Commentary

Life – in a day…

Last night Josée and  I watched a very interesting documentary titled Life In A Day.  Directed by Kevin McDonald and produced by Ridley Scott, it was a series of scenes and vignettes filmed by average people in over 190 countries on one specific day, 24 July 2010.  From the bazaar in Kabul to a Korean man spending 9 years riding his bike around the world to a slaughterhouse, the film showed ordinary people doing ordinary things in every corner of the globe.  It also posed three questions to those who participated – what gives you joy, what do you love and what do you fear.  The film is 90 minutes but well worth the time; it opened my eyes to life in our big beautiful world and was an optimistic piece of encouraging media, a rarity in the modern world.  Most of all, it reiterated to me that deep down, people share more similarities than they do differences.  Enjoy!

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Langford North?

I was in Victoria yesterday and stopped by to see the revitalization work done in the centre of Langford over the last number of years.  It was impressive to say the least.  From what I can see, it appears as though the city made a decision to improve the climate for business by reducing red-tape and encouraging new companies to open up shop in the area.  Development is not encouraged at all costs – projects have to meet criteria for design, materials, look and the like.  From a strong business climate comes strong and recurring tax revenue which is being used to revitalize streets, build bike lanes, create community rec centres and the like.

Langford is working on creating more density in the core of the city, multi-purposed buildings that have retail shops on the ground floor, professional offices on the second and residential apartments on the third or fourth floors.  I wonder if we could adopt some of these ideas in Comox, perhaps on the site of the Lorne or if the mall is re-developed.  One of the neat projects built in Langford is a fountain in the centre of the main roundabout; it dances, like the fountains at the Bellagio, every half an hour to different tunes!

We have a lot going for us in Comox but I think we could offer so much more.  Take a look at the City of Langford website and time yourself to see how long it takes for you to find information on how to start a business.  Now visit the Town of Comox site and do the same.

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A new hope

It’s a new beginning.  Most of us, I think, feel a bit energized at the start of a new year; fresh start, clean slate and all that.  I do anyway.  Many, consciously or otherwise, have goals and aspirations for the new year – need I even say resolutions.  I have to be careful though; I tend to have so much on the go, so many projects and activities, planned and unplanned that I need to heed the words of Socrates, ringing true over two millennia later: “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”  It’s true – how often do we just go, go, go.  Life is fast paced and hectic; we have our to-do lists and our places we just have to be.

So my first resolution for 2012 is to spend some time doing diddly squat each week; no reading, no work around here or at the office, no brainstorming up new ideas or developing new projects.  All of that is valuable and productive but for my peace of mind, I think I need to turn off and re-boot once a week.

My second resolution, one I instituted at the start of 2011, is to continue my diligence in trying to complete all my projects before taking on more.  I found I was asked to do more for clients, sit on this board or that, help with this website, review this business idea or build a fence at home – you get the idea.  Some of it was my own doing, some from outside influences.  I like having a checklist of things I’ve done and I don’t mind adding to it but when the ‘adds’ are multiplying thrice as speedily as the ‘checks’ it becomes demoralizing.  Yoda sums it up best in the clip.

What are your resolutions, goals or projects for 2012?

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Where’s the rain?

A couple weeks ago, I was walking my dogs and noticed that my two ponds still were not joined.  Through the summer they are always divided by a land bridge but usually by mid-November we’ve had enough rain that the two become one.  This made me think that I could only remember two sou’easters coming through our place this fall which seemed unusual.  In fact, I couldn’t even remember the last time we had rain and the mountains which we see out our front window were remarkably barren; no rain = no snow.

I decided to do a little checking on the weather data, just out of curiosity (yes, I’m like that), and my suspicions were confirmed – we’re having an incredibly dry fall.  Check out my chart for the figures; we’ve had less than half the rain we normally get.  I guess that means January and February will be full on monsoon season.

Merry Christmas and enjoy the dry weather while you can!

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RZIM in the Valley…

Michael Ramsden

Living in a ‘smallish’ town on an island means we’re off the beaten path when it comes to many top speakers but yesterday, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Michael Ramsden presentation at Isfeld Sr. Secondary, an event put on by the Comox Valley Band of Brothers and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.  The title of his presentation was Christianity: A Failed Hope?  Michael spoke to the crowd of about 500 for about 40 minutes before opening the floor to questions.  His logical and well-thought out exposition was easy to follow but very thought provoking.  The audience was a mix of people and some of the questions were very tough, addressing a few of the big issues such as why there is suffering in the world and how science and religion can mix.  My tiny brain is still trying to digest the material and it will probably take me a few days to mull it over but I certainly enjoyed listening to such a qualified speaker.  Apologetics is a very interesting field and the slogan of the evening was “helping the believer think and the thinker believe” – a nice phrase which I think sums up the evening!

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Phase #2 – The Extended Chevron

The second style is upon us; the extended chevron or perhaps the reverse Dali.  Don Mattingly and Freddy Mercury both sported this style although they had dark hair so it showed up better.  I’m hoping this will morph into a Magnum, perhaps for the last few days of the month.  To be honest, I might continue the trend post-Movember; perhaps a little ‘three musketeer’ action?  Dad and Tim joined me for the Mo-Bro celebration; Tim is maintaining his horseshoe while Dad is going for the manchu look.

Do you think you know your ‘staches?  Click here to see if you can match the famous stache with its owner!

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Occupy Vancouver – my experience

I was in Vancouver for the weekend and spent some time at the ‘Occupy Vancouver’ tent-city.  I read much of the material they had posted around the location, some of which, at a casual glance, was grossly erroneous; Canadian banks don’t have minimum capital requirements?  Guess no one read Basel III before making their signage or (in Canada) the Bank Act.  One sign had a suggestion that building tunnels between major urban centres to house a mag-lev train which could travel at 4000km per hour (yes, 4000) was more cost effective than continuing on with the airline system.  Now I’ve read a bit about mag-levs (I think they have some in Japan, China and Germany) and while they can be powered by electricity generated by alternate energy power-plants, even when full-cost accounting is taken into consideration, I can’t see how a tunnel underground between Vancouver and Toronto (let alone closer cities like Seattle or Calgary) could possibly be less costly.  Anyway, I digress.

I had a chat with the communications director for fifteen minutes – nice guy and very articulate.  He was quite candid with some of his answers.  Turns out he didn’t actually stay in the tent city but rather lived in an apartment in Yaletown and just came down to the site on evening and weekends.  I didn’t realize that the majority of the tenters, according to this guy, are actually homeless people and are not directly involved in the ‘Occupy’ movement.  Anyway, this fellow worked for a food distribution company, driving a rig and said Occupy Vancouver has had some problems with the organization of their ‘members’ – ‘too many chefs’ was his expression.  Everyone wants to be at the top of the pile and there is so much in-fighting they can’t get around to actually codifying their goals and objectives.  He hopes the winter will cull the herd, leading to a more focused group next spring.

I must admit that I’m still not entirely sure what the ‘Occupy’ movement is fighting for right now.  I’ve read numerous articles, news releases and blogs but many have varying opinions or platforms.  Here are a few words from the Occupy Wall Street website:  “Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”  What does this mean?  I haven’t been able to find a definition of the 1%; for instance, if they mean the wealthiest people I would have to 100% disagree with them as two people I’ve personally met (Warren Buffett and Bill Gates) are in the top five wealthiest people in the world (ipso facto in the 1%) and one can’t really say they’re greedy as they’ve already given away billions.  In fact, if I look at many of the wealthy people I know personally (and due to my line of work, I know a lot), most of them worked hard for their wealth, managed their finances and were prudent and these same people are extremely generous with their dollars, supporting a massive array of causes, organizations and groups.  Are they part of the 1%?  Are they not to be tolerated?

Does the 1% refer to countries?  If so, we’re in trouble as Canada is definitely in the 1% of the world’s wealthiest nations?  Does this mean Occupy isn’t going to tolerate Canada?  What form of resistance does that take?

Don’t get me wrong; I think that some things need modification in our current global situation.  One need only look at the absurd lending practices around the world.  A more targeted change might include a cap on executive compensation, as long as it was across the board – every industry, every company.  Hmm..I might take that back as I’m CEO of my company and I don’t want to limit my compensation.  However, we could extrapolate this to celebrities?  Sports stars?  Where does it end?  While we’re at it, I find it ironic that a number of the most outspoken supports of ‘Occupy’ are Hollywood actors, many of whom would easily fall within the 1%?  I read an interesting article today regarding Michael Moore (click here) – it seems as though he is playing both sides of the fence on this whole issue.

I don’t know what solutions are proposed by Occupy Vancouver; indeed, as mentioned they don’t really have their platform solidified yet.  I do know, however, that the government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.  I’m still trying to get my simple brain around the whole concept but whatever your personal point of view, the ‘Occupy’ movement makes for a lively conversation.

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Sportin’ the ‘stache….

MOVEMBER!  It’s here.  Are you in?

By now, most of you know about Movember (no, it isn’t a typo!).  Movember started in Australia and has now become a world-wide phenomenon whereby men sport mustaches for the month of November to raise funds and generate publicity for prostate cancer.  For those of you not sporting the ‘stache, are you planning to take the plunge and do something different this month?  Most of us know someone who has battled prostate cancer; let’s show them our support by participating.  I’m particularly impressed by how efficient Movember is as a fundraising organization (see chart).  For more information on Movember, please click here.  You can learn about the idea, participate, donate and also find local groups who are supporting the event.

I’m going to try a few different ‘staches throughout the month so stay tuned for picture updates.

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A subtle irony…

We’re a few days away from the US defaulting on debt payments for the first time.  While partisan politics keep a resolution from being announced at present, I feel that one is pending and I don’t believe there will be a default.   Neither party nor the President want to be remembered for bringing a new wave of economic suffering upon the US, spreading internationally as it can’t pay its obligations.  While there are many reasons as to why the US national debt has increased to such a point as the country faces bankruptcy of a sort, aside from waging war one of the chief issues is the reluctance to pay for ‘things’ with saved rather than borrowed money.  Governments, like people, want what they want when they want it.

This air of entitlement is not monopolized by the oligarchy in DC.  I was working outside most of today, listening to the local radio.  Two Courtenay car dealers had ads running consistently and one of the chief points of their ads was “if you have bad credit, have been bankrupt or unable to borrow money it’s not a problem; we can still find a way to loan you money to buy a new car”.  A Courtenay furniture store says “remember, we don’t want your money”.  They were prepared to find a way for people with poor credit and/or no money to borrow more.  While people have a responsibility not to borrow when they can’t afford it, business (and government) should have the same responsibility to extend credit only to those who can afford it.  Have we so quickly forgotten the lessons learned in 2008/2009 when lenders were extending mortgages to people with no savings, no jobs and no income?

Isn’t this part of the problem?  Remember the time when we saved for things; we didn’t buy unless we had the money.  Now it is all about instant gratification and impatience.  The judicious use of credit is a useful and necessary part of our world but used irresponsibly it can cause massive problems for both people – and nations.

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HST in BC

I was just emailing a friend of mine about a few issues, one of them being the HST.  By now, most of us in BC have our vote yay or nay for the HST packages and many of us are still unsure of which way to cast our ballot.  When the HST first came in, confusing as it was, I sent a report to my clients outlining what would change and what would not.  This was sometime ago.  In my mind, the number one issue regarding the HST at present is not so much whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but rather the misinformation surrounding both sides of the debate.  It is hard to get straight answers.

While I have read on the HST, I am the first to admit I am not an HST scholar.  Several months ago, I stumbled across this youtube video by a recent UBC law school graduate with a minor in economics.  To view the video, click here.  I found it both informative and entertaining and it is quite clear on which side of the vote he stands.  To learn more about why the HST should be rolled back you can visit the Fight HST website here.  To learn more about the HST and what it means to you (the other side of the issue), visit the HST in BC website here.

Whatever you do, get informed and make your voice heard!

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