Moving On…

People Don’t Like Meetings

If there is one sentence that frustrates me every time I hear it, it would have to be:

“People would know this if they showed up to the meetings.”

I heard it again, although second hand, this week in reference to our new sick leave policy here at work.

Yes, the union conducts important work at general membership meetings, and yes members should attend them, and yes meetings are the optimal time to ask questions as well as have input into the union’s direction, but that does not give the union any excuse to not distribute information to it’s membership.

Meetings are just one way to communicate information.

Let’s face facts, people don’t want to show up to union meetings because they are boring. Having a geographically central location, childcare, door prizes, or coffee and donuts is not going to change that.

People do want information about issues that affect their jobs and their paycheque.

It’s the union’s job to ensure that information gets to individuals, not that the individuals get to that information.

 

Westminster Ponds ESA Update

Tonight I attended the Westminster Ponds Environmentally Significant Area Community Update held by the City of London, at the Western Ontario Fish and Game Protective Association on October 24, 2012.

Community announcement poster

The meeting had a great turnout of around 50 individuals, especially considering its limited geographical scope.

The meeting got down to business quickly and was packed with information. I’ll try to keep things brief.

Where does the city put pathways?

First off was the presentation about the planning the city has done around formalizing a process to decide where and what kind of maintained pathways can be placed within an environmentally significant area (ESA). The PDF is available on the city’s website.

City of London planning trails in ESA's [PDF]

Pathways are important within an ESA to direct or funnel traffic into less harmful routes and discourage the formation of several smaller “unofficial” paths.

The document is long, but a great reference.

What is the city doing to maintain the Westminster Ponds / Pond Mills ESA?

Next up was Jason with a presentation about the city’s current efforts such as:

Combating the Emerald Ash Borer.

  • most of us have heard about this problem already
  • workers identified 200 viable trees, prioritizing the ones near trails
  • using insecticide currently on 54 trees

Combating Japanese Knotweed

  • invasive species
  • 3 identified patches
  • chokes out all other plants
  • performing tests to best combat (treat with herbicide, or cut then treat with herbicide)
  • purple loosestrife has been returning possibly due to dry summer

Designation of a Heritage Tree

Updated Kiosks

  • new maps on kiosks at trailheads

Trail Closures

  • unofficial trails closed
  • some shortcuts still being used by commuters
  • laying brush across trail to discourage traffic

Raft Removal

  • some individuals thought they were Huckleberry Finn and built a raft
  • city workers dismantled and removed it

Graffiti

  • constant problem
  • workers are vigilant to remove quickly

Hazard Trees

  • dead and dying trees must be removed for safety
  • sprayed orange and numbered to mark

Did you say heritage buildings?

Well, actually no, but they are looking into a cultural heritage landscape designation for the old veterans lands, which includes buildings. Built for soldiers returning from war, it was ahead of it’s time allowing patients to look out the window to a beautiful natural area. beautiful surroundings are just now being proven to improve healing.

the city has hired the same consultant for the old London Psychiatric Grounds.

Will be presented to LACH on November 14 @ 5:30PM with public input to follow. BE THERE!

One attendee asked about the condition of the buildings and a representative of the hospital was there to answer that all the buildings have new roofs and are structurally sound. Three of four remaining buildings are currently in use by environmental groups, but the fourth (the big one) requires at least one million dollars of infrastructure to be useable.

Who the heck is the Westminster Working Group?

A better question is “why doesn’t every community have one of these?” You can get more information about them on Facebook on the Westminster Is page. They are a regularly meeting community group focused on urban planning, public safety, active transportation and accessibility, availability of food and physical activity. I’,, be looking to see if something similar exists in the Whit Oaks area, where I live.

The group has already brought a proposal to city council in hopes to get a walkway placed through the ESA to establish a route from Parliament Crescent to Commissioners Road.

The city has teamed up with them on this as well as proposing a branch run from Parliament Crescent to Silverdale Crescent. This is a safety concern due to the large amount of people who use it as a shortcut already.  The major issue is that a CNR track runs between the two. These must also pass though CNR approval, as well as engineering a safe elevated (bridge), or level crossing for pedestrians.

For funding, it was pointed out that existing budgets take care of the ESA assessments for the projects, the city has set aside money for the rail crossing, but additional money would need to be applied for, after all planning is done to build the actual paths.

Is that all?

Nope, but that’s the gist of what went on.

Feel free to ask me any questions on Twitter (@jasonfredin) or hit up my contact form and I will tell you what I know, or remember, or point you in the direction of who might be able to answer your question.

A Second Chance?

I was reading the minutes and agendas on the City of London website tonight and noticed that not one, but TWO of the appointees to the Community Safety & Crime Prevention Advisory Committee have resigned.

I wish K. Mueller and B. Urquhart the best of luck in their future ventures.

This leaves two vacancies, which I have inquired about. I am not getting my hopes up, as I was not selected when the committee was formed only months ago (and I wrote about it then), but there is a small glimmer of hope.

I have already emailed the staff contact asking if I need to resubmit an application. The spots appear to be filled by the members of the Finance and Administrative Services Committee.

Fingers crossed.

I’m Not Worried About Lance

You read that right, I’m not worried about Lance Armstrong, he will be fine.

So will all the other pro cyclists who are injecting/ingesting drugs to improve performance, putting their bodies though hell, and possibly shortening their lifespans.

They know what they are doing (or at least I hope they do). They are messing with their bodies in the name of sport, in the name of money, and in the name of our entertainment.

Eric Winston recently spoke to the dangers of sport at professional levels. Although discussing the dangers of football, I think this applies to the stress put on the bodies of almost all pro athletes.

“There are long lasting ramifications to the game we play, long lasting ramifications to the game we play.
Alright?
I’ve already kind of come to the understanding that I probably won’t live as long, because I play this game, and that’s ok, That’s a choice I’ve made. That’s a choice that all of us has made.”

Eric Winston

We have an arms race occurring in elite athletics. Every time the testing gets more sophisticated, the performance enhancements change to evade that test. Is testing possibly pushing athletes towards riskier and more unknown doping protocols?

All of this aside, they have some of the best doctors and scientists waging this arms war. What scares me is the high-school kid that tries to replicate this by himself, or with the advice they can find online.

What follows is a true story, hand to my heart, I swear.

We were in a local Shoppers Drug Mart a while ago picking up a prescription and a young male in his late teens approached the counter and asked the pharmacist for a “needle”. At this point I was curious, but the pharmacist sounded unfazed and quickly shot back “what gauge?” Dumbfounded the youth took a second and replied “one to inject myself, I don’t know, I got this stuff online”. After that the conversation turned to how they can’t sell items like those without a prescription (to my best recollection I was still reeling from the thought of injecting something that you bought without a prescription online).

I couldn’t believe this kid. What the hell was he thinking?

Then I realized that there are kids out there that see the reports of how much of an advantage performance enhancing drugs are, and the thought that they were the key to make their high-school team, get scouted by a college and maybe make it to the big time if everything works out right.

There are two problems, first is the media’s and sport’s treatment of illegal performance enhancers, like a magic potion that can make you twice as fast, or twice the strength. Truth is that you still need to put the work in. Many forms of doping don’t let you train less, their purpose is actually to allow you to train more or harder. Recovery is a major limiting factor in training, especially in endurance sports like running or cycling.

Second problem is the self medicating that occurs. Without a knowledgeable doctor who can run tests and monitor progress, all this is just taking a stab in the dark. Hey 100mg worked well last week, 200mg must be twice as good, right?

None of these problems have easy answers, but we need to try to find a way to keep everybody as healthy as possible while still competing on a level playing field in the sports they love.

The only way I can see doing this is through stricter enforcement and greater penalties for cheating.

How to do Social Media Right

Recently I have been listening to a new radio show in London called “Persuasion Inc. Advertising Exposed”.

Go ahead and tune in to this once a month show (or infomercial) or check it out online at Persuasion Inc’s page at AM980.ca.

On their last show titled “Dangers of Word of Mouth and Social Media Advertising” Craig gives an excellent overview on how you can run your own social media campaign into the ground. Not that any of his information is incorrect, it just doesn’t mention that there are plenty of ways to use social media effectively.

So how can we correct the ways businesses fail when it comes to social media? Let’s look at how to avoid Compel Media’s 10 Steps to Social Media Advertising Damage:

1, You come (or are led) to believe, social media advertising can replace traditional advertising.

This is a horrible way to run a campaign, with any form of media. Never put all of your eggs in one basket. Every company requires a mix of approaches to reach out to their target market. This mix will vary widely depending on the particular product.

2, You cancel some or all traditional advertising in lieu of “FREE” Social Media Advertising.

Again… see number one. Also mentioned on the show that there is “no such thing as a free lunch.” All marketing efforts have a cost to them, be it in discounts, media production, or purchasing air time, social media has underlying costs as well. Budget for these costs just as you would any other promotional program.

3, You or one of your staff “work” your social media.

Like any duty within your business, choosing the right person for the job is key. Finding a person familiar with social media and it’s use as a promotional tool might not always lend itself to an internal person. Just as not every company has a photographer on staff, there are many firms and freelancers out there who can handle these tasks. Putting together a social media strategy should assess your team’s abilities and use outside help to shore up your weaknesses.

No matter who runs your social media properties also needs guidelines. Have a conversation about how you want the business represented online. This avoids the need to have every post “approved” by several people and can set boundaries as well.

4, Your social media advertising or “feeds” are initially sales pitches for your services or products (because people love being “sold” in social settings).

You know you are in trouble if giving something away is the only way you can get attention. Treat social media just like you would any social setting. First, it helps if a known figure can introduce you to new people. Second, don’t try to steer the conversation to what it is that you want to talk about. You can learn a lot by taking your time and listen to what others are talking about, chime in when you feel comfortable and have something constructive to say. Just being a contributing member of the community will get you some recognition.

5, You soon find people only seem to respond to deep discount deals you offer. You find yourself offering such at increasingly frequent intervals.

Unless bargain hunters are your target demographic, I see no need to chase people like this. Although periodic give-aways and contests can build some buzz and good will if you use give-aways strategically. [1]

6, While you were originally updating a couple times a day, you soon run out of creative things to say….and you can’t afford to keep giving things away.

As above, you will run out of things to say if all you do is use social media as a platform to broadcast. There is always something to say or respond to when you engage the community.

7, Your updates become much less frequent.

Resist the urge to say something just for the sake of hearing your own voice. Maybe find someone with similar interests and try asking questions, the same thing you might do in a “real life” social setting.

8, Your intermittent future updates become personal puff pieces, sayings & sales pitches…accomplishing little.

I know creating content can be hard, but keep at it. What about thanking an employee for their hard work? rTraction did it on Labour Day and it was noticed widely. Who wouldn’t want to work for a company like that? See [2][3][4][5]

9, You’re now just part of the ignored background of your followers feeds…or worse, you’re an irritant.

Make sure you are listening and trying to gauge the response of the community. If you are being ignored it’s time to reevaluate your efforts and consider making a change. Consider more sharing and retweeting content you like from others, it can be just as important in building relationships.

10, Months pass…thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of business are lost.

This is the end result we are trying to avoid. Like any other form of promotion, having a way to measure the returns on your investment are the only way to decide if your current marketing mix is working.

Not to say that I haven’t seen this pattern in many companies’ efforts, but these are just a few (of many) ways to avoid Compel Media’s 10 Steps to Social Media Advertising Damage.

Still Breaking the Law

Congratulations to the folks who successfully lobbied to allow youth under the age of 14 to be allowed to ride on the sidewalk. I understand there is also a move to include seniors in this exemption.

Changing the province’s mind on the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), however may be a bit more difficult.

While people of all ages are still riding on the sidewalk, I still see many youth breaking the law frequently, at every road they cross. According to the HTA cyclists are expected to dismout their bike and walk across streets.

Riding in pedestrian crossover prohibited – HTA 140(6)

(6)  No person shall ride a bicycle across a roadway within a pedestrian crossover. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 140 (6).

Riding in crosswalks prohibited – HTA 144(29)

(29)  No person shall ride a bicycle across a roadway within or along a crosswalk at an intersection or at a location other than an intersection which location is controlled by a traffic control signal system. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (29).

While within the law to ride on the sidewalk, an officer could still ticket riders at every intersection they cross, to the tune of $85.

 

Changing Cycling Laws

I’m happy to see cycling getting a lot of attention in the #LdnOnt tag on Twitter lately. (Yes, I’m still paying attention.)

While everyone seems to have the best intentions, nobody seems to agree on where bicycles belong. To be completely honest this is an argument that in my own house, we agree to disagree.

I fully understand the people who say they are too afraid of crazy drivers, and will ride on the sidewalk regardless of the law. Cycling can be scary, big metal objects piloted by people you don’t know or don’t trust hurling past you at speeds sometimes nearing 90km/h.

For those who want to ride their bikes on the sidewalk I have two concerns. One is pedestrian safety and the other is your own safety.

If we opened the sidewalks to some cyclists, what would the law look like?

Age

I completely agree that my son should not be forced to ride on the road. He still has training wheels on his bike and takes 10 minutes to reach the end of our crescent.

Ok, so should there be an age exemption to the law? Sure, although I have seen a number of young kids that can really fly on their bikes.

Speed

Maybe a speed limit for the side-walk? That wouldn’t hurt, but what speed do you set it at? A person wanting to qualify to run the Boston Marathon has to average 14km/h. Most pedestrians would be terrified to have a bike pass them at 15km/h, a speed fairly attainable by most cyclists.

Do we want to write a law that would make criminals out of high level recreational running?

Diameter

One speculation I have heard was to making wheel diameter the focus. I ride on 27.5″ wheels, they are big and made for speed, 26″ is standard on mountain bikes, so under 26″ should be fine for sidewalks?

One problem, 20″ tires are used on BMX bikes and frequently ridden by adults. So under 20″ can be on the sidewalk? That puts my son (the 6-year-old) in the riding on the road only category.

I also have to dismiss a law based on wheel size simply because it is irrelevant to actual cyclist top speed or abilities.

 

All of this may be a moot point as I don’t see any of the current laws being enforced, or if you are in favour of the “anything goes” approach to who can use a sidewalk.

I do want your feedback, just not on this site. Email me jason@jasonfredin.com, or let me know what you think on Twitter @jasonfredin.

Maybe in my next post we’ll discuss why I am against in-boulevard bike paths (IBBPs) and some other new road designs intended to help cyclists.

 

Price of Education

With the recent  Coursera and The University of Toronto announcement stating that they will be working together to offer several of their courses for free online, I was reminded of a tweet from a while ago because the courses will not be for credit.

Maybe ‘value’ was the wrong word, but the idea that you need to pay an institution so you can get an education is fading.

Higher education still has a place in the certification of individuals.

The University of Washington has announced that it plans to offer some ‘for credit’ classes through Coursera, but these will come with a fee attached. Roughly the same fee as attending the same class on campus.

What do you get with that fee? “The for credit Coursera courses would be enhanced with direct, online communication with the instructor, and students would take monitored exams.” I assume much of the work here is in monitoring exams so that UW can put their stamp of approval on your education.

Even if you look at google for another example, their Google Testing Center. All the required information for the tests is provided on the learning site, but to become certified there is a test with a small fee.

What’s the biggest threat to post secondary institutions?

Very simply, the biggest threat is themselves. If a college or university lets their standards slide, the value of the education they sell falls.

Looking around my class when I was at college (yes, a long time ago) I saw ‘D’ students struggling to get a passing mark, but they have the same diploma hanging on their wall that I do.

Recently, I have heard rumours that teachers are under pressure to pass students to keep their program’s enrolment up.

This mentality could (and should) be the death blow to the program.

Why do people hire young students from Ivey, Yale, Princeton, etc? Because those institutions only admit the brightest and hardest working and are not afraid to cut those who don’t meet their criteria.

How to Train Your Dragon – Review July 5, 2012

Last night my family and I attended the “How to Train Your Dragon – Live Spectacular” at the John Labatt Centre.

We had first heard about the event from the various appearances made by one of the characters and one of the baby dragons around London. Hearing they would be at Victoria Park for the Kids Expo we headed down after picking Ethan up from school.

The short presentation was impressive, to say the least. The viking did a fantastic job interacting with and entertaining the crowd, then introducing everyone to Baby Nadder.

Baby Nadder and Sig at Victoria Park.

After the meeting in Victoria Park, Ethan decided the dragons were too scary to see again, so we put the idea of going to the show on the back burner but still checked out ticket prices to see how much they were.

At over $100 for the three of us (at minimum) to see the dragons it was too much to risk with an autistic son who may decide that he wants to go home during the first five minutes. We decided to pass.

Which leads us to Thursday, I get a text from Julie asking if I want to go see the show on Thursday night because Autism Ontario was giving away a few tickets for free! SCORE!

After a quick bite to eat after work we hurried to gate 5 at the JLC, took two escalators to the 300 level and attempted to take our seats.

Yes, attempted.

Seating wouldn’t be happening until 6:30, another 30 minutes after gates opened. Okay, so we grab a drink and wait.

And wait.

Word gets around that there is a technical difficulty keeping everyone from being allowed to sit. Waiting in the hallway with a crowd of anxious kids was not all that pleasant.

At 7:10 we were finally seated.

The show started around half an hour late, but at least it started. The Wednesday show was completely cancelled.

Once the show began we were treated to some pretty spectacular effects.

The use of a video wall and a suspended Hiccup to give us a top down view of him running through his village during a dragon attack really showed the ingenuity of the production.

The young dragon slayers (particularly Astrid) were very talented and incredibly athletic. Often cartwheel-ing, handspring-ing or dancing into action.

The dragons were extremely lifelike. In an incredible moment, Toothless even “flew” around the arena with Hiccup on his back.

How to Train Your Dragon at the JLC

Unfortunately the story was a hurried rehashing of the movie, but maybe that was a good thing because the audio was garbled which made dialogue difficult to follow (this was possibly due to our seating location).

Ethan decided he was tired and wanted to go home at the intermission, and we were fine with that. Happy he even made it through the first five minutes of being asked to sit still, flashing lights and loud noises.

We really enjoyed the show despite the few rough spots.

Again, I want to thank Autism Ontario for giving my family the opportunity to attend this event that we wouldn’t have risked the money on otherwise.

It’s Official

It came in the mail today, not that it was a surprise.

City of London Rejection Letter

At least it lets me move on.

It does make me think about where I will be participating in our community. It may not even be with municipal affairs. I have already offered to help with building a gazebo for WOTCH.

It does remind me of a story I heard once. It was said that a university professor told his class that their first assignment was to submit something to a publisher, just to get rejected. The students were all to hand in their rejection letters as their assignment. As writers they needed to learn that there would be many more rejections in their careers than acceptances.

The best part… it didn’t kill me. I guess rejection isn’t so bad.