Getting started

Don't expect words of wisdom or earth shattering revelations, just my thoughts and observations about living in Ottawa, being a public servant and trying to live life every day to its fullest

Monday, August 30, 2010

A cat, a cat-carrier and my bike; Friday I tried something new - strapping my cat carrier to the back of my bike and riding to work. This is a tricky task because the carrier doesn't really have anything easy to bungee around. There were three failed attempts to secure the carrier to the bike, all of which involved me jumping off the bike inelegantly (I was wearing a skirt) and grabbing the carrier before it went flying into traffic. If you try hard enough and are creative, you can secure anything to a bike!

Riding around Sandy Hill with the cat-carrier strapped to the back of my bike got me to thinking about Mao, my cat. Mao means "cat" in Chinese and reminds me of my Chinese roots. Mao is a tiny little cat, I have hand-bags bigger than this beast, he is a picky eater who doesn't like fresh shrimp (tired that on him last night - the results were returned about 30 minutes later on the carpet) and he is a charmer. I affectionately call him slut-cat because he will instantly make nine out of ten visitors his new best friend. He likes to ignore me to remind me that he could be taken home by anyone, so I should be nice to him, but when it is just the two of us, he is very snugly.

I adopted him from the Ottawa Humane Society two and a half years ago to replace an ex-boyfriend. January there is often a surge of animals at the shelter after Christmas when a lot of people "up-grade" from cat-to-kitten, or cat-to-dog, my mother says that I too was up-grading; boyfriend-to-cat. I also said I wanted an older animal because I am too lazy to train a kitten and these are often the hardest animals to place. I suppose I didn't really think this through ... animals are often abandoned because they are not trained or have behavior issues, with older animals there are also often health issues. When I saw this little Tabby-cat, curled up at the back of his cage, battling with depression (he had been there for six weeks) I knew this was the one. He did have some health issues, but they turned out to be due to the stress of being in the shelter for so long. No one knew who he was or what happened to him - he had been found in early December wandering around 1m tall snowbanks. He had no collar, no chip, no identification, no front-claws, and no one ever claimed him - so I did.

I have to say that in the bingo-game of pet adoption, I hit the jack-pot. My little beast is amazing (apart from reminders that he is hungry or didn't like what I fed him moments earlier). He was fully litter-trained, doesn't jump up onto any hard surfaces (think cat-free kitchen counters), doesn't shed too much, ignores my plants and my fish and he often also comes when called. I can do the drive from Ottawa to Orillia without too much grief and he has settled into life with the occasional visit from dogs.Apart from an unfortunate event involving his feline instincts and a chickadee, he isn't much of a hunter and prefers hanging out on the deck enjoying the sunshine and munching the cat-grass that I grow. If I were to every adopt another animal, the Humane Society would be the first place I would go - although I will not ... I am half a cat away from being the crazy-cat lady. But if you choose to adopt a cat, or need a carrier, I will strap it back onto my bike and lend it to you as well, inclusive of a can of food, some treats and maybe even a toy.

PS: the cat was NOT in the carrier when I biked to work ... I am not that crazy!

Monday, August 23, 2010

No car / No computer = no life? My first real post was about Web2 and my second post was about driving my car. This post is about living without either!

I am currently car-less; I lent it to a friend who currently needs it more than I do. The computer was not a choice thing, Microsoft Vista decided that it needed to prove itself as the most unstable platform currently in circulation and developed a "critical boot error" a week ago that I have been unable to rectify. Like the car, the computer is currently in other hands. For a week now I have had neither car nor computer and apart from the occasional bout of sheer panic and despair, I am doing just fine.

I am lucky as I live downtown and can easily access amenities without the car. Sure; I got stuck riding my bike in the rain on Saturday, but I had forgotten how nice it is to run errands without worrying about parking (and how nice it is to sometimes have to ride in the rain). I remembered how one doesn't buy as much at the grocery store if you are walking home with it and how part of the weekend adventure is the journey to where you are going. I discovered why the bottom of my bike-bag is stuffed with plastic bags and the Ottawa River Parkway Bike path.

As for the computer - well that is a different story! I can tweet and view most of my e-mail on the blackberry, so I confess that I am not completely out of the loop (You think I am out of the loop because I am not on FaceBook - but think of the withdrawal I would be going through) . I used to joke that I didn't have a TV so that I wouldn't get sucked into programs, but I realised that I had been. Sunday night, I wanted to watch "my programs" and I couldn't. There were a few hard minutes where I questioned what I would do without my computer or if I should give in and call the cable company to hook up a connection. The cat probably wondered what was going on when I turned up the stereo and danced around the living room with him (warning: crazy-cat lady alert) and then hung out with him while reading a book.

In reality I am not actually missing out on anything by not having a visual entertainment unit in my house, in fact, I probably am miss out by having access to it. Those perfect nights on my deck when the weather is warm and the stars are out; been curled up with the computer watching the pixels glimmer. Those miserable days perfect for sitting with a hot chocolate and catching up by phone with a long-distance friend; surfing the internet and reading their blog. Those days perfect for dancing in the rain; checking the weather online. 

The internet is forever ... it will all be there when (if) I get my computer back. In the meantime, I am going to log-off, walk home, sit in the sunshine on the deck, eat leftovers and read the end of the book I started yesterday. Tomorrow a friend will give me a lift to my game and we will spend the time in the car together catching up. 

Sometimes it is nice to remember life can be good without material / technological possessions.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Road Zen - My parents live a 4.5 - 5 hour drive away from me. It is mostly tight and twisty back-roads without homes or other cars for kilometers. I do the drive about six times a year and I know the turns and best overtaking places along the route, I know where the cops usually wait and I know all the best places to pee (many of the good sites are inaccessible when there is snow).

When I moved to Ottawa, the drive seemed like this insurmountable obstacle and I feared the hours in the car, despite the fact that in those days I had company and didn't have to drive much. It would take me hours to get comfortable and in winter I was always cold. The conversations were incredible but the drive was almost always done in the dark. Then I got a standard car, which I couldn't drive! And then I started having to do the drive alone. Five hours in a car alone with my thoughts. Five hours of empty roads and empty countryside. Five hours of turning and stopping and going, and .... !!! FIVE HOURS! Five hours with just me.

I have broken the drive down in my head into landmarks that remind me how far I have to go. There is the boring but usually fast stretch from Ottawa to Renfrew, and then the stretch from Renfrew to Denbigh which is pretty and has some great spots for overtaking. And then my favorite stretch from Denbigh to Hardwood Lake (tight and twisty all the way). The next stretch is from Hardwood Lake to Tory Hill, which is broken up with Bancroft in the middle. The fourth stretch includes my recently found "short cut" from Tory Hill to Norland, I used to go through Minden but have taken 30 - 40mins off with this scenic route which includes a shoe-tree. Then there is the home stretch, from Norland to Orillia.

I drive through some of the most incredible countryside and it makes me happy and grateful to be in Canada where we have space and I can drive like this. There are the fields and the rocky terrain around Canada's mining capital, there are the lakes and in winter the sky seems to blue and the trees so white. There are small little houses tucked in besides rivers and Kawartha Lake ice-cream with its 30 minute lines. It is a varied drive where I pass lakes filled with canoes or cross snowmobile paths. There are cows and sheep and horses and gardens covered in plastic ornaments or the cowboy shadow cut out (why I ask you! WHY?) And every time I do the drive I see something new.

Today I did the drive in four hours and 35mins and I have a few observations on driving Ontario's smaller highways:
  • There is always at least one "Farmer Fud" on the road. Someone who drives below the speed limit and just potters long enjoying the scenery. I am happy that they are not in a rush and are reveling in countryside vistas, but when you have 400km's to cover, 60km/h is not helpful.
  • Worse yet are the people who drive 90km/h. The speed limit on most of the routes is 80km/h (which means I do around 99km/h). At least Farmer Fud is easy to overtake. Trying to get past these takes a little more skill, you need to break the speed limit to get around them safely and they have a bad habit of speeding up to 95km/h on the straight stretches. 
  • There is a special place in hell for people who break hard through bends. I am not saying that your should not break for a bend in the road ... but seriously people! These are actually the people who cause me the most road rage. They kill the Zen of the curve and the feel of the car as it banks by doing it all at 40km even when the roads are dry (again, in an 80 zone!)
  • It takes me 100km to find my groove and let go of all the Farmer Fuds and Heavy Breakers of this world. After this I find my groove, I embrace the Zen of driving and am ready to go with the flow and settle in for 4 more hours of roads.
My most important realisation is that I love the five hours I have with myself. In this crazy world where things are always happening, I find the drive one of the few times where all I can do is think and be. For 300 minutes it is just me and the road, the bends, the trees and the sky. It is in the last 300km that I find my peace.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Engagement and Web2 The key to a good blog is to have regular content that is interesting and brings people back to see what you have to say. So here I am, one week later trying to be interesting and engaging.

Engagement is about bringing you back time and again. However, in this case engagement is not really about having a meaningful dialouge with you. Why? Because this is not Web2. Now some of you are rolling your eyes and tuning out because you "know" all of this ... but guess what; you are not the majority (I am sure we had this conversation in my office today). So the rest of this post is for everyone else who ever wanted to know about Web2. I am by no means an expert - so this is a lay(wo)man's exploration of very basic Web2 concepts.

The majority of stuff posted on Web1 is done by "experts" and is static. Web2 allows for real-time interaction to discuss and co-create ideas and wiki's (documents). Content is constantly edited by crowds and while some of it is posted by experts, there are always others who can (and will) contribute. The practice has shown that the facts survive this informal "peer review" process thereby generating value content. Any website that has a comment section is not Web2 - the basic content is static and can not be edited or updated by users, plus the comments are not necessarily value added (ever read the comments on Globe and Mail articles? The only value there is a deeper understanding of the people who have time to post)

[bloggers note: I do want your comments, thoughts or ideas for future blog posts]

Wikipedia is a Web2 interface but it really only serves one purpose - a repository of information. Web2 has many features and is best deployed as a suite of tools used simultaneously, each with a specific purpose to help link people, store information and facilitate conversations in realtime online. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are examples of Web 2 functionality, but assuming the they are good example of Web2 negates all the real potential of Web2. The great thing about Facebook and Twitter like services is that these create communities and connect people (engagement! - see everything is linked!)

This is NOT Web2. My content is static, and you can not edit it. You can comment - and I can respond, but it is usually not an extensive discussion and will not lead to changes in the original posting. The cavet there is that if I come to work tomorrow and get a lecture from our Web2 specialist, you can bet your bottom dollar that this will be edited (but by me - see Web1!!!)

I said in my first post that I am a technophobe, and I am. I am a user and a sometimes early adapter or selective technologies. I have learned so much in the last year about Web2, engagement and building sustainable on-line communities that produce real products, but I know we all have so much to learn - why? Because Web2 is still being developed and adapted, it is still in its infancy and no one really knows where it is going and how to maximize it. It is going to be quite the ride in the next few years as more and more applications roll-out who knows where it will take us.

Eventually I promise to answer the question some of you ask on a regular basis: why am I not on Facebook? You are just going to have to come back! My Web1 engagement strategy; leave them hanging.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Welcome - this is my first "public" blog post. For around two years I have posted in a secure space (ClearSpace) and enjoyed my regular rants ... so I am taking my opinions main stream. Here I am - in all digital glory. Realizing that the internet is forever, I am willing to post what I think. Why? Because it reaffirms what I believe in; honesty.

Please note that I do not claim to have the truth or the answers.

A few things about me; I tweet (@TabTalks) but I do not Facebook.I love the way new technologies have revolutionized how I work and am on the Web2 band-wagon, but I still feel that talking to someone can solve problems and generate ideas faster. I am a technophobe and only own a cell-phone because work says I have to, but here I am blogging! I suppose it boils down to balance and control, I need both.

I am highly committed to Federal Public Service Renewal and empowering people to take control over their lives and careers by creating spaces and opportunities. I am also committed to my friends, my cat and getting into trouble as often as possible (usually not often enough). I scuba dive, snowboard, travel and entertain often unknowingly.

My posts will be on a variety of topics including the Public Service, Web2, travel, City of Ottawa issues, random thoughts and being a woman in Ottawa.