THE KILL: Cheetahs

What can I say, I have not been blogging for a very long time. For me, blogging has always been a pastime where I post up random thoughts, photos and observations as a way of taking 30 minutes each day to reflect.

Over the last year my time has been very focused, leaving little spare room. In the Sales Transformation framework, the year has been consumed moving through the first 3 stages – Learning, Vision & Planning and Transformation. I look forward to moving from the Transformation to Adjustment Stage in the coming months/weeks.

In the meantime, I will be editing the photos from our safari in Africa over the coming weeks (I have deleted down to 4K excluding Istanbul. I have a lot to sort).

As these pictures suggests, there were more than a few stories to share.

20170525-Namiri Plains-438

Look closely at their noses …

20170525-Namiri Plains-51

My new Canon 5D Mark IV took time to get accustomed too. In part because I am SO incredibly out of practice, but once I got the settings right – specifically, C1-3, wow. I love the internal GPS, was surprised by the battery life, and while I should have spent a lot more time learning the video before leaving – got a few good movies (Need to work on that).

And yes, objects are as close as they appear. In this case, perhaps 2m away from an open sided Range Rover in the middle of God’s country (The Serengeti reminded me of where I grew up in Alberta, wide open plains).


Study after study suggest that memories are heavily linked to the senses; sight, smell and sound. According to this study it is because of where memories are stored:

Sights, sounds and smells can all evoke emotionally charged memories. A new study in rats suggests why: The same part of the brain that’s in charge of processing our senses is also responsible, at least in part, for storing emotional memories.

Spring has sprung in Tokyo and as in so many other four season cities around the world, that means construction. As I walked to the subway the other day I passed a construction site with a large safety wall blocking my view. It was early so the crews were just starting up … and in this case one of the crew was starting up a Stihl saw. I could not see it, but I instantly recognized the sound.

The ‘almost flooded’ coughing as the single stroke engine caught, followed by the high pitch whine as the operator revved the engine. It has been more than two decades since I put myself through university on summer construction sites – driving heavy equipment, lugging blocks and spending hour and hours bent over a Stihl saw with a diamond blade. At that moment, the memories felt like they were from yesterday.




Everyone is writing, talking, tweeting and blogging about Lance Armstrong. Me? I don’t care. His fall from grace is neither surprising or noteworthy (sports and Hollywood falls from grace are everyday occurrences). As long as these sports are ultra-competitive with the high stakes of money and fame, people will push the limits and many will do “whatever it takes”.

That being said, it is JUST sports. It isn’t world hunger. It isn’t about faking the cure for cancer. It is weekend entertainment. The only difference between Lance and the other dopers in his sport is that he got caught. The sport is LITTERED with dopers including the godfathers of the sport like Merckx (who would have doped even more if the stuff had been invented).

The real point of all of this is that society has misplaced their faith and should re-evaluate what is important. Who they look up to. I don’t see anyone writing about that. And I still say watching sports on the TV is boring (smile), give me the latest episode of Wilfred any day.

A few interweb items that did catch my attention:

  • The Hutzler 571 banana slicer on  2,404 reviews and counting. My favourite review “Once I figured out I had to peel the banana before using – it works much better”.
  • Academic buffoons, the only way that you can describe the staff at Dawson College in Quebec who expelled a student who exposed and reported vulnerabilities in the schools network and software. Sure he kept going (because they had not fixed it), but instead of expelling him they should have enlisted his support.
  • The apology that Lance Armstrong will never give. Well written.

And a photo from a cab in Malaysia – couldn’t get much clearer:




Living abroad you face many challenges; such as accessing websites to maintain your subscriptions and being blocked because of where your IP address is (i.e Japan) and buying things in another country that are not available locally or way over priced (In Japan, most frequent is “not available”).

The simplest way to re-sign for subscriptions is through a VPN service like StrongVPN which make it look like your PC is in that country via a local IP address. Relatively simply and one I use all the time.

As for buying things, that really comes down to how often you travel home. In my case, going to Canada is an “almost never” scenario. But the US is more frequent due to a US based HQ. But that doesn’t fully solve the problem as many websites require a US billing address. A few examples:

  • Try to sign up for a on-line service out of the US (i.e. a music service ) and you will be out of luck unless you have a US credit card and billing address.
  • Several websites will require US billing and shipping address when buying goods due to fraud concerns.

Very difficult, or so I thought. Turns out that you can change your billing address on a Canadian credit card to another address for a period of time (30 days, 5 days). I did it with Amex, changing my billing address to the hotel I was staying in for 5 days to process the orders. Voila, order away and when I arrive at the hotel my goods will be waiting.

I will also use this trick to renew a few online subscriptions, opting to pay the entire years fee in one lump sum.

Neat trick.



Well, Tokyo here we come. Reflecting back on work over the last 3 years, I had the opportunity to do a few very interesting things with clients. My top 3:

#3. Play in a pro-am with Louis Oosthuizen at the Mike Weir charity event the day before the Canadian Open pro-am. Capilano is the prettiest golf course I have every played. Ever.



Louis is a great guy, although a little shy. For the record, my least favourite moment was when I picked it clean out of the bunker jumping it onto the next tee and an older woman exclaimed “Oh dear, that isn’t good”. My favourite moment …. outdriving Louis with a 300 yard bomb. I let him hit first (smile).


#2. Joining a SWAT team for a day – rappelling down a building and shooting a fully automatic weapon for the first time. It had been a while since I have shot a gun (other than paintball with the boys) and had never shot full auto (shotguns, hunting rifles, my .22 as a kid), but shooting comes back to you quickly.

2009 11 Hamilton Police

And last, but not least, my most interesting client event over the last 3 years.

#1. Playing hockey at a client event at the Bell Center in Montreal. Although wearing Guy Lafleur’s number didn’t help my goal scoring. I suffer some kind of Montreal curse … Multiple games, more than a few heartbreakers, but no goals. Standing at the line in the Bell Center (I keep wanting to call it the forum) when the Canadian anthem played gave me shivers – truly awesome and distinctly Canadian.



That is me on the left and the goalie making an insane save to keep my record at a whole bunch of assists and no goals … The slacker in the number 76 somehow got a bunch of goals (you know who you are) and wouldn’t let me forget it for 2 months. See the goalie lying on his side? The puck is teetering on his shoulder. I flicked it up twice and ….. no joy (And it would have won the game). My shame forever caught in this photo on the jumbotron (smile).


I will miss you Canada. Ciao for now.



The theme of this international move has been “the big purge”. Room by room, we eliminated things that we do not use. We also set the goal of “no storage” which means leave nothing behind. We are either going to use it in Tokyo, or it goes. The logic being that the boys are heading off to University in 3 and 4 years (scary) so that provides a simplification/downsize opportunity in the very near future.

This is no small feat when we are moving from a traditional big North American home to a place in downtown Tokyo and required a lot bid decisions – primarily around furniture. Over the last 8 weeks we set about selling off a few very big items, like our 10 piece, 100 year old mahogany dining room set.

Which brings me to PayPal and Kijiji. I like classified sites, they are very handy. But when you sell an item worth more than $1K it brings out the pond scum. In this case, the PayPal scammers. Here is how it goes … first they respond to your post with almost the same line every time (I had more than 10 of these):


Anything to add or ads say it all?

The first time this happened, I threw in a few more pictures and some additional color. Here is the classic response or in one case, this was the opening email to me:


Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2012 5:12 AM

Subject: Re: Reply to your “Elte Kitchen/Dining Table only 1 year old – as new – paid $5800.” Ad on Kijiji

I appreciate your reply, I’m very interested and I’m willing to pay $2900, The means of payment will be via PayPal and I’ll pay for any charges that may incur. I just relocated to United Kingdom and I’ll be needing the merchandise here. A shipper will come over for the pick up after you receive the payment.

I await pictures(if available) since I won’t be able to see this in person. What’s your paypal email address so that I can send the funds to you asap.


Which leads to the scam. They will then go into this elaborate scheme which can be broken down into the following steps:

1. They will send you a fake PayPal confirmation email that they have made a payment to you which you will get when they have received delivery with PayPal holding the money in escrow.

2. You must pay for the shipping to get the funds released, but do not worry because PayPal is holding your money plus the shipping fee.

3. You send the money and the whole PayPal email confirmations turn out to be fraud. You lose your money.

The best way to avoid it is in your online ad put at the end “No PayPal payments accepted”. It stopped all fraudulent emails.

In closing, my responses to the fraudsters:


Anything to add or ads say it all?


That I will not take PayPal or ship to another country you pond scum. You should be ashamed of yourself. Just remember: what comes around goes around.

Share with friends. These people deserve nothing. On the plus side, we sold everything with only one item on Kijiji. Everything else simply through word of mouth, emailing a bunch of friends and letting everyone know. A friend tells a friend ….

UPDATE: Don’t tell the scammer to look at this blog post. Play with them. Mess them up. But don’t warn them.

UPDATE 2: If you want to avoid this hassle, simply do what I did when I sold a set of chairs the other day. The last line was this:

No Paypal payments scammers. Cash only.




I was reading the Bill Murray article in this month’s Esquire and as always, Bill entertains with his eclectic views and approach to life.

I found his point on work and friendship not unlike my own:

BM: When I work, my first relationship with people is professional. There are people who want to be your friend right away. I say “We’re not gonna be friends until we get this done. If we don’t get this done, we’re never going to be friends, because if we don’t get the job done, then the one thing we did together we failed.” People confuse friendship and relaxation. It’s incredibly important to be relaxed – you don’t have a chance if you’re not relaxed.

A lot of my current friends are work colleagues – after the job is done. Those shared experiences create bonds.



I spent last week traveling (A lot of miles) and every time that we took off I had the same thoughts:

  • I can wear ear buds at take off but not headphones.
  • I can read a book but not a book on my tablet. Wouldn’t a full size book be a much heavier projectile in a crash than my tablet? (Or at least the same) 
  • I cannot operate my phone on take-off but at 5,000 feet I can get a signal which must mean that the aircraft’s equipment is constantly being bombarded by signals – with or without my phone off. When my phone is on does it really jeopardize the effectiveness of the airplanes navigation systems? (If so, be very afraid ….)

I just don’t understand why. According to this article:

Decades ago the US Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission determined that electronic devices could send signals that would interfere with the equipment on a plane, officials said. Therefore, all electronic games, MP3 players and laptops have to be turned off until the plane gets above 10,000 feet.

Mobile phones are not to be used for calls or Internet use on a cellular network anytime the plane is in the air, though they can be used in “plane mode” for such activities as playing games or updating one’s calendar.

Not considering an Alec Baldwin, just perplexed.



One last Maritime story. As we drove past the village of New Maryland (Named by a settler from Maryland) I noticed a sign declaring it the home of the last fatal duel in New Brunswick. Of course I had to open up a browser and start reading the village’s history:

The village was named by a Mr. Arnold, a settler from Maryland, USA circa 1817. The area was first called Maryland, and Maryland Hill, but as early as 1825 it began to be referred to as New Maryland.

Among the historical anecdotes relating to New Maryland’s history, one particular event stands out: New Maryland was the venue for the last fatal duel in the Province. The famous Street-Wetmore duel, in which George Ludlow Wetmore was killed, took place on the Segee farm on October 2, 1821.

Take a moment to read about the duel. It was a rather unfathomable event, especially considering that this was the frontier and the men involved were leaving behind their families to fend by themselves if killed (as one was). The duel took place under the guise of “honour”, but the reality is that this was a selfish act fuelled by ego:

As he sat before his hearth that evening, the young lawyer’s anger blazed as brightly as the fire in front of him. He was oblivious to the sounds of his wife, pregnant with her fourth child, setting the children for the night. Street’s insults and the raised hand consumed him, until his thoughts took a dangerous turn.

Ego is a dangerous thing ….



I have always believed that one of the strengths of Apple is their ability to create a cult like loyalty among their clients. If you believe the old sales saying of “Make one person happy, they will tell 5 people. Make one person unhappy, they will tell 250 people”, then that loyalty is very valuable as they are willing to overlook issues, to the point where they  openly defend these issues. I was in more than one debate on Apple versus Microsoft with Apple fans during my tenure at Microsoft.

It is an impressive measure of their brand strength, product quality and customer service (which is unbelievable).

I say all of this because my move to Apple was filled with high expectations. A transformational experience … as described by almost every Apple fanboy/girl who I spoke to. But it has not been perfect, in fact it has been filled with a number of issues and as a newcomer, with a clear bias (i.e. Working for Microsoft for almost a decade), I find it interesting.

An example:

One of the ‘must haves’ for our iMAC was the ability to use the screen as an XBOX screen so that the boys would not have to head into the basement to play. Sitting upstairs in the kitchen as a group is a family ‘must have’. I spent a ton of time researching this and thought I had it nailed with the Kanex XD. It allows you to take an HDMI feed and have it utilize target display mode on the iMac. Simply put – you can play your XBOX on the screen.

What I did not realize is that the ‘new iMac’ with the Thunderbolt upgrade does not support target display mode as identified in this KB article – Apple engineers didn’t build that capability leaving many Apple users in the cold. The greater issue is that at the time of purchase and through a ton of trouble shooting, no one understood this. Even yesterday, I tried a different product that they sell in the Apple store (Belkin AV360) and everyone in the store thought it would work. It did not.

On a general perception level, I find some of the basic functionality substandard (i.e. iPhoto is just unusable, Time Machine backing up every hour is silly, the mail experience isn’t great and I noticed a security update!), but balance that off with admiration for the industrial engineering and increasing admiration for many of the positive features of the OS (i.e. Watching my boys crank out a very cool iMovie on the first day we got the device). But it is not the perfection I was expecting.

So I conclude with two thoughts and one offer:

  • Every business should aspire to Apple like brand loyalty. As their earning results continue to show, it is a very enviable position to be in.
  • The power of the Apple community is very important. It is dangerous if newcomers set too high of expectations and are not embraced within the group and ‘assimilated’, quelling dissatisfaction.
  • If anyone would like to buy a fully functional brand new Kanex HD that works with a iMac older than March – send me an email because I missed the 30 day return date trying to figure it all out 🙂



I was listening to the Stuff You Should Know podcast ‘Was Thomas Malthus right about carrying capacity?’ which I knew nothing about. The synopsis of the podcast (which I enjoyed):

Thomas Malthus concluded that humanity is bound to outgrow Earth’s carrying capacity. The prediction was based on humanity’s exponential growth and the linear growth of the food supply — but was he correct?

During the podcast one of the hosts mentioned ‘the best essay he ever read’ in University, titled The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race by Jared Diamond. Coming from a Dutch and heavily agrarian heritage, the essay was uncomfortably thought provoking as it made the case that the adoption of agriculture is the worst thing that mankind has ever done:

To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn’t the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren’t specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.

In the end his point becomes irrelevant as the only way to avoid starvation that is driven by population growth is through agriculture or infanticide:

Farming could support many more people than hunting, albeit with a poorer quality of life. (Population densities of hunter-gatherers are rarely over on person per ten square miles, while farmers average 100 times that.) Partly, this is because a field planted entirely in edible crops lets one feed far more mouths than a forest with scattered edible plants. Partly, too, it’s because nomadic hunter-gatherers have to keep their children spaced at four-year intervals by infanticide and other means, since a mother must carry her toddler until it’s old enough to keep up with the adults. Because farm women don’t have that burden, they can and often do bear a child every two years.

And one must argue that while the old days with an average life spans of 26 years for the hunter gatherer and 19 years for the farmer did show a benefit to the hunter gather lifestyle, without agriculture we would not have been able to go through the stages of societal development (agrarian > industrial > knowledge based) or benefit from our current life span that is 4X the poor, olden day farmer.

Long live the farmer …..



I just noticed the other day that I never turn on my MSN Messenger anymore. In fact, I find it a nuisance and very anti-GTD as it can randomly interrupt what you are doing just like that little email pop-up in Outlook or your smartphone buzzing when you get a new email.

I am actually thinking of uninstalling it. After all, it never made the transition to mobile or multi-platform (i.e. Android, Apple, etc.) and the new social media skin is simply too busy for me. With email, text messaging, KIK, this blog, Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype I am pretty well covered. Perhaps too well covered.



Around this time four years ago I flew to Heathrow and travelled to Wales to meet my new peers for a team offsite. Wales is a beautiful place, but quite wet. You can read about it here. As I look across the Canadian countryside, with another week of rain I really have to ask ‘Are we in Wales?’ I am not sure where the global warming is, but it definitely isn’t here.





Not a lot of difference ….



Looks like the Mayor isn’t happy with Detroit turning into a contemporary art exhibit of urban decay. If you are a firefighter or police officer you can now buy a home for $1,000 and qualify for additional funds for the renovation.

Hats off to the mayor, move a respectable class of citizen back into these decaying areas and hope for a turn-around. Great idea.



I have never really seen an Atlantic storm in person before this week. When I landed on Tuesday night, Halifax was deep into it. As my cab drove me to the hotel, he slipped and slided so I reassured him; “Seriously, it is already late. I do not need to get there fast. Take your time” just as a car whipped by at 120 KM/hr only to go sliding down into the ditch a few minutes later (Reminds me of the saying “Go slower to go faster”).

The next day I looked out the window as the day progressed and commented “Well, if I cannot see the bridge, then I am stuck”. An hour later …. No bridge (It was crystal clear an hour before this picture).

Halifax Bridge Snow

It was amazing to watch the storm drive into the city. Another example, watching the hotel across the street slowly disappear as captured by my phone …..

Halifax Blizzard 

Halifax Blizzard 2

I had heard about it. Now I understand it.



I was speaking with an old colleague who is retired and travelling extensively. He mentioned a life lesson that he applies in his travels, as he has often grappled with the level of poverty that he sees in some of the countries he travels to:

                “Tip the working poor well. You can’t save the beggars”

It is a statement that I have pondered multiple times over the last week. I am one of those guys who will drop a fiver on a homeless person in the street. Sure some of them can be working but I just know that to get where they are today, some terrible things have happened (whether because of their own choices, or because of something that was done to them). Not sure if I agree, but an interesting thought.

The author of Waiter’s Rant wrote a book on tipping, profiled in Men’s Journal in December, covering when tipping has a result …

In the worth tipping column:  waiters, doormen, babysitters (for sure!), Concierges, Car Valets (Remember Ferris Buller?).

In the not worth tipping colum:  bartenders, landscapers, maitre d’s.

Worth pondering.



Walking through the Toronto airport (on a regular basis) you pass a gallery of photos. The photos are of abandoned buildings, a great room with books strewn about, a large church fallen into disrepair. A sign of the times, as funds get tight it is more cost effective to tear them down than repair them. A sad state of affairs in North America and in direct contrast to the UK, where 800 year old buildings remain in use today. A great example of that being Virginia Park, which could have been torn down and replaced with high density housing, instead it was repaired and turned into a thriving residence. It might be painful and more expensive, but we could learn from the English in this regard.

Victoria Park _02

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have documented the decline of urban Detroit in their book The Ruins of Detroit. The shots on their site are breathtaking. There is something so wrong about our allowing this to happen and the fate that awaits some of these beautiful buildings. So wrong.



Haunting. We squander our past.



At our son’s play in the fall I was frustrated by not having a high aperture (Higher than f/2.8) lens in my kit. After much research I landed on a Sigma 50MM f/1.4 lens for low light, family get together type scenarios (where I do not want a flash). It is a great lens and I am getting accustomed to it. I also landed on the walk-around upgrade, a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. It is a bit heavy, but crystal clear. A couple shots of holiday lights.


2010 12 19 Christmas_-1


2010 12 23 Christmas_-2 

The only thing is that a comment on the propensity for the Sigma 50mm lens to go off focus has me analyzing every shot … I took these of Kipling, our Bengal, camping in Ayden’s Saxophone case.


2011 01 08 Christmas_


2011 01 08 Christmas_-5

Cool lens. Much to learn.



I can see myself using the word ‘disestablishmentarianism’ in a sentence. For instance:

The longest word in the English language is disestablishmentarianism.

My kids find the word disestablishmentarianism funny.

Oh, don’t be such a disestablishmentarian for the sake of being a disestablishmentarian.

Try to say disestablishmentarianism five times quickly (insert pub noise in the background).

I cannot see myself using the word ‘septuagenarian’. Definition:

  1. Being between the age of 70 and 79, inclusive. In one’s eighth decade.
  2. Of or related to a septuagenarian.

I just can not fathom the need to use this word in a sentence, even though Jim Collins worked it into his book. I will just say ‘old’.



Last week was not a fun time to be travelling. It involved a lot of time sitting on the tarmac while the de-icer did the work or the snowploughs cleared the runway. It also meant that people start chatting as the delays expand. A few things overheard on the plane:

(Captain over the loudspeaker) ‘We were about to take off then the brake light came on. Looks like the brakes are overheating on one of the sides. This happens some times. We are going to sit here and see if they cool down. It might delay us for another 30 minutes’ (Which lead to an instant mental response – feel free to take your time Captain).

(I felt bad for this woman, she was clearly panicked)  "My house sitter just called and said the ceiling in the kitchen is collapsing. I am on the plane and it is delayed, we are sitting on the runway. There is water dripping down. Can you get over there? I am 5 hours away and she had to leave. Water is coming through the roof! Please?"

"Minus 4 isn’t that cold. We have calves that are born in minus 40”  Response: “In a barn?”  “No. Right into the snow bank. Dripping wet. Over 3 days I saved 5 calves who were struggling with the snow after just being born, wet and everything in 2 feet of snow"  (I bit my tongue … wanting to ask why not in the barn?).

From Monday to Friday, I detest the winter. And yes … the white blankness behind the plane is the snow storm descending as I was waiting to board in Edmonton. At least we got off, I was supposed to be in Europe during the big snow storm before the holidays, a colleague pointed out ‘Hey, did you realize that had we gone, we would have been stuck there for a week?’ Thank goodness for those Canadian airport people .. they are troopers. Hats off!




I watched a beautiful sunrise in Edmonton today (A cell phone does not do it justice). It made me think of that old saying:

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.

What I didn’t know is that the Bible has a saying too:

In the Bible, (Matthew XVI: 2-3,) Jesus said, “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.”

Turns out it may not be a myth. 15cm of snow on the way in Edmonton, airport delays being reported …..




As I walked through Costco a couple days ago I noticed that they had moved all of the fitness equipment out from a hidden corner into the center – high visibility – high volume aisle. People flocked, circling the equipment, many with a resolution in mind. The new year is approaching …..

For me, crossing the year is simply another opportunity for reflection, that often centers on my family. I simply look at the pictures of our boys as toddlers and then look at them now, the start of the teenage years and remember to make the most of every moment. Something that does not always happen – that is for sure.

The year ends. It has been an amazing year. We are very fortunate in so many ways. A new one begins. It will be amazing also, because we choose to make it that way. Mistakes will be made. Risks will be taken. Things will go the right way, things will go the wrong way. But in the end, it is going to be another great year thanks to goals, not a specific date.

Have a great year end … living in Canada, we are very fortunate, very blessed and 2011 will be what we decide to make it. Good health, good fortune.



Yesterday started out as a rather unremarkable day. I exercised vigorously in the morning (I try to play ice hockey with a group of ex-colleagues and friends regularly – fantastic work out), attended meetings, met an old colleague who had some fantastic insights into my business and met someone new. A collage of different events – but relatively uneventful.

Until (insert ominous music) 6 p.m. when I went to leave the office. My assistant was still there and I asked why. It turned out that her husband was picking her up. He had left 2 hours ago and still was not there …. Oh no.

I looked outside. Sure, it is cold – we are suffering through a bitter cold snap with wind chill in the –20 range. But there wasn’t any snow falling and while we have had a bunch of snow, we were not suffering through the craziness that trapped hundreds of motorists west of us.

I hoped … only to have that hope dashed like a Kookaburra dashes the life from snakes that it catches (More on that in a second).

Now I don’t mind people driving slowly for a reason. I can even understand slow downs due to accidents, although I do wish the police would get on with it – an accident scene should disappear in no more than 15 minutes after a police officer arrives unless there is a fatality … Goodness knows the tow trucks are always sitting there ready to go. Really, what do they accomplish spending 2 hours on the side of the road documenting one guy rear-ending another? I digress.

The road was clear. The snow had been removed. No snow was in the air. No snow was blowing. The radio was not announcing a massive wave of road blocking accidents. For some, inexplicable reason, everyone had lost their will to drive at a normal pace, resigned to 10 KM/hr.

In these situations, you have two choices. You can turn into the Winnebago man (Warning – not office friendly) or you can figure out how to make the best of it. As an aside, I had just watched the amazing BBC Storyville documentary on Jack Rebney – the angriest man in the world – the night before (LOL).

I decided to make the most of it. One downside of living closer to the office is that I don’t listen to as many audio books these days. With a 35 minute commute, it is hard to ‘get into it’, one of the upsides of my old commute a few years ago of an hour.

I popped open Audible and queued up David Sedaris: Live for your Listening Pleasure and spent the next two hours (yes .. two hours) enjoying myself and laughing out loud while many around me moaned and wept. I am now a huge fan, his essays are insightful and absolutely hilarious.

So I arrived with a smile on my face, and proceeded to share David’s story about how people speak with accents, the Nicaragua story, with my wife. All was great. I climbed into bed, closed my eyes just as I heard ….. the ‘CHIRP’.



I walked into Henry’s last weekend with a simple goal, explore the options for a low light lens for my Canon 40D (which I brought along). I have been frustrated with shots where I do not have a flash, but still want a crisp shot (Like Ethan’s school play, where he had a major role and I found it tough to get that great, low light clear shot).

The staff in the shop are very knowledgeable and after a relatively short discussion, I landed on the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 (Although Aden Camera has it at a lower cost .. so will need a price match).

I now have something to request for under the tree. A single item does not a list make. But he was not done with me …..

The clerk then asked me about the lens on my 40D for walking around. ‘You see’ he pointed out ‘You really need to think about upgrading that glass (The term that we non-expert photographers are not allowed to use), because that really isn’t a great lens’.

I took it hook line and sinker. ‘Really?’ I responded.

By the time I was finished understanding just how deficient my kit is (Other than my 70-200mm zoom lens), I was left wondering how it was possible that I had gotten a single good shot in the last couple years?

It was pretty clear, thanks to his fantastic ‘purchasing roadmap guidance’ that a list was needed. He laid it out so neatly:

1. The 50mm, already decided. That is first.

2. Upgrading the walk around lens to either a Canon 17-55mm F2.8. UNLESS …. I decide to act on purchase roadmap point Number 3 (which he insisted really isn’t an option if I want great shots), in which case I need a Canon 24-70mm F2.8 USM due to his educating me on the difference between a cropped and un-cropped camera. (I have read a ton since, seems that the 24-70mm might be a good choice regardless of cropped/full frame .. although there is no definitive answer!)

3. An upgrade to a full frame DSLR like the Canon 5D Mark II.

LOL. He did a great job because I didn’t leave feeling that he had pressured me in anyway. He painted a picture for me. At one point he even said ‘Make sure you shop around’.

I do love a great salesperson and watching an upsell.



Yesterday I watched a Canadian Forces ship leave the Halifax harbour in the morning. I thought of two things:

1. It was very cold on the pier. It would be much colder on the ocean. I deeply appreciate what they do and with Remembrance Day around the corner – appreciate everything that has been done before them.

2. That the ocean is a nasty place. I read a review of the book ‘The Wave’ that references the fact that 2 large ships go missing on the ocean every week, many attributed to rogue waves as high as 120 feet.

When you watch a video like this, you understand why. I knew I didn’t like cruises for a reason.



Updated November 9th: Today is the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The new hypothesis is that it was sunk by a 10 story freak wave!



I was thinking about the story (below) of the Spanish man and his housing purchase. The family income was €1700 per month or €20,400 per year.  There purchase was 253,000 or 12X their annual income.

I remember buying our first home and being uncomfortable with the ‘conventional’ thinking that you could afford a house that was up to 3X your annual income.

12X? That banker should be put in jail.


I remember landing in the UK 3 years ago and sitting down with a banker to discuss UK finances. Somehow, we found ourselves on the topic of mortgages and I was quite alarmed to learn that you can get a mortgage which has interest only payments. There was no requirement to pay down the principal, essentially leaving the borrower in debt forever.

That mindset has been leaking into the Canadian economy over the last decade as household debt has sky rocketed. TD Bank raised the alarm bell recently:

Canadians are carrying far too much debt relative to what they earn, and the problem is only going to get worse if the Bank of Canada maintains a low-interest rate environment over the next few years, a report from TD Economics warned yesterday.

Craig Alexander, chief economist with TD Bank, said household debt as a share of personal disposable income has tripled since the 1980s, to 146 per cent from 50 per cent, with debt accumulation accelerating at an alarming rate especially since 2007.

That figure could rise to as much as 151 per cent by 2013 if the economy grows at a moderate pace and the Bank of Canada only raises rates to 3.5 per cent by that time.

The reasons why?  Two income families provides a sense of income security (only 1 will lose a job), stable job market, low inflation and low interest rates. But as interest rates rise (they must, it is inevitable), those with a high debt rate will find it harder and harder to sustain. As TD points out:

As well, the most vulnerable households are those at the lower-end, with low-income families holding the highest debt-to-income ratio (180 per cent) and highest debt-service ratio (25 per cent).

"Low-income families are more susceptible to adverse economic shocks, more likely to lose their jobs, and they do not have a strong asset base that they can liquidate in times of financial stress," he said.

In other words, the poor will suffer. Spain is a great example of what can happen. The Globe ran a story on how Spain’s poor are suffering through the crisis as unemployment rises, housing prices collapse and the debt from homes they cannot afford crush the low income earners. Low income earners who have made some tragic mistakes:

In 2006, a Barcelona bank offered him a “free” mortgage – with no down payment – that was offered, signed and closed in one day. His salary of €1,100 a month was combined with his wife’s earnings of €600, and the bank asked them to claim they worked weekends (they didn’t) in order to make their income appear high enough to qualify them.

Before he had a chance to think about it, Mr. Cadena was given the keys to the apartment and a 2-centimetre-thick package of fine-print pages he either couldn’t or didn’t read, and was told the mortgage payments would be €900 a month, withdrawn from his account.

He had no idea how much he’d paid for the 3-bedroom basement apartment (only this year did he realize it was an extraordinary €253,000) or the interest rate (5 per cent above prime).

The monthly payments, he soon learned, were calibrated to rise over time, first to €1,100 euros and then, in 2009, to €1,600 – a mortgage structure, also popular in the United States, that only made sense under the assumption both the borrower’s income and the house’s value would rise quickly and constantly.

They didn’t. The collapse of Spain’s property bubble coincided with the rising mortgage rates faced by Mr. Cadena (and many others). In early 2009, his construction company cut his shifts to six hours per day; in November they folded completely.

This man is left losing the house and still owing €200K (they do not have a bankruptcy option). Money that he does not have, in a job class that makes it almost impossible for him to ever repay it.



A colleague shared this interesting quote as we discussed just how fast our world is changing.

If ever the last 50,000 years of man’s existence were divided into lifetimes of approximately sixty-two years each, there have been about 800 lifetimes. Of those 800 at least 650 were spent in caves. Only during the last seventy lifetimes has it been possible to communicate effectively from one lifetime to another – as writing made it possible to do. Only during the last six lifetimes did masses of men ever see the printed word. Only during the last four has it been possible to measure time with any precision. Only in the last two has anyone used an electric motor. And the overwhelming majority of all material goods we use in daily life today have been developed within the present 800th lifetime.

Hans Kung, On Being a Christian

Makes you wonder, what will our children see 60 years from now?



I was in a Metro and saw the below sponsor on a green tea box. I don’t know, it just didn’t compel me to buy. It did make me chuckle though. I can see it now, a marketing person with a budget who pitches Wayne “the Great One” Gretzky as the spokesperson just so that they can meet him.


But I could be wrong. Maybe Wayne is magic at selling green tea.



The transfer from Windows Live is now complete, with an unexpected outcome. My first blog – A Salesman’s Journey – was transferred over too. I will slowly start ‘releasing’ the old blog posts onto this blog over the coming months .. so the archive will get longer, until they are all back … right to my first post ever:

This is my first blog entry. I am not sure if blogging is for me, but I am going to try it – to encourage myself to have one different thought, every day.

Funny thing about this post, I heard Seth Godin say something similar and encourage everyone in the crowd to consider participating.



I was watching a show on the Pharaohs and it made me think back to Egypt and the Cairo museum. It is one of the most amazing museums in the world with 100K artefacts on display and another 140K in storage. The King Tut exhibit is rich beyond measure (and he was a minor Pharaoh).

In one room, they have mummies of Queens and Kings that are as old as 3,000 years and you can still see features, hair and even skin.

But you have to wonder, when they agreed to be embalmed, did they think through the fact that their mighty reign would be relegated to a tourist display, for millions to see?

I would bet not.


It appears that Microsoft has decided to bail out on the blogging business (which is fine, they have not upgraded spaces for about 3 years) and I am now converted to WordPress.

After a few issues, the blog is up and running. I have been rooting around the site, quite the difference from the barebones Microsoft site. Expect a few changes.



Professionalism is something that does not require a special suit, or a certain ‘class’ of job. It can be anywhere and everywhere – or nonexistent. Take for example pet breeding. We have had a number of purebred animals, and in every case we went through a selection process to find the right breeder and environment. But there is no standard code of conduct, although ‘certified’ breeders will go on about uncertified breeders. In the end it is about the professionalism of the individual.

Our latest cat was acquired from a woman who breeds them as a hobby, not a ‘professional’ cattery, and it worked out great. After much reading, we decided that we really need two cats so that when we are not around, they have a playmate. The net is filled with reasons why two is better than one. So we spent a few agonizing weekends searching and finally settled on a kitten. He was to arrive on Saturday.

Then all of a sudden the breeder went silent. No return calls. But we did get an email Sunday saying that she had just lost one of her other cats, and is now considering keeping him. A clarifying email sent back (because she would not pick up the phone) with a response that actually, she had found another home that would let her breed him and would pay more money so he was off.

During our conversations with her prior to the verbal agreement, she had spent many minutes telling us about how you must select a ‘reputable breeder’ and one that you can trust. Ironic and unprofessional.

Made me reflect. In the end, we must all look at our conduct and our statements and decide if we measure up or are held wanting. And in the end, what comes around goes around ….. so treat people like you want to be treated.



  • This weekend the Globe and Mail shocked me twice. First was the stat that nearly three quarters of Ontario adults are now overweight. The second that nearly 40% of Quebec boys drop out of high school. Other than Tim Horton’s, what jobs exist without at least a high school diploma?
  • The Globe and Mail also made my day when they wrote about the resurgence of Preppy as a fashion trend. At last, a simple fashion style I get. Time to break out that fantastic Boston Trader white cable knit V-neck again. I knew it would come back … only took a few decades and didn’t require my taking up Cricket. I don’t think I will be buying the book they recommend, True Prep – but I do like the catch phrase ‘Wake up Muffy, we’re back!”

True Prep: It's a Whole New Old World

  • I caught wind of a new series on BBC1 – Sherlock thanks to the guilty pleasure that I still check in on during a Saturday morning coffee – the Guardian (think Toronto Star). Two thumbs up to the new TV series, but too bad the British remain fixed on an annual ‘season’ of TV being 6 episodes instead of the North American standard of 22 or 23. Perplexing and very dissatisfying, you just get started and you must wait another year. I guess that is why the BBC is dominated by shows from the US like Heroes. With Sherlock they went a step further … 3 episodes in a season that are 90 minutes each. That is a short season!

The show itself is really well done. Watch a trailer here.A fantastic show and a great interpretation of a modern day Sherlock with Martin Freeman as a brilliant Dr. Watson.



I love a good sunset. This one in Calgary in July was breathtaking.

2010 07 Calgary (3 of 6)

2010 07 Calgary (2 of 6)

The Globe and Mail had an interesting article on the back page this morning titled ‘Calgary is making me nicer’.

As a native Torontonian there are two types of people you meet when you move to Calgary.

There are those who immediately tell you how wonderful Calgary is. “The mountains, the outdoors, the rivers, the Stampede!” These people have no doubt you won’t miss Toronto one bit and can’t imagine why you would have lived there in the first place.

Then they give you their cellphone number so they can meet you for lunch and show you around or invite you over and make you feel welcome. If you were expecting just an e-mail address, forget it. That’s way too impersonal for a Calgarian. They tell you they are looking forward to your call. And they mean it.

Then there is the other type, best personified by a salesgirl I met at a local drugstore when my hairdryer exploded and I went looking for another. The store didn’t have any dryers that were of the quality I wanted, so I asked the woman where I could get a salon-grade hairdryer in Calgary, explaining I was from Toronto and didn’t know my way around yet.

Before I had even finished my sentence she blurted out, “Why would you ever leave Toronto? We have nothing here! We only just got an outlet mall and it’s not even that great. I’m desperately trying to get into nursing school in Toronto so I can get out of here and live in a real city.”

To be sure, after this anti-Calgary outburst, the salesgirl spent more than 20 minutes with me figuring out what I needed and where I lived, then drawing maps and looking up phone numbers of places that might carry what I wanted. She was helpful beyond belief.

And that’s when it started to dawn on me. Calgarians, whether fiercely hometown patriotic or bigger-city wannabes, were not like most of the Torontonians I had lived among all my life before moving here in May for my partner’s work.

Calgarians were nice. Not just polite – but nice. They wanted to talk to you. They wanted to listen to you. They wanted to help you if they could.

If anything reinforced this belief, it was driving. Or walking while other people were driving. On a nice day I decided to go out for a stroll, bringing my jaywalking habits along for the ride.

I was halfway out in the road trying to cross, expecting the cars to come whizzing past me with no regard, when the strangest thing happened. The cars stopped so I could get across. Stopped dead in the middle of traffic! With seemingly no ire that I was disrupting their right of way. No honking. No fist waving. Just a smile and a nod letting me know I was safe to cross.

Read the rest of the article here. The traffic story made me laugh. I still remember moving from Ontario to Alberta and my dad commenting how people would pull over on a 2 lane highway to let you pass. Or maybe it is the sunset and the odd Chinook … but I would agree, people in Calgary are very, very nice.



I was reading the story of the Battle of Omdurman in a Military History magazine on my flight yesterday. A traditional colonial slaughter:

At the Battle of Omdurman (2 September 1898), an army commanded by the British General Sir Herbert Kitchener defeated the army of Abdullah al-Taashi, the successor to the self-proclaimed Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad. It was a demonstration of the superiority of a highly disciplined European-led army equipped with modern rifles and artillery over tribesmen with older weapons (note: spears, arrows, swords) and marked the success of British efforts to re-conquer the Sudan. However, it was not until the Battle of Umm Diwaykarat, a year later, that the final Mahdist forces were defeated.

At the end of the article, the author provided the following insights into the battle, he called these “Lessons”:

  • If armed with spears, don’t charge machine guns. In fact, infantry should never charge machine guns, a lesson Kitchener should have communicated to troops in France in 1914.
  • Career-wise, it never hurts to bring a journalist like Churchill  to write the story up.
  • Artillery, machine guns and gun boats are superb things to have on your side when fighting masses of poorly armed tribesmen.
  • Bring a gun to a sword fight.
  • Bring artillery to every fight.

Good advice all round.



This weekend saw a number of ‘protesters’ in Toronto for the G20. Riots broke out, windows were broken, cars fired. As the Toronto Star put it:

On Saturday afternoon, as TV stations played and replayed images of anarchists torching a police car at the iconic intersection of King and Bay Sts., the mayor noted he had spent the week trumpeting Toronto’s story to international journalists — a financially stable, diverse and vibrant city.

“Does today send signals about Toronto that I wish weren’t sent?” Miller said. “Yes, absolutely, but the underlying facts about are city are still there.”

As it was going on Saturday night my son asked me:

‘What are they protesting?"’

I did a web search. We watched the news. We could find nothing. So I responded ‘I don’t know’.

So these ‘protestors’ did not get a message out. Why? Because they are a bunch of hooligans, who will justify their destructive actions on their anarchist, anti-government approach where the ‘cause justifies the means’. But in the end, nothing was accomplished – they sent no message of value.

The only message that I took away from the whole thing is that we should lock them all up, that they are simply hooligans who do not respect others and that hopefully no Police were hurt while apprehending them.

Besides, this is Canada. We don’t do that kind of thing here.

So much for the ‘cause’ …. common thugs.

Update: Check out 25 amazing photos of the event here.



I have been enjoying Esquire magazine lately. Very well written and a great cross section of articles. The article How a Man Ages .. or Should is the chronology of the transitions that we ‘men’ should go through as we age, made me laugh and think. A few highlights.

Age 26

Having whatever everyone else is having. → Having a usual — Scotch neat, a gin martini, a manhattan, whatever. Know thy drink, know thyself.

For me, it is Gin & Tonic. Preferably Hendric’s, with a slice of cucumber.

Age 27

Renting a tux. → Owning a tux.

I have to say I am on the fence about this one. Black Tie isn’t really Black Tie anymore. Most events that are ‘formal’ leave a lot of room for interpretation. I didn’t buy a tux until last year, and did fine. But I have to admit, it was way overdue. So on this one, I would say it is more of a 35 requirement (unless you live in England, where they are simply mad for Black Tie).

Age 30

Boot and rally. → Call it a night.

I have to agree on this one. The all nighter has not been in my blood for a very, very long time … around this age actually and the arrival of children. Who wants to be the Dad with the headache in the morning?

Age 33

Using quotes from Porky’s, Meatballs, Office Space, and Old School in conversation. → Using quotes from assorted wise men. Faulkner is good. Churchill is better.

I prefer to do both. Name that quote, “I was a one man wolf pack’. For the record, I own a few Churchill quote books.

Age 40

Knowing your fantasy-football ranking. → Knowing your cholesterol levels. And your blood pressure. Start getting annual checkups, and ask for the works, and listen to your doctor. Listen.

So true. Things start to break when you cross 40 …. I am a 3. A little less bacon, sad but true.

Age 43

Saving money whenever you can. → Realizing that some things in life — flying first class, a good watch, good liquor — are always worth the money.

Absolutely. It isn’t about quantity, it is about quality.

Age 44

Playing sports that leave your knee/shoulder/wrist aching for days. → Making exercise a top priority. If you’re not getting stronger, you’re getting weaker.

This one hit me around 36. I was sitting in my office and experiencing lower back pain and I realized, ‘what the heck? you are way to young for this. Change it’.  As an Orthopaedic Surgeon said to me last week, ‘I don’t operate on overweight 90 year olds.’ ‘Why? too risky?’ I asked. ‘No’, he responded ‘they don’t exist’.

And last … Age 58 and on …

Doing, watching, and listening to things because you’re supposed to. → Doing, watching, and listening to whatever you want.

Life is good. Lots of adventure left ….



One component of a lot of travel is that you catch all the movies. I had passed the movie Invictus several times before deciding to watch it. I am glad I did. The story of Nelson Mandela and the evolution of South Africa is both a sad and inspiring story. From IMDB:

Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The word Invictus is from Latin, meaning unvanquished. The movie centers around the poem Invictus by English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) that Nelson Mandela kept close for inspiration during his years of captivity:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The author’s life makes the inspiration clear:

At the age of 12, Henley fell victim to tuberculosis of the bone. A few years later, the disease progressed to his foot, and physicians announced that the only way to save his life was to amputate directly below the knee. It was amputated when he was 25. In 1867, he successfully passed the Oxford local examination as a senior student. In 1875, he wrote the "Invictus" poem from a hospital bed. Despite his disability, he survived with one foot intact and led an active life until his death at the age of 53.

I have a few friends from South Africa. While it is recovering, it is still a sad story. A beautiful land, with much hope and opportunity, ravaged and struggling after many, many years with many tough years ahead, like so many African nations.

We live blessed lives.



In the article ‘You’re Contagious’ in May’s Men’s Health, Chris Woolston refers to a study published in the British Medical Journal that happiness is contagious.

Happiness spreads through social networks like an emotional contagion, according to a study that looked at nearly 5,000 individuals over a period of 20 years. When an individual becomes happy, the network effect can be measured up to three degrees. One person’s happiness triggers a chain reaction that benefits not only his friends, but his friends’ friends, and his friends’ friends’ friends. The effect lasts for up to one year. Conversely, sadness does not spread through social networks as robustly as happiness.

The author make two additional observations. Friends ward off loneliness, (‘people who feel disconnected often alienate their remaining friends’) and help you avoid obesity, (‘Men look to other men for clues about acceptable body sizes’ … ‘people eat more if a nearby stranger is overeating, .. the urge may grow if that glutton is a pal’).

Chris Woolston has a host of articles published on the topic, worth perusing here. As for me, optimism remains the default attitude and socializing with positive people remains job number one.



Between sessions and meetings I explored a lot of booths this week. One thing that I noticed was that there are some super ineffective booths. They have a name, or a tag line but you have no idea what they do. It would appear that they are either banking on your curiosity to drag you in or brand recognition.

For example, look at this booth: ‘There is Here’ – nothing else. What the heck does that mean? Would you know that they are one of the larger silicon die manufacturers? I didn’t. But I guess it worked? I asked.

2009 WMC  (23)



Funny, I had not heard the word Schadenfreude until yesterday, when I heard it twice.

Schadenfreude (pronounced /ˈʃɑːdənfrɔɪdə/, German pronunciation: [ˈʃaːdənˌfʁɔʏ̯də]) About this sound Audio (US) (help·info) is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.[1] This German word is used as a loanword in English and some other languages, and has been calqued in Danish as skadefryd.

And of course, it is Simpsons with the best explanation:

In The Simpsons‘s episode "When Flanders Failed", Lisa explains to Homer what schadenfreude means, because he is feeling this with respect to Ned’s failing business. He later replies, "Those Germans have a word for everything!"[28]

And if you are not a fan of the Yankees, you must have been enjoying the trials around their new stadium. Unfortunately, too many people practice Schadenfreude.