Wednesday, 26 July 2017

the US and the NOW of it

If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

These words, or variations of them, have been attributed to many sources over the years, and to be honest, I don't think it matters by whom they were spoken, so much as what they're asking.

Usually, these questions are seen as a challenge, reminding us of a responsibility, to take on an issue. The answers, predictably, are always "us" and "now".
Image from
I've often said that being a critic is an easy job, because all you have to do is contradict and tear down somebody else's work. Sometimes criticism is just sour grapes and purely contrarian. Many times criticism is warranted, apt, and just, but to be of true value, criticism should contribute to a solution, or some improvement.

Free speech is a central tenet of life in the United States of America, as per the First Amendment to the Constitution. Since Donald Trump has become President, literally millions of people around the globe, have voiced their criticism of his every move. And regardless of how warranted, apt, and just, we feel our criticism might be, the majority of it is not helpful.

Thanks to the wonder that is the internet, I found (easily) a quote to support my words:

“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” ― Abraham Lincoln

The fact that is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, makes it all the more appropriate (even if my internet search didn't confirm the pedigree).

If you know me from Twitter, you have likely seen that I am among those who have heaped criticism upon President Trump. Admittedly, my commentary hasn't been overly constructive. That is about to change, because I want to help. Consider me a friendly neighbour, from Canada, who just wants to see America as great. We all have a responsibility, to ourselves and each other, to be the best people we can; and because we can't start any sooner, we have to do it now. That's the us and the now of it, and in that spirit, I'd like to offer some thoughts and advice to President Donald Trump.

Dear Mr. President,

Yours is a powerful position, and a most difficult one; I cannot fathom all the pressures you face as President of the United States of America, so I'll have to keep it simple.

In my lifetime, America has been generally considered to be a beacon of freedom and democracy, inspiring people around the world. The American dream has given hope to many, who have had little more than a desire to live in a better place. As a Canadian, I am familiar with being part of a nation of immigrants, and proud that my country, much like yours, is a destination for those seeking that better life.

Granted, in a nation as vast as the USA with a population of over 320 million, it is unlikely that you will ever get 100% agreement on ANY issue. But before you act, before you speak, please just ask yourself "what if it were me?" 
If you treat people the way you want to be treated, you will make the world (not just America) a better place. If you can manage to spread this simple measure of decency to others, they can make America, or China, or Paraguay a better place too.

I'm talking about equality. Respect each and every other human on the planet, not just those who resemble us, or share our values.

Drawing on imagery provided by John Lennon; In a perfect world, we all would have enough food, clean water, comfort, security and love. Those of us with more than enough, would willingly share with those of us who are lacking.To our fullest ability, we would all contribute to the betterment of society. Men and women would treat each other as equals; No conflicts over national, religious, racial differences, or orientation, because we would all respect and care for each other. Acceptance.
To be honest, I don't believe we can achieve that ideal. Lennon was a dreamer; It is a beautiful dream, and one we should strive for, but we're a long, long way from where "the world will live as one". A good first step though, would be to care for people. All the people.

If you need help, just let me know, I'm here for you. 

I'll try to be less snarky and critical of you on Twitter, but you need to be more considerate of your fellow humans.

We can be better. Us. Now. 

Sincerely, your neighbour to the north,


A quote, often attributed to Plato says "The measure of a man is what he does with power."

I agree, it is a powerful man, who makes the world a better place.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Not My President

I started writing this post on November 22, 2016, but didn't publish it because I was worried that maybe I was over-reacting, and didn't want to come across as Chicken Little, bemoaning a falling sky. Today I felt the need to revisit and complete this blog post.

November 22, 2016

I try not to be too political, mostly because talking politics inevitably leads to arguments.
Generally speaking, I believe that we're all entitled to an opinion, regardless of how unpopular or absurd that opinion might be, as long as you put some thought into it. Objective thought.

As a Canadian, my opinion on the recent US presidential election couldn't be demonstrated through voting.

Fair enough, your neighbours shouldn't get a vote on what colour of curtains you put up in your house. But... Aha! There's always a but. Following through with the neighbour analogy, I see the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election, as the equivalent of finding out that the nice couple across the street have sold their house. Hopes and fears of what will be, "Calm down Martha, I'm sure they can't be that bad."

And then you look out your front window to see a wheel-less '81 Camaro, up on cinderblocks, adorning the lawn across the street. A grisly old man, in a sleeveless shirt, emblazoned with the Southern Cross, is aimlessly tinkering under the hood. His (mail order?) wife dutifully delivers a sandwich and a six pack of beer, he accepts her offering, and thanks her with a slap on the ass, ordering her to "get on with unpacking them moving boxes", because he "won't put up with TV dinners two nights in a row".

Judgmental? Yup. Like you aren't?

I do not like the idea of Donald Trump seated in the Oval Office, wielding such global influence, and having the power to shape our future. Yes, our future, no matter where you read these words from, the rippling impact of President-elect Trump's actions have the potential to push the world in one direction or another. It's not a matter left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican, it's a matter of character, and motive.

In the months leading up to his electoral victory, Mr. Trump took turns at offending a long list of people - global citizens, not just Americans. Women, immigrants, people of colour, people of different sexual orientations, and non-Christians all got their turn. Whether Mr. Trump believes everything he says (and tweets) or if his ranting is just a daring way of manipulating voters and misdirecting our focus, it doesn't really matter; In floating the idea of a "Muslim Registry"; Suggesting to "build a wall" to protect the USA from a nation of drug dealers, criminals, and rapists; Or saying that he would "strongly consider" appointing judges to overturn marriage equality; Trump has shown that he does not embrace the notion of equality. It's not his fault, he may not understand it.

Equality, to a person born of privilege, has a very different meaning versus the near mythical ideal it represents to the outsider. He will accept the support of all Americans, equally, he will chastise and discredit those who oppose him, equally; But even if you support every wild idea he drops, please don't think he supports you. He is more equal than you are.

I won't say that Donald Trump killed the truth,

February 15, 2017

Wow, I'm sad. If I was ever going to predict the future, I'd much rather have envisioned the winning lotto numbers, than foreseen the path to a dystopian future the President of the United States of America has us poised to take.

An administration that touts "alternate facts", decries "fake news", publicly pouts, rants, blames, and threatens is dangerous. A President who takes to social media to bully, chastise, whine, and perpetuate lies is disgusting and dangerous. Check out his Twitter feed - @realDonaldTrump ...

As the leader of the western world, President Donald Trump has the attention of the planet's populace, and he chooses to use that colossal platform to make statements about how unfair it is that his daughter's fashion line is being ill-treated by a department store.
He discredits any media outlet that opposed his point of view, or focuses on any of his many early White House blunders, as "Fake News"; while simultaneously praising the polarized sources that are in line with (and even possibly shaping) his beliefs. To borrow a phrase from President Trump, how sad. Very sad.
It appears that Russia may very well have interfered in the election, which should alarm us all; But even worse, US federal agencies are said to be investigating what role Trump campaign advisors may have played in the affair. There does seem to be a bit of a bromance between the leaders of Russia and America, I guess time will tell.

President Trump's early use of  Executive Orders appears to reverse course, erasing much of his predecessor's legislation; And while that is to be expected in two party politics, it is worth noting that these orders have caused widespread protest, and one instance resulting in federal judges granting injunctions, challenging the constitutionality of an order. Tumultuous. Very tumultuous. At least his EOs have spawned the amusing "Trump Draws" GIFs on Twitter, so far my favourites are "kat" and his self-portrait, "me".
@TrumpDraws - Twitter
It's actually quite tiresome to express outrage or even displeasure with all the shitty things President Trump is continually doing, but it's important to use your voice to rein in the crazy. Watch the things he does, and call him on his bullshit. Be vigilant until the next election, when Americans have the duty to right the wrong committed in putting together "President" and "Trump". Force him to get his derelict junker off of the White House lawn, and in doing so...

Make America Great Again.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Simple Life

As I get older, I find myself longing for the simple life.

I no longer want 200 channels of television; And end up watching 7 or 8 of them.

I don't want a seven dollar grande-pumpkin spice-decaf-lactose-free-extra hot-latte, and I don't want to stand in line behind you while you order one; Give me a coffee, black.

I have never wanted cars to parallel park, brake for me, or keep us in the intended lane; I want you all to be skilled drivers and eliminate the need for those gimmicky functions. Put down your damn phone and pay attention - hands at 10 and 2.

I don't appreciate video replays interrupting the flow of the game; I say let the human officials make the call, and just live with it.

The other day, my 10 year old said "let's play frisbee", she meant a video game, I pictured us out in the yard.

I'm not a luddite, nor a complete hypocrite, I acknowledge my use of tech and gadgets; I just don't think everything has to be dependent on cutting edge technology. I appreciate the advances in healthcare, communications, food production, and many other facets of everyday life, but employing technology just for the sake of using it, makes me squirm.

Like Apple, the undeniably successful consumer technology company, and their continual releases of "upgraded" devices. Recently, with the release of the iPhone 7, the folks at Apple eliminated the headphone jack from their phone. With Bluetooth technology firmly in place we've had the option of wireless headsets for quite some time. Some folks like wireless, some like the cord - so they don't lose their earbuds. Think of the number of times you've lost one of the little rubber pieces on your headset, now imagine losing a little wireless AirPod thingy that costs $219 per pair. Taking away the old school jack, and forcing wireless headphones might make for some additional accessory sales, but I question the necessity of it. Why does everything have to be over-complicated?

Simple is good. Water, barley, hops and yeast. Four ingredients. Beer. Simple and good.

So there it is, as I roll down the road, speeding towards becoming a grumpy old man. But I warn you, you'd best stay off my lawn, because I've got a camera pointed out front, and it sends video to my phone.

Cheers, to The Simple Life      ;)

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Camrose? I Mean, I Know You Said Camrose ...

My wife thinks I don't listen to her.

So ummm... what does a man do from here? Denial will only make it worse, so you better come clean.

I admit, SOMETIMES, I might not listen as carefully as I should;
When she told me recently that we'd been invited to spend the weekend at the Best Western, I'd have sworn she said Canmore. I said "Cool, let's do it!", thinking how much I love that little mountain town and the serenity I feel, surrounded by the Canadian Rockies.

A short exchange later, I was exposed as not paying attention. While I can't remember her exact words, the sentiment was "I said 'Camrose', dummy!"

And I thought to myself, "Camrose? For the weekend?" I might've even said it out loud. The Camrose of my memories was a sleepy little town populated by retired farmers and CFCW's Bev Munro telling us about the Big Wheel Trucker of the Day. Through occasional visits with relatives, as a kid, I have memories of skating on Mirror Lake in the winter and seeing the resident swans there, in summer. I remember wondering, why don't we have a lake in the middle of town.

I snapped out of my reminiscing, realizing that my full attention was required for this task. I was again informed that we were going to the Best Western Plus Camrose Resort & Casino. And I thought to myself, "Did you say casino?", I may have even said it out loud too.
A pleasant, short hour-ish drive from Edmonton, puts you in Camrose, Alberta, home of the Big Valley Jamboree. But there is a lot more to the City of Camrose, much more than was there when I was a child, on my way to great-aunt Edna's house. A full compliment of 21st century urban amenities may have replaced the sleepy farming town of my memories, but anywhere that still has a main street remembers its roots.

So just like the Fresh Prince, we rolled up to the Best Western Plus Camrose Resort & Casino, I looked at my kingdom, I was finally there. Not having set foot in the place, my expectations were already exceeded. Nice. Very nice.
Our family of four paraded through the lobby, down to our rooms, and I remained impressed. Clean, bright, well appointed accommodations.

Next, a glorious seafood buffet. Damn, but I do love crab legs. Making a mental note, they do this every Friday. Expectations exceeded again.

Off to the lounge, for some live entertainment. While I generally consider the term "dueling pianos" to be a misnomer for an act without any swordplay, flint lock pistols, or bloodshed, I did find myself thoroughly entertained, and yes, I was singing along wherever I knew the words (or even when I didn't). Blame it on the rain. Or beer. Once again, I was impressed.
The casino, while not a cavernous expanse that will leave you wondering which way is which, has more than enough game variety to keep me happy, and of course, poker tables. We played a fun little tourney of Texas Hold'em, and I did alright... Actually I won, but I'm just ridiculously humble. O_O

The next day included a trip to the pool with my 10 year old, and everyone knows that kids judge hotels by their pools. Complete with water slide, and a water spouting "umbrella" in the pool, she approved of the facilities.

Being invited to a resort, it's easy to enjoy one's time (especially when shown extensive hospitality on someone else's dime), but the real question comes when you ask yourself "would I feel good about spending my money here?"

Answer: Yes, the pricing in the hotel, dining, and lounge provide a very good value for the dollar, and while I initially may have misheard the name, I would definitely return to this surprisingly good destination for a close to home getaway. Just remember, Camrose, not Canmore. Prairies, not mountains.

Yes dear, I'm listening. (Insert winky-face here)

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

OK, I Admit it, I Love This Song

I trust you guys, so I'm going to share with you. My music. No, I'm not in a band, not secretly writing songs for Taylor Swift, and won't make you listen to me play Judas Priest on a ukulele. I'm going to let you see some of my Guilty Pleasures playlist; The songs that if you browsed through the 1200+ tunes on my smartphone, that you'd raise an eyebrow and whisper "WTF?" Even if you too secretly love these songs, you might hesitate to admit it.

Remember that scene in We're The Millers, in the motorhome, when Kenny... What do you mean you don't? It's ok, you're in a safe place, you can confess your love for B Comedies. Anyway, Kenny goes deep into TLC's Waterfalls, not just singing along to the chorus, like most of us (I know you do it too), but really shows T-Boz, Left Eye &Chilli some love. Waterfalls is obvy on Kenny's list. It's on mine too.

10. Waterfalls  -  TLC
Not ashamed to share his Jam, even in front of his fake family. Go Kenny! If you prefer to hear the ladies sing it, Click here --> TLC - Waterfalls 

Some songs catch us, and stick with us, and even if you try to resist, you end up bopping along like you're in some sort of nightmarish Night At The Roxbury reunion. That means you like the song... and that's why I have to admit I really like...

9. Believe  -  Cher
Yes, Cher, I Believe, and I don't care what anyone says. If you listen to it, and by the end of the song you're not grooving along, I say you're a robot.

In the modern age of movies, the soundtrack has moved front and centre. Some music is introduced to the public through a movie or TV show, and some music will never break that link. If you can hear Kenny Loggins song, Danger Zone, without seeing Goose and Maverick hi-five on the deck of an aircraft carrier, I don't think we can be friends. Danger Zone and Top Gun had a baby in my brain, named happiness.

8. Danger Zone  -  Kenny Loggins
I feel the need... the need for speed!

Sometimes the music ends up carrying a film, or maybe it was the excuse for making the movie in the first place? Sometimes even stinking garbage movies leave you with the blessing of music. That's sort of how I feel about Coyote Ugly, a truly unremarkable film, in my opinion, and some might say this song is junk, but I say you Can't Fight The Moonlight.

7. Can't Fight The Moonlight  -  LeAnn Rimes

I think that some songs become victims of overplay on the radio, initially benefiting from Top 40s style short playlists but soon transitioning to annoying earwig for most listeners. I like H.O.L.Y., but get out of my head Florida Georgia Line! For me, one song to survive massive overplay is... 

6. Call Me Maybe   -  Carly Rae Jepsen
I know it's not a landmark in the progress of music, but I like it. And the idea of putting it as my ringtone makes me laugh. Every. Time. Here's my number, so call me maybe.

Even after massive overexposure, and the passing of an appropriate length of time, some music will pop back into our culture, like when the fine folks at Molson employed the Proclaimers to demonstrate the lengths that people might go to get their beer. Hyperbole or not, I still dig those nerdy Scots. I'm on my way!

5. 500 Miles  -  The Proclaimers
I chose the Molson ad (with actors, not nerdy Scots), because beer. 
See a live Proclaimers version here -->500 Miles
Even musical juggernaut Imagine Dragons have offered homage to the awesomeness that is 500 Miles, see it here -->Dragons 500

From Proclaimers to DISCLAIMER:
Because the numbering on my list appears as a countdown, and I'm too lazy to go back and change it, I'll insert the note that this is not supposed to be the definitive list of shameful music joys, but just a few of the songs that get commonly lumped into the Eww! of music, and Eww or not, I like them.

My next pick was discarded from popular music as Grammy winning Milli Vanilli was exposed as a fraud, in so much as the members of the band didn't actually sing on the record. Oops! Whatevs, you got to blame it on something...

4. Blame It On The Rain  -  Milli Vanilli
Cuz the rain don't mind, and the rain don't care...  O_O  Same. Sing it loud.

Pop culture icon, Britney Spears, has always had her nay-sayers; From her post-Disney coming of age and rise to pop stardom whilst breaking some Timberlake kid's heart, through the (Eww!) Federline days and apparent mental health struggles, bouncing back, and on to Vegas headliner. But no matter the highs or lows, whenever I heard that school bell ring and "Oh baby, baby", I was hooked. Let's have a listen, c'mon ...Baby One More Time

3.  ...Baby One More Time  -  Britney Spears
... My loneliness is killing me.. I must confess... I still believe, still believe... 
Yes, you caught me singing along, to which I can only say, Oops! ...I Did It Again (Yeah, that's officially on my list too).

After admitting to being a Brit fan, it's easier to tell you all that I love these Brits too. I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. Girl Power! Looking at the state of the world today, I think we all could use another measure of the Spice Girls...

2. Wannabe  -  Spice Girls 
Everyone has a favourite Spice Girl, who's yours?

To top this list, I decided on an often maligned song, sneered at by critics blinded by jealousy and unable to embrace the song's truly inspirational tone. For me, it took on a much deeper meaning when featured in a classic film... Sometimes a song elevates a movie, sometimes the movie elevates the song. In the context of Hot Tub Time Machine, here it is:

1. Hero  -  Enrique Iglesias
Would you dance, if I asked you to dance? Would you run, and never look back? Would you cry if you saw me crying? Would you save my soul tonight?  O_O  Wait, what?
See Enrique, without the movie as a frame of reference, here -->Hero
Whatever man! Music is a beautiful thing!

What's the point? The point is music can make you happy, and it doesn't matter what that music is, as long as you enjoy it. So Whip Your hair with Willow, blast some Nickelback, or Roar with Katy, and don't let anyone's words bring you down (I love you too, Christina Aguilera).


Friday, 10 June 2016

The Fridays of Summer - An Introduction

Gather 'round kids, I'm gonna teach you how to Friday, and yes you can use Friday as a verb. Don't argue, it just makes you look Monday (yup, that's an adjective).

Around here, summer is short - we can have snow 6 months of the year (or more), so a sunny summer Friday is nearly sacred.

Also I think you'll agree, the week is split rather inequitably, with 5 days devoted to the workweek and only 2 days of weekend; so the key to a really good summer weekend is taking full advantage of the potential of Friday.

I like to think of Friday as more of a flex-day than a workday, meaning yes, physically I may in the office, but you know I'm mentally already halfway to the patio. You might need 50 sales reports copied, collated, and stapled, but you can't keep me from dreaming of freedom (and an ice cold beer).

I've Fridayed for a long time, and it's become sort of second nature to me, so I'm going to let you in on a few secrets that'll help get the weekend started...

Step 1:  Check the calendar
Make sure it's Friday. Nothing is worse that going around the office half the morning, in a fantastic Friday mood, only to find out it's Thursday.

Step 2:  Know the weather report
Your needs on a sunny day will differ substantially from those of a cloudy, or worse - rainy day.
Sunscreen, bug spray, hats, and jackets, all have a place, but you can't carry them all around with you without looking suspicious (and nerdy).

Step 3: Make a plan
Alert the crew that you're Fridaying. While this point seems obvy, it is possible that one of your dim, devoted, coworkers may have overlooked the fact that it's Friday. Once your peeps are notified, identify the locale of the day. A good Friday leader won't rely on "the usual", which then becomes a rut, and then it might as well be Tuesday, dammit.

The key to the Friday plan is much like effective government... meeting the needs of the people. Unlike chameleon, you can't be all things to everyone (run run away... uhh... Never mind), so keep your group size manageable; it's not the company barbeque, FFS.

 Also, keep expectations reasonable. You're going for a couple beers to prime for, and stretch out, the weekend, so don't advertise it as some mystical quest. Make it special, but don't try for epic, you're not that great, Gandalf. For my crew, the formula is simple - the drinks and food you want, at a reasonable price. That's it. Over-deliver, not over-hype. Mix it up, try different places.

You want more? Well, yes, it would be nice to have breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Yes, it would be nice if the waitress was cute, and thought you were funny. Yes, it would be nice if someone unexpectedly picked up the tab; But this is the real world, so just be happy with the icy beverage and spicy wings, anything beyond that is a bonus.

If the last memory you have of your workweek is cocktails and appetizers, it might be enough to lure you back to the hive on Monday, worker bee. Can't hurt, can it?


In future days, we'll examine more advanced techniques of Fridaying, like calling in sick, and sneaking out early. Keep your Friday on!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Life Is How You Look At It

Do you have one of those people in your life that always seems happy, cheerful, and optimistic?
Ok, if it truly is ALWAYS, perhaps their medication needs adjusting, or maybe you can rub their belly for luck, because they're leading a charmed life. Perhaps that person is just a grinning idiot.

But I think that the people who are generally happy, and smiling are on to something; In the words of modern day philosopher, Eric Idle, "Always look on the bright side of life".
Notice the little things
Life isn't always easy, things aren't always good, and we can get bogged down thinking about all the things that are wrong in our lives and in the world. We can't ignore these negative things, because they are part of our life experience, and it's okay to be sad, or angry, and even to feel sorry for yourself. But don't let those negative feelings block out the positives in your life. Don't let those negatives become who you are. I say this, because I've struggled at times; for twenty years I've been self employed. and there have been many highs and lows. Sometimes the lows seem to outlast the highs, and make me doubt myself, make me feel down.
Look up, feel the wonder
My wife often has advice for me, sometimes it's in the form of a questioning critique, "Why'd you park way out here?" or "Why'd you go this way?" I could live without those interactions, but sometimes she is right. That's what I said: she's right, like when she tells me "Stop worrying so much" or "think positive" or "be open to opportunity" or "don't assume the worst". She also says a lot of other things that remind me of Charlie Brown's teacher, but let's not get distracted, the point here is we will see the world the way we want to.
Have some silly fun
If we can look for the good, focus on the positives, and believe that good things are coming our way, we will likely find that things do work out.

We all have a multitude of reasons to be happy and grateful, remember yours.

Life is beautiful.