Monday, December 27, 2010

The Gift of Time!

You may recall my "Dear Santa" post in November where I lamented not having any specific or material "wants" to put on a Christmas wish list for my family. Instead I asked for the gift of time with them, in any shape or form they desired. Well this Christmas morning I received just that - and I couldn't be happier with my gifts! Wonderfully creative and full of opportunity to spend time with each other, each one makes my wish come true. I am blessed!

Duncan gave me a series of gift cards to venues/events and a written note outlining what he likes to share with me at each place and why.

Raven gave me a movie she had seen at school once and really wanted to share with me.

Wesley gave me the Pacific - we are going to start watching together in January.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

This year to celebrate Christmas I have compiled 40 years worth of Christmas memories (which I've been furiously sorting and scanning for the past couple of days) into one movie and married it to my favourite Christmas carol. Enjoy!

From our family to yours, we wish you the very best of the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Total Lunar Eclipse

Winter Solstice Sunset

Solstice Moonrise (over WEM)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Let The Bodies Hit The Floor!!!!!

EMBED-Parrot Sing "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor" - Watch more free videos
Simple things like this make life worth living. This parrot makes me laugh every time I listen to him and trust me, I've listened to it over and over again. I think I am updating my Christmas Wish List - I now want this bird!

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Christmas Greetings!

Smyth-Wojtaszek Family
Myspace Glitter Graphics

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Maisie's Magical Christmas House

If you're in Edmonton for this holiday season, you should visit Maisie's Magical Christmas House, located at 9619 – 144 Avenue.

The house is named such in honor of the home owner's mother, Maisie Dolynchuk, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 82 years. Maisie loved the Christmas lights so much that she wanted them to be enjoyed by people even after she was gone. The house is her legacy.

There is no charge for people to come and tour the display, but you're asked to bring a non-perishable donation to the Edmonton Food Bank.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A TREE for a Good Cause

christmas tree factory

Do you need a Christmas Tree? Know someone else who doesn't have their tree yet? Today you can support Edmonton's Food Bank by purchasing an amazing live Christmas tree for the holiday season - for only $10! The trees are being sold at Churchill Square from 6am to 2pm today and volunteers are available to help load the trees into your vehicle for you.

Cash or cheques (made payable to Edmonton's Food Bank) are accepted for on-site purchases. You can also text to donate (keyword TREE to shortcode 30333 and $10 will be added to your phone bill in support of Edmonton's Food Bank) or call 780-425-2133 for VISA or MC transactions over the phone. If you prefer to donate online you can do so at via Canada Helps (VISA or MC).

Remember to bring your skates as well - you will have the opportunity to skate with the Edmonton Oil Kings on the ice at City Hall.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Tree is Trimmed!

We put up the Christmas Tree Sunday evening. Decorating the Tree is one of my favourite Christmas rituals... We have ornaments from each of our childhoods, our parents, grandparents and godparents, including homemade decorations. We divide the ornaments into piles according to whom they belong to and then we take turns adding them to the tree - recalling the people, times and stories associated with each one. For me the most important thing about Christmas is family and creating more memories spending time together.   

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy

To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past .... and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America... with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

The life of Walter Elias "Walt" Disney (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) changed mine before I was even born. Like most of us, I grew up watching Disney every Sunday evening, reading the stories over and over, loving everything from Bambi to Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Then later in life I found myself sharing all of these (and more) with my own children. Everything about Disney echoes something about childhood we don't want to let go and, thanks to Walt Disney, we don't have too. 

I loved the trips we took with the kids to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. There were moments there where I was a kid again - like the first time I saw Mickey Mouse! 

Happy Birthday Walter Disney. Thanks for all the memories!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Christmas Time!

When the lights go on at the Alberta Legislature grounds I know it is Christmas time and I should get our tree up.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy Channukah!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dear Santa...

I'm having trouble this year deciding what it is that I would ask for to receive at Christmas if I were to make such a "wish list." Thing is I really have everything I need and am quite happy with what I have. I'd truly be happy just to enjoy the holidays with my family, see the happiness on their faces and to maybe steal some snuggle time with kids who will one day (too very soon) be too old for hugs or even just away from home at school or elsewhere in their lives. Honestly, this is possibly the last at home Christmas we all have together as next year my son will be off at university already (likely in in another province). Life marches onwards.

Because there isn't really anything I need, the Mom part of me would be happy just to use any extra resources we have to make this a great holiday for the whole family. However, as unselfish as this might at first seem, the truth is that it is not helpful to my family, who would like to get me something for Christmas and keep asking me for input or other direct suggestions to that end. I'm not sure what to say even though I am aware that I need to find something to say.

I'm a Mom so I really do mean it when I say things like "I'd love it if you made me something" or "Whatever you think to get me would be a treasure to me" but this is mostly met with mild disdain and the rolling of eyes (yes, both from my teenagers and my husband). My husband has gone so far as to threaten if I do not come up with something for my Christmas wish list than he will be getting me some sort of trinket with "Homer" engraved on the side of it (for dramatic affect, I'm sure).

So as I lay here in my bed and contemplate this dilemma I find I am pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. I already have a house full of possessions I may or may not use on a regular basis. I know that there are many places in the world where a small amount of money spent on me for a gift (that I might not need) could save the life of a child or improve the quality of life for an entire community. I do tire of the seemingly competitive nature of our throw away consumer economy and culture at times and yet I do realize (as I feel the same about giving presents) that my family desires to express love and attentiveness through the purchasing of a gift for me with their hard earned money. This is what our culture teaches us is expected, for better or worse. This dilemma is definitely a first world problem and in ways I am ashamed of my part in it. But I recognize too my helpless participation in it is required for many reasons. I am also relieved that this is the biggest issue facing me at this time. Life could be worse.

So, what can I tell you? There are items I suppose that I would be happy to receive, that in a perfect world full of infinite possibilities, I could see myself asking for. For example I would love to use an iPhone 4 with it's snazzy new camera, or have a video camera to make home videos for youtube or even a new camera body as mine has aged significantly. But all those cost enough money that it seems silly to ask for when I already own devices that perform similar tasks. I wouldn't cry if I opened an iPad on Christmas morning, but as I already have both an iPhone and a laptop why would I ask for that? I did want AppleTV but now with Netflix and Playstation Network the addition of AppleTV is merely superfluous. Indeed, isn't it all? That can't be the point, can it?

A scanner would help me get all my old family pictures into the digital realm (where I find I am spending most of my free time), my turtle would love to have a bigger domain to call his own (as would my goldfish), and (even though I have a gym membership) I'd love to have a treadmill at home so I can exercise everyday. I love having my hair and nails done and a tattoo would be cool. I love books (a better gift would be time to read I suspect, but that's not realistic) and I love to travel (I'd love to be going to see the last launch of the Space Shuttle in February). I don't have any winter clothes or a winter jacket (although I'm ok wearing Wes's jacket from last year). So I guess there are many ideas to choose from. I just don't want to ask for those things.

If I had my way I would ask for the gift of time. Personal time with each of my kids to get to know them as the people they are becoming and date time with my hubby, as well as family time together - a game night once a month, movie nights, day or weekend trips and time just to sit around and chat about our days. It seems as we all get busier and busier time for opportunities like this get farther and farther in between.  But these are the things that I crave, need and desire. I have a strong awareness that when I die these times will be all that matter to me, not what items I have possessed or consumed in my life, but the memories of the times I was held in love by those who love me in return. And if I am lucky enough that, when I die I am once again surrounded by family and friends and held by those who love me, then I will have had, all my life, everything that I've always wanted or needed.

So, Dearest Santa, please, if you can, show my wonderful and loving family that I will happily take everything and anything that they want to offer me and that it really is the thought that counts. I promise to cherish it (and them) forever.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Santa's Anonymous

We had a blast volunteering at the 630CHED Santa's Anonymous Warehouse for the Wrapping Tweetup on Friday evening.

We were "bagging" (there is also shopping/wrapping roles) so the process for us was to pick a tag for a family that shows just the ages and sex of each child in it. Then you go through the bins to select the wrapped gift packages for each child listed on the tag (the gifts are separated by age group and gender), creating a package for the family and putting it all together in a big black plastic bag. I tried to pick packages that were basically the same size so there won't be much room for jealousy on Christmas morning between siblings. This year we decided to create packages for the families that were in our area of Edmonton.

As a parent my favourite part of Christmas is Christmas morning - watching my children coming down the stairs with wide eyed wonder at the surprises that have appeared under the Christmas tree. We always have one of the kids call out the names on each gift and deliver it to each person and then we take turns opening so everyone can watch and enjoy. This ritual has always been enjoyable and wonderful for all, regardless of the amount of gifts present from year to year. I can't imagine Christmas morning without at least something under the tree for the kids so I'm very happy to support and volunteer for Santa's Anonymous. Every kid should have something to unwrap under the tree.

If you'd like to spend a couple of hours doing the same thing the warehouse could always use volunteers. Drop in days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9am - 9pm. You can read more about it HERE.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Edmonton Transit Disappoints

Dear Councillor Leibovici;

This morning, on the coldest day Edmonton has seen in 2010, the school special express bus my children take to school left seven minutes early. It left a bunch of students behind.

When I dropped my kids off 5 minutes before the time their bus was supposed to leave I expected that they would be getting on their bus shortly. I always wait to get a text confirmation that they're on the bus, just in case something happens, so when I didn't hear from them I called to see what was going on. The response was that the bus wasn't there yet but a bunch of kids were waiting. Then one of the kids received a text from a friend on the bus who confirmed the bus had indeed left already - seven minutes early. As I could only transport four students in my vehicle the remaining children were left abandoned at the WEM transit centre.

The school my children attend is a K-12 school in the inner city and as such all ages use the school special bus route provided by Edmonton Transit for the school (Bus 717). It's a difficult destination to get to using other bus routes and that would be if you understood how to do it in the first place. A child would have to get downtown and change buses or walk through the downtown core into the inner city to get to the school.

It's very important to the students and families that depend on this bus route that the bus not leave early, especially when the weather is so cold. We trust that the bus will leave on schedule and that everyone will get to school safely and on time. I drop my children off on my way to work in the morning but most arrive via transfer from other buses and can't get there any earlier.

I contacted 311 this morning and gave the customer service agent all of the information regarding the incident and asked that someone from Edmonton Transit call me back. She was very polite and assured me that the message would be passed on but I did not receive a call from anyone, not even to acknowledge my call. This is not the first time that I have contacted Edmonton Transit with a concern and never heard back.

I need to know that Edmonton Transit will impress upon the drivers of this bus route the importance of keeping to the schedule and to remind them that there is a negative impact to many people, mainly children, when something like this happens. I'd like to hear from an appropriate person at Edmonton Transit to know that this matter will be taken seriously and treated accordingly.

Thank you for your time.   

EDIT: I was contacted by a very helpful ETS Inspector today (Nov 23) who will be handling the investigation resulting from my concerns. I need to say I was VERY impressed and appreciated that he did call me and relieved to know that ETS is taking this seriously. I was also comforted to discover that the regular bus driver is away on holiday so this is likely an isolated incident/mistake. Thank you ETS! Thank you Councillor Leibovici!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thinking about Christmas

While walking around West Edmonton Mall today. I'd better get seriously organized...  it's not really that far away!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

ETS Stuff A Bus Campaign

Starting on Monday November 22 to Saturday November 27 Save-On-Foods and Edmonton Transit team up to raise food donations for the Edmonton's Food Bank through the annual ETS Stuff a Bus campaign. You can donate items (food, toiletries, baby supplies, pet  food) at the following locations through out Edmonton:

November 21, 11am to 6pm – WEM (Waterpark entrance)
November 22, 5am to 7pm – Londonderry
November 23, 930am to 7pm – Mayfield Common
November 24, 5am to 7pm – Calgary Trail
November 25, 930am to 7pm – Namao
November 26, 12pm to 7pm – Stadium
November 27, 830am to 430pm – ALL Edmonton Save-On-Foods

Edmonton’s Food Bank serves more than 15,000 people per month through their hamper program and helps Edmonton agencies provide 300,000 meals and snacks each month, including festive dinners.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Got Library Fines?

On Saturday, November 27, 2010 the Edmonton Public Library will be hosting an event called Food4Fines where they will waive up to $25 in fines in exchange for a food donation to the Edmonton Food Bank.

All you have to do in order to take advantage of this is bring in a non-perishable food item to the customer service desk at any EPL branch on Nov 27th and in return you can have up to a maximum of $25 excused from your library account late/lost fines.

All that is required is one single food item but the library encourages their customers to bring in multiple food items for the Food4Fines Food Drive. Customers without fines can bring in a donation as well.

If you have any other questions about the Food4Fines day you can check out their FAQ page HERE.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Edmonton's Santas Anonymous

If you are looking for a really cool (and fulfilling) volunteer experience this Christmas season in the Edmonton area then I would like to point you in the direction of one of my favourites - Santa's Anonymous, a local organization that makes it possible for all Edmonton kids to receive something on Christmas morning.

The warehouse is open 9am to 9pm for volunteers (to wrap gifts or receive toy donations) and you don't even need to schedule an actual time as you can drop in on any Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday that you have some free time. 

The volunteer roles at the warehouse are restricted to people 16 years of age and older (due to liability issues). However all ages are able to volunteer on the days that the presents are delivered, which is often touted as a "great event for families to volunteer together" and is "often the most rewarding and eye opening experience for children to be involved in."

If you haven't heard it yet you should LISTEN to Jerry Forbes' "And a Creature was Stirring."  

You can check out the various volunteer roles available HERE to find something that appeals to you. Contact the crew at Santas Anonymous with any questions and download the forms needed to volunteer HERE. Additionally, you can support Santas Anonymous by donating toys for Edmonton area children - a simple act that makes all this possible.

If you would like to apply to receive toys for your children this year you can do so through the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

On Saturday Edmonton officially launched the 2010 Christmas season by lighting a giant Christmas Tree (dressed in green and gold, of course) in Churchill Square at City Hall. There was also tents with local food and crafts, carols and some fireworks. You can see some of my pictures of the evening HERE.

Friday, November 12, 2010

We Remember

We attended the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph at Edmonton's City Hall. This is where Wesley's unit, The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, parades for Remembrance Day. You can see my other pictures from the ceremony HERE.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Canada at War

From WWI to Present Day Afghanistan - this video is a tribute to all Canadian soldiers for Remembrance Day 2010 (via Jonathan Wagner)

Canada Remembers

Veterans Week 2010 official vignette

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What is the Poppy Fund?

We wear our red poppies for two weeks each year and we do it as a sign of respect, as an act of remembrance and as a way of saying thank you to people who gave (and give) of themselves to safeguard our way of life here in Canada. But not everyone knows what their donation given for that poppy does or how important it is.

Money donated for poppies goes to the Poppy Fund, raising the funding necessary for the Legion to operate the Service Bureau, which act as advocates for veterans, ex-service people and their dependants seeking compensation from the government for service incurred disabilities. In addition, approximatly one million dollars (money collected as a result of the annual Poppy Campaign) is also used for direct assistance for ex-service people and their dependants in financial distress - examples include payments for food, accommodation, utilities, clothing, educational assistance, furniture, medical, dental and optical services and hospital comforts.

However, beneficiaries of the Poppy Fund are not limited to veterans and ex-servicemen. It is also used to support charities and helps provide aging or disabled people with medical assistance and equipment, meals on wheels, transportation, shelter, clothing and disaster relief as required. The Legion helps non-members and members alike, wherever the need arises.

So when you're pinning on your poppy today you can reflect upon how one little flower can have so much meaning for so many people - and how your contribution is helping Canadians every day of the year - and not just on November 11th.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The National War Memorial

The National War Memorial is found in Confederation Square in Ottawa, close to the Parliament Buildings. The memorial consists of an arch of granite that stands 21 metres high and is surmounted by emblematic bronze figures of Peace and Freedom. Shown advancing through the archway are 22 bronze figures symbolic of the "Great Response" of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who answered the call to serve. Represented by these figures are all branches of the service engaged in the war and also includes the men and women of the support services (nursing sisters, a stretcher bearer and a lumberman with his cant hook). 

There is also a kilted infantry soldier (in the right front position just to the left of the sailor - he is carrying the barrel of a Vickers Machine Gun over his left shoulder). There were 28 Scottish regiments in the war, eight of them in the fighting brigades. One Highland Battalion, the 16th (Canadian Scottish Regiment), won four Victoria Crosses, including one awarded to a young Piper Richardson who died at the Somme, in France, in 1916.

A memorial in Canada for Canadians

The Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located at the National War Memorial in Confederation Square, Ottawa.

In the year 2000 a Canadian Forces contingent flew to France to bring the Unknown Soldier home to Canada. The unidentified Canadian soldier was selected from a cemetery in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge. Once back in Canada the Unknown Soldier laid in state in the Hall of Honour in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, allowing Canadians to view the casket and pay their respects. After three days the Unknown Soldier was moved to the National War Memorial on a horse drawn gun carriage presented by the RCMP. The Unknown Soldier was laid to rest directly in front of the National War Memorial in a specially designed sarcophagus.  The National Remembrance Day ceremony is held here every year.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Tower of Victory and Peace

 The Peace Tower

 The Memorial Chamber

 The Books of Remembrance

Apart from being a Canadian landmark, icon and the flagpole of our nation, the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill serves as Canada's WWI memorial.  The Tower houses the Memorial Chamber that contains the Books of Remembrance, within which are recorded the names of more than 66,000 Canadians who died in the service of Canada. The site of the future Tower was dedicated on Canada Day in 1917 with the words "the tower will be a memorial to the debt of our forefathers and to the valour of those Canadians who, in the Great War, fought for the liberties of Canada, of the Empire, and of humanity."

Saturday, November 06, 2010

In Flanders Fields

Display at the Canadian War Museum

The WWI poem "In Flanders Fields" was penned by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae the day after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer (who was only 22 years old). Legend has it that McCrae threw away the poem after it's writing and that it was retrieved by Francis Scrimger who subsequently sent it for consideration to the London based Punch Magazine who published it on December 8th 1915.

The poppies referred to in McCrae's poem grow quickly and profusely in northern Europe but especially in newly disturbed earth, like that found in the battlefield cemeteries in Flanders. Wikipedia notes that this phenomenon was reported around the graves of the war dead even during the Napoleonic times. It's this tendency of red poppies to grow on the fresh graves of soldiers that lead to the poppy becoming a symbol of Remembrance. And now, the poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Are You Wearing Your Poppy?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(e)ALLIE joins the Century Club!

I've been exploring Empire Avenue now since March and I've enjoyed every stage that I've traveled through as an influencer there. I really do like the gaming elements of the site, especially the achievements you can earn as you build your portfolio and connect your social media sites. However I have come to realize that what I really love about Empire Avenue is the people there. Connections I have made - both locally and globally, communities I've become a part of and the friendships forged is what actually brings me back to the Avenue every day. The success of (e)ALLIE today is not just my own success; it is the fruit of the community I have found there. I could not have come this far without the support of my shareholders and other supporters on Empire Avenue... and neither would I have wanted to. Thank you all!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

We Must Fight

Do you have your (e)ALLIE yet?

(e)ALLIE is on the way up! Come on along for the ride!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Don't forget your Poppy!

 National War Memorial, Ottawa
Poppies became available at most places in Edmonton on Friday. I've heard a rumour there may be a shortage of Poppies in Edmonton this year so the best thing to do would be to get some as soon as you can.

The Royal Canadian Legion suggests wearing the poppy on the left lapel or positioned on the left side of your chest, near your heart but you can wear it anywhere that shows your respect for the symbolism behind it. Even if you can't remember war, or don't know anyone involved in serving, think of the peace you enjoy and wear your Poppy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

For Our Troops and their Families

Earlier this month I blogged about Dennis LeClair's "To Our Canadian Troops" commemorative album, all proceeds of which go directly to The Military Families Fund (created in 2007 by General Rick Hillier), a fund that assists military families faced with problems that result directly from service. This fund continues to grow through the generous contributions of Canadians whose continued support of our Canadian Forces members and their families is very much appreciated. 

Purchases can be made at a CANEX, on LeClair's website, or on iTunes. If you would prefer to purchase your CD over the telephone you can do so by calling 250-860-4912. 

Friday, October 29, 2010


I was very excited to come home and find that my Moo Cards had arrived! I loves them! These are the little business cards I have on my key chain that everyone asks about, looks at and then chooses their favourite - I find they are quite popular. I print them with pictures I have taken myself and this batch of Moo Cards has my social media info printed on the back.

I highly recommend Moo Cards to anyone who is looking for a fun and non-traditional style of business cards that they can put their own personality into (these would also work well as gift tags). Check out for other items you can create and have printed and you too can have the great experience and customer service that keeps me coming back year after year! Also, if you would like to order something let me know as I have some promo codes for 15% off your next order - I'd be happy to send one to you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dancing with Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grand son thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Edmonton Tweetup!

I am soooo tired in this picture...

Finishing off a very busy week (including Beyond 2010, the Hackathon, the Yeg Girl Geek Mixer, and the Empire Avenue Boardroom) was a great BBQ tweetup hosted at the iNews880 Radio station. A HUGE thank you goes out to Edmonton's fabulous Brittney LeBlanc (and her boss) for such a successful gathering. It is great to have a venue for a family friendly tweetup and the radio station knows how to make any night fun!   

Monday, October 25, 2010

Long Live the Cabal...

There is no Cabal...

The Edmonton Empire Avenue Boardroom on October 21 was well attended with more than 40 Empire Avenue Influencers and some local twitterites who were EAv curious. Highlights of the evening included mingling with out of towners (e)ADRIEL and (e)DUPS, gathering together the most amount of Cabal members to ever (yet) be in one room and checking out the new Empire Avenue iPhone App that is currently being beta tested (coming soon). As always I was pleased to meet people IRL and put faces to twitter names and tickers.  

A big thank you shout out goes to Trevor at Original Joe's Varsity who always treats us right! Highly recommend!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Beyond 2010 Hackathon

I've stayed up all night with a great group of talented people at the Beyond 2010 Hackathon (in Edmonton, Alberta) and an equally talented group of people in Birmingham UK. We've all been hard  work developing a mobile app tool to help people in the event of a disaster. It's been a fun and productive process and I really love the truly collaborative nature of the project - we've all been using to produce the written documents and skype for conference calling with the UK Hackathon team. I'm really happy to have had an opportunity to be involved in this (thanks to Brittney LeBlanc for coordinating!) and I can't wait to use and see the final product! And hopefully we will all have created something that saves lives and eases suffering. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Look at me, I'm in a Cave!

I was the featured Empire Avenue member today on the Dragon's Cave.

You can read the whole article HERE.

Red Sky in the Morn...

Edmonton Sunrise Oct 19 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Four Easy Steps to Voting in Edmonton!

I've heard various reasons over the past few days as to why people don't vote or why they likely won't vote in tomorrow's election. Some people expressed that they don't know "how" to vote and they don't want to feel dumb when (if) they get to the ballot box. I've thought a bit about this and I understand that no one wants to feel this way but the process of voting is actually fairly easy (and quick). If you are 18 years old, live in Edmonton on election day, have been in Alberta for six months and are a Canadian citizen then you get to vote for Mayor, one city councilor and one school board trustee (either public or catholic).

Here's FOUR easy steps for those living in Edmonton:

1. Find your Ward and Candidates. You can find your ward using this LINK.  Once you know your ward, a complete list of the candidates is found HERE.

2. Learn a little about your candidates. Most of the candidates have websites and if they do you'll find their links HERE.  

3. Find your polling station using this LINK. Your polling station is open on Monday between the hours of 9am and 8pm only.

4. VOTE! On Monday October 18 2010 go to your polling station between the hours of 9am and 8pm. Take your ID or alternatives with you (there is no voters list). The most commonly used types of identification are an Alberta driver's licence, Alberta ID card or your Canadian passport. If you don't have any of these, check this LINK for other types of accepted ID.

If you require assistance marking your ballot you can even get help from a friend or the deputy in the voting station.

If you are like me (I'm still undecided for Mayor) I encourage you to get yourself to the ballot box on Monday - at the very least, if you still can't decide, you can spoil your ballot. Remember we have something amazing here in our country but the only way our democracy works is if citizens are active participants. Just vote.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Empire Avenue Photo Contest!

The Empire Building Network has just announced the first Empire Avenue photo contest.

Post an original photograph between October 16th 9am (eastern) and October 19th at 9pm (eastern) to the Empire Building Network Facebook page. The picture that garners the most number of likes and comments during that time will be determined the winner (each like will count as one vote, each comment will count as two votes and only one vote per person, per entry will be counted). You will be permitted to like and vote for your own entry and there is no limit to the amount of other entries you can vote on. You can also vote on all entries without submitting something yourself - but it would be more fun to see your pictures in the contest as well!  

Check out the Empire Building Network Facebook Page to see all the rules. And good luck!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The UltraAVX Experience...

Thanks to Cloud AdAgents and Cineplex Entertainment, last weekend myself and 8 other Edmonton twitter friends had the chance to experience the new UltraAVX Cinema in South Edmonton Commons.

The UltraAVX theatre experience offers you a chance to reserve your seats, a feature I'm a huge fan of and certainly took advantage of. This involved me going to the Customer Service desk where a very helpful agent showed me a seat layout of the new theatre and helped me to choose the exact seats I wanted. Once I had made my selection he gave me my tickets with the row and seat numbers on it, just like a concert. When the group of us returned later that night for the movie there was no line ups and we went directly into the theatre and found our seats. I really liked that when everyone went to grab food there was none of the typical anxiety involved with having to protect seats or try to make a jacket stretch over as many chairs as possible. This in itself might have been enough to impress me, but the theatre has more to offer than that.

The first thing we noticed when we got to our seats was the seat - like individual rocking armchairs that allowed plenty of leg room to get comfortable and lean back if you'd like. I really liked the mobility of the chair. In addition, each row of seats is positioned high enough that your view isn't obstructed regardless of where you're sitting or how tall the person in front of you is. I can honestly say that I haven't had as comfortable an experience watching a movie in a regular theatre, but then this isn't a regular theatre.

UltraAVX features a large format wall to wall movie screen, allowing for a great image from wherever the vantage point (although I wouldn't suggest sitting too close to the front or on the extreme sides). The theatre boasts dolby digital surround sound which made me feel immersed within the sound which was a neat experience. I didn't feel like the sound was coming at me like some other theatres I've been in although it wasn't as loud as an IMAX theatre. There may have been a better movie choice to showcase this sound experience (we saw Secretariat) but I quite enjoyed it nonetheless. All in all it seems to me that this is how movies should be experienced.  

I was impressed enough with the UltraAVX experience that I can't wait to go back. For me, the 15.75 per adult ticket price (11.99 child/senior) is worth it just for the convenience of selecting your desired seats before hand (in the past I've waited hours in line ups hoping to get the seats I wanted), but the quality of the experience is now something that I am looking forward to, especially for the more anticipated movie releases (like Harry Potter). Maybe it's not for every movie experience, but I'll certainly be back!    

You can find an UltraAVX theatre in both the Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Cineplex Odeon South Edmonton Cinemas. 

Also, read Brittney's review here, and John's here.  They're awesome!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. For us it is a celebration of the end of the harvest season, similar to the older English continental-European Harvest Festival and not totally unlike American Thanksgiving celebrated in November (first a pilgrim celebration at Plymouth Plantation). I think in the past it made sense to have a party after working so hard through a summer to prepare for the coming winter. In more modern days we get to focus more on family gathering and the blessings that we are thankful for in our lives.

I am thankful to live in Canada. I am thankful for the opportunity to raise my family here and that our quality of life and standard of living makes it possible for each of us to explore the things that interest us and allows us to pursue our goals and dreams. Today I am cognizant that this experience is not shared by all of the earth's citizens and I am grateful to be Canadian.

I am also thankful for my family, our continued good health and the many blessings we share together everyday.    

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy 10 - 10 - 10!

Everyone knows the answer to the ultimate question of life, universe & everything is 42.

10 10 10 in binary = 42. For geeks worldwide that makes today, 10-10-10, #42day. Which then, by further extension, makes it an awesome day to celebrate The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

So fellow hikers, let us commence the celebration!

Friday, October 08, 2010

"The Effect was Instantaneous..."

Ninety four years ago today, on a bleak battlefield known as the Somme, along a forsaken line known as the Regina Trench, a young boy of only 20 years old would spend ten precious minutes of his life displaying such courage that - unbeknown to him - it would reach years into the future to make such an impression on me that my heart would burst when I first learned of it.

I was a young Canadian Scottish Regimental cadet (2422 RCACC) learning regimental history when I first heard the name Piper James Richardson. In my tender youth, for me, his Victoria Cross was a matter of legend and pride and I wanted to be as brave as I imagined him to be. It wasn't until my basic training that I would learn the harrowing details of the amazing story that earned him that honour and it wasn't until I was much older that I came to realize just how spectacularly terrifying that whole time must have been for him.

The setting of the story of those ten minutes is the battle for the Ancre Heights. Piper Richardson (who had joined the 16th Infantry Battalion Canadian Scottish as a private and piper) was part of an advancing company that had been pinned down in a storm of enemy fire - machine guns, rifle fire and artillery. Heavy casualties, the death of the company commander and the mounting gravity of the situation had taken the momentum out of the attack. Just when it all hope seemed lost Piper Richardson asked his sergeant-major if he could pipe them over the top. Yes, he volunteered.

For what must have been the most amazing ten minutes in Somme, Piper Richardson, fully exposed, marched back and forth just outside the enemy wire playing his bagpipes for his troops. Not a single enemy bullet struck him. The citation to his VC decoration would later read "The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire with such fury and determination that the obstacle was overcome and the position captured.”

Instantaneous indeed - and all these years later my heart still fills with wonder, inspiration, pride, amazement, thankfulness and a tiny bit of sheer terror when I think of Piper Richardson's courage in those ten minutes.

John Wayne once said "Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway." I don't know of a finer example of "saddling up anyway."

NOTE: In honour of this anniversary the new Pipes of War website launches today.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Guestblogging From an Undisclosed Location

Duncan and I co-wrote a playful election piece for Edmonton's popular podcast talk show - The Unknown Studio. Involving Battlestar Galactica and Edmonton's 12 wards, it was a lot of fun. Intrigued? You can read it here:

Edmonton’s Quorum of Twelve (October 07 2010, the Unknown Studio)

The Force Is Strong With This One...

Happy Birthday to my Soul Mate. May the Force Be With You today and for many more birthdays!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far

To Our Canadian Troops by Dennis Leclair

When I was at the CANEX yesterday I noticed a a small card advertising a commemorative CD being sold as a fundraiser to support the Canadian Military Families Fund. I found the card in my pocket today, looked up the song and enjoyed it enough that I wanted to share it here.

If you like information on how to purchase the CD you can visit LeClair's Website HERE.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Let's go see the stars!

Today I received an interesting offer via twitter from Shannon Hunter, who works with Cloud Ad Agents in Toronto. Here is what her email said:

My name is Shannon and I work for Cloud AdAgents, a digital advertising agency representing Cineplex Entertainment. We’ve been asked by Cineplex to invite Edmonton’s most influential social media users to experience an ultra cool advancement in movie theatre technology, UltraAVX!

Why is UltraAVX worth Tweeting about? Because it delivers one of the most immersive entertainment experiences possible. UltraAVX features wall-to-wall screens that are significantly larger on average than traditional screens. A superb digital surround sound system utilizes the latest in Dolby digital sound technology. Special projectors provide stunning, crystal clear images.  And to top the experience off, reserved seating options and extra wide high back, luxurious  rocker seats.

We’re talking to the best, the brightest, the most dialled-in people we can find... and giving them tickets to try out UltraAVX on us!

Starting Friday, October 8, UltraAVX opens in Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Cineplex Odeon South Edmonton Cinemas. We’d like you and a friend PLUS four of your followers on Twitter or four of your blog readers to come check out a movie in UltraAVX and experience what we believe is the next generation of theatre. 

So, if you need something to do on Saturday (movie T.B.A.) and would like to check out a movie on the new UltraAVX screen with me (and Duncan), let me know (via @ message on twitter). I need four friends from the Edmonton area who would be willing to tweet about the experience.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Livestrong Together

Fourteen years ago, on October 2, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer - but with the news that it had spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain his chances were greatly hampered. He was only 25 years old.
Through a combination of determination, education, physical conditioning, aggressive medical treatments and a positive attitude, Lance fought back at the disease. Before even knowing how the story would end he declared himself a cancer survivor. He created the LIVESTRONG Foundation as a support and advocacy group for other survivors. And he never backed down. Amazingly, after his treatments finished, he went on to win the Tour de France a record breaking seven times in a row.
Lance Armstrong has been an inspiration to me and his LIVESTRONG website has long been a source of knowledge and motivation for me as I try to incorporate healthy choices into my own lifestyle.         
Today is LIVESTRONG Day - a global event to raise support and awareness for the 28 million cancer survivors worldwide. I am going to wear yellow today in support of the LIVESTRONG ideology and in honour of Lance Armstrong and the way he showed us to believe in our strengths. 
You can also participate in LIVESTRONG Day online - help spread the word.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Updating my links...

If you were wondering where @AllieW went ...  I am now @Allie!

Please Don't Kill Yourself

we are all one
It's hard to be a kid/teenager sometimes. For some maybe even most of the time.

I remember it as being the most difficult time in my life. I didn't feel like I fit in or that anyone really understood me. I felt alone a lot of the time. I was sometimes angry that the world didn't seem to appreciate the person I was becoming. Sometimes I even thought no one would care if I died. At the time I really believed these things to be true.

But I was wrong. Those lonely and sad days don't matter anymore. Today the world is full of people who like me and love me for who I am - no matter what. As an adult there are many opportunities for me and most importantly, I can be who I want to be. The world is large and there is a place for everyone within it. 

I don't mean to suggest that life will be uncomplicated, but it does get easier and it is worth it. There is love, sunshine and happiness to experience ahead of you. You will meet people who will change your life. These things will make the challenges easier to bear, I promise. 

I wish I could say to Tyler Clementi that I would love to hear him play the violin someday, because it is true. I am sad that I will never have the chance to tell him that.

I would implore the world for acceptance; to raise caring and compassionate children; to irradicate bullying and stereotypes and for people to fight against injustice or cruelty where they find it. This is an ongoing battle (but one that can be, and will be, won).

Until then I want everyone to know, no matter how hard things are right now, how alone you feel or how desperate you might be, that there is a world where we are all one. Not everyone is totally there yet but we are here, waiting for you. Come join us.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For Just One More Birthday

On Sunday a tweet from Rhiannon MacDonnell brought me to this video and the latest American Cancer Society campaign, More Birthdays. The slogan is "the official sponsor of birthdays." It's a good campaign and if you go to their site you'll see many popular artists are participating.

This campaign especially touches me because in 2004 Duncan and I both lost parents to cancer, each of them dying just days short of their respective birthdays. Of course, there is no good time to say goodbye to a loved one. 

The Canadian Cancer Society also has an amazingly powerful campaign. They tell us that every three minutes another Canadian finds out they have cancer. There's a good chance that none of us will have lives unaffected in some way by this disease. We need to support research and development as we work towards finding a cure.  

And until then, here's to more birthdays. For everyone.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gunned Down in Scarlet, Coldest Blood...

Mayerthorpe 2010

"When Mayerthorpe, she cried, as her four horsemen died"

I'm happy to hear today that the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that Shawn Hennessey and Dennis Cheeseman will serve the remainder of their sentences. Both men pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter in the shooting deaths of RCMP Officers Peter Schiemann, Leo Johnston, Anthony Gordon and Brock Myrol. 

I believe that what these two men did was reprehensible and feel strongly they must accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions. 

James Roszko, often referred to as a psychopath, was a well know locally as a criminal with a history of violent, armed offenses. It is unlikely that any rational person who knew him would have allowed him the benefit of doubt or not take seriously his stated intentions.

In addition to driving Roszko back to his farm and providing him with a firearm and ammunition, both Hennessey and Cheeseman admitted that they knew Roszko was planning on murdering "as many RCMP officers as he could." While they considered alerting police, they decided against it.


Instead they chose to remain silent and that choice allowed these events to unfold as they did. I believe they had a duty to make a different choice that day, to take action to protect life.

Of course, I do feel that our system failed terribly in this regard, to this day I am astonished that a man like James Roszko was not incarcerated in some fashion. But that's a whole other topic.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shine On Harvest Moon

Tonight we bid summer goodbye with the advent of the Equinox at 9:09pm. Before that however, if the skies remain clear, the Harvest Moon will rise in the east just as the sun sets at 7:32pm. As you watch the moonrise you will notice Jupiter in the eastern sky as well. Happy Autumnal Equinox Edmonton!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How Do You Say "Fun" in Irish?

According to their twitter bio, Ceilis "is an Irish Gaelic term meaning a gathering of friends for song, drink & dance." Every time we have visited Ceili's we have found this to be true; the friendly staff, good service and plenty of specials (plus sometimes a little twitter play thrown in to round out the evening) makes it a great place to hang out.

This past summer we were at Ceili's for a tweetup and they had a promotion for Alexander Keith's Pale Ale which allowed you one contest entry for every beer purchased. Needless to say Duncan was a huge fan of this prospect and managed to garner more than enough entries over the course of the evening. He really was enjoying himself, perhaps a little too much, but any guilt he may have harboured dissipated when the winning contest entry was drawn and it was his name they were announcing (well, half his name anyway, as they really couldn't pronounce the last name). He had won a BBQ. Not just the BBQ itself, but also hamburgers and beer for ten friends, delivered, cooked and served.

Yesterday, Kaley and Justin from Ceili's Edmonton arrived at our home with the BBQ and fixings to prepare for us an amazing feast. They attended to our complete happiness; making sure we always had beer, they cooked burgers until no one could eat any more and in the end they cleaned the BBQ and took the dishes away with them! I think I can safely say that a delightful time was had by all and that the hospitality shown to us by Ceili's will be long remembered.

I want to extend a sincere thank you to Kaley, Justin and the staff and management of Ceili's here in Edmonton for the evening. I will also wholeheartedly recommend Ceili's to everyone in Edmonton (or Calgary and Vancouver) who is looking for a relaxed but fun authentic Irish pub with good food and a decent selection of beer. Ceili's is an Irish pub done right!

Oh, and the Irish word for fun is craic, but I could have sworn it was Ceili's.