Thursday, December 30, 2010

the year of technology embrace

i have decided that 2011 will be the year of technology embrace for me.  i am getting my twitter account in order (although have yet to tweet a damn thing) and am going to make an effort to use it to learn, share information, and connect with others.  so look me up: thingsiknow.

next up is linked in.  i had an account years ago and shut it down because i didn't like it showing up when i googled myself (funny how things change...), but am feeling as though it might be a good resource for me for professional opportunities.  and considering i am struggling to figure out what i want to be when i grow up, maybe it can help.

so follow me on twitter and let me know what you think of linked in.  are you on it?  is it useful?  does it take a lot time to maintain?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

holidays are for movie watching

i've seen some movies lately and thought i would share my thoughts in case you, like me, enjoy heading to the theatres over christmas.

first off, The Social Network was really good.  dark, but good.  of course, i would love to know where the hollywood writers picked up after the trail went cold from mark zuckerberg, but fascinating nonetheless.  and if i learned anything it is that harvard as an undergrad would suck and i would likely never feel like i was cool enough, rich enough, or smart enough.

and who knew that sean parker of napster fame was still a part owner of facebook?  or that they dropped the 'the'?  or that it all began because there actually was something called the facebook at harvard?

one of my bros got Salt for christmas so we piled on to the couch on jesus' birthday and watched the worst version of angelina jolie doing an action film ever.  the stunts were way too far fetched to be believable and what could have been an engaging story line (russian sleeper spy emerges to save america and the world) was thin, flat, and had too many loose ends.  give it a miss.

The Kids Are All Right has some oscar buzz and a golden globe nomination and it is worth it.  a film that makes being gay normal and not glamorous is refreshing.  the story is a bit slow and heavy on dialogue, but that is my kind of entertainment.  julianna moore and annette bening are unsurprisingly awesome and mark ruffalo is a delight.  i am curious to know what next for the family after they go through an affair that shakes their entire foundation.  but, like the title suggests, i'm sure the kids will be all right.

i haven't seen many movies this past year, but have started myself an excel spreadsheet to list the titles i want to see.  and hopefully while i have some extra time during my mini staycation.  interested in what is on my list?

Never Let Me Go
Despicable Me
Black Swan
Barney's Version
The King's Speech
127 Hours
Love and Other Drugs
For Colored Girls
Little Fockers
Blue Valentine
Country Strong

Thursday, December 23, 2010

wham!




who knew the video was so disastrously bad? but still so good, in all its awfulness...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

more ted to get you through the day

along with being sick at home on monday, i have also had a lot of reporting to do at work, the kind where you can just plug your earphones in and power through it.  it is essential to have something interesting to listen to and watch, when you need a break.

and because i just can't keep good ideas to myself, here are a few more ted talks, if you also have some time to kill over the holidays.

sheryl sandberg, the chief operation officer at facebook talks about the three reasons we don't have more women in leadership roles.  i just kept thinking, 'oh yeah,' 'uh huh' as i was watching and listening to this.  so much so, that i sent it to two women that i work closely with who are delights to manage whereas i am constantly pulling teeth with the middle aged men that i am expected to direct and lead on a project.

here's sandberg's message in short: sit at the table, make your partner your real partner, and don't leave before you leave.

women consistently underestimate themselves and credit their success to luck or external factors.  and women are not well regarded when they achieve professional success, instead, they are often less liked because of it.

this talk is awesome and not because it is some fanatical feminist diatribe or condemning men for their treatment of men or overly academic.  awesome.

ed ulbrich, the team lead on the development of the special effects for the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which i loved!), talks about how they pushed technology to its limits to create benajamin's face.

it is fascinating how they did it and to see the footage of how they used brad pitt's face and his iteration of the character to create something that didn't previously exist in more ways than one.  amazing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

who needs spirit?!

you can get a dose of it here.

thanks to my sis, for sending it along.

my score was 19/30 on this seasonal movie quiz, what's yours?

a trio of ted talks

i have been battling a head cold/self-diagnosed chest infection (that my mom is worried might be pneumonia or bronchitis) since friday, but i did manage to rally and go to a girls' christmas potluck, a 3rd annual 29th birthday party, a bridal shower, a hen night, and a family christmas dinner.

i am pretty sure that all that activity over the weekend has meant that i didn't have enough in the tank to fend off whatever is ailing me and i stayed at home and took a sick day today.  that meant i had a lot of internet time and came up with a few beauties that i thought i would share.

let's talk parenting taboos: rufus griscom & alisa volkman
although i am not a parent, i can only imagine the anxiety that having to take of a baby and then a child to raise would invoke in me.  and part of that is because there are so many messages, and i would argue most of them directed at women specifically, about what parenting should look and feel like.  and i think these two do a good job of blowing that myth out of the water while speaking frankly about their experiences as encouragement for others to do the same.  it is all about being real and it sounds like parenting is no different.

an independent diplomat: carne ross
once you get past his introduction, which sounds a little self indulgent, this former british foreign service officer has a great message and i liked what he had to say about how the best things that happen to him were 'random.'

his ngo independent diplomat is innovative and responding to the ever evolving world order, which are not words you would ever use to describe the traditional diplomatic corps.  his message lends itself well to my own experience of having exposure to the private sector to improve my performance and analysis within the non-profit sector.  and i wish more people saw the value of that cross pollination of ideas and principles and it seems that ross does.

and i agree with him entirely on his statement: 'the government of south sudan, you heard it here first, is going to be a new country in the next few years' and that he can make the connection between you and i and el shabaab, the somali militia organisation.  the world is shrinking and as it changes, the tool, agencies, and systems that we have used to make sense of it all also need to evolve at the same speed.  and the un is sadly lagging behind the innovators and great thinkers.

and to think, i went through many years of international relations and international development organisation asking who western sahara belongs to and here, the answer is on ted.

now... where is my cliff to fall off??

and this one takes the ted cake today - michael spector: the danger of science denial
one of my passions is learning and this paired with my commitment to social justice and socioeconomic development lends itself nicely to questioning what we know (or think we know) and then applying the scientific method to learn more about it to improve.  in a practical sense, this means that how we think we are helping can and should be examined, but rarely is.  doing good seems to be acceptable because it is accepted that charity or development or donations are good in and of themselves.  spector has the guts to say that attitude is wrong.

pseudo science and anecdotal information has taken over our collective knowledge retention and transfer.  and it is scary what can happen when we dismiss scientific evidence and confuse correlation and causation (and all those social science kids out there are likely nodding their heads along with spector throughout his talk).  we have more access to information than ever before and on one hand, i think that this radical democratic style of information sharing makes for a more dynamic and diverse conversation, but on the other hand, more crappy ideas, bad science, and misinformation is also shared in equal measure, if not more.

here's are some truths that spektor highlights that science has demonstrated to us time and time again:

  • vaccines don't cause autism
  • vitamins won't make you healthier
  • all of our food has been genetically engineered to look, taste, and smell the way it does
  • organic food is a rip off
  • by not embracing scientific advancement in food production, we won't be able to feed all the people on the planet

this was a breath of fresh air for someone who often feels as though they are fighting against more people within the non-profit/development/charitable giving sector than outside of it to demonstrate not all international development projects are good, not all non-profit agencies deserve people's donations of time and money, and giving is not always better than receiving.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

questions i have asked myself recently

  • will anyone know that it was me that set the fire alarm off at 11:15pm by cooking beef bourguinon?  followed a few days later with: who the hell is cooking at 2am and set the damn fire alarm off when i was sleeping?!
  • what does a life coach do and do i need one?
  • how do you pay a speeding ticket that you seem to have lost?
  • who would ever buy this or this?
  • what do i want to be when i grow up?
  • what will i feed my dad for 5 days when he stays with me?
  • will i be selected to attend a gbv training in new york city?  and, please pick me (which is not really a question, but i am just putting it out there).
  • will i be able to get a taxi after tonight's christmas party?
  • should i put a pair of flats in my purse in case my feet start to hurt?
  • if i bring a pair of flats but still manage to fall on someone's boss' table, can i really blame my sore feet and high heels for it if i am wearing flats?
  • why don't i know many eligible bachelors in this city to set my amazing female friends up with?
  • how will i decorate my office/spare bedroom now that i have a sofa bed?
  • is Last Christmas by Wham! the best christmas song ever?  (the answer is yes).
  • should i keep my bangs down or swept to the side?  should i stop cutting them myself?
  • how do i stop people from wanting to start their own ngos to combat human trafficking in cambodia?  (i am taking suggestions on this one).
  • why do i have a blog and why haven't i been writing much lately?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

29+11

i am late again on the monthly goal update.  and i am almost through my 29th year!  yay.  and eek.  and wow.

1 - conquer my anxiety, or at least win a few battles against it.  eesh.  constant battle.  uphill and then some downhill.  and then there was november.  it was tough.  but it is over!  anxiety can be a temperamental bitch.

2 - be more thoughtful of others, especially around special occasions. with the upcoming holiday season, i am trying to keep on top of this and have confidence that i will.  i also have some bits and bobs to send off to friends in south africa so i had better get those in the post asap.

3 - continue making visiting family and friends a priority.  my next trip will hopefully be a visit with dear friends in the states, although the details are yet to be finalised.  and i will have a parental house guest over christmas so there will certainly be plenty of visiting!

4 - nail down some sort of short-term career goals.  remember the anxiety surrounding november?  well, much of it was related to this.  i have gathered quite the momentum over the past few years, culminating in recognition as one of the top leaders in my city under 40, but that recognition has made me wonder 'now what?'  and worry about how i can improve and grow.  this should be a time where i am able to focus on opportunity, but sometimes having too many choices can be equally overwhelming as not having enough.  i am not complaining, just working through the kinks.  in doing so, i really hope a pathway emerges towards a goal...

then again, i feel like i have been saying that months on end!

5 - lay a nest egg to accompany my nest.  doing well!  i also overcame a slight panic about my corporate taxes and how much i owed the government by talking with my accountant this past month.  i am in good shape and set for the upcoming fiscal year.  even if i have spent the better part of my afternoon at work looking up cheap beach vacation packages!

6 - eat more balanced, regular meals. two months running for a fat goose egg!  i have been cooking more regularly at home and whipping up some delicious meals.  after spending a hung over sunday afternoon watching anthony bourdaine's cooking show where he taught his viewership how to make a delightful beef bourguinon, i decided to try my own hand at the classic french dish.  at 10pm.  on a tuesday. 

everything was going well until i was frying the pearl onions in butter and oil on my stove (it was 11:15pm by this point) and my smoke alarm went off!  which means it does not just go off in my own building, but in the three buildings in my townhouse complex!!  meaning that everyone had to either put up with the high pitched screeching that the alarm makes or wait out in the -10 degree cold while we waited for the firefighters to come and reset the alarm!!!

except for me, who hid in my house and thought it best that i clean up my entire kitchen, put my cook book away, take off my apron, and make a feeble attempt to hide all evidence that it was me who was cooking at 11pm!

but, perhaps arrogantly, i did not turn the bourguinon off as to not interrupt its delicious cooking process in the oven.  and it truly was a delight when it was done cooking.  and after the smoke alarm went off.

7 - sleep an appropriate amount. during periods of intense anxiety, one of my coping mechanisms (healthy or not) is to sleep.  and then sleep some more.  i know it helps my mind turn off for awhile, but it certainly gets in the way of actual real, wakeful life when you sleep for 12 hours in a day.  as my mood has improved, so has my sleeping schedule and i have intentionally scheduled a lot more down time during the month of december to make sure i am not overworked or overburdened with too many social or professional commitments.

8 - maintain my priorities.  as i just mentioned, i have made a mindful decision not to book myself up too much this month and it has resulted in a happier, more balanced me.  i am still not totally sure what my priorities would be if i listed them or what order they would appear, but simply having ME at the top has been good for my spirit.  i think this is something i will need to spend more time on in the new year and it will likely have a positive impact on goals 1 and 4 as well.

9 - keep asking for what i want.  i recently asked to go to a training on working with the aboriginal community in canada that was approved (and paid for!) at work (but since postponed until the new year).  i suspected raising my hand at work will be necessary and beneficial for me in the coming months, but i am going to make sure i am asking for the work that i want to do and am interested in.
 
i have also asked for a reorganisation in my non-profit work.  the outcome of this restructuring could mean that i can take a step back by hiring someone who will work under me and take care of administrative tasks to free my time for higher level discussions, relationship building, and capacity building.  and that will all be good.
 
i also made a christmas list!  and it includes sparkling water because that stuff is heavy, yo!  and i struggle to carry it home from the grocery store.  it is so delicious and one of my guilty pleasures (along with cooking beef bourguinon late at night!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

pardon the rant

does anyone feel like doing me a favour?

could you please read nicholas kristof's column A Woman.  A Prostitute.  A Slave. and tell me what the hell it is about??

he seems to be drawing attention to the fact that sexual exploitation happens in the us.  he also wants to warn those men buying sex that not all women choose to sell sex.  then he goes on to describe a situation where someone consenting to entering the states illegally, but was then exploited (a classic case of trafficking that baffles law enforcement and border services, true), but then he quickly segues into a warning that this is also happening to americans, especially those pesky runaways.

and that is about all he says.  as though it is new information.  as if he has somehow uncovered this otherwise underground and unknown story.  and what is going on with that horrible title?  he could have taken the opportunity to really dig into the issue about the debate around the consensual sex trade vs sexual exploitation or how those who pay for sex can be the eyes and ears on the ground to identifying cases of forced sex.

but no, just some bland, latent column building the kristof's image as someone who CARES and is MAKING A DIFFERENCE.  blah.  not what i wanted to read today.  of all weeks, i am a little frustrated and sick of the whole field of difference makers and compassionate citizenry and, the worst of them all, social justice.

all those words are thrown around as though they mean something, as though they translate into meaninful action.  people attend film festivals or a speaking engagement or tell someone how much they care about the people of darfur/women being raped in the congo/the earthquake victims in haiti and there you have it, they've done something.

but here is a great ted talk by esther duflo, if you want a better perspective of how and what actually does make a difference.  and how complicated the whole arena of socioeconomic development is.

my apologies for the rant, but man, i have felt irritated about issues like these lately and this column sent me over the top.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

cringe ready

i am mildly dreading the series premier of abc's new show Off The Map.  i anticipate it being full of assumptions about americans living abroad doing meaningful, heartwarming, humanitarian work in a "third world country," as their trailer describes.

its claim is to be about a group of young, dynamic doctors who set up a clinic in a non-descript, generic south american jungle village where they are going to practice medicine in a resource constrained environment.

i will watch it, but i expect to be cringing a lot.  at the anticipated flippant remarks about development and aid and the stereotypes of the heroic foreigners swooping in to solve the problems that locals have had for years, but were hopeless and helpless to do anything for themselves (obviously).

but maybe, just maybe i will be proven wrong and the show will dive deep into the complexities of an expat's life, why american doctors choose to follow that career path, and the moral and ethical dilemmas that the doctors will encounter.

or maybe it will be some more bubble gum for the brain where a bunch of doctors, played by attractive actors in an ensemble cast, all date one another incestuous season after incestuous season.

then again, i shouldn't expect too much from abc, the network that just sent arizona to "africa" to save the tiny (and no doubt, poor and dirty) humans.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

it gets better

this video breaks my heart, but gives me more hope than anything.

if you haven't already, watch the video that went viral and began the movement called the it gets better project.

what an inspiring message - it does get better and it's up to all us to make sure that it does.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

'tis the season of red cups, party dresses, baking days, and the peanuts christmas special

so what's going on with me lately?

i seem to have my life under control.  i was seriously debating hosting a christmas (or non-denominational seasonally festive, if you prefer) party, but have decided against it because i am just now feeling as though i am on top of my life for the first time in a few months.  it feels good.

instead, i think i will host myself a birthday party.  because i am turning 30 in february and they tell me that this is one of those milestone birthdays and i haven't had one of those in awhile.

work (x2) is going surprisingly well.  i thought i would be drowning in tasks and to do lists, but i am keeping my head above water, if only just.  the energy and recognition i have received since the avenue top 40 under 40 was released has kept me motivated and moving forward and i am hoping i can ride that momentum out as much as possible.

my volunteers are no longer zapping me of all my spirit and i am finding the language to flip their assumptions and misconceptions on their heads without being offensive.  i am asked to host, present, and attend various events and i am now picking and choosing which ones i attend rather than just saying yes.

for instance, i get to have lunch with calgary's new mayor tomorrow!  well, me and a bunch of other people, but i am still looking forward to it.  but i haven't figured out what i will wear.  and this seems like a rather important decision to make.

overall, my attitude is positive, my outlook is optimistic, and i am looking forward to some exciting things to celebrate the holiday season: the annual girls' christmas baking day, family traditions, an invitation to a christmas party where i can wear betsey again, and hopefully some downtime at the cabin.

amongst all this good stuff, i am trying not to feel as though i am not doing enough (whatever enough is), not to stress about what my next steps are, or about the seeming lack of any available, interesting, and intriguing men in my path!  but that is a post and line of thinking for another post and another day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

read it

the guardian has done a good job explaining why you and her and me shouldn't go to africa to volunteer.

clear, concise, and straight to the point.

now, maybe i can reference this when i decide to bring up my opinions on voluntourism to orphanages at breakfast parties and am met with blinking eyes and cold stares.

Monday, November 08, 2010

just another monday

reasons why today was great:

  • it was housekeeper day (formally called maid day)
  • my book club book arrived!  now i have to hurry up and get reading When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin
  • a pvr'ed episode of Weeds
  • a new recipe, that i only chose because of the photo that accompanied it as it is not something i would normally pick:
noodles and peanut sauce salad bowl
    • 8 oz uncooked whole wheat linguine, broken in half
    • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets
    • 1 cup julienne carrots (mine were more like slices)
    • 1 medium bell pepper, cut into bite size pieces (mine were more like slices)
    • 2 tbsp water
    • 2 tsp canola oil (except i used sesame oil0
    • 1/4 cup peanut butter
    • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
    • 2 tbsp soy sauce 
    • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (but i misread this and put in more than 2 tsp of freshly grated ginger, which likely increased the deliciousness)
    • 1/8 ground red pepper
    • 3 medium green onions, chopped
    • 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 - cook linguine, adding broccoli, carrots and bell pepper during last minute of cooking (but i added mine about halfway through the cooking); drain.  rinse with cool water.
    •  2 - in small bowl, gradually beat water and oil into peanut butter with sire whisk until smooth.  beat in vinegar, soy sauce, and ground red pepper.
    • 3 - in large serving bowl, stir together pasta mixture, peanut sauce, onions, and cilantro until well mixed.

Friday, November 05, 2010

29+8

i just realised that i hadn't updated my goals for october, so here they are!

1 - conquer my anxiety, or at least win a few battles against it.  i had a little anxiety around social engagements last week, especially to go to events where i was the focus of the attention, but i feel on top of things this week and rather optimistic about the future, which is great.  and wards off the anxiety.  but i do miss those wild dreams on anti-anxiety meds!

2 - be more thoughtful of others, especially around special occasions.  texts, cards, calls.  just need to work on the gifts, especially as it is coming up to christmas season and i want to make sure that i am not scrambling to pick stuff up for the people on my list.  i am hoping to think of some good ideas.

3 - continue making visiting family and friends a priority.  i don't have any plans for trips to see anyone after my whirlwind trip of visiting in south africa.  but i do have a lot of fun events coming up with friends and family.  birthday dinners, birthday drinks, ladies christmas pot-luck, baking day, wine tasting with the girls, bridal showers and stagettes, family christmas traditions to look forward to, and the icing on the cake will be a close friend's wedding in banff.  i think it will be a pretty fantastic holiday season and i am going to get things started early (which i figure is completely acceptable because starbucks has released the red cups, marking the official beginning of the holiday season!  well, sort of).

4 - nail down some sort of short-term career goals.  this is connected to #1.  i feel good about what is to come.  it has been wonderful to get credit for a job well done in my current positions and for my managers and high ups to congratulate me on my accomplishments.  my company advertised in the same magazine that i was featured in and in the ad they said that i was compassionate, committed, and deserving of the accolade.  my past 9 months have been taken over with thoughts of 'what next?' and 'where to?' and not feeling as though i am doing what i should be.  i am still not sure what the answers to those questions are, but i am content with where i am professionally and that is the best i have felt about #4 all year.

5 - lay a nest egg to accompany my nest.  i'm laying off the international travel for awhile.  that should help in the savings department.  and so will looking forward to the next tax season, eesh.  working so much is keeping my expenses down as i rarely have time to go out and buy frivolous things.  oh, except for my betsey dress.  but that was a deal!  and for an event!

6 - eat more balanced, regular meals.  this one gets a big, old fail.  i have only been for groceries since returning from south africa a few weeks ago (and once for a single celery stalk that cost $0.31) and have little to make a meal out of in my house.  so instead, i grab something on my way home from work.  this week i have had a vietnamese sub, souvlaki, won ton soup, left over pizza, and a frozen pizza i scrounged out of my freezer.  and this evening my snack was a can of mushrooms, which i know disgust some people, but they are one of my secret guilty food pleasures!

7 - sleep an appropriate amount.  this waxes and wanes.  some mornings i wake up feeling peppy and ready for the day and others, i feel like i could just scrunch down further under my duvet and turn my alarm off.  i spent most of sunday catching up on sleep/feeling rather hung over, but the larger problem is working 12 hours in a day and not having enough time at the end of it to unwind.  i have found that a few glasses of wine help!

8 - maintain my priorities.  although i am not exactly sure what my priorities are, i feel as though they are in check.  or at the least, they are not out of balance at the moment.  leaving calgary and canada behind always helps me to do this and being in south africa certainly did.  maybe the first step to really achieving this is to establish my priorities...

9 - keep asking for what i want.  well, soon i will be asking for the removal of support of an organisation that i don't agree with at work and that sort of counts.  i have been given a number wonderful things lately and i feel like right now, i don't need to ask for a thing.  instead, i feel like i have a lot to give.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

leading the charge

this week has been another busy one for me, but one i have really enjoyed.  i am not sure what happened in the last week, but i have newfound motivation, inspiration, and excitement about my work.  it might have come with the recognition i received from the avenue magazine, but where ever it came from, i have run with it this week.

one of the new things that i have added to my plate, sort of inadvertently, is to lead the charge to get the company i work for to stop supporting the operation christmas child programme of samaritan's purse.  it bugged me last year and it bugged me again this year.  i found out that there were a few others at work who are also concerned about this, so i have a meeting next week and i just have to remember not to step on anyone's toes and have my ducks in a row before i go in there.

so, here are my ducks.

we state that we will not financially support religious organisations and this is not only a faith based organisations, but is an organisation that openly and proudly evangelizes and proselytizes.  the campaign consists of filling shoeboxes with small gifts of books, toys, candy, and hygiene products, which the organisation claims are needed.  essentially, we fill boxes with crap and send it overseas.  and in the process, we enlarge our environmental footprint, flood a local market with stuff that could likely be locally sourced (and thereby, stimulate the economy), and export our values and perspective of mass consumerism during the holidays.

it is the typical and useless, quite likely harmful, practice of giving gifts-in-kind in a method that is complete donor driven and riddled with our own wishes rather than the wishes and expressed needs of the people we are intending to "help."

how does that sound?

there is more information on a website that has been developed to draw attention to these issues: www.pursestrings.ca

and alternatively, i need to come up with a few other options of how people can get involved in both domestic and international projects at christmas.  ideas??

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

feeling like kind of a big deal!

the cat's outta the bag.  i can finally tell people about this incredible honour that i received recently.  one of avenue magazine's top 40 under 40 in calgary.

and well, i am posting it here because sometimes i suppose it is ok when private and professional lives collide.  and i feel pretty fantastic about it, especially having met some of the other recipients who were wonderfully inspiring.

i had to have the online article revised with a word change because apparently i was one who felt the need to overcome 'diversity!'  i know i was nervous when they interviewed me, but i am pretty sure that it was adversity that i think is essential to overcome in order to grow!

my lovely sister was the one who nominated me and i found out back in july that i was going to be recognised and i had to keep quiet until last week when the magazine was released.  there was a lovely event to announce the 40 and it was pretty fantastic to spend it with my sister, brother in law, and one of my best friends.  and i wore this.  and you can't go wrong when you wear betsey.

and i am surprised to see who has come out of the facebook woodwork to express their congratulations and well wishes.  i am not complaining in the slightest, but it has been slightly overwhelming, but very reassuring that there are a lot of people behind me even if i don't talk to them regularly.  and of course there are those people i do talk to regularly.  and they are pretty damn awesome.  including my youngest brother who told me that i sounded intelligent.  and well, there are very few reassurances stronger than that.

so, there you have it.  part of the reason for my silence lately.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

where maids have maids

i really liked this photo essay of the middle class in africa.  this is the kenya i was best acquainted with when i lived there.  and one that is rarely represented in the media, although if you peruse my facebook photos, you'll likely see a few similar shots!

Monday, October 18, 2010

southern south africa, in a nutshell

it's lame, but here is a list of stuff i've been up to the past few weeks (if you are so inclined to be interested).  i need time to process the things i have done, the people i have seen, and the thoughts i have thought over the past three weeks, but in the meantime...

cape town
  • i still love this city
  • i saw the colours, mosques, and unique architecture of the bo-kaap for the first time this visit
  • a trip up table mountain in the cable car is certainly worth it (and maybe one day i will hike all the way up the mountain)
  • staying at the westin grand was grand.  so was the spa.  and the waterbeds where you get to wait for your toes to dry after a pedicure.
  • weddings and dress fittings and chaos, oh my!
  • i could watch the boulders beach penguins for hours
  • entering the main central train station from the back makes you think you are in africa.  exiting it from the front makes you think you are in europe.
  • a few roads to nowhere that were there when i visited 5 years ago and are still there.  just unfinished freeways in the centre of the city, no big deal.
stellenbosch
  • a farm town anywhere is a farm town everywhere.
  • protea farms are neato.  proteas are also neato.  buy one next time you see one in the shops (or shoppies as the south africans might call them) and rest assured that it will last 3-4 weeks (which might offset the guilt for purchasing a flower that had to be transported from so far away).
  • might i suggest staying at the sugarbird manor if you visit stellenbosch?  their staff are wonderful and their cats are so cuddly.  and watching the guinea fowl run across the lawn will make you giggle every time, i swear.
  • wine tasting at bilton was accompanied by chocolate, delicious.  i kept thinking that it was missing a G though and it should've been biltong as we are in south africa.
  • lunch at asara was also yummy.  the fish and chips were, as my mom put it, the best she's EVER had.
  • views every way you look, stunning.
  • lunch at jordan.  springbok tartar.  amazing.
  • zipping through the hills in our rented hyundai atos, otherwise known as the lunchbox.
franschhoek
  • the friendliest americans and brits at the guesthouse.
  • a place for foodies and for anyone who can appreciate a good meal and a glass of wine.
  • evenings of wine (and sherry) drinking with our hosts who provided us with a history lesson of rural south africa, both good and bad.
  • dinner at dutch east.  perhaps the best fish i have ever had.  ever.
  • a continuation of south africa's wonderful service.
  • even the pubs serve gourmet food, including the scrumptious burger at elephant and barrel, which we shared along with some much-needed pints of beer after all that wine!
  • one of the best meals i have ever had at reuben's.  ever.  see a theme here?!  a little piece of trivia - reuben is taking over from gordon effing ramsay at the cape town one&only hotel's restaurant.  yes, he's that good.  and so were the staff at his restaurant.
  • a wine tasting with hilarious scots at solms-delta was followed by an incredibly informative social history tour with johan throughout the winery.  this place is a must-see if you are in the area, it is the site of a san living site hundreds of years ago and then of a homestead of european farmers.  and i want to bottle johan's intelligence and enthusiasm for nature, people, and learning and sell it, it was that encouraging and inspiring.
  • this is where i lived 5 years ago.
  • it hasn't changed much.  a few new shops and some roadworks, but otherwise the same.
  • surprising aunty joey, the woman i lived with, was something i will never forget.  and i am certain, neither will she.
  • as happens in small towns, the phone was soon ringing with people confirming that yes, i had shown up unexpectedly.
  • and she baked me melktert.  whipped it up.  just for me.  i also want to bottle this 60+ year old's energy, love, and spirit.  but i am not sure i would want to share it with anyone.  it is that special.
  • my own milk tart, just to reiterate.
  • a trip to struisbaai and l'agulhas - the most southern point in africa!  as they do not hesitate to advertise everywhere.
  • fynbos.  and the some more fynbos.
hermanus
  • whales!  whales from the coast and whales from a boat.
  • the wind returns.  eesh.
  • final bits of shopping.  woolworths.  pick n pay.  other shoppies.
  • a random siting of a woman i used to work with in kenya.
  • lunch at burgundy.  another delectable steak, cooked to perfection.
  • cape dutch and more cape dutch houses.
  • calla lilies and more calla lilies growing like weeds.

Friday, October 08, 2010

10 for cape town

k gave me an idea.  or more like, i am copying her post!

10 things about cape town, after a week of visiting.

1 - it gets windy!

2 - the back of the main train station is a little grimy.  the front?  completely clean, shiny, and spruced up for the world cup.

3 - speaking of the world cup, there is a lot of contention about how much greenpoint stadium cost to refurbish and it hosted 8 games.

4 - apparently if something is hot, you say it is 'as hot as kenya' because there is some understanding that kenya is always hot!  this makes me laugh when i think of sitting in my office with my blankets and scarves wrapped around me, leaning towards my computer because it gave off heat, and dreading the next time someone would open my office door and let cool air inside during july in nairobi.

5 - 'taxi' is a shared minibus.  'cab' is a north american style taxi.  they both get you to where you are going, one just takes longer and the other is prohibitively expensive for most capetonians.

6 - going on township tours seems as weird as ever, especially after spending the day there to visit my friend and her family.

7 - melktert has been missing from my life since i arrived, but i WILL find it!

8 - the westin grand has a breakfast that compares to a mini banff springs brunch.  the service is top notch and i have yet to explore the services available in the spa.  people, save your aeroplan points and you too can live the life of luxury!

9 - i wasn't sure that it would be, but going up the cable car to the top of table mountain (or as my mom calls it, table top mountain) is worth it.

10 - there is a big crate man built at the waterfront out of old coca cola crates that i think is pretty awesome.  his name is elliot.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

i liked it, so should you

my laptop battery is dying and as i await the room delivery of the converter that i need to charge it, i leave you with this, an absolute must read for anyone who wants the skinny on why those billions of dollars have been held up by the us senate that were earmarked for haiti reconstruction.

and (bonus!) there is a great little bit on why the word 'orphanage' should give you a rash.

http://laurenist.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/in-which-i-ask-lady-gaga-to-help-raise-1-15-billion-for-haiti/

Sunday, October 03, 2010

a page-turner, i concede

today, while sitting in a catholic church in a small town outside of cape town, i finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  and what did i think?  meh.  good, entertaining, captivating at points.  but not well written and i am not sure if this is due to the author's writing skills or lacklustre translation from swedish to english, but errors like 'disinformation' instead of 'misinformation,' improper hyphenation, and the use of the word 'had' in duplication in a sentence drove me batty.

some might not be bothered by the writing style and it might interest you to read about the perversions of society, but i needed to finish it to find out the conclusion to the story and less because i really cared about the resolution or the characters involved.

like i said, the story was a page-turner indeed, but i felt it lacked depth and i still don't feel as though i really know the main characters after 800 pages.  which, to be perfectly honest, might be enough for me to pick up the second in the series as i am slightly intrigued.

pick it up, it won't be tough to finish if you have a little time on your hands, but don't expect it to live up to the hype (remember The Da Vinci Code...?)

Friday, October 01, 2010

kaapstad

after a journey that felt like nearly forever, a little shopping jaunt in london's heathrow, and a tearful reunion at the cape town airport, my mom and i have settled in to our hotel (with a view of the atlantic and the smell of a bakery in the wee morning hours!) and are ready to take on the mother city.

it is a funny thing to come back to a place after 5 years and to be reminded of small things (the ever honking shared taxis plying the roads for passengers, the way south african pronounce 'here' like 'he-er,' and the newspaper headlines stuck on street posts) and to see how things have noticeably changed.

i was last in cape town after south africa had been officially democratic for 10 years (in 2005) and even had the opportunity to attend the african national congress' celebration of democracy (where i was one of the only white faces in the crowd that had barely a dry eye because of the pride and excitement), but i rarely saw mixed race couples or groups of people of all colours out together.  in one short day, i already have the sense that it is different now.

and who am i to make such bold statements, but in my experience, it feels like a more diverse and truly rainbow nation.  however, we have only been in airports and the rather cosmopolitan area of sea point in cape town and it is surely very different in the cape flats, the townships, and the rural areas.

but all in good time, we will see that face of south africa too.

needless to say, i am thrilled to be back, to have familiar faces welcoming me back to the southern hemisphere, and to be enjoying the stunning weather!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

i'll have more of the same

finally, it seems that 2010 has cleaned up its act and has decided to stop being such a jerk.

as mondays go, this one was pretty stellar.  and why?
  • not waking up to an alarm
  • still smiling from the high of getting together with my new book club full of wonderful, dynamic women
  • a new outfit of a skirt on the sale at the gap and a shirt that fits perfectly from my sister paired with a bold necklace with a giant flower and my favourite italian boots purchased in ireland
  • checking off and throwing away my To Do list at work
  • an hour long presentation to the most notorious of the law enforcement agencies in canada (you just try breaking into our borders!) met with positive feedback
  • won ton soup
  • proofing the text for an ad that i will appear in
  • setting up a meeting with someone who wants to learn more about my 'consulting services'
  • an invitation for a south african wine drinking and luggage packing date
  • a raise.  a totally unsolicited raise!  a potentially retroactive raise!!
  • a meeting with my volunteers who continue to inspire me, challenge me, and humour me
  • purchase of a wall hanging off etsy to bring a little feng shui into my nest
  • a new episode of weeds
  • a glass of dry red wine
long may it last.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

vancouver island is also rather beautiful







5 days of excitement to go

in five days' time i will be on a jetplane, heading to heathrow to transfer to johannesburg and then on to cape town!  i have no idea how long it will take to get there, but i am well prepared with three books and a little bit of work that i have committed to finishing while i am away (not so much work as copy writing for a friend).  my books of choice include the first two in Stieg Larsson's series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.  everyone and their dog keeps talking about them, including that there is an element of human trafficking to the story line, so i am jumping on the literary bandwagon and will read them as well.

i also purchased The Help, which i kept picking up at the bookstore and finally bought it online (say what you will about amazon taking away sales from local booksellers, i love the convenience and the process of looking forward to and then receiving a package in the post).

i thought i would have to go on a wild goose chase for shoes to wear to the wedding where i will be a bridesmaid, but i managed to shop in my own closet and find a pair of black, strappy sandals that i got last year in thailand and haven't worn very often back at home.  dressy and sassy?  no, but they will do for a wedding i am travelling halfway around the world to attend to wear with a dress i have never seen?  why yes, yes they are.

as i have mentioned, we've got a few great places to stay already booked and i have noted with asterisks in my lonely planet and rough guide the sights i would like to show my mom in cape town and cape point, wineries i would like to visit in and around stellenbosch, and a whale watching tour out of hermanus.  we are also planning on getting to the sleepy town of bredasdorp so i can show my mom where i lived over 5 years ago and i am crossing my fingers that i will see the woman that i lived with while i was there.  it might be a bit strange walking up to my the half door of the house and knocking.  if she remembers me, i might give her a bit of a heart attack!

i am certainly ready to take a break from the daily grind and the tidal wave i seem to have created.  i spent a lot of time this past week getting on top of my To Do list and feel as though i am leaving all my projects in a state that will not spontaneously combust without regular attention - my volunteers have tasks to take care of, my meetings and workshops are all set up for when i returned and my prep work for them is nearly done, i have someone looking after the nest in my absence, and i have tentative hallowe'en plans and a group of girls thinking up a costume for me.

so all that is left is 5 days of excitement and counting down!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

29+7

i am a bit early this month, but i suspect i will have a rather busy 8 days before i leave for south africa with my mama, so i am updating my monthly goals before i head off.

1 - conquer my anxiety, or at least win a few battles against it.  this has been easy this month and i am not quite sure why.  i have been rather busy and continue to feel stretched, but i am not worrying.  i am not panicking.  i am ok.  it's a nice change.

2 - be more thoughtful of others, especially around special occasions.  my little bro and i are going to see kooza, the cirque du soleil show in calgary at the moment, tomorrow to celebrate his 18th birthday (my little brother is an adult!).  and my first christmas gift (for giving, of course) arrived in the mail.  we celebrated my mom's birthday at our cabin at the beginning of the month and we were not scrambling to figure out who was going to get what, it was pleasant and a lot of fun.

3 - continue making visiting family and friends a priority.  seeing as flying to south africa and touring around the winelands and whale trail after a week in cape town is rather pricey, i think this might be it for this year!  but i have managed to get quite a bit of visiting with my dad in and that was a nice change this year.  still no trips to eastern canada or the states, but i am still committed to making those trips happen one day.  for now, i am satisfied with the time i will spend with friends in south africa and i might even get a chance to see the woman i lived with in bredasdorp, south africa over 5 years ago!

4 - nail down some sort of short-term career goals.  hmpf.  still no closer.  my one grand hope for my time in south africa is that i will take advantage of the distance from my regular life to get some clarity on what my next steps are.  i keep waiting for the universe to show me the best path, but i'd be lying if i didn't admit that i am getting a little impatient.  faith in the journey, faith in the journey...

5 - lay a nest egg to accompany my nest.  i've been careful with my pennies lately.  this won't be enough to lay a nest egg, but it will allow me to enjoy my time in the southern hemisphere and know i will be coming back to get right back into my job(s), not only because i will have to catch up on 3 weeks away, but also so i can earn some money!

6 - eat more balanced, regular meals.  i certainly am not mastering this, but i did spend this past saturday canning pickled beets and salsa, yum.  i also made those meatballs last night that were a complete success and me and my slow cooker continue to get to know one another better.  i recently renewed my first aid certification, where i was reminded that we can all do something to improve our heart health and i can certainly eat less red meat (when did that happen?!) and make better food choices.

7 - sleep an appropriate amount.  success!  apart from this past weekend when i had 2 late nights, i have been doing well and feeling rested in the mornings and even making it into my office at a reasonable hour every now and again.  i am not appreciating the darker mornings as the seasons change and might feel differently about getting out of my cozy sheets in the morning as soon as it cools down and the mornings stay dark until after i arrive at work, but for now, i'll keep motoring along and when i get behind, take an in-the-bed, pants-off nap!

8 - maintain my priorities.  this has certainly been a struggle lately, with competing demands of 2 jobs, a volunteer commitment, and juggling social engagements and fitness.  i have found some sort of balance lately and i am not convinced it is permanent, but my decision to get a housekeeper and to say no to invitations from friends and family have helped for the time being.  again, when i return from south africa i am going to have to have a bit of an overhaul on the priority front and i am not sure just yet how the chips will fall.

9 - keep asking for what i want.  i can't really think of anything i have asked for lately.  oh wait, i have asked for some help and guidance on projects for work, which has been endlessly helpful and was instrumental in creating better balance this past month.  i walked away from work and put my worries away more than usual this past month and in a sense, that is a form of asking for what i want.  even if it is a conversation i have to have with myself.

i am still working on the first piece of this goal - figuring out what i want in order to know how and who to ask for it.  i have confidence this is coming down the pipeline.  as my mentor at work says, 'as soon as you feel you have no idea what to do next or where to turn, you can be sure that the universe is setting you up for something and you won't know it until you look back.'

i am feeling as though my goal updates are not that interesting or positive these past few months and in many ways, they match my ho-hum attitude.  i am going to work on keeping these a little closer to my thoughts throughout the next month and have something super fantastic to say in a few short weeks!

Monday, September 20, 2010

going to the experts

i can't decide if the best part about Maid Days is the folded triangles on my toilet paper rolls or that all my crap is neatly piled, but i love it.  and especially on a day like today where i woke up looking forward to crawling back into my bed in the evening.

and i would be there now if the fire alarm wasn't screaming (and it screams something fierce and likely unsafe for human ears).  instead, i have opened a bottle of velvet fog and am waiting it out.  shame it is getting darker earlier now or i could enjoy my beer on my balcony and admire the uniformed firemen that come when this happens once each month.

but instead, i am watching the television show that my mom has me hooked on, come dine with me, a channel 4 programme from the uk that is kitschy, hilarious, and real.  which is much more than i can say for american reality tv shows and reminds me of life in england when i had dinner parties for my international friends and had to balance halal, vegetarian, south african meat eaters, and 5 flatmates in a shared kitchen.

and on the topic of food, i made my very own meatballs last night!  all by myself!  for the first time!  and they are delicious.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

the tidal wave

by geez, where have i been?  oh yes, dealing with my life that seems to be overflowing with To Do items lately.  it is not terribly out of the ordinary for me to be busy, but lately i have felt (as my colleague so eloquently put it) that i've created a tidal wave of support and activity and instead of riding it, i am drowning in it.

i suppose it is this way with issue-based work where you need people to be aware of the issue and then you want government to do something about it and then you need to be mindful of whether or not those who are engaged in the response are doing so effectively and responsibly and then you need to deal with the people coming out of the woodwork who just learned about your issue and how it affects their community.

i was feeling rather ho-hum about the whole thing (the 'thing' being my professional life) and that i was zapped of all energy, but today i feel much better.  perhaps because i just said to my Day Job 'eff off for a day!' and concentrated on getting caught up on my other job, which is much more rewarding but certainly does not pay the bills.

now i am all set up to host two events in the coming months, deliver three training sessions to government and non-government agencies, have coffee with yahoos who want to start their own organisation, another coffee meeting with the executive director of a really cool agency that supports victims of sexual exploitation, manage 5 kick ass volunteers, write a law school reference letter, draft a research plan, and carry out the regular stuff associated with non-profit management.  eesh. but at least now i am sorted, have my files saved the way they should be (funny how this is sometimes so difficult to keep up ith), and feel as though i can ride the tidal wave rather than have it drown me.  what a difference a morning makes.

to get all of this done, i worked from home today.  it meant recognising that i was far too stretched and stressed with my Day Job and that it was taking away from where i would prefer to spend my energies (but that sadly, doesn't pay quite as well as the private sector).  i will pick it all up again tomorrow when i go into my office, but i am going to do my best to remain slightly removed from the bullshit that comes with leading a team to complete a rather undesirable task (hello, audit!).

and all of this is ok because in 2 short weeks i will be in cape town, south africa where my mama and i will be living in the lap of luxury (that is a saying, isn't it?) by staying here and here.  and then staying at a protea farm.  a protea farm, people!  a protea farm in the middle of the winelands.  where they grow grapes!  and make wine!

yippee.

Monday, September 06, 2010

san francisco is also beautiful

six months in sudan

for someone who is mildly obsessed with trying to figure out if international humanitarian assistance or foreign aid makes a positive impact on the lives of those in developing countries, i found almost refreshing to read a book that describes one individual's attempt to achieve what all humanitarians set out to do - improve the lives of others.

whether james maskalyk is successful in his humanitarian quest is secondary to his telling of his six months in sudan, which is also the name of the book, and i am glad that he did not spent his words or pages delving into the academic discussions of how aid should be delivered and what the challenges are for those working in a dynamic and ever shrinking humanitarian space in conflict zones.

instead, you get a honest, heartfelt, angry, and genuine telling of maskalyk's experience of volunteering with medicins sans frontieres in abyei, sudan where there was a simple hospital, small staff and countless challenges and barriers, but he and the msf team, like countless other similar teams active throughout the world, overcome what they can and accept what they cannot change.  but if only it were that simple - to understand the beauty of the struggle and the celebration of the successes, you will have to read the book.

i have never worked in a environment as resource constrained or isolated as abyei, but i do know what it is like to question what you are doing, if it is working the way it was intended, and the pain in the ass that is internal organisational politics and i am not sure how, but maskalyk articulated it all so well.  there were certainly parts that were difficult to read and i had to put the book down a few times (sometimes to take a few breaths because he doesn't hold back on the medical details...), but the story is one of a young canadian doctor who wishes to do what he can to improve the health of those he could in a village in the contested borderland area of sudan.

read it.  you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

look what i made!

along with my recent laptop purchase, i bought aperture, apple's photo editing software and it is so much fun!  i have been playing around with it and these are few of my favourites from my recent hiking trip.

29+6

i am affectionately referring to this past month as the beginning of the home stretch.  29 has not been my favourite year so far and although i have faith that it is going to clean up its act for these last months, i am still looking forward to saying adios to my 20s and with it, the deceptive 29.

1 - conquer my anxiety, or at least win a few battles against it.  this goal has become almost boring!  i haven't really figured how exactly how not to feel anxious and it normally pops up (as it always has) when i am in new social situations and have to make conversation, but all i can think of is 'say something, say something, try and relate, try and relate, say something, something, anything.'

there were certainly a few of those moments this past month.  one where i solved (?!) the problem by drinking wine and then some more wine.  i think i followed that up with a ceasar and then maybe, a beer.  as you can imagine, this was not exactly the solution i should have been looking for and i ended up that girl without her shoes on, barefoot on the side of a busy road while her date hails a cab.  pretty much, my finest moment of 29...

but i find that getting enough sleep and connecting with people who are also struggling with a sense of identity, purpose, and belonging helps a lot in the anxiety battle department.  and reminding myself that even if nothing seems to make sense right now, there is probably something a-brewing that will materialise shortly.

2 - be more thoughtful of others, especially around special occasions.  still ok.  still not fantastic.  but working on it.  in fact, i bought cards and gifts for upcoming events.  so there.  but still a distance to go to win this one.  sadly, i have been so self-absorbed in my funk i don't think i have given this goal enough of my energies.  lame.

3 - continue making visiting family and friends a priority.  my plane ticket to cape town is booked and paid for!  sadly, the visits i was looking forward to where friends from my past, international life were going to be stopping into the yyc were dashed and i am still longing for trips to cities in eastern canada and the us, but i must be realistic and acknowledge that they likely won't happen during 29.

but 30 looks like it might have a trip in store for me.  a 30th celebration trip, in fact.  a 30th celebration trip with my best friend.  but the details are yet to be worked out.  just a daydream at this time.

4 - nail down some sort of short-term career goals.  errr...  i could sum up a lot of my frustrations over the past few weeks and months by struggling to come to any sort of answer on this one.  so far i have got as far as 'i don't want to be doing what i am doing for too much longer.'  and i guess knowing that is better than not.  but still, is it so hard to know what you want to be when you grow up?!

although it has been a constant thought on my mind, in the past few days i have felt closer to knowing.  nothing yet to divulge to the universe (and it isn't even clear enough in my own head to attempt to put down in coherent sentences yet), but somehow, someway, i am finding clarity around what i want to be doing in a year's time.

these past two years working in the private sector have been wonderful experience and i now see a career path that i didn't even know existed previously.  i don't see exactly how it twists and turns or where it leads, but i was recently asked what advice i would give to someone who would like to be where i am now and my answer?  to allow the path to take you where it will and to always be flexible, accept challenges, and figure out the details later.

perhaps it is time to take my own advice (um, hello?!  are you so blind?!  this seems rather obvious!) so that is how i am approaching the second half of 29.  a little faith, more hard work, and confidence in the journey.

5 - lay a nest egg to accompany my nest.  eesh.  that is all i have.  not an i-can't-pay-my-mortgage eesh, but just an eesh.  maybe an i-could-really-use-a-budget eesh or even an can-i-pay-someone-to-get-handle-on-incoming-and-outgoing-cash eesh, but certainly no where near an i-am-irresponsible-with-money eesh.

6 - eat more balanced, regular meals.  this slow cooker is doing wonders for my nutrition!  i eat at home more often and have meals full of vegetables (and meat, because it turns out that a lot of slow cooker recipes call for meat...).

but i did have chocolate cake and coffee for dinner this evening...  and because i ate a lot of lacklustre, light weight, dehydrated meals on my hike on vancouver island, i have been 'rewarding' myself with my guilty pleasure of cheeseburgers more often than is healthy.

i feel as though with the changing of the seasons and the impending cool down of autumn, i will be in my kitchen and entertaining more often meaning i will be eating well and sharing food with family and friends.

7 - sleep an appropriate amount.  i have really been enjoying my sleeps lately, which is so important as there is nothing better than being out on a saturday night and just looking forward to coming home, crawling into bed, and doozing off knowing no alarm will be waking you.  and in the morning, when i am not exhausted and can get up and at 'em instead of needing a few extra minutes (about 10 times) because i don't wake up rested on a sunday morning because i have been overtired all week is a triumph.

clean sheets, a hot bath (with epson salts courtesy of my mama), and a good book has been just the ticket.  and much needed as i have overcome some rather trying days at my day job in the past few weeks.

8 - maintain my priorities.  really, this should just be all the previous goals wrapped into one.  if i could stay on top of all the last 7, then this one would come naturally.  unfortunately, that wasn't really the case this past month.  and part of it was because i was absolutely tuckered right out at the end of a work day that i didn't want to do anything afterwards and that included doing fun things or social things or educational things.  so i became sort of boring and lazy.  but i have had some lovely, low-key weekends (both at the cabin and in the city) and i managed to refocus and am rounding out the month on a high.

9 - keep asking for what i want.  come to think of it, i haven't asked for too much this month.  thrown a few more job applications into the mix and sent some good vibes to the universe, but haven't articulated exactly what i want.  but part of that is because i am not exactly sure that i know.  or i haven't had the confidence to state what i want.  but i am getting there and once i do, i might just come knocking on your door with a request.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

ted talk recommendations

i have spent my morning cleaning, doing laundry, ironing, and listening to ted talks, which is such a wonderful website about 'ideas worth sharing' and if you have not already taken a perusal through their wonderful videoed lectures (there is an iphone application too for when i am at work!), here are a few talks that struck a nerve or a chord with me this morning, take a look if you have some free time.

***

i have never been a fan of wwf, but its vp who deals with corporate social responsibility and sustainability makes a number of good connections and conclusions about third party verifications, the challenges of putting the decision on sustainable consumption on the consumer, and highlights some success stories of how changes have been made in industries without our even knowing.

i recently went to a lecture by alan knight of the virgin group (of richard branson fame) around third party verification in the forestry industry and what the oilsands of alberta can learn from that experience.  and this was a really nice compliment to that information and is something, to a very brief degree, contend with in my day job.

jason clay: how big brands can help save biodiversity

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steve jobs gave a commencement address at stanford in 2005 and i absolutely love his message and the story of how he got his start and then kept moving.  i did not realise that he was an adopted child and that he had been publicly fired from apple years ago.  moving and inspiring and a great reminder not to dwell on negative even if it is difficult to suspend judgement in the moment.  (and something i direly need to be reminded of in 2010.)

steve jobs: how to live before you die

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new york senator diane j savino makes the case for the legalisation of same sex marriage and while i don't necessarily agree with her perspective that even same sex couples should have the right to be as miserable as everyone else as i believe that it doesn't matter what the result of a marriage, all consenting adults should have access to the institution (although i do understand that this line of argumentation might be a line that resonates the best with those whose opinions in the senate she was attempting to influence), i completely agree with her take on the role of government in marriage in a democratic state.

diane j savino: the case for same sex marriage

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two people speak about choice and they both have really valuable insight into how western developed countries can be improved and deteriorated by the powers associated with choice.

malcolm gladwell speaks to an audience about how to ask the question of what people want in different ways to get more accurate information with the intent of keeping people happy by offering them more choice.

malcolm gladwell: spaghetti sauce

alternatively, and more to my line of thinking on this concept, is barry schwartz who wrote a book entitled the paradox of choice, which i have been meaning to read for years.  he speaks to the idea that the more choices we have, the less satisfied we are with the selection with ultimately make.  i know that this is true for me - when i go to a restaurant with a huge menu i get overwhelmed and am never happy with my final choice because what could it have been like if i picked something else.  for this reason alone, i like eating at fancier restaurants who dictate the menu and refuse to allow substitutions.

schwartz connects the reduction in satisfaction with higher levels of depression and anxiety and i certainly know this is the case for me.  i feel as though there is so much i could do, but where do i start and how to pick what to do?  he uses the example of young people getting married and the selection of a mate, which also resonated with me for the same reasons as the lengthy menus as how we cherish and respect freedom not for what it gives us or what it can allow us to do for ourselves, but simply because freedom in and of itself is valuable.  and i am not always so sure this is the case.  watch it and see what he says about shifting the blame in the medical community and why we might not always be the best person to make decisions for ourselves.

barry schwartz: the paradox of choice

Sunday, August 22, 2010

ready for fall

it seems i am in the habit of confessions lately.  and here is another one: i am done with summer.

and what is more, i am ready for the cooler days of autumn and the changing of the seasons.

i am sick of waiting for summer to arrive.  it is the third week of august and i had my furnace on this past week!  ridiculous, i tell you.

as much as i am sick of waiting on the weather, i am more excited for the slowing down of my social calendar that comes with september as schedules become more rigid and the pressures of being out and about on any given day decrease.

i have felt such pressure (and certainly, brought on entirely by myself) to MAKE THE MOST OF IT this summer.  although i am sometimes at a loss as to what IT is.  and as much as a walk in the park, a drink on a patio, or a hike in the mountains sound like a lovely way to pass an afternoon, doing it alone is not always as thrilling as doing it with someone.

and while i am being miserly, let me also add that all these festivals and events throughout the city during the summer months are never as good as you expect.  i found myself at the calgary folk fest for the first time this year and every year i always think, 'that always looks like so much fun, why don't i go?'  well, i did go and it was a lot of people in my space, a lot of chaos, and a pain to organise a group of people to meet up and stay in the same area.  all of these events seem to be the same - lots of people (including those dudes with their dogs that insist on taking their shirts off as soon as the thermostat reads 20 degrees), overpriced food, and crowds heaving in the heat/rain/miserable calgary summer weather.

on that note, i am ready for september.  ready for the trees' leaves to change colour and fall.  ready for sweaters, soup, and hot cups of tea.  ready for my schedule to calm down and ready to spend friday evenings at home without any guilt that i should be DOING SOMETHING with bonus points if it is a FUN THING.

i'm ready.