Learning, politics, reading, Reflection, Technology

Summer Reading

This isn’t an exhaustive list – l read whodunits and lighthearted novels in the summer in addition to the endless newspapers and magazines – but some time ago I decided that hard cover and paperback books still count. Those pictured above are important and life changing.

With the Harari trio I started in the middle with Homo Deus as a Christmas present from family members who know I like this kind of thing. The second earlier one, Sapiens, was inspired by reading the first – and the last, 21 Lessons, was immediately on my must read list. I note that within days of publication it is already second on Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller List with its release only this September.

Harari can be described as a cultural historian and these three books deal with the the future, the past, and the present. He is insightful, opinionated and always provocative. Critical of both religion and politics for their insularity and selfcenterdness, he repeatedly says we need a new story for a global world. Journey of the Universe just might fill that role and I am curious whether he has read it. The authors are not cited in the index in any of them.

Journey of the Universe is a book, a movie – available via a website with that name – and also a conference at Yale in which the last book in the image is a Christian reflection on the story. It’s focused not solely on the planet but on an even bigger story. Author Brain Swimme is quoted on the back cover of Living Cosmology saying that mulling over the contents could be life changing. I agree. I don’t know whether all faith groups have responded to this – but they should. More on this in coming posts.


Parent, Adult, Child


The child in all of us sometimes expects the adult to put on the brakes.  Stop me before I get hurt, it says.  The child also looks up to the parent and gets upset when the powerful figure shows feet of clay – and hopes that he will become more circumspect – presidential perhaps.

And then there is the parent in us all.  Sometimes we are indulgent – boys will be boys, isn’t he kinda cute when he misbehaves.  But something pushes us over the edge – he doesn’t listen to me, he’s out of control.

When it’s all in the family, usually we can count others to step in when we lose it.  But now these games are playing out on an international stage.  The entertaining child got himself elected as president.  Things aren’t going as planned.  he gets up at five o’clock in the morning and issues tweets.  Everything is someone else’s fault.  We worry about bullying of school kids on the internet.  But getting back at your political opponents on Twitter takes this to a whole new level.

As a Canadian, I watch this with a mixture of disbelief and familiarity.  I’ve noticed for years that America defines itself in terms of being against somebody – Communist Russia, gays, Isis – but also Republicans or Democrats depending on your starting point.  Terrorism terrifies because it can’t be dealt with through conventional warfare – and the enemy might be sitting next to you.  The fear is totally irrational – nine Americans dying per year via terrorism since 2001 versus 12,000 shot to death via non-terrorism incidents according to the New York Times. And to make it worse, Americans have been responsible for those terrorism related deaths – not foreigners.

It’s easy to see the problem.  It’s harder to see a solution when what unites the opposing sides is their fear.  Instant access to news and our addiction to it makes it almost impossible to step back.  How to make America safe again is not going to be easy.  It’s not safety from terrorists that is the issue so much as relief from its own fears.

Meanwhile the sun continues to rise – there are clouds but in the larger world there is much more light than darkness.


effectiveness, Leadership, media, politics, Reflection, reporting, workplace



When you are a reporter for the New York Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, the BBC and The Huffington Post and find yourself excluded from a White House Press conference this past Friday, you need help with bullying when it happens again.  So I looked online to find some advice:

 Act with Awareness, Calm, Respect, and Confidence

Projecting a positive, assertive attitude means holding your head high, keeping your back straight, walking briskly, looking around, and having a peaceful face and body. Staying aware also helps you to notice so that you can deal with it sooner rather than later.

Leave in a positive powerful way

 Leave in an assertive way, saying something neutral in a normal tone of voice like “See you later!” or “Have a nice day!”

Set Boundaries About Disrespectful or Unsafe Behavior

Your values are to have a welcoming and safe environment for everyone – and that being cruel or hurtful is wrong whether it happens in person, via social media, by texting, online or in any other way.

Use Your Voice

Leave and go to an adult to report what happened and get help as soon as possible.

Protect Your Feelings from Name-Calling and Hurtful Behavior

The reality is that, no matter how committed we are to safety and respect, not all places have the same commitment – and even when they do, people will still make mistakes. . . . saying, writing, emailing, or texting in ways that are hurtful to anyone makes problems bigger, not better.

Speak Up for Positive Inclusion

Being left out for reasons that have nothing to do with behavior is a major form of bullying

Be Persistent in Getting Help From Busy Adults

Learning how to have polite firm words, body language and tone of voice even under pressure and to not give up when asking for help is a life-long skill.

Use Physical Self-Defense as a Last Resort

Help for the kid in us all:  Excerpted verbatim  from https://www.kidpower.org


politics, Reflection



It hasn’t been this interesting in a long time.

Women on the march – women silenced in the senate – reading letters and legal opinions on Facebook instead of looking at pictures of cats and cute babies – lawyers offering free services at airports. Has there ever been a time since Watergate when people are so interested in the evening news?

Of course, our Canadian Prime Minister got bumped from almost any mention in the New York times on the day of his Washigton visit this week. We Canadians can calm down and see how little we really matter in the scheme of things.   Of course our Canadian newspapers and media presented an alternate universe with its front page headlines, commentaries and photos.  But switch to the New York Times and PBS and we know more about Nordstrom’s merchandising policy that what will happen to the North American Free Trade Agreement.  The Israeli Prime Minister is likely to get the same not-with-it reception from the US Twittterer-in-Chief.

The groups that are totally forgotten these days are all those hurting Americans who saw their way of life disappearing and eroding without knowing what was happening.  Disruptive elements in societies used to happen slowly.  It took the mediaeval church a while to discover the disruptive power of the printing press that allowed people to form their own opinions when they could start to read things on their own.  We have come full circle when anything we read is now segmented in terms of interests, education, geography, politics and culture. I wonder to what extent all of us have been in a trance.

Some of us have felt victimized by disruptive change.  When that happens, it is common to look for a savior who will deliver us from all the pain.  It’s an even better solution if our world is primarily reality TV – where losers are much more prevalent than winners and seem like our kind of people.  We can let somebody else figure it out. But when that doesn’t happen, we become disillusioned but eventually we wake up –  it can take a long time though.  Often all it brings is more disillusionment and more pain.

Others of us have been totally distracted by our own concerns – maybe the best gym, the best recipe – and suddenly woken up to find ourselves in a different place.  What happened?  What do we do now?  Everyone from the press to ordinary citizens reacts with hysteria.  It’s only after a month of what might be now seen as a farce rather than a tragedy that we are starting to respond.  We haven’t been victimized.  We just haven’t been paying attention to things that matter.

Responding rather than reacting is now on the agenda and it always takes time. Reflection is not something most of us do too often.  Usually coming out the other side does mean lowering both the tone of voice and the temperature.  But it doesn’t allow us to avoid paying attention.  At least we’re doing that now.

mind mapping, politics, Reflection, voting

The polical pitch

Canada  has a national election coming up.  At least one blogger has tried to explain the process to our American friends so I don’t have to do that.  We haven’t had an election for some time and we don’t have the same kind of advance campaigning ever before so I want to be informed before I vote. There have never been so many options – and we have never had less useful information. Where to find something useful?

I started with TV.  The national broadcaster provides one to two hours of noisy chat from politicians and pundits.  It’s basically a shouting match in which the moderator joins in.  The other major network has a more gentle approach.  But what the networks have in common is participants who simply want to slam other points of view.  To have any sense of the issues is almost impossible to fathom.  The newspapers aren’t much better.  Columnists no longer give facts.  They go straight to their take on the facts.

And then there are the polls. A pollster on one of the networks had a podcast interview with a senior vice president of Angus Reid.  She brought the results of a national poll of 6,000 persons and commented on the segment of “likely voters”.  Could you describe “likely voters”, the interviewer asked.  “They are people who are likely to vote,” she replied.  Hmmmmm.

So I thought of going to the party websites to see what the issues were.  Surely this would be a place for reasoned and well-presented platforms.  As an inveterate mapper who likes to find patterns and common threads, mapping menu headings seemed like a possible approach. I intended to chart broad issues and see how the compared across the parties.

So in I went. Wow!  Somebody started with a really good opening template and everybody else followed – following the leader in ways than one.  To be fair, a campaign site is obviously looking for volunteers and donors.  But it would be nice to have a glimpse of the party’s platform, before signing on to donate or contribute cash.

I have created several websites using free templates. A first step is deciding the overall organizing structure to help people navigate a site. One starts with a top level menu; and then one can create sub menus allowing readers to drill down. Think of a book library classification system. That’s actually what a branching system like mind mapping does too.

So let’s have a look:  Conservatives first  (You can go to the real one if you like)


If you want to have a policy you have to go to “latest” on the menu.  When I did what I found was a series of announcements.  This is a map of the subject matter issues:


Obviously not a whole lot of help on the big picture here.  All those Rotarians and Kinsman will like getting some tax relief on their membership fees – but is this what all Canadians were hoping for as a national strategy?

I moved on to the Liberals: (actual site here)


This is just the opening page – right below it is a slide show of quick moving promises relating to specifics.  Veterans get a lot of attention.  I tried to summarize the potential menu items here as well by using key words from the slides as they moved.  But the primary branch words here are my own.


One Thousand dollar tax credits to teachers who buy their own school supplies might reflect the leader’s teaching past, but it seems to be in the same realm as giving tax breaks to service clubs – goofy distractions, not consideration of important issues. Not much convergence on issues re the first two parties either.   I moved on to the NDP


Rather interesting that the NDP combines “just not ready” and “change”. We’re all sound biters now.  Whoever designed the sitec originally might have thought of not covering the leader’s face with the sign-in option.  It almost looks as though someone is trying to shut him up. (Somebody else noticed this before I got arround to publishing and fixed it – good thing).  But the positive thing here is that when one scrolls down just a bit – one actually sees a bunch of actual issue topics.  It was easy to make my map here:


While the Green Party is not a major player at this point it is only fair to see how they see the issues.  I secretly hoped that we might see a different entry design here – but no such luck.


One might also have thought that a green background would be obvious –  even just to counteract pre-judging a new party with blue sky thinking.  But it is the first time we have seen the use of the word, “vision”.  I clicked on it. Going one layer down one actually sees some issue headings under graphic boxes.  I’ve mapped these as they appear as follows:


This is a good deal more transparent.  I think that some topics could be lowered a level and combined but at least there are some real issues here.  Perhaps the most important addition under the pictured options is another message in a box that says, “Read our Comprehensive Plan”.

I did check it out and from the headings, it clearly has an environmental focus but it is not quickly evident how the other issues fold in.  But a published plan is a huge step forward.

What are we to make of platforms when we have so much information with so little substance thrown at us every day?  I’m in a new riding where the old sectors sent elected representatives from two different parties to parliament.  Both candidates are viable alternatives.  Henry Minzberg, the noted management conultant  says that one way to make change is to ensure that ridings don’t split the vote between two parties to the benefit of a third.  There is even an organization focused on avoiding that by constant polling and asking people to rally around one candidate at the end.  It’s not going to be an easy few weeks ahead.


Radical Change

Toward the end of his life, my husband had a consultation with a surgeon on the option of cancer surgery.  The surgeon’s comment was “The mortality rate for this surgery is quite good but the morbidity rate is poor.  You might not be able to speak in more than a whisper. David realized at that point that as an Anglican priest he might have preached his last sermon. With the spread of the disease, in fact it was and his last words, somewhat to his amusement, were “Beware of biblical literalism”.

This somehow came back in the light of the recent US tragedy and the constitutional literalism of “The right to bear arms”. For a Canadian, to view this right as an individual one is frankly ludicrous. My father, for some reason unknown to me – for he had never hunted in his life – had a modest collection of antique rifles. When I inherited them as his only child, I gave them as quickly as possible to a friend and colleague who was interested in them. He was Head of Anaesthesiology at a major Toronto Hospital and one of the most gentle persons I have known so I knew they would be safe with him. Though he “went moose hunting” with friends every year,  it was only at his requiem that his daughter revealed that he had never fired a single shot. He just couldn’t. No one so far has publicly dared to ask why a mother with a troubled son would want to take him shooting for fun. But someone will ultimately have to. It involves not just one family, but the human one.

The morning that this terrible event happened I was volunteering at my grandson’s school in his  kindergarten class of 20 children. No child should ever have to endure the slaughter of Newtown. Whatever the combination of elements that led to it, the end result is not just one for mourning, moving as it is for the town and the nation. It calls for the acceptance of responsibility.

In a sense, President Obama did accept it when he talked about the importance of parenting and keeping children safe. His address at the memorial service echoed Psalm 42, sung so beautifully by the rabbi. It also expressed the need for change – not one kind but many kinds of rethinking and action. I hope fervently that he can steel his will to do both against those who think that nothing will ever change. Nothing would be a better legacy than that.