counter confidence

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What you feel when you see a logo can vary quite a bit depending on how it was made, but what you feel when you actually know the organization behind that identity usually has everything to do with how they behave in their day-to-day activities, and beyond – such as community involvement. There is some pretty extreme behavior going on these days, from top to bottom these days in all sizes and types of institutions:

  • Chrysler pays as much as $200k per full-page Thank You ad for bailout money, then censors comments when questioned about how wise it is to spend bailout money on thank-you advertising. Can you think of a more succinct way to alienate your target market? I suppose they could have flown a lear jet to Washington to ask for for the bailout money. What’s that – they did? Oh dear. My thoughts go out to those Americans who are wondering why their hard-earned money is in the hands of Chrysler – it shouldn’t be.
  • Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain has become an embarrassment to Johns everywhere by spending $1.2 million on office renovations while Merrill Lynch was forced to lay off employees (they say “firing” in the bloomberg.com article – it’s not the same thing) at the same time. John Thain also figured out a way to give out $4 billion in bonuses this past December – a bit puzzling considering they lost $15 billion in the same quarter. Since the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America, John Thain became one of the Presidents of Bank of America, but has since been ousted – the reason given by Kenneth Lewis being that “it just wasn’t working out.” No kidding – who would want to give their money to someone who spends their reserves on area rugs and antiques? Confidence eroded.
  • A Vancouver man was attacked by 3 drunk police officers this week past in a pretty shocking scenario. The attack is still referred to as “alleged” because they haven’t gone to court yet, but witnesses are already coming forward to the media. I go to Vancouver a fair bit and I feel safe, despite the fact that there is a lot of gangs and violence in the city. Hearing about 3 off-duty policemen attacking someone while off-duty is deeply disturbing, especially when you also add in that racism may have played a part – this will be hard to prove, but I suppose if the investigation is good for anything, it will uncover some of these details in full. I heard the victim speaking about the incident and honestly it makes me completely sick to my stomach to hear what those police officers did to him. The street workers who were not too afraid to break it up despite the situation deserve a significant amount of credit. What those three police officers need to know is that this hurts both the publics confidence in police and the police themselves in many ways. These deeply flawed police officers do not need demotions or desk duty so that they may continue to poison the organization, they need to be fired and questioned, sentenced appropriately, and they need to apologize to Phil Khan and the people of Vancouver for making them second-guess their instincts when they see a badge. To me, those three were not police officers, they were just three guys who wore police uniforms for money. Everyone will be better served if they are brought to justice swiftly and with weight.

The Merrill Lynch/John Thain example is a top-down cultural dysfunctionality with money that has eroded confidence; the Chrysler/Thank example is one that probably originated with the advertising department – somewhere in the middle of the organization’s structure which erodes customer confidence in the organization; the Police/Phil Khan attack speaks pretty clearly to the public about the problems with police officer screening and off-duty police officer street-level behavior and seriously threatens the confidence citizens have in the officers that are meant to protect them.
So why all this fuss about confidence? Why does it matter? It has to do with relationships and whether or not we choose to interact as a society – be it socially, financially, or simply functionally. The less we interact, the more our world freezes in stasis; no movement means no trading (recession), no sharing of ideas, less possibilities for synergies of all kinds, you get it. Our institutions are meant to work for the benefit of society and enable us to do bigger things. When elements of them turn on us, it is disheartening on a larger scale. These are important institutions, and we need people in them that understand the importance of the work they do. It’s not just a job.
I have to give you something good after trudging through all this serious business, so here is a very nice ambient piece Anand made tonight.

a new challenge


Working full time and going to school at night means I have time to blog at .. midnight!
And so it is midnight. Here are some of the things that have been catching my eye:

  • Whitehouse.gov has been redone, complete with a blog and RSS feed. It’s still sinking in that there is a new President in the states. To me it feels like opening a present every time I hear about something that team is up to. For now, on the second day, they’ve cut a lot of red tape, frozen Whitehouse salaries, and they’re blogging and embedding Youtube videos to boot. We are connected. Obviously that is awesome enough on its own, but some time back I was mentioning to Adam that I’d like to vote for a Victoria mayor who would be a blogger him or herself. The reason that I think this is important is that we’re in a day and age where folks don’t have a lot of time, and are using media in a different way. As such, it makes a lot of sense to move folks in a position of leadership into a accessible arenas, appropriate for the era they are operating in. Give this a couple years and I think we’ll see a lot of levels of government adapt this. If it was too edgy before, it can’t possibly be perceived that way anymore.
  • Comparing the Fine Print at the White House and PMO Websites – Here Michael Geist compares the terms of use between the new Whitehouse.gov site and Canada’s Office of the Prime Minister site. Canada has some straight up whack policy on the PMO site. Our government should have a responsibility to make information as accessible as it needs to be, as it is relevant to everyone in Canada. Multiple-copy prohibition is really stupid! If you are in the position of doling out the law, you must not put limits on how many people can learn about it at a time.
  • CSC Projects Itself – Speaking of the Whitehouse relaunching, here we see a strong rebranding campaign. I really like how they had the foresight to extend this into their visual design language.

It certainly is an interesting time. Hopefully we have a government soon, because Obama’s first trip planned is to Canada. It would be somewhat embarrassing if it was revealed that no one is actually running our country, wouldn’t you say?

winter snow

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Photos through December in Vancouver and Victoria.
I installed Picasa for OS X tonight to give it a whirl. It is a thing of beauty – when it comes to photo management, I have not used anything quite as good as Picasa. I also have iPhoto which is really good. Picasa interacts with iPhoto in a non-destructive way, preserving iPhoto’s library, and duplicating photos which I want to edit in Picasa. Great – I like it when applications understand the environment they’re in rather than battle it. The more discerning pixel peepers will note that Picasa over-compressed these photos at “85” quality setting. I am not certain what 85 means on their scale, but this artifacts the way “45” quality would in Photoshop.
Lately I have been posting one photo at a time while acknowledging that I am building up quite the collection of photos in the cue. For a couple months I have been trying to post photos without the aid of Photoshop. Sometimes I just have to use it, other times I try to get by with just the basic tools to resize and re-optimize. I have some tricks and techniques I use in Photoshop but I am not terribly attached to them if I can find something else that does those tricks just as well. Nothing is as good as Photoshop at exporting jpeg’s though. It used to be that Fireworks was really good at it, but Fireworks is so far away from my photo management that it’s not even an option. At some point I will be installing Adobe Creative Suite on the new macbook, it just hasn’t made sense yet. When I really want to go to a town on a photo, I go to ye olde G4 and fire up the shop there. It takes forever, but when I am working on a single photo, it isn’t such a big deal. The reason I have not done many of these massive photo posts lately is because I like to make one photo stand up on its own – for it to be its own story, that kind of thing. Clumping a bunch of photos together feels only vaguely like a theme to be here – there is so much to say about each one, but it tends to get lost in the shuffle on this scale.
In any case, hope you enjoy the photos. I think the last of the snow melted a while ago in downtown Victoria. No idea what it’s like elsewhere.

getting a grip

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Night classes do not start until Wednesday again for me, but that doesn’t mean that learning has not yet started.
In lieu of a textbook for a fourth year business class on Project Management, we are required to join the Project Management Institute as members in the Vancouver Island chapter. This is an interesting approach as I have never been required to use online resources exclusively versus a textbook. For years I have been wondering why this is not done and now I’m finally in a class that does it. Online learning is not new, but this particular aspect, for me, certainly is. In the past, textbooks have offered online versions and CD-ROMs which we never used. That is not the same – not nearly the same – as a professional network which maintains significant monthly publications, a giant resource library, and a massive membership – 265,000+ members. I like that. The designer in me also wonders if a redesign is on the way? Seems like a good candidate..
Last week, for my other class, I checked in with the book store to see if the textbook was in, but they had no information on the class or the book, so my attempt at getting some early reading done was stifled. Too bad, because the weekends and evenings really get jammed further into the semester with assignments and a desire to do something other than reading while writing. I like to let ideas percolate in my head before any amount of significant lecturing so that I can see what sticks naturally and what will take a bit more effort to grok. This generally leads to questions in class while on a subject – pretty much the best time to ask questions. If it all makes sense, sometimes it simply comes to discussion – either way, it makes time in class time well spent.

out of a bind

The photo above is simply my binder with the prong things open. I made it a mission to get artistic with a binder, and that’s what I came up with. I emptied my binder and am recycling everything except resource-based handouts and assignments which I can use as reference. I picked up a binder with a number of dividers and am categorizing the resources, then three-hole punching them to file away. I’m starting with a 1″ binder but am sure that will have to be replaced by next year. It’s all part of the master plan.
This is much different than how I used to deal with material from classes gone by. They used to sit in a drawer, a mountain of notes and “fun sheets” (credit to Mr. Gardner, my high school computer science and mathematics teacher for that one) all jumbled together, no order and certainly no filter. After a couple years, that mountain of notes would go to the recycling box and that would be that. Maybe it’s fair that it went that way – 6 classes per semester is a lot to re-file and index, and a lot of the information in earlier years of post-secondary may have been harder to filter. Information overload is easy at that pace. That is why I am enjoying doing only two courses per semester – something that makes sense to me while continuing to work full time.
I made no new years resolutions – I am happy with my life, and deciding to do more than I currently am would be irresponsible to my relationships, existing commitments, health and happiness. I had a great two weeks off from work and returned feeling refreshed and ready for new challenges. Similarly, I am looking forward to the two new night classes and picking up some fresh new professional perspective. It seems a lot of my peers are also re-engaging or continuing in education at different levels – it is invigorating to be around a variety of involvement. That has a synergistic, motivating effect.
The inspiration for the next part of this post comes from Yule Heibel’s post on “Freshness.” I commented, leaving half a blog post without a beginning, and left it at that. Now that I have happened upon the beginning it makes sense to post that comment and elaborate.

a gentleman and a scholar?

There is a part of me that is very academic. Sometimes it shows up at work – and I’m not certain it should, and then other times my professional get-things-done approach shows up at school and I’m not certain it should be there either. In any circumstance, I put limits on those approaches to make sure they make sense within context, but to say I am 100% academic or 100% business would be false – I like parts of both and don’t see them as mutually exclusive thinking spaces. All that said, after I finished my Business Administration diploma (they call these things Associate Degrees?) in 2002, I was more than happy to spend some time away from school. I had had enough. Perhaps I’ll feel that way again in 2012, but it is too hard to say right now.
Some things have changed – my scholarly approach is different, my course load is much more reasonable, and since I am also working at the same time, I don’t feel as though my career is on hold now. There are a few other factors that have changed.
Sometimes you have to leave something before you can come back to it. I feel that way about composing music as well. Speaking of, I have some new material coming out soon on Pacific Front, but I should save that for another time. It has become late indeed, so I will leave you – and the day – with a question or three:
What reasons would you have for going back into university or college after starting a career? Would you do it? Are you doing it?

favourite photos of 2008

Ever notice that quite a few publications will post their “best of 2008” before the year is even over? I am not so much of a fan of that as, in my opinion, reflection needs at least a little bit of distance. So now that 2008 has been over for a few days, I am doing a “favorite photos of 2008.” Here they are!

January

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The owner of Floyds Diner stops for a moment to have a look around after the breakfast crowd moved on for the day.

February

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Willows Beach near Estevan Village.

March

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Commercial Drive in Vancouver, above the skytrain.

April

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Sasha and John Digweed at Plush in Vancouver.

May

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Some geese show up for Photogroffee in East Sooke Park.

June

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Docking in Tsawwassen.

July

Hornby Island trip
New friend made on Hornby Island. We email regularly.

August

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Negotiations at the Victoria Electronic Music Festival in Centennial Square.

September

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Sunrise on the Saanich Peninsula.

October

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Sunrise from my balcony in downtown Victoria.

November

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A bear fishing in a river near Ucluelet.

December

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Some really hard to use controls on my sony ericsson phone – click for a big version.