Search This Blog

CCE in brief

My photo
Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 1 March 2014

@JimmyKimmelLive: #TorontoIs Trending Upwards

Of course, Mayor Ford has never been all that interested in selling the City - he'd spend a little less time talking about himself if that were really the case.  He's there because he likes the attention; it makes him feel validated for the life he leads and the poor example he sets for others.  

Make no mistake, though, he will generate attention and social media traffic in spades.  And because of him, so will Toronto.

Do we want Ford to be Toronto's face to the world, via the Oscars and Jimmy Kimmel?  Or do we want to use this opportunity to promote the Toronto we are proud of?

Here's my suggestion; we use this attention to promote the city we know with video, pictures and messages.

I've used the hashtag #TorontoIs in the past - as in

 #TorontoIs a film hub in its own right

#TorontoIs home to some amazing attractions, history, people and festivals

#TorontoIs a catalyst for innovation, social disruption and talent of all kinds

On Twitter use this, or use your own hashtag - reference #RobFord, #topoli, @jimmykimmel, and @TheAcademy.  Let's get Toronto trending in positive ways and show the world what this city really is cracked up to be.

If we can't count on our Mayor to show the world what #TorontoIs - we can at least use him as an excuse to do so ourselves.

The Peaceable Revolution: Occupy From the Inside Out

Here's the secret sauce of capitalism.  Are you ready for it?  Most people are really good at adjusting downwards.  The most horrific examples of this are tragedies like the Holocaust, where people adapt to living in inhuman, unsustainable conditions.  That's an extreme case, but if you look at any historic period of belt-tightening, people have gotten by.  But these periods don't last, do they?

And now for capitalism's deepest failing.  There are those within society who aren't good at adjusting down.  In fact, they feel entitled to everything they have and more, and don't mind taking it away from others if necessary.  The internal justification for this generally evokes that benevolent third party, market forces; it's okay to be tough, because that's how the system is supposed to work. Everything works out in the wash, so no need to plan ahead.

These tightly-controlled regimes don't seem to stick around unchanging, either.

Lastly, here's capitalism's solution.  There are a host of folk out there who are driven by this little social convention called empathy - whatever their circumstances, they have a hard time watching others forced to live with less resources, less agency and less engagement than they feel everyone equitably deserves.

What these people have is motivation not for themselves, but for all of us.  

They aren't the 1%, the 99%, the middle class or the elites.  In fact, we're a little bit of everywhere.

Open Government.  Corporate Social Responsibility.  Crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding and train-the-trainer models.  The movement, too, is everywhere.

Occupy didn't die off; it served it's function and planted the seed of possibility.

It was a fallacy to think that capitalism would be the final iteration of society's economic paradigm.  By thinking otherwise, the Frank Luntzes of the world have been like knights of King Arthur's Court arguing with a Connecticut Yankee.

But they need't panic.  In fact, as the movement grows, they may just find out they like committing a bit of sociology.  There are gains to be had through the peaceable revolution.

And then we all win.


Friday 28 February 2014

Why Leaders Should Think Before They Speak

Cognitive science is fascinating stuff.  It bridges realms from mental health to leadership to creativity and, of course, communication.

Despite what we like to tell ourselves, human beings are not rational actors.  This is even more true when we have such utter confidence in ourselves that we never pause to consider why we come to certain conclusions.  The less you think something through, the more it's your reactive brain that's in charge.  

It's one way to live your life, certainly.  It's what we were originally designed for.  But now that we're capable of so much more, isn't it a sin not to use our cognitive tools to the furthest extent of their efficacy and actually nudge into rational-actor territory?

Roles of Intuition and Cognition in Decision Making

I Hope They Listen to Him

He said the obsession over partisanship and splitting votes on the right and left is distracting from real issues.

"Here's the thing: nobody cares about those old labels of left or right and liberal and conservative.  Is removing the snow a right-wing or left-wing idea?  Is fixing the potholes more New Democrat or Conservative?  It's ridiculous," he said.

Liberals = Whigs = horse thieves (Scots Gaelic)
Conservatives = Tories = Outlaws (Irish Gaelic)

It's a 17th Century thing - came about as a result of the Restoration and arguments over whether a Catholic King was acceptable.

There should be no surprise that the Political Centre is such a crowded place, or that ardent Liberals at one level can be NDP candidate supporters at another, or Conservative or whatever.  Much as was the case in the late 1600s, partisanship remains a country-club kind of thing largely focused on backing someone who will grant you opportunities or standing against someone you find distasteful.

Policy comes somewhere down the road - that's the convention.

That isn't how the game is played here, of course.  We go negative and attack.  When someone criticizes the way we play the game, we attack them, too, hoping to either scare them off or discredit them.  

I'm sure there are a host of players in town who would love to tear a strip off of Nenshi for questioning their ways - but there's just one problem.

Scratch that - there are 74 problems.  Or points, as it were.

You can beat your opponents, but that's not the same as winning the trust of your city.  Maybe coming from Nenshi, they'll listen.  I mean, they'd be crazy not to, right?

Mayor Nenshi Communicates

                        - Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi

And that, folks, is how communication is done.  Don't really need to say much more after that, do we?

Garden the Heights: Building Up vs Tearing Down

Spending some time on us

I'm shamelessly cribbing these pictures from Exhibit Change's website.  I know they won't mind.

The photo above lays out the stone in any planning soup, the heart of leadership - it begins with purpose.  If you don't know why you're doing something, you can't possibly know if you're doing it as well as you might, or if you're even on track.  Your why is your compass; if you lose the thread or get stuck in the weeds or mud, your compass will always point the way forward

When you have clarity of destination, you open yourself up to different paths to get there.  There are many ways to the top of the mountain, after all.  This means that if a better or more interesting avenue presents itself, you can take it; if a selected path doesn't work, you aren't married to it.

When you have confidence of direction, you don't fear losing your way and come to a standstill.  You also are less tempted to settle for anything less than your final destination.

Then there's this general thing that when you know where you're headed and confident you can get there, it almost becomes a sin not to invite others on the journey.  Why on earth would you want to hold anyone else back?  Especially when someone else may hold the bridge you need to overcome a gap you find along the path.

I'm speaking in metaphors, of course - for a life, for a corporation, for politics.

When we define ourselves by what we stand against, do we really know where we're going?  Not really.  Nor do we care - so long as no one else gets there first.

There's a reason why companies and politicians who stand against tend to atrophy, or at the best turn into idea scavengers.  Creativity is not a competitive process.  The closest it gets to that is one-upmanship, which isn't the same as winner-take-all.  In all its forms, though, creativity is a collaborative process that involves design, risk and iterative failure.

Why has Canada Post failed?  Why did RIM fail?  Why do we have a democratic deficit?

Competing for market share doesn't bridge new ground.  Creativity and engagement does.  Political attacks don't generate new ideas - the discourage them, and discourage engagement, too.

If you don't know where you're headed and your world is no more than the ground you stand on, you will keep pushing people off of it.  You'll also find yourself rapidly losing ground in the big scheme.

If you tear down everyone around you and everyone else does the same, then nobody gets ahead.

This is why leaders don't tear down, they don't attack and they don't compete.  

Leaders rise above, explore new heights and empower others to join them on the journey - to a better life, a stronger business or a healthier society.

It's time we stop digging trenches and start planting seeds again.  It's the only way we'll grow forward.

Movie and Date Night: If You Build It

Where Warren is Wrong

Warren Kinsella is one of the best at what he does.  He has arguably been the most influential person in Canadian political operations over the turn of the Century.

While I've never worked with him directly (or even met him), I've had the pleasure of watching him do his thing from the mid-distance.  It's fitting that he's an accomplished artist (drawing and music) because when he performs his political craft, it's much like watching any master produce a little bit of magic.

By his own admission though, what Kinsella does isn't very nice.  By no means a Nick Kouvalis who will make things up to tarnish opponents, Kinsella is really good at narrowing the frame and ensuring only the legitimate negatives of his opponents come to light - and that in spectacular fashion.

His campaign against John Tory is evidence of this.  

It is absolutely true that John Tory is a wealthy elitist who has dithered, donated to Rob Ford and hired Nick Kouvalis (another guy I've never met, but whose approach to politics I find cynical and distasteful).  

Tory has made some unfortunate remarks suggesting women don't complain enough for money and should take up golf for networking purposes.  

They're accurate statements, mind you - indicative of a real problem in gender-biased corporate cultures that reward bluster and smoke-blowing over actual accomplishment.  That Tory is encouraging women to play the game instead of encouraging leaders to rethink the rules is telling of his approach, but not an indictment of his intent.

Because in addition to all these flaws, Tory is a genuine human being with right intent.  He gives a good deal of time and money to charity and really believes that the hyper-partisan nature of our system needs to change.  Yes, he donated to Rob Ford - but he's donated to others, as well.  This demonstrates, in my mind, a commitment to making it easier for people to get involved.  That's not a bad use of his wealth, is it?

These aren't points that fit into Kinsella's narrative though.  From a Socratic, War Room perspective, his job is to tear down - it's the other side who has to sell Tory's positives.

This is no slight against Kinsella himself - this is how the game gets played, and he plays it better than most - but I genuinely believe this approach is detrimental to our democratic system on the whole.

As partisans chronically portray their opponents as moustache-twirling caricatures, I'm finding that the successful ones are increasingly caricatures in reality as well as on paper.  Case in point: Rob Ford.

As Kinsella himself has wisely said many times, between a watered-down version of a brand and the real thing, people will go for the real thing time and again.  So, in a campaign between what are branded as caricature candidates and Rob Ford, is there a risk of a cynical public opting to go for the devil they know?

I don't have the answer to this.  I'm no polling guru and I certainly don't have the political experience or acumen of a Warren Kinsella.  What I do know, though, from time spent in community centres, on Twitter and from conversations across the city is that people are tired of politics-as-usual.  They are mad as hell, and are getting close to a point of saying they're not going to take it any more.

Canada is lucky to have a political scrapper like Kinsella on our team - someone unafraid to take on the big bullies on causes ranging from First Nation rights to racism.  We need his skill set on these fronts.

When it comes to political campaigning, though, I'm not sure this narrowly-framed demonization of opponents is the best approach any more.  It works in the short-term, yes - but at what long-term cost?  

I'm sure some seasoned political people will tell me I'm not "tough" (i.e. jaded) enough to do "what needs done."  But I don't want to be.

I guess I still believe that moving forward together means leaving no one behind.

Last point - Kinsella blurred out one of the memo's signatories, singling out a woman named Paris.  If she's who I think she is, I know this Paris as a passionate, community-oriented young lady with a good head for issues.  Much like John Tory, I have known her to carve out time and offer advice to people that have nothing to offer her in return.

She might suck at War Room activities - I know I would, too.  But we should collectively be encouraging young, committed women like her to engage in our political system rather than singling them out for negative publicity.  

If we make politics an unwelcoming environment for the cause-oriented activists, after all, we'll end up with nobody left but aggressive self-promoters like the Fords.

And that's a narrow frame that serves nobody's interests.

FULL DISCLOSURE - I am not currently backing or working (which, in politics, are two different things) for any mayoralty candidate.  I've seen plenty of criticism go back and forth, but have yet to be inspired by any of the names on the ballot.

Surprisingly, it's from within the Toronto bureaucracy that I currently see the best hope for structural reform.  It's good to see someone is open to change.

Post War Room Politics in Toronto

Of course not.  Ford never apologizes, and it's always everyone else playing political games.

This much is clear.  The Fords intend to win; they have no regard for the already-tattered rules of campaign decorum; they have a lot of people they consider enemies and are increasingly pulling from shall we say atypical crowds for their campaign team.

Those who will campaign against the Fords will use every underhanded trick in general War Room practice; there's nothing new there, that's politics as usual.  Ford, on the other hand, doesn't have the same restrictions.  He's also not pulling from people who think along those lines.

What sort of oppo-suppressing tricks will his team devise and implement?  At the very least, it's going to be interesting...

Thursday 27 February 2014

Vote For Mental Health Ontario

Hoy will be happy to know that conversation is, in fact, happening.  There are some folk even trying to get the province's mental health agencies to do another targeted campaign this election.  Even Tim Hudak has come out, talking about the importance of treating mental health as of equal importance to physical health.
There's been a big change over the past four years; just think what might happen over the next four.
Especially if every Ontarian joins the conversation.  Doing so - being part of the mental health movement - might even be the best thing you do in your life, for you and for us.

It Pays to Think Big Picture

Now, I get where Hudak's coming from, both politically and policy-wise.  Jobs matter.  Jobs employ Ontarians, reduce the mental strain that comes with unemployment and increase government tax revenue to pay for public services.
Public services like healthcare.  Healthcare is increasingly expensive, largely because of a political need to focus on tangible wins results in little focus being paid to the nitty-gritty, structural solutions that could make a difference.
That, and a lack of political will to connect the dots between tax expenditures on services and information/promotion around things like healthy living education. 
From a political perspective, the Hudak Tories are focused on individual rights, how government takes them away and how only their Party can stop regulation creep from making it harder for people to do whatever they want.  Right To Work kind of fit this narrative.
But they're out today, discussing the need to treat mental health equally important to mental health.  This is the right approach to take, but mental health and mental resiliency has a lot to do with overall physical health - including healthy eating and social education.
It just so happens that when people eat better, they're healthier in both mind and body - making it easier for them to participate in society and gain meaningful employment.
If we are what we eat, the same applies at the social level.  A health social diet must look at jobs, health and everything else in a balanced, integrated, contextual way.
Which is why it pays to think big picture.
“While we’re counting on creating more jobs, your focus is on counting calories,” Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak taunted this week as he called on the government to set aside its disclosure proposal.

Doug Ford Likes His Vanilla

The Police Board holds the Chief to account.  The media holds the Chief to account.  And Council is holding the Chief to account.  The Chief is also highly trained and specialized in law enforcement - he wasn't elected to his post by popular vote, he had to have the skills to earn it.  

These are facts, clearly stated, clearly understood.  But politics isn't about facts - it's about emotion.

It's also not about proving you're right - it's about proving the other guy is wrong.  

So, while everyone else is focused on proving John Tory is wrong, guess who's gaining wins?

Inside The Sausage: Why Open Government Matters #2

Why We Must Say What We Mean -Meaning It Creates Alignment

When we are clear about our values, thought processes, and rationale, our teams get a behind-the-scenes view of our choices.  It is far easier for team members to align with a vision they fully understand.

Sometimes differing circumstances warrant differing responses.  If I don't understand the how and why behind that, though, I might see nothing but hypocrisy.

And if I'm part of your team - a political staffer, for instance - what example are you setting for me to follow?

It may be true that the people don't want to see inside the sausage making process of politics, but they can't influence it otherwise, can they?

Even if you don't want the people engaged, there are consequences to closed-door policies.  We're seeing them manifest themselves right now in Canada.

It's a good thing the solution's emerging, isn't it?

Lead From the Centre

Image comes from here.

Bosses sit at the top and message orders down the pipe.

Would-be kings thrown coins to the crowd, ensuring they never have the means to earn any on their own.

Leaders, however, are conduits.  They can only achieve their visions by bridging the gap between individuals and accomplishment.

You don't find leaders at the top.  You don't find them at the back.  Leaders are always in the thick of things, empowering people to overcome adversity and seize opportunity.

That's why they're leaders.

The Fords: Poverty Pimps vs White Saviours

                 - Doug Ford, cutting off his brother the Mayor in mid-sentence

Let's go with this for a second.  

Which buildings?  Which dates and times?  There are a lot of buildings in Toronto - lots of buildings in each riding, in fact.  If the Fords are visiting social housing properties in a given Councilor's ward when that Councilor is, say, performing their duties at City Hall then yeah, there's a good chance they're not going to bump into each other.

One way to really figure out which Councillors are visiting which buildings and when is to open up every elected official's daily schedule to public scrutiny.  As Mayor, Rob Ford could lead by example and put up his itinerary a week in advance.

During the Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy consultations when a dedicated, community-focused group of Toronto Public Servants went out into the city's priority neighbourhoods to inform residents about the consultation process and solicit feedback, I saw a lot of Councillors attending.  

James Pasternak took the time to sit down with a couple of tables and really get into the weeds of the conversation with his constituents and community groups.  It was clear that many of them had a direct relationship with him already.  That left an impression, but he wasn't the only Councilor to participate - you can check my tweets from the months of the consultation to see who else came out, but there were many elected officials who joined the conversation.

The Fords were not among them.

As for Councilors being in their communities, I can't speak for all of them, but I know for a fact that Ward 15 Councillor Josh Colle is not only in his community, personally - he brings his whole family with him and has instructed his staff to be full partners in community activity.  I'm sure he's not the only one, but I'm equally sure that he and the Mayor have never crossed paths in the buildings of Ward 15, either.

And I find it very interesting that in their chat, the Fords focus strictly on Toronto Community Housing.  There happen to be a lot of low-income buildings in Toronto not run by TCH that do have broken windows and elevators, mold, poor lighting, etc.  These buildings are owned and operated by slum landlords.

There are certain time commitments around building repairs that these slum landlords successfully evade by swapping buildings between themselves; thanks to regulatory loopholes, new landlords don't have to adhere to a previous one's ticking clock.

What are the Ford brothers doing to address this issue and support the poor Torontonians living in these buildings?  

I think we know the answer to this.  They're all about saving money and supporting the private sector through decreasing regulation, after all.

The Fords aren't interested in fixing structural issues - that's too much like committing sociology.  They really aren't all that interest in being Councillors, either, in the sense of being part of City Council.

Here's what the Fords do, as evidenced both by their disdain for collaboration with peers and focus on always being the champion for people of lesser means.

The Fords aren't interested in fixing problems and empowering individuals - they're all about being saviours.

When it comes to football, it was Rob Ford who saved those kids.  All by himself.  When it came to Christmas time, there was Doug Ford, handing out cash like a king throwing sheckles to the peasants.

They have no problem shouting orders down the chain of command and thumping their fists to get what they want, but when it comes to working with, they don't have the time, interest, patience, or possibly even the capacity.

Similarly, when it comes to personal accountability - for their time, behaviour or use of public resources, including staff, they're unapologetic; the simply refer back to the fact that they're saviours, as though that validates everything.

Here's the grand irony - the Fords do have something of a point about how our public institutions thrive on poverty.  Providing services to the disenfranchised is their business; if poverty was eradicated, they'd be out of business.  There's a whole saviour culture within public services at all levels that, in essence, serves to perpetuate poverty as an enterprise.

But that culture is changing.  Partially due to fiscal constraints, partially due to the increasing complexity of poverty (or at least, our awareness of that complexity) there's a shift in attitude and service delivery that's getting away from the handing-out-fish business into the teach-to-fish model.

There are some great initiatives out there in communities all across Toronto that have empowerment as their focus - advocacy training, entrepreneurship supports, crisis first-response, so on and so forth.  At a high level, the whole Open Government/Open Data Movement is about empowering strong individuals reaching and contributing their maximum potential for a stronger, more dynamic city.

Public servants and the famous "special interest groups" are now actively trying to put themselves out of business and help poorer Torontonians be equal and equitable players in the city.  

These folk want to be sure that marginalized Torontonians are actively engaged and paying attention to things like the decisions Councilors make around the Strong Neighbourhood Strategy recommendations.

Where are the Fords in this process of structural reform?

The Ford brothers are nowhere to be found.  All sizzle, no steak.  

In fact, when it comes to solutions, I'd say they're non-existent.


Wednesday 26 February 2014

Try Telling This To Partisans

Please stop talking about metrics in relation to recruitment! It's all about attraction and relationships. Be human!

Had a chat recently with a friend of mine in marketing.  They were talking in a very clinical way about customer outreach and how it gets the job done.  Very quickly the conversation turned to grey area, actual engagement authenticity.  "You do what you can not to get stepped on by someone else," concluded my friend.

Which sounds an awful lot like how politics works.  The focus is on metrics - making sure you have enough numbers to win.  Apart from getting your numbers, the only thing that really matters is ensuring opponents don't get theirs.  

The sucky part in politics (from an internal perspective) is that nobody else seems to get it - they don't realize the stakes of the game, what's to lose if your side doesn't get what it wants.  Jesus, you don't want the other guys mucking things up, do you?  They're barely human.

But that's not true, is it?

We've developed a hyper partisan, competitive culture that is pathological in nature - selfishness is defined as the highest form of morality and whatever gets you ahead is ethical.  

If anyone challenges you on that, well, they're just whiners, aren't they?

Something to think about the next time you hear any partisan of any political stripe focus on the numbers.

Harper's CPC: Inventing the Opposition

There's something very fascinating about current federal Conservative behaviour patterns, from a psychological point of view.  Generally, groups have enough of a diversity of internal opinion that cross-organizational patterning doesn't work as well as this.


Lots of this in the history of Harper's CPC; from poison pills in the legislature to conveniently timed foreign junkets to reallocation of funding to NGOs - everything the Conservative government does is to their advantage, no punches pulled.  They go for the throat.

And yet:

An act that many are saying is anything but fair.  But the Tories feel that the deck is stacked against them.  They've also demonstrated they think the media is against them.  In fact, they're a very defensive bunch in general.  It's like they're on a witch hunt against anyone they think is hunting them, in fact.

So look at the big picture; they feel entitled to brush off others, because they're an empire now.  They have no ethical questions about slamming the opposition parties for behaviour they themselves engage in.  Yet they are paranoid that somehow, the world is being unfair to them and they have to do something about it.

It's great, circular logic, which makes it an internal system.  If there were no opposition - if somehow, the Harper Conservatives were able to quash Parliament, the media and any "special interest" group they felt were somehow out to get them, they would probably find themselves vilifying and abusing someone else, like an addiction to standing against.

There's a diagnosis in this.  

Which is why we promote diversity in the first place. 

Plan Plan Plan, Plan Plan Ahead

"But we didn't have to fight those guys for 12 more years, and Reagan was simply gone by then."

You obviously can't account for everything that may or may not come as a consequence from your actions, right?  Analysis paralysis and all that.

For sure - it's hard to look at the big picture when you're all about the short term win.  It's in your best interest to kick the ball down the temporal field and let someone else worry about it.

But that's not fundamentally what leadership's about, is it?

Election 2015: Godzilla vs. The Zombie Apocalypse (UPDATED-IER)

It should be.  This could be a subtle stroke of genius by Team Trudeau - one all the lobbyists out there should be paying attention to.

Watershed management and floods.  Ice storm-ready buildings and the tools necessary for rapid response.  Emergency Preparedness plans that extend beyond the 72 hour cycle to what we've been witnessing, which is week-long or longer crisis impacts.

Oh - and individual training, community preparedness and better resource-allocation mechanisms between jurisdictions.  Not to mention the social-emotional learning, self-regulation and other things that go along with it.  Throw in some Open Government/citizen engagement for good measure.

Stephen Harper has done a great job over the years of positioning the greatest threats Canada faces as human (or not-quite-human) - terrorists lapping at our shores, separatists trying to tear us apart, special interest groups undermining everything that real Canadians hold dear.

It's man vs. man.

It has been in Harper's interest to get us angry, paranoid and functionally fixed on getting what we want right now, to hell with everyone else.

It's also how he's governed; fear the Zombie Apocalypse and build up the fire walls.

If Trudeau's team are being as clever as we should hope they are, they've landed on the perfect narrative to counter the Harpernian Progressive Apocalypse:

The Sustained Severe Weather Event.

It doesn't matter what kind of coffee you drink, whether you're a social elitist, a Bay Street power broker, a rural farmer or a middle-income worker anywhere.  When nature strikes, all of that gets stripped away.  If anything, in crises like these heroism tends to come from the ground up, not the top down.

Why?  Because it's in times of shared crisis that real leaders emerge, the kind that rally people to common purpose.  This doesn't tend to be a profitable enterprise, as leaders suck at putting themselves first.  It takes periods of darkness for their lights to shine fully.

In a people vs. nature conflict, it's in everyone's interest to work together.  We're still afraid - fear is a powerful motivator and politics is all about motivation - but what we fear isn't someone out there right now who wants to hurt us.

It's something that could happen to all of us that, collaboratively, we can prepare for.  It feels good to get ready.

Just(in) for fun, there are a growing number of man-vs.-nature movies coming out over the next year or so that will reinforce this concern into our social conscience.

Weather the storm together, or trust one leader to keep the zombies at bay.

The functionally fixed oak of a leader that is Harper, or the dynamic, empathetic force of nature that is Trudeau.  This can be portrayed as the immovable object vs. the unstoppable force.

It can also be framed as reaction vs. preparedness.

Now that would make for an interesting ballot question.

I swear to god, I don't plan these sorts of narrative-builds out in advance.

Ontario is tapped out - you can reactively blame whoever you want, but the fact remains the province does not have enough cash to support municipalities in their ice-storm damage repairs.  And that doesn't even touch what damage might occur if we have a particularly torrential spring.  

Think flooded streets, flooded basements, mold, damaged cars and roadways - the potential costs are a nightmare.  When the storm hits, people (whether voters or not) aren't going to be focused on who to blame, but who can help.  

You know who does have some coin to spare, though?  Ottawa.  The federal government, if it was feeling civic-minded, could assist the provinces and municipalities directly in a coordinated effort to mitigate existing storm-damage costs and better prepare to avoid or minimize future damage.

To change course like that, though, you need to be more like a reed than an oak.

Winter's coming to an end, it's time to get ready for Spring...

UPDATED 27/2/14 - He noted, however, that more extreme weather - like Toronto's December ice storm - may be more likely in the future due to a warming planet.


UPDATED 8/21/14

"And frankly, this terrorist caliphate in our judgment represents an increasing long-term threat to the security of our own country.  It is that serious."

Terrorist caliphate, like a mindless hoard.  Increasing threat, security of our country. 

Not to minimize the horrific beheading of James Foley or to absolve the murderers of the heinousness of their act, but what exactly is the risk they pose to our own country?  Are we worried they're going to bomb us?  Are they coming here next to behead Canadians on our own soil?

The answer is no.  They are a threat to Canadians overseas; they present a threat in terms of recruitment, probably, but that's got as much to do with internal conditions that make terrorism seem like an appealing choice to some.

Maybe Harper believes in what he says; maybe he's being a political opportunist.  Both have happened over his tenure, though I'd say we've seen more of the latter than the former.

Either way, you can see why "only we can keep the zombies beyond the wall" is a compelling narrative for Team Harper.

Winter is coming, however, and they may find that trying to keep threats at bay simply isn't enough.

Time will tell...



I'm not sure that I know any masters of anything.  I've been exposed to a couple, though.  

What I do run into a lot of in my life are enormously successful people.  Not a one of them got where they are through a slow climb of the ladder from one position to the next.  They have all gotten to where they are by one of two means - the stepped on and over a few people to get ahead, or someone gave them a chance.

Failure isn't a big part of that trajectory; the delusionally confident people who think nothing of sacrificing others for their own gain don't believe they can fail; they download all failures as the fault of someone else.  For those who've been given a chance, the hard drop of failure is often blocked off by a safety net.  When people invest in kohais, they will often protect them from failure to keep them moving forward.

These incredibly successful people are all good at doing something, though it isn't always what they think they're good at.  

One fella I know is convinced he's got the best ideas ever and has crafted all kinds of winning solutions for clients; talk to the clients, though, and they will say they actually hire other consultants for the work and just use this guy for his contacts.  He never knew, nor would he have cared; the money came in, people respected him, he felt influential - what more to life was there?

This fella may be master of his realm, but it's a closed realm - and this is not mastery.

I have the intimidating pleasure to know some absolute geniuses - people whose brains burn like incandescent candles, drawing energy from every source imaginable and tearing through conversations with their lightening ideas.

These sorts of people are rarely happy, unless it's in a dopamine-fueled way.  When their ego gets the better of them, these luminaries might think they are masters, but always feel that perfection eludes them.  Omniscience is the goal and until and unless they get there, they will not be satisfied.  

And so they are never satisfied.  This is not mastery, either.

Lastly comes the rarest category of people, those who fully and internally understand that perfection is not possible; it's a concept we have created and define in a world that exists without boundaries.  If asked, these sorts of thinkers would agree that quantum theory and theory or relativity don't add up, and smile.  They don't expect Theory Of Everything solutions, they relish the questions.

If we were to call anyone master, it would be these folk - and yet they're not.  It's the great secret they have learned; it's why folk like the Dalai Lama manage to be so happy all the time.

So, wither mastery, then?

You tell me.

Archaeologists Think Hidden Imperial Tomb May Be Too Deadly to Explore (Jesus Diaz)

Archaeologists Think Hidden Imperial Tomb May Be Too Deadly to Explore

After discovering a secret palace hidden in China's first emperor massive burial complex, Chinese technicians are nervous. Not because Qin Shi Huang's tomb is the most important archeological discovery since Tutankhamun, but because they believe his burial place is full of deadly traps that will kill any trespassers. Not to talk about deadly quantities of mercury.
The secret courtyard-style palace tomb is a mind-numbing discovery. Situated in the heart of the Emperor's 22-square-mile (56-square-kilometer) mortuary compound guarded by more than 6,000 (and counting) full-size statues of warriors, musicians and acrobats, the buried palace is 2,263 by 820 feet (690 by 250 meters). It includes 18 courtyard houses overlooked by one main building, where the emperor is supposed to be. The palace—which has already been partially mapped in 3D using volumetric scanners—occupied a space of 6,003,490 cubic feet (170,000 cubic meters). That's one fourth the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing—for just one tomb.
Experts believe that the 249-foot-high (76-meter) structure covered with soil and kept dry thanks to a complex draining system, hides the body of the emperor and his courtiers. Nobody knows what's the state of their bodies, but one of the leading archeologists believes that they are most likely destroyed by now.
Archaeologists Think Hidden Imperial Tomb May Be Too Deadly to ExploreSEXPAND
Image of some of Qin Shihuang's terracota warriors by contax66/
What probably are intact are the countless treasures that—according to the ancient scrolls that describe the emperor's long lost burial site—fill the interior of the tomb. And perhaps the deadly traps guarding them too.

Deadly traps?

Talking to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the archeologists working at the excavation said that "it's like having a present all wrapped at home, knowing that inside is what you always wanted, and not being able to open it." But, at the same time, nobody wants to be the first to get inside because of the mausoleum's dangerous traps—they're detailed in the same texts that recount its abundant riches.
It's not clear if the traps are really there, even while many texts describe them. There are no reports of traps in any tombs in any ancient culture. According to Emily Teeter—University of Chicago's Oriental Institute's curator of Egyptian and Nubian antiquities—traps are a legend as much as curses:
I am really sorry to report that if curses are out, then there is really nothing devious. Hollywood has turned standard architectural features like sliding portcullis blocks, shafts, and sand filled chambers into objects of horror. Sorry that the Egyptians were not more evil.
So what about the giant stone ball that chases Indy at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark? Well, the ball existssays the expert in Central American archaeology Dr. Winifred Creamer:
Costa Rica definitely has those big stone balls. The balls had ceased to be made by the time of the first Spanish explorers, and remained completely forgotten until they were rediscovered in the 1940s. Many of the balls were found to be in alignments, consisting of straight and curved lines, as well as triangles and parallelograms. One group of four balls was found to be arranged in a line oriented to magnetic north. This has led to speculation that they may have been arranged by people familiar with the use of magnetic compasses, or astronomical alignments.
Archaeologists Think Hidden Imperial Tomb May Be Too Deadly to Explore
Sadly, it seems those giant balls weren't part of any traps. Maybe.
But let's assume that the Chinese were more evil awesome than the Egyptians or Central American cultures, and that they really installed booby traps that triggered deadly crossbows in the emperor's tomb. Even if the old Chinese texts are correct, they might now still work after two thousand years. Perhaps the mechanisms are so rusty that the bolts won't fire. Maybe the wood and the cords used the in the traps have long since been destroyed by bacteria.
Chinese historian Guo Zhikun argues the contrary. He is one of the main experts on Qinshihuang's burial site, and says that it's very possible that the traps are still active. He claims that the use of chrome in the figures may indicate that the traps received a similar protective treatment. He is sure that "the artisans who built the traps installed crossbows that will fire if any thief tries to get inside."
Even if the traps don't work, there is still the matter of the high, deadly concentration of mercury inside the tomb. On-site measurements indicate dangerous levels, which may come from another feature described in the srolls: Imperial engineers created large rivers of quicksilver inside the tomb. So much that the level of mercury inside could be deadly for any unprotected adventurers.
The Chinese government hasn't decided what to do with the hidden complex yet. The authorities will wait for some time because they believe that, with the current technology, you can't get inside the tomb without destroying some of its contents.