Ford strikes again – and what it says about society and government

Surprise, surprise, Rob Ford has made the news again. The Globe and Mail has reported they saw a video of Ford smoking from a crack pipe. The dealer who filmed Ford says this video is from this past weekend.

I know what everyone is thinking – again?? and cue the jokes!

I feel this ongoing Ford scandal and media frenzy highlights two major issues: a deficit within municipal politics, and the way society treats drug addiction.

Let’s pretend this issue was to do with the Prime Minister or a Premiere for a second (heck, even a leader of an opposition). What is different and what is the same? All positions require voters to elect the individual into the legislature, however, in municipal government, there are no parties. There is not a ‘back up’ person or group of people below the leader that hold the leader accountable. If the Prime Minister was smoking crack and doing similar things as Ford, the public would not need to worry. The legislation would remove him from power and the party would select an interim leader and an election would likely be triggered. Just like when Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty resigned (not over drug use, obviously) and Kathleen Wynn was later selected by the Ontario Liberals to be the leader. But, at the municipal level, there is no party! There is no accountability! There is no alternative leader! Sure, there is the deputy mayor, but this person is not part of the mayor’s party and has no power to overthrow the mayor. This deficit can only be addressed by the province, as MacFarlane points out in Globe and Mail article. MacFarlane notes that Wynn would need to grant municipal governments the ability to impeach a mayor in dire situations such as Ford’s. Moreover, this is troubling for our municipalities as it proves that a mayor can be tied with criminals and face no penalty. How can a mayor represent and lead a city while fueling the drug market at the same time? It seems hypocritical to me and is not a message I want our children to believe is okay.

Secondly, Ford demonstrates our views on drug addiction. Ford the butt of many jokes, even across the USA where our news rarely is noticed and most people have no clue who or how our government is and works. Also, Ford and his family have been publicly denying his drug issue. I remember seeing an interview with his mother and sister and they believed his issue was his weight, and not alcohol or drugs. I have the feeling it is not all that uncommon for loved ones to make excuses when a family member is struggling. Addiction is a hard and evil thing to struggle with and dragging his addiction through the news for our entertainment is wrong. I believe it is bad enough that he and his family had denied his issue (though maybe they address it privately – who knows), but to me, it is no laughing matter. Seeing someone out of control is sad, not funny. This is not just with Ford, though. We see it with many celebrities. These days it seems that all celebrities visit rehab for one reason or another, like it is a prerequisite for being famous. But why are our idols so driven to drugs and alcohol? Is it the media? Is it the stress? Or has it always been like this but social media is simply making it more visible? Whatever the reason, I believe we need to stop using these addictions as entertainment or a badge of honour and start solving the problem. We need to work on preventing addictions before they develop, rather than focus on mopping up the mess afterwards.

Fortunately, Ford has publicly noted he is taking a break from his campaign to “seek help” for his alcoholism. Again – no mention of drug addiction. 

October 27, 2014 can’t come soon enough so Toronto can move on and the Ford family can refocus their attention towards their personal issues.

Advertisements

Why Your Dog Needs to be on a Leash

When we adopted Mable close to a year ago, I had no idea how politically charged pet ownership is. It is right up there with having a child. Everyone thinks they know what is best for your pet and everyone has a different way of doing things. We have our methods, and we accept that people use alternative methods, but I believe there are a few basic elements that are universal. Such as humane treatment, and being respectful of others.

Mable is special as she is considered a ‘reactive dog’. This means that when she another dog, she goes crazy. She jumps up on her back legs, she barks (not a friendly bark), and she ignores anything we say to her. Mable has come a long way after corrective conditioning training, but it is still a daily struggle. Our worst scenario is an off-leash dog. On two occasions, we have had an off leash dog charge Mable, both instances set us back substantially in her corrective training and I 100% blame the owner of the other dog as they were not able to control their dog. In both instances, our dog left limping away from a “really friendly” dog that failed to read our dog’s body language.

The first time we took Mable for a walk

The first time we took Mable for a walk

Now, like I said, pet ownership can be heated and if you have a bubbly friendly dog, you probably have never thought twice about walking your dog off leash. I am here to explain why it is a bad idea, apart from it simply being illegal.

1. Each dog is unique

Just because your dog is friendly with everyone, doesn’t mean the dog they are approaching is. You are putting both your dog, and the other dog at risk of entering a dog fight. Don’t assume all dogs have the same temperament and don’t assume your dog will read my dog’s signals to leave her alone correctly.

2. If your recall isn’t 100%, you are playing with fire

We have so many people who walk their dog off leash where we live and I have noticed that NONE of them have perfect recall. Your dog(s) come when they are called? Great. But do they listen immediately when being stimulated by the sight of another dog, rabbit, etc? No? Then put on a leash. I have yet to see a single person able to get their dog to return with one call where I live, and to me, that means your dog needs to be on a leash

3. Off leash on your property without a fence/supervision is plain stupid

One house here lets their dog out front to do its business, while it doesn’t leave the edge of their property, it will cross the sidewalk to the boulevard. And they are not outside with it. This is extremely risky as it threatens my dog, who is on leash and sees a barking (tiny and yappy) dog racing up to it with no owner insight. I have no way of telling your dog to back off.

4. You can’t control the environment

When out on a walk, you can’t control if a car cuts you off, revs their engine, or if children are playing on the driveway or wild animals are going to dart by. By keeping your dog on leash you are protecting them. You are protecting them from being hit by a careless driver, or scaring a child that is uneasy around animals. You are protecting them from all the elements you can’t control like you can in your fenced backyard.

 

Overall, I understand the allure of walking your dog off leash. I wish we had that luxury, but we don’t. And even if we did, we would never do it in a non-controlled space. If you want your dog to spend time off leash, visit a dog park, or go on an isolated trail that you are familiar with during off hours (middle of the week in the morning for example). Or sign up for a socialization class where your dog can romp around with other friendly dogs in a controlled and supervised setting. But please, PLEASE, do not walk your dog off leash. The risk is too high.

Book Review: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chis Hadfield

I finished reading Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth today. He offers a glimpse into the world of an astronaut, beyond the image he created via social media images and videos. I enjoyed the book, but won’t be putting it on my favourite book list. I recently heard Hadfield speak at a corporate event and enjoyed that event more than his book. But! The book is good none the less and is worth checking out if you are interested in learning more about the life of a Canadian astronaut or are simply looking to learn more about the man behind the hugely popular Space Oddity music video.

I will be honest, I have little to no interest in space and the first time I heard his name, I said Chris who?. But this book can easily be enjoyed without an interest in space. Chris offers a series of life mantras (my words, he does not call them mantras) such as “the power of negative thinking, being a zero, and climbing down the ladder”. Each one is fairly simple and not all that unique from other popular life or leadership philosophies out there. However, pairing them with near death stories makes them more interesting. Throughout the book I had to remind myself that Hadfield is an extremely high functioning and disciplined person and his career path has helped fine tune this. I for one, could not follow such a strict life (nor would I want to), so I had to take his obsessively detailed and structured style with a grain of salt. 

Some positive things I took away from the book include his philosophy of aiming to be a zero and planning for the worst. Hadfield considers being a zero as a person who comes on board and isn’t trying to cause more work, or boast and show off. I think this is a good path to take when entering new situations. Learn as much as you can, do all the tasks (even the crappy ones), and try to help without getting in the way. As time progresses, you will understand the organization more and be able to contribute more. As Hadfield notes, this is when you can become a plus one. But even at plus one level, you should try to act as a zero to prevent developing an arrogant or disconnected leadership style. Secondly, planning for the worse is always a good idea. He parallels this with driving. I was trained at a driving school that taught defensive driving: try to anticipate what others on the road may do (and assume everyone else is a terrible driver), so you can react and avoid an accident. It makes sense to apply this to the rest of your life too. That way when things do go wrong, you aren’t left there with your jaw hitting the floor in frozen shock.

Some things that I found to detract from the book included his writing style and repetitiveness. Hadfield uses a casual voice in the book and at times I found this led to confusion due to an excess of commons, colons, and dashes. And in a few spots I found terrible sentence structure or grammar. I attribute this to hasty editing in order to get the book out quickly. I am not perfect at writing either, but when it led me to stop reading and think did I just read that right?, it caused a red flag to go up. I also found he was repetitive in his story telling. He would often refer back to previously told stories or chapters and, in my opinion, provide to large of summary to re-jog the reader’s memory. I also found when he would explain his life mantra after a story, it got repetitive. The mantras were straight forward and I got a bit bored near the end of chapters when he was laying everything out again.

Overall, it was a good book and I am happy to support the Canadian Space Agency and Hadfield. I also found the book interesting as it provided some insight about the man inside the space suit. He will be teaching at my University (I believe starting in the fall) and even though I am not in his field, it is nice to learn a bit more about a star teacher coming to campus.

Books, Cats, and Summer

It has been over a year since my last post (March 2013). A lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same. Some of the change has been the reason behind ignoring this blog. I would often pull it up, but couldn’t come up with anything worth saying. But I miss it, and I have a bit of a break in my schedule right now, so I thought I would try it again.

Since March last year, four big things have happened:

1) I graduated college

2) I got a new summer job at the local Humane Society

3) I adopted a dog

4) I started university

First of all, my dog (Mable) is amazing. She is about 7 years old and we think she is a mix of a cattle dog and German Shepherd. She had/has some issues with trust and other dogs, but has come so far in the past year and I am so proud of her. I can’t imagine life without her.

Mable

Mable and her football.

We got Mable 7 days into my new job at the Humane Society. This job, which I am returning to in a few weeks, has been a challenge and joy. I am constantly amazed by the dedicated staff there, especially the adoption and animal care workers. These girls (they happen to be all female staff) put everything in their jobs with little reward. Some animals come into the shelter in such terrible shape, your heart aches for them, and sometimes, they are beyond saving, and the staff have to deal with saying goodbye to the animals.* Other days, there are amazing stories of families being reunited with lost pets, or the “under dog/cat” finally finds a home and we all celebrate! The highs and lows they deal with are drastic and I admire all their dedication. My job at the shelter is to assist with the promotion of cat adoptions. This seasonal job is required due to the influx of pregnant cats and kittens we get during the spring and summer. This includes working with local pet stores, coordinating adoption events, and working in the community to promote adoption.

I learned a lot last summer. I am often told I come off really shy or timid at new jobs. This is actually more anxiety or stress in new situations than shyness. Once I am comfortable with you, you will see I am really not shy at all. I integrated into College very quickly and working and being involved on campus allowed me to become deeply connected with the community. However, when I left college and went to work at the shelter, I realized that I never really dealt with the social anxiety that I struggled with in the past because I had forgotten what it was like to be in a new environment. This made my onboarding process take a bit longer than I wanted at the shelter, and I think it was escalated by the high stress level the summer has with the shelter running at over capacity. I was also surprised by the animal handling. I have grown up with a cat, so I thought I would be fine with them. But, that was an oversimplification on my part as not all cats are the same, and many cats in the shelter are under a lot of stress making them less than pleasant at times. Learning how to handle cats became another new experience that proved to me how much I had to learn about the animal care industry.  I will admit, I didn’t deal with it as head on as I wanted and I am happy to be returning to learn more and to gain greater confidence in the role.

I am surrounded by this sort of adorable sight in my job.

I am surrounded by this sort of adorable sight in my job.

I am currently reading Chris Hadfield’s book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth,  and he discusses the importance of planning for the worse. This is not meant to say you have to be a pessimist, but rather to be prepared. I am using this to prep for returning to work. I am going to plan for the worse (our pet stores can’t have our cats anymore, our big event is a flop, a volunteer cancels at the last minute, we hit capacity and a shut down is required due to an illness, etc). I think this is a good tool to use in any career, not just space exploration. If you want a highly effective team, it is best to work through different scenarios, have back up plans, and rehearse emergency procedures so that it becomes second nature. It reduces the panic and delays that happened when something doesn’t go as planned. I will write more about this when I am done his book.

*The shelter does not euthanize an animal that has a treatable or manageable health condition, regardless of their length of stay.

 

At university, I am majoring in Political Science – Public Policy and Administration. I am really enjoying the political science area of study. My school focuses more on international governance and political economy than Canadian politics, though we still have a small selection of Canadian courses. This is the main reason I wasn’t blogging during the school year and will likely stop in September again. The program requires a lot of reading and writing, and I don’t feel like writing a blog right after I write a handful of essays. Moving forward, I am looking forward to taking more policy courses and a course they offer on the Canadian Constitution, but that will be next winter. But more on that later.

For now, I am enjoying a few weeks off between school and work to catch up on some reading, some chores around the house, and play time with Mable. I will take this time to review any books I complete and will try a bit harder to keep this going throughout the summer.

P.S. It is April – why is it so cold and snowy??

My Hiatus – Why I am ok with the fact that I have neglected my blog

While some say it is not good etiquette to point out when you have abandoned your blog, I am going to away. I know I have been MIA, and here is why. And why I don’t feel guilty about it.

I am in my last term at Conestoga College and have a mere four weeks left until I am done this chapter of my life. I got into University! But more about that later.

This term has been the most challenging, frustrating, yet rewarding term at Conestoga thus far. I am taking 6 courses, 3 of them being: 

Canadian Labour Relations:
This has been a really interesting and challenging course. I am familiar with unions, however I have never placed much thought into their role in Canada. We are currently working on a mock negotiation on the teacher dispute happening here (Bill 115). I represent the Ministry of Education and have to go up against the union soon. It has really opened my eyes to what the Government and teachers are battling over right now. On one hand, teachers have a well paid job with excellent benefits, other the other hand, the government is walking on hot coals trying to remove their right to strike without establishing them as essential service workers. I look forward to the outcome of this assignment, as well as the outcome of the actual event in real life.

International Business:
I will admit, I am not very ‘cultured’. I have only lived in Ontario, BC, and visited NYC. There is much more in this world that I would love to see, and the overwhelming mystery of it is being unveiled in this course. The teacher has worked in many countries and I have found it really interesting to hear about the challenges and changes he had to make in each country in order to fit into their customs. I guess this course really helps you realize how diverse the world is and how much immigrants go through when trying to join the Canadian culture, even though we embraces multiculturalism. 

Business Ethics:
This has single handily been the best course I have taken to date. I have struggled to pin point what my favourite course is, the one that makes you want to run home and start the assignment right away. And for me, it is this one. I am writing a paper with a peer regarding the responsibility (if any) a social media platform should hold for the content posted on it. It is taking to many places of the world and periods in time as we develop our arguments for both sides. I will be sure to post this essay once it is complete as I believe it is a topic that needs to be discussed. It has also made me re-examine my online life. Like many in my generation, much of life evolves around the internet and I have a fairly strong presence. It wasn’t until we discussed the value of privacy and the growing trend of people having open social media accounts that I really evaluated myself. I keep my Facebook private for friends, and my LinkedIn, Twitter, and WordPress open for a more professional outlet. I like it this way. I can use Facebook to connect with close friends and family, and use my other platforms to maintain professional connections. I do face that growing issue of when an acquaintance or co-worker is Facebook friend level however, and I do not have a solution for it. I wish I had an answer as to how to determine who should be on what account, but for now, simply having the discussion is good for me.

This leads me to University. I got accepted to the University of Waterloo for their Arts & Business program as a transfer student, meaning I will not have to do four years of studies (yay! – hopefully be done in about 2.5 years). I have time yet, but I do need to select a major at some point. Political Science keeps coming back to me, but I want to make sure I can take more courses related to Ethics and Philosophy. I have considered majoring in Philosophy, but I am not sure it will aid in a career path suitable for me. I don’t have to select my major for some time, so I am enjoying digging through the course requirements for the different majors and discovering what I could learn.

Overall, this post is mainly an update. I am knee deep in school and love it. If I could offer anyone advice, it would be this: If you found something you love to do, don’t be scared to step away from the computer and actually do it. “Liking” it on Facebook or “Pinning” it on Pinterest wont make it happen, you have to get up and do it.

 I will start up blogging more often again, (including professional posts) once exams are done at the end of April and I have a little more free time. But for now, it is back to the books I go!

Positive Inner Dialogue and Underwater Wheelchairs!

I was watching TEDx and discovered this AMAZING story of the power of word association and assumed limitations. See the video here.

Sue Austin found herself in a power wheelchair due to illness, and quickly realized that wheelchairs were symbols of limitations to others. She set out to change this through art and…deep sea diving.

Sue took something that forced people to look at a wheelchair in a new way. It is not a limitation, or aid to her, it is a transportation device through the deep sea.

While we may not all have a radical thing to change like Sue did, we all do have the ability to to change our inner dialogue.

We all face times in our lives where we say something can’t be done. I can’t run a marathon, I can’t learn calculus, I can’t get that job I want, I can’t make a change in the world.

These negative thought patterns tell us to stop, and spreads to others.

Change your cannnot into a can. And remember, if someone can scuba dive with a wheelchair, you too can do whatever you set your mind to.