Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-10-25

What a week it’s been. The federal election and Trudeau leading the Liberals to a surprising majority government. The unfortunate focus on his looks afterwards, but at least there is one being clever about it. The Blue Jays. And a duck comic that speaks real truths about the parenting experience—the Jeneral finds this week: 2015-10-25

  • This past Monday night, the Liberals and Justin Trudeau won a majority government in the federal election. It was a better result than I could have hoped for, when my hopes were pinned on merely getting Harper out of government. But just as I took umbrage at the objectifying of Belinda Stronach when she became an elected MP in 2004, I am really irked with the glut of worldwide headlines and social media shares about Justin Trudeau’s looks. How is the world supposed to take the leader of our country seriously if all the ink being written on him comes in the celebrity and lifestyle sections of the news? We need to keep the focus on the policies he’s pledged during the campaign. But still…this piece by Tabatha Southey is hilarious if you want to get all the *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* about his physical appearance out of your system, once and for all.  Sample innuendo: “I’ll bet that’s a right honourable member.”
  • The Blue Jays’ playoff run ended, but it was a thrilling, joyous ride while it was happening. Though our hearts were broken by the result, it was better to love this team and lose, than never to love at all, right? We are so proud of how the team worked hard and kept it oh-so-close until the very last out.  A big hurray, high five, and a tip of the hat to the team that truly made the city #comeTOgether.
  • Has the author of this comic strip  been spying on my household? Because he speaks the hilarious truth, man. This listicle picks 15 great ones to share in one page


<–previous finds of the week

A plea for unsure voters during Election 2015

Since the election 2015 campaign was called, I have started, and restarted, this post again and again. It is no secret that many of the policies, and certainly Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party modus operandi infuriates me to no end. And I am truly afraid that the results that will unfold later today will show another Conservative majority government.

I’ve had some conversations over the past couple of weeks that have really disheartened me. Several friends and acquaintances admitted sheepishly that they don’t follow politics, don’t understand what the issues are, and thus don’t know who to vote for. They get there is a lot of antagonism about the Conservative party, and are frankly put off by their negative advertising, politicking and inflammatory issues they are invoking during this time (e.g. the niqab, old-stock Canadians). However, they don’t know what to do about it, and I fear there are way more Canadians out there who fall into this boat. They are therefore afraid to cast a ballot because they think an uninformed vote is somehow less worthy.

Then my greatest fear is that they won’t vote at all, and there will be no change in the governing party, and we will slip further away from the ideals I had assumed would always be a part of Canadian government. Showing up to open and honest debate by all representatives. The ability for journalists to question the Prime Minister and Ministers. Policies to be made based on data where possible, and not merely on rhetoric. These are just a few examples, I could go on all day about the many examples.

Your vote is greatly important, in more ways than I have the energy to get into here. So, if you are one of my friends and acquaintances who don’t want to vote Conservative but still don’t know who to vote for, please refer to this site to support whichever candidate in your riding is most likely to beat the Conservative candidate:

And if you are actually still open to voting Conservative because of you might agree with policy, please don’t. The ends don’t justify the means. Consider how this party has been implementing the policy and (mis)informing its citizens—it’s right out of George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

And then tomorrow, after the election results are in, we can have a more thorough discussion to bring you up to speed on the other issues. I might be ranting though…there’s been a lot that’s made me mad over the years.



Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-10-17

The Blue Jays, a great resource to up your presentation slide creation skills, a thoughtful explainer from a woman who traditionally votes Conservative and why she isn’t this election, and how efforts for inclusion will ultimately make Canada more successful – on this week’s Jeneral finds, 2015-10-17

  • Yes! The love affair continues!! On Wednesday the Blue Jays did the statistically improbable and beat the Texas Rangers 6 to 3 in the 5th and deciding game of the ALDS playoff series (after they had lost the first two games of the series). The city has just lost its mind. The thing that will be remembered is the crazy 7th inning. This piece by Cathal Kelly in the G&M sums up the game perfectly, “The Blue Jays have finally broken Toronto’s sports curse“. Yesterday’s result in the series opener against Kansas City wasn’t what fans were looking for (a 0-5 loss), but there’s still lots of baseball to go yet. Go Jays!
  • “Slidedoc (n.) a visual document, developed in presentation software, that is intended to be read and referenced instead of projected”. This term is coined by Nancy Duarte, and I am oddly gratified to now have a more appropriate term to describe what I generate at work for half my days. This free online resource/ebook created by Nancy Duarte is wonderful, and I am inspired to follow these principles to generate more useful and visually appealing slidedocs going forward. I highly recommend this for anyone who generates a lot of content-heavy work via presentation slides (aka slide jockeys).

  • This is a great post by an Albertan who traditionally votes Conservative, but is not for this election. “Lord help me, I just voted for a Trudeau”. May this resonate with other traditionally Conservative voters.
  • I am such a fan of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. I’ve been impressed with every encounter I’ve had with him via the media – he’s able to communicate in full paragraphs instead of merely soundbites. This piece in the Globe and Mail is an excerpt from a speech he gave earlier this fall, “Divided, Canada stands to lose what makes it great“. He starts with his own personal story as part of an immigrant Ismaili family and how the community’s acts of inclusion helped make him a successful today. This is in contrast to the divisive policies that are being spouted today to help “protect us” from radicalized Muslim youth. Such a worthwhile read, and inspires me to be optimistic and try to make my own small difference. This is what a great leader *should* do. So evaluate if the leader of the party you are voting for on Oct 19 does the same for you.


<–previous finds of the week

Let’s Go Blue Jays!

“Let’s Go Blue Jays! Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!”

A confession: my love affair with the Blue Jays has been brief, to date. I’ll be the first to admit, while I know all the rules of the sport, I haven’t been a baseball fan through the years. I’ve been to a handful of Blue Jays games at the Skydome in years past, when the team was mediocre and the crowds even more so. I found the games long and dull, and wished I could be watching hockey instead.

And yet now I find myself jumping on the bandwagon happily into a love affair with the Jays. A late summer-to-fall fling, as it were. I’m even checking to on the scores while I’m picking up my children from daycare, or waiting for their extra-curricular activity to finish. Two years ago I would be hard-pressed to name more than two players. Now, I recognize the names in entire lineup and if pressed, might even be able to put them in their batting order.


I am happy to give my heart over because of the energy and collective excitement through the whole city is taking over. It’s so exciting and fun to see so many people in the city and other parts of the country rally behind something positive, and so why wouldn’t I want to join in on that? This could be a seminal sports moment in Toronto; I want to participate in and experience it whatever the result, not just read about it in the news.

Even more so, I want and hope for this to be a good news story for those of my friends and family who *are* actually long-time Blue Jays baseball fans. Baseball fans with unrequited playoff dreams.

There are those, like my husband, who were committed fans in their youth. They loved and played the game in the park and imagined recreating the highlight plays from the world championship Jays from the ’92 and ’93. However, twenty-two years of being stood up at the playoff date have made them cynical and bitter, to defend against the pain in their hearts. This is further compounded by the collective playoff futility of all the Toronto’s professional sports teams.

Through August and September as the Blue Jays were having an incredible run, you could see the cynicism and bitterness start to melt away, and they were excited again for the game. Each game.

Then there are my dear friends who are the hard-core fans. They watch the Jays games, listen to the sports talk, and they follow what’s happening with the other teams in the league. They have never wavered in their love of the Blue Jays. They open their hearts at the start of every season with the optimism of making the playoffs by October. And for twenty-two years, they’ve had their heart broken each season. But they brush it off and then look forward to spring training next year. They are those few brave souls amongst us who love deeply and freely and continualy, without reservations, even when they get hurt time and time again.

Well, this year, I sure am crossing my fingers that their love will finally be reciprocated and the Blue Jays win the World Series.

But first they have to win Game 5 tomorrow against Texas. Let’s Go Blue Jays! #‎ComeTogether‬

The Many Things I Am Thankful For

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone!

It’s been a gorgeous holiday weekend this Thanksgiving 2015 in Toronto, at least in terms of the weather. There are many things to be thankful for, and I really enjoy having a specific holiday to ask us to stop our busy lives for a while and reflect on this.

I am thankful for having family and friends that we can gather together for a large meal and actually enjoy each others’ company. I am thankful that we do have access to food and drink in abundance, and are not worrying about how to put the next meal on the table.

I am thankful for my general good physical and mental health, and that of my family and close friends.

I am thankful for my husband and my daughters E1 and E2, and the abundance of little joys they bring me each day. (and so I overlook the little annoyances, haha!)

I am thankful that I live in a country that has strong institutions and underlying belief in democracy. For all my disagreements with the policies and functioning of the current political party governing our country, I have no fear that they would ignore the election results and try to maintain power, leading us towards either a dictatorship or civil war. Could this be because we are actually a constitutional monarchy? Perhaps…you may discuss this amongst yourselves.

I am thankful that after my leave from work last year, I was able to find my way to land in a great place for this next phase of my working career.

I am thankful for those monthly pizza lunches at school where I can take a one-day break from having to make and pack their school lunch! And I am thankful for a good working dishwasher to wash all these snack and lunch containers in addition to our home dishes. (I shudder to think what would happen to my marriage if we had to resort to the old days of using rock-paper-scissors to determine who would hand-wash that day’s dishes)

Then there are these long-form articles that I’ve encountered in recent months that have really stayed with me…and made me very thankful that I am not facing these same impossible choices:

  • Whether they are refugees or economic migrants, the basic choice is basically the same: whether leaving home to voluntarily face the dangers of human smuggling is a better choice than staying at home.  “Menaced by gangs, El Salvador’s children are running for their lives“, Stephanie Nolen in The Globe and Mail, Aug 29, 2015, is one such example. The hundreds of thousands others trying to migrate to Europe is another, and there are headlines nearly daily on the situation.
  • Before reading this piece, I had no real understanding of why there was a section in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for Mobility Rights, which includes the right to move anywhere within our country. This story is jaw-dropping—what educated and middle-class income earners would choose to have their families live in subterranean, makeshift, mouldy housing?  I understand I have a truly privileged life, considering what these people will endure for the hope of building a better future for their children. “The ‘Ant Tribe’ of China” by Doug Saunders in The Globe and Mail, Aug 21, 2015.
  • In “Syria’s Climate Conflict“, by Audrey Quinn and Jackie Roche, the cartoon succinctly explains how climate change helped spark a bloody civil war. I am thankful that I live in an area where the effects of climate change not yet caused dramatic changes to our society, but I do want our government to take action to address this now.
  • And along those lines, I’m thankful I live in an area with access to fresh water. The ongoing California drought is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

And lastly – I’m thankful for the opportunity to keep speaking my mind. Cheers!

Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-10-06

The real reason many women struggle to advance their careers, on losing the love of your life, a profile of a potential Prime Minister of Canada, and the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, in this week’s Jeneral finds: 2015-10-06

  • It has always felt so unfair to me how our society doesn’t properly value those who care for others and teach others – nurses, teachers, caregivers. Instead we place higher value to those who “make things” and generate value (aka money) – business people, engineers, professional athletes. What I didn’t realize was how this frame of mind also systematically hinders women in the workplace even in those “making things” and “generating value” careers.  “Caregiver discrimination penalizes women at all income levels“, an excerpt from Ann-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished BusinessIdentifying and recognizing the issue is the first step, but what is great about this piece is it also provides ideas on how to move forward. Between this piece by Slaughter and her prior writings, I’ve really come to admire her.
  • Close friends of my parents had their 40-year-old son-in-law pass away suddenly this weekend, leaving his wife and three young children. I can’t even imagine the grief and shock their family must be going through; I went and hugged my husband and held on a little longer than usual. I was also brought back to this truly moving post from Sheryl Sandberg earlier this year, a month after her husband Dave Goldberg also died suddenly. Would that we all have the same type of support in our times of need.
  • In the shadow of the upcoming election, Ian Brown continues to deliver outstanding writing in his in-depth profile of Justin Trudeau in the Globe (unfortunately it may be behind a paywall). It is a long read, but I’ve been yearning for more context and depth in the media coverage of the election, and this delivers on this front.
  • Physics friends celebrate! Canadian Arthur B. McDonald is the 2015 Nobel prize co-winner in Physics! Along with Takaaki Kajita, they were awarded for their contributions to experiments demonstrating that subatomic particles called neutrinos change identities, also known as “flavours.” The neutrinos transform themselves between three types: electron-type, muon-type and tau-type. The metamorphosis requires that neutrinos have mass, dispelling the long-held notion that they were massless. Cool that something I have vague memories learning about in Physics classes are newsworthy again. =)


<–Prior finds of the week

Attending Fall For Dance North 2015 – Program 2

I was thrilled to attend the second program of the inaugural Fall For Dance North dance festival on the evening of Oct 1, 2015. (Thanks to my friends K&D for getting tickets, and my dear hubby T for taking care of the kids on a Thursday night.) A whole evening of 6 dance companies for $10! How amazing is that? Considering that Oct 1 was also World Ballet Day, it was all together a great day of dance.

On a little more pessimistic side, I do wonder about the sustainability of the festival. The intention of it is to draw new audiences to attend dance performances by making both the price ($10) and the durations of each piece (20 min or less) more accessible. Will it be successful, in the way So You Think You Can Dance has broadened the audience for dance? I sure hope so.

For our evening of dance we had the Program 2 selection of performances. Here are my rough review notes:

Ballet BC – Twenty Eight Thousand Waves

  • This company has come back from bankruptcy in 2009, and according to one of my companions for the evening, have revamped their quality of dance as well. (she used to be a season ticket holder of Ballet BC before 2009) If there was a decline in dance quality back then, it surely isn’t evident now. The performance given this night was terrific.
  • The piece is physical, with intricate partnering sections, but also many moments of solitude.
  • The lighting, set design and costuming were murky, dark…not unlike the waves at sea that pound an oil rig (the title of the piece apparently alludes to the number of times per day an oil rig is battered by waves)
  • The first pas de deux was a stand-out moment for me, the two dancers handled the truly difficult partner work almost effortlessly, but were also able to convey a sense of angst or grief.
  • Did there really have to be that bright string of lights across the top of the stage to shine in our eyes for half the performance though?

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – After the Rain Pas de Deux

  • After the cold and dark look of Ballet BC, the brighter and warm colours of the set, lighting and costuming were welcomed by my eyes.
  • A beautiful pas de deux piece, slow and not showy, but all the more difficult for the absolute control it takes at all times.
  • While Christopher Wheeldon choreographed it as an abstract piece, I am left with a feeling of touching on the tender moments of a deep love, ended by a mourning of that love lost.

DanceBrazil – Malungos

  • A hybrid of Afro-Brazilian folk dance, capoeira, and contemporary, the pulsing music provided by the musicians on stage was infectious. The rhythm section gave different tempos and rhythms (I think i heard some samba in there?) that just instinctively makes you want to move your body.
  • While the dance quality can’t measure up against those that came before it, it was an enjoyable group performance.

Peggy Baker Dance Projects – fractured black

  • I was most excited for the prospect of this one, because Peggy Baker is such a legend/institution in the Toronto contemporary dance world. I’d seen a performance of her company several years before and enjoyed it immensely. For this piece to be created in collaboration with musician Sarah Neufeld, it just seemed like it’d be something special to see.
  • I was let down. The dance was oddly very static, with the movement really only coming from her arms and upper body, with only a few high kicks from the legs. Otherwise her feet were stuck in place. I kept thinking that at some point soon, she was going to rip off the corset and clunky heels she was wearing as a symbol of throwing off the shackles against women and finally MOVE! But no, the piece just ended, expectation unfulfilled.
  • The music was haunting and beautiful though. Neufeld both played the violin *and* sang, which seems terribly difficult to me.
  • I just had a thought – maybe Peggy Baker wanted us to feel frustrated, as a metaphor for how women are still constrained?  Well, if frustration was the desired result, she sure got it from me, and I was not entertained by it. I don’t think it would win over any new audiences either.

Dorrance Dance – SOUNDspace

  • This was my favourite piece of the night, hands down. Dorrance Dance is a tap dance company, one that aims to push the form. This particular piece has no music save the rhythms created from the dancers’ themselves. I was amazed by the varying audio textures, differences in volume and intensity, and playful rhythms throughout. The artistic director and choreographer Michelle Dorrance typically choreographs the rhythms and sounds first, then the steps to create the sounds, and then the body movements to make it an entertaining and surprising experience to watch.
  • Thoroughly enjoyable and joyful from start to end. I’m sure I was smiling the whole way through. Great lighting design too, and now I’ve experienced what a properly miked tap routine is like. Personally I wished this was the closing routine of the evening.

Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company – Desencuetros and Rio del Tiempo

  • Esmeralda Enrique was definitely the star here in this flamenco performance. She was just oozing intensity and passion – her performance transcended the mere steps and she was radiating out to the back of the hall. It wasn’t that the other members of her company were poor performers at all—if you were to watch them individually, they were all lovely dancers. But the way she moved her arms and held the angles of her head, the snap back from flow to position…she was the star.
  • The live musicians and singers were very cool too. Similar to the tap routine, the rhythms created in flamenco are very stirring.

Crossing my fingers that this really was the inaugural event, and not just a one-shot deal.