Monday, January 31, 2011

On Personal Triumphs

Every year in a small town called Sheffield Mills, Nova Scotia, is a four-day event called The Eagle Watch festival. Sheffield Mills is a small town (population 414) where visitors to the official festival website are prominently warned that the shoulders of the road are not as wide as they appear and are advised to park half-on and half-off the road to avoid snow camouflaged ditches. Down-east folks are thoughtful like that. (And they never think to charge for parking.)

Farmers, who once killed the eagles as pests, now lay out a huge breakfast for the raptors and are nice enough to invite those interested to stop by for their own seven-dollar breakfast and to share in the beauty of the largest colony of wintering eagles in eastern North America. Over 2,000 attend from all over. It's a celebration.

Eagles here had once dwindled to pretty well nothing. Now their population is close to 500. It struck me when I saw the photos taken last weekend by my niece Dawna just how able the human race is – to scratch up enough determination to rebound from a situation of almost total destruction and to find meaning and exaltation in the beauty of what transpires from the result.

And it's not just the human race as a whole. This reflects back on us all in small personal triumphs – when we allow ourselves the 'air' to turn what once were dire problems into cause for celebration. Because after all, hey, it's never too late until it is.

Thanks Dawna, for inspiring me to remember that we all have the ability to take ourselves, our communities and our planet, as John Milton once stated, "Where the deep transported mind may soar."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Art In Reflection

When we focus our eyes a bit differently; when we open up our minds to new directions... a window becomes not only something to look into but a refection of the culture that surrounds us.

Consider the possibility that the gift of creativity is inherent all of us who learn to pause in our busy day to be observant and find expression in obtuse things – even accidental imagery in a computer screen.

The act of 'noticing' gives us the opportunity to lose ourselves in the only alternative universe readily available to us all. It is a quality of vision that people normally find intrusive and ignore. But choosing to enter this universe allows a coffee pot to be infused with a dynamic once unnoticed.

Reflected back to us, the world becomes somehow much less threatening and perhaps a bit wonderfully reversed. 

And what was just a car window becomes blue skies, visible while looking down... and not up.

"Happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment." George Santayana (1863 – 1952. Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist) 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Old Site/New Site

You may already know that we've been busy working on a rebrand for the McMaster Savings and Credit Union (loved by but not officially affiliated with the University) and one of the largest components of the exercise (after the logo itself) is the redesign of their web site and other collateral. Thanks to the talents of co-workers Steve (the Great) and Simon (the Supreme), we've cobbled together a striking but simple site that combines functionality and highlights benefits in an uncluttered and striking manner. (The top image, if you haven't figured it out by now, is the old site.)

The large visual on the home page, now showing a key message from the brand strategy, will be used over time as a billboard of sorts. This image and the message below will be changed to reflect ongoing marketing activities in order to add a consistency of messaging across all media (print and broadcast ads, brochures, bus shelters, direct mail, etc.) and build brand equity.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Amazing Cure for the Common Vending Machine!

I confess. I have had many tender, loving moments with vending machines in waiting rooms, college campuses, airports, bus stations, food courts, hallways, stadiums, subways and malls. When all was shut tight these monoliths of light – these providers of lifesaving sustenance were there for me. I cannot count how many times they have given me solace when no other would. Just thinking about our times together brings a tear to my weary eye.

All this time I didn't realize they were ill. 

Sadly, modern science has identified a fatal condition. These purveyors of crunchy treats and refreshing libations are carrying a hereditary genetic condition called a "Parasitic Load" (pictured above). It's an invisible, dastardly creature which has been passed on unknowingly from generation to generation – one who just loves to insatiably suck power when it is not necessary. 

Luckily there is a cure! Vending machines who used to be enslaved and forced to run 24/7 in order to feed this parasite are now being vaccinated with small computer chips programmed to mercifully shut them down when their services are not needed (with timers to revive them when they are). The results from clinical studies are amazing, according to reports in leading medical journals. They not only cure energy loss but save folks tens of thousands a year in associated costs. 

Thank heaven for modern medicine!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Robert Burns - A Story of Poetry and Prolific Love

On January 25th of each year, Scottish descendants celebrate "Robbie Burns Day." Today, his 252nd birthday, will be celebrated by the serving of a dish called Haggis; made from the organs of a sheep, boiled in a bag made from the sheep's stomach. I hear a "wee dram" of whiskey helps it all go down. 

You may know of Robert Burns, Scottish Poet. Chances are you've sung "Auld Lang Syne" on New Years Eve. "A Red, Red Rose" has been turned into a song by Carly Simon. Bob Dylan selected the same Burns' poem as having the biggest effect on his life. And John Steinbeck who wrote 'The Grapes of Wrath' took a title from the Burns' poem 'To a Mouse', which read: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley". "Man Was Made to Mourn" was referenced in speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and, subsequently, by Barack Obama.

He is also heralded in some circles as the Casanova of Scotland. According to casual research Robert Burns' love life was prolific. In the same year as he achieved his first fame as a poet, Jean Armour (later, his wife) produced twins while he swayed between her and Mary Campbell (Highland Mary). During this time he also fathered a child to a servant girl called May Cameron. On his next visit to Edinburgh the same thing happened with another servant girl. Simultaneously, he was in a passionate relationship with the respectable Agnes M’Lehose. His great song of parting "Ae fond kiss and then we sever" was written for her. Shortly after, Jean Armour, back in Ayrshire, produced another set of twins by him. He eventually married Jean and settled in the town of Dumfries in the south of Scotland where he died in 1796 at the age of 37 of a heart condition. He had nine children with Jean in total (only three survived infancy) but managed another with the niece of the landlady of the Globe Inn in Dumfries.

All of which goes to lend new meaning to his quote, "Fear no labor." :o)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jack Frost Art

For those of you from warmer climates, who may not have witnessed this remarkable event, this is a picture of frost patterns on one of my windows this morning. British Isles folklore attribute this phenomena to an elfish character named Jack Frost.

Well, with the temperature at a bone chilling -22 degrees C, Jack Frost appeared to be the only one outside having fun...

You can tell by this photo where the name "fern frost" came from.

Ain't nature grand?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Deep Freeze Birdhouse

Minus double digit temps and an outing with the dog prompted this shot of an old birdhouse I'd bought several years ago from a locally well-known craftsman in rural Nova Scotia.

Have been playing with a free app for the iPhone called Instagram which allows you to take a photo, apply one of several filters and post it to the Instagram site to share (and at the same time post them to your social media sites).

Here are two examples of the filters available... trés neat!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Upgrade Equation

The Upgrade Equation. It's a mathematical quotient: How many times do "you" go into "upgrades" to equal "success?" Answer: constantly. But how?

Popular culture leads us to think we need to measure personal upgrades in two ways: 1) Purchase state-of-the-art technology... and 2) Learn how to use it – take classes, bug friends, get tips from colleagues and sweat over online tutorials. It's all good.

We buy. And we learn. Then a month later, enter that guy on the corner, online or at the computer store – Pssst! – the guy who has the ultimate upgrades just for you. It's the elastic nature of commerce. And we're lead to believe it's exactly what we need to equal success in whatever we do.

But friends, I humbly submit, there is a third essential and totally necessary upgrade that we're not always taught; because it's free. It's the ability our supercomputer (read brain) gives us to constantly upgrade our thought processes, knowledge and skills in art, intuition, poetry, process, wisdom, empathy, concepts, emotions and passion. Apart from being free, there's a reason this isn't highlighted on websites, stores and brochures. It entails making technology work for us instead of the other way around.

If we rely only on each new technology upgrade for our measure of success, are we not becoming more and more dependent on technological solutions (and its artificial support) for our definition of personal success?

If so, maybe we are really just trading canes for wheelchairs.

Rant over. :o)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

See and Say

I see what people are saying for the most part.

Seeing what people are saying is not just listening, but you knew that. Gathering meaning from people's words is not just a matter of hearing but it's a cognitive experience; inserting wisdom, intuition and interpretation behind the words and therefore attributing value to what otherwise is a mere string of words.

When we're lucky, words become not just words. Strung together in a magical manner they become visions, concepts, ideas – with bonus thoughts sprouting and growing new, fresh experiences.

Great leaders inspire with words. Friends console, validate and invigorate with them. Wonderful personalities around us help us give shape and meaning to our lives, prompting us to do more; daring us to stretch ourselves and become something more than we ever possibly could have without them.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of Stores and Stories

A cruise through "downtown funk" this afternoon revealed a landscape of color and character, stores with untold stories of days gone by. This happens to be Mytown, Canada but as I drove I imagined this could be Anytown, Anywhere today.

Remember when shopping was a walk down the block to the store? When a night out was over to the local Italian, Chinese restaurant or diner, and when everyone from the neighborhood knew everyone from the neighborhood? Okay, perhaps not. We've evolved swiftly.

Disappearing are the days when shopkeepers would sweep their sidewalks, serve their community and bring home gossip to tell their family. Now we tell tales of new big box stores, bulk savings and internet shopping. We don't walk down the block (or the hallway for that matter) to speak to one another anymore. We text, we tweet and we facebook.

Should we miss these stories of local color and character; tales of days gone by? Perhaps we should listen to the well tread sidewalks and fading storefronts for the whispers of distant, simpler days... now passing into the shadows.

If the end is near, I will only say this: I had an old dog once. I suspected her time was coming to a close and so did she. I continued to take her for walks and towards the end I let her take me where she wanted to go and tell me when to go home. We relished each other's company to the end.

Perhaps we can do the same for local small businesses before they too are gone.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Introducing the All-New CPS

Wouldn't it be nice to have a device, similar to a GPS, that could tell you when you were going off on a tangent, treading up a road of inefficiency leading to nowhere but frustration and cognitive failure, or spending valuable time worrying about something you have no control over? Wouldn't it be great to have a simple device that would tell you in advance that you're going to walk into a room and wonder what you came in for?

Well, you lucky people, we are glad to introduce the new CPS, the all new Cranial Positioning System, guaranteed to stop you before you walk into a wall of indecision and fruitless thought. Now, you can be sure that the valuable time you spend thinking is fully mappable and monitored. This new and exciting mind mapping device allows you to fully customize your thought patterns to arrive at your preferred state of mind in the most efficient manner. Imagine, no brain cramps, no awkward delays in decision making and no ending up lost in the static that others of nefarious agendas want you to consider!

Never get lost in your own brain again! For three small payments of $600,000.00 US ($599,999.00 Canadian) you too can benefit from this latest technology. Don't delay! Contact us now and begin maximizing your travel time from question to answer!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Condensed Story of Smug and Ugh...

One day, oh... about 6,000 years ago (give an ice age or two) two friends, Smug and Ugh, were out hunting. Together they stalked a Woolly Mammoth for hours and Smug finally brought it down. Smug claimed the kill and, against whatever tradition had accumulated at that time, refused to share his spoils with Ugh.

Enter an interesting dynamic to the human psyche. The birth of opposing philosophical viewpoints, each with their own self-interest.

Since that day Smugs have proliferated; the rich and powerful who look at life for what they can obtain and keep for themselves. Funnily enough whatever they seem to get, it never seems to be enough.

Ughs (no slouches either) have also evolved; living a simpler life and continuing to wish Smugs would share with those less fortunate. Funnily enough, whatever they seem to pry from the coffers of the Smugs, it also never seems to be enough.

Since the day of the Mammoth to this, it seems that neither Smugs nor Ughs are happy nor any closer to finding common ground. The insatiable appetites of both survive. All of which makes me think that of the three participants in the hunt that day long ago, perhaps the Mammoth turned out to be the fortunate one (lol)...

"... the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second."
- John Steinbeck, American writer. Nobel Prize for Literature, 1962.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Will Computers Dream?

As the human race advances we have transitioned from one discovery to another. We've advanced from rudimentary tools to the "gears" of industry to computers the size of your living room to the slick technology of personal computers.

But in the not-so-distant future be prepared for another leap. Biocomputers. That's right, computers based not on traditional silicon-based computer technologies but on biologically derived molecules, such as DNA and proteins, to perform computational calculations involving storing, retrieving, and processing data.

Pretty cool, eh?

Evidence of the true potential of the computing capabilities of biocomputers exists in the most powerful, complex computational machine known to currently exist: the biocomputer that is the human brain. And it's only a matter of time that scientists are able replicate this capability into functional, superior computing.

Nanobiotechnology provides scientists with the ability to engineer biomolecular systems specifically so that they interact in a fashion that can ultimately result in the computational functionality of a computer.

Perhaps the question for the future will be: When we put our computers to sleep, will they dream?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Important Part