Family in England Reduces Garbage to One Bag a Year

By | Feb 11, 2010

This video clip was interesting. One family in England has managed to reduce the amount of household trash they dispose of to just one bag a year.  To do this they focus on purchasing products that are recyclable, and making sure they they have used every opportunity available in their community to recycle as much as possible.  I’m sure many of us could be inspired by this example, however many of these services are not available in every community.  However, the message here is not to try to replicate this family’s antics, but to just keep in mind this example and do your best to increase your contribution to the environment.  Even turning off the lights when you are not using them is better than nothing.

Miss England, War Hero

By | Jan 27, 2010

This is a neat news story.  Because of a recent controversy with the Miss England victor, Rachel Christie, involving a fight at a night club, the crown was conceded to the runner up, Katrina Hodge received it.   What’s so interesting about this?  Katrina Hodge, from Tunbridge Wells, is serving member of the British Army – a Lance Corporal who has served in Iraq and even received a commendation for courage.  She’s earned the nickname ‘combat barbie’.   She’s planning on using the position to promote her charity efforts, specifically military related ones that she has been involved with in the past.

Miss England will competing soon in the Miss World competition.

British hotels to warm your bed for you

By | Jan 25, 2010

Most of you are probably aware of the weather rocking Britain this year.  They’ve been snowed-in, iced-in, and had some nasty cold.  I was listening to BBC Radio 1 the the other day, I believe during Greg James’ show, and a caller was commenting how it was -20 Celcius in London, which is not a common occurrence.

Being Canadian, I couldn’t help being a little amused as I scraped my car off, listening to the British complain about a few days of cold.  To be fair, you adapt to the conditions you live in, and a snowstorm in an area unused to them can be disastrous.  I do not know if the issue has been resolved, but I remember UK ministers talking about how they were running low on grit to keep the roads clear – disastrous for drivers unused to snowy weather.  I’ve been told that when it snows in the Carolinas, (snow, but not even to stay on the road) grocery stores are cleaned out of canned goods and people put chains on the tires.

Holiday Inns in the UK have come up with a creative way of dealing with the cold.  Nobody likes to climb into a bed with chilly sheets.  Their solution: have a staff member warm them up for you! The way I understand it, you call the front desk twenty minutes before bed, and a staff member will put on a fuzzy suit and lay in your bed for awhile to have it ready for you.  Novel, I’ll give them that.  I don’t know if this service will be successful or not – personally I would find it creepy to have a stranger in my bed – but I give Holiday Inn credit for promoting themselves in a unique way.

Man Vs. Zombies

By | Jan 17, 2010
Getting prepared for 2010.
Creative Commons License photo credit: izik

Gus from Florida has been having a rough time; on December 14, 2009, he woke up and realized to his horror that the world has he knew it had come to an end in a frightening zombie apocalypse. How does Gus cope with his new reality? He Tweets it.

@manvszombies is one of the more entertaining uses of Twitter we’ve seen in awhile. The author has gone so far as to post Twitpics depicting his various (warning: gory) victories against the zombie hordes. It’s not World War Z, but it’s pretty entertaining.

Good Riddance 2009

By | Jan 4, 2010

Last year saw a lot of ups and downs. We started off watching the car industry with some disgust, questioning the culture of mediocrity that allowed the situation to spiral out of control. We say: Too big to fall? Too big to exist. Get on top of your credit and take control of your life. Blame venture capitalists – people who invest money are the cause of all our problems. Honestly, if credit is such a problem just start using cash – it’s really as easy as it sounds. The financial power is starting to shift from West to East.

As companies fell one by one, they tried all kinds of bonehead tactics, including suing themselves for damages. The once proud Citigroup self-destructed. Ultimately employees bore the brunt of the economic damage. Greed managed to prevail, of course, as Canada’s capital was held ransom by its transit union in the middle of winter, putting even more of the city’s lowest earners out of work.

Even countries failed. However, it appeared no one told Sweden there was an economic crisis (maybe fueled by the success of the Pirate Party?) while Latvia folded. Eventually the DOW recovered a bit – joy!

Technology may be speeding up our sharing of information, but we still like our embattled old newspapers. Not that it matters, since the only news agency worth following is the BBC, anyway.

Remember Illinois Governer Blagojevich? Let’s not even go there. Blackberry got a presidential endorsement worth over $50 million when President-elect Obama refused to part ways with his cherished device – forcing the CIA to build him a specially-secured unit.

Your privacy remains under siege, but no one seems to worry about the implications of airing their private life on the Internet. The prevailing view is that nothing is your fault anyway – in a particularly gross turn of events, an Ohio teen claimed he shot his parents because they took away his video game.

Facebook is constantly in the news. Your friends are worth less than whopper sandwiches – maybe we would value them more if they weren’t all illiterate.

A bunch of unlikely events happened this year. An African-American man became the 44th President of the United States (and he had his job cut out for him right away), and the Arizona Cardinals made it to the superbowl (although Pittsburgh won it, so all is well in the world). Even the Oscars were weak. While we were otherwise occupied, the monkeys tried to take over.

Not news anymore: The world continues to teeter at the edge of an energy abyss and the powers that be continue to squawk about the merits of the data used to arrive at climate change conclusions when we would be all better off if we started to explore green alternatives. We didn’t even trouble ourselves to write an article about Copenhagen – why bother wasting our breath. Even wind turbines are under seige. California is taking the lead in reducing automobile emissions – time will tell whether they are successful in guiding the rest of the world. I help out by cutting my own firewood from trees that are already dead; I’m a light-weight – real environmentalists use only the finest organic wood(!?). In the end it’s not about technology or one-off changes – creating a sustainable world is going to be hard work – we should start sooner rather than later. Look out for the resource land rush.

At least the spirit of discovery was strong. Using the omniscient Google Earth, scientists were not only able to find the garden of Eden, they were able to find the Lost City of Atlantis! (Although, they lost it again with some haste) Never doubt free information, and never question the wisdom of Wikipedia. Not only is Google leading the way in discovery, they’re leading the way in environmental stewardship by switching their lawn care to goats rather than gas-wasting lawnmowers.

The world continues to resist the magnificent western culture; India made waves once again for its anti-kissing stance… why don’t they want to be hyper-sexualized like us? I wonder if their teenagers spend most of their online time lookup up cosmetic surgery. Maybe they just hate long DVD introductions?

The golden age of Hollywood may be over, but Apple’s is just beginning as video gaming’s Renaissance continues. Sony wasn’t doing so well, and found itself trying to explain why we should care about its PlayStation console. The brave new world has us playing against each other online rather than in the same room.

Back to Obama – the man had some great ideas for improving world security and saving lots of money, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his idealism. We’re hoping 2010 is the year he finally gains traction. How long will Obama cause jubilation everywhere he travels?

With all the coverage in sports, talk of respect and restructuring of the NHL points system (which must have cost Montreal the cup), no one noticed that Cuba’s government shuffled or that the United Kingdom was thinking about letting Catholics reign as monarchs. Wait a minute stop the presses – Michael Jackson died, nothing else matters!

Is CCTV effective or not?

By | Nov 13, 2009

Creative Commons License photo credit: dno1967

Funny how we are so willing to give up our privacy for such paltry reasons. Seemingly harmless information like our birth date is pure gold for marketers looking to target our age groups; the same information is useful for thieves looking to forge our identities and opening credit lines in our name. Services like Facebook have found they can get people to give up their most intimate details by simply putting up a form asking for it.

At the same time, we’re terrified of the hypothetical terrorists who lurk behind every corner. We tolerate the presence of surveillance networks under the pretense that we are somehow safer.

CCTV networks are starting to crop up in North America, but in the UK where they are prevalent they have been shown to only assist in solving 1 crime for every 1,000 cameras. That is a lot of video footage to have to sort through on an ongoing basis.

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the presence of outside organizations in our lives. What value does the newest brand loyalty card have if you need to earn 100,000 arbitrary points to qualify for a token discount? Merchants who offer these types of programs derive much greater benefit from tracking our spending habits and preferences than we do by giving up our information.

Maybe we can live without the up-sell. Maybe we aren’t in as much danger as we thought – or at a minimum, maybe we’re not any safer after building these walls of technology.

The East Wants In

By | Nov 11, 2009
Great Wall View
Creative Commons License photo credit: ccwen7

Trying to identify the exact point where you’ve peaked and begun to decline is easy in hindsight but impossible while you’re living it. There is a lot of talk about the end of the recession, but the actual recovery seems to differ from region to region. Kind of like peak oil, it will be many years before we will be totally sure when we really got out.

A fine mess the western world has gotten itself into. With so many nations failing (or on the brink), we are seeing a massive and long overdue shift of wealth and power. The culture of entitlement we have lived for so long may yet come to an end. If that sounds like a “power to the people” type of sentiment, it isn’t. The world as we know it may very well be coming to an end.

The BBC has a fascinating article discussing the End of the Western Economic Era, where it is suggested that the once almighty United States will soon find itself in a position of power-sharing with its Eastern brethren. China is not a sinister force, its rise to power comes from taking on a western role in its approach to finances.

It’s impossible to say for certain right now even though the situation will be clear as day in just a decade from now. American power has either waned in he face of economic crisis or it remains intact. Either we are reverting to a cash society with great emphasis on frugality and saving or we are not. Regardless of what those answers may be, the world of our children will be far different from the world of our parents.

Hospitals Save More Lives When They Admit Their Mistakes

By | Nov 7, 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: a.drian

Suppose you’ve screwed up, badly. Perhaps the blunder was so grave that someone got hurt, or worse. Do you own up to your actions and take responsibility for the consequences, or do you downplay the significance of what happened or worse, deny it entirely?

If your doctor made a mistake, would you want to know? Recognizing their mistake and its cause would help your doctor avoid allowing a similar incident to repeat, wouldn’t it?

That’s exactly what the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal discovered. As it turns out, the hospital experienced a 50 percent drop in incidents over the three years it has had a full disclosure policy in effect.

Does full disclosure expose doctors and hospitals to increased liability? As it turns out, the majority of health care providers report that patients are less likely to sue if their doctor has apologized and admitted mistakes they have made.

The majority of health care professionals remain reluctant to admit when mistakes are made; however, as other facilities follow the Montreal Hospital’s lead with their own full disclosure programs we will start to see attitudes shift toward openness. By removing the fear of job loss for reporting incidents, hospitals will increase care and better serve their communities and patients.

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

By | Oct 10, 2009

President Obama had an interesting wake up call this Friday. Just imagine the look of groggy confusion that must have been on his face when Press Secretary Robert Gibbs woke him up just before 6am to tell him he had won the Nobel Prize. The White House had no advance warning of the news from Norway, so the only immediate reaction they were able to give was ‘Wow’.

Obama has certainly had a busy presidency right from day one. He’s changed the face of celebrity endorsements, given green energy a kick in the behind, closed CIA detention centres, promoted nuclear nonproliferation, pumped trillions of dollars into the economy (in theory) and dazzled America’s neighbours with friendly foreign visits. His message of hope and change have certainly captured the imagination of the entire world, but does that really qualify him for a Nobel Peace Prize?

One might argue that the grand promises made by Obama have changed the way people look at the world and set the course for positive change. On the other hand, critics would argue the prize is given prematurely – certainly one of the other 200-plus nominees have made more concrete contributions to peace and development. That’s not to say that Obama shouldn’t be awarded the prize – perhaps we should have simply waited until some of the results of all those promises start to materialize.

In the end, the Nobel prize is a monumental honour and one for which we offer great congratulations for the President’s achievement.

NFL Starts

By | Sep 13, 2009

Other than a Pittsburgh game earlier this, the NFL starts today.  I’m not really a football follower (at least not the American variety) but I am always fascinated by the support the game draws in the United States.  I find it fascinating that the game is so well loved in the US, yet has never succesfully made the jump outside of North America (the NFL Europe league failed) other than the occasional game played.  To my knowledge no other sport can be so big, yet so contained; except maybe Rugby but that would be a bit of a stretch considering it does have a relatively large world-wide appeal at various levels.

Regardless, any predictions for this year?

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