April 20, 2011

OK, this post for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is a bit self-serving, for several reasons: due to an upcoming bit of travel, I am writing this in advance, then scheduling it to publish on the appropriate day for the letter “Q”; as well, it will be a brief post, relying mainly on linking to the QN Podcast, formerly known as Quirky Nomads; and finally, it’s self-serving because I have done some voice-acting for Sage Tyrtle, the writer/producer of the QN Podcast, so it’s a bit of horn-tooting for me.

So go check out her work on the podcast’s website or subscribe to it in iTunes – you may not find all of the episodes to be your cup of tea, but it’s definitely worth listening to, as many episodes are absolute gems.  Er, just be warned that it frequently heads into NSFW and NSFC territory, so do listen to it in appropriate circumstances and surroundings.

And if you’re listening through headphones/earbuds, you may find people staring at you oddly – don’t worry, it’s probably just because you’re laughing out loud (but to be fair, not all of what’s on QN is humourous – Sage mixes it up and pulls on your heartstrings too, so it could also be that people are wondering why you’ve got a tear in your eye…)

By the way, if you’re interested in becoming one of Sage’s minions (um, voice-actors) you can check out how to audition on the website.



April 6, 2011

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance

Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University

Education is something I am starting to see being, if not undervalued, then perhaps inappropriately valued.  It’s been a slow, insidious erosion and so has flown under the radar for many people.  What I mean is that education as an end has all but lost any currency (pun intended) and the expectation is that education must train you for a job.

Now, to be fair, certain kinds of education are intended to prepare you for a specific profession – not necessarily to train you for it, mind, but to give you the basic skills required to enter the profession and practice it successfully (and for long enough without inadvertently causing irremediable damage to life, limb and property) to obtain the experience needed to truly become a professional.

I am the product of just such an education – I studied engineering in university, and along the way to obtaining my degree I learned more about how to learn rather than just sponging up specific job skills by rote.  There are lots of professions where your education prepares you to enter your chosen profession without guaranteeing that you will leave skule school knowing everything you will ever need to know to have a successful career.

Learning is a journey, not a destination.  Training, on the other hand, takes you to a specific destination, and that’s not a bad thing either, but it’s useful to differentiate one from the other.

But it appears (to me, at least) there’s a new mindset about education, which seems to manifest itself as a self-centred focus on having the right combination of letters on your résumé/CV, whether they be degrees or the ever proliferating certifications (often fueled, I feel, by a country-club exclusionist/job proctecting mentality and pushed by an industry of well-paid consultants and gurus who specialize in offering courses to obtain these sought after certifications – having to pay for that ticket is seen as the cost of entry into that field’s job-market) to match with the laundry-list of letters HR has been given along with the job requirements for a position.

Now there are valid reasons for certifications – when I’m having a diagnostic medical test done on me, I’d really like it if the technician or practitioner has been certified as competent to use the required equipment or perform the necessary procedure. But many certifications these days seem to be inventions, designed solely to give gravitas to what would otherwise be a low-value-add activity and consequently artificially inflate the price.

Hmm… didn’t start out to rant. How did that happen? I guess it comes from being passionate about education – the day I stop learning, you can put the pennies on my eyes.


I had been mulling over a variety of topics for today’s post on a word beginning with “E” for the A-Z Blogging Challenge, and education was one of them. The tipping point came while I listened earlier in the day to episode 291 of my friend Ken’s The Scarborough Dude’s ***NSFW (don’t say I didn’t warn you)*** Dicksnjanes Podcast, and by chance he talked about education – it was a sign, I thought, and the deal was sealed.

OK, now that I’ve got today’s writing out of the way and put to bed, I’m off to read today’s missives from my friends Moe (Maureen) and Mark Blaseckie, who blog at A Sudden Alarm of Donkeys and see[sic] respectively.  Always worth a read, they are.  Oh, and worth listening to as well – you must (don’t make me come after you!) check out their Baba’s Beach podcast.


April 2, 2011

If you’d mentioned Bollywood to me, oh, say about 6 or 7 years ago, I (like many in the Western world) probably wouldn’t have known what you were talking about.  What changed that for me?

Well, it wasn’t the wildly successful (and the gateway drug to Bollywood for many Westerners) movie Slumdog Millionaire – I was way ahead of that curve.  So, you ask, what was my introduction to Bollywood movies?  In a word: kismet.

To explain, I need to introduce my dear wife, K, into the story.  You see, she’s the one who introduced me to the wonderful world of Bollywood, and more generally, Indian/South Asian cinéma as a whole.  K is a huge fan of world cinéma – from Europe (French movies in particular, but Italian, Spanish and others too), the Middle East and East Asia as well as the South Asian genres.

She comes by this from her lifelong interest in storytelling – as an avid reader, a movie-watcher, as well as telling her own stories through writing, blogging and podcasting, and also from thinking – a lot – about storytelling (she specialized in children’s literature when she did her Master of Library Science degree, and has had kid-lit book reviews published in professional journals).

You can read, and listen to, her tell the story about how she (well, we, actually) saw a Bollywood movie on the big screen for the first time ever.  And in the same theatre she had first started going to movies on her own, as a young girl.  As the episode’s title so aptly says -The Wheel of Life, which turns in mysterious ways to bring us back to familiar territory; kismet as it were, fate or destiny.

So that sparked in her a renewed interest in Bollywood movies – she’d seen them before, on TV (in Toronto, OMNI 2 caters to the large local NRI community and the people of South Asian descent) but seeing Om Shanti Om on the big screen was a bit of an epiphany.  Since then, we’ve seen quite a few South Asian movies on the big screen – at the Albion Cinemas in Rexdale which specialize in them, but also at big-box theatres in other areas with large South Asian communities, which have begun to carry the films as well.

Supplementing the theatre-going experience are DVDs, both purchased (mostly from on-line sources, though there are a few stores within driving distance where they can be found as well) and rented from Zip.ca (they have a limited but growing selection of South Asian films with English subtitles – essential for me; K has managed to pick up enough Hindi through watching a lot of movies that she can understand quite a bit of the dialogue without the subtitles, though for films in other South Asian languages like Malayalam, she’s as much at sea as I).

And that interest has opened up to her a network of like-minded Bollywood and South Asian cinéma fans from all over the globe, connecting via the Interwebs.  She also now has a blog and podcast dedicated to the subject – it’s called Totally Filmi (I’m the one she refers to occasionally as “The Tech Guy” who does the “man behind the curtain” pulling of levers and pushing of knobs to maintain the blog and do the technical production and publishing work on the podcast).

In the process, I’ve become a bit of a fan of Bollywood movies, as well as other South Asian genres – they aren’t all “singing and dancing around a tree” films, I can assure you.  While I enjoy all kinds of movies, I’m no cinephile and am prepared to just be entertained by a film without dissecting it, so I’m pretty easy to please when it comes down to it – YMMV.

By the way, if you happened to arrive at this post because you are in some way connected to the South Asian film business and you have any pull with the IIFA‘s, which in 2011 are being held in Toronto, and you could get K an invitation to cover them as a knowledgeable local blogger… well, that might also be kismet (as well as some good karma for you).

The Epic Awesomeness of Podcasters Across Borders 2009 – Part 2

June 24, 2009

For the explanation of the title of this post, go back to “Epic Awesomeness of PAB09 – Part 1“.  And to find out more about Podcasters Across Borders in general, go to the PAB website.

Epic Awesomeness #2

Two of the most awesome things about PAB, in any of the years that K and I have attended (2007, 2008 and now 2009 — we fall short of being “PAB Lifers” by just missing out on the inaugural PAB in 2006 because we found out about it too late 😦 ), have been the organizers of PAB — Bob Goyetche and Mark Blevis.

Bob and Mark do an amazing job of putting together a conference for the podcasting/social media community that just keeps on getting better every year — and if you don’t believe me, ask almost anyone who’s been to PAB.

OK, there may be the odd person or two who went away less than satisfied by the experience, but I doubt that I would need more than the fingers on one hand to count all of them, from all the PABs that have taken place.

I think I can call them pillars of the podcasting/social media community without much fear of contradiction — they collaborate regularly on the most excellent Canadian Podcast Buffet show, they are involved in organizing local meetups and Podcamps in Ottawa and Montréal, and they’re always willing to help out others with advice.

Organizing PAB is a tremendous effort, with myriad details to attend to as well as difficult choices to make in selecting who will present each year.  And they do all this while keeping the cost to attendees amazingly low and without taking any profit from the event — the registration fee is an absolute bargain for what you get: a day and a half crammed full of presentations (actually two full days if you can make it there for Friday afternoon, when there’s generally a workshop/technical session — this year it was presented by Paul Lyzun on video techniques with consumer camcorders; we didn’t arrive in time to catch the whole session, but what we did see was quite interesting), a buffet lunch on Saturday, a boat cruise and the opportunity to connect face-to-face with other members of the community.

And of course, it would be remiss of me to not also thank Mark’s wife Andrea (with whom he does the Just One More Book!! podcast) and Bob’s wife Cat (with whom he does The CatFish Show podcast) who not only lend moral support to them but also put in a lot of behind the scenes efforts to make PAB happen.

Let me just close by saying how glad I am to count them among my friends…  here are pictures of them I took at PAB09:

The Epic Awesomeness of Podcasters Across Borders 2009 – Part 1

June 23, 2009

Got back from Podcasters Across Borders 2009 (hereinafter PAB09) Sunday evening and wanted to go over some of the weekend while it was still fresh in my mind.  This was going to be one long post, but given the speed with which I compose entries, I realized it was going to need to be a multi-post affair.

And the post’s title?  It refers to the closing presentation by Tod Maffin, which was called “Twenty Sixteen Moments of Epic Awesomeness” (in a sequence of events involving mosquitoes, changing hotels, internet connection at said new hotel going down 5 minutes after arriving, Tod had to cut it down from 20 to 16…) and “Epic Awesomeness” seemed appropriate to apply to PAB09 since it was definitely filled with many moments of Epic Awesomeness (now, K tells me “awesome” is used far too often on the web these days and that I should avoid using it, but I don’t want to set a dangerous precedent by doing what she tells me 😉 )

Epic Awesomeness #1

Friday night: keynote speaker Jowi Taylor addressed the PAB09 attendees, telling us about the Six String Nation project he founded.

PAB09 Voyageur closeup

PAB09 Voyageur closeup

The concept is wonderfully simple: create a uniquely Canadian guitar, made from materials with some cultural or historical significance, from all across our nation.  Then tour the guitar across Canada, telling the story of the making of the guitar itself, and the stories that go with the individual pieces that went into it.  Let people hold it, play it, have their picture taken with it — all for free — so that they will all get to know their country a little better and take some pride in its history, our achievements and our multi-cultural roots.

PAB09 Voyageur held by Rob & K

PAB09 Voyageur held by Rob & K

I can’t do the story of Voyageur, as the guitar has been named, or the Six String Nation project, justice — Jowi has released a book on it and I encourage you to support the project by buying it if you can, or if you can’t afford it, go get it from your library (submit a request for them to purchase copies if they haven’t already done so).

I can tell you that there were a whole lot of moist eyes and lump filled throats by the end of his presentation.  Here’s a few reasons why:

  • While Jowi did receive initial funding for the project from Mike Lazaridis of Research In Motion (RIM, the maker of the Blackberry™), Westerkirk Capital and The National Capital Commission, and has some tour specific and on-going sponsors (see the list on the Six String Nation website), but he’s also run up a substantial personal debt to keep the project going and to continue touring Voyageur across the country.  He’s been given the run-around by various government agencies who manage to pass the buck everywhere but where it would do some good — funding the project.
  • He recently asked a Toronto promoter to back the summer tour with $23,000 in funding and was told, because there is no charge for people who come to see Voyageur and get their photo taken, that he “had no business model” and that he should go pitch the project in the US, then come back to Canada when he’d been successful there.  The Canadians in the room were unsurprised but still dismayed at the promoter’s attitude; I’m not sure what the attendees from the US and elsewhere thought but it was probably a bit incomprehensible to them that we seem to place so little value on our heritage, our history and our culture.
  • Jowi told the story of the legendary Golden Spruce, a unique “albino” spruce tree on Haida Gwaii (a.k.a. the Queen Charlotte Islands) that was sacred to the Haida native people.  A paper products company with logging rights in the area had agreed to not cut down the Golden Spruce and to preserve a certain buffer zone of the forest surrounding it; they were still clear-cutting the forest outside that area on Haida Gwaii.  He went on to tell us about how one of the company’s employees, who worked in isolation out in the field marking which trees would be cut, became unhinged and decided that the company was hypocritical in leaving the area around the Golden Spruce protected while clear-cutting everywhere else.  He went told us how the man went out in the middle of the night with a chainsaw and cut the Golden Spruce down.  You could have heard a spruce needle drop in the room — everyone was in shock, reeling at the incomprehensibility of such an act.  The Haida decided that the Golden Spruce would be left where it had fallen, and never be cut up but left to return to the land.  After many meetings with the chief, Jowi was able to convince them to allow a small piece of the Golden Spruce to be harvested and used in the construction of the guitar — the wood from it forms the soundboard, the front face of the body.

There were lots more anecdotes, more than I can recall in detail, but after the presentation there was a “Q & A” session — a lot of the questions were about why the Canadian government wasn’t prepared to provide funding to sustain the project and allow Voyageur to be seen by Canadians all over the country.  And finally, Mark Blaseckie stood up and asked the question that was probably on the minds and in the hearts of most of the people in that room — he just asked “How can we help?”.

So all of us there agreed to use our social media connections to spread the word about the story of the Six String Nation project and the need for financial support to keep the project alive and Voyageur on the road — not in some museum, behind glass.  This is a piece of our history, our culture that exists to be held by everyday Canadians across our land and played by those who can.

There’s a PayPal donation button on the Six String Nation website that you can use to contribute — we certainly will be.

So, that’s Part 1 of The Epic Awesomeness of PAB09.  I will try to get some more of these out quickly while events are still fresh in my mind.

Burn Before Reading

September 15, 2008

For those of you unfamiliar with Canada’s Parliamentary system of Legislation and the passage of a bill into law, according to the Government of Canada’s Glossary of Parliamentary Procedure A to Z (ahem, that’s zed, NOT zee…), under “passage (of a bill)” it lists the following:

The process by which a bill obtains parliamentary approval and becomes law. The principal steps in the passage of a public bill by the House of Commons are: introduction; first reading; second reading; committee stage; report stage; and third reading. After completing similar stages in the Senate, the bill goes forward for Royal Assent.

So what does that have to do with a post titled “Burn Before Reading”?

A bit of background: the Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Stephen Harper, called a snap-election on September 7th, 2008.

More background: Said PM and his Conservative government had tabled legislation to bring in a fixed election date system, Bill C-16.

It had, in fact, been passed in the House of Commons, gone through most of the other steps and was awaiting its third and final reading before being sent to the Governor General for Royal Assent and becoming a law.

This had been one of Harper’s election planks, and truth be told, probably the only reasonable thing on the Conservative agenda.

This election has been called well in advance of the date it would have been scheduled, had the bill received third reading and been passed into law.

It’s made me very angry — this is not the first time I’ve commented on it, just the first time I’ve blogged about it.

You may have happened across some of my ranting already in my Twitter feed (where I’m @eel_trebor), on identi.ca (where I’m roblee), in my Facebook status and most recently in Episode 36 of John Meadows’ most excellent podcast On The Log that I guest hosted/produced for him.

The rant in On The Log touches on other scandals involving Harper and the Conservative Party, such as their refusal to testify to the House Committee investigating an illegal In-Out campaign financing scheme that the Conservatives used to circumvent spending limits during the last election and the Cadman affair.

If you’d like to hear the full rant, it’s in the second half of Episode 36.  While you are at the shownotes page, you should check out some “real” episodes of On The Log, the ones hosted by John Meadows himself.

It’s definitely a podcast worth subscribing to.

Because a meme is a terrible thing to waste – Six Random Things About Me

August 24, 2008

Been tagged for the “Six Random Things About Me” meme by the lovely and talented Daryl Cognito of the curiously entertaining Atomic Suburbia podcast. See down below for The Rules Of The Meme.

  1. Many years ago, I was young and foolish. Now, I’m no longer young.
  2. Despite no longer being young, people often think I’m much younger than I actually am, although they seldom think I am less foolish.
  3. I believe that beer is nature’s most nearly perfect food, with pizza a very close second.
  4. Approximately 9% of my life to date was spent living and working in France.
  5. Sports that I have engaged in moderately seriously during my life include alpine skiing, bicycling, archery and windsurfing; of these I still bicycle occasionally and practice archery a bit.
  6. I saw “2001: A Space Odyssey” presented in 70 mm Cinerama on a curved screen at the Glendale Cinerama (reserved seating no less, like a stage show) when it was in first-run theatrical release.

And, as promised, The Rules Of The Meme:

1. Link to the person who tagged you. (Check)
2. Post the rules on the blog. (Check)
3. Write six random things about yourself. (Check)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post. (Check)
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. (To be done when this is posted)
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.  (Idem)

I’ve linked to my tagger, Daryl Cognito, at the top of the post. My taggees are:

  1. Maureen Blaseckie, of the most excellent Baba’s Beach Podcast
  2. Cat, who puts out the wonderful CatFish Show podcast with her husband Bob Goyetche
  3. Bruce Murray (nicest guy in podcasting), of the Zedcast podcast
  4. The Scarborough Dude, of the one-and-only DiscksnJanes podcast
  5. John Meadows, of the quietly brilliant On The Log podcast
  6. Sage Tyrtle, of the awesome QN Podcast (formerly Quirky Nomads)

Phew!  Done…  now to post and notify the victims, er, 6 people I would like to know 6 random things about.