Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bullying in the Workplace

I won't get into why I was looking at this website (it's not really my story anyway), but just in case you need it, here is an excellent site re. bullying in the workplace.

See how helpful I am??? ;->


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Damn "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" ...

... makes me cry every episode.

(Now that's great TV! LOL)

My heroine Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were rumored to be planning their wedding for this weekend. But what they did instead was way more cool.

Jolie is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. In case you think that this is just some meaningless title, I'd invite you to look at her extensive travel history to places of incredible pain, suffering,
and poverty. I'd also invite you to read some of her travel diaries. She's an intelligent, compassionate woman who does what she can to help people who have nothing (sometimes not even a country).

My girl Angelina took her boyfriend Brad to Pakistan to tour the earthquake-devastated area:

Guterres, Jolie pledge support for Pakistan "in time of suffering"

ISLAMABAD, November 25 (UNHCR) РUNHCR chief António Guterres and Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie today shared their shock at the scale of earthquake destruction in northern Pakistan and pledged support for the country that has generously hosted millions of Afghan refugees for over 25 years.


Goodwill Ambassador Jolie added, "Nobody watching TV at home has any idea what this really looks like. It's just unbelievable. You fly in a helicopter and you see house after house, just rubble, nothing

Both Guterres and Jolie were visibly shaken by the devastation they saw in quake-hit areas yesterday.

The people in Batungi village told Jolie they had received some assistance, but were worried about the coming winter. "Another disaster could happen very soon, if money and aid are not on the ground by then," said Jolie. "There are so many wonderful pledges of money that could come in the next few years, but winter is in the next few weeks."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fog + Flying Standby Do Not Mix

Well, here I am, sitting in the SeaTac airport (Seattle). Had a really lovely weekend with my brother Joe and sister-in-law Lisa, and am now trying to get to Vancouver to meet my boss (and his daughter who’s going to university in Vancouver) before our business meetings tomorrow.

Since my brother works for an airline, he was able to share a guest pass with me so I could fly from Vancouver to Seattle at about half-price (maybe less). The problem with guest passes is you’re flying on standby, so if there’s a customer paying full price who wants your seat, s/he gets it. With the flight loads as they were, it didn’t look as though it would be a problem. Getting to Seattle wasn’t too bad, but flying out of Seattle – at least at a reasonable time – is looking dicey. There’s enough fog to make flying conditions “marginal”, so a couple of flights have been cancelled. This, of course, pushes all the paying customers into the seats that were only claimed by l’il ol’ me. So … when I arrived at the airport, I thought I could fly out at 11:30, but was told that the next available flight is at 4:30. That’s IF the weather holds. So thanks to wireless Internet in the waiting area, I have been able to locate a shuttle bus that will take me from the SeaTac airport to Vancouver! The travel time will be longer, of course, but I’ll be leaving at 1:00, my seat is assured, and I’m more certain to arrive in Vancouver at a decent hour. :) This is important to me after some late nights in the past week. :)

So now that I’ve got THAT out of my system, how has the trip been so far? Excellent!!! As I’ve said, it was great to spend more time with Joe and Lisa (Lisa is also a terrific cook, and Joe’s French toast is amazing!). Also, Lisa and I went out with Monika and Tracy, who seriously rock!!!!

Well, it might be time to forage for some snacky things (or at least escape the tired, frustrated parents and their tired, noisy, restless children who are sitting in this waiting area) and then catch my shuttle.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

U.S. Using Chemical Weapons in Iraq?

[Note: See update below]

And burning babies????

See article on the BBC website
Then read more about the effects of white phosphorus
Then read this brilliant blog entry

Impossible? It wouldn't be the first time children have been caught in the chemical crossfire by the U.S. military ...

Sorry if this blog entry sounds shrill - there's something about child abuse that raises my ire.


UPDATE 11/14/05 7:01 AM - I’ve been thinking about this post overnight (yes, I actually woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this), and I would like to make one thing clear: I do not blame the rank and file of the U.S. military if Iraqi children have indeed been burned or killed by the use of white phosphorus. I blame their leaders who got them into such an untenable, indefensible situation in the first place by ordering an invasion of choice into an urban society.

When I was teaching English in South Korea, my fellow expatriate teachers and I would often go to the cities of Osan or Kunsan. There were U.S. military bases (or “stations” or some other term I forget now for the Air Force camps) near these cities, and so enterprising Koreans set up many businesses outside the bases appealing to Westerners (bars, tailors, restaurants, craft shops with amazing pirated cross-stitch patterns for sale). So we would go shopping and/or dancing, and meet up with quite a few American servicemen (and a few servicewomen). Some of us were single, but these poor U.S. soldiers were so lonely for female company that they were thrilled just to have some conversation, mild flirtation, and maybe a dance or two. I expected them to be jerks (cultural bias, I guess), and was quite surprised at how decent and polite the large majority of them were. Some were even gallant. They joked, they teased each other, they spoke of missing their families back home. Most of them seemed very young to my 27-year-old self.

Now I think of those faces, those people. I know many of them got out of the Air Force long before the Iraqi War. But maybe there were a few who thought they’d make a career out of it, and ended up in Iraq. Or, more likely, their replacements are very much like them. And I think of them in this urban war, ordered into places they’re not sure from which they’ll get out alive. I think of the “mental conditioning” that must take place to ensure that they will do the job they’ve been sent to do. And I think of veterans of other wars, who years after their service become broken men as, in a time of peace, they were able to consider the horrors they committed in a time when they felt vulnerable and targeted by the enemy.

And I feel grief for so many lives ruined by a war of choice built on lies.

Don't tell Mr. Covey this, but ...

Stephen R. Covey was another one of the speakers at the leadership conference I mentioned in the post below. He's the one who wrote the popular book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" (which I obtained during last weekend's orgy of book purchases).

As a speaker, I found him kind of distracting for two reasons. First, he kind of looks like Yoda:

Covey's picture here doesn't really portray how much the tops of his ears point out from his head. You might have to take my word on this.

Secondly, Covey has such a measured, solemn delivery when speaking that I kept expecting him to say, "Let us pray."

Not that I have anything against priest-like pointy-eared men; all I'm saying is that it was distracting ... Does that make me a horrible person????

Carly Fiorina on Leadership

The other day, my employer paid for me (and group of colleagues) to attend a day-long leadership conference. It featured several well-known CEOs and other figures, such as Richard Branson (owner and CEO of various companies under the Virgin banner), Jack Welch (retired CEO of General Electric [GE]), and Rudy Guiliani. All the speakers were somewhere in the U.S., and the satellite feed was beamed to hundreds of locations around the world to thousands of participants like me.

Some of the sessions were interesting and thought-provoking. One of the speakers was ridiculous, others were inspiring. To me and everyone I spoke to, Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was the best of the whole day. I don’t know if anyone out there reading this blog will find my thoughts on this day of interest, but I’d like to summarize some of the notes I made myself while I was there, and this is just as good a place as any to keep them. Besides, you’re all free agents and can scroll down to the next post if you find this one boring. :-> So, without further ado:

  • Leadership, as she defined it, has nothing to do with power; it is a choice to make a positive difference. It is the courage to take risks, to see what others might not see (or want to see), to do what others might not do (or want to do). It is unlocking potential in others.
  • In college, she studied medieval history and philosophy. But once she graduated, she needed a job, so she worked as a receptionist. From this she learned that there is dignity in all work, anyone can make a difference in an organization, and what can happen when someone takes a chance on you. There were people at her first job who believed she had the potential to do more, and asked her to take on more responsibility, and allowed her to explore more of her potential.
  • No matter what job she had, she focused all her energy learning as much as possible from those around her, doing the best job she could, and pouring her passion into her work. She said that over time she's become convinced that it’s vital to focus on what you’re doing at the time, rather than fixing your sights on the next promotion/step (She said something to the effect that people who are always thinking of the next advancement don’t usually do their current job very well.)
  • There are two ways to look at every job: 1) to see its limitations, or 2) to see its possibilities. Those who focus on the possibilities always achieve more than those who don’t.
  • She compared leaders and managers: Leaders create something new, see possibilities and make them happen, take risks; managers mitigate risk, operate within a set of boundaries, and ensure that what’s currently in place continues to work.
  • She said that as we’ve entered the 21st Century, we’ve entered unchartered territory. Up to and including the 20th Century, leadership was vertical, or “mechanical. Information went up the vertical chain of command, and orders went back down it. This was inefficient, because it meant that the leader was responsible for knowing everything that was going on among the rank and file, and for arranging for the transfer of information between groups that eventually reported up to him/her.
  • In academia today, the greatest innovations and breakthroughs now come through collaboration between different departments (I forget the example she used, but it was something like biology and mechanical physics). Today’s problems are more complex, and therefore horizontal collaboration (vs. vertical chain of command) is more important.
  • Important questions yet to be answered in the 21st Century: How do we share information/power? How do we enforce accountability?
  • We now have a “biology” (I think the word “ecology” would have been better) of a complex network of relationships
  • Eventually, every physical/static/mechanical/manual process will become digital/mobile/virtual/personal. Example: photography … At one time, very few people had cameras; now camera-phones are ubiquitous
  • The ordinary person has become far more enabled/empowered than in the past
  • Information is no longer power, as with the Internet, we all have access to information. Neither is authority the source of power, as authority can now be questioned.
  • Technology can unlock human potential; the barriers of time, distance, power, and wealth are falling. Anyone can choose to lead.
  • Leadership requires going beyond subject matter expertise. It requires the understanding that common sense and asking the right questions will make up for expertise. Leadership requires the courage to believe you can probably figure it out, or find others to help you figure it out. Rely on others to help; people like to talk about themselves and their area of expertise, and they like to help others.
  • It is not enough to identify a problem; a leader always provides a solution or a positive alternative. Criticizing solutions is easy, but a leader must overcome fear, take risks, “put yourself out there, stand behind the bet that you make”
  • Leadership requires TRUST. People must trust you, but you must also trust them. If you can’t trust others, you can’t lead.
  • Leadership requires balance between optimism and realism. You must believe that positive change is possible, yet have a clear-eyed understanding of the barriers and weaknesses facing you.
  • Leadership requires balance between consistency and flexibility. Consistency allows others to anticipate how you will react, or what you want. Consistency in goals is essential so that everyone can work toward something and achieve it. However, things happen, and you have to work around them and be flexible. Yet your end goal should always be the same. She compared it to sailing – you zigzag (instead of going in a straight line) across the water to get to and end destination.
  • Do NOT surround yourself with people like yourself; today’s problems and enterprises require a diversity of perspectives and approaches.
  • Balance strategy and execution (big picture and details).
  • Whenever she is asked for the one piece of advice she would give to anyone in leadership, she says never to give up one’s internal compass: “Never sell your soul, because no one can pay you back.” There are many things that can throw a leader off course. A leader gets lots of advice. But the most important decisions a leader will make is when s/he is alone. “Don’t make choices that don’t feel right to you.”
  • Ultimately, leadership is about authenticity, not style. You can’t fake it. It requires you to bring all of yourself to the job (your head, gut, all of your capabilities).
  • The best leaders ask their people to bring all of themselves to the task as well
  • Leadership is not power, title, number of people reporting to you
  • Leadership is raising people’s sights regarding themselves, the possibilities of their organization, and helping them to achieve more than they thought possible.

Travel Update + J&L Wedding Photos!

So you may have read this blog entry a couple of weeks ago, and started to wonder, “Why hasn’t she written about Calgary or Banff?” Well, the truth of the matter is that the trip has been postponed for a couple of weeks, and Vancouver has been added to the itinerary. We’re supposed to be in Vancouver on Monday, the 21st, then in Calgary on the Tuesday, and back to Toronto Tuesday night. This means that there won’t be time to go to Banff. :-( However, since I’ll be in Vancouver for Monday, and my brother and sister-in-law (and Tracy and Monika!) live in Seattle, I’m taking a couple of vacation days next week and visiting them before meeting up with my boss in Vancouver. So it’s all good, and I’m very excited!

Speaking of my brother and his wife, they’ve finally shared their online wedding pictures! (They were shamed into it by virtue of the fact that I’d posted some of Tracy and Dave’s wedding photos, and I hadn’t even attended their ceremony! ;->) Here are just a few … I’m selecting those that don’t make me feel uncomfortable as Joe’s sister (i.e., none of the kissy ones – eww! LOL)

"Tickle tickle tickle!"

Damn fine photo.

Cute and sweet.

Joe's trying very very hard not to cry here:

"Bwah ha ha! Take that, U.S. Government! Try to deport him now that we have THIS!"

Lisa with her lovely mom/matron of honour:

"Yes! This party is finally about me! ME!!!!" I look very pale in this photo (more so than usual), but so does Lisa's sister Lori, so I will blame it on the lighting rather than the sinking feeling that now my relatives are going to start asking me when it's MY turn to get married. LOL

I love this photo. Lisa's twin nieces, Elizabeth and Victoria (Lisa has 6 brothers and sisters, and thereby nieces/nephews galore), Joe's parents (and mine) along the wall, and Joe's best friend/man and his wife across the table. All kind of homey and chaotic - none of that formal head table crap. :)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Watching "Someone Like You" on TV and ...

... Hugh Jackman is HOT!!!!!!!!! Whoa!

... but that's because of his intelligence and personality. Uh hunh ...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

It's too late for me ...

but you can still save yourself!

  1. Do NOT buy – or even sample – President’s Choice Chocolate Fudge Crackle Vanilla ice cream. This product should come with the following label: “WARNING, DANGER: This substance is irresistible and highly addictive. This product is not directed for anyone without amazing willpower.” It will call to you from your freezer. It is an expert manipulator. Trust the voice of experience here.
  2. Do NOT go to the World’s Biggest Bookstore this weekend. They’re having an anniversary sale in which all books are 25% off. If you have one of those membership cards, you get 35% off. You will spend hundreds to save money. You will wander for hours through the store looking for just one more bargain or item to slash of the list of books that have been on your wish list. Your hands will chafe and blister as the basket of books you’re carrying becomes heavier and heavier. You will even consider inviting the flirty store manager home with you just so he will carry all your new books for you. Again, this is the voice of experience. You have been warned.