Thursday, December 2, 2010

Me and my morning buzz - alarm clock wake-up strategies

Do you have a wake up strategy? Should you?

Have you ever taken the time to think about your alarm clock and how you start your day?

Me neither. But today I thought maybe I should.

I only think about my alarm clock when I need it to wake me up when I don't want to.

Your alarm clock may be any number of things, mechanical (cellphone, alarm clock), biological (bodily needs or desires), or environmental annoyances (a real-life rooster, a crow outside your window, a barking dog, or your favourite neighbor redoing his roof at 6:45 a.m.).

My alarm clock is a traditional, effective, and inexpensive $20 piece of plastic.

This is what usually wakes me out of blissful slumber each morning.

I've never thought about making friends with it either. I never will.

It does it's job. It was a gift. It is a simple clock radio alarm model - radio and alarm. No games or gadgets. It has lasted forever and still looks like new.

Every morning when the alarm goes off, I say exactly the same thing out-loud: "I hate you!"

This has been going on for years.

Guess what it's called . . . The Sony DREAM MACHINE!

I've been wondering if I should continue to wake up with something I hate each morning.
Should I make a change? Should I change my wake up strategy?

Most people have a love-hate relationship with their alarm clock. You hate the sound of the alarm. It has to be alarming, or you wouldn't wake up. You need it to keep you on time.

I have a typical wake up strategy

My wake up strategy is to set my alarm clock to go off to radio news thirty minutes before I have to get up. I want to know if there is something interesting or major going on or if I can just hit the "leave me alone for now" snooze button.

The alarm, is set for the deadline - the worst case scenario - the last second I can get out of bed and barely make it to where I've got to be. This gives me the choice to get up before the hateful sound of the alarm or gives me thirty minutes of wake time to think about how comfortable my bed really is and torture myself by wishing I had more time to enjoy it.

Alarm Clock Research

Today I researched alarm clocks on the Web using a number of keywords: alarm clock monsters, and alarm clock hate clubs. Facebook has one! There were over 9,000 fans on the Facebook I hate my Alarm Clock page when I last checked in. Facebook has a page for anything you can think of. Apparently alarm clock hate is a big topic and trying to make waking up happy and fun is a big business!

Alarm Clock Monsters (Waku Free) is an iPhone/iPod app that lets you download your favourite iTunes music or set it to funny sound effects. Cute little monsters will be dancing to your tunes when your alarm goes off. You can customize it to your preferences. It might make you laugh and shake a leg when you get up to shut it off. A good toy if you're an app-a-holic and your cellphone technology is your best friend.

UberReview lists the Top Ten Most Annoying Alarm Clocks. My alarm clock is pretty tame compared to some of these gimmicky and ballistic models. I had no idea!

How about an alarm clock that explodes puzzle pieces. You have to find the pieces and put them back in the machine to get it to shut off. Another model hangs over your head, sounds off and retracts out of your reach. Imagine sleeping with that hanging over your head! This must break some major Feng Shui rules! Or the alarm clock that comes with a flashing strobe and vibrating pad. Can't you just go to Vegas for that kind of stuff? How about the model that you have to shoot with a laser to turn it off. Fun until you misplace the laser remote!

I thought my wake up strategy was probably pretty much the same as most people. But, looking at some of new alarm clock models and apps for cellphones out there, it looks like I need to consider all the options I've got now for waking up.

It can be turned into a game, it can become a challenge of skill, or it can be made more Zen.

I need a new wake up strategy and an alarm clock I don't hate

My new wake up strategy will include:
  • thinking about how I want to wake up
  • changing my perspective about getting up
  • talking to others about their wake up strategies
  • experimenting with different methods of waking up to see what works best for me and whoever hangs out with me (we have to be considerate)
There are many choices when it comes to alarm clocks:
  • Find something Zen
  • Get a gimmicky toy that will test your skills and agility
  • Go for a cellphone app you like
  • Stick with the everyday traditional alarm clock radio you've had for years
  • Get a puppy that needs less sleep than you and likes to lick your face early in the morning
  • Put up with an annoying cat who needs to be fed on schedule!
I'm thinking of starting with Zen. A Zen alarm clock. Something that wakes me up gradually and gently, instead of suddenly.

What's your wake up strategy?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Johanna Skibsrud wins this year's $50,000 Giller Prize

Johanna Skibsrud, from Montreal, was awarded this year's $50,000 Giller Prize on November 9, for her first novel, The Sentimentalists, which she based on some of her father's real-life experiences in the Vietnam War. I remember the Vietnam War. One of my best friends lost her brother in a helicopter crash and she was never the same afterwards.

It's nice to see Johanna win after being referred to as "perhaps the most unlikely winner in Giller Prize history. The novel was originally published in October 2008 — too late to qualify for last year’s prize — but came and went without too much attention; it garnered scant reviews, sold a few hundred copies, and remained relatively unknown until being named to the long list in September."

Here's an interesting writer's dilemma for Johanna Skibsrud now that she's won the Giller Prize. She's with a small five-person publishing house, Gaspereau Press that can't keep up with the demand for her prize winning novel, and is struggling to crank out 1,000 books a week. A happy problem just the same.

And Gaspereau Press didn't lose any time hopping on the bandwagon to promote themselves. They made a short video of themselves feeding the manuscripts of her book into the binding machine. It's just a video of NOISE! As if anyone would be interested in this. I'm wondering how they survive without ear plugs! But it will make you so happy you are at peace with your writer's pen or keyboard and quiet office! And if you've never seen a book binding machine, here it is.

I'm usually more interested in the writer's story than the novels they produce.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the famed Harry Potter books, is one of my all time favourites. Before she published her first book, she struggled to survive as a single parent. It was hard for her to finish her first manuscript, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone-U.S. title).

J.K. Rowling kept many of her notes in simple shoe boxes. Five publishers rejected her masterpiece. Until, one day, an exec at Scholastic found her first Harry Potter manuscript on top of his to-take-home-and-read pile and couldn't put it down. The rest is history. J.K. Rowling is now famous and rich with a series of Harry Potter books and Hollywood feature films.

Happy reading and writing!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Just for Laughs Comedy Tour 2010

WritersBlogque hit up the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour 2010 in Ottawa. This year's show is one to check out. A great lineup from start to finish.

Don't let their boring promo pic fool you. The pickpocket is a new act, Bob Arno. The tall skinny guy in a red suit. He'll rob you blind while chatting you up. Watch out for him at the airport and at the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour, he'll lift your stuff there too! Ha! He rocked. Something new!

Italian Frank Spadone hosted. He speels out typical girl problems faster than you can absorb. Quit bashing your wife's idiosyncracies and assuming we're all like that! Ha!

Gina Yashere, a black Brit from Nigeria. Figure that out! And a girl comic you'll likely like whether you are a guy or a girl!

Ryan Hamilton (from Idaho) how did that happen? He opened the show and was too good to be a starter. That's what makes a great show. No bombs!

Jeremy Hotz, you gotta love him, especially if you hate IKEA!

I've been going to the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour shows for the last seven years. I like it better than most of the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival shows and galas in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Just for Laughs selects some of the most popular acts from their yearly comedy festivals, then makes them run rampant across a host of Canadian cities.

Never mind where you see the show. The comedians know how to yank your city's chain. Every city has a different quirky personality. (Ottawa - yawn!) I don't mean the comedians. I mean the city and the people who live in it. Hey, wait a minute. I live here too. I'm so glad I don't belong! Ottawa needs the comedy tour. If you can make Ottawa laugh, YOU KICK ASS! They made Ottawa laugh. Ottawa has a pulse? That's news to me!

This year's line up totally rocked. If you get a chance, check them out, if not this year, next.

Comedians are writers and performers. There is no braver writer than a stand up!

Could you do it?

What kind of writer are you? Novelist, blogger, playwrite, stand up comedian, journalist, . . .

Happy finding your writer self.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today's Quote: Be inspired by greatness, not intimidated by it

Whose quote is this? Well, it's mine unless someone comes along and tells me someone else said it before me.

I bet many have . . . said it before me, and I bet many have . . . been intimidated by greatness, or what you perceive as greatness and how you define success. I know I have and I am still intimidated by greatness. It can scare you, and at the same time make you in awe of it.

See, I still haven't defined greatness. That's a state of mind that is different for everyone. So I can save some words here, you'll make up that definition and what it means to you.

So, what do we do when we are intimidated by greatness? Great writers, great athletes, great musicians, great artists, great anythings?

We think we should just give up and watch, stop trying, or try harder. Does greatness inspire you or intimidate you, or both? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does greatness inspire you first, then intimidate you later, or does greatness intimidate you at first, and inspire you afterwards, when you've had time to catch your breath? It's hit me both ways.

Why not just keep going? Yep, that's the path. Just keep on going!

And here are a few tips and comments from Copyblogger on "How to Show up and Write", by Taylor Lindstrom.

Happy reading and writing!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ottawa International Writer's Festival, October 20-26. Will I discover something there worth finding?

Well, here we go again. Asking that same old question: "What do writers do when they aren't writing?"

Give yourself a new assignment and attend another writer's event. You're a blogger and you are your own boss. Let's try the The Ottawa International Writer's Festival, October 20-26 to see if we can find some more writer inspiration and new perspectives by hanging out with other writers. The ones with stories they've already told. You're still looking for yours.

Kingston WritersFest was a plus for me, and I've still got a list of blog posts to work on from material that I got from this event and two new books to read. I met a few of the authors and bought some of their books. I'd recommend Kingston WritersFest to others. Let's hope they include a topic on blogging at next year's event. And now I'm willing to give up other stuff I like to do to give another writer's event a shot.

Although I wish someone would give The Ottawa International Writer's Festival Web site and promotional materials a leg up! How about some creativity and spark! An image of an old typewriter for your poster!? I like their tag line, "Ideas need words." But I'd say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I think each blog post needs at least one compelling image and a few words. But I'm a Web writer. We are adjective adverse!

This is an Ottawa event. It sounds stuffy already. But I'll give it a try at least once and hope I'm wrong. I'm not fond of sharing links to Web sites I don't like, but I'm making an exception here. Non-profit events need support.

WritersBlogque will go there to check it out and look for something of interest. I love surprises, odd stories, and unexpected perspectives to find me. I'll be exploring the criminal minds angle a bit, but may discover something altogether different.

Kenk, looked like one to explore. The story of Igor Kenk, an ex-cop from Yugoslavia, heads to Canada in 1988, turns bike king thief, and runs a bike repair shop in Toronto, gets busted in 2008 for dealing drugs and stealing over 3,000 bikes, and only gets a few months in jail.

Follow up October 23: I went to the multimedia presentation by the Kenk Team

"Meet the Filmmakers?" Usually, these types of things are presented by people who have actually completed a film. The Kenk Team was only 10 percent along the way with completing the animated film of Kenk, and they do not have much to show you of their work yet, but they will explain to you how much work, research, and the types of effects they are working on for the project. They even admitted, "We don't know if we'll ever finish it. Is the National Film Board here?" I guess they are getting some funding from them.

Great. Why did I pay to come to this presentation on a Saturday night!

I think you are better off to wait until they finish the film, if they ever do. The presentation was not interesting and I don't know why it was included in the Ottawa Writer's Fest programming. There is a book already published. The Kenk Team is working on an avant garde "graphic novel". It was part of the Ottawa Animated Film Festival. Disappointing. I'd rather see completed animated films, with a discussion afterwards from the creators, rather than a presentation of a project that is just getting started. This was probably of more interest to film students.

By the time the four members of the Kenk Team had explained their intimate and detailed involvement with this project, with very few clips to show, and most of which you could already see on their Web site, I was already bored with the story of Igor Kenk. If they ever finish the animated film though, it may be worth checking out. Although, I think they may beat their own story to death if they keep presenting what they're working on before they finish it!

For more information on the Igor Kenk story, some bicycle bloggers seem to follow this odd story with interest.

Find more bits of the Igor Kenk story on BikingToronto, CBC NEWS,, and

What angle do you take to find your next story? How do your stories find and distract you?

Happy reading and writing.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lisa Moore, Kingston WritersFest. Up, down and all around

This is a pic of Lisa Moore, not me. I like it. It seems to say something interesting without any words.

I showed up a little late for Lisa's talk on "Novel Architecture" at Kingston's WritersFest, Saturday, September 25th. It's a bad habit. One I need to change.

The room was small. Too small I thought for the 40 other people who showed up on time. I was looking for a spot to sit and saw one at the very back of the room near the door. It looked like it was already saved for one of the festival's many volunteers. They always sat at the back of the room and kept the door quiet if someone needed to leave during a session.

"Is this spot for me," I asked one of the volunteers. She didn't answer fast enough. Someone else did from one of the big round tables in the middle of the room. She smiled, "This spot is for you." "Sweet!", I thought. I'm so lucky sometimes. "Thanks!" And it was a really good spot. The best spot in the room at the point of the round table that left me pretty much dead center and in full unobstructed view of Lisa Moore.

The host introduced Lisa and the class she was giving, (the one in which she was soon going to tell us how to structure a novel and then begin the lecture with: "I don't know how to structure a novel. Nobody does." And later relate something about Virginia Woolf's work to multiple orgasims."), by reading off a long list of her literary awards and even had to cut it short. I always love this. It makes me feel in awe and so small all at once.

Published authors have some kind of power. The unpublished never seem to feel like they've made it, no matter how many unpublished novels they've written, yet the journey the author takes to get there, to being published, and the more they struggle is always the most interesting part of the story. At least for me.

And no one wants to hear, "Ya, I sat down one day and wrote this piece, no problem, and the first big publisher I sent it to bought it, it made the best seller list in a week, and I didn't even need an agent."

I'm here as a blogger for WritersBlogque, taking a look at what writers do when they aren't writing. 

Writers attend conferences and festivals. They network. They listen and ponder. And they get out of their own studio and do something different. It can be the best way to inspire your work as a writer. Whatever type of writer you are. Published, unpublished, on a path to somewhere, or completely lost.

What surprised me, and I love surprises, was that I was listening to a renowned and successful writer read a speech from her written notes and I didn't seem to hear one word. I caught myself judging her delivery style instead, and noticed her neatly tied up bun. She reminded me of a school teacher.

The more she read from her notes, the more I was thinking of something else. Even Lisa had questioned her delivery style. She told us she was wondering how to deliver this "lecture" on how to order your essay or structure your novel. She said it would be easier if someone would just interview her. So, she began by interviewing herself, "So Lisa, how do you structure a novel? I don't know how to structure a novel. Nobody does. The story informs the structure and the structure informs the story. Every writer works differently.”

I guess, then that we’re just stuck with ourselves and who we really are, I thought. Am I going to be bored with all this literary name dropping and talk about structure? I’m not a fan of formal lectures. I’m a blogger. We’re a bit like rebels to structure and rules. That’s why we blog. We want editorial control, and we want it whenever we want it. We usually don’t have an editor, and our publisher pretty much lets us do whatever we want for free. Sometimes we don't even have an audience other than ourselves! But still, blogging is cool. People like bloggers. “You have a blog! Nice blog. You have two blogs! Maybe I’ll start one too! What will my blog be about? I don't know about the writing part . . . !”

As Lisa continued reading from her notes, my mind and pen wandered away at breakneck pace. And I seemed to be the only one doing it. I was writing my own stuff during the lecture! How cheeky is that! How foolish! I should be listening to the famous, successful writer. I felt guilty, but inspired, so I kept right on going. Wherever and whenever you find or feel inspiration. Go for it! Everyone else probably thought I was just taking copious notes. At least that's what I hoped. I wouldn't want everyone to know what I was really doing and thinking! (See . . . it's great to be a blogger.) Being in a room filled with writers is just plain good writing energy. I need to do this more often, I thought. It's a real deal!

As the lecture's words kept bouncing off me, and I couldn't seem to relate, I started to classify the delivery styles of the other authors whose classes I had attended earlier. One had the style of a creative writing teacher, another was a real entertainer and a stand up comedian. My favorite presenters were the natural born storytellers and animators: Judy Fong Bates and Mary Louise Gay! Let's see, I guess Lisa Moore's delivery style for presentations is lecturer. She looks a bit the part.

Suddenly, with the one ear I still had turned to the lecture, trying to pull something out, I heard Lisa relate something about Virginia Woolf's work and multiple orgasims. The crowd was engaged and laughing and I saw that Lisa's bun had come loose. Her hair was flowing free. She was expressing her thoughts and knowledge with her whole body and hands. She was becoming passionate and expressive, and she wasn't reading from her notes! I started to wonder what inspired that interesting outburst and how she knew about multiple orgasims. And now I wished I had been playing closer attention to what she had been saying! Memories must be powerful things. They live in your body and can be reproduced at any moment.

Lisa became more and more interesting as she continued to speak. She was on a roll as she became her passionate, natural writer self. She shared a lot. I especially enjoyed listening to her tell us about different ways to structure novels and methods and techniques for putting them together. When she was writing her novel, Alligator, she said, "It was a BIG mess!" She had written it in bits and scenes. One day she called her editor and said, "I'm coming to see you! I don't know how to put this thing together." When Lisa arrived, her editor had printed out all the scenes of the novel and spread them out on the floor. When Lisa walked into the room, her novel looked like one big square, and they started to put the scenes together.

I liked Lisa Moore. If you get a chance, go listen to her speak and share what she knows. And pay attention! You never know what you're missing!

Happy reading and writing!
Peggy Varner
Publisher of WritersBlogque

Thursday, September 23, 2010

WritersFest Kingston, Judy Fong Bates, The Year of Finding Memory

"Nice shoes," said the passerby as I walked down the windowed hallway, distracted by the water views outside wondering if I should be out paddling instead, as I made my way to my first Master Class, The Shape of Memory, with Judy Fong Bates at this year's Kingston WritersFest, from September 22-26. That's the second time someone has said that to me in a month, and only when I wear these shoes. They are a comfortable soft brown suede. Naturalizer. Now if only I could get Blogger to get the orientation of the photo right! The shoes are supposed to be at the bottom of the pic.

"What's a Master Class?"

A class given by a master or is it for master writers? What's the definition of a master? Is it age related, experience related, how many books you've published or all of the above?

It didn't seem to matter, they let me in anyway. I'm a blogger. Does that count for anything . . . yet?

Judy asked the same question, as she still considers herself a novice writer with "only" three published books to her name . . . so far. I think one great book makes a master faster than how many books you publish.

Judy spent about an hour telling us the story of her book, "The Year of Finding Memory". As I was listening, I was thinking, "She is a master storyteller. And this is really interesting, but now I won't need to buy her book. Is it wise to tell us so much of your story?"

I guess so. I bought her book afterwards, and I hadn't planned to. This is not a book review. I'm here with a host of people who can do that way better than myself. This post is about surprise. It is about sudden feeling and emotion that you can feel from the author and the people in the room as she speaks.

The sudden surprise and emotion that overcame me, and was not entirely my own, occurred when Judy offered to answer people's questions about her experience in writing a memoir about her family.

One writer asked her, "What did you learn about yourself?" Judy responded that the more she learned about her parent's lives in China, the more removed she felt from them as the people she thought she knew, the people who brought her to Canada as a five year old in 1955. After her father's suicide, she went back to China to learn more about her parents and her roots. The people she discovered there were so different from the ones she knew in Canada.

It was a terrible loss.

You could feel it from the author and you could relate. Everyone could. You could hear a sniffle or two and my eyes went red and burned too. As a teenager, Judy wanted to write the story of her mother's interesting life, and her memoirs of her Chinese family. It wasn't until 40 years later that she published "her own" story, the one that evolved into a very different story than she thought she would write.

So how do you find a book?

Everyone has their own technique. I try to bump into them. I don't go looking for them. I let them find me. When they do, I stop and wonder why. I open random pages and quickly read a sentence or two from random paragraphs. Not in order. If I make it through most of the book and still want to know more, I buy it.

And how do you move on and clear your palette for the next thing you will discover?

There were about 25 writers in the room, (Do I count? Make that about 26.), spread out across three large round tables. Writers are interesting people and I couldn't help but wonder, "Do they paddle? What an interesting paddle crew they'd make!" This blogger is also the Baffin Paddler. It surprises me how the two are so different and yet so connected. But, we don't wear the same types of shoes!

Happy reading and writing!
Peggy Varner
Publisher of WritersBlogque

Friday, July 23, 2010

Writing for Search Engines and how Scribe makes SEO copywriting simple

I'm a big fan of Copyblogger! If you're a writer, especially a Web writer or blogger, this is one of the best sites you can hang out in and visit often.

I read most of what was on this site about a year before I started blogging. I recommend it to every writer I know and I link to it in my Writer's Links section on my blog. You need to start somewhere. This is the place if you are feeling a little lost and don't know where to turn.

Check out Copyblogger's latest "How to Create Compelling Content that Ranks Well in Search Engines" by Brian Clark. Founder of Copyblogger and Scribe. May 2010

Thanks Brian Clark and Copyblogger for providing us with so much great, entertaining, well-written and FREE information that helps us do our job better. Or get a job!

Who has tried Scribe? The search engine optimization software service that analyzes the content of Web pages, blog posts, and online content, then reports back to you on how to tweak your content to get better rankings on search engines. What do you think of it? I just learned about it and would like to give it a try.

Happy writing!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Web Writer Pet Peeve Number One

Websites built on excuses for why they are bad!

That statement pretty much sums up what I've seen everywhere I go in my work life.

There are lots of reasons why your website is bad but here's the bottom line: The content on there means nothing to no one and some or all of the gadgets you put on it don't work.

Entertain me, educate me, or help me find or do something without wasting my time or confusing me. That's the job of your website. As a visitor, I don't care about all the excuses that everyone who runs or contributes to it provides as to why the site is bad.

All the time people spend explaining what is wrong with their website could be spent fixing it.

Think about it. Listen to your Web Editor. Give us editorial control and watch your website improve.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Good Writer

A good writer is worth their weight in gold. Find one. Be one. You don't have to say much if you are one. (If you hire one, just hope they can spell too! Otherwise, you need a good editor. Costs more!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where do you go as a writer?

Hey, I'm not lost and forgetting about WritersBlogque, I'm just hanging out for the moment on the other blog, BaffinPaddler It is paddle season, but thinking about WritersBlogque. More will come!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The art of the run-on sentence

Sunday mornings seem to be the day and time that I feel the urge to put together the ideas for this blog. The ideas that run into my head like a "run-on sentence". I have a pile of post it notes that capture the idea or story and list of links to add into this space - all sitting in a file until I can catch up with them or . . . forget about them.

If you are a writer, you likely have a story or many of them running in your head too. You know, suddenly your thoughts aren't just random thoughts. They come on suddenly and develop unexpectedly in your mind like a flowing compostion that is interesting and beautiful and should be captured on paper or something digital.

The problem is, the story all flows in your head while your fingers are away from anything to capture it on. After the information surge, you can't recreate that interesting composition that just ran through your mind. You need to keep something handy with you all the time to capture these moments. Even stop your car while running errands and run into a library to borrow a piece of paper and a pen!

Your "brillant" ideas and thoughts may actually add up to something useful or interesting for others, or you may look at what you wrote again later and wonder, "What was I thinking?! It seemed so brilliant at the time!" At the very least, that composition in your head was an entertaining moment that only you got to enjoy! And you don't have any control over it either. It will come and go as it pleases, so enjoy the ride!

I think a blog is more interesting if the voice behind it talks to you at the moment you are reading it and gives you what you are looking for and really need at the moment that you found it. It does not talk at you.

My idea for today's post is to share a letter of thanks I wrote on my last day to the people I worked with at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL).

I didn't really share much about my personal self while working there, but on my last day, at the last moment I could write this letter, I did, and sent it to everyone via email. They had only five minutes to read it before the good bye gathering organized for me in the conference room that day. And it seemed, everyone, about 20 people, had all managed to read it. They really enjoyed it. Some wanted to frame it and put it on the office wall. I've never written a good bye letter anywhere I have worked. I liked the people. They inspired me. I wanted to leave something behind. I never know what will come next.

Below is the letter if you care to read it. It will also give you a snapshot of the voice behind this blog without having to read an autobiography! It is a perfect example of the run-on sentence! What was I thinking! Lol!

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Letter of Thanks

It was a wonderful experience working with OCOL/CoLO; as an organization it felt like a small and dynamic family with an amazing output. Friendliness is an obvious quality that is appreciated here. I still can't figure out how you get everything done with only 175 employees!? Audits, studies, report cards, annual reports, kiosks, media relations, speeches and events, court interventions, communications products, and responding to questions and complaints. Did I miss anything? Probably. Admin - that's a big job too.

I enjoyed learning more about official languages. That was a surprise for me. It is a more interesting and engaging topic than I thought it would be. It always helps to learn about Canadian history through different lenses and points of view. I've looked at it now as an American from California moving to Canada and marrying a fluently bilingual French Quebec Journalist at Radio Canada (CBC) who I met during the '84 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, learning French myself as an adult, and sending my kids to French schools and daycares in Quebec. I had both culture and weather shock and somehow survived.

I've looked at Canadian history through the story of the Canadian Horse and its evolution in Quebec and Canada; working with Canadian Horse breeders in both Ontario and Quebec who get along very well for the common cause of preserving this breed, trying to get funding from Canadian Heritage for a museum exhibit (or at least a virtual online exhibit) that would cross Canada, then find its home in a Quebec City museum. All to no avail.

I also looked at Canadian history from the period of Cornelius Krieghoff's time in Quebec City in the 1850's and his fascination with les habitants so clearly depicted in his paintings, meeting and interviewing the unilingual English retired school teacher from Toronto who bought and rescued his Quebec City home dans les plaines d'Abraham from demolition many years ago, and who was accepted by the Government of Quebec to purchase and restore this home, and received funding from them to do so, even though she did not speak a word of French, and as a student in Communications at Concordia University in Montreal where 50% or more of the students were French, and another large percentage were immigrants from other countries, and where I was the only American.

I now know what it feels like to be in the majority, and what it feels like to be a minority. Fair is fair.

And now again, I take another look at Canadian History, this time from the point of view of official languages and its beginnings, which ties nicely into some of my past university studies of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s.

I even managed to read the Commissioner's book, "Sorry I don't speak French," as I took the bus to and from work each day. (Actually, I cheated a bit and skimmed through many parts.) I think I enjoyed the introduction the most, and learning about the Commissioner's experiences at Fort Lennox on Ile-aux-Noix on the Richelieu River just south of Montreal where I journeyed too one day for a visit as a tourist with my kids when they were little. Thanks to Luc for lending me the book from the OCOL Library. (P.S. I returned it today.)

Well, I'm not one to really say good bye. Being from California I'm more likely to say, "See ya later" or "Hasta la vista (baby)!" (That's Spanish; we hear a lot of it in California with the large Mexican population there), but being that this is Canada I should really say, "A bientot mes amis! Merci pour toutes! Les chocolats aussi!"

You are a great bunch to work with!

(Note to blog readers: I haven't figured out how to insert the French accents on the French words using this keyboard! Sorry. I'll work on that for any future French words that pop into this blog.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ode to Useful Tools - The Toothbrush

This is the first in a series of "odes" to useful tools. This is how I amuse myself, (or kid myself ) when I am doing a task that I really hate or resent. I wonder, "How could I think of this differently so I can justify doing it?" It keeps my mind occupied in a writer's frame of mind until the task has moved on to the stage that I like, "It's done!" And I feel oddly satisfied.

What is an ode?

An ode is typically a lyrical verse written in praise of or dedicated to someone or something which captures the poet's interest or serves as an inspiration for the ode. (According to Wikipedia, so it must be so.)

I'm not a poet, and there won't be any lyrical verses in my writing, so you don't have to run just yet. I like to break rules whenever I can. Writers live by lots of rules (grammar, spelling, sentence structure, style guides, and the whims of other editors who may be your boss or colleagues that you have to get along with like it or not). If you are a poet, you may want to write your own ode to the toothbrush. I'd like to read it.

So here goes: Ode to the Toothbrush

Have you ever stopped to think about the life cycle of a toothbrush? Me neither. But when you spend as much time as I do with one in your hand, you need to think of something. What you do with a toothbrush is usually mundane and redundant, but necessary and useful.

The thing I do with a toothbrush that I hate the most is clean the shower. A chore I "abhor". (That's the only "lyrical" verse I promise.) A chore I wish was someone else's. A chore I resent each time I do it. "I should hire someone!" For some reason, each time I clean the shower, I usually wind up thinking, "What have I really accomplished? Where am I going? How did I get here on my hands and knees with this old toothbrush and all this mold!"

But today, I thought about the toothbrush and how it spends its life cycle. It begins its life in your mouth with every living thing in there that you want to get rid of. It is the only thing that puts up with your morning breath, the Lebanese food you ate for lunch, and what happens to your mouth after a night of waaaay too much drinking (not me, I outgrew that stuff years ago). And when you get a bad cold . . . lets not even go there!

After you've used and abused the poor thing, its next job is to live under your sink in wait for even nastier bacteria! What lives in the shower! Then off to the trash can. Whatever job or task I have is way better!

Did Andy Warhol ever create a tribute to the toothbrush like he did with the Campbell's soup cans?

Apparently I'm not so weird . . . after all. (I had to check just to make sure. I was having some doubts!) The Austin Museum of Modern Art put on Extra-Ordinary: The Everyday Object in American Art, featuring Brillo Pads, toothbrushes and other useful objects we usually take for granted. (It is perhaps "art" or that they simply couldn't afford to work in bronze or silver!) I'm not a fan of Brillo Pads, but now I'm wondering if they used new or used pads? Let's not go there either! A thought worse than shower mold.

Oddly enough, the toothbrush is becoming an object of art. Take a peek at some of the designer models coming out.

There are more and more companies selling toothbrushes and designers trying to out do each other. I would love to see an exhibit on celebrity toothbrushes! I wonder how much they pay for their designer models or if they use plain old Oral B's just like us. Myriah Carey, Madonna and oh! Celine Dion. The "diva" toothbrush. What would it look like?

The question is, would you use your work of art on your shower?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Web Site vs website

Let's just end the never-ending debate: It is "Web site" for Government of Canada Web sites, according to recommendations from the Translation Bureau, and "website" just about everywhere else!

You can go online and vote for your preference on many websites. Apparently, 65% of people prefer "website", even though it is not technically correct. (Notice, when I'm not at work I use website. I'd rather be popular than technically correct!)

The Web likes to break rules and create its own way of doing things. It favours content being published quickly and easily rather than content that should be published, yet you'll find lots of useful even incredible content on some sites.

The Internet is a lawless international society. Will they ever tame it?