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.

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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.

 

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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!

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Interesting note from WordPress

Sometimes you use a service for a long time and it becomes almost taken for granted.

I remember meeting this young man in Seattle at Gnomedex. He had started this blogging service which people were beginning to take notice. We shared our views of the internet and what possibilities and opportunities it would bring. All of us were beginners in some way and it was exciting to be part of it. He was up in Vancouver at the NorthernVoice gathering the following year and we just managed to exchange hellos. A person you would always enjoy to have a good conversation with.

I received this notice as a message in my WordPress blog recently. This is the kind of message that Matt Mullenweg would send you. Thank you Matt for helping change so much of what we need to change.

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We’re not in Kansas anymore

There was something very unique about Kansas City. It might be the best kept secret in America. There were no expectations before arrving but the city quickly offered some interesting venues, great food and very friendly people. A few of us went there for the Credit Union Water Cooler Symposium and found it  a very interesting place to walk around. From the venue site ‘The Alamo’ to Kansas city BBQ eateries there was a positive city character that was portrayed everywhere. My favourite place was the Negro Baseball League Museum. It portrayed. in a timeline, how the league started and what it went through until the late ‘50s. Speaking to a security attendant in the lobby, he mentioned that there are numerous Major League players that come through the museum. A few weeks ago the Molina family were there. Stories like that bring the place alive.

Cities have much to offer and each has a special understanding and character surrounding the place they live. No two are ever the same, which makes traveling so interesting. The buildings put together the framework of living but it is the people who inhabit the city that make it so interesting. There was an article this last week about a Danish town that were digging up the streets for sewer lines and came across a wooden pipeline that was built in the 1500’s. What did they do with it? Threw it away because ‘that is what you do in a city that is over 750 years old.’ No matter what the age or the edifices a city has, it is its character driven by the people that give it that wonderful sense of difference.

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What is it with that 60’s music?

There was something magic about the mid 60’s. We had recovered to some extent from those assassinations. We no longer saw alcohol as the drug of choice. Vietnam was the war that was coming into view. There was a darkness that was balanced by something ever so different. Hair was longer, institutional frameworks were no long taken for granted, the clothes were different with giant colours and bell bottoms along with the return of paisley. All of this had a strong touchpoint – music, it was changing as much as it was new. We had the Beattles, the Moody Blues, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. This was a new line in the sand. This was the music that had no definitions but the ones we gave them.

To this day that music brings back those moments full of sounds, sights and smells. The context is as important as the melodies. Without the context the music only becomes notes on a page. Nostalgic for sure but when memories surface they are more than mere tunes.

It was a haunting, fearful time were one encountered doubt. But the music was like a sword that cut those fears to the quick and made happiness part of your own humanity.

Gout

Just because your father had it

why do you?

It sometimes trickles in

that toe

attached to that foot

without any reason

but then when it explodes and

you curse that 6 letter word

Purine. 

There is suddenly

a radar around you foot

sensing any immovable object

within inches.

And bedsheets hurt,

staircases are steeplechases,

and you hope your

foot doesn’t explode. 

Time heals. 

Purines still exist. 

As you attempt to forget

the pain

until next time. 

Houellebecq’s new book “Submission”

In today’s Globe and Mail Russell Smith has an excellent review of Michel Houellebecq’s new novel “Submission”. It is provocative and amazingly frank about a book that has recently been published that speaks to the recent events in France.

Russell points to so many areas of concern about the world we now live in. One thinks about the freedom of expression and the need to be vigilant with guarding this basic tenet in our fragile democracy. We need to consider what those that would hamper that right, by the suggestion of ultimate protection with a proposed security regime, would have in the lessening of that freedom. Maybe our understanding of what sacrifice means has to be changed. The freedoms we hold dear will never be guarded by anyone other than the individual and that may mean an ultimate sacrifice.

To people that knock on our door and attempt to convert us to their brand of religion I tell them that though I disagree and will debate what they are presenting, I will stand with them against any group or organization that attempts to take away their right to express their views. Without that diversity of expression, that only comes with that freedom, we will return to serfdom.

Who’s next?

This morning I was listening to The Who and their 1971 album “Who’s Next?”. This album captured something of that time. What was it like then and how was it any different than now?

The album cover speaks of the youth’s obstinance then. It was a time of confusion. It was a time of optimism though. Personalities had come and gone but nothing or no one seemed in want for much. We had arrived with our ideals, our education, our minimal but refreshing means to do just about anything. We hadn’t met any diversity that we could not either accept or overcome in some fashion. Our new found courage was grounded in being naively youthful. Energy and passion wore out the obstacles. We resisted little as there was little to resist. Our suffering had not arrived and the world was still bound in its happenings, sharpness had not started. Our idealism would not be prevailed upon. The world and its events were belonged by no one and it was still ‘us’. ‘Me’ and it selfishness had not been born. ‘Now’ is not of that age.

 

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Douglas Coupland

Went to the Vancouver Art Gallery yesterday to see the Coupland exhibit. It was excellent! I had no idea the extent of the creativity of this person. There is a lot to see and it is definitely a show you can attend more than once.

The intrigue about his work is substantial. You can see a unique perspective of the world we now live in. You can see elements of being a Vancouverite and a Canadian. There is boldness yet intricacy in the presentations. It is exciting to dismantle and then reconstruct, in a different fashion, one’s view of something. So much of his art does this and it is brilliant.

One very neat thing is the invitation to take pictures with the hashtag #couplandvan.

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