Learning, the act of gaining knowledge, is a craft unto itself. It starts with questions - the what ifs, how abouts, whys, . . . leading from the unknown to the known, through inquiry, experimentation, travel, and of course pure accident.

This is about how it happens in my life.

Information Filters

For the past few years I've had a rather specific cognitive bias: filtering out anything that reminds me of what I no longer have.  This year I've learned that not only is ignorance not bliss, it is unachievable for a curious mind.
Two years ago I managed to be completely numb to Fathers Day: when Dad died suddenly in September 2009, in the midst of what was already a very tough year, numb seemed both natural and necessary.  Fathers Day didn't exist because I no longer had my Dad to celebrate.
Last year, in turn, I felt painfully bombarded with Father's Day messages.  The 3 weeks of flyers and messages, some of them really over the top, brought both resentment and regret.  And it lingered well beyond mid-June, a malaise with no cure.
The resentment is, of course, a function of regret: not spending the time I had; not telling him how much he meant to me.
Whether we like it or not, our societal constructs entail some very clearly defined roles based on gender and age.  Being a Father demands a mix of hard-headed responsibility, soft-hearted kindness and a persona that is both authoritative and welcoming. 
My Dad did not always achieve that ideal, and (like of all us) sometimes fell short of the mark.  What I know for certain is that he wanted to be a good Father; and he kept aiming for that.
This year I can celebrate Fathers Day.
The numbness is gone.
More importantly, so is the resentment.  It faded away in light of the abiding confidence that comes of knowing I was deeply loved and valued by my Dad.
The regret? That lingers faintly, and may never go away. 
That is, perhaps, a good thing: regret has (e)motive power in the here and now to help us avoid more of it in the future.  
Regret tells me that I cannot change my past; and besides, there would never be enough time or words to give a loved one everything in our hearts.
Regret also tells me that for the loved ones with me now, I can and should use all the time and words I have, every day.
So I am ditching my filter, rejecting my cognitive bias and embracing again what is no longer lost.
Happy Fathers Day.

This is not about . . . or why it's never just semantics

One of the most useful things to come out of my time at UofA School of Library and Information Studies is rooted in one of those most Library-ish of concepts: cataloguing.  An essential (if not the primary) point of cataloguing is findability of the content, that is, what is actually included/mentioned/covered in the material being catalogued.
The precision of the catalogue record speaks to what is. The record never tells you what isn't covered. Not only would the every record be infinite, but it would be impossible to find anything specific.  Without firm rules and precise language, well, you have the Internet.

Searching online can be joyous or frustrating, depending on context and constraints.  Even the most expert, the most intuitive searcher can be stymied by  simple words and simple biases.
I am neither of the above, although I have had moments of each.

Like the hermit crab, Dear Hubby and I will soon be moving into a new Home, one more suited to our plans. We'll be acquiring a used motorhome and hitting the road this summer, westward bound.

The broader term for motorhome is recreational vehicle, or RV. This concept includes everything from tent trailers to campers to van conversions to standard motorhomes (20-30 ft) to what are called "park model" RVs which are no different that what you see in a residential trailer park, at 40+ft long. You aren't hooking up and moving on to a new campground with a park model. It, along with many 5th wheel and other similar style RVs are plunked down somewhere and often never moved again.

When I think "vehicle" I think motored, powered, moving under it's own steam as it were. I don't think of a trailer as a vehicle. A trailer is just a platform on wheels- OK, a really fancy platform in some cases, but still. It's not a vehicle.
But, it is.

The result of my bias, combined with such simple (and therefore broad) words means that I ended up looking at dealer sites that absolutely did not have anything at all remotely what I was looking for.  I found lots of dealers with lots of trailers, campers, tent trailers, 5th wheels and park models.  Not so many with motorhomes. 
The good news is that all the extra stuff I found was after I had already identified a few companies based on the intuition and expertise I do have.  I wanted to be sure I didn't miss other options, other firms, so I tweaked the search and looked at results that were remotely promising.  I now know more about the RV world than I needed to. No big: an informed decision is the result.
Catchphrases, verbal shorthand, stereotypes: the kernel of truth only goes so far. What we think of as synonyms are sometimes hierarchical; the broader term sometimes implies a direction quite at odds with the more specific term; our simple cognitive bias via our context acts as blinkers. Sometimes it isn't always obvious when the words are the same but the meaning is different.

It's like the saying, "Love your librarian." The public thinks: love "every one who works in a library is" my librarian. But really it means: love "only the fraction who have a specific degree, although lord knows why it needs to be a Masters, can be called " my librarian.

It's never just semantics.

This is what Partnering looks like

A little piece of paradise.
That's how I have referred to the "bright and cheerful" East York bungalow that Dear Hubby and I have called Home since 2003. 


It's a powerful word, one that evokes a deep instinctual sense that merges person with place.

When it came time for us to sell our Home the question was not "do we get a realtor" but "who do we use".   As a long time Airmiles collector Century21 was always an option, until Dear Hubby came Home one day and said a friend from the old days was a realtor, and we should contact her.

That's how I met Helga Teitsson of Helga's Homes.

Real estate is a competitive business, and like many industries that have historically relied on information asymmetries, the Internet has changed the landscape for ever.
In some cases this means huge billboards and other forms of large scale advertising, followed by flyers in the mail box. 
But ask yourself: how does that help you, the client, sell or buy your home?

Helga Teitsson takes a different approach.  Strange to say, but she knows it's not about her. She knows it's about the Home, whether buying or selling.  Helga brings her years of expertise and market knowledge into every relationship. And when it comes to selling, she literally invests in the process of making sure your Home hits the market at its best.  She becomes your partner.
  • Within 24 hours Helga dropped off 30 boxes to help us get started with the decluttering.
  • She arranged for Hendrik Glastra CSP of HG Staging and reDesign to come in, give advice on furniture placement etc; he provided all the extras such as throws, pillows and lamps.
  • She also had Alex Morias of Video Listings come in to do the photos and video that made our Home come alive online.
  • Jeff Clarke CET of Baker Street Home Inspection Services did a pre-listing inspection thanks to Helga.
Our house sold in late March, in 5 days, over asking, almost 2 months after I first met Helga.  At that first meeting she made it clear that getting our Home sold was as important to her as it was to us. She marshaled her own resources, brought in her trusted partners, and guided us through a tumultuous process smiling and laughing.

So, if you're looking for a Home in Toronto, contact Helga Teitsson of Helga's Homes.  You'll be really glad you did.

Claim Check

Do you play solitaire? I love it.  I'm not sure who taught me to play it's most basic form, but I'm sure it was either Mom or Gran, and it was early on in life.  Of course solitaire is far from a single game, with significant differences in structure and play. Over the years I have learned many different versions of solitaire, and admittedly I've forgotten the details of some of them . . .

My favourite hard copy version requires no playing surface at all: it can be played completely in hand. I learned it from a dorm mate and fellow food server while at Canadian Bible College (her name is buried somewhere in the folds of my brain, but I could describe her, and for some reason am sure I recall *her* room mate's name . . . ah the vagaries of memory).
So no surprise really one of the first things I downloaded on to my iPad back in 2010 was a version of solitaire called Real Solitaire Free by Edgerift Inc.  Free to me means ads in the app - no problem as far as I'm concerned (although I trip the ad bar with my hand occasionally).

The only ad I almost ever see is for the ad-free version of Real Solitaire because most of the time I am not connected to wifi.

Here's how Edgerift Inc markets their Real Solitaire for iPad game:
It's the most realistic solitaire game for iPad, ad free
The crux of their marketing message, their key claim, is "most realistic".

If you play solitaire, even if it is only ever in the digital realm, you must be aware of the need to
  1. deal out the game 
  2. gather the cards and shuffle at the end of the game
Knowing these 2 essential aspects of solitaire, it begs the question:
is "most realistic" really a claim you want to make?  
Because really, a realistic digital game of solitaire would be much more labour intensive, and that would kind of defeat the purpose of the digital platform in the first place.

Of course, it could be that the folks at Edgerift Inc just don't seem to consider the hard copy analog version of the game as real solitaire; what then is the real in "realistic"?

Advertising and marketing are not the same, but are very closely related; twins, but not identical maybe.  Together they craft a message and find a way to get it out to possible customers/patrons/members/donors effectively and accurately. They make claims for their product/service/organization which they hope will resonate and lead to the desired actions/outcomes. 

Great sounding claims don't always make sense.  Maybe it's time for a claim check.

Living the Political Life

It is very important to remember that politicians are NOT a unique species; they are in fact a rather excellent representation of the species.  We turn up our noses at both big P and little p politics, yet doing so is really a denial of our very humanity. 
That some people choose to live more public lives-by running for civic office, association positions, corporate boards of directors, union management -regardless of motivation, provides each of us the opportunity every day to learn something more about ourselves and our societies.
Politics, political activity, politicians: these are defining characteristics of human civilization even when it is presented to us in the form of head butts and decision making under the influence.
So, remember the words of Vaclav Havel:
If the hope of the world lies in human consciousness, then it is obvious that intellectuals cannot avoid forever assuming their share of responsibility for the world and hiding their distaste for politics beneath an alleged need for independence - Speech to Congress, Washington DC Feb 1990
The events across the pond reminded me of an email I wrote way back in 2008 in response to a piece by Lawrence Solomon in which he decried the lack of bi-partisanship back here.  I've included excerpts of my email to him below.  

Feb 24 2008
Dear Mr. Solomon
Your recent article, Common Ground, struck a chord with me. Such matters have been on my mind recently as well.  Cooperation – or, in political terms, bi-partisanship – is sorely lacking in Canadian politics and has been for some time.  The decimation of the Progressive Conservatives after Mulroney certainly helped reinforce the idea of the Liberals as the natural ruling party and saviour of all Canadians . . . and the need to work together as Parliament disappeared from Canadian politics for over a decade.  The foundation of true bi-partisanship, respect, is largely absent, and the behaviour of our (not always so) Honourable Members is akin to that of, well, pre-schoolers.
But think back to kindergarten, Mr. Solomon, when we all learned to play nicely together in the sandbox and to share our toys.  Cooperation, patience, sharing and respect are learned behaviours, so important that an entirely new grade, kindergarten, was created.
That aside, the adversarial turn runs deeper than just within federal politics. I think it is more insidious at the inter-governmental level because it strikes a blow against the cooperative federalism envisaged in our Constitution. 
. . .
I loved my first year poli sci course for what it taught me about our Constitution, and the specific sections that had the most relevance in our daily lives, such as sections 91-93.  Professor McCullough made clear how important the division of powers is in support of the Constitution’s goal of providing for Peace, Order and Good Government.  This division was never meant hierarchically; rather it was meant to serve the diverse needs of governing a large country efficiently.  
 . . . 
Most Canadians would be surprised to learn the federal government is not in primacy over the provinces; they would be surprised to learn that municipalities are non existent in the constitution, and their ability to thrive is due largely to the whims of their provincial governments, not federal; that the federal government cannot just decide to spend money to support our welfare state which is the responsibility of the provinces.
 . . . 
The political and economic reality of Canada forms a black hole of knowledge for Canadians, including those running the country.
. . .
We learned how to play nicely once before . . . maybe a refresher course is needed. Is there a day care on the Hill?

The thing is, we ALL live political lives already.  We each can live more effective political lives by assuming responsibility for at least our small part.
If you'd like to brush up on your Canadian political knowledge I highly recommend City Politics Canada by James Lightbody and The Canadian Founding by Janet Ajzenstat.

Random Thoughts on Roles and Responsibilities

It's good that this discussion is happening.  I've got a few points to add. I am a proud member of the CLA and I make NO claim to speak for the Canadian Library Association.
  1. Work place based collectives advocate for their members, no one else, and certainly not for any "profession".  The use of language resonating with professionalism is a tool used for achieving bargaining goals. 
  2. In any Library there is a wide range of skills, training, degrees and responsibilities represented by the collective, not just those who have chosen an MLS.  
  3. What is good for the Library and what is good for the people represented by the collective are not the same thing, and can in fact be quite incompatible. A dollar spent on wages and benefits is not spent on the materials and content: you know the stuff that people actually go to a Library to use
  4. Libraries do not exist to employ Librarians
  5. Libraries are for the Members (a term us Library users prefer to be called, according to David Lankes in his Atlas), in that service community
  6. Members using a Library are concerned about service and product, not with the specific education of the person involved in providing that service or product
  7. The current educational path that within the Library community leads to one becoming a "Librarian" is a very recent construct in the grand history of Libraries and the Librarians that serve in them.  
  8. Librarians were originally born of passion for the written word, an understanding of it's power, a desire to serve the conjoined needs of content and it's users, and a willingness to learn via apprenticeship and immersion in the arts of Librarianship  
  9. The role of a voluntary association is by nature very different than that of the work place based collective, regardless of the industry.  Getting involved in the details of any one workplace isn't the point.
  10. In the case of the Canadian Library Association, advocating for Libraries and those who work in them cannot include taking a position on one side of the bargaining table, if only because of the simple fact that the CLA has active and passionate members on both sides of that table. 
  11. Advocating for Libraries is really about advocating for the user members of our Libraries, not for any one system or way of doing things or history of who does them in our Libraries
  12. The specifics of any Library workplace may be of concern to the CLA, or to any other voluntary Library Association, in so far as any number of activites negatively affect the user members served by that workplace
  13. Given points 3-6  and 9-10 above, it is simply wrong to suggest that the CLA has not upheld it's Code of Ethics by failing to engage in workplace collective bargaining politics
  14. A fuller investigation of the CLA's advocacy activities demonstrates significant success across many areas that touch the lives of every day Canadians, whether they are Library members or not. 
  15. The good news is that the CLA's successes benefit Libraries and ALL those who work in them in myriad ways, even those who are disdainful and sometimes quite hateful towards it.
  16. Seeking some new kind of professional body for librarians is a purely Provincial responsibility. Such a badge will do nothing to enhance the abilities or skills of someone interested in serving in a Library, but it might make the chance of finding a job more difficult when it leads higher staff costs. 
  17. Choosing to engage constructively with others through a voluntary association on projects that take time and create long term benefits is more fruitful than complaining about what is lacking now