Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Now.. how do I make the RIGHT decision???


Making The Right Decisions

Having detailed a few tools on how to avoid making WRONG decisions or getting blind-sided in my article "A Little Help Deciding". Now, it is worth spending a little time a tool to assist in making the RIGHT decisions.

This tool is valuable in both a personal requirement for decision making, or as a manager/owner of a business creating direction for staff and equipping them to make decisions for the success of your organization.

Scenario One: Personal - each arrow detailed below will represent individual choices and decisions that you face every day in your personal life

Scenario Two: Business - each arrow detailed below represents a staff member and the roles they serve within your organization.

As you follow down through the framework below, you may choose to select either of the Scenarios (above) or both.

The most important step in insuring your decisions are the correct ones, is to talk time, to determine what your overall goal is for your success. This is a critical step and may take minutes to hours to decide. Your goal cannot be a vague  broad scoping one.. ie: want my business to be successful, or I want to be rich. I MUST be very specific and measurable. Rather than wanting your business to be a success, you may want to be much more specific as to what will make it a success. Sell more??  - nope still too vague. Maybe, I want my business to grow 15% and insuring that we have 85% repeat customers and grow my customer base by 15%.
With the personal Scenario, rather than a goal of being rich, you may be much more specific. I want to decrease my spending by 20%, and invest that savings in investments. In two years I want a positive net worth.
Regardless of what you decided your goal to success it - is it so critical that it is narrow in focus, exactly what you want, and achievable. And it need not involve money, ic can be how you want to be perceived  liked, raise your children, or different career choices.

Once you have defined your goal, imagine it in the illustration below at the point of an arrow..

Now this is where it gets interesting, you will be faced (or your staff will be tasked) with many decisions, most common, we assess the choice and make the decision on the circumstances that surround us at the moment. Staff will make decisions based on the small section of the business that they are familiar, often in the dark of other requirements of the company success.. Therefore if we fill in the arrow to your goal, it will probably look like this:

The secret is to attempt to align individual decisions, or staff members - all directed toward your goal. EVERY decision, from what you eat, to what house you buy. In business, every staff member MUST be clearly instructed to ask the following:

Does this [choice] bring me closer to [my goal]? 

If the answer is yes, then it should be seriously considered, if the answer is no, then no matter how tempting, then that is not a direction to follow.

If this exercise is achieved for every decision, or each staff member follows this framework, then coming closer to your objectives will look more like this:

So why does it matter if all of your arrows align towards your goal. Well it is obvious that with every choice moving you towards your objective, then it will be reached much less painfully and significantly faster, and in a business scenario - much cheaper. 

Now lets take a look at grade 6 vector mathematics, to illustrate the efficiency of aligning your decisions and staff.

If you apply 100% of your effort toward one goal, and 100% of your effort towards a different goal. Then your net progress towards success is wasted effort, and you achieve much less that an addition of your two efforts.Or in a business scenario  you have one staff member you are paying for a day of work travelling in one direction, and another in a slightly different direction, you are only getting 1.5 days work and paying for 2. 
In extreme cases, full effort may be made for 2 choices, but counter each other (in respect to your goal) and you have worked hard, to achieve virtually nothing. In business, you may be paying for 2 days work, yet virtually throwing the money away. A real life example of a business case, would be a company deciding on a goal described above - 85% customer retention, 15% addition of new customers and a 15% revenue growth. Accounting decides on a new process that will make their work much easier, and a company at first glance much more efficient. However, the new process is clumsy, complicated for the customer.. resulting in losing customers, and pushing away new clients. Obviously, the decision to implement a new accounting system was not run through the simple question.. "Will changing our accounting system get us closer to our goal of 85% customer retention, 15% new clients, and 15% revenue growth". Expensive step in the wrong direction. This is how it looks like in vector addition. 

Now that you have clearly defined your goal and you hold every decision up to it, facing 2 decisions, applying 100% of your effort to both.. you waste no time, you leap towards your goal. You are not distracted by "fun", or "tempting" decisions that steer you away from your goal. ALL decisions become very simple.. Do they get me closer to my goal.. yes or no.. That easy.
Business, you are paying 2 staff to work 8 hours. Working toward the same goal. you get 16 hours worth of work for your 16 hours of pay. 

For personal decision making - define your goal.. and think of these arrows.
For Business.. as an owner or manager, define your business goals, communicate it clearly and often to ALL staff. and measure, measure, measure the success.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Free puppies rarely end lives, a keyboard and mouse can

"...that doorway is not to the bedroom, but a doorway to the streets"

I am sure by now, most have seen Amanda Todd's video. I suppose that this terrible case is being grouped in with the Cyber Bullying outrage of late, but of course this stalking, threatening, and ultimately life ending situation extends way beyond what most of us consider bullying.

What it does bring to light, is the fact that our homes are no longer a place of safety, protection from the evils of those who wish to do us harm. We are all very well conditioned from the age of learning to understand spoken word, not to take candy from strangers, never get in a strangers vehicle (regardless of the reason), never let a stranger touch you. JUST SAY NO and run! It is like a mantra, that has been repeated thousands  of times to us as we find freedom of bike rides around the block alone, ventures to the playground a few blocks away, a walk to the store. The image is like a Norman Rockwell painting of a mother or father, bent over looking a child in the eye, with a pointed finger, reviewing the rules about strangers as the child is anxious to get out to find some freedom out of the safety of their home.

These doorway warnings were effective, as I recall personally, very clearly - swinging on a swing set . keeping an eye out for strangers, slow moving cars, men walking alone.. we were all well conditioned to these dangers.

As adults, I am sure our children are now equally tattooed with these warnings. It is easy to play the role that you parents played. Our children today are just as aware of the rules of staying safe around strangers in the park. But today - our children leave the dooryard with an iPhone in their pocket, and more often than not, visiting a friend to sit in front of a laptop computer screen. A true note of irony, is that often we supply our children with phones so we can be a call away from any danger they may face in the outside world.

What Norman Rockwell would never paint, is the image of a mother or father, bent over - eye to eye, instructing their children at the doorway of their children's bedrooms, of the dangers of strangers lurking behind a few clicks of a computer keyboard and internet access. Debatable I am sure, but personally, I feel children are in much more danger in front of a webcam, than climbing monkey bars in a park.

Any parent would panic to discover their son/daughter deep in conversation with a middle aged man alone on a playground or at a mall. I expect that this would be a rare occurrence anyway, as our children know full well not to let this happen.

So, why, why, why, are children/teens not tattooed with the dangers that lurk on their home computer? If you are reading this blog, you are obviously computer literate enough for me not to have to ramble on with the tools that predators.. and even worse, soon to be predators use to gain the trust and confidence of our children. Predators are not just the typical old creepy man with high-speed internet access into his darkened basement. Sure, there are predators that used to be the men that cruised playgrounds, and have just changed their tools of the trade to include the much easier internet to lure. But now there are peers, ex-girl/boy friends, young men and women are now able to freely communicate with our children for despicable motives.

I expect that as our children begin their experience with computers, we explain how there are bad people out there on the internet.. so be careful. But we would never limit a warming as dismissive as this if they were off to spend their first time at a park, or their first solo walk to the store.

The internet experience is so completely different (obviously).. a young girl would never be approached by an acquaintance on a walk to the store, be talked into exposing themselves, have a photo taken and that photo is held like blackmail against them with threat that the photo will be reprinted a thousand times and mailed to everyone they know. But on the internet this is a five minute chat, a click of a button.. and it is done. Is this form danger as clearly detailed to our children as the danger of a tinted window van with a driver offering free puppies???

It is a sad state, but until, the REAL and complete threats of the internet are repeated as many times, and monitored as much as strangers in the park.. we will have many more horror stories like Amanda Todd's repeated over and over again.

So, as your daughter, giggling along with her friends zip off to the bedroom to play on the computer.. maybe imagine that doorway is not to the bedroom, but a doorway to the outdoors, to the streets, where you cannot see their every activity and keep them safe. Do they have all of the tools to know what they should and should not do?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Little Help Deciding

“How do I avoid getting blind-sided??”

Twenty years in management roles has given me opportunity to live in an environment of endless decisions, daily issues to solve, mixed in with business altering change requirements. Within these two decades, I have managed commodity based sales and delivery; service based deliveries, as well as managing human resources and finance.

As a function of my roles, I have had opportunity to attend many training formal sessions. Most notably, courses on Conflict Management, Solution Selling, Relationship Building, Time Management, Project Management, Process improvement, and Positive Thinking. Additionally, a long list of business management sessions helped me shape my management style.

However, the session I found most rewarding and provided me tools to success, is the twenty year long training program... it is named. “Real life management experience”.

With all of these educational experiences, I enjoy the exercise of throwing all of the formal training and real life experience into a mixing bowl, and build a model that has a proven track record of success.

My attending formal training sessions, I meet with scepticism, and the real world generally proves that this scepticism is well deserved. I am not suggesting for a moment that formal management education is worthless. But without exception, concepts, rules, processes detailed in these sessions, appear to have been developed in a vacuum, well outside of the real business world.

So I am trashing all of my formal training?? not really, because each session, offers a gem or two buried in the content of idealistic theory. To gain real value (which I have) is to tailor concepts, new ideas, and process into actual day to day business decision making.

With this preamble, let’s get on to something of value to you. Decision Making.


The industry standard decision making tool is the SWOT process. Take a peek at the following link for more detailed explanation of the SWOT process. But in brief, it is a document (or framework) that you are required to detail the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. I have no doubt that this is an effective tool in making decisions, however it is a completely UNREALISTIC process in regards to your efforts to manage your time. Significant business altering decisions, or those made by committee (I always chuckle at the oxymoron of the thought of decision by committee).

So, as promised – lets garbage the utopian ideals of formal training, and let’s focus on real life. My primary and proven decision making manta as the first step is … “How do I avoid getting blind-sided .. in other words, how can I prevent a result of my decision to be one that was unexpected or unanticipated. If you take anything away from your reading this.. take away the phrase.. “How do I avoid getting blind-sided ” the rest is easy.

From the smallest of choices I make, to choices that involve tens of thousands of dollars, I approach it with the visual of a tree – your introduction to the problem is the trunk and as you proceed upward, you are faced with more and more branches ending up with large healthy leaves. See these leaves as the outcome of the choices. As you visualize your tree..

Step One – SLOW DOWN.. any decision worth making, is worth taking the time required to make the correct one.. This can mean a 5 minute pause, or a 2 day exercise. A decision made is haste is made at your own peril. And outcomes will always be unexpected.

Step 2 – No blind-sides (this means you need to travel up every branch, and branches of those. Each branch is a different form of decision. You will almost always have a limb in mind that is the correct one. Don’t stop there, travel out that limb, to every branch and examine what the outcome will be. Now step back and travel all of the other limbs.. Follow to the end – to see that a decision that you may not have instinctively thought correct, may in fact have the desired outcome.

Step 3 – Understand that as you approach your decision tree and see the desired result clearly without appropriate thought.. The leaves at a distance, may not belong to the branch that you has assumed of as you are looking at the whole tree.

Wow.. Maybe visualization is not for everyone. In simpler terms, test drive your decision thoroughly. Take time to VERY thoroughly determine, and clearly understand ALL the risks of what could happen along the way of the desired outcome. IE: how will my customers react to this, how will my competitors react?, how will my partners react?, how will my bank react? How will my suppliers react?.. all of these in long term, and short term. It is my experience that decisions are made (with blinders on) to solve a single challenge, without a clear understanding of what other factors it will affect. This is called being blind-sided.

I strongly recommend that you resist the urge to consider the above well thought out decision a completed task and move on. Now, again, taking the time.. Examine outcomes and risks associated with a decision that your instinct considers wrong. You will be surprised that very frequently – this exercise of going against your instincts will in fact be the correct choice. 


Many a talented facilitator will present that it is required that you take the emotion out of decision making. I agree. But that is a ridiculous statement. That is IMPOSSIBLE. We are humans, and we have emotions. Every decision we make WILL be affected by our emotions, regardless what perfect theory may wish. As a personal note, if for any reason we are not affected by emotions in a decision.. WE are not the one to be making those particular decisions. I have been one of those annoying participants in training seminars that vocally contradicts instructors.. I sit in wait for them to announce that emotions cannot be part of the decision making process, I openly protest this irrational statement. I find it insulting and it decreases the credibility of the facilitator.

In fact, emotions certainly get in the way of proper decision making – and most of the times lead us astray from the correct path, and we end up disappointed and our hands full of managing undesired outcomes.

How do we minimize our emotions leading us astray??.. It is the exercise that I have detailed above. After we followed our instincts, examined ALL of the potential risks and outcomes – now we MUST go back and examine the same factors for options that our instincts (emotions) tell us are wrong. By forcing ourselves to go against our instincts as an option to our final decision.. We are minimizing instinct inputs and are looking at all of the choices logically. If need be.. Face the variety of directions of a choice as a cold heartless computer analysing all of the data. This is not removing emotion from the process, it is making you aware that it is affecting it – and awareness of this is your best coping mechanism for the risk of being steered astray buy “gut” feelings.

Finally learn from your mistakes, take the time to understand what happened when you sit, aghast , and in disbelief asking yourself “How in hell did that happen??”. You may find that you did not completely explore the decision tree, and didn't see your present situation on your list of risks.

This approach does not in any way now mean that every decision you make will be the right one. But adhering to it, will guarantee if something goes awry, you will have already known it was a risk, and you accepted that risk as a part of your initial decision making process. 

Have fun!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pre-teens with guns

"I will try to do my best to flush the image of a pre-teen looking down a scope of a rifle."

On August 30th, the New Brunswick government announced that it has lowered the minimum age for hunting small game to twelve years old. Ironically, the same news day, the Canadian Pediatric Society is calling for a ban on children operating All-Terrain Vehicles. Oh the irony.

“On Thursday, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup said the lower age was supported by the majority of those who had provided input.”

We are now changing laws and government policies on “those who provided input”? For what it’s worth, I provided no input, nor was aware that there was input to be had.

The call for banning children’s ATV use, is from the Canadian Pediatric Society. I cannot help but have a bit more trust in the studies and results of a communities of Pediatric Physicians than “those who provided input” on the firearm age reduction.

I wonder, what (if asked) what the Pediatric Society would recommend on the allowing pre-teens to legally carry and shoot firearms. I am sure studies, but more so common sense, says that this is a bad idea.

In discussion with a friend on the irony of these two news stories on the same day, he succinctly summed it up (although harshly) at least kids on ATV can only kill or injure themselves.

I cannot clear my head (obviously) of the decision to drop the firearm age was based on “those who provided input”, but ridiculously was also based on the fact that other provinces have already done so. I have flashbacks to my mother pointing a chastising finger at me and asking “so if your friends jumped off a bridge, you would do so also?”…. My mother should have been a politician; maybe she would have been able to nix this new government policy that now has preteens and others in danger of gunshot wounds or worse, deaths.

“It also brings New Brunswick in line with most other provinces that already have a minimum hunting age of 12 or younger, he said.

Nova Scotia, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta allow youths over the age of 12 to hunt small game when accompanied by an adult.

In British Columbia, the legal age to hunt with an adult is 10-years-old, while in Newfoundland and Labrador, a person must be at least 16 to obtain a permit”

I resist the urge to rant on the fact that BC allows 10 year olds to wander the woods with lethal weapons. Maybe that will be for another blog, and thank god for the Newfies.. at least one province has a morsel of common sense.

Our twelve year old population cannot get into certain movies, cannot buy or rent violent video games, are a year away from driving a car (which graduated drivers license laws strictly prohibit their ability to drive after midnight until 18 years old), are not legally allowed to babysit. They cannot even get off at a different bus stop on their way home from school without a written permission from their parents.

BUT, what a relief that this list of limitations these children must endure, no longer includes the ability to walk through woods, and fire deadly weapons. I am glad those “who provided input” now allow them that freedom.

Yes, the new policy does require that they are accompanied by an adult.. I will resist further comment on that, but I find very little comfort on that limitation.

It is law to wear a bike helmet, ATV age limits are being re-evaluated.. I will focus on these efforts to keep our children safe. I will try to do my best to flush the image of a pre-teen looking down a scope of a rifle.. and I may stay out of the woods.

Sure a twelve year old can be armed now.. but thankfully we no longer have to worry about the true danger to our children.. lawn darts are banned from all ages! We have a wise government.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Miramichi River - NB'ers not welcome.

How lucky am I? To live so close to this opportunity... Unfortunately not so lucky at all.  

The Miramichi River in New Brunswick is advertized internationally as one of the best Atlantic Salmon fishing destinations in the world. Beautiful scenery and miles and miles of the ideal fishing venue, from shore or by canoe – one can have the opportunity to hook with your fly a battle that is second to none.

How lucky am I??? I live a short 45min drive from work (or home) to having waders on and enjoying this beautiful sport. Even better, was able to introduce and teach my son from the age of 10 (now 18) the finer points of fly-casting, and reading the river.

How lucky am I? To live so close to this opportunity... Unfortunately not so lucky at all.

I hope even non-fishing New Brunswickers share the anger that the fact that as a New Brunswicker, we are not welcome on the Miramichi River. Virtually every tourism advertisement for New Brunswick, offer us photos of men, women, and children fishing on the Miramichi. But those photographs are of Customers of Private Fishing Business, or the few fortunate owners of the water. The vast majority of our New Brunswick Gem, is tagged as private water. A father and son are unable to drop a line in almost the entire river. The riverbanks are cluttered with large signs stating “NO FISHING, PRIVATE WATER”. 

Tackle World-Famous Salmon Rivers and Great Coastal Waters
As any angler will tell you, the Atlantic salmon is the king of the game fish. People come to New Brunswick from around the world in search of this prize catch. 
- Tourism New Brunswick 

I admit, there are but very few “public pools”. These are typically small sections of the river between privately owned sections. These pools – are typically areas that fish are not present, shallow, rapids. For if these public pools were any good for fishing, they would have been bought up and closed to the public.

Several years ago, my son (around 11-12years old at the time) was fishing one of these public puddles. As far up and down the river we were the only signs on humanity. My son wanted to cross the river to fish from the other side. As the water was dangerously fast where we stood, we agreed that he would walk up river around 50 yards to cross where it was less dangerous. With his rod over his shoulder, he ventured up to cross. As he was about half way across, I heard shouting.. and profanity. It was directed at my son. I could not see the idiot screaming the expletives, as he was hollering out his camp window. It (obviously) upset my son, who was rattled by an adult yelling at him that he was wading in private water. With his head down, he yelled back that he was sorry, returned back to me. And that ended our day. I think it would be hard to put this experience in our beautiful province of New Brunswick Brochures. 


Although not being allowed to fish, I have had many opportunities to scan the Miramichi and see what is advertized as the best Atlantic Salmon fishery in the world. And I see private pool, after pool, with not a soul using them. Non residents camps overlooking the river, with no fishing signs posted prominently along the shore.. Empty of fisherman. I have seen abandoned camps with old weather no trespassing signs that pools go unused for years.

My son and I have given up Salmon fishing, simply because we have nowhere to fish. Not so lucky to be a moments drive from the Miramichi River.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

BEWARE...Windmills Can Kill You!


...Yes, wind power causes illness. 


Several years ago I was faced with my own mortality; of course I am happy that I came through my illness in reasonably good condition. Had I the misfortune of not surviving my procedure, I would not have been on earth to hear the most ridiculous news story ever. I would like to thank the Ontario Wind Resistance Group, for showing me that I had not seen everything yet.

I certainly cannot be classified as an environmentalist, but, I am a realist. And as a realist, I think it is indisputable that coal burning, oil burning, nuclear, power generation have risks, and a significant negative effect on the environment. And I can respect a community having reservations of being displaced as a result of a hydro-electric project. But for God’s sake… people demanding a stop to wind power generation.

What is concern of these misguided protesters? Apparently wind power causes illness. Yes, wind power causes illness. Ridiculous!

I expect hurdles to develop wind energy would be the financial viability, the fact that it costs more to generate a kilowatt of electricity versus a coal powered station or power companies with limited capital to construct wind farms. But I stand optimistic that this non-greenhouse gas, renewable, environmental zero impact source of electricity will overcome the hurdles and become a significant source to meet our energy needs.

I would never expect that one of the hurdles would be a group of placard carrying wing-nuts would demand (and may achieve) a moratorium on Wind Farm development, because they claim it causes illnesses. My questioning (Time to wade into Fracking) of the platform of Anti-Hydrofracking pales in comparison to this group of protesters.

A close second in regard to this disappointment in our Canadian citizens, is the disappointment in our Canadian Government – Heath Canada specifically. Health Canada has been sucked into allocating $1.8 million dollars to study if a windmill makes you sick. $1.8million might be nice to see to be allocated in supporting private sector invest in Wind Power.

So the way this whole situation is tracking.. we are beginning to find a good environmentally healthy source of electricity, a group of crazies come out of the woodwork claiming that wind power is bad for our health, a moratorium on future developments is very possible, Health Canada is going to spend a couple of million dollars, a report will be eventually (maybe) made public, the protesters will not accept the obvious outcome of the report, and future wind development will be faced with this resistance. 

Are the Dutch chronically ill?? Seems they have a bit of history with windmills.  

A potential death trap ! LOL

Monday, June 25, 2012

You Have Drama in Your Workplace??

“Nature abhors a vacuum.” - Aristotle.

“Nature abhors a vacuum.” - Aristotle. This idiom is used to express the idea that empty or unfilled spaces are unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics.

We have all had to endure at times (or possibly every day) in our workplace or social life, drama. Drama in our workplace has many faces, from general gossip, to personality conflicts – all of the way to near mutinies directed at management or owners. We have grown accustomed with playing a role in this drama or being a spectator. Of all issues within an organization, this can sap productivity more significantly and drastically that if the office was on fire. Bitterness towards co-workers, entire workforces being polarized into two opposing groups, Emails secretly forwarded and instant messaging buzzing with innuendo, accusations and insults.

It is a morale draining every day occurrence. But have you ever paused to step back and observe what is happening... Distancing the fact that Charlie down in shipping is an incompetent, or all of the girls in accounting are snobby bitches. Create arms length from the discussions that the owner has no idea what he/she is doing. Step back and see the amount of time, energy and ultimately profit (keeping in mind profit is what keeps you employed with your company).

Maybe, you will also notice, that drama, is most present when business slows down a little, or has become stagnate and routine.

Several years ago I attended a seminar for CEO’s. The presenter was a very insightful speaker discussing increasing productivity within your organization. One of the topics he discussed was drama in the workplace. To give him appropriate credit for these thoughts that I am sharing in this article. I of course Googled this topic to identify his name and books. Unfortunately I was unable to locate his name, and credentials – however, I discovered thousands of article that are counter to his business solution, and I firmly believe, counter to increasing productivity. All of these Google hits were fundamentally “How to eliminate drama in the workplace”.

This speaker (damn I wish I can give him credit, and the moment I find it I will edit and include him in this article), was extremely insightful in encouraging the opposite of eliminating drama.. his (and my) firm beliefs is a manager, owner or even employees should encourage drama in the workplace.

“Nature abhors a vacuum.” - Aristotle surmised.. and I will extend on that and insist that “human nature abhors a vacuum of drama.” We need it, it is hard wired into our being. The moment that more than two people occupy any space, drama becomes a part of life. It is impossible to exist without our mind being exercised beyond our work tasks. We are social creatures, and with being social, we will create drama.

So I point out above that drama can destroy productivity, and morale. So why create it, why encourage it. The key is WHAT TYPE of drama. The secret is to create, foster, seed drama that will pull employees together. Find common issue that all employees can focus on. One can be creative to determine what this topic may be.. but it can be announcement of a large contract that your organization is bidding on, or has won, announcements of a competitor financial distress, a social event planning, a contest. Anything that is suitable within your organization that involves every staff member that has them discussing amongst themselves. This creating of drama, can be sourced from any level of employee in an organization. Of course, must be driven from the top down, so needs the nod from management. It is the managements role to “keep the fire burning” on this productive drama.

Again, to steal a theory from physics: "No two objects can occupy the same place at one time"

This seeded, productive drama, will replace the destructive, rift building drama, which will exist if your organization is left unattended.

Give it a try.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cross Border Shoppers

" I wonder if these folks ever have even the slightest of pangs of guilt .."

It seems harmless and even fiscally prudent, to visit our local shops to find just the perfect “widget”, pick it up, feel it, maybe even try it on. Politely place it back on the shelf, thank the clerk for their assistance, and then head home to fire up a web browser and glee in the fact that you can find it 10%, 20% even 50% less by purchasing on-line. A job well done!.

I have many acquaintances, that revel in the joys of hopping in the car, some almost weekly, and cross the border to the United States.. Again, to save so much money for everything they purchase. From clothing to groceries, these folks are more than eager to present to those that will listen on the great savings that they reaped from their frequent visits. Again, how exciting that they could avoid paying the local rates, sales taxes for their purchases, and save so much money.

We are all lucky here in Canada, to enjoy many public safety nets. And I am confident that even these prudent on-line and cross border shopping fanatics are more than willing to enjoy the security of these social safety nets. In the unfortunate case of medical needs, our discount hunters, demand and expect the same attention as the rest of us crazy people who shop at our local retailers, and pay that crazy sales tax. Their children are expected to enjoy public schooling, protection of police, safety of transportation etc, even as their parents are shopping for back to school clothes, shoes, milk and turkeys in the savings Mecca of the United States.

But of course it is hard to support small privately owned retailers, because they continue to go out of business. I mean, how frustrating is it, when shopping for a pair of Skates, the store that you always go into to find the exact size and make, so you were sure when you order it on-line, you will get the right fit, how frustrating is it when they have gone out of business?? It is terrible when after getting a great deal on a musical instrument in Maine, USA, and you need adjustments made on it.. and the local store is no longer there.. Again.. Gone out of business.

God forbid, as you pack all of your LL Bean camping equipment, in the SUV that you bought at a Florida auction.. You discover that you need to replace a broken paddle for your Kayak that you bought on e-bay from a dealer in California. BUT you don’t have time to drive to the United States to get a new one. When you visit your local sports store, they no longer sell paddles because they cannot compete in that market any further. DAMN RETAILERS!!

BMO, very recently released a report on Cross Border Shopping. $21,000,000,000 was spent last year in cross border shopping. $21 BILLION!!! That is $21 Billion that is gone from our economy completely, no trickledown economics within our country, no taxes, no paying a retailer, that pays there employees, that buy products, that support retailers, that support manufactures... each and every step, taxes are paid to support our safety nets, our hospitals, our schools, our infrastructure.

An appeal from a locally owned
retail  shop  to support
 local business

So I wonder, for those that stand proudly in front of friends displaying all of their purchases.. chanting the mantra that we have all heard far too many times “I got this in the states and I only paid..$xx”. I wonder if these folks ever have even the slightest of pangs of guilt as they pass family owned businesses that have closed their doors, or as they wait in an emergency waiting room needing medical assistance. Maybe even the slighted pang of guilt.. I don’t know. 

What they can celebrate, that indeed in our fine country of Canada, you can have your cake and eat it too.. Even with a cake purchased in the US.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chronic Pain.... a close friend


... It is just “the new normal"...


For my readers who know me personally, or for those who follow my articles, it is no secret that I am less than sympathetic to those among us who whine and complain endlessly. I struggle for patience with those that blame the world for their woes. And my thoughts below remain consistent with that insistence of taking responsibility for one’s self, and contribution to society.

It was only years ago that I was guilty of shying away from those who suffered from chronic pain, granted, there have not been many that I crossed paths with. It is even possible that I have spent time socializing with sufferers, but was oblivious to their situation. (I expect that this was more often than I expect).

Now I am one of those “sufferers”, and upon self reflection, I probably still shy away from those who are openly cursed. I expect my reasons for avoiding these folks, or experiencing awkward discomfort in exchanging social niceties has changed from before and after my surgeries.. But that is for a different blog post.

I am not a true fan of the term “Chronic Pain”, but I suppose, it does a reasonable job - Chronic (continued, long term) and Pain, pretty self explanatory, if you are unsure, firmly strike your thumb with a hammer. So that is pretty well it.. long term, unrelenting pain.

But with several years under my belt of living with this affliction, the definition seems to fall a bit short. We have all experienced pain in our lives, and the one resounding reprieve of this experience is the relief that in varying amounts of time, this unpleasant sensation will disappear and be forgotten. Regardless of the intensity of the pain, it leaves and almost without exception is difficult to recall even days later. But what if there is no reprieve? What if there is no solace in knowing that that throbbing of your thumb after a hammer strike will be a permanent state? It becomes a very different experience.

Interesting enough, the experience of the pain changes with it’s ever presence... I had a doctor sum it up very profoundly and it rings in my ears often.. Living with this unending discomfort is “the new normal”.

It (pain) takes on a personality, and becomes a lifelong companion. Unlike family, friends, co-workers, it becomes an entity that shares every second of your life with you. Every waking moment, even during the deepest moments of concentration, it shares these moments with you, and even the most private moment just before you drift off to sleep, anticipating the enjoyment of resting your thoughts in a deep sleep. Without choice, this private time is now shared with a new friend. It wakes you, in the night, almost like a newborn infant needing midnight attention. Waking to the thoughts of a new day, is replaced, with being woken by your unwanted sidekick, and the days planning is now a combined effort, what you want to do, and what your annoying friend will let you do.

Before I understood what effect Chronic Pain had on a person, I assumed, heavy doses of pain medications could eliminate the symptoms. My unfortunate ignorance of modern medicine I confess. On a personal note, regardless of the dosage or type of pill, it only quiets the new life friend, but never gives you alone time from him/her (interesting, as I have given my chronic pain a personality, I have never until this moment considered it having a gender, but I digress).

I do not know this for a fact, but I believe that there are a good number of co-sufferers, that like myself, don’t want to be that “guy” to avoid in social situations, the “guy” that describes his condition to anyone that will listen (willingly or not). Nor do I want to waste family and friends time buy describing how I am actually feeling. None of these important people in my life can make my permanent co-habitant go away. The claustrophobic sensation of living with something that can never be escaped from is a deeply personal and unchangeable situation.

Ironically, I rarely waste effort hating my friend, wishing it away, hoping for it disappearance. Maybe at first, but now, I am accustomed to having my company with me all the time. It is interesting to consider, if one morning I woke, and my friend was gone, no pain, no distraction. I wonder, aside from the initial elation, what I would feel. Something that has positioned itself as the #1 consideration before I do anything - would I miss it? Interesting to consider.

I hope, by detailing this, and openly describing the interesting facts of Chronic Pain does not come across as hypocritical, as I am also committed to not burdening others with my issues. I detail this for the sole purpose for the interest for those in understanding what, with the cut of a surgeon’s scalpel, an intrusion of cancer, or a variety of reasons, within an instant we are greeted by a new “friend” who will share the rest of our lives with. A friend that is temperamental and moody, that can one day make walking difficult, to other days keeping you on the sidelines for activities, to nights that it refused to sleep.

It is just “the new normal”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Public Service Job Cuts Don't need to hurt.. but they do!

"Making cuts to service is the simplest, quickest methods to reduce spending, while protecting the inefficient monolithic internal infrastructure..." 

Federal and Provincial Budgets have taken their toll, and are resulting in a large number of job cuts. For each individual affected, I am sure that this is a terrible life changing situation. But I need to step back from the personal effects of this, to consider the approach the government takes.

But first, let’s look at how the private sector deals with difficult financial times. Much like the government, layoffs are inevitable, cutbacks on spending and a halt to business projects that are not mission critical. But there is a fundamental difference between Private Sector and Government: Customer service.

It would be business suicide to reduce the level of service that they provide to their clients, in fact, when businesses are suffering, there is an increased commitment to not only maintain but improve the treatment of their customers. To save a struggling business, they must grow their client base, to offset reduced profitability, and at the very least maintain the customer base by offering premium service.

Now, back to the government, when job losses are pending, the very first message delivered, if for us (the customer) to expect reductions in service. Longer waits for services, complete elimination of services, as well, increased (taxes) cost to we the customers.

It is acceptable to us as citizens to endure these service reductions, as it is explained to us via the media, that in order to “balance the books” we all have to feel the pain. We are programmed to take the medicine. Certainly the Government opposition makes waves of these cuts, but they argue that the funding to programs should not fall victim.. But I have yet to see the opposition take a stand, accepting that there are only so many dollars to go around, but to protest the fact that regardless of the financial reality of required cuts, the onus on the government is to find ways to increase service to their clients (voters) with less money.

So how is it possible for the government not to reduce services and still cut spending? It is simply an engrained perception that has been built on for years. Less money, less service. I refer you to several paragraphs above; pointing out that private sector does this daily. An enterprise with eroding margins, finds efficiencies, improved processes, restructuring, but NEVER, NEVER, cut the quality of service to their clients. Any company that has tried this, is no longer in business, or is being devoured by their competition.

So my question, is why do we so willingly accept our government offering us less, and less, as the use the excuse that budgets are cut, when we deal on a daily basis with Corporation facing the same pressure fighting to keep us happy and continuing to improve our experience dealing with them.

So, it is NOT impossible to balance the government books, and not have to wait longer, suffer program cuts, and accept a decrease in service. Making cuts to service is the simplest, quickest methods to reduce spending, while protecting the inefficient monolithic internal infrastructure. And besides we as citizens accept it quite willingly. Oddly enough, if our home internet provider, doubled their rates, slowed access speeds down, and only allowed internet access a few hours each day, and offered no support, we would not blink an eye in complaining, and quickly switching carriers.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Goodbye my little brown friend, and thanks!

"...even at my age today, the smell of a collection of these coins, flashes me back to games of Rummoli" 

It has come to be, the retirement of the Canadian One Cent Piece. Our Penny - off to retire after years of service. I won’t editorialize on the inevitability or business cause and effect of this departure from circulation, other than to say, I am sure that the penny has run its course, and no doubt a prudent decision to move on to nickels as our lowest currency denomination.

But, our penny’s impending demise, does cause me to reflect, joyfully, on the part that this little brown disk has played in our lives.

It existed as a small part of our social fabric as children, not solely on the value of $0.01, but it was more than that, pennies provided us much more value than the minimal currency it represented. As a child, pennies were our first true experience with money. Parents freely offered us these coins which we gathered in bunches. I expect that there is not an adult out there who did not have a piggy bank, a jam jar, a bottle that was not filled to overflowing with pennies. Occasionally these pennies would be dumped on a floor and counted, small piles of ten, or twenty five to simplify counting without losing track. Bunched later into hundreds to tally how many dollars the stash totaled. For me anyway, I can thank pennies for the ability to roll coins. A neatly stacked pile of fifty pennies that were destined to be rolled, at first with great difficulty, but after time, an easy task. Maybe there are many like me that recall that very distinctive metallic smell left on our hands after hours of calculating, sorting and rolling our gold mine of cash.

Well before the internet, we sat analysing every penny, looking at the dates, finding an unusually well preserved 1952 penny allowed us to imagine anything that old must be worth a fortune to a collector, and personally I sat those aside in hopes that I would be rich some day. But thankfully without the internet existing, we remained blissfully unaware that a 1952 penny that has been well circulated is worth exactly one cent.  

Family night Rummoli night was a special occasion, it was time to bring out your pickle jar full of pennies and put them to good use. I found juvenile pride of being asked by my parents to get something that was mine in order to have games night. Always an odd sense of importance emptying hundreds of copper colored disks onto the playing surface of the game board (more of a plastic printed sheet). The pre-rolled pennies were never permitted to be opened, only the loose ones. Funny actually, as a child, a rolled stack of 50cents, was a permanent state, our own version of retiring this currency of further circulation. Again, even at my age today, the smell of a collection of these coins, flashes me back to games of Rummoli.

Pennies also introduced a whole generation of children into gambling. Sometimes just used as chips, that were shared, and then returned to the rightful owner, but occasionally, playing for keeps. It was an utterly disturbing reality of seeing your jar slightly less populated after losing what at the time felt like millions of dollars in an evening of poker playing. As an aside, maybe it was only my group of childhood friends who never really knew if a straight beat three of a kind, or a flush beats a full house. Often we would simply agree what beat what – regardless of what the real rules were.

For the near future, our children may not have this joy of jar of currency, displayed prominently in their bedroom, to admire daily as go about their business. A Jar of nickels has true financial value, and young children may not as freely be given a handful of nickels as their parents clean out their change purse, or empty their dress pants pockets in the evening. 

Maybe it was the fact that pennies have been for so long virtually valueless that enabled young children to find value in the in so many other ways.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Stage, Under the Lights

"...As we played, it was almost natural to carry on conversations, exchange laughs, as the music magically happened seemingly on its own." 

 It took me several swings at learning how to play guitar, once at a young age, and that was a less than successful attempt, and again as a teenager.. Closer to success.. still a minimal success rate. In my early twenties I began torturing my friends and family by a concerted effort and hours of noise making practice.

I joined the throngs of basement musicians, trudging through learning songs my rewind, play, rewind on a cassette player. I had no visions of ever playing in front to the cat, let alone any form of audience. However, as my comfort and repertoire grew, I had occasion to nervously play in camp fire settings, and small house parties.

After a good number of basement years, and small groups of victims that were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were subjected to my clumsy guitar efforts, something changed.

I was asked to play and sing for a larger group of people, even strangers, probably 40-50 people that were expecting entertainment. I was very comfortable with my set list, but was knee shaking nervous, as I finished tuning, and looked up at a seeming sea of eyeballs all focused at me. Working though my first song was horrific, focused on my fingers on the neck of my guitar, hearing my own voice as I sang. I was terrified as I wrapped up my first song. This is when something changed completely and permanently. They cheered, and applauded, and started calling out requests.

I know now that the group were probably more motivated by the steady stream of shooters that had been passed around for the previous hours, and they may have reacted the same to a recording of William Shatner singing on a portable 8 track player with a 2 inch speaker. But I didn’t care, my biggest fear was silence. The group was enthusiastic and wanted more – the motivators (tequila and zambuka shots) were unimportant to me.

As I played, I forgot completely about what my fingers were doing, no longer was focused on the sound of my voice. I got lost (in a good way) in performing. It was an unconscious transition, but an amazing one. The music was just happening, much more rhythmic, much more energized, and much more accurate. The music just flowed from my guitar, and rather than an outsider looking in, I became part of the party. With the music almost just happening on its own, I became part of the crowd, observing them, observing me.

Over the years, I had the good fortune to fall into an incredible group of musicians, a drummer, a bass player, and lead guitar player. The three of them were much more skilled than I with their respective instruments, but my clumsy timing and disregard to the laws of music, faded with their influence and knowledge of music.

The phenomenon of music freely flowing unconsciously remained, and was even exemplified with the additional sounds from my band mates. As we played, it was almost natural to carry on conversations, exchange laughs, as the music magically happened seemingly on its own.

As we performed in various bars, and private events, I would stand behind the microphone truly enjoying the sounds of the music, but I expect a surprise to the patrons of these events. I was more enthralled with watching the goings on within the crowd, than any effort to play the music. I could scan the room to see who is tapping their toes, mouthing the words, who we were connecting with, and who we had lost. It was an enjoyable challenge to find those that we had not gained a connection with, and adjust the set list, tempo, and volume to pull them into the music with us. I watched couples arguinmg, I watched men and women get picked up, I watched disputes, laughter and tears. I could see well in advance disputes over girlfriends devolve into physical altercations.

For the many years that I have played with the band and the years after when I played solo on stage, my biggest reward will never be where my fingers of my left land on my fret board, or the strumming rhythm or my right hand. My reward is the opportunity to be a participant in so many events, and the adrenalin invoking sensation of music without any thought or effort can flow from me.

I suggest that the next occasion(s) you have to enjoy live music, look at the performers.. there will be those focused on their instruments, or those lucky enough to be free of the effort and joining you in enjoying the music.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Digital-Evolution.. we may not grow webbed feet, but we are changing.

".. as I personally have coined this new phrase, in an effort to give something so significant, a name; "

Almost an impossible task I suspect, to provide in a few paragraphs the complexities of a presently occurring phenomenon that has been virtually overlooked, yet at the most basic levels is altering our species irreversibly. 

You may note that I have not hyper linked term “Digital-Evolution” to Wikipedia, or any other web address to assist in understanding or even providing a definition... as I personally have coined this new phrase, in an effort to give something so significant, a name; 

dig·i·tal ev·o·lu·tion
1. Relating to the foundational changes to the human species, resulting from technological social collaboration.
2. Slow gradual genetic change during successive generations, as a result of natural selection from the effects global electronic communication, resulting in the development of new altered species. 

Admittedly a very dramatic statement that without awareness, there is for the first time in our history, a non-natural even that is changing who we are who we are as a species. Through the development of man, we have created and utilized TOOLS that have changed our lives (wheels,electricity, transportation, printing press etc.) – all tools that have made our lives easier, more enjoyable, more productive. I concur that it is debatable if medical advances, education, increased longevity, have altered our evolution – and if indeed these do affect how we change as a species, I think we can agree that these are naturally occurring evolutionary steps. 

What is this non-natural event? It seems to minimize this effect by simplifying it down to one word, but in essence, the Internet is changing man. A large portion of how we use the internet, is much like all of Mans other inventions, a tool. Increasing work productivity, and making life easier and more enjoyable.

However, our immediate access to information, from our laptop computers, to handheld digital devices change who we are, not just how we do things. The populous is overwhelmed with methods to collaborate and communicate whenever and wherever we are. We are now well beyond tools to communicate with one another, we have tools that permit sharing of every aspect of our lives. It is unnecessary to list examples of these new innovations, it is only necessary to observe the younger generation, heads down as they punch away at keypads as they go about their everyday activities.

Digging to the appropriate levels to explain this concept, would easily result in a several hundred page thesis, full of analysis, statistics, and testing. Not something at this point I have the resourses to complete, so instead, I offer the opportunity for you to consider a few questions/observations (below) to draw some of your own beliefs. I ask, in this exercise, to look beyond the individual statements, and look beyond the simple accepted facts, and explore the much larger cause and effect;

1. Does the fact that at minimum and growing that 30% of couples meet on line have any effect on our evolution? Consider nature’s way of improving the species buy instinctively matching men and women to produce viable, improved offspring.

2. Can the anonymity of social interaction, potentially cause a devolution on our morals, stepping us back centuries, back to the basic instincts of man. Consider marital breakups resulting from Internet Social Activities, Illegal activities, deviant pornography, cyber bullying.

3. Is the omnipresence of being connected change what is considered the strongest, in the theory of survival of the strongest? Does it change the definition of what is the strongest? How, again, does this affect procreation.

4. Does the effective erasing of borders, geography, and providing worldwide awareness between cultures change the regionalization of religion, culture, and economics have an impact of how we evolve?

5. The younger generation has, within a span of a decade, completely altered how they communicate with each other. Having a whole entire generation fundamentally change their behaviour within a ten year span, have any species changing effect?

Only five questions to consider, I surmise there are hundreds that can be included on this list, and I welcome you to add if you wish.

Virtually every news story of the day, has a component of the new digital world to it, everything from natural disasters (tracking survivors, forecasting the event etc), to labour disputes (economic change due to the new methods we do business), to entertainment, to politics, to healthcare, to.. on and on. We need only hear the news, and consider the root cause and effect. The world has changed. We are changing as a result.

To understand the species changing, Digital-Evolution, we must step back from each individual event that we experience or are informed of daily, and we can see, that at the macro scale.. I propose, is changing or even reverting us back to a changed species. It is something that no tool that man has ever developed has done. Is this for the good or for the bad? I say neither; it is just the way it is.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Lure of Political Promises

"This is just a single example of a political proposal that finds company with hundreds of others that are bait for those tasked with placing an “X” on a ballot."

As from my Blog description, I trust it is clear that I am not a unconditional follower of any political party, rather I enjoy the whole display of political entertainment that can range from comedy, horror, suspense, thriller, fiction, non-fiction or more frequently head in hands disbelief.

Equally as indifferent, do I have passionate about particular party platforms, or who is standing on the platform at the present time. What I am fascinated with is the political process, and the mechanics that go into a party’s election or maintaining their power.

A recent article on a local politicians attempt to “fine” the government in power for breaking campaign promises is a shining example of how political parties prey on the naivety of the voting populous. By no means is this an insult to voters that are excited about the concept of forcing the elected government to stand by election promises, as at a glance, this seems like an excellent idea.

This is what our local politician, Kelly Lamrock is proposing:

"The Fredericton lawyer said political parties should be forced to register their promises during an election. And when that party forms power, an independent office would hold them to account to make sure they follow through on their campaign commitments.

“If an independent office finds for instance they have not delivered, that they have lied their way into office, they should see a reduction in the funding they get from the Political Process Financing Act,” he said".

This is just a single example of a political proposal that finds company with hundreds of others that are bait for those tasked with placing an “X” on a ballot.

Upon a bit more examination of this example, and taking a few additional steps in understanding the ramifications of this particular suggestion. This simple and attractive sounding idea could derail the democratic system. Running something that is as complex, fluid and ever changing as a provincial government requires adapting to current economic, social and political situations. A party being handcuffed (by potential financial penalties) on promises made at election time, but facing significantly changed landscape of the current time, would be at best dangerous, and at worst, financially devastating to the province. Taxation promises made in a time of a booming healthy economy, may not be fiscally responsible to maintain in the case of a sudden significant downturn in the economy. Promises for employment, healthcare, education etc, may not be responsibly met in the case of a unforeseen trade embargo on our natural resources export (for example).

Having a government that has been elected under the conditions of meeting promises or risk penalties would result in a government that is managing the province, not with the best interest in the population in mind, but their own political party’s financial health. A scary thought to imagine, that regardless of the state that the province dwindles to.. The governing party hold steadfast to outdated, inappropriate mandates, for fear of financial punishment.

This example would result in what would look like a ruling minority government, one unable to make the difficult and occasionally painful decisions in order to maintain a strong province. In a minority government, they are handcuffed on difficult and distasteful, but necessary policies in fear of losing their ruling position, and in a financial penalty model, they would be equally as powerless in fear of fines.

To step back to 30,000 feet, it is an interesting exercise to hold ALL political promises up to the light as this one, and to take a moment to look past the attraction to the simple policies, and see what the long term effect on our province might be.

I often get chastised in comparing public sector to private sector, but at the risk of more ranting email in this regard, I am confident that the CEO’s of large organizations, in order to remain in business, and profitable, look daily at adjusting their organization to current environment. Taking away their ability to change business plans, adjust their workforce, manage costs would result in a slow painful death for their organization. Suggesting they get fined personally for changing company direction is laughable. So how could we expect our government to be any different.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I am sick, and I am tired of waiting..

"...we should not have to accept this ten hour wait as unavoidable, and be content to watch our tax dollars bleeding to death on the Emergency Department waiting room floor."

Over the last two years, I have been required to undergo two separate rather significant surgeries. Throughout these experiences, I have had the opportunity to be under the care of dozens, if not hundreds of health care professionals, from doctors, nurses, orderlies, even a cleaner that took time to sit beside me and share stories from my home province of Newfoundland. Without exception these people were incredible, caring and clearly cared about my condition. All comments below must consumed with an absolute understanding that I have all of the respect in the world for each and every one of them, and all of the individuals that have chosen to make healthcare a part of there life, without exaggeration, I owe my life to a good number of them.

Yesterday, as a result of complications of one of my surgeries, I had no choice but to visit a local emergency room. Thus it began.

Within the waiting area, it did not take long for the message from the Emergency Room staff to circulate around the waiting room that the wait will be in excess of 10 hours. Before you succumb to the temptation to comment on this with the inner workings and challenges of dealing with ER patients, including triage, ambulance arrivals, low staffing, over usage etc, etc, I am very familiar with the mechanics of attending to patients in this environment. Having a mother who was head nurse at an ER provided me with lifelong insight to the challenges behind the swinging doors of this part of our health care system.

With respect to all of the challenges that meet the ER process, a waiting time of 10 hours is ridiculously unacceptable, and should be an embarrassment to anyone involved that considers this as “just the way it is”.

I am unsure as to why we (the customers of this service) typically consider this acceptable level of service? Maybe it is the mystery of the health care system, the intimidation of what goes on behind those ER swinging doors. Maybe mere citizens are willing victims of this completely unacceptable level of service, because our life (on occasion) depends on the service and we are willing to take whatever we are given.

Interesting that if we were are forced to endure these ridiculous wait times dealing with government services that we found less intimidating (such as transportation, education, public safety) the streets would be filled with protesters, and the newspapers will be filled with letters to the editor. Consider (locally) the amount of protesting and rights groups up in arms about a rather inert subject as Hydro Fracking, yet, the timely emergency health care of our citizen can be virtually ignored.

I trust that I was unequivocally clear that I do not in any way hold the health care workers responsible for this almost laughable poor service to the public, but without question I think the accepted “process” or “system” bears 100% of the responsibility. Obviously something within the structure of these public services is fundamentally broken. Almost without exception, when the topic of this service is aired, it is met with outcry from those that are responsible, or accountable is that there is not enough money, or we do not have enough staffing... I cannot disagree more.

Feeding more money, more resources into a system that is broken, will not resolve any issues (other than waste). Building new walls and waiting areas will not fix the problem. Changing the lighting and painting lines on the floor will not help.

Also, the finger is frequently pointed at us, the receivers of the service.. “Pay for use” models have been implemented and failed in the past, in order to discourage using this service, and the echo of “people are misusing the emergency services”. This is incredibly is pointing the finger at the customers for poor service.

I can only imagine how the board of directors of a publicly traded company would be laughed out of their jobs; if they decided that as a result of over demand of their product or service that they are going to take steps to discourage the purchase of their product.

Maybe in the public service, overcoming demand with a broken system is impossible? Not a chance. Many years ago, in New Brunswick, all vehicle registrations came due on the same date. Line-ups on the last day were out the building and long into the parking lot, hours of waiting resulted. UNTIL, someone within the public service, came to the realization that this is not appropriate treatment to their clients (taxpayers), they showed the courage to start with a blank slate and consider all aspects of their process. Changes were made, and now, the process of renewing your vehicle registration takes less time than depositing money in your bank account. It can be done.

We need to find someone with similar courage to be willing to look, from the grass roots, the method that emergency services are delivered to the public. Working with existing budgets, existing staffing levels, a basic wash of the accepted ways of doing things, and rebuild it with the patients in mind. Impossible??? Not a chance. Private sector businesses do this daily, motivated by profit; continuous quality improvement programs are in place, private businesses deal with actually cutting budgets and still improving customer experiences.

If any private business was met with the challenge of too many customers and declining customer service, without a moment’s thought EVERY option,. EVERY change, EVERY rebuild would be considered to increase satisfaction, and maintain all of their clients and try to earn even more loyal customers. In these boardrooms, the demand to spend more money to offer continued mediocre service and maintain a process that does not work, would result in those who suggest it, packing their personal belongings and seeking new employment.

I insist that we should not have to accept this ten hour wait as unavoidable, and be content to watch our tax dollars bleeding to death on the Emergency Department waiting room floor.

On a personal note, I was unable to tolerate the physical discomfort of sitting waiting for ten hours, I returned home, and my condition remains undiagnosed.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bullying - Part II

We need to clearly separate our efforts on eliminating traditional bullying and cyber bullying. The two solutions are worlds apart, as are the mechanisms of the bullying.

My start to blogging was a reaction to a CBC interview with Teenagers working to eliminate bullying in schools. I might suggest before continuing to read this article, that you read my initial post.

Once again, my morning drive, I enjoyed yet another CBC interview, this time with adults on the topic of bullying. To echo my thoughts in my first post, I do not feel that Adult intervention and Adult solutions are the magic bullet in elimiminating inter and extracurricular bullying.

Be it politics, economics or social systems, I continue to be in awe that we refuse to accept the new world that includes the internet. We ignore how our old methods of thinking must be adjusted to account for the immediate access to information and at the speed of light share thoughts, information and views with anyone on our earth.

Like all of the above, the issue of Bullying has been compounded with the advent of social media. Bullying within our academic system becomes exponentially more difficult to police, now that the fences of the schoolyard no longer provide a reprieve for the victims.

Personal attacks permeate through Facebook, Twitter, Texting etc 7/24. I suggest that cyber bulling can even be more vicious, as the bully need never stand face to face, or fear physical ramifications as they hide behind the distance that the internet provides.

As fundamentally different are the mechanics between schoolyard and cyber bullying, as do I think are the solutions. We will be unsuccessful in working in traditional ways to solve a technology based problem. Primarily, the responsibility (arguably) of dealing with School bullying, falls on the shoulders of the academic administrators, doling out punishment and protection as required. But who “owns” the issue of cyber bullying?

To deal with a problem that technology has created, technology must also be the solution. On a lesser scale, parents must become much more educated and aware of the mechanics of technology that allows this bullying to take place. Primarily the responsibility falls on those social network applications that make millions of dollars off of their customers.. Included in those customers are bullies and victims. I (of all people) want to make clear that it is not the responsibility of these social networking sites to monitor the content of its users. It is their responsibility to provide simple technical methods to prohibit unwanted comments, threats and the plethora of personal attacks on a victim. Most social networking applications do offer rudimentary blocking settings. But these need to be enhanced, and offer more options to the user and the user’s parents.

As with all new technical innovations, we don t know what we don’t know.. it is impossible for me to suggest a technical solution to combat bullying, but as Facebook, Twitter continue to develop new ways to share photos, offering GPS services, improving chat etc.. It should also be their responsibility to improve the ability to combat cyber bulling. These service providers should NEVER be held accountable for the user’s activity, but SHOULD be held accountable to offer tools to control who and what is being said about you personally.

We need to clearly separate our efforts on eliminating traditional bullying and cyber bullying. The two solutions are worlds apart, as are the mechanisms of the bullying. Diluting our efforts across both worlds will only minimize our efforts of eliminating the problem.

Oct 16th, 2012 - Postscript.. it seems that the internet community has risen (for right or wrong) in the case of Amanda Todd's Suicide.. A hacker group has done the work that I suggest the Social Media Companies should be doing.. Full article here.