110%

Two of my peers and I spent the whole Wednesday at a Power Within, which was stopping by in Toronto.

I have, we could say, a __skeptic’s__ view of self-help literature, so I must admit I entered the convention centre with no particular expectations. In the end, I did enjoy the outing very much. Being able to dissect and examine the various presentation styles was worth it alone.

*Jessie Holmes* (A+ for being funny) – Our MC for the day, she started the day right with a Celine Dion impersonation (“I still love Canada, I only moved as far away as possible!”). Even sang “Love Can Move Mountains”.

*Les Brown* (A+ for delivery): The only true honest-to-God-I-make-a-living motivational speaker, Brown hit the floor running with a loud, boisterous voice, witty dialogue and interesting personal stories, mixed in with the fervour and fire of a Sunday preacher. It really wasn’t what he said – ambiguous advice and pleasantries – but how he said it. Choice quotes:

“Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality!”

“If you’re the smartest person in your group, you gotta get a better group! If you’re hanging out with nine broke men, you’re gonna be the tenth!”

*Tim Sanders* (B) – Yahoo! alumni who was here to promote his latest book, The L Factor. No, not that L; this L stands for likeability. The basic lowdown is to not treat your peers and subordinates like dirt.

*John Wood* (A, because deeds speak) – Microsoft alumni who told his tale of forming __Room to Read__, a charity that sets up libraries, schools, and female scholarships in developing nations. Oh yeah, he has a book to: Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. He got the most applause because of his actions rather than his gift of gab. He made three interesting points:

* In most places, there is no public education system, and families usually can only afford to send one of their kids to school. Wood is convinced is that this pragmatic economic response is how sexual inequality begins; the eldest son is typically the lucky child, and how can a boy not form a prejudice as he watches the girls work the fields from his classroom?
* He runs his charity like a business: donors are treated as investors and as such are given detailed monthly reports on where their money went.
* The first thing most charities buy with your money are $75,000 Land Rovers. __Room to Read__ hires local motorcyclists to transport people and material, saving money and contributing to the local economy as a result.

*Belinda Stronach, MPP* (D for being somewhat presentable) – Nervous, peered at her pages, and picked at the podium with her right hand. Good thing the podium was glass or she would have been holding a chunk of laminated particleboard by the end. Told of the two most difficult decisions of her life: leaving Magna to run for political office, and defecting to the Liberal Party. But I think the audience found it difficult to be sympathetic to this millionaire heiress.

*Michael Eisner* (B for showing a clip of Who Framed Roger Rabbit) – His credo is to obsess over details (he confusingly dubs this “micromanagement”). As evidence, he showed the opening scene of the Lion King, with a vocal soundtrack that seamlessly transitioned from English to Zulu to Korean thanks to Disney’s scrutiny in finding near-identical voices for each of the film’s localization. Unfortunately, that was it.

*Sir Richard Branson* (U for Ummmm…) – The highnote of the show turned out to be the downer. He couldn’t say three words without ummming and errrring. He’s obviously a smart man however. Some of us suspected he’s had too much Bollinger’s, or Nyquil, or both.

So do I feel the power within? Sort of. I’d like to close off this lengthy entry with Frank Tibolt’s words: “Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”

Overheard on the conference bridge.

We were on a conference call, and as things wounded down and the callers began hanging up, two people started up a side conversation.

“Hey…I’m still on this call so you guys can keep talking,” the moderator said.

One of the speakers quicky said, “Oh, you can hang up, we’ll keep talking.”

“Are you sure?”

“Trust me!”

“OK.”

“See? What did I tell – *BEEP* THE MODERATOR HAS LEFT THE CONFERENCE. GOODBYE.” *CLICK*.

Apparently Dhalsim is not indicative of India

V decided to take us to Little India this weekend. It’s not exactly a pilgrimage to head off to Gerrard and Coxwell, but you need to put this into perspective. There’s this thing where people on the West side of Toronto never go to the east side, and vice versa. The border of this invisible barrier seems to be the Don Valley Parkway.

Maybe because for a western Torontonian, seeing the mighty Gardiner Expressway suddenly end with square pillars on the roadside pointing towards the sky and supporting nothing is too weird.

It was an interesting experience. If Chinatown can be said to be full of DVDs of questionable origin and Hello Kitty merchandise, Little India can be said to be comprised of stores selling you sarees and bangles. We got a box full of the sickly sweet confections known as barfi and chum-chums,which we are still nursing. And then we patronized this Indian buffet that proudly advertised 8 flavours of ice cream. I don’t think I’ve ever ate more in my life.

P.S. I did feel kinda scammed, since they actually only had 6 flavours. But the food was still pretty good.

Cha cha cha ching

A few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon, I learned the fundamentals of the tango, the cha-cha, the rhumba, and the waltz.

Being the person I am, I mentally broke down the various dances as subsets of each other. For example, the rhumba is basically the cha-cha without the middle “cha” step. The waltz is the tango two-step executed along two dimensions instead of one. (No wonder the 19th century British social elite called the waltz “indecent” and “obscene”.)

Hours later, I also learned that one could have two wills. I was attending a seminar being hosted by my financial provider on such topics as small business tax deductions and emerging markets from a variety of financial professionals, including the VP of global operations for Manulife Financial. Afterward, they also taught us how to dance. What can I say, my advisor is unique and creative.

The audience was mostly older people working as general practitioners in the fields of medicine or dentistry. Very scrupulous people. During lunch, I noticed everyone polished their plates clean. I was a rebel and left a cherry tomato behind…

Scratch ‘n sniff

Actually%20Smiling%20Down%202.jpgOur kitty occasionally scratches at our apartment door. I can totally empathize: she’s an indoor cat, she’s already seen the couch a million times, and all the interesting smells and tasty foods come through that door. I mean, I would want to check it out if I was her.

So the other day I just went and opened the door. She sort of jumped back a bit, and stared at me with this “WHOA! I was just bluffin” look on her face. But then she turned back to look at the untamed wilderness before her, and she seized the day.

Our apartment door opens on a long, carpeted hallway. Think the Keymaker’s corridor in __The Matrix Reloaded__ but with cheap art on the wall. But for an indoor cat, it’s like landing on the moon. She didn’t bolt. She quietly padded out, her belly wiggling a little as she surveyed this alien vista she had landed on. She thoroughly sniffed and looked up at the first row of doors towering above her. Her mind seems to click; these square portals are also “doors” and they may also contain fun and interesting things behind them.

She returned by her own accord, her face set in quiet contemplation. I think she had a religious experience.

The next day she cried and scratched at the door again.

I just figured out the one thing that is harder to construct than a virtual reality environment that can completely submerge a person – a virtual reality environment that can entertain a cat.

Back from the USA

Just polished off a three day shopping vacation in the US of A, or Port Huron, Michigan to be precise. I’ve been to the States several times, but never to the Midwest and never really stopped to see what it was like to simply live there.

What sort of differences I see from Ontario? Well, Port Huronians sure like their big box outlet stores. Sidewalks are optional (I don’t think I saw more than a dozen people walking outside the downtown core). They also like their Big Boys and White Castles. Lots and lots of flags, everywhere. Really, really low sales tax (6%). Oh, and milk in plastic jugs! I know milk in clear plastic bags is a uniquely Canadian thing but milk in jugs still throws me.

No streetlights on the interstate. No daytime running lights on cars. Speaking of driving, did they use a chain gang to build the I-94? The highway was riddled with potholes that striped the asphalt. I envision each convict being assigned to maintaining each of these “stripes”, and it just so happens that Chuckles did a worse job than Jimmy the Knife next to him or something.

Random musing: Do TGIF and Ruby Tuesdays experience better business on Fridays and Tuesdays, respectively, due to psychological word association?

Watching that movie made me think of work

Just came back from _The Devil Wears Prada_. The plot is fairly transparent, but there’s enough of witticisms and clever dialogue to keep me entranced. That and the incredible product placements. Oh, I’m not talking about Ms. Chanel and Mr. Lagerfield – I’m talking about Bang & Olufsen, Apple, Motorola, Maybach, and Mercedes. And yes, that’s a T-Mobile Sidekick 3 Anne Hathaway carries that is her yoke that ties her to that insufferable workplace.

Some parts of the movie reminded me of crazy events at work, although I can’t say any of my bosses have ever been that demanding – although none of them have equipped me with an Apple 30″ Cinema Display, either.

Sketchy Sheraton

Why do I hate the Sheraton Toronto? Let’s count the ways, as witnessed last night:

* human waste in the toilet of our room
* plugged bathtub that was slowly running
* waiter at Bistro on Two took 15 minutes to fix a credit card overcharge
* pool changerooms have no towels
* At 9:30pm, the hotel’s entire security system crashed, and we were all locked out of our rooms. We were wet, tired, sans keys and money and holding swimming suits. Despite many broken promises by staff, confusion reigned in the lobby until a security guard let us into our room almost two hours later. While sitting in the hall we did meet some nice people from Brisbane, Chicago, Israel, Seoul, Boston, and New Jersey (although they initially claimed they were from New York).
* broken hotel room deadbolt

Total compensation for this crap (both figuratively and literally): two Cineplex Odeon movie passes and 1000 Starwood Points (value: $50). The front desk and the hotel manager were friendly and apologetic, but felt this was adequate compensation. The reason was I used a gift certificate good for free accomodation from last year for, ironically, terrible service.

Little does the hotel manager know, Starwood Points are of no use to me. I’m never going to stay in the Sheraton Toronto ever again.

Two if by train

Do I need more fun? How about taking the woman on a weekend getaway to Ottawa a couple weeks ago? We took a train to Ottawa (first class – that’s just how I roll), booked ourselves into the Marriott Ottawa and tickets to see the Canadian Museum of Civilization. On Saturday, we walked along the Alexandra Bridge, checked out the CMC, the 062%20Like%20Castle%20Grayskull%2C%20but%20better%20funded.jpg IMAX film (Greece: Secrets of the Past, narrated by Nia Vardalos! Yes she qualified herself by mentioning “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.) and the Petra exhibit, and then walked around the outskirts of Byward Market.

Unfortunately, by then Silverlotus caught my cold and was bed-ridden by Saturday evening and all of Sunday. However, despite having to feed her with a staple diet of McDonald’s strawberry milkshakes and Tylenol Flu, we still had a good time. We watched TV and watch a grandfather cheat in minigolf downstairs on the kid’s playground on the verandah below us.

*Reading*: Finished off _Robots and Empire_ and the Saturday Star (I like their new magazine article format).

*360 degrees*: A romantic dinner at the Merlot, in the revolving restaurant on top of the Marriott Ottawa. I had duck breast and she had prime rib, and damn was the food tasty. But for God’s sake, it’s 2006, get a website.

*6pm*: The time the entire frickin’ town closes up shop. Honest.

*7:15pm*: The time the hot tub closes. The only sign is a piece of paper taped to the actual hot tub. That made me sad. 🙁

*4-0*: The score for the Oilers vs. Hurricanes, Game 6, as we watched on in the hotel room. Silverlotus knows more hockey than I do.

*”Museum of Canadian Civilization”*: Silverlotus’s proposed name for the CMC, as __technically__ none of the rest of the world is in focus. Such a particular one when she’s ill.