Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's Tough to Make the Time...

I think making the time to write a blog is tough.

First, it would be nice to write something you think people would like to read, second, making the time to sit down, organize your thoughts, and third, start and complete the writing process. This all requires discipline. For the past year or so, I have lacked that discipline. While I make no promises, I shall try to be more frequent with my posts.

This weekend was a watershed moment for my in-laws, Jill and Lawrence Stewart: they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. WOW. What an achievement! And they seem as happy today as they must have been September 10, 1960.

I've been fortunate to have seen the 50th anniversary of my father's parents, my mother's parents, my parents, and now Jenny's parents. It really is quite a thing.

My wife Jenny and everyone's mutual friend Sue Pardue, worked their butts off getting the party ready and stepping beyond the minimalist ideas of my mother-in-law, and creating an outstanding party event. Jenny even became a movie director. I showed her the core steps to Microsoft Movie Maker, and then she went to town. She must have scanned and cropped a hundred pictures, created the dissolves, aligned them to music and published the finished product. She then added videos from her brother Jeff as well as Jill's brother Peter and his wife Dot, so we had a fulsome and lively presentation for the re-commitment ceremony.

Jill and Lawence now live about four hours drive away in Tobermory, and as a result, we don't see them as often. It was great to see them this weekend, surprise them with the "dialed-up" event, and share with them this all-too-rare acknowledgment to teamwork.

For the moment, I shall continue my quest to see 25 years with Jenny.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Victoria Day?! and BBQs

Victoria Day 2009.

It’s sunny, but cold. Not just cool…it’s downright COLD.

Since when did we start with the prevailing Northerlies? Geez! This is supposed to be spring! I am stuck thinking that Victoria Day is May 24th. This idea of it being May 18th just sucks. Worse, this year Canada Day is the middle of the week: Wednesday! Ugh!

This year we’re putting in a garden at the front of the house. I have to hand the initiative to Jenny; otherwise I’d never do it. As you can imagine, the job entails removing the sod, shaking as much dirt out of it as possible, then depositing the spent sod somewhere. In this project, I loosened the sod with a spade, and Jenny took the lead in shaking out the dirt. I got to take the dregs to the back 40.

Since we are not gardeners at all, we were ill-prepared for all that might be needed. It turns out that, despite vigorous shaking, the amount of dirt left is inadequate to our desired result. So we have ordered a yard of triple-mix to top up the new garden, so this means a second weekend at this job. Such is life. I hope the final product looks good, but then, it couldn’t look any worse than it does now.

This year we broke down and bought a new BBQ. The old was shedding pieces of God-knows-what on the inside of the grill cover. There’s nothing like taking your next big bite of chemicals with your next big bite of steak.

Our selection was a new three-burner model from Broil King. This also allows one to remove the grates, as it has three separate cooking sections. Now I can effectively duplicate the cooking-show efforts of Bobby Flay, Rob Rainford and Matt Dunigan. Watch out boys…Paul’s on the grill.

When we bought the unit, the salesman talked me into a chicken roasting device from Weber. With the device came a recipe for beer chicken. One puts together lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic and a host of other spices and of course, beer to get the desired finished product. We’ve had two in the past two weeks. Yummy! Moist and delicious.

Last night I went a step further and used a device I’ve owned for years and never used: the rotisserie. We bought a nice roast of beef, and I tried my first rotisserie project, I slow-cooked the roast with Jack Daniels smoke. The BBQ store sells pellets that have been infused with Jack Daniels – one of a wide selection of smoking flavours. We were impressed with the result. The meat was moist and cooked to a tee, and had just a hint of Jack Daniels smoke flavour. Of course I think the meat would have benefitted from a stronger “smoking”, but with the May gale we had going, with winds up to 50 km, I’m frankly astonished we achieved anything.

Today, perhaps I’ll take on some seafood for dinner.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day (AKA "The Stimulus Package") and other musings..

Another Valentine's Day has come and gone. Do we really need just one day when we profess our love? Isn't it more reasonable to do this just a little more often?

I eschew things like Valentine's Day as being just another in a long series of MADison Avenue methods for extracting more cash from our poor-ass pockets. Love is making dinner without being asked, cleaning up randomly, making the bed, or in my case, preparing my wife's tea cup for morning use every day for the past 6 years: some 2,190 times. Now, don't get me wrong, I do love my wife and I view my contributions to making her life a little easier as simply logical.

The fringe benefits are plentiful, and primary among them is the fact she continues to love me! Woo-hoo!

Now what's going on in the world that's got my attention since the last time we talked?

Obama is visiting Ottawa; forgoing pomp and circumstance for the appearance he's our best bud by making us his first foreign visit as President. I wonder if there is any of real substance to be accomplished in 5 hours. We'll see. Here's a start - fire up the cash machine and spend us out of this recession! Sadly, I'll be dead and gone and my children's children will be paying for this one. Maybe I should become a "Doomer."

I watched the surreal unfold the other day at the Grammys. Watching an old fart like Robert Plant give a hug to Miley Cyrus was, to say the least, odd. The funny thing is I see artists like Plant and say "You know, he's not that much older than me." Truly he isn't - maybe 10 years at the most.

We'll see how the Oscars unfold, the BAFTAs and Golden Globes have been held, and answers are other there for all to see. Jenny and I are thinking of taking in Slumdog Millionaire later today. If we do, I'll provide my feedback here.

Business continues to be a challenge: so much to do, only so much time. I think we are slowly building momentum, but we need a big opportunity to spread the word all at once. I thinking the OMAA would be a good place to start, but that's in May. We'll try and create something prior to that event; as we need to get in solid gear for the budget-setting season this fall.

All I can think of for now.


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Mornings, Get Up and Go, Got Up and Gone; and Does Anyone Really Know the Economy?

Saturday Morning.

I have a routine I stick to, and frankly, I really don't like it when things are changed - for any reason. Saturday morning I get up at times varying from my usual 5:30 am to somewhere around 7:00 am. (I know - 5:30??!!) It's my circadian rhythm, I can't help it. For some reason, this year I did not make the switch to fall time the way I normally do. Age. ~shit!~

Back to Saturdays. Around 9:00 am I make my breakfast: two sausage rounds, one english muffin, a slice of processed cheese, and two microwaved eggs (we have a little thingy we bought from Linens'N'Things that cooks them into neat little circles). I toast the english muffin, add one sausage round, half of the slice of cheese, and an egg; a little salt and pepper, add a small glass of OJ and a tea, and presto! a tidy little breakfast that will last me till dinner.

When, for reasons I don't control, we don't have one of the ingredients, then that is the making of a bad day. Not so today, I believe we have all the ingredients, and so I shall be partaking shortly (note the time mentioned).

I feel lazy today. I have so much to do, and yet my "get up and go" has gotten up and slipped out the door. It's still winter; and winter still sucks. Maybe that's it. Yeah, that's it. Maybe with the right breakfast I'll show signs of life. We'll see.

Also part of my morning ritual is the daily read of the Toronto Star: right or wrong, agree or disagree, I read it cover to cover (lightly, not everything!). In the course of today's parsing of the paper, I noticed that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that Canada and the rest of the world is in a depression. Not a "recession", rather a "depression." FUNK! For months politicos avoided use of the "R" word for fear of instilling panic among the populace. As it turns out, they should have been using the "D" world. To my way of thinking, I will return to the place whence I came: back in Macro-Economics in the fall of 1977, when the professor wisely advised us "When you line up all the economists, they STILL point in different directions."

One thing to keep in mind, whether 'tis the 4th or 5th estates you adhere to in terms in informational drivel, remember they ALL need to make money; and that will lead to them postulating the most outrageous of thoughts, just to suck you in. Do what I do: put it all off to one side, and simply apply yourself to your life, the rest is just "sturm und drang." You'll feel better, at least for a little while...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Hate Winter, Freak'nomics and Marley not Me

I hate winter.

There. I've said it.

Whether it's my crappy "thick-as-tar" blood or the fact I simply prefer the feel of Tommy Bahama silk against my skin instead of wool, I HATE WINTER.

And this winter is giving me lots to hate. Dear God it's cold. Minus 14!

Christmas is over for another year, another is a mere 354 days away. Start your planning now!

Of course that presumes you have a job by the time the next event rolls around. Don' t we live in a wonderful world? Just a scant 9 months ago, the TSX was flirting with the 15,000 point level and everyone was thinking "Those stupid Americans and their mortgage fiasco...". What a difference a season or two makes. Now the TSX has settled (for the moment) in the 9,000 range. 40% off the top. Sweet. The Yanks catch a sniffle; we catch catastrophic influenza.

What do you think made this happen?

I'm resolute in my contention that a key contributor is IFRS - the new International Financial Reporting Standards - due to be adopted by signatory countries in 2010. All those companies with inflated, bogus assets were about to get caught with their collective pants down; their shortcomings plainly in view. So, in true corporate, C-Y-A fashion, they fix the problem on their financials immediately citing economic times, rather than in the harsh light of IFRS compliance. Oh, and ask the government for a bailout to cover the costs while you're at it. Brilliant!

Consider the case of Satyam Computer Services, who admitted to billions in cash on their balance sheet that simply doesn't exist. How do you do that? What banker or auditor worth a shit would buy into this scheme? I assume they can read financials. Listen, accounting is a pretty basic equation: Assets = Liabilities plus Equity. So if you have an extra billion in assets, you must have an extra billion in either liabilities or equity; one or the other. If you have it showing as a contingent liability (the only place it could go to my knowkedge), then wouldn't a banker say "Gee, this upcoming revenue is going make your year!"

My accountant always wanted to know the details of my contingent liabilities. You know, client name, amount and what it was for. Then the next year he would watch to ensure that liability become a revenue. Although it never happened, I'm sure he would have howled if it had stayed or worse, gotten bigger.

I suppose it will all come down to the auditors. The honourable firm of Dewey, Screwem and Howe will be sued, screwed and tattooed for their complicity or stupidity in this.

At least the CEO of Satyam admitted his guilt, and didn't pull a Garth Drabinsky "I was too busy to notice my books were crap." He couldn't be more full if shit if he had taken a tumble into a Johnny-on-the-Spot.

I for one am not too worried about all this gloom and doom. If one gives too much credence to the fourth estate, you can see yourself lemming off the bridge. I recall a friend of mine, John Ford, who opined "Today's news is tomorrow's fish wrapping." So don't let the Chicken Little prattle of statistical tomfoolery get you down, or worse, cause you to crystallize that temporary loss by selling out.

Freakonomics is just that.

Let me tell you about my university Macro-Economics prof who, after a semester of painting our young minds with vibrant pictures depicting the "elasticity of demand", equilibrium and other such economic phrases, announced to the class that "Of course everything I've taught you is being proven wrong right now." Wonderful. Ever since that day I've taken everything economic with a BIG block of salt lick; a grain simply doesn't cut it.

So sit back, watch our elected officials pontificate, wax Keynesian philosophic, and spend our grandchildren's grandchildren into oblivion.

As a parting shot, for reasons passing all reason, I went to see Marley and Me at the movies. Perhaps it was because my darling wife treated. This is a "chick flick" to be sure. God bless him, I have no idea what Hollywood sees in Owen Wilson. He gave a performance where his emotional range ran from A to B. I don't get it. Not that I'm jealous, I just think that **SPOILER ALERT** if you lost your dog of 15 years, you might summon up some tears.

Enough of a grump for a frosty January Sunday. I have other things to do!

Ciao and happy new year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I've Been Bad...and I'll Be Better in 2009!

Imagine this Christmas Eve morning when I opened my e-mail to be greeted by a "Happy Holidays" card from a friend of mine, Shabbir Siraj. In the intervening months since he and I worked on the 48-hour Film Challenge, Ali (as he is known), has made his way to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to write and do photography work for "Destination Jeddah", a travel magazine. In my whole life of some 52 years, I never would have thought I would have a friend in Saudi Arabia. I do. What a wonderful world we live in!

Anyway, Ali reminded me in humorously strong terms that I have let my audience down by not keeping up my blog. He is absolutely correct! Thank you Ali for reminding me of the error of my ways. I shall atone in the new year.

When I look at my blog, it has been almost five months since I wrote last. So much has happened, it seems like a million miles away. Where to begin? Let's see...

I suppose the biggest change has been that of my employment. I left Strategic Information Technology (SIT) for a job with iPLANcorp (IPC). I am their new Vice-President of Sales and Marketing. No idle desk-sitting for this cowboy - two jobs at the same time. IPC is an interesting firm. They were founded by Bob Forhan and a partner as a planning business: primarily acting as consultants to land developers, assisting them to navigate their plans for their properties through the municipal planning maze. Over the years they've had a hand in a number of signature communities, among them CathedralTown and Ballantrae Commons.

During the course of pursuing this line of work, they became deeply involved with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Over the years they have written software applications to improve and streamline their work. They decided to market this work as a suite of applications: the iQ-Suite. With a blare of trumpets, bring in the wily old municipal veteran (cue: Paul) to help them achieve greatness. I just started this job on November 24th, and already I'm knee-deep in helping to drive changes to bring the product to the level of attention I think it deserves. This year will be busy-busy!

I think that's all I'll say in this blog, save a big "Thank you" and "Happy Holiday" I'll throw eastward to Jeddah to my friend Shabbir for calling me out!

Happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Glory of Food, Drink, and Generally Being Merry

Do you want to know the meaning of pain?

Being diabetic and loving food and drink. Thanks to a family tree rich in history and the reality that the apple never falls too far from the tree, I was consigned to my life as diabetic courtesy of my paternal grandmother. No doubt my unbridled sweet tooth and the disposition to accommodate it contributed to my current state. Nonetheless.

For the most part I mollycoddle my affliction, but once in a while I "let it all hang out", and go wild! Such was the case just a couple of weekends ago. We invited a friend of mine from the office: Barb and her husband Bruno (whose daughter Alexandra is the same age as Ashley) over for an afternoon of visiting, swimming and food. They arrived at around 2:30, complete with two bottles of the good red vino, and we proceeded to visit. Man did we visit. The next day, I counted that we had calmly dispensed with 5 bottles of wine and a brand-new, large-sized bottle of Bailey's Irish Creme. Four people. Holy crap! Now I must admit, I had little to do with the polishing off of the Bailey's. I think the Jenny and Barb did that all by themselves. Bruno and I had retired to the front porch for a smoke, and when we came back in some 20 minutes later, ~presto~ the Bailey's was gone.

I should also mention my predilection for Dim Sum. For those uninitiated sorts, Dim Sum is a Chinese meal of small appetizer-sized nibbly bits. At the office, Jason, Dave Mac, and bunch of SIT folks go every Friday and partake. Usually there are about 10-12 people, but we get up to 16 or so when the last Friday of the month rolls around. The nice thing? We eat ourselves full, the tea keeps on coming, and the whole affair costs like 11 bucks. We have fun, food and friendship all in the span of about 2 hours. What a deal! I rarely eat dinner on Fridays because unlike other meals, this one stays with you.

Today we went out on a mission. We had been told of a new Chinese buffet here in town. It replaced the old Korean barbecue we used to frequent. Today's repast of all-you-can-eat Chinese fare cost $11. Not bad. We'll see if I'm hungry for dinner.

Anyway, these are the distractions from my disease. I'd love to enjoy these kinds of events every day, but it seems as my age advances I've put more distance between the current me and my metabolism.

Another lamentation.

I need to get in front of a camera, quickly!