post today did reflect on the hypocrisy because the Liberal leader's family went to Catholic school.

One thing that does become quite clear during election time is the political biases in the press. I read the National Post front pages this morning at home and then picked up the free Metro commuter paper on the subway. Trying to find some reference points here...how about the Post's election blog pages and today's editorials versus the Metro. Quite clear I think.

Another hot topic that came up with a business friend yesterday was the view of the world from the 905 (the greater Toronto area - GTA that surrounds the city of Toronto). I didn't want to argue too much, but definitely felt his animosity toward the big, dirty, money losing city I call home. I could perhaps go deep on this topic, but I'm not sure I have enough hard facts to fight off my Ontario readers who are not Torontonians. Yet.

Politics - trust - money - priorities - local representation - leadership - vision - reality.

Today I'm undecided.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

[Monday] Wonderful movie, loved every minute.

Will Ferrell - amazing how funny he can be while playing a serious role and only smiling a few times in the whole movie.

Maggie Gylllenhall - perfect casting and match for Ferrell; beautiful, sexy and smart.

Hoffman - hilarious dialogue and perspective, brilliant.

Thompson - apart from appearing highly disheveled throughout the movie, still a very appealing character. Her character's blend of twisted perversion, clever story telling and vision seems to sum up the key messages of the movie.

The movie delivered some very valuable life lessons, but did it while disguised as a nice light hearted story.

Hoffman's simplified explanations of literature are fantastic sound bites that I'm hoping I can use at some point to explain or understand my life or those of people around me. Does literature or screenwriting do enough to shed light on our lives, or are there too many elements that fall between the gaps and cannot be so easily explained ?

I'm going to save this as a draft and watch the movie again before giving final reviews and scores.

[Thursday] Lots of
great quotes in the movie, including Eiffel's closing voiceover...and we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives.

I guess this revisits the old notion that it's all the small little things in life that matter most and make it all worth while. [cross-reference here to the joys of routine -
Very Zen; Routine versus Progress). What are the little things that can make your day and just feel happy to be alive: food; your morning coffee, the feel of the street when you walk to work; watching your children; an embrace with your wife; a shared memory with a friend; writing.

One thread I also really liked was about comedies versus tragedies; and the relative endings (love versus death). What more reason is there to smile, have a laugh and try and approach life's biggest challenges with a sense of humour and a smile. Actually when you think of modern entertainment today, there are rarely just romances these days, they are either romantic comedies (say, portrayed my weird combinations of beautiful women and odd blokes) or tragic lost loves sung by acoustic guitar softies. Perhaps we should try and search out the good stuff in between as they may better relate to the lives of normal folk, like you and me, like this new hit single from Johnny Faith:

We got up in the morning, one grumpy, one a little horney.
Kids were playing difficult again, man, forgot that meeting at 10.
Life flashed by, trains, cars, planes in the clear blue sky.
Little things embraced, personal touches and a long-lasting taste.
What life are you living out ? I hope a comedy !

The movie: definitely a keeper. 9/10. My life: a comedy; appreciated more and more: 9/10.

Routine versus Progress

In a series of deep thoughts this week...

I've been thinking about the old notion that routine is a good thing. We hear about physical routine and exercise, keeping regular waking and sleeping hours, reducing extremes etc - building to the summation that the human mind and body is best suited for regular routine.

Ok, but.

If we can control of desires for constant change or new things, limit new ideas and ways of doing things, not be obsessed with the next big thing, then how does one create progress in one's life ? Don't we need to take new directions often; and venture in many different directions, and constantly experience new things in life to feel we have gotten the most out of our time here ?

Routine can so easily lead to boredom and wasted time.

Sometimes I do like the predictability of certain events and activities in my day and life, and I strive hard to create some pattern of positive ritual (and of course try and eliminate the bad repeated elements -
habits per se). But this aspect and focus of our lives must balance with embracing times of change, enlightenment and adventure.

Idea: create a healthy, rich routine in your life and sprinkle in generous time for reflection, realignment; exploration and unpredictability.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Is it just me ?

I've got one of those argh problems solved (coming up with my own solution), so I've got to get back to work, but before I do...

Is it just me or do I simply have a better memory for people's faces, or is the city just a cold hearted place where no one wants to appear friendly.

A few examples:
  • At Canada's Wonderland last weekend. I'm in a long line (solo) for Italian Job Stunt Track. It takes be perhaps 3 minutes to recognize a person I know in the group immediately in front of me. We're in line for about 45 minutes and he simply has no clue that he knows me. I actually thought I'd caught his eye for a sec and gave a friendly wave, but no connection. This was a customer who I'd presented to and met with on at least three occasions, but it was business, so I didn't actually feel like making small talk, but all the same, it would have been nice to say hello !
  • There's a dude in the neighbourhood who everyone knows as he's always hanging out talking with people and the like. Some people know him as the tanned guy that never seems to work. Anyway, I probably see him 3 days out of 5 walking to and from the subway. I made an effort a while ago to stop and introduce myself and find out a little bit more about him. Interesting guy, Keith his name is. So I continue to walk by this guy on a very regular basis and on occasion I make sure to say hello, but he never seems to remember me, what's up ? If he didn't want to meet people, he shouldn't hang out on the street and look so friendly !
  • Another neighbourhood one. The panhandlers. I give a few panhandlers a little change now and again (quite rarely, but sometimes, especially around Christmas time). Anyway, I've spent a few minutes with some of them, finding out a little more about them and being friendly. Now you'd think it would be in their best interest to remember the people that walk by them on a regular basis wouldn't you ? Apparently not. Their loss of hope in the world seems to have taken away the very thing that might help them out a little - a little common ground and polite awareness of their neighbours.
  • The subway and the walking businessman. This one is a little tricky and I can understand a personal preference to travel solo rather than having to make small talk with a neighbour. However, it's just nice to say hello if you see a neighbour on the street or on the subway. You don't have to share the an intimate subway ride for 30 mins, but at least you can be civil, pay attention to the people around you and say hello.
  • The guy in the street. Maybe I'm more observant than others or annoyingly friendly, but I like to bump into old acquaintances on the street. It makes the city feel smaller and more hospitable. But, I don't think I've been on the receiving end of a "oh, hello, haven't seen you in while" in quite some time.
So, if you're reading this, be a friendly citizen of your town and say hello to people (maybe even get to know and remember their name). I think most people would like that !

One of those days

It's one of those days at the office.

I was going to be a good lad while things were a little quiet and make sure all my tech stuff is in order. But the IT gods are not on my side, issues with license keys, access to corporate servers and delays in getting data from our servers for a customer report- argh.

Even doing a little cleanup of my yahoo account (which is about as organized as my son's storage strategy for his PS2 games) was giving me problems with weird browser errors.

Hence, the reason I find a little time to write a few words here.
At least the camera crews have now gone from the office and we're back to the normal, efficient and quiet operation of a professional office environment.

It seems like there were about 100 people on the crew earlier this week. All crowded into our office lobby, using the boardroom for film scenes for the latest in
Bollywood moviemaking. This one was is called Lucky Charms. I did a little digging and didn't spot any connections to any other Bollywood or Indian production I may have stumbled over before, so I really didn't get too excited about the whole thing. It would have been a little different if I had to keep my conference calls a little quieter for Mr. Ritchie. I actually came out of my office at one point and almost walked right through a shot (well, slight exaggeration).

I've seen a few movie sets over the years, and unfortunately I'm never really impressed by the scene. It's far from any exotic notions of seeing dramatic Oscar-winning performances unfold in front of your very eyes. It's more like having all your university pals move the lighting equipment for a Rolling Stones tour while your mum is trying to set the table for dinner.

Let me check what help I'm getting on the above mentions arghs, back in a sec (I'm guessing)...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lessons from a vacation

  • Time passes with ease (especially when you don't have to factor travel times in to your day - the beach is right there !)
  • The joy of not having a schedule - hey, anyone feel like dinner yet ?
  • You don't really need the distractions of normal life like a newspaper, the TV and the news.
  • There is an odd feeling of not wishing for anything more - this beer - this view - my family with me - just perfect thanks. The amazing thing is that this can happen even when your mind has all kinds of time to wander.
  • Laughter comes easier.
  • Story telling is a staple activity and is typically better when lubricated by "liquid refreshment".
  • Reading a magazine or a book in front of other people is acceptable.
  • Fresh air and water is at once invigorating, and wonderfully tiring. Note that feeling tired at the cottage seems much truer than feeling tired at work and in the city.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Holiday hangover

I just came back from vacation on Tuesday. It's now Friday. Unfortunately the pleasures of "being away" are quickly evaporating and leaving me with a little bit of a hangover. It's not necessarily the usual, poor old me, back at work blah blah bah. This time, it's man, my city life is so crowded, everything is moving so fast, and it's so noisy. I can actually see what the other people mean ! 3 days back in the big smoke, I'm tired, my nose is being bombarded by pollution, the city seems particularly crazy and ugly and I'm already stressed. Welcome back.


Wow, it's been over a month since my last post. Sorry 'bout that, been on hols and all.

This article in the Post this morning caught my attention as it's a topic of conversation that typically comes up when talking with people about the power of the internet and the accuracy of its content.

The Big Wikiquestion - the sentence that helped sum this up best was - But the best answer to the Big Wikiquestion might be "Trustworthy compared to what?"

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Can we replay or recreate sensual memories ?

I've been struggling for a long time on seeing if there is a way to simulate a vacation, or perhaps recreate that special day from a past vacation, or even trying to recreate the feelings of that beautiful day spent abroad. There are a number of elements that make up a memory. Many of those elements can be recreated, but some are very elusive.
  • Music and Sounds. Well you know where I stand on music and the mood it can create. This is the easy one and why music is such a wonderful experience. Whenever I hear La Vie en Rose, I think of walking home from a busy day sightseeing in Venice with my brother. It was getting dark and we were taking a more roundabout way back to the hotel. We'd just walked through a large piazza, which appeared to be the open-air evening entertainment spot for many more locals than visitors. We took a medium sized Venetian street/alley exit from the piazza en route for bed and rest before another busy day. It was very dark and you could just see the faint glow of lighting between shutters from residences on the second floor. And there it was, the clear, beautiful and immediately recognizable Piaf lyric.

    Il me dit des mots d´amour, Des mots de tous les jours, Et ca me fait quelque chose...

  • Aromas. Although not easily recreated for an online audience, some of the sensual aromas that fill our memories can be easily recreated in our kitchen, or simply by breathing in the bouquet of a fine glass of Chianti. However many of the aromas we recall from foreign lands are more elusive, like the fragrances in the tropical air from indigenous flora. My mother often says the aroma that was most prevalent in Singapore during our visit in 1975 was frangipane. But is her memory the same as mine ? Who is to know how an aroma is for another ? For me, I remember warm December nights , no breeze, the cacophony of chit chats as a soundtrack, and the comfort of family companions as we soak in the new delights of an exotic tropical land.

  • Tastes. Oh so many to savour. The taste of a pint of Theakstons XB. I was visiting cousin Pete in London with Suzanne. We'd had a few by the river in Richmond, surrounded by people quitting work early and tipping a few pints. We took a short black cab ride up the hill to one of Pete's faves - The Roebuck. We grabbed our pints and casually walked across the road to take in the view of the Thames. It looked with a scene from a Turner painting. The XB was a perfect temperature, still, and with the rich balance of bitterness and a touch of sweetness was liquid heaven. It went down smooth and had me asking for another. More importantly I left a wonderful memory of England, as it should be, with an amber pint of the good stuff in your hand. I think I've had a Theakston's since then, but it will never be the same feeling as that day. Maybe it's the combination of senses that is the essential factor of the moment, not just any one sensual memory ?

  • Touch. I love the feeling of sand between my toes and one of the beaches that I have clearest memories of is at The Coral Reef Club in Barbados. Suzanne and I had stayed there on our honeymoon and then returned for our 10th anniversary in 2001. The casual walk along the beach as the thinning waves tickle your feet is just the thing to wipe away thoughts of business deadlines and big city nonsense. That feeling of alternating damp and hot sand and warm salty water is one I want to remember forever and hopefully feel again. I remember we packed a bottle of 1997 Monsanto Chianti Classico and after another day in paradise we set up on the beach for the sunset. The feeling of nestling that bottle in the sand and the pressure of the chaise lounge on your slightly burnt back and a rock glass in your hand with traces of sand on its bottom (not to mention the sumptuous taste and bouquet of the wine), Simply wonderful.

  • Sites. Quite difficult to pick just one, but one of nature's most glorious sites and one of my favorite places in the world is Whistler. The first time I had the pleasure of skiing in Whistler was in 1989. I remember taking the Village Gondola up Whistler Mountain which actually delivered me to the Roundhouse. From there you get your first glimpse of the true peak and the threat of the high alpine. And from the top, looking across the vast expanse of mountain range is one of those times when you truly get a sense of how small you are and how powerful nature can be. Breathtaking. However, this is the hardest sense to recreate, even with beautiful photography or the latest in high def film, the view is not the same from behind a lens.
I'm contemplating writing down the clearest and fondest of memories and trying to capture the sensual experiences of those events. Just writing these down today has taken me around the world and brought back so many wonderful feelings. Perhaps I can venture past capturing old feelings to conjuring new ones.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The passion of football

Most people in the world get it and a lot of sports fans in North America don't.

Football. Futbol. Soccer.

Some of you may not know but the world under-20 World Cup is happening here in Toronto right now. Combine that with the local excitement of having the new MLS Toronto FC here in town and the recent Copa America, there is no shortage of football to see right now.

You can get a good appreciation for the level of support simply by listening to the commentary. On one side, you have the crazed passions of Latin American commentators we get to enjoy on some of our local Italian and Spanish language TV - GOL GOL GOL ! Then on the other hand, the very dull commentary of CBC coverage of the U-20's. And somewhere in between, the childlike enthusiasm of MLS commentators. As the MLS season continues, the U-20's wrap up on Sunday, the English Premiere League is just around the corner - olé - olé olé olé.

Football is one of those games that is appreciated by amateur players of the game, but stands above every other sport in the world because of it's global and universal appeal, it's simplicity and its rich local and national legacies.

However, those passions can sometimes get a little overheated. Case in point - last night's U-20 semi final. Not only was it a hotly contested Latin rivalry, but player tempers boiled over way after game time - see Chilean soccer team involved in melee with police. But as many people would agree, the importance of football to many young people in the world may be understandable. Similar to African American basketball players in the US, football players in Latin American see football as a way to escape their underprivileged communities and make a living (for themselves and family) by playing the game they love. It's not an easy path to the top and when something rightly or wrongly stands in their way to fame and fortune, attitudes get predictably skewed.

I've been lucky to see some great football of late, including a couple of exciting Toronto FC games plus the U-20 Quarter final game between the US and Austria. Plus a small bonus the other day as we had to rearrange our ultimate field because the Argentina U-20's boys were knocking it around next to us. Subbing in now and again and playing a little over the winter keeps my footy skills in tune and I'm only a few breaths away from diving in a coaching my son again. It's fair to say, football is quite a big part of my life.

I've often tried to explain the intensity of the sport to North Americans. I ask if they could picture one sport that combines the legacies, fan support and history across the NBA, NHL, NFL and major league baseball. Imagine the rivalries and intensity with the Chicago Cubs, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Cowboys and Boston Red Sox in one sport !

And coming back around, this passion for football is what makes it a great spectacle. Perhaps you're not at the point of civil riot, but I'm sure little kid's ears are often covered when England loses on penalty kicks. Add in the memories of kids pretending to be Bobby Moore and Pele and now Beckham, kicking it around in the back yard; being in full voice supporting your local squad; coming home bruised and muddy after a "friendly recreational game"; or coaching kids who really want to improve their game - there are lots of reasons for the passion of the game.

If it was just passion and simplicity and global appeal, then maybe wrestling would be a substitute for football. However, the physical elements and game strategy do make it a great sport. You just try and chest down a high cross to your right foot, move it over to your left and strike for goal with a neanderthal defender breathing down your neck. Or more impressively, stand your ground to an advancing bull, aka Wayne Rooney. The game is one of ebb and flow, taking risky chances, brave sliding or aerial challenges, thunder strikes or ballet-like touches and stamina.

I liked the game as a youngster, appreciated the game playing against strong opponents and now love it for all of the above reasons and more.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Handling life's disappointments

Big or small, the disappointments that hit us on a regular basis can disrupt an otherwise perfect day or put you in the dumps for a few days. Whether it's a stray tee shot, your soccer team's dismal performance, losing the deal, or scheduling and priority changes that steal away your precious little personal plans - all disappointments have a way of lingering too long and distracting us from positive things that are happening around us all the time.

Wise advice is often "don't worry about it, it's not that important". But if it wasn't important, then we wouldn't be so disappointed would we ? Are they saying we shouldn't get excited about the prospects of good things happening, overcoming challenges or maximizing what life has to offer, just in case they don't turn out ?

Maybe for some of us, our expectations are too high ? Of we fill our lives with too many dreams and plans, rather than appreciating what we already have ?

I think this is just another aspect of balance in one's life. The balance between: moving forward, enriching your life, or the life of others around you; versus enjoying the journey and getting the most of what you have now; and avoiding living too much in the past and reminiscing of great times past.

Time to check the life scale again. After all, I am a Libra.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tell me it isn't so

Very bad news, hot off the press...

AllOfMP3 Shut Down by Russian Government

Aah, but my account is still active on mp3sparks.com, thanks for the tip TorrentFreak. It's the same owner of allofmp3.com with same backend, so apologies in advance lads if you still can't make a payment.

I'm back, looking for new Editors tracks.

Tell me it isn't so

Very bad news, hot off the press...

AllOfMP3 Shut Down by Russian Government

Aah, but my account is still active on mp3sparks.com, thanks for the tip TorrentFreak. It's the same owner of allofmp3.com with same backend, so apologies in advance lads if you still can't make a payment.

I'm back, looking for new Editors tracks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cross channel commentary and the society of facebook

I was invited to join facebook by a good fried of mine yesterday. After blowing a few hours and now starting to explore the various features of the product / service / cyber-societal landing, I'm still trying to define it's value.

Some people ask me why I have a blog. Perhaps I explained this in my first few postings, but I think I blog because I want to share my ideas, hoping to make the reader laugh or ask a question about their own lives. The entertainer in me also likes to tell of great movies or introduce what I consider fabulous music to other people who perhaps don't have the time or means to explore the vast world of new music. On the selfish side, I'm very proud of my heritage and the city I call home, so I tend to promote things of relating to England and the great things that go on the big T.O. I also used to write in a journal now and again, so I thought I'd put it in a more available format
(although I really do need to back this stuff up) and open up some of my life a little more to family and friends. Pretty decent reason to blog, no ?

What about
Linkedin ? Another site very similar to facebook in that in defines the six degrees of separation (a great movie as well) in our lives. Linkedin does this for your business relationships and facebook for your social side. There are clear values in these online services if you're looking for a new job or a new girlfriend. With the unpredictability of the business world, the saying is very true, keep your business network up to date. Linkedin appears to do this quite well and I'm sure it will be a very valuable tool when I need it. Good reasons to spend a little time keeping your business network up to date. The interesting side effect of Linkedin is that you get a mini news feed on changes in other people's lives. Honestly, it's just nice to find out what your old work colleagues are up to and in many cases, where their lives intersect with your timeline and business network.

I think this is the interesting side of
facebook. My wife has a little bit of a problem with the news feed stuff on facebook that shows what other friends are doing online (e.g. adding friends or trivial items like changing their favourite TV show), but I think this feature is pretty intriguing. Facebook seems to be doing a good job of letting people get over the fear of sharing personal things with friends. I think people already recognize blogs and facebook as new new channels for self-expression. Funnily enough, these new online forums may just be what we need to regain that close connection with family and friends. Of course, the cyber realities can never replace real life personal interaction, but the way most of our lives are structured today, there is very little room for wine infused dinner parties every night of the week, or finances to share a pint with Brits and Aussies every month. Actually I think there is some opportunity to expand on these online network sites and get close to a feeling of a cyber get-together. Here's the idea...

i. Invite a group of friends to a online meeting place at a specified time.

ii. You could be joining solo or as a small group (i.e. your spouse or friend in your living room).

iii. The mood is set by perhaps a type of people invited, food, drink and of course a fine selection of music (
BYOM; I'm still looking for an easy way to stream music playlists to a private group, kind of like hearing a playlist from Finetune simultaneously and everyone can add tunes on the fly).
iii. Then you just have a handy IM chat room available to lob in the topic of choice. Guest chime in with their thoughts, links are instantly looked up and posted, jokes are told, pictures are shared, favourites are discussed and links provided for future (sober) reference.

But I digress. Getting back to thoughts of facebook (and Linkedin), what about the new online etiquette rules that we are creating (as humourously pointed out in another friend's blog). What are the consequences of ignoring, or worse, rejecting an invite ? What if someone brings in a friend you're not keen on ? For the record, I don't accept all invites. For Linkedin, I feel I have to clearly remember working together (in whatever capacity), a place and time and perhaps even a face. For facebook, the general rule is simple, I've usually had a few drinks with the person and enjoy their company (or I connected in a way where I want to have a drink with them).

On the positive side, I think it's wonderful to be reminded of the breadth and depth of the relationships you've created in your life. I'm sure my wife could blend in an angle of
photo scrapbooking into this so we could share some old photos along the way. It's just up to us, in our new cyber friendships to keep it all alive, expand it into new experiences and enrich our lives.

I'm sure this will be the beginning of a whole thread on this topic, so I won't attempt to exhaust all angles tonight. Food for thought !