Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Disaster strikes

Saturday's massive quake in Indonesia cast a real damper on Christmas festivities this year. But it's also another chance for the Internet to show off it's massive ability to keep people in contact during times of crisis. I've got friends travelling in the area, and I was able to find out in short order whether they were OK (They were!).

I'm finding that the BBC World News site is one of the best for keeping up with what's happening, and their cable news shows (often running on NewsWorld) have been the most informative coverage I've seen.

The blogosphere is humming with stuff. Go here and here to see a couple of examples.

I hope all is well with people you care about in that part of the world. Please send whatever help you can as soon as possible.

On a Lighter Note

I've added a Notify List to my blog. (The sign-up window is on the right, towards the bottom of the page.) I know that it can be annoying to visit a site like mine, only to find out that I haven't updated it for awhile. I do have an RSS feed and an Atom feed on this site (again, on the bottom right) but I know that some of my regular readers don't have a clue what a NewsReader is, or how RSS works. (Go here if you want to know more.)

So I've created a list you can sign up for to receive an e-mail every few days (more or less) telling you what's new on the site. I doubt I'll send it out ever day. I don't want to be annoying, assuming that I actually update that often. But I'll keep the updates fairly regular. This will be a handy alternative for people who don't want to use the RSS feeds.

There's no obligation whatsoever, and no one will ever use your e-mail address for any other purpose. Just add your e-mail address, and you'll get an e-mail confirming you want to sign up. Click on the URL on that e-mail and you're in. Simple as that.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Not all the news is bad

In the spirit of giving this Christmas season, here's something that you can sign up for and keep getting all year long.

Each week I get a note in my in-box that I always make time for. It's called This is True. It's put together by Randy Cassingham, a guy in Colorado who has been publishing his quirky column for years. He takes funny stories that have appeared in newspapers around the world and packages them up for your consumption. And he usually adds his own, unique punch line to the pieces, which often add to the fun.

Along the way, he manages to highlight a lot of the stupid things that people do, most notably the obsession with so-called "zero-tolerance" campaigns in the US against drugs, violence, etc. Often these are carried out by school boards and officials, with ridiculous zeal.

There are two editions available. One is free. The second, the Premium edition (and the one I subscribe to) is just $20/yr (although he's finally raising the price in January) and it's got content not found in the free version. Cassingham also offers unique items to buy, such as his immensely popular GOOHF (Get Out of Hell Free) cards. People who are angry enough to tell someone where to go can also give them a card to allow them to get out of there once they arrive.

Cassingham also runs a web site called the True Stella Awards, which highlight lawsuits that should never have been filed. And in his spare time, he's got a pretty good site on jokes. You can find them all at the This is True website.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Countdown begins...

We're into the final stages of Christmas countdown. Jaime arrived home from Victoria late last night (early this morning actually!) and she's already off with Kelly hitting the malls this morning. It's so nice to have her back.

Like any good father, I spent most of this morning trying to figure out why her computer isn't working properly. I'm sure it doesn't mean much to anyone else, but I can't stand it when something doesn't work right, so I'm busy wasting all kinds of time working on it. The computer is connecting to our Wireless router fine, but it doesn't seem to be connecting to the network for some reason, so it won't connect to the Internet...if anyone has any bright ideas about what it might be, please let me know.

Oh well, blogging might be kind of light for the next while, as I settle into being busy with family for the next while. But watch for updates as this season moves along.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Flickr a Hit With Bloggers

I've mentioned Flickr here before. It's a new service that lets people post their photos on the web and gives an easy way for others to see them. I'm using it to post photos here (see the posts below about Kelly and Jaime.)

For those of you that want some more info, here's a good article from Wired News about the service. I think a lot of you will be interested in using it.

The Library of Google

Following up my previous post about the World in 2014, here's a short article about Google's plans to make a lot of the books of the world available on-line.

Is this company for real? Or is there a more nefarious plan behind all this? It's a discussion that's going to be going on for awhile. In the meantime, this is a lot of fun to follow. Add your comments to this story and see whether we can generate some of our own discussion.

There's plenty more articles out there about Google's just-announced plans as well. Here's a link to Google News, with a listing of most of them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Google rules the world?

That's the premise of this very interesting video.

Take a look and see what might happen down the road.

I don't know much about the group behind this intriguing piece. But it sure is interesting. And technically, very cool. Go ahead and click to see see the piece. It's about eight minutes long.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Progeny (2 of 3)

Originally uploaded by Homeguy.
I've written a lot here about Jaime and Kelly and their rowing exploits. A number of regular readers have asked me how come I never put up any pictures.

Well, until just recently, I didn't know how to do that. But now, as you can see, I've got an account with Flickr, which lets me post pictures on the Web, then point to them in my Blog.

So, here's a fairly recent photo of Jaime (on the left) and Kelly, taken at Hamilton airport in September, when Jaime left for Victoria. (She's attending UVIC there this year.) By the way, I've also got a son (Cory). But he's not a rower and it seems he doesn't get much ink here at all. I'm still tracking down a good pic of him.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Time for bed

Originally uploaded by Homeguy.
Some dogs are spoiled. Others just go back to sleep. This is Roxy, our pampered Golden. I've posted her picture here to try out Flickr, a place where you can store your photos on the web. Seems to work all right.

Firefox - A new look at browsers

Now I've done it. I've been trying out Firefox, which is a new Web Browser from Mozilla. It's an open source creation, and if that doesn't mean much to you, you might not be that interested in the rest of this post.

For years, I've used Internet Explorer to surf the web, putting up with many of the weird things it does, and worrying about security issues. Then I switched to a Mac and started using Safari, which I am very happy with. Safari is from Apple, and it's a really nice application.

But there's been a lot of buzz in the press about this new browser, so I thought I'd give it a try. One of the things that intrigued me was the ability to browse using tabbed pages. Safari also offers this, but for some reason I haven't been able to figure out how it works. But in Firefox, it's easy. And very effective. I find myself using Firefox almost exclusively now, although it's only been a couple of weeks.

My biggest problem is that I had built up a big batch of saved bookmarks in Safari...and now I'm adding new ones in Firefox. I wonder if there's a way to import or export one or the other? If anyone knows how I could bring my Safari bookmarks over to Firefox, I'd love to know. I'm still not sure whether I'll switch to Firefox permanently, but I'm liking it so far.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Basketball's done -- back to rowing

Well, sometimes there just isn't quite enough fuel in the tank...and that's what happened to Westdale tonight. They dropped a tough decision to Sarnia Northern in the bronze medal game at the OFSAA tournament. The final score was 45-40. That brings their season to a close on a bit of a sour note, losing two games in a row. But once the tears have dried, the girls will be able to look back at a very successful year.

In the bronze medal game, Westdale ended up losing three starters with five fouls each in the fourth quarter, and they just didn't have enough juice to overcome a late game deficit. They were leading at the half by four points, but a 6-0 run by Sarnia to start the third sealed the game, as it turned out. Oh well...it was a great season.

Kelly continued her impressive performance. She had a great tournament, proving that she belongs at this level. She gave consistently strong defence when asked to step in and I expect she'll be one of the leaders next year. So that's it for basketball for now...back to rowing.

Of course, Kelly being Kelly, one sport at a time isn't nearly enough. As well as being busy every day with rowing, Kelly will also be playing on Westdale's senior girls' volleyball team! So perhaps another OFSAA tournament is in the works in about three months time?

It's the Bronze Medal Game Tonight

Well, it was a tough game, but Kelly's basketball team, the Westdale Warriors, came up just short in this morning's semi-final game at the OFSAA tournament. They lost 47-37 to top-ranked St. Thomas Moore, also from Hamilton.

So that means they'll be playing for a bronze medal tonight at 6 pm against the loser of the other semi-final between the third Hamilton team in the tournament, St. Mary's and Sarnia's Northern Collegiate.

It's been a great tournament. But today, Westdale was a little flat in the opening minutes, giving STM the early lead they needed. While Westdale outplayed STM in the second half, they couldn't score and take advantage of STM's mistakes. So that 10 point early lead held up right to the end.

Tonight's game should be good one, as Westdale has got something to prove to its fans. They could have beat STM if they had played the way they did Friday night. So I'm hoping that's the team that shows up tonight.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Proud Papa -- Basketball edition

Since so many of you seemed to like the Proud Papa stuff for rowing, I thought I'd add one today for Kelly's Basketball. Kelly's team, Westdale, from Hamilton, is in the Ontario Senior Girls' AAAA championships this weekend. The OFSAA tournament is being held this year in Hamilton. As of right now, Kelly's team is 2-0, and doing all right.

They play tonight at 7 pm in the quarter-finals, and now the games are getting really tough. The quality of the play is exceptional and there are no easy wins from here on. It's sudden death all the way. The link above will take you to the scoreboard page of the tournament, which they're keeping fairly up-to-date.

Kelly is having a great tournament. She's playing a solid back-up centre role and her defense has been extraordinary. It's a real treat to watch the games. Too bad they weren't being broadcast, so I could tape them and pass them along to some of you. But I'll try to keep you up-to-date over the weekend on how things are going.

The quarter-finals are tonight (Friday) at 7 pm. Then the semi's are at 10 am Saturday, and the Gold and Bronze medal games are Saturday night. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

FRIDAY NIGHT UPDATE -- Westdale won! They beat a very strong Toronto Etobicoke team with an inspired surge in the first half to catch up, then pass the Gators. And once again, Kelly came off the bench with strong support at the centre position. In the second half, they held on to lead at 3 quarters, and pull it off in the fourth. The final score was 74-66, thanks to some great foul shooting. They play the semi's Saturday at 10 am!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The President comes to town

Are we taking this whole President's visit thing too seriously? I mean really, he's just coming to chat. And yet our security forces have created the largest security operation in our history (according to one news report) to protect one man. Hmmm...Does anyone deserve that?

The CBC is doing an interesting item all day today. This link will take you to a blog from Ottawa reporter Paddy Moore, who's walking around Ottawa with a blackberry and a camera phone, filing constantly. It's kind of interesting, although he seems to always be struggling to find a decent place to see what's going on. Not too exciting, but worth a look.

I guess I should be more excited about all this, but somehow, it just seems like so much nonsense. Sort of a case of everyone taking themselves way too seriously. I can't help but compare what's going on today to what is happening in Kiev. There, thousands of people are milling about, with police virtually nowhere to be seen.

Speaking of Kiev, Salon.com has an interesting item comparing the way that election fraud is treated in Ukraine with what's happened in Ohio. Take a look.

The War on Women

The Globe and Mail's Stephanie Nolen wrote about the plight of women in the Congo last weekend. I wanted to provide a link to her story, but the Globe now has a paid subscriber policy, and this article is now only available to those with "Insider Edition" subscriptions. I don't have that...nor, I suspect, do many of you. What a shame, because Nolen's story is worth reading.

Nolen is an astonishing reporter. Her work from Africa has been without peer in the Canadian media, at least, as far as I am aware of. And her newspaper, the G&M, deserves praise for funding her activities. Her travels around Africa, and most recently, the Middle East, are always interesting. In fact, the whole Globe foreign correspondents group deserves kudos.

Anyway, Nolen's articles on the travesties that have befallen the Congo in the last decade are sobering reading. If there is a hell on earth, this would appear to be a good candidate. What has been done to the citizens there during the seven-year civil war, and in the months since a "peace" deal was reached...words fail me. Especially the horrors inflicted on the women. Nolen's brave reporting is without embellishment. She wraps up the truth and delivers it in clear, precise tones. You are left as the reader to form your own judgements. I can only imagine the personal hardships that she has gone through to interview her subjects. She hints at it occasionally, but never dwells on it. Yet it must be an amazing story on its own. I hope she tells it one day in more detail.

While the first story is no longer available in the free edition, the second and third of her four part series are on the website. (I'm not sure how long these links will be active.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Sask scenes for the holidays

Well...perhaps not just for the holidays. The CBC in Saskatchewan puts out a package of card each year, with the images supplied by their loyal listeners. Here's the link to this year's version.

Disclosure note: I was one of the esteemed judges this year, and I'm happy to say that all of my picks made it into the final 12. As you'll see, the range of photos was pretty impressive. And be sure to check out the rest of them. There's pages and pages of really interesting stuff, all contributed by listeners of the Morning Edition in Saskatchewan.

One interesting thing I noted was how few of the pictures had any people in them. Seems like Sask people really like that big sky country, and they're sure in love with the landscape. For all those Ontario folks who ask me what's so attractive about my home province, I think I'll just point them to this picture gallery.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Kevin Sites' dilemma

I'm sure you saw the story last week about the U.S. Marine who shot an unarmed Iraqi in Falujah. It caused a lot of commentary from both pro- and anti-war types. But here's a story that you probably haven't seen or heard. This is the story of what happened that day in the mosque, told by Kevin Sites. He is the reporter who filmed the incident. It's told in his personal blog, in the form of a letter to the Marines he was with that day.

Since the story came out, Sites has been painted as a crusading anti-war activist, implying that his decision to release the tape was the wrong one. Listening to him talk about the conflicting emotions the story raises is instructive. It's also a vivid example of the stress that war reporters are under every day.

Read it yourself. It's instructive. In war, there are no easy answers to complex questions.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Just how "Real" is the Internet?

Usability guru Jacob Nielson has some interesting thoughts on where the Internet is taking society. He calls it "Undoing the Industrial Revolution."

Nielson is one of my favourite writers about the Web and all things to do with it. He's been at the forefront of many of the design revolutions that have turned the medium into the useful one it is today. I find his arguments interesting, provocative and sometimes "way out there." But his record speaks for itself.

At any rate, my new business is one of the ones that he's talking about. And I like to think that I'm staying at the forefront of things...even if my day-to-day experience makes me wonder sometimes...

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Dog bites and what to do

I've always been a bit ambivalent about dangerous dog laws. On the one hand, I do agree they're necessary. There are dogs out there that shouldn't be allowed. But how do you decide? One breed might be bad, but individually, some dogs might be worse than others. On the other hand, any time the state wants to arbitrarily make a decision that infringes on people's rights -- censorship, obscenity, morality, etc. -- my instinctive reaction is caution. I don't trust those kinds of judgements.

Last week, we had another attack by a pit bull here in Hamilton. Fortunately, no one died, but a little boy and his mother were seriously hurt. It's lending fuel to the Ontario government's efforts to ban pit bulls. So this article by Jon Katz in Slate is timely. He looks at the issues of dangerous dogs in his usual, considered fashion and ends up in a place that might surprise people who know him.

As an owner of two large dogs, I know how tough it can be these days to find places to walk them without worrying about how others will react. Not only do I have to keep an eye on them to make sure I don't miss any of their daily droppings (lovingly collected in my little plastic bags) I also have to avoid having them run over to "greet" other dogs and people in the park. I never know how people will react.

Things would be a lot easier if the dog park was closer. There's one in Burlington, but it takes 20 minutes to drive there. Here in Hamilton, we've got baseball diamonds and soccer pitches coming out of the ying yang, but let your dog run free on one of thse and the bylaw guys show up in a heartbeat to slap you with a $100 ticket. It doesn't seem fair somehow...and it's making criminals out of a lot of dog owners.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

This has to be quick...

I’ve been looking at some stuff on-line that extolls the benefits of speed. High speed. Whether it’s information or inventory or your connection to the Internet, speed is good, and faster is better. No argument there, right?

Well...I’ve got to pause for a second to consider this. I am a proponent of high speed communications. But I don’t know whether faster is always better. I’m also a bit of a fan of the new “Slow” movements that have sprung up, dealing with food, mostly, but also life in general. I know I’m a big fan of the slow pace in Mexico that I experienced last year. But on the other hand, I love the speed of modern communications. I like being able to instant message my daughter at university and chat in real time. Heck, we could even have visual links, if we had a camera.

This post doesn’t have a point, or a resolution. It’s just something to consider. Here's" a story from Fast Company that extolls the virtues and the wonders of Dell’s zero tolerance for inventory. They build 80,000 computers a day, yet they often have as little as 2 hours worth of inventory on hand. It’s interesting.

For another take at the benefits of speed, consider this Wired News story about bloggers making no apologies for running things that conventional media didn’t want to touch. This issue concerns the US election, and the fact that some bloggers started running exit poll information on election day. As it turns out, the information wasn’t right...leading to some interesting results.

I point to these stories because they both centre on speed and raise the question of whether it’s always a good thing. As an editor, I know the value of letting a story or a report sit for a bit, before I give it that final once-over. I usually find something that needs some work. But in today’s work place, that’s a luxury that most of us don’t have. Of course, some will argue that I can always go on-line and correct something that turns out to be wrong. But what about the people who look at it before that? How will they know that I’ve changed my mind, or that some of the information they read, and perhaps copied, forwarded, or printed, is wrong?

No answers today...just grist for the mill. Comments?

Friday, November 12, 2004

What is blogging, anyway?

I’m often asked “What is a blog, really?”

“Well...” is often my reply. It’s an easy question, and a tough one. At it’s simplest, a blog is like an on-line diary, with the words just pouring forth. But a blog can be more complex. Blogging can be an adjunct to conventional reporting, or in opposition to it, or supporting a particular point of view, or holding forth on an issue that other, more conventional means of discussion, might not allow.

I used to be a reporter. In fact, I still am, although I’m not getting paid to do that now. I’ve also worked as a communications consultant, a photographer, and a host of other occupations, some of them relevant to what I do now, some of them not. I’m a freelancer now, working for other people to build their websites, update their communication plans, help out with their media relations, work on the messages to their employees — I like to think I do it all. And some of it I talk about in this blog.

But a lot of what I write here is personal — my own feelings and thoughts. I ask questions that I don’t expect answers to and I offer answers to questions I haven’t been asked. But it’s my blog and I can write what I want. However, my mixing up my consultant’s work with my personal interests sometimes gets me confused. So I’m investigating either starting up a second blog or separating this one into different topic areas...I’m not sure which is the more appropriate route to take.

But this is a new area of writing, and there are people who want to talk about it and explore its potential. So last week, a group of people gathered for Bloggercon III, to explore the meaning of blogs. Online Journalism Review’s Staci Kramer has written an excellent overview of the conference. You should take a look if you’re interested in this subject.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

God's Law

I got this from a friend of mine. We don't know who wrote it originally, but
it raises a lot of important questions. So I thought I'd share it with all
of you.


Dear President Bush:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's law. I
have learned a great deal from you and try to share that knowledge with
as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual
lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22
clearly state it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements
of God's Laws and how to follow them:

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and
female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend
of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not to Canadians. Can
you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in
Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair
price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her
period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how
do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They
claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2
clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to
kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that, even though eating shellfish is an
abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.
I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there "degrees" of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have
a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does
my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.
19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me
unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two
different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments
made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also
tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to
all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev.
24:10-16)? Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family
affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev.

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy
considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and

Keeping the memory alive

I did something today I’ve been thinking about for years. I went to the Remembrance Day ceremony here in Hamilton.

I’ve often thought of attending, but over the years, I haven’t. Why? I couldn’t say for sure. It’s always been a special day for me. I’ve often watched the ceremonies on TV. But I have only attended an event a couple of times in my life. Of course, I went to special events when I was in school. I don’t remember too much about them, but I know we would listen to a veteran talk about his experiences and we’d spend a couple of minutes in silence. Not complete, of course. That’s too much to ask of school kids.

This year it will be 10 years since my Dad died. And I find myself thinking about him a lot these days. At this time of year, I think about his time in the service. He went overseas in 1943, just after his wedding. And he was away for almost three years. He was in Europe, but he didn’t see much fighting. He was an engineer, and his job was coming along after the infantry and helping to rebuild the roads and other infrastructure that were destroyed in the liberation.

He never talked much about those years. We have some stories and some mementoes, but there’s not a lot I know about what went on. And I don’t think that Dad ever attended a Remembrance Day ceremony. At least, not while I was around to remember. I’m sure he did after the war. But it wasn’t something he talked about much. Now I find myself always thinking about what he was doing when he was my age and it’s a strange feeling. In some ways, I think I’m becoming like him...in other ways, we’re quite different.

Today, I found my mind wandering during the service. I was surrounded by a lot of people, yet I was alone. I live in this city, but I don’t know anyone. It is always strange to wander through a crowd like that and not recognize anyone. I wonder what it was like for those young men so many years ago to be sent to a foreign country and asked to make the ultimate sacrifice for their loved ones back home? Looking around at the faces today, I wonder whether we’ll ever see that kind of selflessness again. The world has changed, no question.

I’ll close with a short tale from the ceremony today.

One man told us about attending a conference in Windsor, Ontario, in 1994. He was there with his friend, a man from Scotland, who had suffered a stroke and was unable to move half of his body. They went down to the cafeteria for breakfast. Another man was sitting at a table by himself. So they asked whether they could sit with him. When their breakfast came, their small talk turned to shared experiences. The man telling the story said he could tell the other was an ex-serviceman and so he asked him which service he had been in. It turns out the man had been in a Tank brigade and had served in Italy during World War II.

“So I asked him, if you could meet one person from the war, who would it be?” our speaker told us. It’s a question he often puts to veterans, and he says it usually brings out an interesting story.

“That’s an easy one,” the other gentleman told him. “I would want to meet the man who saved my life, and the life of every man in my command. He was a small Scottish engineer. I was in command of a tank group and we were preparing to cross the river at a low point, where a lot of tanks had crossed the day before. But before we entered the river, this little Scot came running over, shouting at us not to move,” he said.

“There’s a German gun hidden in the trees on the other side, and they’ve been picking off everyone that goes into the river all day,” the little man told him. “Just stay put until we find another crossing.”

“I’ve never forgotten that guy. And if I had the chance, I’d give anything to shake his hand and thank him properly for what he did that day.”

At this, the stroke victim put his spoonful of corn flakes down. “Well, you’d better just go ahead and shake my hand now, because you may never get another chance,” he said.

Hard as it may be to believe, those two men were brought together by fate fifty years later. And for the next five years, until one of them died, they were inseparable. Quite a story.

I remember.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Proud Papa -- Canadian Champion Edition!

I had meant to post this earlier, but I couldn't find an Internet connection...but the news from Montreal is all good for Jaime. Jaime and her three team-mates won the lightweight women's Four event at the Canadian University Rowing Championships, which were held this week in Montreal.

The weather was cold and windy, especially on Saturday. But Sunday was a better day. But none of it made any difference to Jaime. Her boat won their heat on Saturday and easily outdistanced their competition on Sunday. What a great race to watch.

Go here to see a complete report on the weekend activities. Now, I've got to run, 'cause we're heading back to Toronto today.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Rowing Update - Latest Proud Papa edition

It's been awhile since I've mentioned what's happening with rowing around here. Well...Jaime (my oldest daughter) is now at the University of Victoria, where she's continuing to row every day. And doing very, very well. She was chosen to row in the Varsity Lightweight Women's 4, which is very impressive for a freshman!

So this weekend, Jaime and her team are in Montreal for the Canadian University Rowing Championships. And of course, the rest of us here in Hamilton are heading down to watch and cheer. It will be a lot of fun for Jaime, especially because she'll get to see all her rowing buddies from around here. We're all very excited, and so what if the water's frozen, there's snow on the ground and we can't feel our fingers? Hey, that's what rowing is all about, right?

Jaime has a digital camera, so if I get a chance, I'll upload a few pics from the weekend's activities. I've set up a Flikr account in order to be able to add some visuals to my blog, but I haven't tried it out yet. This will be a good chance to give it a go.

In the meantime, Jaime had a regatta last weekend in Victoria, called the Head of the Gorge. She had a lot of fun, and rowed in a double (with her Australian partner, who's also in the Four with her in Montreal) and a quad, with the same women she'll be rowing with in Montreal.

If you want to see them, this is Jaime (on the right) and her doubles partner, and this one shows Jaime (2nd from the right) and the others all dressed up in the Quad. Oh, and if you're wondering about the uniforms, don't forget it was the day before Halloween!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Let's just all chill out

It's time for Canadians to take a valium, or something. The reaction this morning to President George Bush's re-election seems a little out of proportion here in Canada. There was a lot of "holier-than-thou" comments form Canadian pundits, who love to like to think they know a lot more than Americans. Let's just face facts here. For all that Canadian media and pundits think they know what's best for everyone else, the American people have spoken. And they spoke pretty clearly.

There was a record turnout and they voted for the President. Period. Sure, there's a big split in the country. But the system worked. The people had a vote, and they used it. Let's just move on...

The hand-wringing among the Democrats and plenty of others will begin immediately. Here in Canada, Stephen Harper immediately started trying to accuse the Liberals of being anti-American. Same old, same old. Canada doesn't look particularly sterling right now, not after the way we ran our own election just a few months ago. And in the good old USA, Canada doesn't rate a mention. I don't think there's many issues that Canada will have much impact on in America for awhile.

Canada used to be the land of two solitudes. Now, it looks like America is splitting into two pretty distinct camps. And the rise of the evangelicals is a real phenomenon. Just what the continuing impact of their power will be is still to be determined. But it's going to be significant, at least in the short term.

So let's just chill out, and see what happens. It's going to be an interesting next few months...

Top Ten Punchlines to Dirty Election Jokes

Today is election day in the US and I can’t believe the kind of crap that’s about to go on in the polling stations across the country. What a way to have an election. If this kind of stuff happened in any other country, the US would refuse to recognize the results...but that’s the way it is in a “mature” democracy, I guess.

I might have more to say on the election process as the day continues, but I’ll probably wait to see what happens.

In the meantime:

I came across this list on <a href=”http://andrewcoyne.com/archives/004032.php “>Andrew Coyne’s blog</a>...from the Letterman show.

I haven’t had much to say about the US election for awhile, but I couldn’t resist sharing this little gem.

Top Ten Punch Lines to Dirty Election Jokes   Â 

From The Late Show w/ David Letterman:
10. "With a poll like that, I'm suprised he can gallup at all."

9. "She starts chanting, 'four more minutes! four more minutes!'"

8. "That's not the voting lever, but don't stop pulling."

7. "This isn't how it looks -- I'm just joining a third party."

6. I prefer Bush, but I don't know who I'll vote for."

5. "So that's where Katherine Harris was hiding the Al Gore votes."

4. "Unfortunately, his margin of error was plus or minus three inches."

3. "Get used to it, honey -- we live in a swing state."

2. "I thought you had trouble maintaining an election."

1. "I saw your sister with Mary Cheney -- there was no sign of Dick."

Friday, October 29, 2004

I want my MTV (or whatever)

I don't have a TIVO, or any of the other personal video recorders that are out there. But I'd like to have one. I know that there are good TV shows on the air and I'd like to be able to watch them on my own time. But I don't have time or the inclination to sift through the trash. Nor am I able to organize myself enough to set up the VCR on a regular basis. And while I like watching commercials at certain times, in general, I detest the interruption -- especially if I'm watching a movie. Movies edited for television should really be illegal. So TV is not a big thing with me.

But I am very interested in what's happening in TV-land, especially when it comes to how people are watching it. There is a lot of cool technology being used out there to help people enjoy the TV experience, and I like reading about it.

I've written before about Robert X. Cringleyand how much I enjoy his columns. Today, he's talking about TV and a cool new way of keeping up with your favourite soap opera -- even if that soap is airing on a local channel in another country. It's good stuff.

What sets Cringley's work apart from most of the breathless (or cynical) reviews of the latest gee-whiz gadget that's being touted, is that he wants people to consider how technology is affecting what we do. Not in a rarified theoretical way, but in the day-to-day activities that we all enjoy. That's why he's so taken with how technology helps him live his life and if it doesn't help him do it better, it's not worth much.

He's a good commentator to have along while we surf the information highway, because he's always willing to give an opinion on whether things are making sense.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

My domain is mine again...

I just realized I haven't updated anyone since I had my problems switching over my domain hosting.

Well, I'm happy to report that everything is up and running fine at davetraynor.com. I've got the e-mail thing happening, the website has been transferred, and everything seems to be working all right.

My only problem now is dealing with the Spam Alert software my new web hosts have on their system. It seems to be a bit sensitve and I've been having a few problems with stuff bouncing back that gets sent to me. But I'm figuring things out. So now it's time to move on to updating my website and carrying on with my grand plans...yeah, right.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fun and games with domains

If you're reading this...you must be a dedicated sort. And thanks. I've been switching domain name providers and website hosting companies, and it's proving to be a lot more difficult than I had expected. I wanted to move davetraynor.com so I started the transfer process, but my old provider wasn't happy about it. Sure, the transfer did go through, but my request to change the name server information was ignored.

So, when the transfer happened, all the extra services I was using, like automatic forwarding of e-mail info, domain name info, etc., ceased to function. But because the name servers are still listing the old company, there's nowhere for anyone looking for davetraynor.com to go. Oh well. It should all be fixed up in a day or so, then my website will be back up and running, with the links to this site working again, and my mail should be back on line. But it's kind of a drag to have to put up with all this.

We get so used to everything working fine that we're a bit stunned when something goes wrong and we can't fix it in seconds. Wait a whole day? Seems like a lifetime...maybe I need to go back and read some of my own posts about slowing down, life in the slow lane, yadda, yadda, yadda. Sure, that's easy for you to say...you've still got your e-mail connection!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Getting beyond the day-to-day buzz

As the US election approaches, the media is overflowing with stories about the campaign's final days. The hype, the shrill nature of the coverage, the "gloves are off" style of reporting are with us everywhere. But it's a high-paced kind of reporting, and I've been hoping for something a lot more thoughtful.

This past weekend, the New York Times Magazine ran this story. The piece was written by Ron Suskind, whom some of you may know as one of the most hated reporters covering the Bush White House. You can find out more about why if you want (see this) but for now, take a look at his most recent article.

It talks about the "faith-based" presidency of George W. Bush and how that runs smack up against the "reality-based" world that he's struggling to govern. It's a revealing look at Bush's first term and a sobering preview of what may be ahead in the term to come. But it's not a partisan attack. It's something closer to what history will write when someone has the luxury of looking at the events that we have been living through with the advantage of sober second thought. Already, we can see that the US reaction to the events of 9-11 have influenced today's events in ways that were never imagined at the time.

But enough about what I think about this article, and the natural questions and speculation that arise from it. Read it yourself. It's a long piece, and you'll want to take the time to sit through it all.

Then, when you're done that...we can start thinking about some of the things that are happening here in Canada that deserve a lot more sober second thought.

One Ontario item is the recent flap in the media over the resignation of a Vice-President at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. There are also allegations that other administrators have been muzzled or removed under pressure from the Liberal government. (UPDATE - I changed the source of the articles because the Star put the originals behind their pay firewall)

(Disclosure Note -- My interest in this story is decidedly personal, as well as professional. Cyndy DeGiusti, the VP in question, was my boss at Stentor for a couple of years.) Was she forced to resign for speaking out against the Liberal government's decision to force hospitals to balance their budgets at all costs? It does sort of look that way. And the government did warn hospitals that if they said anything negative about the government, there would be hell to pay...Still, it does seem a little heavy-handed.

This morning, my wife posed an interesting question. "Do you think (Ontario Premier Dalton) McGuinty has a plan? Or are they just stumbling along from one crisis to the next?" Indeed...that is the question, isn't it?

At some point, a more detailed look at exactly what is going on in the McGuinty inner circle, similar to the scrutiny now being aimed at the Bush White House, may prove revealing. I hope so.

I'll finish with this thought. Suskind paints a potrait of a President surrounded by a tight inner circle of advisors. He does not hear dissenting opinions. For him, there is only certainty that he is doing the right thing. I'm not saying that Canadian politicians are acting in a similar manner. But I find it interesting that in today's political world, leaders like George Bush (and lots of others) routinely ignore the facts while they implement their decisions. They're not about to let facts get in the way.

But as "facts", or "reality", become less relevant, where does that take us? And what does the role of the media become, if simply reporting the facts doesn't actually affect the outcome?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Now here's something interesting...

If you're like me, you're spending more and more time using various search functions of the Web. Google has changed my life, probably forever. Someone asks me a question, and the first thing I usually do is head to the computer to find an answer. I'm often amazed how much I can find in a very short time.

But one of the on-going issues for me is that it's tough to find local info in a reasonable manner. Obviously, I'm not the only one, and here's a very interesting piece on Yelp!, a new piece of software that's designed to help us all live better lives. It's an intriguing idea and I'll be interested to see how it works...let me know if you try it.

By the way, Bob Cringley is a fascinating story all in himself...sign up for his regular columns if you like to know what's going on in the Web world. And use things like Google to do a little research into who he is...and what the name of his column is all about. It's a neat story.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Picking up the pace again

Well, I’m back in the fast lane. Literally.

I left Regina on a Wednesday, and headed into the US, via North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. All the way down...things were all right. The Interstates were busy at times, but traffic was OK. I was travelling at about 120 km/h (or about 75 mph) most of the time and I was usually in the fast lanes...but it was a nice, relaxed kind of fast.

In Chicago, the construction was amazing...and the routes were in rough shape. Lots of detours and congestion, but fortunately, I went through late at night and passed all that stuff before stopping for the night. Good thing too, because the next morning was terrible weather and the traffic in Chicago was backed up big time. But I was heading the other way, and it wasn’t a problem for me.

At least, I didn’t have any problems until I hit Ontario and the 401. I guess I’ve been away from Ontario for too long, but I couldn’t believe how fast things happen here. And the most obvious thing is the way we drive. I was only on the road for about 10 minutes, and I was nearly run off by someone doing about 200 kmh. At least, that’s what it seemed like when they came running up my rear end. I just about didn’t swerve out of the way in time. And that was just the first one...there were plenty more.

Coming into Hamilton, I was doing about 130 km/h and people were actually honking at me for going so slowly. Geez...I felt like I was on a different planet all of a sudden. Oh well, talk about life in the fast lane. I guess all those things that people in the rest of Canada say about us have some merit after all. So now, my goal is to start my own slow life crusade. I’m not quite sure what that’s going to mean, but I don’t want to get sucked back into the fast pace. I liked the pace I was working at in Saskatchewan. I’m going to try to keep that perspective out here, even if I do have to put up with a few horns now and then. I’ll have more to say on this as it develops. I suspect I’m not alone...and I also think that like me before I left for awhile, many people don’t even realize just how fast a pace they’re operating at most of the time.

Well, time to head off to multi-task some more...

PS — For those of you who have been nice enough to write...the latest update on my Mom is that she’s doing much better. She’s still in the hospital in Regina, but things are looking positive, and I’m hoping that she gets home next week. But just where “home” will be is still up in the air. These strokes are a tough thing to deal with, as I’m sure many of you know. But we’ll just wait and see...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Hanging out in Bismarck

Right at the moment, I’m plugged in to the Internet at a cheap little hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota. Interesting, isn’t it, how sometimes the most obvious things are done by the less than obvious places? What I mean is that I’m sitting here in a very small hotel room that only costs me $39, plus $5 for my dog. But for that price, I get free local phone calls, a gazillion TV stations, including a couple of movie channels, and, best of all, free wireless Internet.

That’s right...all the things that always cost a lot more at most of these places come as part of the package here. It’s nice — especially the Internet. I just turned on my Mac and bingo! I’m hooked up and able to get my mail and surf to my heart’s content. I’ve even logged into Messenger but wouldn’t you know it, none of my family seems to be on line tonight. Oh well.

This is what communications should be like. For the weary traveller, an easy-to-use connection to the web is a godsend. It’s so nice to be able to check mail and make sure things are OK back home. And wireless makes it so easy. No messing around with dial-up and long distance and all that fun stuff. And the free local calls is a nice touch as well. Paying some hotel $1 just for picking up the handset really makes me mad...

The only one who seems PO’d by all this is Blue. She hates the noises my computer makes when I’m on-line and she spends most of the time trying to hide in the bathtub, or claw her way out of the doorway. Oh well, she’ll settle down eventually.

As you may have gathered, I decided to head back home to Ontario today. I left Regina about noon and I’ve decided to stop for the night here in Bismarck. I was going to try and travel a lot further today, but I’ve decided to hit the hay in favour of an early start tomorrow and a long day then. I’m heading home via Chicago, then Detroit and into Hamilton. With any luck, I’ll be home sometime on Friday.

Well, I wanted to take advantage of this nice connection, and I’ve done that. So I’m off to watch the baseball playoffs and fall asleep...I’ll come back on if the next hotel room is as thoughtfully laid out.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

A lot to be Thankful for...

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving, everyone. Here in Saskatchewan, this nice run of weather continues. Today was another warm, sunny day. It was a great day for closing up the cottage, which is just what I did. I ferried all the accumulated junk around the place to the dump, shut off and drained the water system, and shut everything up nice and tight for the winter. 'Cause I know the cold weather is coming...

I've had just about enough of this being away from home business. My contract writing work is done here in Regina, so I'm ready to hit the highway back to Hamilton. But my Mom is still in the hospital after her stroke and we're not sure just what her future prognosis is. So I'm hanging around until we know for sure what's going to happen. But I'm getting more and more antsy to get home. I've been away for quite awhile already and I'd like to think that they need me.

Today, my Mom seemed pretty together, but she wasn't able to remember anything prior to today. She was surprised to see me, and stunned to find that she'd been in the hospital for so long. But she isn't able to walk on her own and that's the main criteria for getting back to her former residence. Oh well...tomorrow I'll be up there trying to get her back up walking. I hope we're able to make progress. This week, since I won't be working anymore, I hope to spend a lot of time working with Mom...let's hope it has some effect.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Timing is everything in life

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hospital room in Regina, watching my mother sleep. This morning, she had a fairly significant stroke and now she’s sleeping peacefully. Of course, we don’t know what kind of shape she’ll be in when she wakes up. We’re hoping she’ll still be able to walk and talk and feed herself, so she can stay at the senior’s home she’s been living in, but we won’t know for awhile. So for now, I sit and wait.

I marvel sometimes at how things work out. I live a long way away from Mom now. It takes me three days just to get here. But right now, I’m working in Regina, so when my sister called me to say Mom was having another episode, I was able to be there right away, and I’ve been able to be with her all day. Talk about good timing.

Life is like that, isn’t it? Sometimes, things seem to work out and you’re not sure why. Your timing is good or it isn’t. I’ve been so fortunate when it comes to helping loved ones leave this world. My father was sick for three years...and after awhile, we weren’t sure what to think. The doctors kept saying it wouldn’t be long, but Dad didn’t agree, and he just kept soldiering on. When his time finally came, I was a long ways away, in the midst of covering a provincial election campaign. I got a call that said I should come home soon. So I did. It turned out that Dad didn’t die that day, but I took a week off, just to be able to hang out with him. And not too long after that, his time did come, and I was right there by his bedside, in the house he’d built for his family. It was a privilege to be part of such an important part of his life...and mine.

And there have been others as well. My wife’s father died at home, surrounded by his entire family. It wasn’t a happy time, but it was as good as it could have been. And it happened just a couple of months after the birth of my son, who was born at home. Little did we know the roller coaster of emotion that we had climbed on to when Cory came into this world. No one knew that his grandfather would be leaving it so soon. But there was a sense of balance to the two events as well. Birth and death are equal parts of life. You can’t have one without the other.

For now, I’m glad my timing has worked out. And we’ll see what tomorrow brings for my mother.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Country living, and loving it

I like to think that I’ve brought this wonderful weather with me to Saskatchewan, but who knows? All I know is that this poor province hadn’t had more than two nice days in a row all summer, until I showed up just after Labour Day. Since then, it’s been nice here.
That’s worked out well for me, since the cottage I’m staying at is not a year-round place. Calling it a three-season home might be stretching it a bit, although the fireplace does work, and I’ve been using it in the evenings and mornings.
Thankfully, there is a new addition (well, new 20 years ago) and it has some electric heat. Especially in the bathroom. Call me an old fogie, but give me a home with a nice warm bathroom, and I’m happy. I can put up with a lot, so long as my bum is warm when I’m doing what comes naturally…
It looks like I’m going to be here in the wild west until Thanksgiving. Then I’ll be hitting the road on my way back to Hamilton and my patient family. But my time here will have been worth it. I’ve been able to hang out here at the cottage during a beautiful time of year. But best of all, someone is paying me to work while I’m here. The commute into Regina is a really nice, 30-minutes. And there’s almost no traffic…not at all like home.
So, I’ve been having such a good time walking the dog, enjoying the weather and just generally hanging out that I haven’t kept up these postings.  But that’s OK, I figure. And if any of you want to know more about what’s going on, just comment on this. I’ll get your comment the next time I log on and I’ll be happy to elaborate.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Back to the basics

I've been enjoying my time here at the lake. The cottage in the fall is a nice place to be, with the leaves turning like crazy. So far, the weather hasn't been too bad, but having to make a fire in the morning to warm up is different from turning up the thermostat. Sort of puts you back in touch with more basic things. Same with Internet connections (now there's a tenuous segue for you). Out here, I've got a phone line. So when I need to log on, I can't use the phone. Fair enough, although the connection is a little slow. But it works.

One of the benefits of the Internet is chatting across the miles. Every night, Heather and Kelly (in Hamilton) log on to MSN about 9 their time. Jaime, our daughter is going to school in Victoria, so she logs in from there, and I log in from here at Buena Vista (just outside of Regina). Its a fun way to catch up on the events of the day...and it really does work. It's a bit slower than talking on the phone, but in some ways, it's more satisfying. But it does get comical when everyone starts typing at once...and the messages flow thick and fast. Sort of like supper table talk after a particularly busy day.

The real treat of being here at the cottage at this time of year is the colours of the trees. This year, I've been lucky that the wind hasn't blown all the leaves off yet, so the views in the valley are stunning. There's a riot of colour around and in the morning and evening, the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. I'm enjoying them a lot. Of course, fall is a chilly time and I could use some more good wood to burn. I'm working through all the scap wood around here, but that doesn't throw off a lot of heat. But a friend is coming out to visit tomorrow and he'll be bringing a truckload of firewood. That should help get through the cooler days ahead.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Loneliness and the Long-distance Traveller

I decided to drive across the U.S. to get here to Saskatchewan. I like the way the Americans treat people driving long distances. The Interstate Highway system is an amazing accomplishment. It connects the entire country with fast, straightforward roads. They’re all limited access and they have plenty of rest stops along the way.

As someone who needs to stop fairly regularly to “inspect the facilities” (my old dog feels the same way) I appreciate the rest stops along the highway. They’re all built along similar lines. You exit the highway and there’s a parking lot with clean bathrooms, some local information brochures, a phone and some vending machines. But there’s no McDonalds, Tim Hortons or any other kind of commercial activity. They’re quiet and friendly and they make for efficient travel.

It’s interesting that all across the US, you see taxpayers’ money used to keep up the highway system and the roadside stops along it. Sure, there are restaurants, hotels and businesses just off the highway. But if you stay on it, there’s always a place to stop and rest without being assaulted by commercial activity.

While the cost to build a similar system in Canada would be prohibitive, I wouldn’t mind seeing Canadians decide to put more tax dollars to work on our road system to make it as efficient. If I want to get somewhere, I like to be able to get there quickly, and not be forced to look at a lot of signs advertising everything in every town. In Saskatchewan, it seems like every small town has erected one or two signs for every citizen, just to tell us about the cobwebby antique place, or the dirt for sale, or the best place to get your septic tank emptied. As a traveler on the road, I don’t really see why I would ever be interested in who has the best septic tank truck…it’s just not a service I need to know about while I’m driving.

For Whom the Tolls Bill

Another item of note is the Yank's attitude towards tolls, whether for bridges, or for special high-speed highways. In America, you roll up to a toll both, toss in your quarter, or whatever, and away you go. At each of the booths, there are people sitting there, ready to make change and help you out. The system puts a lot of people to work. Sure they may not be the most glamorous jobs, but they’re steady and dependable and they help a lot of families put bread on the table. And some of them are automated, with special lanes for people who travel through regularly. But there's still lots of people working.

In Ontario, we’ve got a different system. The 407 ETR is an electronic toll collection system. You drive on and a camera records your license number and sends you a bill. It doesn’t matter where you’re from either. Out of province people get the bill as well. It’s a slick, automated system that uses the latest in technology to collect the money. And they collect a lot of money. It’s the most expensive toll road in the world. And the money goes to a private company that doesn’t even have to ask anyone to raise the tolls. They just do it.

My problem with this system is that there are no people involved. Sure, the technology is neat, but it’s put a lot of people out of work. And it must cost a lot, because they charge a lot more money than other roads. In New York and Illinois, and Michigan, and other states I’ve visited, the tolls are collected by a public authority which hires the people and puts the money back into the highway system. You know what your tolls are going to pay for and you know that a lot of people are making a living from the tolls you pay. It seems like a good system. Sure, it could be automated, but why bother?

Technology is a great thing, and I like it as much as the next guy…maybe even more. But sometimes, I think we get carried away trying to use new technology just because we can. We need to consider a different measure of when it’s a good idea. Taking away a lot of reasonable jobs just because it will improve the bottom line for shareholders isn’t always in the best interests of our community. At least, that’s how I feel about tolls. So there.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

On the Road

It's been quite awhile since I updated anythng here...Oh, the joys of summer (such as it has been!)

While it doesn't look as though much has been happening, that's not quite true. There's been a lot of travelling and my oldest daughter is off to school in Victoria. And today, I'm off to Regina, driving across the country with one of our dogs. I'm going to be spending a month or so at the cottage at Buena Vista, just outside of Regina. I'm going to be helping a friend with some writing work he has there, as well as visiting old friends.

And if I have some time (and I expect to) and an Internet connection, I'll get around to updating this log and improving my website as well.

More to come as I hit the road...

Monday, August 02, 2004

It's Henley Week at the Traynor household...

...and that means I'll be spending the rest of the week at the Henley Regatta in St. Catherines. It's going to be fun. My two daughters, Jaime and Kelly, are both entered in three events...the single, double and quad races. They're racing for Leander Boat Club -- just one of 122 rowing clubs from across North America (and as far away as New Zealand) entered in one of the largest rowing events in the world.

And they're racing together in the quad! Putting them both in that boat (which has four people, each with two oars, or sculls, as they're called by us rowing geeks!) was a last second change, so you won't find their name in that race, if you're looking at the daily schedules. You can find them at the Henley Regatta site.

SATURDAY UPDATE -- Well, the Henley is over for the year out house. There's still one day of racing left, but Jaime and Kelly are finished. Today was a really satisfying day, although that elusive Henley Gold stayed just out of reach. Jaime and Kelly, along with two others, had a great race...probably their strongest effort yet to place third in their final this morning. The girls were very excited about the race. Then, two hours later, Jaime rowed her single final. She blasted out of the blocks and posted her best 500 metres ever...but she wasn't able to keep up the pace and ended up in fourth against some excellent women, all of whom are a few years older than she is. It was an excellent performance and a fine end to the regatta for this year. For Heather and I, this week has been one of high emotion...my eyes hurt from so many teary moments. But it was sure worth it. And we're already looking forward to next year...

FRIDAY UPDATE -- Today, the Traynor express finally hit a bit of a snag -- but only just. This was a big day for Kelly and Jaime. Kelly and her partner, Beth Harris, rowed their first heat in the Junior B Women's Double in the morning and qualified for the semis, which were in the afternoon. Unfortunately, they came up just short of qualifying for Sunday's final, although they finished a strong third in their race. Then, about two hours later, Kelly rowed her third race of the day in the final of the Junior B Women's Singles. It was a great performance, but Kelly's hope for her first gold medal came up a few strokes short. She finished second to a woman from Saskatoon who rowed the race of her life to win. Talk about excitement. Kelly seemed OK on the course, but her parents were cardiac cases in the grandstand -- but very, very proud.

Of course, the day wasn't over. Jaime and her partner, Jenn Barkins, had their Junior Womens Doubles final late in the day. Like Kelly, they also ran up against a high quality field and today wasn't their day to take home the gold.

Still, Leander's day wasn't over. Spencer Brewer and Jake Thomasen won Henley Gold in the Junior Men's Double. Their victory, and the strong showing by all the other scullers, is a credit to the great coaching they've received from John Tice. Our hats off to him and all the other volunteers at Leander who give our kids such a great experience.

But they're not quite finished yet. Jaime and Jen will join Kelly and another girl to row their final in the Senior B Womens' Quad on Saturday morning. And Jaime will finish off the regatta Saturday afternoon when she rows the Senior B Lightweight Womens Single. So we're not finished with the quest for the gold just yet...more tomorrow.

THURSDAY UPDATE -- Well, it didn't rain, but the wind was a big problem. Jaime, and her partner, Jen, did race early in their double and made it to the final by winning their semi. But not too long after that, Kelly's semi-final singles race was stopped just after the start because the course was too windy. So we waited for four hours while everything was delayed. But after lunch, the racing began again, and they kept pushing races down the course, finally wrapping up the day's events at about 8:30 pm. Fortunately, Kelly was still able to qualify for the final in the single event. So we finally made it home late and tired, but looking forward to Friday's excitement. And according to the weather, it will be on the cool side, but the wind will be blowing from the west, which is better for the rowers.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE -- The rain arrived today but with little wind and no thunderstorms, it was a good day for rowing. The only race we were involved in was Jaime's first heat in her single. The 2003 Gold Medal winner from last year was one of the boats in her race, which meant that realistically, the other five were competing for the remaining qualifying spot. For those of us watching from the grandstands, the race was a real nail-biter. But for Jaime, cool as anything, it was just another day on the water, as she powered to a convincing second-place finish and a trip straight to the final on Saturday. What a race!

TUESDAY UPDATE -- A very successful first day. We had three races and three second-places, good enough to qualify for the next stage in each of them. A threatening thunderstorm in the morning passed over without incident and it was a beautiful day for rowing. A great start to the week.

Jaime's races:

Event 02 -- Junior Women's Double:
Heat -- Tuesday @ 8:35
TUESDAY UPDATE -- Jaime and Jen placed second and qualified for the semi's
Semi -- Thursday @ 8:21
THURSDAY UPDATE -- Jaime and Jen won their semi with a very impressive performance. They out-paced all the other semis by over 10 seconds, and they'll race on Friday for Henley Gold from the favoured lane 3 position.
Final -- Fri @ 6:35 pm
FRIDAY UPDATE -- The quest for gold came up just short. The double comes in sixth in the final.

Event 17 -- Senior B. Quad (4X) Both Jaime and Kelly are in this boat
Heat -- Tues @ 4:31
TUESDAY UPDATE -- The quad placed second and qualified for the final on Saturday.
Final -- Sat @ 10:10
SATURDAY UPDATE -- They placed third in a great final. It was one of their strongest races of the year and couldn't have come at a better time. They looked great.

Event 30 -- Senior B Lightweight Single (1X)
Heat -- Wed @ 12:19
WEDNESDAY UPDATE -- Jaime's second-place showing sends her to the finals.
Final -- Sat @ 12:20
SATURDAY UPDATE -- Jaime finishes fourth in a very strong field. She was second after 500 metres, third at 1000 and put in a great finish to almost sneak back into third.

Kelly's races

Event 09 -- Jr. B Womens Single (1X)
Heat -- Wed @ 11:30
TUESDAY UPDATE -- Kelly finished second and qualified for the semis.
Semi -- Thur @ 9:17
THURSDAY UPDATE -- After the long wind delay (see above), Kelly placed third in her semi, and moved into the final, which is set for the end of the day on Friday.
Final -- Fri @ 5:25 pm
FRIDAY UPDATE -- Kelly rowed a strong race to finish second in her first Henley final. Just wait until next year, she vows.

Event 72 -- Jr. B. Womens Double (2X)
Heat -- Fri @ 8:56
Semi -- Fri @ 2:58
FRIDAY UPDATE -- Kelly and Beth qualified for the semis, but they came up just short of making it to the final, finishing a strong third in their race. Time to start working on next year's race.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The things we do for our kids...

Being a rowing dad isn’t all fun and games you know. Sometimes, we parents have to sacrifice ourselves for our children. Take this past weekend, at the Ontario Championships in Welland.

Those of you who follow this blog will know that my daughters, Kelly and Jaime have been having great summer seasons. And at the Ontarios, they continued their winning ways. Kelly won gold in the Under 17 Women’s singles event and picked up a bronze in the double with her partner Beth Harris. Meanwhile, Jaime won a bronze in her double, with her partner, Jenn Barkens, in the Under 19 Womens. But unfortunately for Jaime, her singles final was just 30 minutes after the double, and Jaime just missed a bronze, coming in fourth in the Under 23 Womens Lightweight category.

So what was my sacrifice, I can hear you asking? Well, Welland is unique among the local rowing venues in that a path runs along the entire two-kilometre course. That means that if you’re on a bicycle, you can ride from the start to the finish, watching every stroke. It’s a wonderful way to watch the race and for the first time, I took a bike with me on the weekend. I’ve never been able to watch an entire race like that. It was fascinating to see the determination and effort these kids put into this sport.

Over the course of the day, I rode back and forth from the boathouse area, to the course, down to the start and back to the finish. Over and over again. All on my seldom-used bicycle. As you might expect, by the end of the day, my legs were getting a bit sore, and I was not sitting quite as comfortably as I had been. But the races were exciting, and it sure seemed worth it.

Then I got in the van for the hour-long drive back to Hamilton, where Heather was arriving at the airport and was looking for a ride home. Everything seemed OK until I tried to get out of the van only to discover that my thighs were so sore I could barely walk. Things had stiffened up a lot during the drive home.

By the time we arrived back at the house, things were much worse. That evening I could barely move. I walked the dogs to the part, then worried that I might not be able to make it home. I could barely put one foot in front of the other! Fortunately, a lot of ice packs (and a few scotches) later, I was able to get some sleep. Sunday morning, we were all back at the regatta, but I left my bike at home. I sat in my chair on the side of the course and watched the races through binoculars this time.

This upcoming weekend, the kids have a weekend off, then on Tuesday, the Henley Regatta begins. It’s the ultimate event for the rowers and we’re all very excited. But perhaps the best part for all of us rowing dads is that there’s a bona fide grandstand at the finish, with seats and everything…what luxury!

I plan to post some links to the regatta pages when I know the girls’ final schedules, which should be later this week. And for those of you interested, you’ll be able to follow the results in near-real time on the website.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Proud Papa...Rowing Update

Any of you who have been following my posts here will already know that I’m the proud papa of a couple of talented young woman rowers. Well, now that the high school season is over, they’ve both moved on to club rowing this summer with Hamilton’s Leander Boat Club. This past weekend, Kelly Anne and Jaime both added to their hardware collections with great performances at the St. Catherine’s Invitational Regatta.

This two-day regatta is a warm-up for the upcoming Henley Regatta (Aug 3 – 9) one of the largest regattas in the world. (By the way, anyone interested can follow the results on the website during the regatta itself. I’ll be posting links to the girls’ events closer to the date they happen.)

Both Kelly and Jaime will be rowing at Henley for Leander. It’s Kelly’s first time. Last year, Jaime won two bronze medals. Needless to say, I’ll be in the grandstands, cheering like crazy. Watching your kids excel at something they love to do is very affirming for a parent. In fact, watching your kids do anything is pretty good…

This summer, Kelly and Jaime have been rowing in the single, double and quad events, although they specialize in the single and the double. On Saturday, Jaime (a lightweight) won a gold medal in her double with her partner, Jenn Barkens (a heavyweight). Guess which one is Jaime... Jaime also picked up a fourth place in her singles event. Kelly won gold in her single race, as well as finishing second with her doubles partner, Beth Harris. All in all, it was a very exciting weekend.

Next week, The RowOntario Championships are in Welland, then it’s time to get ready for the Henley’s. I guess you’ll be able to figure out what I’ll be doing on the weekend…

Thursday, July 15, 2004

You may be wondering...

...just what the heck I've been up to lately. Well, the Tour de France is on right now, and has been for almost two weeks. That's a lot of stuff happening. Then today, the British Open started. Of course, I had to pay attention. Plus, I've been building back stairs, driving kids around, burning discs to my new Mac...man, I've been busy!! So busy that I haven't been worrying too much about blogging. After all, it is summer, right?

Hope you're having a good one, despite the freakish weather that has been showing up across the country. Me, I spent today trying to get all the stuff on the basement floor out of harm's way. Last night Peterborough was hit by a freak storm and basements and streets flooded like crazy. It could happen here anytime, and if it did, we'd be in trouble. So for once, I thought maybe I should try to get ahead of the game...we'll see.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Taking a look at "spin"

Summer's here, and the blogging is spotty at best. I realize it's been awhile since the last Daily Upload. Maybe I need to think about changing the name of this blog! But what the heck...it's warm outside and while I might think about interesting stuff to put up, if I don't get around to it, I doubt any of you are going to complain too much. You're probably all too busy doing your own summertime things....

But here's something interesting. Since the election campaign wrapped up in Canada, our attention (and our media) is going to be increasingly dominated by the Presidential campaign of our southern neighbours. There's going to be a lot of stuff flowing around and it's going to be increasingly difficult for readers to separate fact from fiction.

That leads to an interesting question on just what "objective" journalism means and how we might need to redefine that term in today's information-rich, always-on, 24-hour news cycle world.

Here's an interesting story from the Columbia Journalism Review that sets up the issue. I relate to this as an old political reporter. But believe me, compared to the pressures that today's reporters are facing on the campaign trail, I look like I was living in another world, even though is was only 10 years ago!

Discussions about the role of the reporter in today's political environment is a fascinating area, and it's something I'm going to be keeping my own log on during the months ahead.

Monday, June 28, 2004

So...what do we do about these pollsters?

Isn't this great? For all the talk about how this election was already over, the voters have proven that pollsters do not know everything. I'm sitting here watching the election results tonight and what do you know? The Liberals have slipped to a minority, but it's a solid minority. And with the results for the NDP, the Liberals have enough votes to govern.

Right up until the results started coming in tonight, the pundits were predicting that things were too close to call. Then the vote totals started coming in. The Liberals did well in Atlantic Canada, but that wasn't unexpected. Then they did well in Ontario, and you could see the puzzled looks all around. Then the totals kept coming in and it became clear that the Liberal numbers were solid, and the panelists seemed stunned. For awhile, they didn't seem to want to admit that what was happening was really happening...but it was. And it did.

I think I like this result, but I'm going to have to think about it for awhile. But for now, I'm just delighted that the poll that counted -- the one that we all participated in today -- turned out to be different from what everyone said was going to be the result. That makes me feel good. And I think it should give ammunition to those like me, who want to reconsider the role that polling should play in the election coverage.

This story certainly isn't over...

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Time for a change

And no, I'm not talking about the current federal election. Although that does seem to be the prevailing mood of voters.

No, I'm talking about a new look for my blog. I've changed the colours and the layout. But the best thing about it is that it's now standard-compliant. However, that won't mean much to most of you, nor to me, if the truth be known. But I like the new look, and I like the navigation changes that are incorporated in this new style.

I'm interested in what people think, so feel free to add your comments. And thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The morning after the big debate

I've been struggling the past few days with the Canadian election. What to say? I'm still amazed at the vitriol that the electorate has for the Liberals, despite the comparative good times we find ourselves in.

There seems to be little doubt that most Canadians are doing pretty well, especially compared to other countries, or compared to where they were 11 years ago, when the Liberals took power. But that's not good enough, apparently. I hear people say that things should be better.

It's not that they really think any other party would do a better job. It's more that the Liberals haven't done a good enough job. And they're arrogant. And they deserve to be given a slap on the behind and put in their place. And it looks like that's exactly what is going to happen.

The English debate between the leaders last night, and the French-language debate the day before, were not really debates. They were opportunities for the leaders to try to speak directly to voters, without the filter of sound bites, or the know-it-all reporter voice over. But they rarely work. Instead, the leaders have to shout to be heard, and they're forced to adhere to a tightly-controlled format that does not allow for any meaningful exchange of ideas. Instead, the leaders give well-crafted replies, even if they weren't asked. They have a message to get out, dammit, and that's what they're going to do.

Am I cynical? I suppose so. I'm tired of the transparent phoniness of what we're watching. Right now, in my riding, there are several candidates working hard to get elected. At least I think they are. I haven't actually seen any of them. Nor am I aware of exactly what they're doing. There are probably all-candidates debates happening but I haven't been told about them. I don't even know all the names that will be on the ballot, although a couple are obvious because I've seen their lawn signs. But my reality (and I suspect this is true for most voters) is watching the coverage of the leaders on TV, or reading about what happened on the national campaign the day before in the morning newspapers.

So what's to be done? If there's one thing that this campaign has exposed, for me at least, it's that our electoral system needs a significant shot in the arm. Roy McGregor has been traveling the country throughout the campaign, and he calls it the election without an issue. The only constant is that people seem pissed off with the Liberals. Not enthusiastic for anyone else, but definitely mad at the Liberals. I think that's significant. It points to a general mood among people that it's time to change the system. Not just the people in power, but the whole way we elect people.

I've been working on some ideas for what I think that could look like and I'll be posting them here in the coming days. It's sort of my own way to sort through my feelings about our democratic process in the last few days of this current campaign. I'd like to think it's the last one we'll be waging in this fashion, but I kind of doubt it.

One final thought. In case you think that your vote isn't worth anything, think again. Did you know that under the new party financing legislation passed this year, political parties will receive $1.75 for every vote they get in this election? That's right. And that money is available to every party that wins more than 2 per cent of the national vote. That's why this election is so important to the Green party. For the first time, they could have access to a significant amount of money to organize themselves for the next election. It also means that all parties will have more reason than ever to get their own supporters to the polls, regardless of whether they will make a difference to the outcome of the election. Every vote is worth money. It's kind of a nice twist on the old idea that you could be paid for your vote...Instead, you can negotiate with the various parties to sell them your support. Perhaps you can work out some nice options in exchange for your support on the big day...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Rowing Update - Proud Papa edition

...much too long to get this post up. Both of my daughters, Jaime and Kelly Anne, were taking in part in the Canadian Secondary School Rowing Championships in St. Catherines this past weekend. And I'm proud to report that they each won a bronze medal!

Jaime won a bronze in the 63kg Senior Women's Single, while Kelly and her partner, Beth Harris, rowed a wonderful race to get a bronze in the Jr Women's Double.

Needless to say, I was so proud of them both, I could hardly speak. It was very exciting (who knew rowing was so action-packed?) and I admit a few tears were shed...

Best of all, my mother was visiting from Regina, and she, along with my sister from Edmonton and brother from Toronto, were all on hand to cheer them on. What a cool day it was.

You can check out the final results for Jaime's race and Kelly's race.

Kelly also made it to the finals in the Sr. Women's Quad and came sixth.

And if you want to see some pictures of the races themselves, here's one of Jaime and here's one of Kelly and with her partner, Beth.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Let’s stop the nonsense now

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, I know. My plan was to be posting items that cover a wide range of ideas and possibilities that affect us in our day-to-day lives. Or as I put it in the title of this blog, “A look at the events of Dave's world, updated as circumstances warrant.” But it seems I can’t quit writing about this gosh-darned federal election. So just a short one this morning.

Over the weekend, I saw a few stories about polls and their influence on the election. Is there any doubt that they affect the outcome? Call me grumpy, but I side with Dr. Foth on this issue. The media now is trumpeting the fact that the Liberals are sliding. They’re into a minority government, perhaps even moving to a Conservative minority. These predictions are given as fact. Then the question becomes, how will the parties handle this new reality. The media and the polls have completely hijacked the democratic process, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s not that I don’t like statistics, and polling. But I think it’s dangerous to start talking about the results as if they were “objective” or somehow represent reality. They are no such thing. For example, suppose a reputable polling company went out and polled 1200 voters randomly on election day, then extrapolated those results and compared them to the reality of the actual results? Does anyone seriously believe that they’d be right? Or even close? Do you really believe that the pollsters would be right 19 times out of 20? I don’t think so. Think about it.

I remember learning in high school about a theory that the very act of observation affects the outcome in a scientific experiment. I don’t remember who first put forward that idea. More recently, quantum physicists have discovered that the act of observing causes a change in any action. This could have profound effects on how we transmit and verify secure information, among other applications.

More relevant for me, this also means that the very act of reporting poll results affects the outcome they are supposed to be predicting. People are affected by hearing what is supposed to happen. It’s inevitable that hearing about polls will affect the outcome. So although some might argue that as individuals we have the right to know the results of these polls, I submit we should ban the publication of the results. If the various media outlets would agree to stop commissioning these polls and publishing the results, our democracy would be a much more interesting place.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Where do you stand on polling?

What are we to do with opinion polls during a federal (or any other, I suppose) election. A story in today's Toronto Star says the Liberal support is slipping towards a likely minority government. OK, so what are we supposed to do with that? Can we all stop worrying about this election and just concentrate on our lawns, or barbeques, or whatever? Sure, we can follow what's going on, but stories like this do make it seem like the whole thing is a bit pointless, don't they?

The Globe and Mail's Hugh Winsor has another take on the polling issue in a story about duelling pollsters which features a battle between two pollsters on seat projections.

Polls are everywhere in this election, even at the CBC, which has made a point of noting that they won't be featuring "horse-race" polls in their coverage. (So I guess we won't find out which horse is going to win the Belmont next week.) But that doesn't mean the CBC isn't polling. They still intend to feature polling on what voters are thinking about on issues and stuff, just not on who might or might not be leading in voter preference right at this particular moment.

Yesterday, in an interview on the CBC Toronto morning show, John Laschinger, well-known Canadian campaign guru, said he'd prefer that polls predicting the outcome of campaigns were done away with completely and he congratulated the CBC for not doing them. I'd have to agree. Whether they are accurate or not is one question. But I don't think there's any question that they skewer the campaigns when they come out. Of course, they're not the only thing skewering things these days. Blackberry's and similar instant-communication devices have injected a whole new dynamic into the coverage. Reporters covering the various campaigns are inundated with e-mails from rival camps spinning the lastest story even before one campaign event is over, as this analysis in the Globe points out today.

Back in the "old days"...

The speed of communications today is amazing, and it's created all kinds of challenges for the media. Thinking back to my own experiences with political campaigns, I feel like an old man telling war stories. In the 1995 Saskatchewan election, I had to beg and plead for a special budget from the Leader Post and the Star Phoenix so we could rent three cellphones for the reporters covering the Liberal, Conservative and NDP campaigns. Our thinking was we could talk to each other from the various buses and get quotes and responses the same day. Alas, it usually didn't work very well, since cell phone coverage was so poor we usually couldn't get a signal in the small towns we were visiting.

The lack of "instant communications" in earlier elections also created opportunities for campaigns to try to outwit the reporters. I remember the first federal campaign I ever covered was the 1988 federal election. I joined the Brian Mulroney leader's tour when it swept through Saskatchewan. There was no such thing as "instant communications" back then. Some of the Mulroney crew may have had cell phones, but not the reporters. I had arranged to join the tour in the morning, after Mulroney gave a speech to a breakfast audience at a downtown hotel. Although Mulroney was the prime minister, the security was wonderfully lax for the campaign coverage. I introduced myself to one of the officials as a reporter with the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and was invited to hop on the campaign bus with the other reporters. Of course, Mulroney wasn't on our bus...he had his own. But away we all went, heading down the road towards Saskatoon. I can't remember exactly why the PM was travelling by bus between the two cities, since he usually flew everywhere. But drive we did. And along the way, I got my first taste of big-time political organization.

Not too far out of Regina, our buses pulled into a farm owned by a major Tory supporter, where the PM met local Tory supporters and a number of area MPs and candidates. The farm photo-op was standard fare back then, and was carefully set up to give some nice pictures for the TV people to go with the usual soft-ball comments about farm aid, although the details escape me. It was a nice day and it gave Mulroney a chance to stand in the sun, with his shirtsleeves rolled up, tie loosened and listen earnestly to someone tell him how tough things had been for the area's farmers. Then everyone was back into the buses and away we went. But as we hit the highway, it was clear that something was up. Or at least, to my innocent eyes, it seemed that way, as Mulroney's "wagonmaster" and his staff huddled at the front of the bus. It turned out that we were going to make an "unscheduled" stop along the way, so that Mulroney could talk to some real, genuine local people about the current farm crisis. This was interesting. Although I'm struggling to remember, I think there had been some criticism of Mulroney for dodging voters at his campaign events, which may have been why our buses finally pulled into Davidson and stopped at the Husky car-truck stop, for a little walk-about.

Inside the Husky restaurant, the tables were filled with people, who all seemed thrilled to meet the Prime Minister. They shook his hand, and answered his questions with thoughtful answers. For about 15 minutes, he made his way around the restaurant, accompanied by TV cameras, sound men and reporters struggling to get their tape recorders close enough to capture every comment. But alas, for the reporters, there wasn't a negative comment to be found.

Since I was new to this whole business, I wasn't sticking close to the PM. Instead, I stood at the side, watching the media circus work it's way through the small restaurant. But off to the side, I noticed a guy with a notebook and a camera and I asked him which outlet he was with. It turns out that he was a freelance reporter, working for one of the major magazines. But he wasn't travelling with the Prime Minister's entourage. Instead, he had been in Saskatchewan for several days. It turns out that the night before, he had been talking to a local Tory organizer who had bragged that there was going to be a major "impromptu" media event in Davidson the next day.

Intrigued, he had shown up early in the morning at the Husky, where he had been told Mulroney was going to visit. Although the PM wasn't scheduled to visit until after lunch, local Tory supporters arrived at the restaurant at 9 am and began filling all the available seats in the place. They wanted to make sure that nobody from the NDP or Liberals were able to get into a position to be able to embarass the PM. Every time a "real" person came into the restaurant for a coffee or a meal, a table would be cleared for the customer, then promptly filled up again with Tories as soon as they left.

This went on all day, until the Prime Minister's "impromptu" visit, which didn't actually happen until about 3 pm. But thanks to the loyal, local Tories, things went off without a hitch, the PM met a lot of happy locals and the evening news showed him wading into a filled local restaurant to meet with "real" people. It was all very nicely done.

Unfortunately, I can't recall the name of the reporter I met that afternoon, or remember how that incident worked into his story on the campaign. After all, it was only one small event in a six-week campaign, and the kind of thing that happens every day. But it opened my eyes to just how much work goes into the staging of these political events. It was an education that I was able to put to good use for the next eight years, as I continued to cover politics in Saskatchewan and across the country.