Sometimes things change unknowingly

COVID has been with us for nine months now. The second wave begins to create havoc as most had hoped our return to normal would’ve started by now. Maybe “normal” has permanently changed.

What I have noticed through all of this is my change in listening to music. It is the ballad , the soft easy-going song that is being sought after and appreciated. There is enough “hardness” surrounding us. We need some thing that allows a softer perspective. Music seems to fit that need.

Saturday and sunny

He went broke slowly, and then all at once.
—Ernest Hemingway

COVID-19: The ultimate identity politics?
https://rabble.ca/columnists/2020/04/covid-19-ultimate-identity-politics

After COVID-19 passes, our future will depend on whether governments prevent or permit more environmental vandalism by large corporations. https://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/views-expressed/2020/04/after-covid-19-passes-our-future-will-depend-whether

GE Workers Want to Build Medical Equipment to Fight Coronavirus. Management Is Standing in the Way
https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/general-electric-labor-protest-coronavirus-978159/

The last day of March

Had a call from Nils this morning. Copenhagen is much the same as Vancouver. Now in our third week it seems isolation is a mindful situation for a lot of people.

Return of the junk bonds. Greed for a crazy return.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-companies-debt/kfc-owner-yum-brands-breaks-junk-debt-markets-four-week-fast-idUSKBN21H3GT?feedType=RSS&feedName=businessNews

While we are settling in to the new normal of working from home, there is going to be quite a bit of advice, both good and bad. Our friends at Take Control Books are attempting to cut through the noise by releasing a new book, Take Control of Working from Home Temporarily. The book is completely free (one per customer, please) and there are plenty of good, solid tips. If you have never worked from home, this is all new and the book will help you navigate the current situation.
https://www.takecontrolbooks.com/working-from-home/

From the movie The Platform – a Netflix movie
the people above us won’t listen
why not
I cannot shit upwards”

Great site for open education from the University of Edinburgh.
https://open.ed.ac.uk

What today brought

Seven snippets today

  • In the days of collaboration on a project with others, from home, there are some huge benefits of CC: and BCC:
  • No matter how this COVID-19 has pushed the ‘stop’ button’ in our lives, when I look outside spring is not being held back. Nature’s gentle force is in display.
  • Learned a newer meaning of delegation today. It not only includes those that are designated to work on a project, but also those that “need to be in the loop”. The “loop” part was new to me.
  • Dogs and cigarettes are analogue means of social contact but not necessarily preferred means in the days of staying at home.
  • In Vancouver the 9 O’Clock Gun is a cannon located in Vancouver, BC that is ordinarily shot daily at 9 p.m.. From 30 March to 30 April 2020, the gun is set to fire at 7 p.m., in support of local health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.Screenshot 2020-03-30 at 6.01.05 PM.png
  • I am reading Weather by Jenny Offill. It is that new literary style, no chapters but small paragraphs and sentences.
    Here is a piece — This woman is a shrink. Also a Buddhist. She likes to practice one or other on me, I’ve noticed.. “You seem to identify down, not up. Why do you think that is?”  You tell me lady.
  • This is the kind of thing in today’s newer world that is completely unacceptable.
    https://t.co/w4TKe3i905?amp=1

Another week

We begin another week in a changed world. The initial shock is still there and the haunting feeling of what does the future hold. Looking inward with little human interaction is sometimes a challenge. No matter what has stopped spring is moving forward. That brings hope.

Getting ready for…

As all of us attempt to prepare for the coming holiday season we know the crunch will come. Something may be forgotten, not done to the depth we planned or heaven forbid, we actually changed something and made it easier.

For us this year it was two things. Staying home and leaving the giant, heavy Christmas tree in the storage area. Staying home wasn’t an easy decision but the long winter drive up to Prince George and that we hadn’t had Christmas by ourselves for 40 years made us think that this might be the time. That meant we weren’t going to need, want or require the huge Christmas tree. We bought a small one, put our bubble lights on and are now ready.

Already the anxiety level is less.

 

 

 

 

The Copenhagen Letter

It is a start at introducing the human element directly into a technology understanding.

The Copenhagen Letter, 2017

Copenhagen, 2017

To everyone who shapes technology today

We live in a world where technology is consuming society, ethics, and our core existence.

It is time to take responsibility for the world we are creating. Time to put humans before business. Time to replace the empty rhetoric of “building a better world” with a commitment to real action. It is time to organize, and to hold each other accountable.

Tech is not above us. It should be governed by all of us, by our democratic institutions. It should play by the rules of our societies. It should serve our needs, both individual and collective, as much as our wants. 

Progress is more than innovation. We are builders at heart. Let us create a new Renaissance. We will open and nourish honest public conversation about the power of technology. We are ready to serve our societies. We will apply the means at our disposal to move our societies and their institutions forward. 

Let us build from trust. Let us build for true transparency. We need digital citizens, not mere consumers. We all depend on transparency to understand how technology shapes us, which data we share, and who has access to it. Treating each other as commodities from which to extract maximum economic value is bad, not only for society as a complex, interconnected whole but for each and every one of us. 

Design open to scrutiny. We must encourage a continuous, public, and critical reflection on our definition of success as it defines how we build and design for others. We must seek to design with those for whom we are designing. We will not tolerate design for addiction, deception, or control. We must design tools that we would love our loved ones to use. We must question our intent and listen to our hearts. 

Let us move from human-centered design to humanity-centered design.

We are a community that exerts great influence. We must protect and nurture the potential to do good with it. We must do this with attention to inequality, with humility, and with love. In the end, our reward will be to know that we have done everything in our power to leave our garden patch a little greener than we found it.

We who have signed this letter will hold ourselves and each other accountable for putting these ideas into practice. That is our commitment.

The Copenhagen Letter, 2017

Well it is Christmas

Up in the north, Prince George, and the ground is ice as the snow falls. It looks dark and cold outside as in the inside the tree is up and the ornaments produced the myriad of coloured lights. Only a few days left and it will be Christmas.

Today was the day we drove east of town down Highway 16 in search of the Christmas tree. We had the permit in hand and turned off the main highway down the proverbial northern road. After a few minutes one was spotted at the side of the road and the saw was put to work. The sky was bright, the tree sawn and placed on the roof of the car and a quick hike into the woods to be in the middle of winter’s nature. The only sound was the occasional raven and disgruntled squirrel. What other sounds would one hear out here?

Each year it tends to change, something of the old is lost, something of the new is found. A sense of meaning is redefined. It is like a part of the circle is revisited once again. There is always the expectation of something different. The weather with it frigidity and whiteness defines Christmas this far north. It frames what the season is. 

It is Christmas.

 

Why I am running for the board at Vancity – Community Focus #3 & #4

The third & fourth points of the Desired Director attributes and Experience were “Brings robust networks, relationships, and knowledge that reflect Vancity’s current and future membership.” and “Demonstrated familiarity with the role of finance in improving member and community well being, and supporting environmental sustainability.

Over the years, in my professional career and volunteering, I have served on numerous boards that have worked to offer:

  • bursaries to credit union members throughout the province https://cufoundation.org
  • credit unions requiring assistance in strategic direction and bonding services https://www.stabil.com
  • worked on assisting refugee placements for private sponsorship across Canada and on international refugee projects in Africa and the Middle East https://www.clwr.org
  • worked to build a thriving community founded on cooperative principles of social justice, financial inclusion and environmental sustainability https://www.vancitycommunityfoundation.ca

All of these organizations have a common focus on building trust with the organization’s leaders, and within networks and outside relationships. That is the key element is making a difference in what they do. I believe I have been part of that.

In my professional career working in credit unions, a key component was always the direction to improve members financial well being. Building and nuturing that culture of caring for the individual, family and community is ongoing. It needs constant attention. Part of community wellness at the credit union I worked for was initiating membership in the Living Wage Campaign http://www.livingwageforfamilies.ca

Being part of a group of individuals working towards a sustainable future in whatever capacity has been a big motivator for me. I believe participation on the Vancity Board can only help me continue in this endeavour. I would ask for your vote to allow this to take place.

DSCF0237.JPG

My wife and grandchildren at the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation watch house in Burnaby

Why I am running for the board at Vancity – Community Focus #2

The second point of the the Desired Director attributes and Experience was “Deep understanding of the communities Vancity serves and the opportunities and risks of delivering financial services.

Having grown up in Vancouver and lived here most of my life one sees the changes in our community over the years. Working in the Fraser Valley for a number of years I was able to compare how both communities were changing. Each community has a different history with a different set of challenges. Some were very similar. In years not too distance, it was the local branch that one made their deposit at and the local branch that you withdrew your cash. The network of ATMs now do this. Automatic deposits, transfer and bill paying have changed how we manage our finances. There continues to be an evolvement of these services. 

The digital channel supplies information and allows us to transact business ourselves. But most of us as members need financial advice at certain times. Mortgages used to be a key transaction but with the affordability of housing will that be less of the case? Does the change in employment patterns require different products to service a members needs? The use of technology to give new opportunities is a given these days. The risk of delivering these financial services is also the new norm.

But will a technical algorithm with any product deliver everything we need. There always needs to be a pathway to allow the exception. Our needs are not always exactly the same and there needs to be a human understanding and decision at times. This is a key factor in making a difference and managing the risk of delivery of financial services. Reliance only on the two dimensions of digital communication cannot cover all circumstances. Vancity is a credit union that has kept the human factor in mind even as it has grown. That understanding is so important today.

 

DOMI2886

Why I am running for the board at Vancity – Community Focus #1

After working in the credit union movement for the past 36 years it was time to retire last June. My wife was retiring from being a special needs teach in the Burnaby school system and we were ready to enter this new phase of our lives together. The summer was great.

A few people had approached me as to what I was going to do and my initial plan was just to take it easy. When asked if I would run for the Vancity Board it didn’t get considered until i read the Desired Director attributes and Experience on the Vancity web site. Then something stated to make sense with their request. This blog post and the other that follow will be a deeper dive as to why.

There were four points with the first topic under Community Focus – ”Demonstrated commitment to cooperative values and principles”.  This was the most important one for me.

Credit unions are cooperatives that deliver financial services to members. Cooperatives have a unique role in our society for a variety of reasons and there a 7 principles of cooperatives that define us. Again Vancity had these distinctly pointed out to a link on their web page. The identity, culture and existence of a cooperative is embodied in these principles. Without a constant sifting of decisions that are made in concert with these principles, cooperatives will tend to act as corporations. The dilemma with cooperatives is that we haven’t been that good at articulating our reasons for existence in modern day terms to our communities. We need to constantly define and act out what a cooperative is in the setting we exist in. As the world moves forward this need becomes very apparent. Without it we become less relevant.

My career was based on these principles through the involvement of the credit unions I worked for and the work done with other credit unions both large and small. When commitment to these values and principles are aligned and lived, much of the meaning of why things are done, why directions and strategies are set and why we exist in the first place are understood. It makes total sense. I feel very comfortable that Vancity has this as a first point in building and maintaining their board. 

Next – Community Focus #2 – Understanding communities

After a few days in Jordan and Israel

I really didn’t know what to expect on this trip. One has heard so many stories about the Middle East and what is happening here. As a tourist the situation is calm, the food fantastic, the people friendly and the weather quite kind.

We have toured various project sites that the Canadian Lutheran World Relief has been part of. For so many years one has seen the reports and now you get to see the physical program. The difference our involvement has had is apparent. The people have been very kind and thankful for our participation in helping them in some small way. We didn’t do the work, they did and we only gave them the assistance that was asked for.

We have travelled to a number of cities in Jordan and have seen the countryside and the big city. What has surprised me is the number of homes that are everywhere. Except for the desert one can always see a small town or a cluster of domestic buildings. There is little break in this type of landscape.

Petra was amazing. One can only wonder how they carved out these huge edifices. It is in someways like Utah with the rock formations. The biggest difference is the people in the area, Utah has so few, Petra has quite a few. And this is low tourist season!

We were at a a church site beside the Jordan River this afternoon. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land has a church at the ELCJHL Baptismal site very close to the Jordan River. There are a number of other churches with separate building here also. It was interesting walking to the river and seeing the other side which is Israel, no more than 25 metres away.

Tomorrow we cross back over into Israel and stay put in Jerusalem until we leave next week. Looking forward to the very short bus trips that will be in order. This is a very different place which is not like any other.

Arrived in Israel

It was a long flight, Vancouver to Toronto, Toronto to Tel Aviv. And the flight was unique with such a diversity of passengers. You knew it was going to be a little different with all the extra security or was it the boarding. No zone boarding, everyone all at once. A lot of people seemed to be starting their ‘pilgrimage’ to the Israel.

The airport  was huge and pretty empty so we were on our buses in no time. Got the prime seat right at the back where of course a small ‘back of the bus’ group of 6 people gathered. You know the kind of group, seems everybody relishes being there. We just needed tattoos to prove our current stations.

Onto Caesarea. The roads were excellent and you quickly got the feel that there was an economic dynamic happening here. Buildings, roadways, market gardening, everything seemed to be busy. The signage was in Hebrew and English and sometimes Arabic. As you left Tel Aviv you didn’t feel you were leaving the city but you felt there was an extension of this vibrancy out into the countryside. There seemed to be small villages scattered throughout the landscape. 

We arrived at the site of Caesarea Maritima which has a rich history. The weather was windy with huge waves and brisk winds. It rained heavily but only briefly. One could only image the skill these ancient engineers needed to build a port of this size back then. It was interesting and as always you could spend more time there. We had lunch and watched the Mediterranean waves crash onto the rocky coast. 

We then headed to Tiberius to our hotel at the Sea of Galilee The Ron Beach Hotel. Very accommodating and we were in our rooms within 30 minutes of arriving. Supper was at 7 and the buffet was huge. There were at least 4 tables to choose from, I didn’t get past the first one. 

If tomorrow is anywhere close to today the next 14 days will be more than memorable.

 

Some links today that were interesting

 

Not used by many you can see the advantage of using manual mode. But it takes time to learn

20 Things I Wish I Knew About Photographing in Manual Mode:

 

Isn’t this what the environment at a university should be – the inquisitive mind.

Canadian grocers make $3.27M per year from penny-rounding, finds 19-year-old economics student – Agn News:

 

A favourite artist.

Andrew Wyeth forever by James Panero | The New Criterion:

Waiting for the garbage truck (with apologies to Godot)

The message arrived on my iPhone. The garbage truck would not be here this morning, you have to wait until tomorrow. Not a big surprise with the amount of stuff we throw out.

Do you ever think about all those items you buy or get Amazon to deliver to your house that need to go back somewhere and that somewhere is either recycling or the garbage dump. However we try, there is a ton of packaging that isn’t going to be staying in your home. It is going to leave at some point. And you are the one that will initiate its final journey.

There was a Danish newscast a few decades ago where someone with a cart of groceries had them rung up through the cashier and instead of bagging the items proceeded to remove the packaging and put the contents in containers they brought with them. Milk, sugar, flour, cereals, coffee, even Kleenex, all removed from their packaging and put into something reusable. There was a huge mound of used card boxes, plastic and paper when they were finished doing this. The store manager, now involved, said they had to take the mound with them. Their answer was “I bought the merchandise, I didn’t buy the packaging.”

That packaging is one of the keys to selling the product. It is the ultimate brand placement, on the product itself. Now after the sale, once at home in your fridge or shelf where will it end up? That’s right — with all the other stuff that can’t be in your home permanently. Wonderful coloured cardboard and plastic containers soon to be homeless.

For the past few decades we had a round plastic garbage can that housed our soon-to-be homeless items. This was built to “use” one of those grocery plastic bags you bring your stuff home in. The problem is it really wasn’t built for the bags, it was too big. There was always the pain of trying to stretch the bag around the container. It worked until some heavy wet garbage undid your valiant stretch attempt. That meant the gloppy trash went directly into the bucket which would need washing. I am sure it was the garbages last attempt to get even.

A store flyer came out showing the garbage receptacle to “replace all receptacles.” For $16.00 this beauty was built for plastic bags and would ease the pain of temporary indoor garbage storage. All in the wonderful antiseptic colour of white and with a lid which was also white. Now the transmission of affald (Danish for garbage) would work easier than an enema (English for disgusting).

Now the garbage men must be pleased when they arrive for pickup. Perfect sized white bags all piled together to fall evenly out into the truck for the last ride home for all this shit. This mess would look decent. And because we now recycle everything — paper, plastic, glass, returnables, and compostables there is no need for weekly garbage pickup. Recycleables every week, garbage pick up every other week. (This keeps the contents fermenting to the highest degree during the summer).

Yes we have arrived at trash nirvana. More recycling than rubble. The packaging we bought now goes back to be used again in some manner. We buy it, we recycle it, then we re-buy it — that is the life of a consumer, always waiting for the garbage truck.

Retiring notes…

One of the most noticeable differences is what you read. Suddenly any business productivity meme doesn’t make a lot of sense. Your really don’t need to be more productive in business do you. Reading takes up much more of my time. You look at your own library and see all those gems you had collected over the years that you now can get acquainted with. Imagine time available to actually re-read all those classics!
That means those email subscriptions need another viewing and by unsubscribing you notice your in-basket has a distinctive personal feel about it. You aren’t living by the clock anymore, your daily cycle is spent around preparing food when you get hungry. 

Retirement is the unusual, slowly become the usual.

What is retirement?

With only a week left of work you would think it would be pretty easy to be ready for this. You’ve worked most of your life now you stop. The problem is the questions. What will you do because not doing anything seems almost obscene. What about all those people at work? Will you even see them again? What happens when your income is not dependent on getting up and going to work?

In a matter of seven days these questions will become less important because this new lifestyle will suddenly dictate your experience. One thing is certain — time will be your own to use as you choose. That new dimension will be so enjoyable. 

Spent the weekend with Alexa

This was the first weekend Alexa came into our home. It was interesting to be able to talk to her and have someone in the room who seemed to like your type of music. I could shout from the front room and she would still hear me.

Alexa is Amazon’s incredible voice controlled digital assistant, similar to Apple’s Siri but in a stand alone device. You state your commands by starting the conversation “Alexa,….” and the results are surprisingly consistent and accomplished. Walking into a the room and stating “Alexa, good morning” brings up a short statement about the day and some element about it. This was today’s message “Good morning, and Happy Halloween! I hope everyone gets lots of candy tonight, and not a bag of rocks. And Linus, if you’re listening, I hope you finally get to see the Great Pumpkin!” Yesterday the response was “Good morning, and Happy Diwali! I can help you celebrate this joyous festival of lights. Just keep talking to me, and I’ll lend my spinning blue and white lights to the festivities!

This isn’t available in Canada, yet but I suspect it soon will be. It connects to various 3rd parties so access to my Spotify account is enacted by stating “Alexa, play Bob Dylan” and it gets music by Mr. Dylan and starts playing. I can name the exact song “Alexa, play Lay, Lady, Lay” and voila, it starts playing. If you have constructed playlists it starts playing them which give you ultimate control. Want to hear CBC AM? “Alexa, play CBC”.

It has been a learning experience, finding out what you can do. Use it for simple arithmetic, measurement conversions (millilitres to ounces, kilometers to miles), dictionary for words, what happened on this day in history, etc. etc. Each question and response is posted in text on your Alexa app. It really is phenomenal and it opens up huge potential for the future. Siri is portable but Alexa is always in the room with you. And this is just the beginning!

amazon-echo-product