Monday, January 28, 2013

PLUTOCRATS BY CHRYSTIA FREELAND

I was drawn to this book partly by the topic, but mainly by the author.  I had seen Chrystia on various American political shows and recently on TVO.  She made more sense (maybe because her opinions were more agreeable to me) than other more established talkers.

"Plutocrats" was more thought provoking (meaning I had to adjust my thinking) than anticipated.  As we all know the very rich are often thought of as not nice people.  However they do have their own justification and many of them are actually very helpful.

In fact many of them really did earn their advantages in life by contributing to the benefit of the rest of us 99%.  The really big winners are not so much inheritors of wealth as achievers.  In  modern global economy there are more opportunities to generate profit.  Some of them unfortunately are the result of transferring jobs to jurisdictions with lower wages and fewer cumbersome regulations or to robotics.

Most of us are pleased with how Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have made our lives more enjoyable, but with the productivity gains they have both brought about jobs have shifted.

Finance used to be little regarded, but is now the favored route of many to riches.  This is probably where the average person has the most resentment.  Most would acknowledge that financing is important and that there is a risk involved.  Part of the resentment might be the average person just can't see how playing with numbers justifies multi million dollar incomes.  Another big concern is the feeling that financiers have more political clout than the rest of us and have tilted the rules in their favour.

One anecdote near the end is of a ground breaking minority person who heads an Ivy League school and has been noted for boosting minority opportunities is quoted as not wanting to change alumni privileges as she has a grand daughter she wanted to help.  The point is that once someone hits a higher status they want to lock it in for perpetuity.

She ends with a story on the Venetian Empire. It started with a legal mechanism to encourage daring entrepreneurs out on long distance trade trips that allowed Venice to be an international dominant force.  Everyone did benefit from the wealth brought in by successful risk takers.  We all know of Marco Polo from this era. By 1500 Venice lost most of its power.  The reason was that the oligarchs who were mostly self made men wanted to entrench themselves and close down opportunities for newcomers.  I think this allegory speaks to modern times.  It is not so much that we need to shut down great wealth, but that we need to keep open opportunities.  That means equality, education, a safety net and a long term view of what is good for humankind.

A personal note:  While I was preparing this blog my page views crossed the 10,000 mark.  Google has given me a global reach.  I am not sure if many readers gained any new information or felt my viewpoints were worth the effort.  It is astonishing where you all come from--Canada, United States, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, China, India, Israel, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia,  and even more.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

THE HUMAN LIBRARY AND HUMAN CARNIVORE EXPERIENCE

My past Saturday may be of interest if my experiences were brand new for you or may not be of interest if they are old hat to you or you don't care if you ever do such things.

Cheating a little bit I did have a preview of the Human Library and wrote a little bit about it in a newsletter.  The Human Library was given a promotional run at the most recent art crawl.  It was a strange concept, but I realized that it had a lot of potential.

What is a Human Library?  Think about why do you go to the library in the first place.  To gain some knowledge and some enjoyment.  You pass by interesting people every day, but you are pressed for time and a little inhibited from stopping them to have a little chat.  The Human Library is really a conversation with an interesting person with admittedly a time limit (it goes too fast).  The conversation can go in different directions, but you can initiate your own questions based on your own curiosity.  Sounds like a good reason to visit the library.

This past Saturday the Hamilton Public Library organized over 10 humans at each of 4 branches.    I had lots of interesting choices and wished I had more time.  Picture sitting down on two chairs around a table surrounded by other readers and human books.  Well, it doesn't have to be that way.  You can walk around the library and find a more private place which I and many others did.

Because I work with The Rider I chose one woman who although disabled had ridden horses.  My ignorance of riding is profound although I talk to riders almost every day trying to squeeze an ad out of them.  Disabled riding is part of The Rider's coverage and I had a vague idea about it, but my human resource gave me a better understanding.  For starters there are a variety of disabling situations.  My contact had a form of rheumatoid arthritis at an early age, by which time she had already formed an intense involvement with horses.  A good thing too, because to maintain her involvement she had to overcome obstacles and eventually she shared her interest and her education with others to help form a group offering riding as a therapy for disabled people in her area.  I learned that adults as well as youngsters who have become disabled are welcome for equine disabled rehabilitation therapy and it can have benefits at any age.

Many of them had no background with riding but came to understand it had a lot of benefits.  One was the simple ability to improve their balance because of the demands of merely staying on a horse.  My information source pointed out that as they practice, their self esteem was boosted because although they have had trouble moving around, they now are able to control a thousand pound horse.

Our conversation veered in other directions.   I know people who have had knee replacements, but I learned a few more details.  We actually got into library concerns and again I got an interesting perspective.

My next human book turned out to be a famous author.  At least famous to me as I had actually bought one of his books (usually I read library or borrowed books).  We didn't talk so much about the inspiration for books as how publishing contracts work and books are promoted.  After a struggling author (who usually has a day job) finally gets acceptance enough to get a book published they then seek out a contract.  One point my source emphasized was that there is always a deadline.  One of his books (the one that I had bought) was given a lot of slowly developing interest through book clubs.  Book clubs come in all shapes and sizes (I will be checking this out), some very formal and others just a group of book reading housewives that just like to discuss what books are worth reading.  This is the true word of mouth and my writer contact with earlier books had gone this route and learned that it paid off for later books.

What is he up to now?  He is working on a novel, a non fiction book and also on a screen play for the book I had read.  The screen play will be in the form of a mini series which as we both agreed is a much better way to adapt a book than a two hour movie.  Something not to be  missed

Our conversation got into inter-racial and inter-ethnic relations and I admit there was a bit of self examination on my part.  A few general exchanges that gave me a better idea of a man who writes books I enjoy.  I will be reading more.

Going back to my preview experience with an older woman Human resource who did disclose her age which was enough to have had a long interesting life.  She had been an entertainer for many decades and had crossed paths of some very interesting people including Richard Nixon and Frankie Laine (someone a college colleague greatly admired).  We got off on different topics.  I was very impressed with her poise.  She told me of her personal life that was interesting as well.


The same night as the Human Library my daughter Heather steered my wife and I to Rapscallion,  It is uniquely for meat lovers.  I may not quite qualify as a heavy meat eater, but it was fascinating the wide variety of meat products offered.  In fact it was pointed out that I ate more than my fair share and I plead guilty.

We had many helpful explanations of what we could choose.  They believe in experimenting and changing their menu.

We started off with a chacuterie which included a sampling of 7 different meats with some bread and pickled hors d'oeuvres.   I learned that they make their own bread and condiments which added to the enjoyment.

For our entrees we chose tongue n cheek, Korean beef and roasted bone marrow.

I chose the roasted  bone marrow as it had been spoken of on a radio show I had listened to.  It had a very rich taste softened a little by the accompanying bread.  It was served in the form of vertical bones with a utensil to scoop out the marrow and bread, salt and grainy mustard.

They weren't kidding they like to experiment and I found myself being a guinea pig.   One day after Robbie Burns day where my only celebration had been to wear a tartan tie I felt obligated to try the haggis.  My experience with Haggis is very limited, but their version was easy to take even on an already full stomach.  After my verdict they offered it on a chalk board which is how they introduce new menu items.

You are often advised to leave room for dessert and in truth it sounded so unique I stretched the point a little.  Our choice was  a croissant with maple, chocolate and  chunks of bacon. As was emphasized this is a place for meat lovers.  It was too good to miss.

I decided to order wine and they gave me 3 choices of house wines.  I chose a Malbec and now I will be looking for this particular brand as it was well chosen on their part.




New experiences are a way of celebrating life





The top photo is one I took at the preview during the art crawl.  The other photos are from Heather that includes the Korean beef, tongue n cheek, the roasted marrow bone and the haggis.  The logo with the pig is from Rapscallion, in Hamilton  (John St S) and for meat lovers only I highly recommend it.


Monday, January 21, 2013

JOBS FOR THE MODERN HORSE: POLICING

Most people associate horses with the countryside, a place where there is room to romp.

Recently the only Canadians invited to take part in the American Presidential Inaugural Parade were two mounted police horses, Honest Ed and Tecumseh with their riders, Sergeant Jim Patterson and Unit Commander William Wardle.

Some people have questioned the value of police horses, but there are some unique features that make them very useful.  Their size and disposition make them a good economical tool for crowd management.  A policeman on foot  or from a car is not able to see very far into a crowd.  With their size horses force people to move.  They have been very effective at sporting and entertainment events.

Some examples of what they can do include watching drivers from above who are illegally using their cell phones.  They have also been useful in warning cyclists to not go past flashing lights of street cars.

The job is not without danger.  Police horses have become involved in riots and have been struck down by stolen vehicles.

People, especially children respect horses and often ask about them.  This builds up good relations for the police.

Some people are concerned over horse manure left on the streets.  Studies have shown that because they are vegetarian their manure is excellent for fertilizer and has been used in municipal flower beds.

In rural areas police have used horses to chase the bad guys running over rough terrain.

Police horses are more than just a tool.  Many horses are bought by their riders when they retire. There is also mourning for police horses that have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The photo is from one of the art crawls in Hamilton, Ontario where as you can see the horses attract children and you can also appreciate that the riders have a higher view of what is going on.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

MAKING IT ALL WORK by David Allen

Humans are naturally lazy, but we live in a world which for virtually all of us requires effort.  We praise hard work, but we really admire the result of smart work.  A lot of it boils down to organization.  If you can find a more effective way of doing what is most important you will get more out of life.  David Allen will admit that a lot of what he suggests is common sense, but that most people fail to do them anyway.

David Allen, wrote an earlier book, called "Getting Things Done" in which he detailed a system for getting things done.  I missed that one, but when researching him I realized he had subsequently wrote "Making it All Work" which from what I can gather offers a more refined idea of the original book.  If so, I am getting at the kernel of his thinking with less effort.

No system is effortless and David's requires a lot of thinking and effort, especially getting started. One of his basic thoughts is that if you don't capture all of your concerns in an easily retrievable manner you will be distracted and forgetful which of course is not efficient.  Focusing is the key, but to do so you need to filter out lesser priorities which is easier when you feel confident that nothing is forgotten.  Although others focus on prioritizing, David recognizes you have strong concerns that will not be ignored.

A lot of organization systems start with the end, as in the purpose for doing any and every thing. David suggests you begin with those things that already have your attention.  You should capture them on paper and don't leave out anything that is on your attention radar.  A lot of concerns will be trivial, but part of the problem is that they keep butting in and distracting you.  You fear forgetting details.

There are a lot of factors to be evaluated in controlling your concerns and gaining a perspective that are inter-related.  As you understand the different factors you use them to prioritize and organize activities to deal with what has your attention.  Thinking deeply on your choices is worthwhile, but only if it leads to action.

Being organized simply means where things are suits what they mean to you.   He quotes Winston Churchill, " For the first 25 years of my life I wanted freedom.  For the next 25 years I wanted order.  For the next 25 years I realized that order is freedom."

You need to review on a regular basis, but not everything in the same way.  Planning actions as in what is the next action is the most key effort as that is how you actually move forward.

One last quote from the book gives focus to the point of it all.  "Those who face what is actually before them, unburdened by the past, undistracted by the future, these are they who live, who make the best use of their lives; these are those who have found the secret of contentment."  Alban Goodier.

To keep up to date with David's latest thinking go to his blog at http://www.gtdtimes.com/  It is current.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

TIMING AND LUCK

Many of us are waiting for a lucky break, likely the majority of us.  Sometimes that is expressed by buying lottery tickets or other gambling.

Often we are just waiting for someone, somewhere to do something for our benefit. Salespeople often find themselves wishing for a lucky break.  Sometimes they get so distracted by that notion that they fail to do what can be done to create a lucky break.

The "Luck Factor" by Dr. Richard Wiseman talks about how some people seem to attract luck.  Of course people are really hoping they can get a lucky number which would solve all their problems.  It turns out the key factor for many "lucky" people is they expose themselves to more opportunities.  Buying more tickets might be one way of increasing your odds (if you don't buy you have no odds), but another way is by being open to opportunities. Opportunities are everywhere, but often below the surface.

Making cold calls can be very discouraging, but they are a step to improving your "luck".  Every now and then I will get somebody who says I was just thinking about whatever I was selling at the time. You could call that luck, but I called dozens if not hundreds of prospects before hearing those words. Another critical factor enters into the effort and that is you have an opportunity to learn.  Every person you contact has a unique situation, but they do fall into patterns.  At one level you will be told things that can help future efforts and at another level,  you will develop a feel for where you are wasting your time and where you need to probe deeper.  Dr Wiseman thinks you should follow up your "lucky hunches" which are really intuition fine tuned  by experience.

What is the perfect time to call?   I used to take young boys and girls out canvassing for newspaper subscriptions.  One of the key problems was the dinner time.  People eat dinner at a variety of times and ideally we thought it would be good to avoid it.  However that proved to be impossible.  Some people would eat early and some late and some even ate when we guessed.  Another problem we had was that many people disappeared after eating and others settled into a regular routine.  The best results were obtained when we stopped trying to guess and just tried to cover as many households as we could in a limited time span.  Some people even signed up at dinner time.

On your first call one of the key details to learn is when is a better time to contact.  It is one of those little questions that can help develop rapport.  After all you are showing concern for their convenience and when they think it over you will probably get an honest answer.

Being optimistic you present yourself in a positive manner.  If you let yourself get discouraged you are not really making your best presentation and it will likely take many more calls to find someone who will overlook your less than best.  Being optimistic doesn't mean putting all your eggs on this next call, but realizing there is an order out there and it could be this next call.

A heart warming movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness"  with Will Smith having a string of bad experiences that places him in a desperate situation, but through a series of "lucky" breaks he turns his life around.  The movie has different meanings to different viewers.  A key lucky break for the main character is contacting a man with a lot of wealth who is impressed with what Will is able to present.  The movie didn't emphasize that Will's character in reality made more calls than his colleagues.  One habit was not to set the phone down between calls and another was to avoid drinking water or coffee so he wouldn't have to take a bathroom break and in general he started earlier and worked later.  When he got his "big" opportunity he was prepared.

While you are waiting for your lucky break you can improve your odds by being pro-active.  A last question.  Are you prepared for your lucky opportunity?

The photo above is the result of looking for it over a period of 3 years.  The first time I saw a hummingbird in Cuba was really about the first hour I arrived at my hotel.  Didn't have my camera and could never find another hummingbird when I did.  For my next two trips I declared my intention to get a photo.  A year later I did have my camera, but they twitted about so fast I couldn't catch it. Coming back from the beach in the third year I had my camera ready and for about 10 seconds I had my opportunity.  This time I was successful.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

THE AMERICAN GUN DILEMMA

Outsiders often look at Americans in amazement.  We cannot understand why they value gun ownership more than human lives.  Not just owning a gun for household protection or hunting, but semi-automatic weapons capable of killing dozens of people in less than a minute.  Of course that is a little over simplified, but the American discussion seems a bit unbalanced.

Here in Canada while we have had some violence in our history we actually got our independence through peaceful means.  The American second amendment is interpreted by many as a protection against state abuse.  The American Revolution, the taming of the "Wild West" were violent and made Americans conscious that possession of a gun could be an important ingredient for freedom.  Vigilantes and lynchings have a long history in the US.  Americans are one of the few remaining countries to allow executions.

The National Rifle Association presents itself as deeply concerned over constitutional rights, but in reality it is very self serving as they really represent gun manufacturers.  Of course they will benefit if our reaction is we need a gun to protect ourselves from all the bad guys out there.  As a salesman I have learned that fear is one of the most potent motivators.  Get a prospect to become aware of the danger of not buying whatever you are selling and they are more apt to pay attention.  For gun manufacturers fear is their best ally.  The bad guys have guns so you need guns to protect yourself.

The government itself is visualized by many as something to fear instead of something to provide protection and nurturance.  Nazi Germany could have been stymied if enough Jews had been armed goes one argument.  In fact politicians fear the National Rifle Association and many go to great lengths to win their endorsement.

One factor facilitating violence is income inequality.  As long as there is real hope of improving your standard of life, there is enough incentive for most people to play by the rules.  In the best of times there is envy of those in better circumstances, but worse when the scales tip too much.  It is not so much that the majority of people feel a need for survival, but some feel life is unfair and they are better off with their own rules.  One of the things people do as they get more wealth is to protect it.

Violent cultures from movies and video games have spread around the world.  The ancient Romans escalated their demands for excitement culminating in a variety of gladiator contests to the death.  We feel they were very barbaric, but in fact we in North America seem to be evolving in the same direction.  United States is not unique in its love of violence in sports, movies and video games.

Mental illness is a concern, but as I once heard, the mentally ill are more apt to be victims than perpetrators. As mental illness becomes more accepted as part of society we can deal more effectively with it.  Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady has given out journalism awards for covering mental illness in a positive manner to help remove the stigma.  Health insurance which should include mental illnesses, in the United States lags most other industrial nations.  Mental illness is a factor in gun violence, but is much bigger issue and much more serious.

I have mostly lived in cities, except for a two years of high school when I lived in a rural area.  The attitude towards hunting was something I was unfamiliar with.  Businesses close down or employees take holidays.  Hunting season is looked forward to and talked about the rest of the year.  It is not something its participants would willingly give up.  Hunters might be afraid of losing their life style, but in fact if something isn't done to curb urban violence at some point the efforts to deal with urban fear may affect rural life styles.

Americans are not as safe as much of the rest of the world, but seem to feel if they just get a gun they will be safer.  Of course it tends to be counter productive.  Guns may in fact keep some of them safer or their property more secure, but there is a price.  Homicides, suicides and accidents all occur because guns are too easily accessible.  Fear and intimidation are not conducive to improving relations.

Citizens recognize concerns with cars and dogs and have taken steps to control their abuse. Lawmakers are very reluctant to impose any further restrictions on the use of guns.  Even so called assault weapons or multiple bullet systems are easy to obtain.

What can a politician do?   The gun lobby is very powerful and there are enough people who are fearful of danger that a politician can risk losing a contested election by not being pro gun enough. What can a private citizen do?  Joe Biden suggested there is no total solution, but that we ought to diminish the problem.  Voters need to make their concerns known, but perhaps more importantly they need to be educated.  Look around the world.  Some of the underlying causes of violence need to be dealt with including income inequality.

Freedom to own a gun is an imposition on other people who feel a need to protect themselves from gun owners (some of whom are not trustworthy) or want to keep up with the Joneses.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

BOLLYWOOD STAR SYSTEM

Is it safe to assume you are familiar with the Hollywood star system?  It boils down to the fact that the masses love celebrity.  To be charitable part of that is a recognition and preference for quality.  Others would say it speaks of superficial glamour overwhelming quality.  Smugly I like to think quality rules my preferences, but in truth we all tend to act as herd members craving acceptance, but also preferring glamour to ugliness and quality to squalor.  Critics seem to feel that the masses poorly appreciate real quality or understand the factors that underly what we should be seeking.

My expertise is certainly limited, but for those not familiar with Bollywood I can point out some of the factors and names of stars to consider.  Those who avidly follow Bollywood may champion different stars and might contribute different opinions.

Bollywood is no different than Hollywood in the sense that to keep going they have to operate as a business.  That means giving the buying public what they want.  Financing a movie can be scary, because although a success can be very rewarding, the odds are not entirely promising.  To boost the odds it makes sense to seek out celebrities that help draw in paying customers.

How they got to be celebrities was not always by the same route.  Some are physically attractive or have obvious talent and some had a lot of support and some overcame obstacles with determination.  Celebrity is also a relative thing.  Anyone who has appeared in a popular movie has some glamour, but only a few can really act as magnets to assure (or almost assure) a movie's success.

Hollywood and Bollywood have an international audience in mind.  In the case of Hollywood a lot has been in line with economic and political wave of American success.  Bollywood is international in major part because of the Indian diaspora, but also with some attention to international interests.  With a wider audience there can be many niches, but still the risks are most often dealt with using celebrity.  Stars are one of the tools used to break into new markets.

In Bollywood it seems currently there are three male stars that ensure a big enough base they can make a movie a success.  Also if they lend their name somehow and/or have a minor role in a movie their glamour will boost it.  Those males are Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan.  One thing they have in common is they are all in their forties with proven track records.  For women it is a little different, they tend to be younger and only last a limited number of years as a dominant factor.  Kareena Kapoor and Katrina Kaif come closest to assuring a profitable picture, ideally with one of the three male stars.

A few reasons people like these stars include that they are glamourous and they attract a strong supporting team.  They get the better directors, writers, music composers, make up artists and the bigger budgets amongst many details.  As a movie goer you like to think your preferred stars would choose a good script and would attract a good supporting cast and crew.  A few times it doesn't work out that way, but nonetheless as true stars they do attract a much bigger base than their lesser competitors.

Yes, they do have competitors, either those on the way up or those on the way down.  One on the way up is Hrithik Roshan who is younger, physically attractive perhaps the best dancer and with a good track record.  He was actually picked to break into the American market with "Kites", but for a variety of  reasons it failed.   He has been in a number of big budget films and probably is going in the right direction. Shahid Kapoor has had a kick at the can, but has not a very impressive track record lately.

Saif Ali Khan, Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kummar, John Abrams and Abischek Bachchan each have a significant following, but seem limited in their projection.

There has to be replacements as these old guys are aging and will fade sooner or later.    Some promising prospects include Ranbir Kapoor (son of Rishi Kapoor), Imran Khan (nephew to Aamir Khan) and Rajeev Khandelwal.  These three have all tried to extend the type of roles they will accept.  That will help spread their appeal.  Other prospects might be Emraan Hashmi and Ranveer Singh.

For women the fading can start even earlier. Vidya Balan (my favorite), Priyanka Chopra, Anuska Sharma, Deepika Padukone are becoming increasingly popular.  Ones that seem to be fading include Aishwarya Rai (may be just a maternity detour), Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta and Kajol but they could become strong support players building on their current following.  Juhi Chawla was a draw many years ago, but gets offered lesser roles now.  She has also gotten involved with producing.

Kalki Koechlin is interesting.  She is the daughter of French hippies who settled in India.  She has taken on non glamourous challenging roles (with a few exceptions).  She married Anurag Kashyap, a top producer.  She is definitely a mark of a quality movie, although not necessarily a big box office winner.

Character actors can develop a small following.  Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Paresh Rawal, Naseeruddin Shah, are key support players indicating probably a reasonable movie to watch.  Sometimes they are given meatier roles, but usually in a lower budget film.

Farhan Akhtar is mostly a B actor, but because of his other talents, writing, directing and producing is a good indicator of a movie's success artistically and financially.

For me a most interesting actor is Amitabh Bachchan.  A big star from the 70's as romancer and action star he has evolved into a strong father figure and still has the ability to be the main star of movies that are actually written and produced for him.  He has had a number of flops, but can still command an audience.  One of his most interesting roles was in "Paa" where he played the son of his actual son.  Obviously marketing concerns entered the decision, but he and his son, Abischek Bachchan both executed it very well.

Producers with low budgets are always hoping to develop a new star and eventually some of them will succeed.  The publicity efforts are mainly to boost a movie, but inevitably help actors develop their own fan base.  Personal connection is very important.

I have left out many personalities and that is hard to avoid if keeping this post to a reasonable length.  The ones I have mentioned are all capable of not only a good performance, but also drawing in some fans.

The photos represent my favorite stars--the ones that I look to provide a stimulating and entertaining movie.

At top is Shah Rukh Khan in my favorite Bollywood movie, "Swades"
Aamir Khan in "Lagaan"
Vidya Balan in" Kahaani"
Farhan Akhtar with Deepika Padukone in "Karthik Calling Karthik"

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 IN HINDSIGHT

I already published my resolutions for the future, but perhaps it would have been wiser to reflect on what happened in the past year. beforehand.   A Filly's Best Friend has inspired me to take a look.  If you are involved with horses you will enjoy her blog. http://fillysbestfriend.blogspot.ca

2012 was not all good for sure.  I lost sales opportunities and do recognize if I had somehow been smarter or harder working it might not have been as severe.  As I often used to say when going on a sales call if I didn't actually get a sale I did get an education.  Lots of education was gained and some of it will be put to better use in 2013.

One of the projects I worked on for over ten years ran into some problems.  The Burlington Eagles have been putting out an annual magazine for 11 years with me as the main sales rep all that time.  Part of their problem is that it is run by volunteers and this year they ran into all sorts of difficulties and the magazine kept getting postponed.

Great Saves was truly a great idea offered to me, but required greater team effort to get over the hump.  It was a new way of fund raising for minor sports clubs where anyone could buy bargains with part of the proceeds going to the clubs.  Trying to line up clubs, buyers and sellers, a true chicken and egg dilemma proved to be too difficult.

My Uncle Cameron Stewart died in November.  Funerals bring out mixed emotions.  It is sad that someone has died, but it reminds us of pleasant memories and brings relatives closer together.  It can also help you appreciate life a little more.  You can read some of my memories at http://bit.ly/QEiHIo

A lot of famous people died including Steven R Covey, a man I admire.  My memories of him are here http://bit.ly/MfqR32

Looking ahead it is a good idea to remember the many good things that also happened in the past year.

The Rider, http://www.therider.com  improved its share of a market made difficult by the economy.  Barry Finn, the owner made some serious steps into online publication by buying two websites, Equine Niagara News, http://www.equineniagaranews.com/ and Barnmice,  www.barnmice.com/ as well as getting more involved with social media.  The Rider's involvement has been one of the driving forces behind my own increased activities with Facebook, Twitter, a newsletter and blogging.  Most of my efforts will still be concentrated on the newspaper, but not only will it have greater awareness, I also will get the odd chance to sell online.  Although I really have no horse background I really appreciate the perks.  Number one perk is watching horses which I get to do at various horse shows.  Perhaps the biggest perk was going with my wife to see Cavalia Odysseo--my most popular blog post http://bit.ly/LrFMKZ

The Eagles started a new website and I have a chance to sell ads on line.  With a more exciting layout it should be increasing traffic.  The Eagles also had another record breaking food drive by pooling their resources with some other groups they brought in a little over 114,000 pounds of food (that is not a misprint).  Proud to have played a very small role in that effort.  http://www.burlingtoneagles.com

Another good year of reading good books which I summarized at http://bit.ly/WbuDN6

Getting more and more into movies and for 2012 here is what I remember http://bit.ly/133Lqc9

For the first time Sharon and I attended the Art Gallery of Hamilton film festival.  Really only took in the trailers preview and one of my favorites of the year "The Intouchables".  Looking forward to getting more involved this year.  Sharon kept up a tradition of going to a TIFF presentation with some of her girl friends.

I made it to most of the Art Crawls on nearby James St north in Hamilton.  Near mid year I wrote a blog post about the evolving art crawl which you can read at http://bit.ly/KTf7Bt The Supercrawl was better than ever with lots of art and musical entertainment.  I included lots of photos in my newsletters.

Attended two book readings.  Robert J Sawyer spoke at the Hamilton Library with some more details at http://bit.ly/TOA9Yk where the title plays on his theme.  John Lawrence Reynolds who I met through work spoke during an Art Crawl event and I bought his book (which is mentioned in book blog).

Another of the pleasurable arts I enjoy is eating at restaurants and I was fortunate not only on my trips, but locally and would like to mention a few.  Rayhoon Persian Eatery, Nonna's Ristorante and Thai Avenue in Burlington were enjoyable. Acclamation, Mex I Can, Wild Orchid, Earth to Table, Spice Avenue and Sarcoa in Hamilton.  I had one experience that I won't mention, but pretty good odds.  I also have to add I am very lucky as my wife is well recognized as a great cook (and baker).

Combining two pleasures I selected the Burlington Library choice for Burlington Reads, "The Beauty of Humanity Movement" and it inspired me to visit a nearby restaurant, Thai Avenue.  You can read about it here at my second most popular blog post.  http://bit.ly/OPpsTV

Unlike my world traveling son, I don't really get around much.  Past vacations have been built around my kids choice of schools (Halifax and Victoria for a bi coastal experience) or my travels selling through Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.  Sharon and I have discovered Cuba and find it a great value.  We have had such good experiences at Arenas Dorado in Veradero that this past year was our third visit.   One of the unexpected highlights was a wedding on the beach and although we didn't know the bride and groom (or even speak their language)  it was enjoyable. More details at http://bit.ly/GNT4yJ  Our fourth visit later this year may be the last as we are looking further afield.

I am lucky where I work, OKD Marketing as the owners treat their employees as people to nurture and reward.  The staff was taken on a 3 day trip to New York.  In many ways New York is like the capital of the world, but I only knew about it through the media.  Some highlights included Central Park, Times Square, Macy's Brazilian display, the Top of the Rock, Ellis Island and restaurants.  It is great to socialize with those you work with. You can read my take on it and see some photos at http://bit.ly/HdF9Mt

In the fall it has become a ritual to visit the Hamilton Mum show and this year had a very colourful show.  Also in the fall I take part in the Superwalk to support the Parkinson's Society.  Wish I could say I raised a lot of money, but I do keep at it.

Michael, my son was not able to overcome immigration restrictions in England and ended up trying his luck in New Zealand.  He had no job, just a friend of a friend, some research and a lot of confidence.  By making calls on various schools he fairly quickly got a temporary teaching job.  It worked out so well that he will start the new year (and January is a new school year in New Zealand) with a more permanent job.  As I write this he is actually visiting in Taiwan adding to his global awareness.

Heather, my daughter endured a few changes during the year with her main job location changing, but at the end she got a boost getting a part time job that fits in with her existing job situation.  As some of you may know Heather is the heart of #TeamHamOnt on twitter.  Through that she has been a strong booster of Hamilton. Just before the holidays she organized a fund raiser involving food trucks and #TeamHamOnt.

I was pleased that Obama won the American election, but I have become more disillusioned with politics.  Big money, special interests and fanatics have disproportionate power over everyone else including Obama.

102 blogs helped keep me out of some mischief.  I dug up a lot of good memories and gave myself the opportunity to spout off a bit.  Books, travel, movies, horses, events, selling, family tree research, politics and other interesting things.  Look forward to doing better this year.

I try to learn something new each day.  One of my focal points is organization.  From the CBC Fresh Air website I picked up a video that instructs a better way to fold socks.  Of course there is work involved, but it makes it easier to fill your drawer and as the work is front loaded, when you are in a hurry you will can take off much faster.  You can learn too,  How to Fold Socks - YouTube

Weddings are one of my favorite forms of entertainment and this year our good friends Mike and Karen Bromilow's daughter Leanna got married to John.  It was a very well catered affair, with a touching ceremoney, a lovely bride (with matching groom), a few laughs, good talks with friends, lots of dancing--what else could you want?  Looking forward to David and Krista's wedding on June 1st.




We had an unusual New Years Eve this year.  Usually there are about 6-8 of us regulars, eating, drinking and talking.  This year we hosted 16 people.  One, Josie came up from South Carolina to see her mother and joined us.  The more the merrier.  I am still eating the leftovers, but they are excellent.

Looking back on my resolutions last year I had a few successes, but not across the board.  I think I can honestly say I made progress and have decided to move forward.  Resolutions should help you improve a challenge and build on your strengths.

PHOTOS:  Top one is from the Supercrawl and I felt very lucky to get such a spectacular shot that I  hoped would get your attention.
Next down, the happy couple on Veradero Beach is Sharon and myself.
One of the flowers at the Mum show.
Peggy, Roberta, Susan, Rob and Rob at New Years' Eve party.
Florence, Sharon, Hank and Debbie.
Josie with her sister Barb and friend Debbie.