Don’t regret regret

24 03 2015

Personally, I find TED talks a bit hit and miss. That’s not to say they’re not a great vehicle for spreading ideas. Not all ideas are great in any case. Others depend on your perspective as a recipient of that idea.

This one came to me via a LinkedIn page. I’m not familiar with Kathryn Schulz as a writer, but I found her presentation style a little staid. All that said, I thought her piece was quite thought-provoking. Her message, ultimately is this:

Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly; it reminds us that we could do better.

I can buy that.

Kathryn Schulz: Don’t regret regret | Talk Video | TED.com.





Grouse Ascent 2015 No. 1

18 03 2015

Route: BCMC Trail

Time: 1:25 (unofficial – GG timer not available)

Bunked off work a bit early and got there dead on 5pm. Car-park was empty. So much so, they’d fenced off the overflow car-park altogether. The resort must really be hurting by insisting that the Grouse Grind remain closed “due to current conditions”. For Pete’s sake…

Some community-minded soul had wedged open the gate and a couple with the obligatory large dog were warming up and stretching as I arrived. I’ve suffered a lot less leg cramp on runs since a great friend had recommended this stretching nonsense, so I too began my cursory regime of calf stretches – more for show and to fool myself into thinking it helps. At this point a red-coated Grouse Mountain Resort employee stomped over to the gate and slammed it shut. The lady with the hound asked why, and he grumpily pointed at the many yellow placards loudly declaring that the Grouse Grind is still shut due to “current conditions”. Completely unruffled, the couple descended the steps over the little bridge and began to walk the 15m to the end of the fence to enter via the completely un-gated alternative route. Assuming I would also take this route, I continued my stretching as a couple of Asian ladies approached the gate and called to a bloke on the inside who was still performing his own elaborate pre-Grind regime. He happily opened the gate from the inside and all three of us began our hikes. The ladies were indeed doing the Grouse Grind, but I set off on the BCMC Trail via the BP Trail. After about 20 minutes I was over-taken by the couple with the Cerberus wannabe, so I guess they went a really long way around the fence!

The BCMC is always a lot quieter than the rat race up the Grind, but out of season and close to dusk it was delightfully empty.

Around the 3/4 mark there was a definite shift in the temperature and though there was no low cloud and lovely glimpses of the sun reflecting off Howe Sound through the trees, it was definitely a lot cooler. I was glad I had my MEC fleece jumper in my rucksack, though I didn’t need it until I’d actually got to the top. The “current conditions” were absolutely fine. Admittedly the top 1/4 was still pretty wet from snow melt, but it was perfectly safe, and I imagine the Grind was just the same. I totally support areas being closed off for safety concerns, but this seemed to be nothing more than an economic decision. A bad one at that. Closing the main entrance to the Grouse hikes was dissuading people from hiking up and spending cash at the top. Presumably in the mistaken belief that they’d be forced to pay to ride the gondola instead. Nope – they just stay home.

At the top, I had the best laugh yet. Though the impressive looking chain-linked fence and gate at the bottom seem to deter most people from hiking up (those that can’t be bothered to walk the 15m or so to circumvent this stupidity), at the top, they relied on a particularly large yellow “closed” placard and a single hurdle – like the kind you’d use for crowd control at a public event.

Eastern Fence: Barrier

Yup – that should work! No attempt at all to fence off the myriad of other trails that go down the Grouse though. Bizarre. Sadly, its apparent effectiveness goes to show just how unimaginative most Grouse Grinders really are. They do it for “the time” or whatever, not for the joy of hiking the mountain. Let’s face it, if they did… they’d never choose the Grind. It’s got to be the least scenic hike in BC!

The chalet was empty. Probably no more than 20 people in it. They’d even closed off the main restaurant part. It was a bad ski season this last winter, but by unnecessarily keeping the Grouse hikes closed they must be haemorrhaging money. There was no snow anywhere at the top, except bizarrely for a little bit around the ice rink – presumably shipped in from elsewhere for effect. There were puddles on the rink. Temperature was ~12C today.

I was the only one waiting for the gondola down, and they were making the one girl do everything – check people in and ride shotgun up/down. I asked her if it was individual limousine service this evening, but a handful of others arrived before we actually descended. There was even a couple of kids with their mum – they’d apparently just had a skiing lesson, so I guess the snow blowers installed for the 2010 Winter Olympics are being put to good use on at least one of the runs.

I quite enjoyed pretty much having the mountain to myself. It’ll be in contrast to the merciless pounding it’ll receive when the Grind officially opens and the hoi palloi descend in droves.

 





The thing about unconscious bias…

16 03 2015

… is that you don’t know you’re doing it!

Google chairman gets called out for cutting off a woman while talking about diversity.

Mashable: Eric Schmidt

Kudos to Judith Williams, who heads up Google’s unconscious bias program for calling out her own boss Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt as well as Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson for continually interrupting the United States’ Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith in a SXSW Interactive panel discussion.





Hamish the Hooligan and other Gen. Zers

15 03 2015

I’m a regular listener to CBC’s Radio 1. It’s broadly similar to the UK’s Radio 4, though I listen to it much more than I ever did to Radio 4. Perhaps it’s a sign of old age. Extensive research on my part has confirmed that the calendar does seem to inexorably advance a whole day every 24 hours or so. The waistband on my trousers seems to shrink too, I’ve noticed. You’d think these days they’d have figured out a way to stop that happening…

Of course my listening to Radio 1 it could also be a testament to the low quality of alternatives on the airwaves. The CBC, like the BBC is advert free and therefore owed much tolerance for that blessing alone. Depending whether I have early morning con-calls with Europe, my drive to work can begin at quite  a variable time each day. Often though, I catch a current affairs programme called “The Current”. Despite the annoying assumption that the vast country of Canada is irrelevant once you’re outside the Greater Toronto Area, it does have some thought-provoking issues discussed.

This last week there was an episode dedicated to “Generation Z”. This is the current batch of late teenagers, also known as “post-millennials”. To be honest, I could only listen to part of it before I arrived at work, but click on the photo below to stream the entire episode if you’re interested.

CBC: Generation Z on The Current

Despite only hearing a portion of the piece, I’d heard enough to confirm my opinion. No matter how much the marketing engine would like us to believe otherwise, teenagers of any generation are not unique. They are in fact just the same as teenagers of any other generation. Sure “times, they are a-changin’” and the opportunities to monumentally screw up are arguably wider with every generation, but then so are the opportunities to do profound good.

Teenagers have felt misunderstood and alienated since well before the word “teenager” was coined in the 40’s by Reader’s Digest. Go watch Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet if you doubt me. Or West Side Story or even China Girl if you prefer a more modern rendition. In fact Shakespeare was something of an expert on teenagers. Check out Twelfth Night (She’s the Man) or Taming of the Shrew (10 Things I Hate About You). In fact who’s to say the invention of the wheel wasn’t due to some prehistoric caveteen trying to leave home (again) because his parents just didn’t get him/her?

So anyway, convenient though it is to believe each generation is somehow unique, I’m afraid my own opinion is that each generation is simply a reflection of its time. Not surprisingly I’m often annoyed at my teenage son’s love affair with video games. I suspect it’s actually more envy on my part that he has way more choice than the single “Pong” option I had at his age… though Space Invaders was around by the time I was in my gap year, with Galaxian being widely available by the time I graduated. He’s also a caring, considerate individual when it suits him, and on balance I think he turned out quite well considering he was stuck with me as half of his parenting team.

He’s just spent a week or so of Spring Break with one of his sisters in Montreal, and by all accounts they’ve had a great time snow-tubing (it’s still well below zero out east), hanging out and being “Generation Z”. More interestingly, they visited the anthropology museum and much to my student daughter’s chagrin, he was loathe to leave until he’d thoroughly digested each and every fact on the notice boards. Yup, my video game playing 16 year old son was more interested in the anthropology museum than my anthropology-studying daughter. Don’t go making assumptions I think is the lesson.

Which brings me to Friday evening. Having just got back from the gym, I harnessed up the dog to take her for a spin around the estate. I was still in my running gear, with a lightweight rain jacket. Mrs E had decided to join us, and off we set around the environs. Approaching on the other side of the road was a group of 3 late teenage boys. Laughing and in good spirits, they were a tad rowdy, but nothing offensive or bothersome. The leading lad started to jump up in an attempt to grab one of the low-hanging branches of the crescent’s many cherry blossom trees. In itself, this wasn’t anything of particular note. I remember seeing how high up I could reach on lamp posts as a kid. However, on the third or fourth attempt, he succeeded in grabbing the branch. At this point, he grabbed it with both hands and started very deliberately pulling and twisting it with the obvious intent of snapping off the limb.

With three decades of experience as a Scout Leader, dealing with teenagers and reasoning with their better nature, I of course interjected. Ha! Training be buggered – I yelled “Oi! Stop that,  you bloody hooligan!”

Mrs E was horrified at my interjection and tried to get me to disengage. Her fear was grounded in several reports of “older men” being set upon by youths both in the UK and here in BC. I justified myself by misquoting some old statement about “evil only needing good men to do nothing”, and thankfully the yobbo let go after one of his oppos yelled “leave it Hamish, leave it alone”. This avoided me having to decide whether to press my position any further.

I was a little taken aback by the aforementioned Hamish then spouting a load of bad English (though Mrs E claims Australian) stereotypes of the “gor blimey mate” variety. After 15 years here I consider myself Canadian and sometimes quite forget how I must sound to others. The joke of course being that I have a quite distinct Yorkshire accent that to those of a more cosmopolitan outlook than poor stoned Hamish would easily identify as being neither cockney nor antipodean. I suspect, given his name, his own parents or perhaps grandparents might even be recent immigrants from Scotland.

My forceful insistence that perhaps he might like to go forth and multiply (in the shortened Anglo-Saxon form) caused his lieutenant to even more urgently suggest he might like to call it a day and continue on their way, which thankfully he did. Number three shuffled along and didn’t seem to be engaged in anything at all. As we rounded the bend, a fourth member of the hop-head crew was stood in the gutter, long-board tilted under his foot, studiously messing with his iPod and blaring music to the neighbourhood. Hamish’s insistence that “Ivan” hurry up and join them provided his name also. Plainly this was not a hardened criminal gang by any measure. :)

I was angry at the wanton damage to the lovely tree, especially given that several young saplings have been completely destroyed in our local park. I felt it was not negotiable that I should intervene. Mrs E had a much more sanguine concern for our safety in the presence of four much younger lads of dubious intellect and reason. Oddly, I didn’t feel any fear. To me they weren’t being aggressive, despite the damage. They were bored.

They were Generation Z. And arguably they were representative of Generation Z. Not because they were causing damage – that has been the place of bored teenagers since before Roman times.

Wikipedia: Ancient Pompeii graffito caricature of a politician

No they were Generation Z purely because they were teenagers. Labelled not due to any particular trait but because of when they were born. They weren’t “bad lads” as my dad used to say. One made a brief bad choice. He was easily dissuaded by one of his friends. Who knows, he may go on to become a leading member of society. Or he could after all turn out really bad and become a lawyer. Either way, it has little to do with when he was born and what label demographers gave him.





Jean Vanier wins Templeton Prize

12 03 2015

Jean Vanier, Canadian advocate for mentally disabled people, wins $1.7M Templeton Prize – World – CBC News.

Jean Vanier, Canadian advocate for mentally disabled people, wins class=" " .7M Templeton Prize - World - CBC News

 

I caught this story on the news last night.
Vanier, founded the first L’Arche community in 1964 when he invited two mentally disabled men to leave their large institution and live with him in a small house in Trosly-Breuil, near Paris.
There are now well over 100 L’arche communities in tens of countries – all celebrating our shared humanity.

 

Coincidentally, I also saw this heart-warming news article yesterday.

Basketball players defend a bullied cheerleader with Down syndrome

 

The most promising thing about it was the age of the three basketball players. Their maturity and willingness to take a stance on the bullying of young cheerleader Desiree Andrews was most encouraging.

 





In our own back garden

4 03 2015

Believe it or not, I began to write this post way back on Monday. That though was the day I decided to return my shiny new laptop to Best Buy because the battery wasn’t charging properly. The reason I’d bought the laptop was because this desktop PC runs like the proverbial 3-legged dog.

Anyway, we’re all here now, so let’s get on with wasting a few minutes of your life…

Way back in 1992 there was a leap year. That coincided with the sense that my fiancée and I shared that it was about time we started thinking about improving our tax position and getting married. Though it wasn’t exactly planned, we weren’t averse to the fact that the next free Saturday wedding slot at the local registry office happened to be the 29th of February. As if the 29th of February itself wasn’t memorable enough, in Europe dates are written day/month/year or in this case 29.2.92. What can I say? Seemed like a good idea at the time!

So here we are, 23 years and only 5 real anniversaries later. We figured we’d go away to mark the occasion, but couldn’t decide where to go. In the end we opted to stay in down-town Vancouver and be tourists in our own back garden. We’d had occasion to stay at Le Soleil on Hornby a few years ago, and really enjoyed the little boutique hotel. It has a sort of Napoleonic French vibe going, with gold and yellow stripes, sun motifs and bees everywhere. A few obelisks are reminiscent of Napoleon’s Egyptian adventures too.

Luxurious bees on the chairs

Luxurious bees on the chairs

So anyway, we got down-town on the Friday evening, the 27th, got settled in and then headed out for some dinner and a bevvie. I used to work down-town and felt oddly disjointed to be there “for pleasure”. In the end we walked towards the harbour, and settled on the Lions pub. Nothing special, but one of several wannabe English style pubs in Vancouver. Though the significance was lost on me at the time, my eye fell on the Welsh Rarebit in amongst other yummy familiar items on the pub’s menu. This proved to be foreshadowing of the most weird nature.

On the way back, we ambled through Canada Place and bought tickets for “Fly over Canada“.

The tickets are not timestamped and you can use them any time. We figured we’d try and get to see the show reasonably early on Saturday, and this would avoid queueing. Experience has taught us that Vancouverites rarely rise before about 11am, so if you want to avoid a queue get up early and you’re done before the crowds even materialise.

Canada Place - after hours

Canada Place – after hours

Saturday, I woke up bright and early and went to check out the hotel gym. It was pretty small, but the worst thing was that the extra foot of elevation the elliptical machine gave was sufficient to embed my head in the ceiling tiles. I was getting sunburnt from the pot lights and gave up well before my usual routine would dictate. After showering we headed off for breakfast and opted for a new Tim Hortons on Pender. It turned out that Vancouver had sprouted at least two new Timmie locations since I was last in these parts. The two young ladies in there seemed ill prepared for the steady stream of customers and we had to wait quite a while for the English muffins with mmmmmm bacon. Fully energised we headed off to Canada Place and joined the short queue for the first showing of Fly over Canada.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and there was a very Chinese New Year vibe going on. We were eventually ushered into a staging area whilst the queue was carefully counted off. We were then led to an inner sanctum where we were placed on individual circles on the floor. Jokes about Twister and Star Trek were in abundance. Eventually we were taken to the actual viewing area. This is a two tier balcony with rows of seats similar to aeroplane seats. In front of the chairs was a barrier. Still not quite knowing what to expect, it struck me that the barrier seemed highly engineered and I surmised that it likely moved in some way.

After much bleating about safety, strapping in and lots of other things which didn’t really seem to go with the situation, the lights went down and all became much much clearer! Basically the theatre is a large curved screen. Not quite IMAX quality, but definitely large enough to encompass your peripheral vision. The seats are in rows of about 5 or 6, and each row independently slides forward. As suspected, the barrier had folded out towards the screen, allowing the seats to move out over the chasm. As well as moving in and out towards the screen, each row could independently tilt left and right. Coupled with the surround-view showing wide vistas this led to a quite convincing sensory illusion of hang-gliding. The warm up film was a flight over China to celebrate the lunar New Year, but the main feature was some stunning cinematography of our great country. Taken from helicopters, the film led you to believe you were sweeping up and down over jaw-dropping scenery, with the seats swinging in synch with the visuals, and an occasional misting insinuating that you were really climbing in and out of clouds or plunging low into the sea spray. I felt a bit like a supermarket lettuce by the end of the show.

It was pricey at $20, but it was certainly an experience. I turned down a fortune cookie on the way out. This turned out to be bad fortune, as the fortune slip included a 30% discount for someone to visit again.

The primary order of the day was to find a nice place to have dinner, but before that we needed to acquire a bottle of fizzy wine. We opted for a bottle from the See Ya Later ranch near Skaha Lake, Kelowna. Then we were off to explore Vancouver like tourists do. We walked all the way South on Hornby to the Aquabus, and headed over to Granville Island.

Aquabus stop

Aquabus stop

The real reason for dropping in to Granville Island was for me to photograph the cement silos. Regular readers will recall my excitement at the giant art project a few months ago. First though… lunch! Memory’s a funny thing. We’d remembered “a great little pie place” in the marketplace, and found it easily enough. It was at the peak of lunchtime though and we were forced to decamp to the outside benches in order to sit and eat them. I had mushroom pie, and the crust was just as rich and flaky as I’d remembered. The innards though? Basically just mushroom soup with a few chunks of tomato – yes tomato – to make it a bit more lumpy. Pink mushroom pie. Nearly as offensive as the dodgy ukulele singer trying to entertain the seagulls.

We ambled around to find tea, and settled for the Granville Island Tea Company. They were selling bricks of compressed tea for $20, in the style of the ones traditionally traded over the Steppes on the Silk Road for centuries. I was tempted, but each brick represents an awful lot of tea if you decide you don’t like it. Suitably sated with a single cup of non-bricked tea, we headed off so I could photograph the silos. It was a lovely sunny day, but the Ocean company had inconveniently parked their trucks to obscure a clear view of the silos.

The silos were painted by Brazilian street artists “Os Gemeos”, twins from Sao Paulo. Quite the project!

Giants by Os Gemeos

Giants by Os Gemeos

While trying to get a better angle (there wasn’t really one) I was half listening to the patter from a young magician entertaining a knot of onlookers. He was just about to begin a trick and offered to pull up his sleeves to show there was nothing hiding. He then corrected himself and said, actually he was just showing off his tattoo. Baring his unadorned forearms he then declared that the tattoo was of a chameleon. I chuckled, but plainly nobody else got the joke. Quick as a flash he added “let’s join hands – perhaps we can raise the living”. In support of his acerbic wit I stage whispered “well I thought it was funny” as I passed between the still perplexed onlookers. I commented to Mrs E about his almost British humour, and she remarked that he’d said earlier that he was from Hong Kong. I wish him well. I didn’t stay to watch his tricks, but his wit should serve him well in his chosen career.

Having to satisfy myself with obscured views of The Giants, we headed back to the ferry which is a particularly colourful little number built low and flat to more easily accommodate bikes and pushchairs.

It's OK, we'll take the next unicorn

It’s OK, we’ll take the next unicorn

We ambled along the seawall enjoying the urban version of what we normally experience walking the promenade in White Rock. At one point we were horrified to see a pair of youngsters being encouraged by their guardian to pick the grass slope clean of all the lovely crocuses that were blooming there. Each child had their fists full of the purple and white blooms. The kids were too young to know any better, but it was shocking to see such encouragement from their adult.

World’s cutest hooligan

Dinner was arranged at The Fish House and we had time to walk back to the hotel to freshen up before returning for the sunset and a great slice of Haida Gwaii halibut. Having already amply sampled the bubbly before dinner, the G&Ts during dinner and a lovely little port after dinner, the walk back to the hotel is a bit vague I’m afraid.

Sunday breakfast was nice. We ate at a lovely Parisian pastry shop I must have passed several times without noticing. It’s squeezed in between Bellaggio’s and Artigiano’s on Hornby, by the VAG. Goes by the name Faubourg. The proprietor was indeed French and I was surprised to see the tea he served was also Gallic! I never knew they had it in them. ;o)

Seems there’s actually three locations around Vancouver with others in Kerrisdale and Park Royal. I can recommend the pistachio croissant. ‘Nuff said.

As we ambled down the seawall to do one more lap of the West End (22km of walking on Saturday. Slightly less on Sunday), I noticed someone had tied a leek and a couple of daffodils to a park bench. Of course… it was 1st of March! St. David’s day. Though I didn’t go and check, I strongly suspect the bench was in memory of someone with a surname of Jones. Or Edwards. Or Davies. Whoever they were, they were missed, and their Welsh heritage was being celebrated on the appropriate day.





I try

24 02 2015

Tick tock goes the clock.

The Vancouver Sun Run is not getting further away, and I’ve been trying to keep up some sort of training regime. Gym a few times a week; running the rest of it; a hike at the weekend…

I did a half-decent hike on Saturday, but have been a bit lazy since then. Even my nagging FitBit hasn’t been successful in breaking my fug. I’ve been a bit low emotionally lately and that never helps with motivation.

Today though, I managed to cajole myself out for a run. As usual, I put my iPod on random and set off into the night. As I’ve mentioned a few times, there is often a single song that sticks with me as particularly memorable out of the 10 or so that play during my circuit. This time though, I noticed just how many of the tunes were about lost loves, or other forms of self pity. It could of course just be one of those weird statistical things, or it might be a reflection of the type of music I am drawn to.

The song that stood out for me tonight was the lovely Macy Gray and “I try”.

I try to say goodbye and I choke
Try to walk away and I stumble
Though I try to hide it, it’s clear
My world crumbles when you are not here

Nice steady beat though, I shaved almost 5 minutes off my circuit time which was a shock. I’ve been favouring the gym of late and didn’t think my road speed would have been maintained. Seems I was wrong. Now if only I could lose some of the excess weight I’d be quids in…

Trawling youtube to find the official Macy Gray video, I came across Natalie Imbruglia and Alanis Morissette videos. Interesting. They are both frequent visitors to my iPod, so I plainly fit whatever algorithm youtube is using for “if you like this, you’d probably also like…”.

So, as a bonus today, I bring you one of my favourite Alanis tracks – “Everything”. Any song that can begin with I can be an asshole of the grandest kind is right up my street.

I love the self-effacing timbre of much of her music, and the celebration that someone can love you despite everything you are…. or perhaps even because of it.

You see everything, you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I’m ashamed
There’s not anything to which you can’t relate
And you’re still here








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