Saturday, March 28, 2009

Raising Awareness

I believe Earth hour is very important.  It is vital that all citizens of this planet individually communicate with the folks that rule that we are concerned about global warming, that we are concerned about the environment that we are passing on to our children and our children's children.

It may seem like an insignificant act, and make no doubt, it is a tiny thing that we each need to do tonight at 8:30 - just turn off our lights.   However, the significance of this act is not tiny.  It tells the government that we want them to act, that we want to find a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Earth hour was invented in Australia in 2007 - just 2 years ago- an island country which will have some real challenges to deal with if water levels rise to their predicted levels.  The movement has grown in the last 3 years and now it is a global event that can be observed from the Space Station.    As the 8:30 time slot sweeps around the world even the Pyramids and the Acropolis will go dark.  We will be making a statement.

Estimates for last year  put Toronto's participation at 50%.  Toronto Hydro recorded a reduction of hydro consumption of 8.7%.  With greater participation this year perhaps we could top 10%.  We are voting with our light switch.  We are telling the government that we care and that they should act.  If enough of us act by turning off the lights, perhaps they will listen to us.  

It is a noble cause.  Join me tonight in the dark at 8:30.

I will post a quick post from my earth hour party tonight with  the appropriate tag as requested by the earth hour global committee .  You should also think about doing this, if you wish to fully participate.  


Make your vote count by recording your participation in Earth Hour and posting it to the web. You can....
  • Take a photo on the night and add it to Earth Hour’s flickr group
  • Make a video of your event and add it to our YouTube group
  • Write a live blog post during the event tag it earthhour or voteearth
  • Update your Twitter status on the night and tag it #earthhour or #voteearth
With that I will add that I am not sure when I will get to my next blog - if I will blog from holiday or not (I think not)  For sure you will hear about my trip in the blog I do next Friday night.  So with that I will say goodbye for now - 
Have a great week!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Catch Up Time

It has been a few days since I have blogged.  I feel guilty and sot of like I have forgotten to brush my teeth.  I guess that is good.  The habit has been forged.  Now to keep the habit alive without letting it take over, become an obsession.  You see the truth is there are a lot of other things in my life which need to be done, which want to be done.  It is important to find a way to blog regularly without neglecting other things which are more pressing and are more important.  

This week has been hectic.  Catching up with stuff put aside as I studied for my exam.  Major deadlines at work which need to be met before I take 4 days off.  Tax and business bookkeeping to catch up with.  Getting ready to go on vacation to Las Vegas.  Having a few nights out with friends - socializing  is a good way to let off stress and to recover energy even if late nights result in too little sleep.  Having fun is necessary to well being.  So this week has been full up and a few nights blogs just fell too low on the priority list.


Last night I started to write my blog and ran out of time before I had to rush off to meet my dinner date.  
Which, by the way was a spectacular night of dinner at Le Select Bistro and jazz music at the Reservoir Lounge Fantastic night - but I got home way too late and then had an extra early morning at work.  I am paying for that tonight - did what I had to do and now I will blog.   Listening to some great concerts on Radio 2 - first KD Lang and now Hauxley Workman.    I need to get a good nights sleep because  tomorrow night will be sleep deprived as well - I have a 6:30 a.m. flight and since it is international and requires a 3 hour advance arrival that puts me at about 3:00 a.m. drive to the airport!  yuk - did I book this flight?...   As I was saying important to get a good nights sleep tonight.

Tomorrow night is Earth Hour and I do hope you all are going to turn off your lights at 8:30 for an hour.  We are organizing a party for Earth hour in the Condo party room - everyone in our building is invited to come down and enjoy the "lights out" together.   I am on the organizing committee and so need to go help set up at 7:00.  My friend Barb is coming down from Collingwood and spending the night before we leave for Vegas.   She and I will have a drink at the condo party and then come up to the apartment to look at our darkened city from the 21st floor.  Should be quite the sight.  Maybe I should post a photo or two.   Then as soon as it finishes we will be hitting the sack.  As I said, early morning flight. 


I took my dog Bella to get a haircut this week.  She was so shaggy and matted I just had her shaved right short so I could start over and try as it grows out to be more diligent with brushing her hair so it does not get matted.  She is  a different dog now - smaller by a fair bit and really very cute.   


I will l finish todays blog with the blog I nearly finished from yesterday:

I sit here at my desk (now located in Laura's "x" bedroom) I can see the CN Tower and the downtown skyline in
3/4 of the rightmost side of the view.  
Today the weather warmed but the air was damp and ribbons of fog rolled in from the Lake.  Not really sure if it was rolling in or rolling out, but when I got home from work there was a layer of misty cloud which hung low on the sky and above there was no fog.  It made an interesting view of the skyline. I snapped a pic. 

But that is not what I want to blog about.  When I look out my window, on about 1/4 of the left side I get a birds eye view of my "sister" condo, called "Zip", which is joined at the base with this one and with which we share building amenities.  

It reminds me a little like one of those ant farms - you know the one, you can see the tunnels and the ants going about their business inside the glass jar.  As I sit here I can see into the living room of about 60 apartments - about 3 across and about 20 floors vertical.   Lots of stuff to keep the eyes busy...  

I am starting to get to know my neighbours across the way  but not in the way you typically get to know them.  I have never met any of them but am coming to know their ways habits and lifestyle as I watch their comings goings through my window. There is a nice couple who live at number 4 (I number from top to bottom for instance 1 through 3 right to left are the 3 rightmost apartments on the top floor, and 4-6 is on the 2nd from the top floor) the guy in number 6 likes go around house in his shorts. His lady friend,likes to sit on the bar stools located what appears be bar height. Number 9 always has tv turned on. They have a big one and it faces the window so you can see what they are watching - in the morning City's Breakfast TV.

Anyway, in future blogs I may well refer to my "remote neighbours".   I am sure I will be privy to some interesting stuff in the coming months.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rule No. 1 of playing hooky: Just call in sick

I had to laugh at a news item I read today which reinforced the belief that I have.   People who are not smart should not try and get away with a lie.    Apparently, the chap had called his boss and left a message that he wouldn’t be into work because he had fallen in a hole.  So the boss called 911…  and the rest  you can read about at:   Rule No. 1 of playing hooky: Just call in sick


I was once involved with a guy who embellished everything and lied about most things.  It was a rude awakening for me to discover this as I had until that point never come across anyone who lied so blatantly.  We once went on a holiday together and he told this Paul Bunyan tale about our background together to the couple we ended up hanging out with.  It was so weird, I didn’t know how to react as he just came out with these tall tales while we were sitting and having a drink with the couple.  Once I realized that he was a compulsive liar, I always verified anything he told me if it was important.  

The funny thing was that this guy lied so much and so often that I came to believe that it was ok for him to lie to me – I just got so used to it – and I just got into the habit of checking up on him.  I just came to understand that there was very little that this guy said which actually would be true.  He was a very charismatic and interesting guy, so he held my interest for a while.  But when it comes down to the short strokes you need to share the same moral values.  I guess no surprise that he and I are no longer together, eh?

 I mentioned in a previous blog about the TED talk “Why we think it's OK to cheat and steal (sometimes)”  by Dan Ariely.  At the time I didn’t go into the main point of the talk – which was what makes us more or less likely to lie and cheat.  If you haven’t listened to the talk as yet, I would suggest it and offer the following tidbits from the talk to entice you:   Dan has done extensive experiments to draw conclusive answers to the following:


-Are you more inclined to lie if you thought you would not get caught?

- Are you influenced by the gain to be made? Would more people cheat if the reward was higher? 

- Might you be more inclined if you knew that one in your midst was cheating?

He believes there are a few forces at work.

  • Firstly, we want to feel good about ourselves, we all have this invisible line which gives us a little bit of latitude that allows us to cheat a little bit but we try not to cross that line because if we keep to our definition of “honest enough” we still feel good about ourselves.   
  • Another force at work is our social circle.  If we know that others in our group are cheating we will then cheat more because we think it is ok.  It becomes the social norm and we think it is appropriate.  He makes some good points.
  • The last factor which makes it easier to lie and cheat is if we are dealing with something which is not money, but which represents money – like chips at a casino or stocks in the stock market. 

 

Dan relates his research to the stock market and what motivates those involved in the stock market to behave in less than an ethical way.   It is an interesting talk.

 Another short blog… And back to my bookkeeping.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bookkeeping and Risotto

It is late for me to start my blog – just got bogged down with all sorts of stuff tonight. I think I will now attempt to set a record for a speed blog.

I spent tonight catching up on bill payments and paperwork – no, I did not catch up but I made a start. With a bit of effort tomorrow night as well and I may even feel like I am getting on top of it – and I need to do that before I leave for Vegas on Sunday morning. Little matter of a GST return that needs to be filed and some stuff to put together for my accountant. So that is what is keeping me from doing a proper blog tonight and probably tomorrow night.


Just for good measure I will tell you about the wonderful risotto that I made for dinner last night when Jeff and Amanda came over. It was soooo tasty.

Mushroom Risotto

Begin by mincing a small onion and some portabella mushrooms.


  • Sauté the mixture in 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter, and when it has browned remove it with a slotted spoon to a plate, leaving the drippings in the pot.

  • Stir in 1 cup arboritto rice and sauté it too until it becomes translucent (this will take 7-10 minutes), stirring constantly to keep it from sticking.

  • Return the onions and mushrooms to the pot and stir in a half of a cup of dry white that you have previously warmed (if it is cold you will shock the rice, which will flake on the outside and stay hard at the core).

  • Once the wine has evaporated completely, add a ladle of simmering broth; stir in the next before all the liquid is absorbed, because if the grains get too dry they will flake.

  • Continue cooking, stirring and adding broth as the rice absorbs it, until the rice barely reaches the al dente stage (if you want your risotto firm, time your additions of broth so that the rice will finish absorbing the broth when it reaches this stage; if you want it softer, time the additions so there will still be some liquid left). It takes about 3 cups of chicken broth.

  • I add about ¾ cup of cooked peas.

  • At this point stir in a half a cup of grated parmesan and cover the risotto, and turn off the heat. Let it sit, covered, for two to three minutes, and serve.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Have you Signed UP?



Support Earth Hour
This will be the second year I have participated in Earth Hour . Last year's Earth hour was very successful in Toronto and as the Video at the link below attests, power consumption dropped significantly in Toronto which showed that there was a great deal of participation.

So what does this prove? Obviously, the energy savings from the one hour are not going to do anything to stem the tide of global warming or to save the world. However, it shows that people the world over are kee enough to make the effort to spend an hour without lights on. It shows awareness of the issue and a desire to make change. Politicians and policy makers take note of this and therefore it adds motivation (if there isn’t enough already).



It is also a good excuse to bond with neighbours. My condo apartment has an “earth day party” in the party room for residents to come and be “in the dark” together. Last year they served green jello shooters, which tells a lot about the age of the residents!. Ha Ha.

I work at RBC and the CEO sent out a note to all staff stating that all RBC offices would be participating to the extent possible allowed within the confines of safety. He encouraged everyone to sign up and indicate their support. Many companies world wide have joined the Earth Hour movement. This is important.

So, if you have not done so already, go to the link and sign up. There are also some other very interesting videos on the site and a lot of “blogger tools” (I added one at left which I will leave for the week) to help spread the word. And lay in a bunch of candles for next Saturday and plan a great evening to celebrate that we can reduce our consumption, not only of hydro but celebrate that there is a wide following promoting an attitude of careful conservation and preservation of all our resources.

I PASSED MY PMP EXAM YESTERDAY!!!!!!

Now that I have that out of the way - it was most important so had to go first in this blog - I PASSED MY PMP EXAM YESTERDAY!!!!!! I was somewhat dissatisfied, while they don't give a grade there were too many questions I puzzled over .
It is a computer exam and it is scored immediately upon finishing. You are provided with a result on each of the 6 sections of the exam: either "deficient", "moderately proficient" or "proficient" and an overall "pass" or "fail". This exam was unlike any of the technology exams I have written in that it did not test just knowlege of right vs wrong, but also required you to know "the best" of 2 or 3 fully correct answers! The other comment was that the question wordings frequently had me confused as to what they were asking. The only saving grace on the whole thing - which allows me to sit back and let all this stupidity just flow out of my brain - there was not one question on the exam which I felt the least uncomfortable with that mattered. So enough is enough.

Now that I have my PMP it is time to think up another stretch goal to assist my career. I am thinking about some ideas and will fill you in once they solidify.

The Great Recession

Now it officially has a name. Some of the major news sources have coined the phase "The Great Recession" and it seems to be sticking and was used by a US public official to refer to what otherwise is called "this mess". At this point, I don't think we have it nearly as bad in Canada as many places elsewhere - but we are not heading out of it yet it seems. Even if the stock market does start it's slow climb back up it that does not mean that we are out of the water. The stock market is a leading indicator for recovery - that means that the recovery of the stock market will happen before the recession ends.
The reason is that the folks that buy and sell stocks anticipate what will happen and react.... The other observation that one can make - because no one really knows in advance if it has ended - that the market will go up and down as people think the economy is recovering and they buy stocks then they realize it is not and then they sell them. Once you see we have had sustained improvements over a period of months then you can see that the market will have trended up over the previous months...

Last Friday we broke the record 8 straight days of up market improvements in the TSE and ended the Friday down 2.1% from the previous day, but up 2.4% for the week!. It was up overall for the week. So is the market recovering? Would be nice, but I think not - because there are many examples of what appear to be the start of a rally and which ends up subsequently looking for a new low. It seems too soon by my mind.

I listened with some interest in the news reports regarding a demonstration that was taking place in France yesterday - they were demonstrating that the government has not done enough to improve the economy. Many of the European governments have declined the kind of monetary intervention that the US and GB have been advocating - but of course they are the two worst hit countries, the ones with the most messed up financial institutions. Obama has made comments that he would like to see more Government stimulus in Europe, but the European governments are not biting. They believe their countries are in a better position as their financial institutions are better regulated - and make no mistake they are - but I don't know if that is enough. It may be that these countries will have a longer and more sustained recession as a consequence - we will have to wait and see.

This and That

I have clipped a lot of news articles in the last few weeks but not had time to blog about them. So I will now start trotting them out - a few at a time.


I had to laugh at a recent Globe and Mail Headline "Man Reluctantly Rescued from Leap Over the Falls". The wording of this headline made me think that perhaps the Paramedics were busy watching Dr. Phil and were reluctant to leave their program and go give assistance. That was not the case at all.

Apparently this man, hell bent for destruction, jumped into the Niagara River above the falls and went over the falls - without barrel - as is the choice of dare devils who try this - or other protective gear - it was not his desire to survive. Fortunately the rescue effort was launched very quickly and a helicopter was dispatched to fish him out. The rescuers were quite disturbed that the man waved them away telling them to let him drown! As it turned out the man was not reluctantly rescued but was reluctant to be rescued - quite a difference.


Putting the gravity of the situation from March 12th aside for the moment, just goes to show you that when it is your time to go, perhaps a barrel (or a helmet referencing the recent death of  Nathasha Richardson from a skiing accident) would not help - just as in this example, if it is not your time to go you don't need to worry about any protective gear - even as you go over the falls!

Incidently, the first man in the record books to go over the falls wasBobby Leach in 1911.  He went over the falls in a "barrel" and is shown at right. 

As a last added note, you will find that the link above brings you to the Globe News Article - which can be purchased for $4.00 if you want to read it! This article was available and free for the reading in the internet version of the Globe on March 12th. I guess I will need to be vigilant about making notes relating to internet news items I want to blog about later. It also reinforces that the news industry is reaching out for new models toward profitability as so many of us are reading our news via internet - free without cost as an ever dwindling number spent their dollars on purchasing the Newspaper in print. This new media, I am coming to believe, will at some point make printed newspapers extinct. A sad thing, I know for at least one of my regular readers!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Nowruz!

I spent all day
studying very productively and when I finally said enough is enough!  I decided to cook myself a nice meal to provide a reward and also food for my tired brain.  
Also, it is Friday and a good reason to have a nice meal and a glass of the good stuff!   
I have the most interesting cooking appliance, a  portable infrared/convection/radiant oven which does steaks to perfection – while not as good it does provide a reasonable approximation to barbecued steak.  Being on the 21st floor I am not allowed to have a bbq – although I could use the “communal” one which is on our condo patio.  But it is not available in winter and I like my little glass "oven bowl". 




So here is tonight’s dinner – complete with a glass of my favourite wine – A yellow tail Shiraz-Grenache, made in Australia.  The label on the bottle says of the wine “The peppery Shiraz jumps from the glass complementing the cherry fruit flavours of the Grenache.  The two varieties come together in a well balanced wine displaying earthy tones, strawberry aromas and vibrant acids.  A truly Australian wine that will perfectly match a beef stir fry with a medley of spring vegetables.”  I might add pretty good with a steak, baked potato and green beans, as well!   Actually, the wine does have a peppery and cherry fruity flavour (in the good red wine sense).  I like it a lot and happened to have a part bottle open from an earlier dinner I had cooked with a friend earlier in the week.  Glad we saved some for later!



I am sitting here listening to Persian music and Sufi Poetry – which is fitting because it is the Persian New Year – Nowruz.  Just like the Chinese, who have their own New Year at a time they feel is appropriate, the Persians (Iranians, Afghanis and other folks from the Persian Gulf) celebrate their New Year not on Jan 1st, but at the time of the Vernal Equinox – which to me seems very sensible.  Spring is a time of renewal and awakening and it seems fitting to call it the New Year.    

As well, just like the Chinese there is a great deal of celebratory custom surrounding this time involving cleaning the house before hand and eating and drinking and visiting.  Like the Chinese this is not just a one night event (we could learn a thing or two here) the New Year is celebrated over a period of 13 days.  One of the more interesting customs is fire jumping.    

If you want to know more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norouz

The other bit of trivia
I was wondering about was – why does the  Vernal Equinox - arrive at 7:45 in the morning?  Well the answer I discovered is that it is the precise moment when the sun hits the mid point of the equator and there is an equal amount of light shed over both the north and south poles.  Still doesn’t explain why it is at 7:45 and not at sunrise (which I thought earlier than 7:45 today), but I found a neat picture which shows what is happening.  Still puzzling about the timing though – I guess it is at a different time depending on your location but I am going to have to give more thought into why it might be exactly 7:45 a.m. in Toronto, ON, Canada and whether it might be 7:45 a.m. everywhere, since our time is adjusted to account for the sun moving across our sky... And I would imagine that it would vary in time year to year? Could the sun be in the this position at the same time each year? Probably not.  

None the less the first day of spring is always a day of great joy for me - New Year or not.  I always feel wonderfully energized by the warming temperatures and the prospects of days and evenings outdoors.  I have already started watching for the first signs of spring - a robin, a budding branch and/or a few blades of green grass.  

Tomorrow is my big exam day!   I am as ready as I will be.  Having studied lotsa I feel comfortable about going to the exam tomorrow.   And I will feel even better when it is over and I can go out and celebrate the end of a whole pile of work!

Obama's Interview with Jay Leno

He's the Man!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

To Rip or Go Slowly?


There were a few things I wanted to blog about today.  I must be firm with myself.  I am doing another time limited blog and whatever draft I produce in 30 minutes will get final edit, pictures and posted without additional thoughts added!  It is 7:20 p.m. now. 

Last night I listened to another TED talk that grabbed my attention.  The TED talks are organized by theme and I traced a trail along the theme “Unconventional Explanations”  and found “Why we think it's OK to cheat and steal (sometimes)” which sounded intriguing.  The talk was presented by Dan Ariely, who was billed as a “social economist”, however from listening to his talk I would say he was a social scientist.  I will not now comment on the main subject of his talk (that is a much longer conversation than I have time for at present), but instead will focus on one small piece of his pre-amble. 

Have you ever removed a bandage (perhaps as a parent of a child) and wondered if you should rip it off quickly or whether you should peel it off with careful and slow deliberation?  Which approach might offer the least distress given that each will result in some pain?  This man has the answer.  He tortured a great number of souls and studied their perception regarding the pain  to determine the following:

  • It is better to go slowly
  • It is better to start with the most painful area and move on to less painful area, if there is a large area of bandage to be removed
  • It is better to take a break and let the patient “catch his/her breath” before continuing, if there is a large area of bandage to be removed.

The main talk was very interesting as well and if you want to understand why we are more apt to cheat and lie under some circumstances and not others you should listen to his talk.



I heard on the radio today that Toronto’s ROM “Crystal” was voted one of the seven new architectural wonders of the world.   I found this quite incredible as I could think of many more likely candidates for the award.  

I went on the web and could find no actual evidence that the magazine attributed to giving the award had in fact done so – although I found many news articles by other news sources stating this was the case.   I kind of doubt the accuracy of this report.  If anyone has a copy of April's  Condé Nast Traveler magazine I would be interested in knowing if this is true - their internet version has no such article!

In any event I have passed by it a few times and it is a wonderful sight.  The new museum building is just approaching its one year anniversary and I am sad to admit I have never been to see it.   The article prompted me to check out what is happening at the ROM and I have identified a whole bunch of activities which will lure  me there in the coming weeks.  I intend on acquainting myself with this (so called) wonder sitting right in my back yard.

National Post Article

A couple of last bits of news.   Firstly, I am really sitting up and taking notice of our dear friend Mr. Obama. God, that man impresses me.  Got to catch him on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.at 11:00  tonight!  It is the first time a President goes on the talk show circuit!   Wouldn't surprise me that he is on Oprah next!

Lastly, THANK GOD -today is the official last day of winter!


 My time is up!  It is 7:50 – time to edit and upload the blog and pictures!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A bit of this and that

 

I have to admit that I missed blogging for 2 days.    This is my 60th post in  66 days - my first post being January 11th.     So I have missed 6 days in all.  Not perfect – but then who is perfect?  Good enough that I have gotten past the point of wondering if I will acquire the habit of blogging, wondering if I will run out of topics or even enthusiasm. 

But I do run out of time and find it challenging to devote the time I would like to my blogs.  They will necessarily will need to become a bit shorter as a rule, particularly now that the weather is starting to become nicer.  I will want to be outside more – walking and enjoying the city around me and on weekends up at Collingwood enjoying the walking and hiking trails which are in abundance up there. 

Laura popped in to visit last night.  She had a new cast installed on Monday and it is a nice fibreglass one – much smaller than the plaster one and she now is able to go back to work which is a cause for great celebration. 

The good news is that her bones are knitting well and she should have the cast off in 3 weeks and with the new cast she is much more comfortable and able to sleep.  I am glad for her.

Yesterday was St. Patrick's day.

 I am forever amazed at how busy the bars are on this day - they should call it national drinking night!   As I walked home there were line ups at all the Irish Pubs along my route.  I went out for dinner - my companion and I would have preferred to go see Greg Wyard, but chose not to since there would invariably be a line up at the Irish Pub he was playing that night.   Instead we chose the Liberty Cafe who was featuring Rude Jake, both of which I have blogged about in an earlier blog.   

We both had a wonderful evening - but it was not as expected.  Jake happened to be sitting beside us with friends (who planned to accompany him during the evening).  The bar was packed and there was a large crowd at the bar.    There being no stage in the restaurant they normally just move some tables aside to make a small spot the musicians can occupy.  The spot Jake normally occupies to play piano and guitar was blocked entirely by patrons and those tables did not look to be clearing any time soon.  After a time, they gave up thinking that the bar would clear out enough for Jake to play and they sent him on his way.   We were left disappointed  - my companion had wanted to hear Rude Jake.  However the evening was delightful in all other respects (except as always too short!) , so I have no complaints!  Maybe in the coming weeks we will get to go see Rude Jake and his friends. 


This morning I notice that trucks have arrived at the Brazen Head Pub and they are packing up the tents and bits and pieces they needed to kit out their establishment for the event.  Both on route to the Liberty and coming home we noticed that the line ups were very long .  With the main floor dining room and upstairs bar filled and all 3 patios plus a parking lot tent filled to overflowing we can be sure this Toronto Bar Night contributed greatly to a bit of an economic recovery.
 

I am at home working today – half a day studying for my PMP and half a day working on some documents I need to get finished for work.  Having said that I must get at it - time is marching.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Scattered and Fragmented Mind

What to write in my blog tonight?  A dilemma – can I manage a short, pert piece and get on with the other things I need to do before bed?  I check my clock – 9:15! 

Later than I would have liked but for sure enough time if I make haste.  

Today was a gorgeous day weather wise – but this did not help me stay focused on my studying.  I moved myself out onto my balcony and sat there on my lounge chair memorizing stuff for a few hours.   Other things kept wandering into my area of focus.  

The look of the lake – it was extraordinary, with a milky white haze hovering over the water further out onto the lake. 

The white lake blended into a white coloured sky in the distance.  Here on the shore there were no clouds, but I suppose out on the lake perhaps it was cloudy and the heat of the day may have been causing mist to rise in middle of the lake providing the white background.  







My construction “hole” on the street opposite – a concrete and steel monolith is rising out of the hole and the west side is now approaching street level.  I can see the progress made in the last month. 



The park below – folks have broken through the fence and have claimed it ready for use – dogs frolicking folks sitting on benches chatting.  Idly I wonder when things will start to green up… (ha nice joke, eh – try next month) 

The movie I watched last night – The Watchmen – which I enjoyed a lot and would highly recommend.  My date from last night, which I would not. 


My mind wandered further afield – spring is in the air and poetry is begging to be written.  My mind is calling to me to unload this poem which is crying to get out – to be written – to be acknowledged.  Spent an hour heeding the call to the poet in me. 

Laura arrives – I am her hairdresser now and she is in need of a shampoo.  We chat – she eats – and I drive her home. 

Back to work.  Focus – keep at it.  Finally I finish the practice exam I had started writing hours ago.  Joy of joys!  74%  - not as good as I would like, but certainly acceptable.   I decide that I can get away with only 1 more day off work to study.  When Friday rolls around I will do my last review and ready my mind for the exam the next day. 

Blog done – I can now sit back and relax with what remains of my weekend!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Detachment and Mindfulness - Zen Pursuits


As you might recall, I have a Zen calendar on my bathroom wall – I blogged about it last week.   Aside from the humour of the month and the Zen thought in view while one is busy on the throne, which may have made you think otherwise, I am quite interested in the practice of Zen.  It is a helpful tool to break out of stressful situations and unproductive “self talk”.  Right now, work is a bit stressful, I have my PMP exam next Saturday and personal thoughts, hopes and dreams are intruding on my days so a reminder to cultivate a Zen like attitude is timely for me.

I looked forward in the calendar this morning looking for inspiration.  The thought that grabbed me: “When we become detached from things, everything will be ours”.   The idea behind the Zen belief in detachment is to do without expectation of outcome.   This is the antithesis of our competitive world – we immediately think why would we do if not to achieve an expected outcome?

I did some research to try and understand the meaning and value of this Zen tenet.  I found some interesting quotes which shed some light.

“Desire nothing, and you’re content with everything 
Pursue things, and you’re thwarted at every turn. “
Ryokan 
1758-1831, Japanese Zen Master, Poet, Calligrapher

“Detachment is not indifference. It is the prerequisite for effective involvement. Often what we think is best for others is distorted by our attachment to our opinions: we want others to be happy in the way we think they should be happy. It is only when we want nothing for ourselves that we are able to see clearly into others’ needs and understand how to serve them.” 
Mahatma Gandhi 
1869-1948, Indian Spiritual Leader

“Much of our inner turbulence reflects the fear of loss: our dependence on people, circumstances, and things not really under our control. On some level we know that death, indifference, rejection, repossession, or high tide may leave us bereft in the morning. Still, we clutch desperately at things we cannot finally hold. Nonattachment is the most realistic of attitudes. It is freedom from wishful thinking, from always wanting things to be otherwise.” 
Marilyn Ferguson 
1938-, American Writer, Mind Researcher 
The Aquarian Conspiracy, 1980


The idea is that you do what you believe you need to do without attaching any ego or yearning for a particular outcome.   Certainly that will reduce disappointment and unhappiness – expect little and you will be happy with what you get.  I also happen to believe on the whole one gets what one deserves and it will be commensurate with what you put into an activity.

However,  with a measure of detachment one is freed from the stress of worrying about what will happen – a good thing as far as my PMP exam is concerned that is helpful – I tend to over study in order to achieve to the high standards I set for myself. If I can detach expectations from the result of the exam, I would probably do no worse but might study a bit less. 

In personal relationships, it is also a bit of good advice, if we just be ourselves and do what we feel we need to do, things will either happen the way we would prefer – or not.  If they did not there will be less angst and if they do we will be pleasantly surprised.   In the spirit of Que Sera, Sera detachment is important.  
 
The other Zen practice which goes hand in hand with detachment is mindfulness.  Mindfulness means we live in the moment.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow has not arrived we need all our attention to the moment in order to completely harvest the present. 

Being Mindful also mean that you are becoming more self aware of your thoughts and feelings, without judging them.  It’s perfectly natural to feel nervous, afraid or confused, depending on what’s going on with your life.  The task at hand is to accept the feelings, but to also let them go and finish the job.   So for the exam – just before the exam I might be nervious.  I should let myself  feel the nervousness and then let go of those thoughts.  For things that happen which stress or disappoint  - be in the moment and experience the frustration, sadness of disappointment in order to then let it go when the moment passes and then move on.  Of course, mindfulness is easier if one has  detachment.  

With that in mind, I have completed enough studying for one day and am setting out for the movies!  Intend on staying in the moment all evening, not thinking about outcomes and completely detached from any expectations.  No thoughts of exams and no thoughts of work or other things which might otherwise wriggle into my brain!   What will be will be.





Friday, March 13, 2009

Busy Week and Now for some Concentrated Study Time

I have really not done much focused studying this week – not that I had planned to do too much, and to tell you the truth it is tough coming home from work with a tired brain and then spending time productively studying.  I had expected this to be the case, so I have not many hours in my study plan allocated to work day evenings.

 Last night was time for family. 


It was my son Jeff’s  birthday – hard to believe he turned 26 this year!   He had gotten back from his Peru trip the week earlier and we had not yet received a first hand account of his trip and so we all enjoyed the stories he had to tell of his “GAP Adventure”.   I blogged a bit about his trip in an earlier blog, so I won’t go into more detail here, except to note that he took over 800 pictures and we probably saw 500 of them last night!  So now I have something new on my Life List: hiking the Andes in Peru.

 

Our family events tend to be held at my Ex’s house as he has a larger space and with 5 kids and “significant others” (ok sadly usually only 4 + 3/4 "others" attend, as 1+1 live in Phoenix, Arizona) it just makes sense.  David and I have long since made “peace” about our split and chose to be both friends and truly co-parents to our children.   It makes family times much easier to organize and I believe this has sent an important message to our children.  Relationships may change and perhaps romantic relationships might not last but friendships can endure and family commitments are important.  When you have children you are signing on for life – regardless how the relationship which created them makes out. 

So we did a week day dinner at David’s house.  To make it easy we ordered Swiss Chalet  in and focused just on visiting and catching up – it was probably Christmas the last time we were all together.   

Times like these make me feel so lucky to have a family and extended family (as I consider my Ex and his lady Maria) who are all so close.  It is a bit sad that Eric and Kara cannot join us but we are hopeful that we will be graced by a visit later in the year.

 So now it is Friday and it is back to study mode.   My exam is only 1 week away!!! 

I have to make the best use of my time this weekend and for next week also during the week, so will not blog so much over this next week. 

Will let you know how I make out tomorrow!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Leonard Cohen - He's My Man!


I am a fan of Leonard Cohen’s have been for the longest time. In the last month he has been in the news lots as he starts a new cross Canada tour. Leonard is yet another aging musician still touring and still appreciated by his fans. I am sure many older musicians are out there because they love making music and being on the road, but I would expect that for the most part they are out there at least in part because they don’t have enough funds for retirement. I am sure that is not be the only reason Leonard is still touring at age 75 but for sure he is still putting money aside for his retirement.

Leonard’s story is a little bit different than Willie Nelson’s – unlike Willie it is not an issue with back taxes which caused him to need cash. In 2005 he alleged that his long time manager had misappropriated song rights and more then 5 million dollars in funds. Many years of court cases and lawyers he decided he just needed to move on and hit the road again. I am sad for his misfortune, but I am glad he is still touring. Maybe I will get to see one of his concerts.

Cohen considers himself primarily a poet, although it is his music is what has made him famous. He published his first book of poetry when he was at McGill. He also did a year at law school before living a fairly reclusive life of a writer for most of the 60s, publishing both novels and books of poetry.

He started his folk singing career in 1967. His sometimes dark songs were more popular in Europe than in North America. A couple of his more famous songs – Suzanne and Hallelujah are covered by countless musicians.

Leonard spent 5 years in the 90s in seclusion at a Monastery in California and has been ordained as a Zen Buddhist Monk. He re-entered the music scene in 2001 with a new album and has been touring and producing records since.

To read more about this fascinating man go to
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Cohen

CBC Radio 2 is doing a contest to win a trip for 2 to see Leonard Cohen at the Radio City Music hall. You have to listen each day and can enter the contest each time you hear a song by Leonard played. I have so far managed only 2 entries. I just can’t manage to listen to the radio for much of the 6-9 and 3-9 timeslots in which the songs are played. It would sure be great to win the contest. If any of my readers are listening to radio 2 during these hours and hear a Cohen song being played please email/twitter/facebook or blog comment me with the name of the song and the date and timeslot (morning/evening) in which the song was played.

Sure would be nice to win. I can always hope.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life



"Brace for a Sharp Slump" - that is the Business News headline today, a proclamation by the International Money Fund (IMF) who are in the process of reducing their forecast for Canada's 2009 output. This was in stark contrast to the rose coloured speech Harper gave to the Board of Trade in Brampton yesterday on the state of our economy. What gives Harper the sudden dose of optimism, you might wonder. Lets put that question aside for the moment.


I hate to think things will "sharply slump" from even the current sad situation we are familiar with today. There is evidence everywhere that things are dire. Every one of us can see evidence in our day to day lives. I went out to lunch with my work crowd yesterday. We went to Alice Fazoolie's downtown a fairly popular middle of the road chain restaurant for the middle class. There were only about 3 tables with paying patrons in the whole restaurant during the lunch time. Last year it would have been mostly full and I guess there may be 40 or more tables in the joint. Last week there were 20 of the 500 people in the Snr VP's Team "down sized" and it was noted that the rest of the decrease was expected to be covered through attrition. It is easy for a company to save money by cancelling or deferring new IT project development in bad times. At RBC, where I work, there are next to no new projects starting up. Only those that can be shown to generate revenue quickly ("cash crops") are being considered.

IMF predicts a "sharp slump". Any more slump and we will be lying on the floor. I guess the only question is how long will it take for us to get enough strength to get up and start going again?

So that brings us back to "Good News Harper", who I think took his clue from Obama's speech of last week where he tried to pump up consumer confidence and do his bit to ensure that further declines were not a self fulfilling prophesy. Obama had previously been accused of being too negative and his tone changed appreciably last week. Harper was just following Obama's lead. As well he should.

The world's economy will continue to decline until we collectively act like it will not. Not to say that in itself that is sufficient for recovery. However, with even the best stimulus package in the world and endless capital pumping money into GM to keep it solvent, that will not provide a turnaround until a critical mass of people actually believe the worst is over. If people think things will get worse – guess what – they will get worse because worried people do not spend. When people sigh in relief and start spending again we will see the taps turned back on and a return to better times.

So what do we do in the meantime? At times like this we need to make sure that we are doing what we can to live within our means and to position ourselves for what events might come our way.

But having done that, it is more important to enjoy each day for what pleasure we can derive from it and to stop looking backwards ("why didn't I put that money aside for the RRSP") and to each coming moment as an opportunity to do something important and to make a difference to ones self or to another person.

Focus on living rather than worrying. Every day we have the opportunity to make today be exactly what we want it to be – to find new and interesting things to read, discuss and to do and to do them with whomever we enjoy being with. There is no doubt that the economy will recover and things will improve at some point. Lets put the bad news aside and focus on the positive. Live today like it is the first day of the rest of your life.

Poem: Douglas Malloch - Its Fine Today


Sure, this world is full of trouble–I ain't said it ain't; Lord, I've had enough and double reason for complaint. Rain and storm have come to fret me, skies are often gray; thorns and brambles have beset me on the road–but say, ain't it fine today?

What's the use of always weepin', making trouble last? What's the use of always keepin thinkin' of the past? Each must have his tribulation—water with his wine; life, it ain't no celebration, trouble? –I've had mine—but today is fine!

It's today that I am livin', not a month ago. Havin'; losin'; takin'; givin'; as time wills it so. Yesterday a cloud of sorrow fell across the way; it may rain again tomorrow, it may rain—but say, ain't it fine today?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Stem Cell Research and GM Pensioners….

What does Stem Cell Research have to do with GM Pensioners you might ask. The answer is that both of these topics have been in the foreground of my thoughts these days and I have been aching to blog on both topics. But time prevents me from doing justice to either.

So I shall have to satisfy myself with giving you a rough sketch of what is on my mind and not the full picture. The rest maybe will arrive at another time and in another blog – or maybe you will just need to engage me in a real live conversation to hear the finer points of my cerebral musings.

GM Pensioners Shitting Their Pants (and Rightfully So!)
The GM pensioners must be saying “What the F….!!!???” to hear that the pensions and lifestyle that they are living today, one that they thought was secure is in fact maybe not so much. If GM were to go under there would be less than half the money in the pension fund required to cover the pensions for these guys. Can this be? Oh, yes, it can be. How, you might wonder.

I took a few minutes to look for a news story to explain the situation to me. You might want to go to the Globe news item if you want more detail. It is at
GM pensions: Who's responsible?

According to the article, it is legislation from the Bob Rae era which is at the root of the problem, when the Government in the early 90s allowed several large companies to under fund its pension plans as a means of saving money and therefore jobs. What this means is that they did not have to put away the money needed for future pension payments, they just had to put aside enough money to pay its current obligations. The silly part of it is that the program was called “Too Big to Fail” as it was only allowed for the largest companies, those that the smart folks of the day thought could never end up going bankrupt. The program was discontinued, but GM was allowed to continue under a grandfather clause. The other two companies originally allowed to underfund (Algoma Steel and Stelco) actually went bankrupt.

The kicker? If GM goes under we the Ontario taxpayers will end up paying assistance to the GM pensioners. The Ontario Government’s Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund will be required to step in and pay up to $1,000 a month to each pensioner if one of these “Too Big to Fail” companies actually fail. However $1,000 a month is not nearly what these Pensioners were promised for their pensions. I am sure many of these old folks are having sleepless nights these days.

Kind of makes me glad that I manage my own pension fund.

I won't go into why we should not sign up to pay ongoing life support money for this company!  I will just make one statement.  Capitalism and the free economy by definition permits and requires failing companies to close up shop.  

Stem Cell Research – Why it is Vital

Obama sure has my respect and admiration and he has come across again with the goods that tell me it is well deserved! Mr. GWB banned this type of research because of religion and his personal belief that it was ethically wrong to use embryonic tissue for research. I could go into a long monolog explaining how  Obama’s announcement showed class and respect – however in interests of keeping this blog to a sketch I will leave that thought and go right to the meat.

You need to listen to this TED talk to understand why stem cell research is vital to humanity and to the evolution of mankind and why this kind of scientific enquiry is essential. Juan Enriquez is the scientist who presents this talk and he has a number of TED talks I intend on listening to over the next while. This one is riveting, frightening and inspiring all at once and presented with a humour that everyone will appreciate. You need to hear his TED tallk to know why stem cell research is vital to our drive to be all we can be as humans and why Star Trek is probably not too far off a possible reality for our future as a race. And if you listen to it you will also understand why he says Americans (and of course as cousins we also go down with the ship) are standing in the flames with the current economic crisis.



There is lots I could say more about this topic, but I simply have run out of time. So as I said it is a sketch…

I will finish up with an Onion item which relates to the topic of the day:


TheOnion
BREAKING: Biden Arrives At Stem-Cell Announcement Dressed As Giant Stem-Cellabout 4 hours ago from twhirl

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