Virtual yes, but better?

I’ve been the Chair of the Board for Daybreak Housing in Ottawa for the past two years.  When I started my second two-year term as the Chair (I had served as Board Chair six year previously) we were not in a pandemic, in fact we were still months away from the first signs of COVID-19 coming ashore to Canada. Meetings were held with all Directors meeting around a table, sharing a dinner brought in as our meetings would take upwards of two plus hours and took place after the workday when many could not get home before the meeting.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Dinner was a social time for the Directors, time to catch up with each other and stay loose before the business of board took over.  These meeting was a time for re-engagement, get subcommittee reports, staff reports and have guests appear when needed.  We laughed, we talked about common interests, caught up on each other’s families and recent activities like vacations and work events.

This changed in March 2020, the Daybreak Board started meeting virtually and it was good.  We knew each other and the adjustment was seamless, but I could tell we all missed seeing each other in person.  Going virtual meant plans for in person events were cancelled one of the first was the summer BBQ for Daybreak’s residents, that was put off until hope fully 2021.  Subsequently our Christmas dinner was cancelled but we were able to deliver full turkey Christmas dinners to each of our five homes.  Our staff and volunteers out did themselves in trying make an unusual year of events as “as if it was a normal year as possible”.

By June we were able to delay our provincially mandated Annual General Meeting, this was different as we interviewed candidates for the Board remotely, something that was normally done face to face so the prospective Director the current Director can get those personal vibes which are so important when recruiting for a non-profit organization.  By the time of our 2020 AGM in the fall we found four amazing new volunteers to join our board.  

Since, the Board has worked well, the business of the organization has been taken care of but I have missed is being “with” my fellow Directors and the Staff for the past year.  Gone is being able to drop into the office to sign papers.  I haven’t been able to chat with the Executive Director and the Staff, they are so good at what they’re doing, but not being able express thanks in person is not the same as we’ve been forced to do since last year.  I feel that the year could have been so much better.

Video meetings have shortened our meetings (a good thing) and have not stopped the business of the organization, as I mentioned a lot of good work has been done.

The Board has been unable to achieve what could have been done because we haven’t met in person.  The dynamic of ‘knowing and connecting’ with fellow board members holds back the opportunity to really flourish as a team.   The one facet the Board has missed has been the experience of meeting the new Directors face to face.  We almost were able to plan a “Meet and Greet” in a local park last fall, there just wasn’t the comfort by all the Board to meet this way.  The connection that the existing Directors have is regretfully missing with the new Directors.  

Those of you that serve on a Board know some discussions are more difficult than others and the ability to ‘read the room’ is like having that extra Director, it gives you the ability to know how to direct the conversation.  Sadly, Zoom has made meetings, all meetings, two dimensional; the unspoken emotion is lost through the bandwidth of video.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we held our annual orientation session, online, with a consultant that led us through the roles of our board and directors.  The facilitator helped us to understand how to be a good board in a difficult time.  It’s only been recently that I, as the Board Chair, realized I could have done more to create that bond and synchronicity between Directors.   Scheduled one on one discussions, small conversations with a small portion of the board, all via video might have created a closer relationship between Directors in attempt to develop those working relationships.  

The ability to meet and work in the age of video has allowed us to continue.  We haven’t perfected the video meeting; technical capabilities hamper some from getting the most out of these meetings, while others have limitations because of inferior or lack of broadband access.  Some prefer to walk into a room and work with others – when we’re all in a room everyone is on the same frequency or can adapt to the room, so the meeting operates on a bandwidth for the optimal success.

I hope after this year’s AGM to hosting Directors, old, current, new and the newest for a ‘get to know me’ session (in the safest possible way) when governments and regulations allow it.

Virtual was good, but better?  Meh. What have your virtual experiences been like?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

A 15-minute neighbourhood

Centretown, Ottawa Ontario

The most recent edition of the Centretown Buzz had a well written article by Stephen Thirlwall about his 15 minute neighbourhood.  Though I have not yet met Thirlwall, we both live in Centretown, a area of Ottawa which encompasses most of the downtown core.  He describes his 15-minute neighbourhood which includes proximity to work, health care, shopping and other amenities.  He includes a secondary circle of a 30-minute drive which would allow for additional amenities. 

I should clarify for those that live in a city other that Ottawa, most of the city is reachable within a 30-minute drive.

Five years ago, when I worked in Toronto my one prerequisite for an apartment was to be no more than 20 minutes away from the office.  These 20 minutes could be a combination of walking and transit.  I was lucky to find a small apartment a 15-minute walk from the office.  The apartment, located at Queen and Spadina was walking distance to Chinatown, Kensington Market and pretty anywhere I wanted to go downtown.

We moved to our Centretown home in 2007, it was choice made by the decision to not have to drive into work every day which would take 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon rush to/from Ottawa South.

In November 2020, the Globe and Mail published a feature piece on liveable neighbourhoods.  The article, using data from Statistics Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation considered a neighbourhood “amenity dense” when a resident in that neighbourhood can walk to a grocery store, pharmacy and public transit stop within one kilometre; when there is a childcare facility, primary school and library within 1.5 kilometres; and when they can drive to a health facility within three kilometres and a place of employment in 10 kilometres.  The study found Ottawa to be 6th in the county with 20% of residents living in such a neighbourhood.

That number drop below 20% when you only consider residents that have access in a “city block” of a grocery store, pharmacy and library.  Vancouver tops Canadian cities on both scales with a whopping 72% of its residents living in an amenity dense neighbourhood.  This is something I’ve experienced having been in Vancouver twice in the last 12 months.  We walked everywhere and no walk seemed too long. We only drove when necessary and even then, if we had a bike we could have rode instead of drove.

The liveable city block or neighbourhood makes much more sense today because of the living the last year in our community doing our best to stop the spread of COVID.  Our 15-minute circle has been where most of have worked, shopped and played.  

Photo by David McBee on Pexels.com

The city of Ottawa is in the midst of updating its official plan and has started asking residents for input.  I have no doubt that responses in this round of the official plan update will differ from previous updates.  We’ve all had to live close quarters and I’d like to think we’ve all rediscovered our neighbours, our neighbourhoods just by walking.

New subdivisions continue to pop up and many of them challenge the idea of a walkable and live neighbourhood; they still rely on a car for necessities. The construction of the LRT in Ottawa is starting to see development and increased density of residential living as Thirlwall points out in his Centretown buzz article. We’re seeing old shopping malls being converted and to condos and apartment living.  I can think of three off the top of my head; Westgate Plaza, Carlingwood Mall and Lincoln Fields are all in current phases of redevelopment.

It’s easier to develope new amentie dense neighbourhoods than it will be for most cities to remake older suburban developments into effective amenity rich small neighbourhoods.  Making these areas open to all income levels, families and singles and accessible to everyone who might be mobility challenged requires the will of City Council.

Stephen Thirlwall gives us an idea what it could look like.  I am lucky as he is to have so much available to me not far outside my front door.

You can read Thirlwall’s piece in the Centretown Buzz online: https://centretownbuzz.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Buzz_April_2021-Final.pdf

The full Globe and Mail piece is found here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-when-it-comes-to-liveable-neighbourhoods-theres-a-wide-divide-in/

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

A life lived with purpose

Photo Credit: abc.net.au

Last week marked the end of the longest reign of a British Consort since King George II died, his wife Princess Charlotte served as Consort for 57 years. By the time of his death, he would eclipse Victoria’s Prince Albert, the love of her life as the longest serving male consort.  Prince Albert would only be Consort to Queen Victoria for a third of Philips’ 60 + years. This weekend marks the funeral for Prince Philip, like so many others in Canada, the UK and across the world in a pandemic, the funeral will be attended by only 30 members of the family.  A normal Royal Funeral would see hundreds attending to say the last farewells.

Just as Elizabeth II has overseen a change in how the monarchy is viewed, Prince Philip has changed how the role of Royal Consort evolved.  He brought purpose and reason to not only the position, but to his life and inspired many from around the commonwealth.  For a man who gave up his love of the Navy he found plenty to do with more than 800 organizations as a Patron, President and Member.

A sense of duty drove Prince Philip to embrace the imagination of what he could do, so as the UK and the Commonwealth grew up in starting in the 1950’s, so did the House of Windsor and the monarchy.

He would change the royal household, he made it seem more human, more like the Britons they ruled.  Out was the ancient tradition of footmen ‘powdering’ their hair.  He closed one of two the “royal” kitchens, who needed two kitchens anyway.  Philip drew the curtain open on the Royals, he arranged informal lunches for the Queen so she would dine with Britons of all backgrounds.  Most famously he brought cameras to film the Queen and her family and broadcast it on the BBC.

I’ve read he was a man of gadgets, a royal “Inspector Gadget”, if you like.  He created an automatic wardrobe,  it would dispense a suit at the push of a button. An intercom was installed throughout the palace, there’d be no more having servants chase a son, daughter or employee down it would be done by pushing a button and speaking into the phone handset.  Among his ‘gadgets’ was an electric car he was often seen driving.  His sense for the sustainable lead him to a life advocating for the environment, conservation and scientific innovation.  These are ideals he would pass onto his son, Prince Charles.  Charles was not the only youth he would inspire.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was created in 1956, early in his years as Consort.  The Award was given to UK youth that self-improvement exercises.  Over the years the DoE Award spread to 140 other countries, including Canada.  The “DoE” would inspire millions of youths, more than 6 million UK youth have volunteered in their community, participated in physical fitness activities, developed personal skills, taken an expedition to achieve a Bronze, Silver or Gold level.  A Gold award recognized a commitment of 12 to 18 months. In Canada the first of the DoE awards was presented in 1964; in the 57 years since over half a million Canada Youth have received a DoE. These youth will be a lasting legacy for gave up so much so he could give back – now countless youth around the world will pay his legacy forward for others.

Prince Phillip leaves a legacy, for the father of a nation, a husband of 73 years and a man that walked behind his Queen for 64 years.  We cannot underestimate what he has left for his children and the Grand and great-grandchildren and the millions of youth he has inspired.

Canadians are invited to sign a book of condolences at https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/commemoration-duke-edinburgh/send-condolences/book.html.

As flags across Canada are raised to full staff following his funeral on April 17th, it is important that we don’t forget the life of Prince Phillip and the purpose he fulfilled not only to Elizabeth II, but to all of us.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.nethttps://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2021/04/08/three-questions-about-covid-19/

Three Questions (about COVID-19)

With more than a year under our belt with COVID, we’ve been watching and waiting for every level of government to show up and tell us how we can come out of the pandemic recession.  We all have questions, here are three question of mine. 

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

When can we expect rapid testing to be made available for all Canadians?  

The federal government promised rapid testing almost as soon as the pandemic shut everything down last year.  Rapid testing was to be the early savior, ahead of a vaccine, in stopping the spread.  While there may be rapid testing in large workplaces, access that Canadians want for a simple and fast home rapid test is still elusive.

It’s been faster to get a vaccine into Canadians than getting rapid tests into stores for purchase.  The provincial government says it has these test available for months, but is it only me that thinks it’s the large workplaces have had access to them?  It’s unknown to me if places like Amazon distribution centres are utilizing this tool. I’d hazard a guess they aren’t, if they were they outbreaks we’ve seen in Brampton prompting a closure of the centre would have been avoided.  

As of February 2021, only 15 rapid tests have been approved by Health Canada and eight antigen tests have the Health Canada seal of approval. While results can’t always be trusted, they are a game changer.  Since September the federal government apparently has purchased more than 40 million antigen tests.   Has anyone seen them be used? 

These tests, in conjunction with vaccines will be how we get back to normal.  A vaccine won’t stop us from getting COVID, but with a rapid test Canadians can be better informed on their own health every time they leave for work, school, shopping or leisure.

Just who takes the blame for the slow rollout of vaccinating Canadians?

There’s a saying, when you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you.  With that in mind I am using all four fingers. 

First, there is the Federal government.  From the lack of the availability of domestic production for a vaccine to the aborted plan to partner with the Chinese for the COVID shot to the well self-publicized (by the government) ‘most diverse portfolio of COVID vaccines’ in the world Canada lags terribly behind about 40 other countries in getting its citizens vaccinated.  The federal government (and Health Canada) has approved the Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford Astra Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. All but the Johnson and Johnson have been administered to Canadians. The problem though is the rollout is completely dependent on what gets delivered to Canada.

Next are the provinces. Let’s be clear, the provinces are completely dependent on the deliveries coming to Canada.  However, the provinces decide how the rollout is planned and executed, and there have been plenty of questions about the effectiveness of the provincial rollout.  The problem here is that no plan is perfect and there will be “better decisions” being advocated for by those outside the sphere of influence.

Different plans, pilot projects and changing priorities are making it very difficult to know who can and should prepare for a vaccine.

Third are the Public Health Officers.  In Ontario there are 34 Public Health Units and each are acting independently and collectively.  They all have their own ideas on what actions should be taken in their own backyards and they try to influence what actions provinces should take.  As an example, the Public Health Officers in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel have all asked Premier Ford to shutdown Ontario and issue a “stay at home” order on top of the 28-day grey/lockdown order that went into effect on Saturday April 3rd.

Lastly, that fourth finger is pointing at NACI, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.  NACI has been at the centre of the AstraZeneca hurricane; changing just who should get that vaccine.  First it was everyone over the age of 18, then it was limited to those from 18 to 64.  NACI then flipped and recommended that the AZ vaccine NOT be given to those under 55 and the latest is that those over the age of 64 will benefit from the AstraZeneca.  Confused?

NACI devised the strategy to prioritize the immunization of Canadians and followed it up by changing the timeline for second shots from 21 days to 4 months.  I know the science is changing, but the changes from NASI are of the head spinning kind.  

There are too many people making decisions and influencing actions.  In war there is only one Commander in Chief.  We are in a battle against an invisible enemy, the four-general approach to fighting COVID and the variants is confusing and creates doubts and bad outcomes.  It is in these scenarios that trying to respect jurisdictions is no help to getting the job done.

What is the plan, if there is a plan, to come out of the COVID recession?

The Federal budget is coming April 19th, will that be a beacon for the recovery, or will it be flare that dies quickly and quietly while the dangers of the pandemic recession continue to haunt us.  Provincial governments have been delivering budgets as have municipalities, through the last 16 months but the Federal government has chosen to rely on a series of financial updates that are short term and short sighted.

What will be in the plan?  Is this the hard left turn that the government will use to change out entire economy?  We are all familiar with these hard turns, loads in in our cars and trucks get upheaved, stacked boxes fall; the mess is difficult to clean up and takes longer than if we were driving slower and taking more care in the direction we were headed.  

Will the budget include a Federal election? An election only delays any action the budget would think of implementing – can we afford to be waiting longer?  Can our economy remain to flounder without any direction?  Hmmm, ask one question and at least five more.  

Where will the answers come from?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Pages turners for the 2021 (so far)

Now that Q1 of 2021 has passed, this is a perfect time to check in with you fellow book lovers with what pages I’ve been turning. 

The Great Republic by Sir Winston Churchill + Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum

These two books finished my 2020 and started my 2021.  I’m putting these together as it made sense for me to do that.  Both talk about the same issues, how politics of the past form the future.  In Applebaum’s case she begins with the eve of Y2K and the start of the new Century.  Sir Winston Churchill writes (the book is edited from fifty or so volumes the first was published in 1891, to this one collection edited by his grandson Winston S. Churchill) about the birth of America and the Americas through the grand history of the world.

Churchill sums up the politics of the US with the theory that the United Stated were borne out of division.  While territories joined the Union, it was through the division of land (north vs south) and politics (slavery vs free) that eventually saw the young nation endure additional division a secession of the southern states and the Civil War of the mid 1860’s.  Union was not achieved by agreement (unless you consider the Confederacy agreed it could not win) but by defeat.  Churchill goes forward through the Civil War and into and out of two World Wars.  

Applebaum takes us into Eastern Europe and specifically Poland and the hope of democratic reform at the turn of this century only to see the reform shatter through battles of personalities, (bruised) egos and weak followers to strong fisted oligarchs.  Anne Applebaum writes of recent events include the 2020 US election.  

In both books the tale of hope/destiny is dashed by infighting and an ever wondering if there is a better way of leading.  Churchill writes eloquently of several US Presidents including Washington and Franklin D Roosevelt.  The best of Churchill covers the last fifty years with articles, speeches, addresses and essays and his accounting of ‘modern’ history while he was live.  Applebaum tells us her story through two brothers each looking to achieve a great nation; one with wisdom and thought and the other through anger and authority.

Applebaum presents us with hope that recent history and Churchill talks the long game in America.  Sadly, both the US and Poland, as seen through the eyes of the authors have long roads to overcome their own history; Authoritarianism in the case of Twilight of Democracy and in the US as violence begats peace.  Both draw parallels to recent events in the US (Trump) and the UK (Brexit) leading us to believe that sadly in some cases history does repeat itself.  I recommend both.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The first of a trilogy, Atwood takes up through a climate disaster of man’s own making through the eyes of either the luckiest man alive or the unluckiest.  The Snowman, our guide through the past and the present, tells the tale that describes what is a called ‘speculative fiction’ of the scientific kind.  It is the first book of the Maddadam Trilogy and was written in 2003, it has Atwood speculating on the future of the planet man’s desire to always be “improving” nature, only to have most of what man concocts to have the opposite effect.  I am taking this trilogy one book at a time, and while I finished this in February it has taken this time of reflection on Oryx and Crake to make the decision to head into the second book “The year of the Flood”. 

I can’t believe that Margaret Atwood is truly making sense to me. 

Music Lessons by Bob Wiseman

I wrote briefly about this book on Facebook after finishing it.  Music Lessons is a hardcopy version of his website blog.  There were many interesting entries, for that is what it is, a book of entries. Those interested in the arts, music, life as music teacher/musician and a father will find this interesting.  Without the direction of themed chapters, as a reader you didn’t know what direction Bob Wiseman will take you in when you turn the page.  If you are interested, try flipping through a few pages in the store before you buy; Music Lessons has its own style, and it may not be a fit for all readers.

Might Nature be Canadian? Essays on Mutual Accommodation by William A. MacDonald

This is of my most interesting reads in a long time and one of the most relevant. The last pieces of this book were written just before the October 2019 election.  The book was published in mid 2020 – so this book just missed out on the most influential time in our economy and politics, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on a collection of essays, Might Nature be Canadian is a study of #MutualAccomodation and claims that to be Canada’s greatest asset and virtue; we’ve been practicing it since before Confederation as three societies made a go at forming a country without a major conflict (i.e. The American Revolution or US Civil War). Most of the essays were which published in the #GlobeandMail since 2015 and are focused on a new Liberal government being formed and advice to the new administration.  There is a big focus on economics, global, regional, and Canadian but the running theme is accommodation – another word for something just as Canadian, compromise.  

In the latter half of the book there is a heavy focus on China, its changing political leadership and philosophy from wanting to be a part of a global economy to only wanting to lead it and to do that by political means.  

While William A. MacDonald makes good sense for bringing our economy forward out of the October 2019 election, much of what is recommended may not have relevance because of COVID-19.  It may be years before anything of what MacDonald writes in this book about the Canadian economy can be considered as actionable.  Still, I recommend this book.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

This is my current read, almost halfway through it is a compelling and tragic story.  At this point in the read, the end could go anyway.  I’ll let you know how this roller coaster of a read ends (or maybe I won’t give the spoiler away).

Finally, I am interested in knowing what you have loved reading so far in 2021 and what you would recommend as a next read?  For fans of the CBC, how many of you have followed and have read the five 2020 #CanadaReads books? Thoughts on which of the five are read worthy? 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

#CPC2021 Cheers, Jeers & In Between

This week I will be attending The Conservative Party of Canada policy convention, and I think I set a high bar for what I hoped would take place over the three days last weekend.  I last week’s post #GreatVirtualExpectations, I hoped for breakout rooms, music and some enhanced virtual engagement.  I don’t think the bar was set too high.

In between the end of the convention and writing this I’ve had the opportunity to talk with other delegates and share experiences,  and I don’t think I was too far off the mark with my post-convention assessments.  In the end what I attended was an efficient video business meeting; wasn’t that what we all expected to happen in the end?  The major technical flaws happened before the convention kicked and it didn’t have any impact at all. The Party, led by Executive Director Janet Fryday Dorey worked hard to create something good in a difficult situation and to a large degree they succeeded.

So, here are my Cheers, Jeers and in-betweens of the Conservation Policy convention.

First the Cheers, it was hassle free and technical clinch free.  The video stream was reliable for the three days.  The translation was done by transcription, and besides some questionable (funny) translation the Wordly app worked pretty well.  The chatroom also worked well especially after complaints the chat board was being cleared too often and too quickly were resolved.  That was one aspect of the virtual engagement, though I never found a way to chat one-on-one with other delegates in that forum.  I found a work around by chatting on LinkedIn, personal text messaging and Facetime.

The eVoting was easy and fast, the results of each day’s vote were also displayed in a easy to read manner.  The transparency of the vote was there, though in some policies it hurt the party.

I attended the panel discussions over the training rooms.  The best of the panels was the Post-Pandemic Canada Panel with MPs Michelle Rempel-Garner, Rosemarie Falk, Raquel Dancho and Shannon Stubbs.  These four MPs along with moderator and convention co-host Dr. Leslyn Lewis had a lively and very interesting conversation.  These five women were the best of the bunch of presenters all weekend.

Finally, delegate videos from across Canada put faces to many of the delegates attending; the videos also showed how great and beautiful Canada truly is.

As for the Jeers, I’ll say that the only true #fail of the convention had nothing to do with the organizers, or the hosts but rather by the delegates and policy submission writers, namely the policy resolution on Climate change.  

The policy, as presented was too long and wordy (almost one page), the main idea of the policy that Conservatives recognize climate change is real was lost.  For the delegates this was a window to vote against the motion, which 54% did; and finally a fail to the media who used this as their entire headline for the convention when the night before Leader O’Toole himself declared the debate of climate action dead.  We’ll have to wear this for weeks because this resolution (that I supported).  Let this be a lesson for our policy crafters, simpler is better.  

We can speculate all we want about the delegate selection; but I was proud to represent #OttawaCentre and proud to have voted in favour of the resolution.

The in between represents the possibilities of what could have been. A second Keynote speaker, on the Thursday or Saturday would have been nice to compliment Leader Erin O’Toole’s excellent speech on Friday night.  The Party has several outstanding MPs that could have delivered a message to the delegates, as could have a prominent business leader or Conservative social influencer.   

During the plenary sessions, the use video to see those delegates debating the resolutions would have added a bit more personality to the proceedings.

O’Toole’s speech ended the Friday festivities by 6pm, which by that time, normally, delegates would have gone to dinner or seek entertainment.  Here a music Zoom room would have been perfect, a one-hour video concert for the delegates to wind up day two and then head to the virtual hospitality suites of National Council candidates.

Overall, #cpc2021receives a solid B+ from me, an in-person convention with the people, the atmosphere and socialization would pushed this to an A.  We’re all looking forward to meeting in person in two years in Quebec City.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Great Virtual Expectations

This week I will be attending The Conservative Party of Canada policy convention, originally planned for November 2020 in Quebec City, it will now take place virtually in home offices, dens, living rooms, kitchens, basements and bedrooms – wherever a computer is set up – across Canada.  Over 3000 delegates from 338 Electoral Districts will take part is shaping the policies of the CPC into the next election and how the party itself will run with constitutional amendments.

Photo by Yaowaluck Promdee on Pexels.com

This post is NOT about the process to select delegates or how the party communicated with party members, this is about great virtual expectations for spending up to 24 hours in front of my computer this Thursday to Saturday.

I have no expectations for this weekend, but I do have some high hopes that this weekend might get me to 50% (this a very ambitious target) of the live in-person experience I had in Halifax two and a half years ago.

Let’s jump right in, so going to a convention, especially a policy convention is all about the discussions on the polices, right?  Depending on what policy you are interested in, you go to one room or another and hash out the proposed policy with others.  Sometimes you change your mind, sometimes you don’t.  The important thing is to hear what others think.  

Recently I joined the Creative Morning group and attended the Ottawa meeting virtually.  I was so impressed when they had breakout rooms in their Zoom.  I thought “what is this!”  whoa!  I was very impressed until I was told that the breakout rooms were nothing new. That did not dampen my enthusiasm at all.  So now I think, will this convention have breakout rooms?  What a perfect way to have those conversations.  I am so excited that the Conservative Party will use this tech to let delegates have those important discussions. CPC?  Don’t let me down!

Music, food and hospitality suites are what delegates look forward to the most, really.  The after-convention parties, the music, the food and the people mean we don’t worry about the next morning, until the next morning. Thinking back to Halifax and #CPC2018, being able to visit local restaurants along the water was huge, just deciding with other delegates where to eat, meeting up so many new faces added an atmosphere you could not get anywhere else. We’d stop and talk to the media covering the convention, making sure we never said so much we were the news! It was a social event with a side of politics. The one draw back?  I’ll have to supply my own whiskey and beer.  This might even be an advantage, the next morning won’t be nearly as bad as it could be.

What can I expect this week?  As of writing this, the agenda of the daily activities for the three days has not been published or sent to me by email. What I hope will take place will be breakout sessions, rooms with music and interactive hospitality suites.

If anything, its these conventions that should bring the most innovation to virtual meetings.  I think that these could be a virtual reality experience.  Participants get the VR headsets “walk” from room to room and have the opportunity to “stand” beside another VR delegate and talk –  THAT would be an innovative virtual conference.  Knowing that I am many times a few steps behind on these ideas, I expect that this can already be done, but really how cool would that be?

Conventions are normally a tonne of fun, meeting people from across Canada, music, socializing, speeches, policy haggling, politicking and networking.  Unless something extraordinary happens, the only network getting overworked Thursday to Saturday will be my internet connection.

The bar levels are set, will they be met?  I’ll let you know. Oh, and by the way I’ll share a bit of the politics as well in an upcoming post.

Have you been part of an extraordinary virtual event?  What was extraordinary about it?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

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The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones

Canadian band Metric on the song “Gimme Sympathy”, who would you rather be, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?’.  I want took look very unscientifically at both bands.  Using very unscientific research, a poll on Social Media, and using five factors who was the better of the two bands.

Debut Albums

“The Rolling Stones” was released in 1964 and was produced by Andrew Loog Oldham and Eric Easton.  It was recorded in five days in Regent Studio in London England.  It featured one Mick Jagger-Keith Richards original song “Tell Me (you’re Coming Back)”.  The remainder with R&B classics from Motown, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon and more. “Teel Me” topped out at 24 on the US Charts while “Not Fade Away” a song not on the UK Release but was on the US release made it to #3 on the UK charts.  The album went #1 in the UK and #11 in the US.

The Beatles debut album “Please Please Me” was released in 1963.  Ten songs, from their stage set list, were recorded in 13 hours and were added to the four songs that made up their first two singles to create the album.  “Please Please Me” featured 8 original songs including ‘Love Me Do’ and the title track.  Each Beatles was given a song to sing lead vocal on.  Non Lennon-McCartney songs included ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘Baby It’s You’ and the Goffin-King song ‘Chains’. The Lp hit #1 in the UK. The album was released as “Introducing… the Beatles” in the US and rose to #2.  The “Please Please Me” version was not released in the US until 1987 and came out in CD format. 

George Martin vs. Andrew Loog Oldham

George Martin came to the Beatles as an experienced Comedy record producer and met Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ Manager in early 1962, where he singed the unknown band without meeting John, Paul, George and the drummer Pete Best. Martin first recorded the band in June ’62 and again that September. There’s was a relationship built on wit and musical compatibility.  Martin produced almost all Beatles albums, including the Anthology sets and the Cirque de Solei “Love” with his son Giles which was his last record before he passed away in 2016. ‘Let it Be’ was produced by Phil Spector. George Martin was known as “Fifth Beatle”.

Andrew Loog Oldham was the Rolling Stones Manager and producer from 1963 to 1967, starting when he himself was still a teenager. While label the bands’ Manager and Producer, he acted more as a Manager, making strategic moves for the band including making Mick Jagger the frontman and leader, a role that Brian Jones had as the founder of the Rolling Stones.  Oldham also has the Stones record the Lennon-McCartney song “I wanna Be Your Man” which peaked at #12 on the charts. As the producer of record of the early Rolling Stones, his value to the band was more of a manager than a producer. He resigned as Manager (and producer) of the band after Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were arrested for drug possession.  Rather than help the guys, he fled to the US.  Loog Oldham is 77 years old in 2021.

Solo Albums

With the exception of Brian Jones, every member of the Rolling Stones has released solo records. Ultimate Classic Rock ranks Keith Richard’s 1988 album “Talk is Cheap” as the best of the bunch. Jagger’s “Wandering Spirit” from 1993 is in at #2. Ronnie Woods best ranked is pre-Rolling Stones, the ’74 disc “I’ve Got My Own Album to Do”.  Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman also have solo records. One of two favourite solo Stones records in the 1986 album from drummer Charlie Watts, “The Charlie Watts Orchestra Live at Fulham Town Hall” and I have that still album, the other is Richards’ 2015 Lp “Cross-eyed Heart” which tops anything recent from the Rolling Stones.  Sadly, nothing Jagger did solo sparks a memory.

Unlike the Stones the Beatles solo albums came after the breakup, but there is evidence that as a foursome the individual talents came through in the group’s albums, especially in the second half of their recording career.  Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, Abbey Road and even as early as Rubber Soul we heard the individuality of the four. Post-breakup their creativity knew no bounds. The topic of solo Beatles albums is summed up by The Independent UK with their Top 10 solo Beatle albums; without going into the whole ten, each Beatle had at least one album on the list.  Ringo Starr’s “Ringo” (1973), McCartney and Wings ’73 album “Band on the Run”, Lennon’s “Imagine” from 1970 and George Harrison’s “All Things Must past (1970) are the top of the top. We cannot forget that each has also contributed significant solo after the years that immediately followed the end of the Beatles. 

The Charts

In their short 8-year career of 1962 to 1970 The Beatles charted 71 songs in the Billboard Hot 100, 34 went top 10 and 20 hit number one. Including post break up compilations, The Beatles had 19 Number One albums and 32 that went Top Ten, everyone studio album, with the exception of “Something New” in ’64 (it stalled at #2) went #1 in one part of the world.  Global #1 Albums were Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, and The Beatles (White Album).

The Rolling Stones have been no less successful. Again, according to Billboard magazine The Rolling Stones had 8 Number One’s, 23 Top Ten hits and 57 songs chart in the Hot 100. The Stones have hit number one with 9 albums and 37 have gone Top Ten.  As in the Beatles, every studio album released has hit #1 in at least one country and 7 have been Global #1’s, including their latest album, 2016’s Blue & Lonesome which is the best the Stones have released in years! 

There are many other intangibles that can be looked at; touring, other artists recording their music, who lists who as musical influences and more.  I am Beatles first and foremost, but in recent years I’ve come to appreciate what the Rolling Stones bring to the turntable.  As I mentioned above, “Blue & Lonesome” has the band going back to the 60’s and like the debut “The Rolling Stones” this Lp features songs not written by Jagger and Richards.  “Blue & Lonesome” should have been titled “The Rolling Stones 2” as homage to their first record released 52 years earlier.  

Of the Fab Four, I rate McCartney and Harrison as the two I fall back to listen to most often but when it comes to Lennon, his “Rock ‘n Roll” is a truly amazing record.  McCartney’s new McCartney III is a gem, and it grows with more affection with each listen. 

In the world’s most unscientific poll, via Facebook the Beatles were favoured by 58% of responses. So now, tell me, who would you rather be, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Five things that change our post pandemic lives

If there’s one thing this pandemic has brought us, it is change, a change that will be a lasting impact in our everyday activities.  This past week I’ve been considering how changes made to adapt to a pandemic have permanently changed some things that we do. 

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Newspapers and Magazines has become a greater part of my reading, but not on a device.  This may be a result of staying in, but it’s also because I’m watching less TV and less News on TV (which is a direct result of US election and COVID news overload).  I’ve subscribe to receive The Globe and Mail daily; MacLean’s, The Walrus and the Royal Canadian Legion’s “Legion” magazines come monthly.  Each of these publications are available online, and while I will read some articles that come into my news feed and email, but like a book, a newspaper or a magazine in my hand and flipping the pages is very satisfying. I am in front of screen more and more and I’ve found I prefer to read longer more news and opinion peices offline, holding the physical edition rather that scrolling my device.  

Canadian Country singer Lindsay Ell recently had an online concert, she rehearsed as if she was going on the road, had the lights, the effects and the band; it was a full-band full-scale full-production show. Ell’s not the only one, Justin Beiber hosted a New Year’s Eve show live at $25 cost per ticket.  The National Arts Centre in Ottawa presented lunchtime shows streamed live – what could possibly be better that a #WFH lunch show?  The Broadway hit “Hamilton” was streamed on Disney+, I never would have had the opportunity to see the it if had not been for the pandemic.  

Recently, The Weeknd performed his Super Bowl Half time show to 25,000 people in the stadium and to millions around the world.  The production costs, in the millions of dollars, were designed for the online audience.  The live concert can never be fully replaced, but with a large screen TV, a phone or laptop, anyone can pay a small ticket fee and webcast a live show in the comfort of pajamas and popcorn in your own home.

Masks, like them or not are here to stay.  They may not be worn all the time, but you know we’ll now be carrying one with us.  Masks will be in our vehicles, backpacks and purses “just in case”.  That “just in case” could be when we go to a high traffic area, when we go to a movie, an indoor or outdoor sports event.  We have all become accustomed with social distancing and when we can’t we’ll mask up.

Workplaces and Meetings will forever be altered.  I recall when work from home was a one-off thing, now it’s so commonplace that it’s an acronym and a hashtag, #WFM. WFH is here to stay, it won’t be possible for everyone, but we’ve learned we can stay home to work and learn – it will be the new ‘go to’ solution when we can’t go to the office.   Within the workplace meetings will be online – larger convention type meetings will be essential but will be rare, held only once or twice a year, these meetings are important networking events.  While some video services can create small breakout rooms, nothing replaces the face-to-face coffee breakout meeting that often take place at these larger meetings.

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The pandemic has changed the perception of how important a downtown core is.  The Rolling Stones released the song ‘Living in a Ghost Town’ April 2020.  The accompanying video featured scenes of empty streets of cities around the world, including Toronto.  The changing business model that has employees housed in one building is changing; Spotify announced last year it would not be asking employees to return to its newly leased downtown Ottawa office building.  Twitter employees are working from home around the world. Changes like these will affect the design of transit, shopping and will affect how cities amend official plans, as the City of Ottawa is doing now.  

It was only a few years ago the appeal of living downtown was alluring – walk to shopping, ditch the car and ride a bike or take the LRT where you need to go.  The pandemic has called into question the need for private open space.  Parks are great, but a yard with a garden may be the new quality of life many aim to achieve.  The shift from a having central employee HQ changes housing density requirement, it calls into question needs for changes to LRT, development nodes around transit stations and hubs.  Municipalities are like a large cruise ship, making a sharp shift in direction takes time. 

This week I attended a online Creative Morning Ottawa event with Sarah Gelbard a self-described anarchitect and part punk planner.  She called into question what we all need in a place, and how we all describe the ‘place’ we desire.  It was a thought-provoking morning as the opinions of the 100+ other people attending were different from mine. I’m interested to see just how far the city adjusts its need for the next 50 years and if it considers a shift back to a less-urban driven mandate.

My question to you this week is; what is new that has come to the forefront of your lives during the pandemic are here to stay?  I can’t wait to read how your post-pandemic life has been influenced by lockdowns and #WFH.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

The sweetest of grooves

This week I was listening to a #BritPop playlist on Spotify and the sweetest of grooves started playing.  So sweet that I listened to the opening 27 seconds several times before allowing the vocals to takeover.  There have been a few musical moments like that this week.

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Mid 90’s I purchased a CD “I can Hear You” by Albertan Carolyn Arends.  The reason for the purchase was based on reading that she had worked with Randy Bachman.   The CD was amazing, the opening three tracks set the stage for a great listen.  Flash forward to 2020 and a Kickstarter campaign for Carolyn Arends to record her first record of new music since 2009.  I had to contribute to this project!

Out of the Kickstarter comes “Recognition”, 12 new songs.  The album is available via her website, the plans are to release singles digitally.  The first single is one of my sweet grooves this week.  “Becoming Human” was released January 22, 2021 and is a strong out of the gate contender for my song of the year.  In the age of the pandemic the lyrics hit hard as we all have to reinvent ourselves to be compassionate and ‘human’ in a time when we’ve had the most minimal of human contact over the previous year.

There is a sweet and slow melodic swing to open the song.  Arends vocals are soothing and encourage us to be the better version of ourselves in a post pandemic life.  “It’s the trickiest thing in the whole world to be a real live boy or a real live girl” ring true as we adjust to living outside of a video world.  It’s a time to for us to have a personal re-fresh of how we approach others, not only in our bubble but those we have yet to meet.  “Becoming Human” could be the theme of 2021.   You can find “Becoming Human” on streaming services; you can view the lyric video here: https://youtu.be/9VE0TTVAR_A.  Becoming human is hard, not impossible but its what we need the most right now.

2020 may be the year of Elton John, his book “Me” is a bestseller and he opened the vaults and released “Jewel Box” a multi disc set of album cuts, songs featured in the book and rare tracks & B-sides.  It is easy to hear the evolution of a great song writing team through the earliest of recordings.  Prior to the Jewel Box we had be satisfied with what was released before the “black album” in 1970. The lead up to that album is chronicled in the Red B-Sides and Rarities package.  While interesting to Elton’s fans, the real treat is on disc 2 of the three-disc vinyl package.  I note that the CD and digital versions include many songs missing on the vinyl.  Where I found the sweet grooves, are on the 14 songs on disc two.  The other discs are full of discovery, but the middle disc is where I found the beginnings of a great career.

On these 14 songs I hear Elton and Bernie forming the basis of a sound that would carry them through 50 years of hits.  The sound of 60’s British pop in the UK is heard, the Zombies, the Turtles and The Hollies are represented.  Surprisingly what is missing are the supergroups of the British Invasion – the Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

Lyrically, who could have imagined that Bernie Taupin could top what he was producing in the period of 68-70, though he did just that.  Standouts from Bernie here are “Watching the planes go by”, “When I was Tealby Abbey” and “The clock goes round”.  In this period, we see Bernie form a base for the Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water Lps.  What few saw in Reg Dwight and Bernie Taupin in the era of 67-68 flourished to into 1970 and beyond. I hear in these songs what I would hear again in the albums 21 at 33, Too Low for Zero, Sleeping with the Past, and Peachtree Road.

The 14 songs on sides 2A/2B represent leaps and some sweet grooves in the formative years of a Taupin and John partnership.

Now, back to the opening 27 seconds mentioned at the start, that (almost) half minute has me swinging in my seat.  Tears for Fears have a (short) history of hooks, but it’s the guitar, bass and drum of ‘Everybody wants to rule the world’ that had me back to that subtle sweet groove.  Now, the groove is also found in ‘The year of the knife’ on “Sowing the Seeds of Love” Lp and ‘Call me mellow’ from “Everybody loves a happy ending”. All are reminiscent of classic Steely Dan from Aja and Gaucho albums.  

Those 27 seconds of bliss just might be the best unused opening of podcast yet to be produced.  There was nothing better this week.

What I ask of you today is, what are the sweet grooves moving you in the early days of 2021?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net