Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Life Brand

I recently reconnected with an old high school friend on Facebook.

We went to the same Catholic girls school. Our lockers were fairly close to each other and we shared the same home room for a couple of years. She was a terrific volleyball player.

We lost touch over the years, though another high school friend who stayed put in our northern Ontario town, gave me periodic updates on how and what she was doing.

When I was recently in Ethiopia, she emailed me to let me know her daughter was working at a medical clinic in Uganda.

Over the past few weeks, her status updates have grown increasingly more concerning. She's mentioned a variety of medical appointments, a diagnosis and a pre-op booking. She thanked all her pals for their support.

So yesterday I emailed her privately to say that while I didn't know what was going on, I hoped it wasn't serious and I was sending her my best wishes.

Turns out it's serious. Very serious.

After having felt distinctly unwell for the past 6 months -- pins and needles, frozen to the bone -- she received a diagnosis of Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy in February. It's osteoarthritis in the neck that causes pressure on the nerves and the blood supply.

Since her diagnosis in February, her symptoms are progressing.

She can't straighten the baby finger in her hand and has had an acute disk rupture in her back. Movement is becoming nearly impossible.

After consulting a neurologist in Toronto, she learned that if she didn't have surgery, she'd be paralyzed.

She wrote, "One thing I have learned through all of this is that you truly never know when your quality of life will be altered, so treasure your good health while you have it."

Her surgery is today.

Please turn your eyes upwards our outwards and say a little prayer for Robin.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How it's done

Since I travel often, and often to places other people avoid, I've long since been a fan of Trip Advisor.

If you're looking for a room in Nha Trang, chances are someone has something interesting to say about a cute little spot on the beach near the fishing boats or, more importantly, where you'd be best to leave the light on in the bathroom to keep the roaches at bay.

In the spirit of karmic payback, I regularly write my own reviews when I return from a place.

That's why I was interested to receive the following message from the CEO this week after hackers compromised some of their data. It's COMS 101 -- admit your mistake and move on -- but it's done particularly well. I'd be interested to know if they had any feedback on it. My favourite lines: "The reason we are going directly to you with this news is that we think it's the right thing to do. As a TripAdvisor member, I would want to know."

To our travel community:
This past weekend we discovered that an unauthorized third party had stolen part of TripAdvisor's member email list. We've confirmed the source of the vulnerability and shut it down. We're taking this incident very seriously and are actively pursuing the matter with law enforcement.

How will this affect you? In many cases, it won't. Only a portion of all member email addresses were taken, and all member passwords remain secure. You may receive some unsolicited emails (spam) as a result of this incident.

The reason we are going directly to you with this news is that we think it's the right thing to do. As a TripAdvisor member, I would want to know. Unfortunately, this sort of data theft is becoming more common across many industries, and we take it extremely seriously.

I'd also like to reassure you that TripAdvisor does not collect members' credit card or financial information, and we never sell or rent our member list.

We will continue to take all appropriate measures to keep your personal information secure at TripAdvisor. I sincerely apologize for this incident and appreciate your membership in our travel community.

Steve Kaufer
Co-founder and CEO

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reading to my inner child

My parents never censored or augmented my reading, so I grew up with fairly eclectic tastes.

Recently, one of my co-workers gave me a copy of Bridge to Terabithia.

It's one of the young adult novels I missed while I was likely reading the entire Happy Hooker series.

If you haven't read it, run out and get yourself a copy. For one thing, I guarantee you a good cathartic cry. I also guarantee a renewed appreciation for conveying complex concepts in simple terms. It's an art form -- like this nearly perfect sentence:

Sometimes you need to give people something that's for them, not just something that makes you feel good giving it.

Or this:
It's like the smarter you are, the more things can scare you.

Maybe all this perfection is why Bridge to Terabithia won the Newberry Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American Literature for Children. And it's probably why several generations of children -- and adults -- have responded to the timeless truth of its words.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Don't believe your own hype

I have to admit to being partial to seething insecurity over ego any day. It's just so much more pleasant to build someone up than to try to bring them down a peg or two.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ultra Sound Off

I thought ultra sound technicians were taught not to reveal anything about the test you were having while you were having it.

I guess the technician doing my Ma's electrocardiogram missed that class. Which might explain why she went on to talk loudly about finding her blocked aorta, speculating about the severity of the blockage and marveling that she hasn't (yet) felt any pain.

The technician also repeatedly remarked about my Ma's "big boobies". Nice talk when you're dealing with a 78 year old woman.

There's no telling what all of this means until we have the benefit of the family doctor's analysis to pull everything together. There are other tests before that happens -- including the unenviable task of getting my Ma to pee into a tiny cup.

Good times. Good times.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about work/life balance recently. What free time is worth to me.

Over the past year, the number of billable hours I spend at the office has increased along with the non-billable hours I spend checking my hand-held.

I've become that girl.

Mobility is great, but it's created a culture of instant gratification junkies. Where your email sits beside me on the couch on weekday nights, pierces my Sunday morning, and joins me on vacation.

Workaholism is a socially acceptable addiction. In fact, it's encouraged.

This morning, on my walk into work, I was thinking about the guy who invented the atomic bomb. Story goes that once he'd invented it, he spent the rest of his life working for peace.

Just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

God is in the details

I spent eight and a half hours in an editing suite yesterday. We're in the process of creating a 60 minute DRTV spot. And, I should hasten to mention, this isn't even the only job on my plate. Cue the sound of the world's tiniest violin.

Creating something of this scale is really an endurance contest. It's like running a marathon -- you need to keep your energy and your wits about you because, the second you lose focus, the whole thing could go to hell in a handcart.

Considering all the time and effort that goes inito producing movies, it's really a wonder how so many bad ones get produced. R

Sunday, March 13, 2011

And Everything is Going Fine

Long before there was reality TV or bloggers or people largely making a living out of being themselves, there was Spalding Gray.

This New York performance artist, was founder of the Wooster Group, actor and storyteller of epic proportion. He is perhaps the finest storyteller of his generation.

He managed to make a fairly lucrative career out of turning his life into a series of monologues.

If you haven't seen it already, you need to plant yourself in front your big screen TV and watch Swimming to Cambodia. Even if you haven't seen The Killing Fields, you'll find plenty about Spalding to be interested in. His timing is impeccable. I guarantee he'll have you hanging on every word.

I've followed him for years -- read or seen all 19 of his monologues. Read his novel, Impossible Vacation. And mourned his untimely loss when, after a slow and painful recovery from a car crash in Ireland, he ended his life in 2004.

That's why I was particularly moved by yesterday's screening of "And Everything is Going to Be Fine." Steven Soderberg undertook the task of splicing together a lifetime of archival monologues, interviews and home movies.

This is a film for Spalding junkies, like me. There's no outside voice to make sense of what we're seeing. There's no context for his considerable legacy.If this is your first introduction to him, I'm afraid you'd be lost.

But i loved it.

It allows us a rare glimpse into the private life of a very public man.

Seeing rare interview footage of Spalding with his father, pictures of his mother or home movies of Spalding exulting at his son's antics feels a bit like being invited into JD Salinger's house.

We've always imagined what it looked we're seeing it for the first time.

Everyone in yesterday's showing at the Bell Lightbox stayed until the final credits were over. I wonder if they all miss his voice as much as I do.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Buy your own damn kleenex

I seem to be the only person in my department who buys their own damn kleenex. And, judging by the speed with which it declines, many of my team members seem to be suffering from serious sinus issues.

While generous by nature, I find this pretty irritating.

If you've ever been a smoker, you'll recognize the type. The cigarette borrower. This is the guy or girl who claims not to be a smoker when, in reality, they smoke about about half a pack a day....of your cigarettes.

I'm not going to say anything. Nothing at all. But as the next wave of cold and flu action hits, I have a special gift for everyone. Hot pepper flakes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thanks for the memories

It's becoming increasingly clear that my Mother is suffering from dementia.

She had a doctor's appointment yesterday and I had complied a list of some of the troubling behaviours she's been exhibiting.

It's hard not to feel like a heel while rhyming off a litany of transgressions like:

Forgetting significant events in her life -- including my (her only child's) birth date.
Withdrawing large sums of cash for no reason.
Greeting complete strangers like friends.
Forgetting how to cook or that she's eaten at all.
Forgetting to collect the mail or leaving it unopened.
Forgetting how to do simple things like use the television remote.
Putting things in the wrong spot -- like opened soup in the cupboard.
Having difficulty carrying on conversations, often staring blankly into space.
Forgetting friends and phone numbers that she's known all her life.
Losing sight of me in the grocery store parking lot, and waiting patiently...behind someone else's car.

Unmarried and childless, I sometimes wonder who'll advocate on my behalf when I'm my Mother's age. It would be too easy to take advantage of someone like my mother. She has become a 7 year old in a 78 year old's body.

I mentioned this to my best friend and told him he'd better be ready. I'm getting all set to become a burden on him.