Category Archives: Life

Ottawa Jazzfest: Norah Jones

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Photo by Jim McQuaid

I have discovered that one of the sweetest sounds in music is that of the Hammond organ.  It’s a mainstay of blues, early 70’s rock and at Ottawa Jazzfest Norah Jones had one in her band!  Topping it off, it was the opening sound of her concert, I knew it would be a great show.

For me Norah Jones did not disappoint, it was what I was expecting, as was my friend Glen who joined me that evening.  We lucked out on a good spot to put our chairs, the weather was perfect and through the evening I swayed to everything that Norah played switching between newer material and favourites from earlier albums.

Through the 90 minute set the fan favourites came out, and just as the appearance of the Hammond organ was a surprise, so was the musicianship of Ms. Jones (though I should not have been). While I am sure everyone was waiting for the hits from her debut Lp, she snuck “Come away with me” by stepping away from the piano and strapping an electric guitar around her neck and started the opening chords.  Well received was Sunrise, for which Norah played acoustic guitar along while mentioning that she “often plays this song at sunset”.

One of the strongest performances of the evening was on Neil Young’s “Don’t be denied”, which she played as part of her encore, it’s a song she has performed with Neil at his Bridge School concerts. Her version comes from her 2016 Lp ‘Day Breaks’, a critically acclaimed album that was named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 50 Lps of 2016 and has an average rating of 4 stars.

One of the cutest moments of the evening came at a point in the show where three fire engines roared down Laurier Ave heading downtown.  Jones waited about 15 to 20 seconds for the fire trucks to pass before starting into ”Don’t know why” from her ‘Come with me’ debut album, the wait for it seems appropriate.

The band was tight and kudos go to her the musicians starting with keyboardist Pete Remm on the previously mentioned Hammond and other keyboards, Josh Latanzzi on bass and the grooviest drummer I have every seen play Greg Wieczorek, who had a groove going – he kept us moving all night long.

By the time the final strains of a very cool acoustic “Lonestar” floated into the night sky Norah was gone.  Me with Ms. Jones at Jazzfest was one of the most satisfying shows I’ve seen in a long time.  I got what I expected and more, including the sounds of a Hammond organ.

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& @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

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The Golden Rule of Social Media

Golen RuleThere are only weeks until the campaigning for the 43rd General Election in Canada starts. However the state of political discourse in Canada has never been as low as it is before an election as it is today. The language we’re speaking, the assumptions we’re making and the tone we’re using all are contributing to the discourse and really the anger in the conversations are at levels I have never heard before.

What are the origins of the new lows of our political discussions, where did we accept this behavior? Why do we accept this behavior? Have our leaders brought us to this point? Who do we hold responsible? Is all this because our new communication devices allow us, anyone to to have a personal soapbox? Our new communication freedom also brings millions of voices to us in a click.

There are voices that generate a lot of emotion, we all immediately think of @realDonaldTrump and his daily tweets – he generates strong reactions from supporters and opponents. In Canada our political leaders may not generate the same emotion, but Canadians are engaging. What concerns me is that we can’t engage without some people confusing opinion with information. As an example, this post and blog is based on my opinions and where ever possible I will insert information that support my opinion.

I cannot the only one concerned with this, I think that many Canadians share this with me, and now Parliamentarians must share this opinion as well; The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Parliament Hill is currently studying “Online Hate”. The committee has been hearing from witnesses since April. With Parliament approaching the summer recess the study will be wrapping up so that a report can be written and tabled before the House rises. The report will include recommendations that might be the basis for campaign promises during the upcoming election.

It is easy to compartmentalize hate as coming from one side of the political spectrum; one side claims to be on the side of good, automatically labeling the other as hateful. Online its easy, some people are faceless and nameless. Can you imagine if school playgrounds were treated the same as social media? If that were the case the principal’s office would have a line-up of combatants having to ‘explain themselves’ and their actions. If we never tolerated this type of activity in schoolyards, why do we allow it online?

I’ll wait for the report from the Justice and Human Rights Committee and read it with great interest. The committee heard from witnesses from many faiths, ethnic groups, LGBT groups, Gender groups, Human Rights, government departments and agencies and Individuals came and provided testimony. Will this provide an insight into how or if the government should regulate hate speech online.

Interestingly, the week the Justice Committee was meeting, the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy was also meeting in Ottawa. The second Grand Council of the committee was in Ottawa to have the tech giants talk about data security, #fakenews and privacy. The meeting had the understated question if FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) should be required to do more that they are? The meeting was overshadowed by the decision by Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg ignored a summons to appear in front of the committee.

Parents, teachers, principals, school administrators and others wouldn’t allow faceless and nameless bullies on school property during recess to harm the children, why do we tolerate them on social media where more harm can be done with words, images and videos – where people we don’t even know have access to influence others? Don’t we deserve a safe social media playground?

Isn’t it time we took into consideration the audiences, known and unknown, we have online and started to police our own words and actions and call out others who cross a line? Can’t we all use a better language online? Surely (mostly) everyone doesn’t use the same language in person that is used online. We all need to use the golden rule of social media, use the language you want used on your posts when you post and comment on others.

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 & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

My small green shift

This post is predicated on a great article in the Globe and Mail on Saturday May 11th about plastic and single use plastics in particular.  If you have not read it, I suggest you do.

coffee 1It’s been one week and I have NOT thrown out 18 Starbucks cups in the garbage, one week since Liz and I made the conscience decision to use only a travel coffee mug. It is a small step, one that on the grand scheme of things probably only makes me feel better about my small effort. The first day I walked in to my Starbucks, rather than mobile ordering, the manager gave me a weird look because I had not mobile ordered.  I said I can’t do it anymore, I asked him ‘do you have any idea how many cups I throw out?  He understood.

Does this get me closer to purchasing an electric vehicle?  No.

Does this get me closer to starting to lecture others on what they should do? No

But it is my little bit that I can do know, less garbage and less plastics – it is our single efforts to do a little that will have the greatest impacts.  Like I said, it’s a little for now, it will grow to doing more and to being made aware of where Liz and I can make little changes for a cleaner world.

This one article was an eye opening read.  It’s amazing how much we encourage people to recycle and how much actually GETS recycled. Yes, everyone feels good when the blue box, the black box and the green bin go to the curb.  If we all understood how little good this did, what actions would we be willing to take to make a bigger impact?  It is generally accepted that there is far too much packaging in goods we purchased day to day.  How do we get manufacturers to act on reducing packaging, especially items that are sealed in hard plastics. plastics that may or may not be accepted in our recycle bins.

It costs municipalities millions of dollars to have recycle programs, and the same municipalities may not earn much revenue from these same programs.  Municipalities struggle with cost vs good of a recycle program.  In Ottawa, the city spent $42.5M in 2018 on waste diversion and recycling.  In 2016 the City had revenues of $10.1M for paper and plastics.  However that revenue did not cover the costs of the pick up of the recyclables.  Part of the costs of Ottawa recycling in 2016 were picked up by Ontario’s stewardship program, in 2018 that program provides over $6M to the city.

How much longer can muncipalities afford these programs?  I know we can’t afford NOT to have them.  This should change with the Waste Free Ontario Act passed in 2016 by the Wynne government.  This act puts the onus on the manufactiers and producers shoulders.  They will need to find ways to reduce their packaging and I assume the cost of  packaging.

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As consumers we can demand better and should demand better of the manufacturers and of ourselves. Demand that what we buy has less packaging and demand that we buy products with less packaging.  We need to compare and reward those that make the effort needed.  It’s something I have started to pay attention to.

So for today it comes down to me and my travel coffee mug, less waste and my coffee staying hotter longer – its my small green shift.

 


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& @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Vinyl Spin: Elton John “Live from Moscow”

img_20190505_18354623985168918866547048.jpgIn 1978 Elton John released a solo Lp, A Single Man, it marked a few departures for him musically.  It was the first where Bernie Taupin did not have a writing credit on the Lp.  He also didn’t record with the band that had accompanied him on his two previous studio albums Rock of the Westies and Blue Moves. Elton toured to support the album, but unlike previous tours, the tour in ’79 was a man and his piano.  Elton was accompanied only by percussionist Ray Cooper. The tour that year had only one stop in Canada, the old O’Keefe centre (now the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts) in Toronto.  These shows were not unlike shows recorded Elton 20 years later in Madison Square Gardens.  These shows were made available solely to Fan Club members (of which I was) on two CDs in 2000 and 2001.

The tour included a historic eight shows in the old USSR, four in Leningrad and four in Moscow.  The concerts were one of the first by a western musicians allowed into the country and would open the flood gates for everyone else.

For Record Store Day this year, the BBC recordings of his last concert in Russia in 1979 were released on vinyl as a double Lp.  This 2 disc set was my first purchase after buying a new Turntable and it fills me with joy to hear the needle softly set itself down on side one track one with every album I play now.

Disc one Side one opens with Elton solo on the piano with open refrain of “Daniel” and cautiously welcoming applause, as the song plays I find I have tears in my eyes to hear the warmth of vinyl again; it’s a welcoming feeling to my youth.  Sticking with older materal Elton seques to his self professed favourite composition, “Skyline Pigeon”.  Take me to the pilot leads into Rocket Man a song that turns epic in this live performance.

Flipping to Side two it begins with “Don’t Let the Sun go down on me”, “Goodbye yellow brick road” and “Candle in the wind” all songs the audience well recognizes.  It seems as listening to the Lp that the the soviets in attendence are settling in and are not so wary of this pop superstar.  Elton’s love of Motown is widely known, the side ends with Marvin Gaye’s “Heard it through the grapevine” but sadly, IMHO, he over extends this taking away from the performance.  As I listened to it, I wonder how many in the audince felt as I did – is this almost over?

Over to Disc 2 Side 1 and Elton is joined by percussionist Ray Cooper.  Cooper has been playing with Elton since the 1971 Lp Madman across the water.  Besides Davey Johnstone and Nigel Olsson no one has played more with Elton.  The second disc opens with a combined “Funeral for a friend/Tonight”, songs that appear on Eltons only two disc studio albums.  Touching on 9 of his 11 previous studio Lps in this concert he brings a bit of Captain Fantastic with “Better off dead” before breaking into a full arena sized concert version of Bennie and the Jets with a room full of Russians yelling “BENNIE” on queue.

One last flip to Side 4, with “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” and “Crazy water” from Blue Moves, the audience is clearly in his hands, Elton sets up the end of the show with a a series of song combinations guaranteed to get Russian boots moving.  Elton works his magic with “Saturday night’s alright for fight” and “Crocodile Rock” with his “Pinball Wizard” and he was the first to end a western pop concert in the USSR with the Beatles “Get Back” and “Back in the USSR”. Judging the by the reaction to the song you might think he played official state anthem, but while the USSR was still in tact as it was in 1979, it was  most certainly the unofficial  emotional anthem.

Elton John Live from Moscow is a gift to his fans from a performer who is in the middle of his “farewell yellow brick road” tour.  For me it took me back to being 19, Elton John’s Greatest Hits was my first vinyl Lp I purchased and “Sleeping with the Past” in 1989 was his my last before going into full CD mode.  Live from Moscow brings me back to being a fan of Elton John and to vinyl. From the warmth and depth of the sound of the recording to the packaging of vinyl.  It is a return to good days and good music.

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& @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Hoop Dreams: Open Look by Jay Triano

Jay TrianoThe NBA playoffs are in full swing; the Toronto Raptors are in the second round and fans are hoping for a championship come June. Though this book was published November of 2018, the NBA playoffs are as good a time as ever to tell Jay Triano’s story and his rise through in the world of basketball, his dreams of playing for Canada’s Nationals team, winning championships and coaching in the NBA.

A quick read of Jay Triano’s Wikipedia page will give you the playing and coaching history of Triano, but it leaves out all the best parts; what drove him as a youth and the people who had influence on his character and how he became a world champion playing for Canada (1983) and coaching the American mens basketball team in 2010.

In Open Look, Triano describes his earliest of great experiences seeing the Canadian Mens National Team play in for the first time.  From that moment his fate is sealed, he will not be anything if not a member of the Canadian National Team.  But to do that Triano had to follow a trail that would lead him to meet people that would have an impact  that he could not have envisioned you can see where each of these experiences have led him to his dream.

Stan Stewardson recruited Triano to play at Simon Fraser University, a BC University that played Division I basketball in the USA.  Along with recruiting him, Stewardson guided the nineteen year through his first years living far away from home.  Stewardson also taught Triano what he needed to be a great player, team mate and eventually to where he would see his greatest success – as a coach.  But Stewardson also introduced Triano to a person who would have a profound effect on his life in in his early years at SFU, Terry Fox.

Terry Fox was a basketball player at SFU, the season before Triano arrived Fox blewout his leg playing, only his leg was weakened because of cancer.  When Triano met Fox, he was in a wheelchair having had his leg amputed.  Fox was to be Triano’s trainer in those weeks in his first summer at SFU in 1977.  That summer Fox was in training himself for he had already self-determined that he would run across Canada.  Triano notes that even then Fox had a charisma about him that you could never forget.

Of all the people in the career of Jay Triano Jack Donahue perhaps played the greatest role.  The American who was coaching Canadian Team, the coach that said the hotshot from Ontario was “no good”; little did he know that Triano went through the 9 day tryout with a taped up bad ankle. That first year player  from SFU would be remembered by Donahue and it would not be long before Triano would make his dream come true – he would wear the red and white of Canada’s National Team.  Jack Donahue would play a huge part in Triano’s for years.  Triano would honour him years later after his death.

It felt like that Triano’s story is only scratching the surface in Open Look; almost as if there are so many stories that he could tell that to get the most in details had to be left out.

But, what Open Look does is teach one thing, it’s a lesson that all young athletes should learn – have a goal, work at that goal and have all things your do be to realize your goal and do it all honestly.  Whether its basketball, baseball, hockey, football  or anyother sport Triano does noting if to say stay true to your goal.

Open Look is a must read for any athlete that wants or needs a role model. The only thing that could be better that reading Open Look wold be Jay Triano on the speaker circuit where he would tell these stories and add what the book can’t the emotion and personal perspective, how great would that be?

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 & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Neil and Randy: The Winnipeggers

A few months ago I was given Shakey, a biography of Neil Young, surprisingly it took a false start and a few months to read it.  But after finishing Jimmy McDonnough’s work I knew the next book I had to read; Randy Bachman’s Tales from Beyond the Tap. The reason for this is amount of ink that Neil Young gives Randy, was it reciprical by Randy?  They are Winnipeggers, the early pioneers of rock and roll in Winnipeg (and Canada).  They made it and got away from Portage and Main.

The two books are not that different; McDonough asked Neil Young a TON of questions while also getting more about the music and life of Young by talking to many people that have been part of his life and and his music.  There are the tales of being on the road; accounts of being in the recording studio and the politics of the music industry. In Tales from Beyond the Tap, Bachman answers questions from listeners of his CBC Radio Show “Vinyl Tap”. The questions range from his life influences, tales of being on the road and his adventures in the recording studio.

What emerges from the two books are parallels in experiences in Rock and Roll.  Freindships and rvialries and many stories about the music.  The two books also reference the other Winnipegger.  In the index of Shakey, Randy Bachman is mentioned in 18 pages through Bachman directly and indirectly via The Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Chad Allen. Unfortunately, In Tales from Beyond the Tap, there is no index to count the number of times Bachman refers to Young, whether its about recording, guitars and gizmos, touring and songwriting Bachman has great respect for Neil Young and he mentions his fellow Winnipeg rock pioneer on numerous occasions. Cleary though when reading the two books, there is a mutual respect for each other.

As songwriters, the two came about it differently; Young seems to have been writing from the moment the guitar was in his hands.  For Bachman the reality of being a serious songwriter came as a a result of a business deal offered to him and Burton Cummings by producer Jack Richardson.  Both have been prolific writers in their prime churning out great songs, while their output may have slowed,  they have not stopped challenging themselves.

Both Randy and Neil love life in the studio, they thrive on achieving a sound and for both it’s a sound that they’ve thought about before recording.  This brings with it disagreements and causes division.  In Bachman’s case 1977’s Freeways was the end of his time in BTO as he sought to bring in a different texture to the classic BTO on their 6thLp. It seems that Young has constantly been in conflict with everyone when it came to beng in the studio. He rebelled after Harvest was released as everyone wanted a Harvest 2, but more accurately no one knew what the result of Neil in the studio would be until he delivered the final master tapes.

Neil and Randy have always looked for something new, what would their next project be? For Young that often meant a new kick at the can at CSN&Y, or touring with Pearl Jam and embracing the era of grunge and the return to playing with Crazy Horse. Bachman, like Young, often went back to what was familiar; there was the Guess Who reunion tour, the Bachman-Cummings songbook and 2010’s Bachman-Turner that brought him back to the straight ahead rock of BTO with Fred Turner.

I think the best insight into these two Canadian music icons comes from an interview that Randy did with Guitar Player magazine in 2015 after the release of his Heavy Blues CD.

Geoff Kulawick, who is a friend of mine from Canada, had taken over True North Records, and was interested in signing me to a record deal if I would do something “new and exciting.” At the same time, I was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in January of 2014, and Neil Young was there, because his pedal-steel player, Ben Keith, was inducted as well. Ben had passed away, so Neil was there to accept for him. I told Neil I had a new record deal, and he said, “Great opportunity. Do yourself a favor: Don’t do the same old stuff. Get a new band, get different guitars, get a different producer. Do something scary that you’ve never done before or haven’t done in a while. Go into a strange room, challenge yourself, and see what happens.” (Full interview is available here: https://www.guitarplayer.com/players/randy-bachman-delivers-heavy-blues-with-a-power-trio)

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 &  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Back to the drawing board

 

After 260+ posts on #RedHeartBlueSign, this is my first sports specific post.

So what precipitated me taking such a step? The Ottawa Senators sell-off at the NHL trade deadline.  Fans are upset that Matt Duschene and Mark Stone were traded leaving a team with no where to go but staying at bottom of the league.  Normally finishing last gives the best shot at the best player in the NHL Draft, but in the case of the Ottawa Senators they traded their 1stRound pick in this years draft to the Colorado Avalache for, wait for it, Matt Duchene. Yep the same Matt Duchene the Senators recently traded.

I am at best a casual fan of the Ottawa Senators, I follow the scores and even have a copy of the Senators schedule posted in my office at work and have this on my bulletin board:

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As a casual fan, I have asked Billy Morrison, a writer for Full Press Coverage who writes exclusively on the Ottawa Senator.  I asked Billy five questions related to trades, the breakdown of the Lebreton Flats and the future of the Senators in Ottawa.  I’ve edited some of Billy’s responses for length, but they don’t take away from the content

RedHeartBlueSign: What should Senators fans take away from the loss of Duchene and Stone? 

Billy Morrison:On Mar. 1, 2018, Eugene Melnyk penned a letter to Sens fans preparing them to brace for a full scale rebuild. One year later, the loss of Stone, Duchene, and Dzingel before the 2019 NHL trade deadline is still part of the process of dismantling the ‘old’ team. They follow other names of that era who have already left, such as Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Derick Brassard. The loss of these players is simply the continuation of the tear down. It is ironic that on Mar. 1, 2019, exactly one year later, the Senators fired head coach Guy Boucher. There is a good chance now that the tear down is nearly over, and the rebuild can officially begin.

RHBS: What are your impressions of what the Senators gained from the trades?

BM: It is always difficult to see skilled and talented players like Karlsson, Stone, Duchene, and Hoffman, amongst others, leave. With that said, GM Pierre Dorion has done a great job negotiating strong assets in return. The Senators are already loaded with prospects like Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, and Colin White, in addition to many others. That pool just got deeper with the additions of Erik Brannstrom and Vitaly Abramov. On top of their youth movement, the Sens are well stocked with draft picks for the next three NHL entry drafts. In total, Ottawa has at least 15 picks in the first three rounds over the next three years. Senator fans are absolutely allowed to be frustrated from how the last two years have gone for their team. However, they should also be optimistic and excited about this team’s future and it’s potential to be very bright.

RHBS: With the no deal to build a new arena, will Melnyk sell the team, is there a possibility it moves to Quebec City?

BM: If the Arizona Coyotes can survive in the desert all these years, there is zero chance the Ottawa Senators will be leaving the nation’s capital. Furthermore, the NHL fully supports the team remaining in Ottawa. Despite what the home attendance record shows, Ottawa is a strong hockey market. The part about location that makes little sense is having the team based in the far west end of the city. Reaching Kanata from Orleans, Gatineau, or the downtown core can be difficult and very inconvenient at the best of times, never mind in gridlock traffic on a weeknight in the middle of a winter snow storm. For successful businesses, location is everything. With no new arena deal downtown in the foreseeable future, the Senators will remain in Kanata- for now. It is highly likely they will continue their search for a more central location in the city.

RHBS: How long before the Senators are competitive and a playoff team?

BM: Talent is growing quickly in Ottawa. At only 21-years-old, Chabot was already named to his first All Star game. Tkachuk and White have also both been two of the most productive rookies in the NHL this year. Depending on the rate of development, the three-to-five-year timeline set by Melnyk should be accurate. However, five years at this rate seems generous, and may follow the strategic approach of under promising and over delivering. Five years might be playing it safe. Three to four years could be more accurate.

RHBS: What does the future of the Senators mean to you?

BM: The actions of Eugene Melnyk and the Senators have been unprecedented in the history of professional sports. The agony and pain that fans have endured these last two years is next to unbearable. This treatment strains fan relations and tests fan loyalty. With that said, Melnyk and the team have been very transparent about their future direction and intentions since Mar. 1, 2018. There is a plan being implemented, as witnessed by the trades, the stockpiling of assets, the dismissal of the head coach, and the development of prospects. There are also timelines in place (3-5 years) and money that has been verbally committed (Melnyk has said he will be spending to the cap by the time the rebuild is complete). The future of the Senators means integrity and accountability. The talk has been talked. It’s time to walk the walk. So far, Melnyk and the Sens have done what they said they would do one year ago.

Senators fans in Ottawa have had a tough season, and thankfully it is almost over. February was particularly difficult with a record of 3 wins and 11 losses.  I think I could handle a rebuild if it seems that the owner is sincere about spending the money “it takes” to have a team of championship caliber, the coaching is patient but firm in expecting the best performance of each player every time they hit the ice.

The next phase of the rebuild will be the NHL Draft taking place in Vancouver June 21 & 22, 2019.  I await the results of the draft and the commentary Billy Morrison would have on  the picks GM Dorion and his team settle on.

Until then it’s a very subtle #gosensgo

You can read more from Billy at Full Press Coverage

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&  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net