Friday, December 9, 2011

Think of the Children!

So there's been a lot of talk about Rick Perry's latest campaign ad. I'll show it here just so we all have the same information:



My first reaction to this was pure and unbridled anger, then a friend on Facebook (with extremely different opinions politically and religiously) tells me that isn't the point that Perry is trying to make, is that he thinks it's absurd that kids can't celebrate Christmas in school? Yes, Perry makes it abundantly clear he thinks the current administration has mounted an attack on his religion. OK fine, let's run with that...

Here's why I am still enraged: gays in the military and religion in school are mutually exclusive.

Issue #1: (His) Religion is Under Attack
If Mr. Perry thinks a public education system should force religious beliefs on children then that's one thing but I personally witnessed 8 year old kids singing "Jesus is the reason for the season" at a "holiday pageant" and many of the kids looked sad and confused, and a couple very upset. I wonder what that would feel like? To be told to sing a song praising a god you didn't believe in? I happen to think that this is a bigger atrocity than telling someone they can't just wave their personal religious beliefs around in a public school system, especially when there's separate religious schools for that and churches open every Sunday.

You can't possibly accommodate every religion that's represented in a public school, but since there are associations and communities outside of the schools that do (the aforementioned churches, plus mosques, and temples, ...) you accommodate none, but you honour them all in the form of, oh I don't know... EDUCATION! Which is what the schools are supposed to be for anyway, right?

Feel free to disagree. I know many people will and that's all fine and good. Welcome to adulthood where people with strong opinions can disagree and welcome to Canada where you can have disagreements freely and not feel the need to kill anyone over it (most of the time. We do have our share of nut jobs).

So Rick Perry wants you to know that this offends him greatly and his country is so backwards because of this religious attack that at the very same time this is going on, gays are allowed to just walk around being gay while defending the country.

Wait a second, he lost me.

It's a religious attack to allow people to defend, WITH THEIR LIVES, the rights and freedoms he wants so desperately to flaunt wherever and whenever he sees fit?

Holy shit, are you kidding me?

Issue #2: Gays Shouldn't be in the Military
I thought this issue had pretty much been kicked to the curb but let's face it, some people don't like gays no matter what they're doing (like defending the country or adopting a child who was kicked to the curb), but since when has being gay and serving in the military become a religious issue? There's a lot of history with respect to gays and the church, but being amazingly patriotic while at the same time being gay is somehow an attack on Christianity? I'm not sure I understand the correlation.

Time for a thought experiment:
How about instead of the "gays in the military" comparison he uses "gays getting married". Now there's an issue that's littered with conflict on how to define marriage, religiously versus legally, that many would actually argue is an attack on some beliefs. It's an equally polarizing topic, so why not use that as the comparison in the campaign ad? It seems more relevant, does it not?

In my opinion it is more relevant, but it's not quite polarized enough and it's not quite broad enough. Gay marriage is only a "concern" in a few States and it's not a federal issue. The military? Well, they're everywhere and they're the reason a surprisingly large number of small town kids end up getting jobs instead of becoming criminals. To over-simplify it, "gays in the military" reaches a broader audience - the audience that Republicans want to reach - so they picked that to use in the ad. Hell, they picked every single word so carefully it makes me wonder how much of a puppet Rick Perry actually is, and who's actually pulling the strings.

My conspiracy theory: Republicans Bigger than Perry are Pulling the Strings
Rick Perry is pretty much a non contender in the race for the Republican nomination, but the fact that he is a non-contender is exactly why I think the other Republicans want him to do things like this. They win either way. On one hand the Rick Perry supporters get their chance to let themselves be known, and on the other it provides the Republicans an out by way of running someone more moderate and hopefully winning back those middle of the pack swing votes that crossed over to Obama.

If enough right wing religious nuts get on board, the extreme right drives the agenda. I don't see this as very likely but it does offer up an interesting opportunity for the Republicans to say: Wait, wait, wait. Yes we strongly believe in these things but the Rick Perry's of the country are too nuts, even for us, so here's someone else a little less extreme to vote for. Someone a little more palatable. So, come back: Florida, Ohio, Indiana, New Mexico, and Colorado. Let me pour you some Kool Aid.

The sad part about all of this is that the issues that are really hurting everyone always seem to take a back seat to the issues that people are more passionate about. Hey, I have an idea! Let's get people to make important decisions by ensuring they vote emotionally instead of rationally.

Yeah, how's that working out?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMovember

I have been tinkering with the idea of writing for a long time, but it wasn't until a friend suggested that the screenplay I was writing might be better off as a novel that I started making any progress. Fueled by countless friends and writers on Twitter, I set off to write. Then, in July 2011 while at a summer cottage with some friends I suffered a concussion. I've chronicled much of that story here and on Twitter. It was my fourth medically confirmed concussion (added to at least that many unconfirmed) and it had a profoundly negative impact on my life. Thinking straight for 5 minutes was a challenge, let alone working full time and writing a novel. The healing process would be a long, slow, drawn out affair.

Fast forward to late October 2011 and my brain was ready for action again, but I was finding it hard to get my writing mojo back. Reaching out to the Twitterverse I was reminded of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and all the wonderful, inspirational writers involved with this event. My motivation was restored and my brain waws active and overflowing with ideas.

A full time job, two children and a wife (and all the activities that go along with them), post concussion syndrome, and 50,000 words to write in 30 days. That's 1,667 word per day if anyone's keeping track (and the NaNoWriMo website is). No problem(?)

Well, day 1 is in the books and I'm pleased to say that I worked (almost) a full day, got the kids fed, to and from gymnastics and into bed, and I've managed to write over 2000 words. Not a bad start. Not bad at all.

Oh yeah, I'm also growing a moustache in support of Movember. This should not detract from my writing efforts and just happened to roll into a nice blog title :) You can donate to the Movember cause here.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kids Make Great Teachers

My daughter's first spoken word was "shit". I'm not even remotely joking. She was doing something cute and my wife sent me running upstairs to get the camera. At the top of the stairs I hear from below, "Never mind, she stopped doing it." I let the expletive slip out and within seconds of the word leaving my mouth from downstairs I hear this cute little baby voice say, "shit". That pretty much spoiled my chances at the 2002 Parent of the Year award. Her next word a day or two later was "da da", but it was too late, "shit" would have to go in the books as my first born child's first word.

She was, of course, just mimicking what she heard me say, but as a parent something like this does make you suddenly very aware that those little ears hear and those little eyes see EVERYTHING. Offspring from all sorts of life learn from their parents. It's how the world works for many things. You are born (or hatched) and your mom or dad (or both) teach you what you need to know to survive. You pick up a bunch of other stuff too, just by interacting with your environment in general, but you'll get a ton from your parents whether you like it or not. Sometimes though, the kids will show the old folks a thing or two.

After the big earthquake and tsunami in Japan my daughter and her friends really wanted to help out. The outpouring of compassion they showed was on its own something to be really proud of, but they took it one step further. They started making beaded bracelets and selling them to their friends' parents for a buck a piece. Some people started donating more than a dollar, and one even sold for $20 on its own. Before they knew it there were school lunch hours set aside for more kids to make more bracelets. They raised over $1000 that they sent to the Red Cross. Did I mention these kids were only 8 years old?

Lesson #1 that kids can teach adults:
You can make a difference. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you just get off your ass and do something about it. 

I was in the kitchen the other day and my second child (a 5 year old boy) was sitting at the breakfast bar waiting for me to get him going on his juice and cereal. I noticed that when I was preparing everything that his eyes were fixed on my every move. I had to open the new juice, pour it, open the vitamins and take one out, open a new box of cereal, open the inside bag, pour the cereal, close the box, and then put it all away. Not until everything was back in its place did he stop watching me and start eating breakfast. It dawned on me right at that moment that the little bugger was learning. Simply by paying attention he had just learned how to do something. My bet is he picked up a better way to open the box of cereal so he doesn't rip the tab off every time or tear a giant hole in the inside bag spilling Corn Flakes everywhere.

Lesson #2 that kids can teach adults:
If you shut up and pay attention you just might learn something.

Unfortunately many adults are a lot harder to teach than most kids. Adults come with their own biases and agendas (hidden or otherwise) and tend to take a different approach as a result. Which is really too bad, because we are usually the ones who have the most to learn.

 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Evening Without Kevin Smith

Any company’s success lies in how obstacles are navigated and if you can maintain focus along the way. I have seen dot com triumphs and massive corporate failures. When growth occurs too quickly, things get complicated. Great ideas devolve into nonsense. Priorities are juggled. People get lost in the shuffle. Balls get dropped. And everyone is watching. A great example of this is a recent disappointment I had with the filmmaker Kevin Smith’s organization.

Don’t get me wrong, I'm a huge fan and I'm not going to let one problem sully the image I have of Kevin and his work. Kevin makes even the loftiest goals appear within reach. Maybe it's his self-deprecating style, or the fact that he's clearly overachieved in the wife department, but something about this guy makes you think whatever your hope, achievement is possible. So when he announced that he would trade tickets to a Q&A and his new movie Red State in exchange for an original tune he could use in a SModcast intro, I was immediately on board.

I spent a couple weeks putting something together (no small feat considering I am not a musician and can't even read music) and put it up on Twitter. He liked it enough to have me get in touch with Jordan Monsanto and work something out (Jordan handles this stuff for him.) A Twitter exchange and then an email exchange with Jordan resulted in nothing. There were no Canadian dates and even my suggestion that Kev just sign some stuff and send it to me went unnoticed.

Days passed, then weeks. I sent a polite last-ditch reminder email. Nothing came back. I had officially given up.

Then Kevin announced Canadian dates. I immediately sent an email asking if the Toronto gig could satisfy Kev's end of the art swap. Days passed again with no response. I decided that rather than wait it out and see what happened, I would buy tickets anyway so at least I'd get to see the show. I whined about the lack of response to Rob, a Twitter friend, who sent Kevin a nag on my behalf. Within seconds Ming (Kev's guy in Jersey) emailed and said Kev offered up tickets or swag. Problem was, tickets for Toronto were sold out. I looked at the swag but none of it was of interest. I'm not a collector of a lot of things except the odd book. I suggested that he could send me a couple of his SModcast books if we couldn't work something out for tickets. No response.

Meanwhile, Jordan and Kev's assistant Meghan emailed me, also telling me that the Toronto show was sold out but Kev would be back and maybe I could get tickets to a later show. In this email exchange I suggested that since I had tickets to the Toronto show, and I wasn't really a swag guy, maybe I could just meet Kev before or after the show in Toronto. A few minutes of talk time with Kevin Smith would certainly make me a happy camper. No response.

I got to the show with Rob and I'm desperately trying to see if I can spot Meghan. She was my in. Rob points out that Kev usually watches the movie from the back and wouldn't you know it? Four seats were reserved at the back and a couple right in front of those were wide open. We sat and waited. Sure enough, right before the movie started, Kevin and Meghan sat right behind me.

Just as I turned around to introduce myself to them and hopefully lay the groundwork for a possible meet afterwards, some crazy lady comes up to Kevin and starts gushing over how much she's a fan and if she could just have a second...yip yip yip, yap yap yap. The movie started and she's STILL talking. At this point I turned around and gave Kevin Smith the “shut the hell up, I'm trying to watch the movie” look – during his own movie! Classic.

Now this is not your run of the mill Kevin Smith movie. This is an excellent edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller. However, the theatre’s air conditioner was broken and I was still suffering post-concussion symptoms. The headache was worsening and I was hot as hell. As soon as it ended I stood up and thankfully they opened a door beside me and let in some fresh air. Meanwhile, people were lining up at the microphones for the Q&A. I tried to walk down but was still feeling less than stellar so I hung out in the fresh air to recuperate. After a few minutes I sat down in the aisle to see if I'd get a turn at the mic. I didn't. Rob drove me home and I went to bed.

So what happened? I got lost in the shuffle. My art swap deal was (understandably) very low on the priority list and many people that weren't Kevin Smith were running around trying to do the important stuff first. My item just bounced around until it fell to the ground. It's not a big deal, but it highlights some of the challenges companies face when trying to bring out the best in their businesses.

It would have been nice to see a little more of Kevin Smith the person instead of Kevin Smith the corporation, but hey, even a good juggler will eventually drop a ball. That's a given. What differentiates the good ones from the great ones, however, is what they do after they drop it.  


Special thanks to Rob Chute for his shameless nagging of Kevin Smith, his driving skills, his fine choice of Chinese food, and his remarkable ability to wordsmith. I now fully appreciate why writers have editors.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm (almost) Back!

The word is in and the word is good. My doctor (and the resident doctor working with her) determined that with the reduction in symptoms since my last visit two weeks ago that I would be cleared to work "1/4 to 1/2 days for the next two weeks", at which point I will return for another evaluation. This pleases me. But what is different between the last visit and this one?

Well, about 10 days ago I noticed something strange. I didn't have a headache. Having been struggling with various post-concussion symptoms for more than a month it was a wonderful moment. It was such a relief that 'euphoric' is the only word I can find that comes close to describing the feeling. In the days after that moment I was afraid I'd ruin it - but I didn't - and here I am 10 days later and still no headache to speak of.

The headache was just one symptom though, and while I am really eager to get back to work my doctor cautioned against doing too much. I still have some symptoms, and it will be hard to tell if they are reminiscent of the concussion or if I'm back to my baseline.

For example: I've always been the guy who stands up quickly and gets a head rush. If I exert myself a little now and get the same feeling is that symptomatic of the concussion or just the way it was before?

Another example: I am still extremely tired, especially later in the day. It is a struggle for me to get through the afternoon without having to lie down. Now I wasn't the best sleeper before (chronic insomniac) and I'm off my sleep medication for the first time in 18 months, so am I tired because I'm off my meds and still used to sleeping 12 hours a day, or is the tiredness still a symptom of the concussion?

In both examples my doctor suggests it's still the concussion working its magic, and was reluctant to okay my return-to-work on a full time basis based on those examples and a few others like it. She explained that this would continue to be a long, slow, frustrating road back and that I should monitor myself for symptoms on a constant basis and listen to my body. Treat it like pain. If it hurts, stop, and for the love of all things great and small do not do anything that could result in another blow to the head.

So off I go tomorrow morning bright and early (and maybe driving with a helmet on), hopefully to work regularly without any further brain problems. I'm really looking forward to it, even if I am a bit nervous/anxious about the return, but I work with an amazing group of people and I'm certain the transition back will be just fine.

First, one last nap :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Head Games

For the record, concussions suck. I've been trying to find an eloquent way to say it but I can't. They suck -  big time - and it doesn't take much to end up with one. So after more than a week off work, countless complaints and frustrations, a new mission, and a slew of people asking me questions I thought I'd share a bit about my mind jarring experience.

What happened?
A rather simple outing on a giant tube whist being pulled behind a speed boat took a rather nasty turn for the worse when I was flung off the tube after hitting the wake as I swung around the corner. The spotter tells me I was a good 3 feet above the water for around 20 feet before the tube hit the water, and when it did.... things got ugly.

I was on my stomach and when it hit the water again I bounced off the tube. Instinct told me to just release my grip and go limp. I've fallen enough times doing enough things to know that if you fight it you will seriously hurt yourself.

Unfortunately, the first thing to hit the water was the back of my head. I then folded over backwards (and as a note I am not accustomed to folding, let alone at a high rate of speed) and tumbled ass over tea kettle a few times before landing face down in the water.

Yes, I was wearing a life jacket.

Ouch. Did it hurt?
Yes. It hurt quite a bit. I remember the sound of my head hitting the water and the feeling like someone had just whacked me with a baseball bat in the back of the head. Once I got my senses, which was a few seconds and a good swallow of the lake later, everything hurt. Everything. My head felt like it had split open. I had cramps in my arms and legs, and I thought I was having a heart attack.

Then what?
The driver and spotter confirmed I had movement in my fingers and toes and pulled me into the boat. I felt dizzy, nauseous, disoriented, confused, and scared.

About a half hour after the accident I called my mother-in-law (she is a nurse). She told me to take it easy and look out for worsening symptoms and if I noticed any I should go to the hospital. A few minutes later I stood up to get some water and basically disappeared mentally for a few seconds. Off to the hospital. The doctor and asked me to do a barrage of mental and physical tests and confirmed that in his assessment I was concussed, with a mild case of whiplash as the cherry on top.

How long will it take to heal?
Another great question! Weeks. Maybe months. In the words of my family physician, "If we were in the middle of a hockey season you'd be done for the year". Nice. On top of that she told me "Don't hit your head again any time soon. I'm not even slightly joking. Another blow to the head and death becomes entirely plausible".

So what's it like living with a concussion?
It sucks. I'm not a happy camper at the moment. I can do everything but not anything. I can't exert myself or jostle my head too much. I have to walk, not run. Take the elevator, not the stairs. Limit screen time and other visual stimuli. Even after 10 days of doing absolutely nothing but stare at the wall and check in with Twitter every couple of hours I was finding that it literally hurt to think.

I was told to expect to feel confused, disoriented, and distracted for weeks. I didn't believe it. Then I tried to work. Rescheduling 5 meetings took me 30 minutes. I couldn't focus - not in terms of eyesight, but in terms of targeting what I needed to do. Things that I used to just do would out of nowhere stump me and leave me staring at my computer, lost, and that would anger and frustrate me and just make it worse.

I can do things like write, but only for an hour or so before I start to get a headache. I am finding that am capable of more right-brained activities than I am left-brained. Using the left part of my brain right now is a challenge for some reason. I don't know why that is. There's no evidence I hit more on the left side than the right, but then again who knows, a bruised brain is a bruised brain and it'll act however it damn well wants.

So what now?
I go on vacation. As my doc said, "Enjoy it. Force yourself to slow down and not think about anything. Just have a nice time and RELAX". So that's what I'm going to do. My brother is getting married in Germany and we've got an apartment for a week in Paris after that. The house/cat sitter is arranged. Work stuff is covered (thanks Jamie!) and I've got enough travel insurance to take care of any hiccup that might arise.

Is there anything I can do?
That's very kind of you to ask. The answer is yes!

If you have 100 words stashed away in your head somewhere please consider lending them to me for my new project, "1000 Word Picture". My goal is to raise money for brain injury prevention and people and families living with brain injuries.

Also, wear a helmet whenever you can, take care, and be safe.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lend Me Your Words

Update!

A new site is up and running specifically for this project. You can find picture #2 along with the results from picture #1 here. Future pictures will be done through the other site in an effort to keep my personal work separate from the project.

Thanks,
Andrew



So while suffering from post-concussion syndrome I got this idea that would allow me to explore some creativity without me needing to be on the computer for too many minutes in a row (screen time hurts the head).

I wanted to put the adage "A picture is worth 1000 words" to the test. I posted an original photo of mine and asked the people of the internet (mostly Twitter, but also the blogosphere, Facebook, and Google+) to lend me 100 of their words in response to the picture.  Once I had received 1000 words I would then edit the submissions and post the completed work as a little bit of "flash fiction".

The only rules were that people submit 100 words (or thereabouts) in the form of full sentences and that I would only rearrange full sentences and not just grab words here and there to create new text.

I am pleased to say that in less than 24 hours my post became the 2nd most visited page on my blog (next to the one Kevin Smith did a shout out for on Twitter - to 1.5 million of his followers) and I received just over 1000 words from 10 different people. I'm in the process of editing and I plan on having something complete soon.

At any rate, this has spawned a new idea for me that a couple friends think has some legs. I want to put a whole bunch of these 1000 Word Pictures together, a hundred words at a time, from anyone and everyone who wants to contribute (and hopefully some well-known / famous people) and publish the collection, or display it as an art exhibit, and use it to raise money and/or awareness for a worthwhile cause.

So what do you think? Do you have 100 (or so) words rattling around in your head just itching to get out? Do you know Margaret Atwood or Rick Mercer, and can you get them to spare some words? (please say yes, that would be SO cool). If so then please, email me at thousandwordpicture@gmail.com or comment directly to this post as I present to you the 1000 Word Picture (100 at a Time) #2:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'll Take "Words" for a 1000 Alex...

Another Update!


The final results from the first photo are in and can be found here (at the new site).
Thanks to everyone for participating. I look forward to seeing where this takes me...



Update!

This was a huge success. So much so that I'm going to continue with this project and eventually put a collection together to raise money/awareness for charity. I have started the 1000 Word Picture (100 Words at a Time) #2 here. Once I get roughly 1000 words submitted for that photo I'll post another, and so on...

More information to come on the project as a whole and the charities / foundations it will help support.

Thank you everyone!



Out with a concussion and unable to string together more than a half hour on the computer (and having deplorable handwriting) I'm in a bit of a creative holding pattern. Then I got an idea... maybe it's not even a new idea, but it's new to me, so I'm running with it.  It is said that a picture is worth 1000 words and I'd like to put that to the test.

Here's the picture (thanks to Instagram for the iPhone - and yes, that is me):


Now, I need 10 people out there to each lend me 100 words of their own based on what they see. I need exactly 100 words in the form of complete sentences. As few or as many sentences as it takes, but totaling precisely 100 words when you're done.

Post them as a comment here or email them to me or Twitter DM them to me or whatever, so long as it's electronically transmitted to me somehow and there are exactly 100 of them I'll take it. I'd prefer if they were written in isolation, free from the influence of other responses (I must try to maintain some semblance of scientific control over this experiment, you know)

I will then rearrange the complete sentences as I see fit (without taking single words here and there) to put together the 1000 words that this picture is worth. Read my blog, go through my Twitter feed, send me an email asking questions... all good ideas to start the words flowing. All I need is 100 words from 10 people, and I'll do the rest.

I'll post the completed work here and then credit each contributor with a link to their original words in a footnote. Please let me know if you are not OK with that and I'll omit you from the list.

Go!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Making Progress

In typical form this post started out as a bunch of randomly jotted down half sentences. Even as I typed this was not sure where it was going to end up. I'm considering the fact that words were typed at all as some kind of progress. In fact this is the first week I have instituted a word count target. Not necessarily daily targets but I have split them up into three categories: Blog, Novel, and Short Stories; each one with a modest target assigned per week along with a suggested breakdown of which one(s) get attention on which day(s). Monday's (when this was written) would have normally been a "Novel" day for me but my head was not in the right space for it so the blog post won. 

It's amazing what a little progress can do for a person's motivation. I mentioned my word count targets to a friend (a non writer) and their response was, "If you have to meet a target, won't that start to feel like work?" You see, I have a day job, a regular 9-to-5 if you will, and I am just doing this to fulfill a creative desire, and because writing is something I truly enjoy doing, it never feels like work. How does that saying go? Find something you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life. Something like that. As you can see, I'm not so good at research.

Speaking of which, Albert Einstein has a great quote which I like to pull out for various occasions, this being one of them: "If we knew what we were doing it wouldn't be called research". I usually pair it with another quote from my favourite scientist, Richard P. Feynman: "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."

I pretty much live my life according to these two quotes (along with another great one by Niel deGrasse Tyson, "When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.") As modern, evolved humans, every day we challenge and interact and learn. Input. Observe. Change. Input. Observe. Change. If you don't have some kind of end goal, if there's no measuring stick in the ground, it's easy to get lost, or worse, caught in a circle where it feels like all you're doing is work but you're not actually getting anywhere. There needs to be progress. 

In order to show progress you need to know where you are going and where you started. In order for that progress to have any meaning you need to know how to measure it, and what makes things really interesting is that as a society there are billions upon billions of individual goals all scattered about. Each one of us, knowingly or not, willingly or not, charting a path from Point A to Point B and often with very little regard for what impact our progress may have on the progress of others. When progress towards a goal doesn't align with someone else's progress towards a goal we end up with conflict, and any good storyteller will tell you that conflict makes for a good story. 

So go and do something right now. Create a goal, chart a path, interact with others, learn, adapt, change,  measure your progress, and above all else - challenge. If we had no way to measure progress, if no one was ever challenged, if there was never any conflict... I dare say that there wouldn't be much to write about (and I'd already be behind on my word counts for the week.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tell Me a Story

The world is full of storytellers.

There are enough columnists, authors, bloggers, tweeters, and filmmakers to make your head spin, and they are all telling stories (and I am one of them). But what about true storytellers? These are the people who can stand in front of a group and spin a yarn without any props, dictionaries, thesauruses, slides, notes, drawings, scribbles, doodles, cheat sheets, or pictures (moving or otherwise).

There is something to be said for listening to a story unfold before your ears as its told by a skilled storyteller. I have to admit, it's probably been a long time since I last heard someone tell a story that wasn't some recounting of an event in an effort to relive the experience, or boast, or simply hear themselves talk. We all gather around the water cooler, or at the bar, or in the kitchen at someone's house, and we tell tall tales about the one that got away (fish, girls, boys, all of the above), or the single greatest / funniest / scariest / offensive / interesting / cool thing to happen that week. But how many of us actually stand up and tell a story simply for the fun of it? For the sake of the story alone.

Well after heavily researching the history of storytelling (OK, I briefly skimmed this page on Wikipedia), I can say that storytelling is not completely gone, and there are many practicing storytellers - and even storytelling associations - today. That being said, I do have a concern that all this writing and multi-media and social media might be damaging this ancient art.

Everything today is documented, recorded for posterity, indexed, and completely searchable with a few clicks. The company that went on to become Open Text Corporation put the Oxford English Dictionary in an electronic format and at the time that was a major accomplishment. Just a few years later, all the information online surpassed that stored on paper, and a lot of that information includes transcription of previously existing text, as well as audio and video of just about everything to happen (and everything made up) since we figured out how to keep track.

Where would we be today if more than a handful of people could read and write back when Pontius Pilate was holding court? Jesus in the 21st century would have a webcam in his tomb and a billion people would be watching it 24/7 like those falcons in Alberta.

Some guy: "Did you hear about the crucifixion?"
Some other guy: "Dude, some guy tweeted the whole thing from his basement and didn't even know what was happening!"

I guess what I'm getting at is that everything today is so traceable that it's to the point where even someone telling a story is on YouTube. Part of me thinks that's a little bit sad.

This kind of universal browser history allows us to track pieces of information back to their origins and then analyse the differences between versions of this and variations of that, and to compare and rank and +1 and re-tweet... and I get the sense that the phrase "word of mouth" might actually be losing its meaning.

Somewhere along the way we've forgotten what it's like to just sit... and listen... and enjoy.

Thanks for reading ;)


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gut Feel

Once again the amazing Julia Rosien points me in the right direction (it's like she knows what she's doing or something...) She recently tweeted a link to a blog entry by Erika Nepoletano on listening to your gut. Now, I fancy myself as someone who tries to listen to his gut as often as possible. It's usually right. Not always, but enough that I have learned to trust it. I love my gut. I feed it steak as often as possible.


After reading Erika's wonderful story I thought about all the times my gut has come through (even after more than a few nights of treating my gut like a test kitchen and drowning it in alcohol and jalapeno nachos):
  • My first real kiss
  • My first real job
  • My first *ahem* time
  • Picking a University
  • Meeting my now wife for the first time (at University. See? I told you my gut was good)
And this one...

Back in 2009 my wife and 2 children had been living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for almost 5 years. We were a good 5 hour drive from my family in Toronto and a good 6.5 hour drive from my wife's family in Woodstock (only 60 minutes from Waterloo - where my wife and I first met).

On March 13, 2009 (my 35th birthday), while my wife and daughter were in the Dominican for a girls getaway, my father-in-law David called to tell me that my wife's brother Ryan had died. Tragically, accidentally, and well before anyone should have to leave this earth, he was gone.

On June 24, 2009 I received a phone call from a headhunter about a job back in Waterloo with the interview to happen on July 2nd. I was going to be at the beach with my family and my wife's parents on July 1st for Canada Day, and the cottage was less than 3 hours from the interview, so I was seriously considering it.

There was much discussion between my wife and I over the complication and risks associated with moving our quite comfortable life from Ottawa back to Southern Ontario, but in the end it was my gut that told me what to do. Even before I went to the interview and well before I had any decision to make, my gut was telling me, "DO IT".

On Canada Day after all the festivities had wound down, David took me aside and wished me good luck on my job interview (he's good people). At that moment I shook his hand and gave him a hug and I promised him that I would bring his daughter and his grandchildren back home. I guaranteed it.

After two and half hours of driving in July with no air conditioning (and in a suit), three and a half hours of interviews with 2 Managers, 2 Team Leads, and Human Resources, and another two and a half hour drive back to the cottage, I was sipping a nice Shiraz on the beach. A little thank you to my gut, who does enjoy the grape very much as it turns out.

On July 13, 2009 - exactly 4 months after my bother-in-law died - I received a letter of offer for the job in Waterloo.

Exactly two months after that, and exactly 5 months to the day after Ryan's death, and on my wife's birthday! (August 13) the Government of Canada created a new agency with an office in Kitchener a mere 17 minutes from my office in Waterloo.

On August 24th, 2009 - exactly 8 weeks after that first phone call from the headhunter - I was working my first day at my new job and had moved into a house in Cambridge (27 minutes from work, and 41 minutes from my wife's family). 


In September my wife interviewed for a job (at her level even) at that government agency in Kitchener, and on November 2nd she had her first day on the job.

We've been here for almost 2 years, we're both still at our jobs and loving it, and my wife and I and our two children get to see my wife's family practically any time we want. Everyone is smiling, and I'm presently enjoying a nice Shiraz as I edit this post.

Trust your gut. It knows. You can thank it later.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Sum of all Parts

This is the third post in a series about Twitter, and it's impact (or potential impact) on today's technologically engaged society.

I've been in a bit of a funk lately, at least with respect to writing. I've had a couple of half ideas but nothing really worth mentioning. It's was very frustrating, and I decided to turn to Twitter. Did it help? Not especially. Well, at least not at first...  I went to Start Up Drinks Waterloo (#SDWat) and just chatted about start ups and new technologies and usual good-to-see-you stuff. 

Remember my post about how Twitter changed my life? Remember the one about proximity to greatness being effective? Well a conversation started about my lack of ideas for another blog post and a mini brain storming session broke out. How Twitter changed our collective sense of humour, turned into a commentary about how Twitter just generates more headline writers. Eureka! I argued that to write well you needed to edit. You don't write, you RE-write. Twitter forces that on you 140 characters at a time.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but with that kind of word count anything's possible. The challenge is doing more with less. Screenwriters do it all the time. For screenplays less is more and it's the writer's job to be as descriptive AND concise as possible. So can a writer use Twitter to break a complete thought down to its purest form and use it as building blocks for a larger story?

I say yes.

Twitter, with its "restrictions" and "limits", can force the succinctness out of even the most verbose scribes. You just have to allow it. There are cheaters or hacks that use leet speak or abbreviations, and there are those who simply won't ever conform to 140 (Kevin Smith). There are also writers like myself that will accept this as a worthy challenge and use that to sum-it-the hell-up (for a change).

Embrace the limitations of Twitter and use it to improve quality and challenge others to do the same. Don't dilute the imagery - perfect it. Be careful though, we don't want to lose the art. I want recreate each of Shakespeare's works in a single tweet.  I fear this is a bad idea.

Hamlet: If you're a king watch your back. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern take one for the team. Be true to yourself or die like everyone else.

Then again, if Homer had a smart phone high school English might have not seemed so bad after all.



Stealing slightly from MasterCard:

Writing = 3 hours
Words = 416
Characters = 2383
----------------------
19 Tweets

Priceless? You tell me.


Monday, June 13, 2011

My Stanley Cup

I filed this under "Random Thoughts" but it's not really that random. I've been doing a post like this (or something on Facebook, or on my family website) just about every year since 2003, the day after the Stanley Cup is awarded. This year however I am posting it a little in advance, reasons for which will become apparent in a couple paragraphs.

For as long as I can remember I have watched the captain of the winning team hoist the Stanley Cup above his head and plant a giant kiss on it. This memory is burned into my brain from at least 1980 onward. Certainly for my entire adult life I know I have not missed the raising of The Cup once. Even an overtime game on the West coast couldn't keep me from watching. 

I normally root for one particular team to win The Cup but this year I'm actually rooting for The Cup to be decided TONIGHT. You see, this is the first time in 9 years that this particular situation has arisen. I like to think of it as my own version of Halley's comet.


Back in 2002 my wife was pregnant with our first child who was due on July 4th. I was always a bit ticked off because of all the days for a True Canadian to have a baby, I got stuck with American Independence Day as a due date. Three days earlier would have been ideal.


At any rate, there we were living in Cambridge, Ontario and as always I was watching the Stanley Cup Finals. It was mid-June. In fact to be completely precise it was June 13th. Detroit was playing Carolina in game #5 and Detroit was up in the series 3-1 after losing the first game.


As I mentioned, for as long as I can remember I have watched the Stanley Cup get hoisted by the captain of the winning team. I can go back to when I was a kid and my dad would let me watch them hand out the cup. I'm not sure what it is about it, but growing up with a dad who played hockey at a very competitive level and playing it myself for 10 years, and having been down to the old CNE grounds back in the day to see the Hockey Hall of Fame when I was just a small kid and having seen the Cup up close - and having even touched it, well it's just something that's hard to explain.


So, three weeks removed from our first child, my wife and I are lying in bed that Thursday night and Detroit wins the Cup. Lidstrom gets the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP (of course) and then Gary Bettman comes out and presents the cup to Steve Yzerman. Stevie Y hoists the cup over his head and plants a big kiss on it.


At that exact moment I turn to her (she was pretending not to watch the game) and pat her on the stomach and say, "OK, you can give birth now". At 05:00 the next morning she wakes me up with, "Andrew, we're going to have a baby". More than half asleep I reply, "I know". She replies with, "No. We're going to have a baby TODAY. My water just broke".


So we go and have a baby and at 17:17 weighing in at 7lbs 7oz our daughter Avery was born.


So fast forward a few years to the point where Avery is old enough to watch a hockey game for more than 5 seconds. I start recording the Stanley Cup presentation ceremony and the morning after they hand out The Cup each year I sit with Avery and watch the last few minutes of the game, the handshake line (because that's just good sportsmanship), and the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup presentations.


Tonight is June 13th and the Stanley Cup will be in the building when Vancouver meets Boston in Game 6. I'll be watching it live, and recording the game just in case. 


OK Vancouver, you can win The Cup now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Proximity to Greatness = Effective!

I was fortunate enough to attend a Social Media Breakfast at which the wonderful Julia Rosien spoke about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and general social media presence for businesses. Even though I'm
not a start-up, or a business, or even a small business, there was one point in her talk where a light bulb went off in my head. It was not so much a "Eureka!" as it was an "Ah ha!" (there's a difference).  It was the moment where I finally realized exactly what problem I was trying to solve.

Part of my recent foray into the social media world is to network,  be more involved, and better enjoy and appreciate my community and the people within it.  In addition to that, I've been trying to establish (for lack of a better phrase) a fan base. A readership, if you will.

You see, there are stories I want to tell, and as much as I say I would get all the satisfaction I require out of simply writing them down, I know that's not true. I want people to read them, and the best way I can come up with for getting someone to read something you've written is write something that they actually want to read.

My "Ah ha!" moment came during Julia's talk when she said the easiest thing to do for a small business with a website was to add a search bar and keep track of what people were searching for.

That statement, along with the feedback from my last post, convinced me that I would continue to blog about anything and everything I wanted to, but I would hereinafter do it with my senses more aware of what was going on around me.  Further to that, it brought be back to a conversation I had with a good friend of mine about a screenplay I was writing.

He asked me why I wasn't writing it as a book and I didn't have a good answer. It's just always been a movie to me. Every story I have ever told has been a movie (in my mind at least). Any story I would ever want to tell would be a movie.  Only it's not a movie. That's not what the search box in my brain is telling me. It's a book. And now that I know that much, so much more is becoming clear. Ideas and character development and plot points are pouring out of me like some literary keg with a broken tap.

So what does this have to do with proximity to greatness? Well, I know I am writing quite the love story about Twitter lately, but it was once again the jumping off point for me (and now I'm starting to recognize a trend).

Twitter allows me to completely immerse myself with wonderfully interesting and amazing people who are willing to share their thoughts and ideas and feedback candidly and honestly.  Twitter can be remarkably useful, if you choose to use it to accomplish something useful.

In order for me to do this I have uncovered some very important rules:

  1. Pay attention
  2. Go outside your comfort zone
  3. Allow yourself to be wrong
  4. Allow others to be right
  5. Allow yourself to be heard
  6. Allow others to be heard first

When I got to sit in a room with a hundred people from Twitter you could just sense that there were more ideas than people sitting there with you. It was as if just being around awesome people allowed all kinds of ideas to form. Ideas aren't just born out of the ether though, not even the ones accompanied by a "Eureka!"

I would argue that there are very few ideas that live within a single mind that ever make it out into the world. Certainly the ones that do are memorable - the heliocentric model of the solar system and E=MC² are two that immediately come to mind - but even both of those needed a little help from others before making their impact. They needed to be challenged and shared with a larger community before they would realize their full potential.

The seeds for a good many ideas - the good ones at least - are often planted deep within the mind, and then cultivated as their host explores and interacts with the world and people around them. It can hardly be considered a surprise when really great ideas come from people who not only are great or aspire to be great, but who also surround themselves with greatness.

Twitter isn't just mindless chatter. Facebook isn't just birthday reminders and noticing how you've aged way better than many of your high school friends. Active listening on social media might just be the most important skill you can acquire. Your phones aren't smart - you are. So plant your idea and let it take root. Give it food and nurturing to help it evolve. Keep a close eye on it, pay attention, and stay engaged.

If all else fails hunt it down ruthlessly and don't give up. Greatness will be yours.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More Than Tweets the Eye

Some people don't "get" Twitter, which is understandable if you've only ever scratched the surface. I have been on Twitter since sometime in 2009, and it wasn't until recently that I started becoming more active, and it wasn't until very recently that I started to see its real value.  I can honestly say I this point that Twitter is improving the quality of my life, and I can point to two key moments that opened my eyes to this.

I'm not being overly dramatic just to appease my readership (all 7 of you!) either. Read this short article on ways Twitter can change your life. It may over state some of the claims but the key message behind each one is true. What it fails to outline however is that if you are planning on using Twitter for more than just random updates about friends' lunches or celebrity gossip then you've got to use Twitter just like you would any other tool.

The wonderful Julia Rosien of Social North put together this quick read. It begins, "Whether it’s a hammer or Twitter, a tool is only as good as the person wielding it." I'll take this a step further and suggest that any tool, used for its intended purpose, has the potential to be a very valuable tool. Sure, a pocket knife can open a can of beans, but it's a much less useful pocket knife if the blade is all dull and bent and you're sporting a 2 inch gash because the bean juice got on your hand and the knife slipped and now the helpful nurse in the ER is asking you, "Why not just use a can opener?".  Why not indeed.

More to the point (and hopefully getting us closer to those two eye opening Twitter moments) Twitter users are now using the tool in remarkable ways, 140 characters at a time, FOR FREE. That's right. Free. Twitter does not charge you to advertise, promote, share, recommend, endorse, or spam, though that last one will get you kicked off (and rightfully so). I don't know too many other services out there that have the potential to capture such a globally diverse audience, in real time, with no charge.

Celebrities such as Kevin Smith have actually started using Twitter to promote their brand and business. Hell, Kev's gone a step further and is practically pinning the hopes of his latest movie on word of mouth  advertising, and Twitter was his jumping off point. With over 1.8 million followers on Twitter and a flick that's looking like it will be in the black before it's even released it's hard to argue against the value of the tweet.

It is really just a question of knowing what problem you're trying to solve:

  • How can I reach a larger, more diverse audience?
  • How can I get immediate feedback on an idea?
  • How can I become more involved with my community?
  • How do I get more than 7 people reading my blog?

My coming out party on Twitter started when I saw this tweet.  It was from a friend of mine that I haven't been seeing enough of. He works hard and has a family, I'm lazy and have a family. Life just gets in the way sometimes, but after reading about his awesome news I ran straight out and joined the celebration, and you know what? I met some truly amazing people. Friends of friends, and interesting and remarkable people right in my own backyard: Mike, Ben, Melanie, just to name a few.

That led to me hearing about a scotch tasting at the KW Art Gallery where I got to meet Robb, Mark, and Dave, which was followed up by an invite (sent out via Twitter) to Start Up Drinks Waterloo where I had some great conversations with Matt "Dennick" about Twitter as well as good talks with Craig and Tera (who shares my crazy obsession with getting a Twitter @ mention. It's like crack, I tells ya).  Soon I'll be off to the Social Media Breakfast and then Ignite Waterloo.

To think this all started with one Tweet.

The other defining moment for me came when I spent a couple weeks putting together a song using some online music creating software. I wrote a 54 second instrumental in the hopes that Kevin Smith would "buy" it and use it for one of his podcast introductions. I tweeted him this, and all he did was tweet this a few minutes later, and within a half hour of me posting the blog entry I 500 hits and the song had over 200 plays. Next thing I knew I was exchanging emails with Jordan Monsanto. Awesomely surreal.  The whole experience showed me that Twitter in the hands of the right people can be a powerful tool indeed.

So whatever problem you're trying to solve, or whatever it is you're looking for, all I can say is that Twitter can help. Identify the problem you want to solve, read up on how other people are using Twitter to solve similar problems, and get on there and start getting engaged.  Well, not necessarily THIS type of engaged.  I can think of much better ways to propose, though I do highly recommend sharing the good news on Twitter afterwards.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Am I the only one who thinks this is wrong?

Well unless something outrageous happens in the next 4 years there will not be many more political posts. Thanks to everyone who stopped by before, during, and after the election.

This post is not political (though some might categorize it as such). It deals with what I think are completely insane people, some of whom happen to turn a bill into law in the United States of America.

I was born and raised a stone's throw from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I can honestly say that I know of very few people with an unhealthy obsession for firearms. I know plenty of folks with long guns suitable for hunting (deer, moose, etc...). But a hand gun? Not so much. Part of this reason - and I'm going out on a limb to say it's probably an extremely large part - is that they are ILLEGAL. There are cases where you can get one legally (for example, collecting) but chances are if you see someone (that's not in law enforcement) in Canada with a hand gun, then you're probably best to get your butt somewhere else - quickly.

Now for our neighbours to the south there is the infamous second amendment to the constitution. In a nutshell it gives Americans the right to bear arms. There is considerable debate that occurs between the advocates of this constitutional right and those opposed to it, but I don't want to get into that here. What I do want to get is a sense for whether or not anyone else out there thinks the following is completely wrong:

Utah and Arizona have state firearms.

That's right, along with a state motto ("Industry"), bird (California gull), flower (sego lily), nickname ("the beehive state"), tree (blue spruce), gem (topaz), and a whole host of other things, Utah has a state firearm (M1911 pistol).

Source: Wikipedia
Immediately to the south of Utah, in Arizona, they have a motto ("God Enriches"), bird (cactus wren), flower (saguaro cactus blossom), nickname ("the grand canyon state"), tree (palo verde), gem (turquoise), a whole host of other things, and a state firearm (Colt Single Action Army, a.k.a Colt 45).

Source: Wikipedia
In fact, there was a race between the two states to see who would get the "honor" of becoming the first state to pass into law the naming of a state firearm. Utah won, but Arizona still pressed on. Even after 13 people were wounded (including a congresswoman), and 6 people were killed (including a child) in January they passed into law the name of a state firearm with the nickname "peacemaker" - in April. I wonder if the congresswoman thinks about rescinding that law as she rehabilitates.

The whole thing just has me at a loss for words (present post excepted I suppose). I read about the tragedy in Arizona and then I read about a toddler getting his hands on a loaded gun and accidentally killing his brother and then I think about the tens of thousands of people murdered every year (including the 12,632 in 2007 alone) and I can't help but wonder what having a state firearm is saying to the families of all those victims. "God bless America?"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Anyone Else Feel Like This?

Monday night I went to bed later than usual, with this feeling that I had just left a teenage boy alone for the weekend, with my keys to the car, my credit card, and the liquor cabinet unlocked. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

I could come back on Sunday night and find the car in the driveway, the keys on the table, the floors swept, and the boy finishing up his homework. However, it's just as likely I come home and half my house is blown to smithereens, the boy, my car, and my credit card are nowhere to be found, and the cops are on the front lawn taking statements from the neighbours.

Welcome to the moments after Canada's latest federal election.

As you read this, there are literally tens of thousands of people smirking in their [right] wing back chairs dismissing more than 60% of the voting population with a casual wave of the hand. "That will be all now. Thank you, and good night. Gladly go fuck yourselves for 4 years". Some other comments include, “You lost. Get over it” and “It's called democracy”. Nice touch with that last one (democracy should be in quotes though).

I, for one, was not surprised in the least. If you follow me on Twitter (@andrewbutters) you may recall this tweet.

"It's all about who wants it more. Is the desire to not lose greater than the desire to win? #elxn41 #NHLPlayoffs"

What many people not paying attention may have missed was the #elxn41 hashtag. This election, much like many of the great hockey games played in the NHL playoffs, was just as much determined by the team with the most to lose - and their desire to not lose it - as it was by the skill and principles and desire to win for the team desperately trying to avoid the dreaded "Participant" ribbon.

The Conservatives and their faithful, with everything to lose, would rather die than let the Liberals (or anyone else) rule the house. The left was well...left over. Bickering with themselves and trying to figure a way to just get their toe back in the door and working the mathematical models like some freaky autistic savant. "Majority is 155 seats. Definitely 155. Gotta win Southern Ontario and Quebec to prevent a Tory Majority. Definitely."

After the votes were counted I was disenchanted with the result (see previous post), but I was not entirely shocked either. Anyone who asked me to predict the outcome would have received a "strong minority or majority Conservative parliament" response. They wanted it more, they were more organized, and they got the right people off their asses and out voting - for them. Which is more than we can say for just about everyone else with the exception of Quebec. The rest of the country didn't want it badly enough (which is common), or didn't think it was possible (which is understandable), or just didn't care (which is sad).

Silver lining time.

Those of us not thrilled with the result have a good 4 years to figure out how to beat the system.

I think this guy summed it up really well. Harper has one chance to not screw this up. The system is broken and now we've got 4 years to figure out how to work around it. A party that receives 9% less of the popular vote received almost 50% less representation. The Conservatives were in the same boat not too long ago and they united their side of the political spectrum and now one of theirs – the rightest of the right wing even - is Prime Minister. Has been for 5 years and is safe for another 4.

Some options for the rest are to unite the left or find away to turn 15-20% of Conservative voters that the colour orange is that much better than blue. There may be other options, but don't count on electoral reform being one of them. The only thing in that area that we're going to see different is a possibly title change from Prime Minister to Supreme Overlord.

The Bloc is gone!

They lost official party status by dropping down to only 4 seats and there are a TON of Canadians that are especially thrilled with this. Don't get too excited though, the NDP (who replaced the lions share of the Bloc incumbents) has the same amount of time with Quebec as Harper has with the entire nation. There is some hope that the Bloc is gone for good though. Several of their newly elected Memebers of Parliament are first timers and are so young they can't legally drink in the US or even rent a car. When you kick someone out who has been representing you for 20 years and replace them with a bunch of newbies that's sending a message. Hell, they even elected a non-French speaking person who ran their campaign while on a trip to Las Vegas! Now that's REALLY sending a message.

A member of the Green Party was elected!

One really good thing was that Elizabeth May showed that with a little forethought and a bit of help from people who know how to work the system that you can accomplish something remarkable. Okay, maybe not remarkable, but still quite good. Parliament will be better with her in it.

So, in summary, we have:
  • a government run by a guy who has done all this 
  • 40% of all those who voted supporting him
  • 40% of the voting population still finding something better to do on election day
  • a severely wounded Liberal party
  • an extreme left wing opposition with more than double their previous best representation
  • the (almost) birth of an environmental social conscience in Canadian parliament
  • the (almost) death of the most polarizing party of the past 2 decades.
And six weeks ago people thought that this election was going to be boring.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Canada Votes 2011 #3 - What Canada Do YOU Want to Live In?

If you've used Vote Compass like I have you'll see where you sit on the political grid (or where the CBC thinks you should sit). I sit smack dab in the middle. Pretty much equidistant from both the Conservatives (CPC) and the rest (ABC: Anything But Conservative). In some ways I appreciate and (somewhat) benefit from one side, and in different ways I appreciate and (somewhat) respect the other.

Sadly, the first-past-the-post system we have in place at the moment pretty much guarantees that it doesn't matter what I do. Every vote is counted, but not every one matters, and even that's questionable. Call me crazy though, but I think regardless of the party in power most Canadians will get screwed over on the actual issues at one point or another.

With the election is less than 3 days away I have to say I'm genuinely conflicted. Up to this point I've tried very hard to keep my political cards close to my chest (I'm more than happy discussing certain issues, or democracy in general with anyone, but discussing politics? Not so much). However, with voting day looming it's time I figured it out. Here's how I feel about it, and I'm hoping that there are comments coming from the 8 people that read this.

For many people in the country this election is a two horse race between the CBC and ABC (minus the Greens). What makes this tricky is that even a majority ABC will result in a minority CPC House of Commons. So, either the ABC is too fractured or the electoral system in place is horribly broken. I believe it's a little from column 'A' and a little from column 'B'. A separatist Bloc party getting in the way does not help matters either, but that's a rant for another day.

I happen to be in a riding that, after the Liberal plummet, switched over to the Conservatives and hasn't looked back. It's not even close actually (last election it's one of the few ridings where the winner garnered about 50% of the votes, and the projection for this year seems to indicate more of the same). Apparently the sponsorship "scandal" was too much for this lot, and a united right wing seemed to be a favourable alternative.

So the conflicting part of this for me is that for a couple years (since I moved back to this region) I have been seeing the benefits of the CPC right in my backyard and there are many little things that give me hope that my local candidate speaks loud and clear for the people that voted for him. I would love for these things to continue as they are now (or in some similar and just as noticeable way), but the problem is that a CPC government does not, for me at least, represent what I think a Canadian government should be.

I recently read this article by Margaret Atwood. Having grown up in Canada her stuff is pretty much mandatory reading from birth. Generally speaking I have mixed opinions on her work, but this article really resonated as I read it. She writes about the kind of country she would like to live in and she's voting based on which party she thinks would bring those qualities to the forefront. For the undecided this is a great way to go about it, and let's face it folks, the people who knew who they were voting for the instant the election was called aren't changing their minds now.

I've been leaning one particular direction but keeping an open mind, paying attention and reading articles from a variety of sources and forming an opinion based on what matters to me. Much like Ms. Atwood I have my own paper napkin and here it is (in no particular order):
  • Honest
  • Hard working
  • Approachable
  • Transparent
  • Empathetic
  • Innovative
  • Creative
Sadly, I would argue that at any given moment neither the CPC nor any part the ABC simultaneously exhibit all of these traits. It is also my honest opinion that the CPC doesn't exhibit any of them - and they never will - and what's worse is I don't think they ever want to.

What Canada do YOU want to live in?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Talk is cheap, and can make you look crazy

From an early age we are destined to speak - with the exception of a very small percentage of the population with medical conditions, disabilities, or are (or aspire to be) mimes or magician's assistants. Regardless, it's in our blood and we are all born with this overwhelming desire, this need, to communicate verbally (whether it's warranted or not and whether wants or has asked us to).

I happen to suffer from a common speech impediment that occasionally leaves those nearby with the impression that I might be suffering from some form of stroke. Other times it takes on Tourette-like symptoms, where stuttering and spitting and random swearing occur. Often, this condition affects some of my basic motor skills and you will find me waving my arms wildly and shaking my head, as if I have just been attacked by an invisible swarm of bees. My wife can do nothing but sit there and shake her head in disbelief. She doesn't understand, but it's not her fault. Contrary to the Fresh Prince it's not parents that don't understand. It's women. Not all of them, of course. I have seen many a woman afflicted with this disorder, but they are certainly in the minority.

The condition doesn't have a scientific name that I am aware of but if you look up on Google what it's called when people yell for no reason, wave their arms when talking, and then combine that with Tourette's and then put that person in front of the television that's what this is. Yellawaveatourettatvitis.

That's right. I talk like a crazy person to the television. I kept an informal record of this for a while and it appears that I do this for just about every type of show, but there are those that make it worse, and some that make it impossible to be in the same room as me unless you are so similarly afflicted.

In order with the things that make it worse at the top:

  1. Sports
    1. Anything during the Olympics
    2. Hockey
    3. Golf
    4. Baseball
    5. Auto Racing
    6. Lacrosse
    7. Basketball
    8. North American Football
    9. Soccer
    10. All other sports, including bowling and stuff they show on sports channels like poker
  2. News
    1. FOX
    2. CNN
    3. Everyone else
  3. Politics
    1. Debates
    2. Election day coverage
    3. Parliamentary channel
  4. Reality Shows
  5. Anything on Discovery Channel
  6. Anything on TLC
So, with an election on the horizon, the NHL playoffs on, golf in full swing, the NBA playoffs, baseball season starting, a new season of Survivor, and the ongoing existence of news channels from the U.S. it's safe to say that much of my time is being spent alone in the basement launching expletives and giving the finger to my HDTV (and loving every damn minute of it).