Archive for March, 2012

We have just had a provincial election called in Alberta. This is a vote for the government of  the Canadian province we live in.

The party in power has been in place since 1971. When I first moved to Alberta in 1975, I was told that Albertans don’t vote – they stampede (a reference to the Calgary Stampede and the fact that only four different parties have governed in the province since 1905).

This election presents me with a problem. Do I vote for the best candidate or do I vote for the party I wish to see be elected? Or do I vote strategically and hope that my vote won’t split support and allow the person/party that I don’t want to be elected?

The ruling party candidate is (and I am watching my language here) less than ideal. He was a candidate for mayor of Edmonton last year and showed himself to be not the sharpest pencil in the pack. So, can I vote for someone that I believe won’t be able to adequately represent our constituency. The main threat to the ruling party comes from a right-wing party. I have met their candidate and was impressed by her presentation and knowledge of the issues. However, she represents a party that says, “there is still considerable debate around the science of climate change” – in other words, wrong.

The other three candidates are from parties that have no hope of being elected as governing party, much less be elected as the representative in our riding.

So the path forward in this election is not clear at all. Do I vote for the best representative for our riding or the party I would like to see run the province. This might be a last minute decision, however no matter what, I will still vote – at least then I can complain with a clear conscience.


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We, as in the Big Sky Gliders, have spent a good part of the winter in the studio in our first attempt to get some of our songs down. The goal is to have 10 songs done by the end of May or thereabouts. We have been a little focused on the recording as of late and when we got the chance to play live, we jumped at the opportunity.

The Heart of the City Festival puts on a couple of fundraisers to help finance the main festival in June and we were asked to open one of them. It was held at the Newcastle Pub, which so happens is in my neighbourhood. We had played with two of the other acts before, Dana Wylie and Andrew Scott, and we were all looking forward to just playing again.

You never know what to expect at a gig. The pub has a nice wide stage and when we got there and started to set up, all seemed well. Except that the person doing the sound was having issues getting the monitors to work and really didn’t seem all that interested in getting us set up. We were supposed to start at 8 but we were late – waiting for the sound issues to be resolved. They never did get the monitors working really well, but we kicked into our set. We thought it was a pretty strong set with almost all originals from Jim and Don, as well as covers of Dead Flowers and It’s a Lovely Day (an old Youngbloods tune). Lots of variations in the tunes and a good response from the audience.

The Big Sky Gliders at the fund raiser for the Heart of the City Festival

It was fun. After all the angst in the studio, it was refreshing to get on stage and just play – clams and all. The best news is we don’t have to audition for the festival this year, so we will be playing the Heart of the City on either June 2 or 3 in Giovanni Caboto park in Edmonton. Looking forward to it.

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“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde

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My second son moved out on his own Friday night. He has finished university and will graduate with an honours BA (with distinction) later in the spring. It was his time. My oldest son has been out of the house for a couple of years. This leaves my third son and daughter in the house with me (and the dog of course).

It is a time of mixed emotions. On one hand I am glad to see him on his own. There are lots of things to learn when you are on your own and it is healthy to start living life on your own terms. It is interesting how our relationship has changed over the last couple of years. There will always be the father-son relationship but now we can chat about things of interest to both of us and on an adult level. And the food bill in the house will be less.

There is no question that I will miss our day to day interactions but that just means it will be even more special when we do see each other. There is always that little bit of nagging doubt about what I, as a parent, have been able to instill but so far everything looks very positive. Still, the household has changed and it will take some getting used to.

Finally, I will gain a bit of freedom in the kitchen since he is a vegetarian and every meal had to be planned with a vegetarian option. On Saturday, he showed up at the house to claim some more items and came downstairs eating a piece of pizza that I had purchased. We chatted for a minute and I remarked that, “you know that pizza has meat on it …”. He paused and then said, “you couldn’t wait for a day”, but he finished the piece.

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My university degree is in physical geography. I majored in climatology and hydrology, with courses in meteorology, biogeography and soils. When I hit my mid-life crisis and was faced with a job that started to look very tenuous (we were going to be privatized), I looked around to see what else I could do. I ended up taking a 2 year diploma in adult education through the University of Alberta. I didn’t know if the diploma would get me a job, but I enjoyed teaching when I was a graduate student and I felt that if I was going to spend two years of my evenings moving forward, I wanted it to be something I enjoyed.

My diploma led me into the environmental education section of our department and just recently, a job at MacEwan University teaching undergraduate labs in earth science. I thoroughly enjoy my teaching but it has led into an unsuspecting issue.

Hell, for me, is a bad presentation. I work hard on my presentation skills and there is nothing so annoying than having to sit through a badly planned session that is given by someone who either doesn’t know his subject, doesn’t care or doesn’t know how to communicate effectively.

Recently I took a free seminar on home audio recording. There was enough demand that an extra session was planned and since I was on the waiting list, I was able to get into the second session. It was supposed to start at 10 in the morning and at 9:57, the instructor arrived and the doors finally opened. Based on the start alone, I did not have a good feeling about the upcoming session. We spent the first 15 minutes setting up the a-v and then the instructor disappeared to get some microphones from the store’s rental stock. So finally at 10:20, we got going. First there was a 10 minute personal introduction – wrong – in a 2 hour session you don’t use that amount of time on an introduction. Now there is no doubt the instructor was knowledgeable. He teaches at a local university and has had years of experience. But it was obvious he had not figured out how much content to supply given the limited amount of time available.

Then he talked about the basics of sound. Then we talked about the size and shape of rooms for recording. Then came the microphones – lots and lots of microphones. I now know a lot about microphones but the time was slipping by. A friend of the instructor showed up so we could have someone to record. But when there was only 20 minutes left in the session, the instructor realized that maybe we might want to try recording something. So, in a very hurried fashion, he set up the microphone and recorded about 40 seconds of guitar and then voice. And then we were done.

I have been to worse sessions but my personal hell will be long, rambling talks where everything is written on the PowerPoint slides and there are so many facts and no context that there is no hope of retaining it all.

My advice – know your time limit, gauge your material accordingly, know your audience, and tell stories! People listen when you tell stories and put your facts into some sort of context that people can relate to. It’s not hard to do – just takes some preparation and thought beforehand.

The next sound you hear is the soapbox being pushed away – I feel better all of a sudden.

English: RCA 44 Ribbon Microphone -- Creative ...

Image via Wikipedia

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Gizmodo had an article today called “Why Daylight Savings Time is Pointless“. This year, I couldn’t agree more.

On Saturday we, as in the Big Sky Gliders, played a fund raiser for the Heart of the City Festival. Lots of fun aside from the usual musical issues that crop up at every performance. I didn’t get home that late, but my daughter reminded me of Daylight Savings and so I dutifully wandered around the house looking for every clock I could find. And now it is after midnight. And for some reason, that threw me. I was tired but didn’t sleep well.

Penny woke me up around 7 (her usual time) but now it is 8 and while I don’t feel like I have slept in, the clock is telling me otherwise. The day just seemed off … I really didn’t want to make supper, but it does say 5 in the afternoon. The kicker came around 11 at night. Everyone was up and busying themselves because it was really only 10 – to our bodies anyway. My brain is saying go to bed and my body is pushing back saying not yet. I finally got to sleep and this morning I still feel out of sorts and worst of all – it is back to being dark in the morning! I want to leave the house in the light – I don’t care if it is now light until 7 in the evening – I want my morning to be bright. I know in a couple of days we will be synced up … but why do we put ourselves through this?

Penny has the right idea to deal with Daylight Savings

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