Thursday, April 8, 2010

Please Recycle Responsibly

    When it comes to getting rid of your garbage it has become rather frustrating for some people to understand how to fully manage their waste, so that it has the least amount of impact on the landfill. There are two types of landfills; municipal landfills which are governed and operated by the municipality; and, there are private landfills; which are governed by the Ministry of Environment and operated by private operators. Generally speaking any waste that goes to a municipal landfill was generated by residential waste and some institutional, commercial and industrial(IC& I) locations. Additionally, waste collected for a municipal landfill is generally collected by the municipality either through their own equipment or a contracted service. Private landfills generally deal with waste generated and collected outside of services provided by a municipality. An example of this would be your local mall, while they may have a multi-stream bins for the consumer to deposit paper and another container for glass bottles, the total non-diverted waste collected generally ends up in a private landfill.

    Municipalities set different diversion targets; Hamilton wants to achieve a 65% diversion by the year 2013, today we are at approximately 44% diversion rate. However, this diversion rate only speaks about municipally collected waste targets. Hamilton is one of the few communities which offers two-stream (or multi-stream) recycling in place of a single-stream recycling, in other words we prefer to separate our fiber or newspapers from our containers or bottles and cans. There is some argument that if Hamilton were to move to a signal-stream recycling program that our diversion rate would increase significantly. Perhaps that might have been the truth back in the late 1990s when curb-side recycling became part of the regular waste collection cycle and there was some resistance to change, so the argument was that if you put all of your recyclables in one container you'd be more apt to participate in a diversion program. Hamilton has offered multi-stream recycling for quite some time now with great success. Our current diversion rate as of 2009 is 44%. While that's a far cry from 65%, it's high enough to be recognized by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). To further support our success, Hamilton was one of nine communities across Canada that was recognized by FCM's Green Municipal Fund in a report released not too long ago. Interestingly enough, what I found most confounding is that a Hamilton City Councillor was pictured with a Hamilton resident presenting a "Gold Box" for their diversion efforts. This is the same Councillor who has publicly criticized Staff for being too aggressive in their waste management efforts.

    As of April 5, 2010 Hamilton implemented a one-bag limit (or one-container limit) for non-diverted waste. Those opposed to the one-bag limit, cited that illegal dumping would again rear its ugly head and that perhaps if Hamilton was to offer a single-stream recycling program (versus a container limit), our diversion rate would fare better. It would appear that we have a couple of red herrings being used as excuses for those who struggle with how to manage their waste. While I wouldn't profess to be the best at diverting my waste, I will say that I have implemented a couple of subtle changes in my household waste management practices that have enabled me to realize a single container of waste (sometimes less) each week. To start with, I essentially have no waste containers. In the kitchen I have a split garbage can with half being for garbage and the other half for compostable waste; all of my paper recyclables goes into a bin of its own; in the washroom and in the bedrooms I have very small containers for waste, with the regular receptacle now used for either recyclables or compostable waste. At the end of each week I take the bag that's in the kitchen and I go to all the other receptacles in the house and add the smaller bins of waste, that plus kitty litter equals about a half a container or bag per week. The $64,000 question would have to be if Hamilton was to change its recycling methods from a multi-stream to a single stream operation, would more Hamiltonian's recycle more. It's been stated that roughly 85% of Hamiltonian's who receive curb-side collection are already complying with the one bag limit. The concern by some is that just because 85% of Hamiltonian's are only putting out one container doesn't necessarily mean that they are complying with the one-container limit; they could be dumping illegally. I can only say that if that is what certain individuals believe in, then that would imply that they do not have faith in the citizenry of Hamilton that they are doing what they can to manage their waste.

    Certainly when you look at the FCM report, Hamilton has some very lenient programs intended on controlling or managing our waste diversion. Other municipalities who have a higher diversion rate also have more strict guidelines with respect to how waste is managed at the curb-side. Those guidelines include bag tagging, more restrictive collection practices, as well as greater recycling options. While Hamilton may not be all the way to bright, they are a North American-wide recognized municipality with respect to some of the programs and initiatives which have been put into practice, including the aforementioned Gold Box program. With the great accolades, how is Hamilton going to achieve 65% diversion rate? Well for starters, they're now going after multi-residential properties where they do have existing curb-side collection or municipally controlled container collection. Recently with the introduction of green carts added into multi-residential buildings, the anticipation is that our diversion rate will increase significantly as the program succeeds. I believe that Hamilton has done enough from a residential curb-side collection program. Making further changes to the curb-side collection program will only create further confusion and resistance to divert waste. Hamilton should continue to focus on where the greatest amount of waste is generated, and that is in the IC&I area. To give you an idea of the impact of this area: 13,000,000 tons of waste was generated in Canada from residential collection, while 22,000,000 tons of waste was collected from non-residential locations. Of the total 35,000,000 tons of waste collected, only 7.7 million tons was diverted; that means that 27,000,000 tons of waste ended up in a landfill. Using 50% and beyond as a benchmark, the FCM identified four keys to success:

  1. Partnerships and collaboration: in other words, they are looking for buy-in from citizens and companies in the formation of policies and practices on how waste is collected.
  2. Convenient options: essentially this is the foundation of any waste diversion option, the more convenient you make it the greater the success.
  3. Policy and legislation: obviously this one is an integral piece to ensure the sustainability of any program or practice that is adopted. It also sets the foundation for other municipalities across Canada to adopt.
  4. Education and promotion: without it any of the above keys to success would fail. When you look at the policies, practices and the ideas that are being discussed and put into action today: without education and promotion they would certainly fall by the wayside without consistent messaging. There's no question that the success of a waste management program is hinged on behavioural change.

    "As municipalities become comfortable with the basic elements of waste diversion, they are innovating and expanding on their strategies to reach higher diversion rates. A number of trends are emerging across Canada: zero waste communities; economic instruments; green procurement and consumer education."

    Hamilton has demonstrated the above basic elements of waste diversion, continuing to be a responsible recycler will go a long way in helping Hamilton achieve its 65% diversion rate. We cannot afford to be distracted by the few who vocalize their displeasure in policy aimed at responsible waste practices. We must look at the many who have discovered and embraced proper waste management practices, and who have not only reached a one container limit but perhaps exceeded, (and I mean by less than one container) per week. One only has to drive in any one particular neighbourhood on garbage day to observe the number of households who adhere to the policy. If Hamilton indeed has an illegal dumping concern, then we need to address that and not get distracted by blaming our current waste management practices. There's no question that people hate change, but there's also no question that people who choose to be ignorant will continue to do so regardless of what the law says.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Driving Home the Jobs

    The fire has been stoked, and I'm in a bit of a ranting mood. Enjoy my true 'diatribe'!

Early in March, I had the opportunity to attend the Hamilton Civic League's Speaker series as a guest panellist. The topic was transportation, or more correctly: mass transit. Other guest panellists at the table were representatives from cycling, transit, light-rail, and a professor in transportation logistics (who was there representing himself, not the organization he works with). The mandate of the Hamilton Civic League is laudable, and on the surface aims to provide civic engagement in the upcoming Municipal Election in October this year. The Q&A was well prepared and provided in advance, with strict timelines for all panellists to respond.

    As I was there as a representative of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce (in my role as Transportation Committee Chair), I tempered my responses to ensure I kept within either current policies or policies in the making. And, like most transportation-themed 'public' forums, the attendees are primarily residents who concerned on the environmental impact of the over-reliance of cars or residents who live primarily in the core. Sadly, individuals poorly represented at 'public' forums are those who actually create the economy that is Hamilton (aka – business/manufacturing senior executives). While there may be a couple of small business owners, it's unusual to see representation from medium-to-large sized companies. When Metrolinx was doing their 'dog & pony' show a couple of years back, you'd typically see less than 5% representation from the goods movement industry in attendance. As a result of this poor showing, policies and recommendations were introduced based solely on those who attended the 'open house'.

    In my previous blog I spoke of the important linkage between goods movement and jobs. This misalignment of 'public forums' tend to cloud the true intention of a well-executed transportation grid system. To illustrate the misinformation of goods movement: at one point during the Civic League meeting, the guest panellist representing the economic importance of LRT actually downgraded the recent announcement of Canada Bread's new factory location in the Glanbrook Business Park; noting that the jobs created were 'low paying' and minimalistic. He further commented that the introduction of LRT in the lower City would go a long way towards higher-paying jobs. I can only assume that his vision of LRT stations will be void of restaurants, theatres, and other retail-focused shops, as these locations generally pay minimum wage!

    Over the next couple of months, the City of Hamilton staff and Council will make certain decisions on the preferred Truck Route for Hamilton's road network. Once again, and due primarily to the lack of feedback from the industry which actually uses the roads, steps are being proposed to restrict truck movement on roads specifically designed for such use. (Perhaps because I look at things quite differently, I do have to wonder aloud as to why the Traffic Division of the City didn't wander across the hall to the Economic Development Department to engage the industry's most affected by road designation changes. I can't turn back the clocks, so no sense commiserating the issue.) Instead, it's time for a 'call to action' from those who rely on a properly designated Truck Route to 'belly up to the bar'. Any Council meeting open for public delegation is the perfect forum to state the concerns at hand. In the midst of our yearning for environmental choices coupled in the name of a more active lifestyle, we overlook the role that goods movement plays in our livelihood.

    Advocates of 'buy local' are correct in applying this methodology to locally produced goods; but, even those goods rely on a sound trucking corridor to get the goods from the location of origin to the location of destination…there are not that many cash registers in the cauliflower fields in the Flamborough region. I can only assume that true zealots of the 'buy local' practice won't be reading this…because any electronic device most certainly required the use of marine/air/rail/truck transport…a verboten practice for the true followers of 'buy local'. As with any 'new' practice in today's economy, we tend to swing too far away from the 'bad' way with intentions of finding the 'right' way, without considering the circumstances of our decisions in future years.

    Hamilton is a community diverse in nature and layout; we have a 'downtown' in 5 of the 6 former communities; we have unique suburban communities; and, 65% of our land mass is comprised of rural area. We need to exercise caution, but not get weighed under by the studies and reviews. Using the 'master plan' to guide our actions, we can continue to stay the course in providing a welcoming place for Hamiltonians to live, play …. And work.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Old Age Pensions: A Bottomless Pit?

Most of us don't really pay attention to pensions until we reach a certain age when we start looking at what we're going to do with our time after retirement (or a version thereof). Generally speaking, pensions are earned over the course of time working in Canada…and according to the current version of the Old Age Security Act…that time must be a minimum of 10 years before one can claim the pension once they reach the age of 65.

Say hello to Bill C-428, an Act to amend the Old Age Security Act aimed at reducing the wait time from 10 years to 3 years. The reason? "Whereas the current ten-year residency requirement places undue hardship on recent immigrants who are seniors in that they are unable to adequately access old age security benefits;" (taken from the pre-amble of Bill C-428) Essentially, this Act will enable those seniors who had the opportunity to earn an income in another country to now immigrate to Canada at the age of 62 versus 55 before claiming old age pension.

Excluding special circumstances, this new Act will essentially open a Pandora's Box of financial strain on the public coffers who contribute to the Pension Fund. We know that the reliance on immigrants is becoming more so, as Canada's birthrate is lagging it's death rate…putting the Country at risk of a dwindling population. The influx of well-educated immigrants has helped Canada continue its dominance in the Global marketplace. The gap in the proposed change to the Old Age Security Act is that it is specifically targeting immigrants who are seniors, thereby encouraging those in their senior years to immigrate to Canada for the sole purpose of receiving a pension without having to contribute.

For quite some time, Canadians (and the US for that matter), have grappled with innovative solutions to minimize the impending impact of the tsunami of Baby Boomers entering their retirement years. An article published in 2006 by Pierre Fortin, a professor of economics and associate of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, touched on some of these very real impacts based on the current economy in 2006. Since then we've hit quite the economical speed bump in 2008, which by all accounts should have encouraged policy makers to re-think future decisions…but I don't think the message has reached everyone. The message then was that "…in 2020 (baby boomers) will be 60 to 75 years old. Most of them will have begun their retirement. Just as they entered the job market en masse…they will leave it in large numbers between now and 2025…The consequence is obvious: Our governments will be cash-strapped!"

Instead of commencing with actions which would manage our own self-created strain on the pension fund, the Government is choosing to open up the wallet further to ease user access. When Bill C-428 was introduced into the House of Commons for its first reading on June 18th, 2009 it passed with little fan-fare. Due to the prorogation of Parliament, the Bill "…is deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation…" Now the Bill is getting some attention from those most affected by the risks of exposure of more pensioners drawing from the fund than what was originally thought.

The time is ripe for social media activism to weigh-in on the proposed Act. If you've got a bit of time to review the issue, and feel it's unfair or requires some tweaking, don't delay and act today.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Talking About Today’s Most Popular 4-Letter Word: Jobs

As Hamilton moves toward enhancing employment land developments, I offer my thoughts on what drives the economy and the impacts of a well-balanced transportation inter-modal connectivity.

Creating jobs has become the new mantra for politicians, communities, and pretty much anyone who has recognized the cause and effect of consumerism. While some look to develop 'green' jobs, others look to resurrect existing manufacturing sectors, and others look to inspire policy changes to inspire others to become visionaries in job creation.

Whether driven by economics or environmental awareness, creating jobs no longer comes at the expense of convenience or long-term impacts on community development. Here in Hamilton, while we'd like to see the steel mills up and running to their glory days of the early 70s, we recognize that that comes at a cost to our environment and healthy lifestyle…so we temper that wish accordingly. To give credit where credit is due, companies have made significant strides towards providing more environmentally responsible ways to manufacture their products.

Completing the picture towards job prosperity is a well-planned transportation network which optimizes the multi-modal sectors accordingly. For the most part, goods movement is viewed as the 'enemy' of the environment, yet without a goods movement strategy any progress towards job creation is stymied at the onset. Canada Bread recently announced plans to build a new facility in Hamilton, mainly due to the road logistics in place…the ease of access; which leads to cost controls, and minimizing impacts on the environment. Building (or restoring) manufacturing facilities isn't as easy as it once was…ensuring a maximum utilization of the transportation corridor is paramount to the success of the facility.

The introduction of 'clusters' helped manufacturers keep various stages of production within a small area to minimize transportation costs. From these 'clusters', the development of multi-modal 'hubs' became the next logical step in controlling and managing existing methods of goods movement. The best example of this would be the creation of Nine Dragons in China. This multi-faceted facility incorporates a shipping port as part of the warehousing and production facility. In Canada, we have similar multi-modal facilities primarily incorporating the collaboration of rail & road, or road & air, or marine & rail…very rarely would you see a 4-pronged multi-modal regional facility. In either mixed use, one thing is perfectly clear…jobs are the main benefit of these facilities which capitalize on their collaboration to move goods from one destination to another.

Today, Hamilton is poised to expand its current 'gateway' through the incorporation of employment land development, and inter-modal hub facilities connecting roads, rail, marine, and air. In horse-racing vernacular this would be a trifecta worth betting on. Hamilton currently holds one of the larger great lake Ports; an international airport; a national rail linkage capability; and a successful road network poised for further enhancement to connections to the US border and the GTA. From a Regional perspective, Hamilton holds the future success of south-western Ontario's prosperity through expanded multi-modal employment land development.

Understanding the complexities of urban development and environmental protectionism, mass transit must be integrated into the advance of inter-modal development. Availing land for utilization of inter-connectivity of the various modes of transportation is also reliant on the land itself to be 'shovel-ready'…in other words: ensure the lands surrounding the transportation network are feasible for development. Currently Hamilton has an "Airport Employment Growth District" (AEGD) plan on the table, however further enhancement of the plan is required to allow for complete development of the area identified in the AEGD. A common misconception is that businesses who are looking to develop facilities within the Hamilton region can simply utilize existing vacant lands…however one needs to look at why those lands became vacant…it wasn't purely on technological advances…some closures where pinned to lack of transportation connectivity.

At the end of the day, evolving Hamilton's gateway status into a true multi-modal hub will spell true job creation. For as we know it, regardless of the product being manufactured or shipped, a successful utilization of all available modes of transportation will sustain our competitiveness in the global market.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Highway versus the Information Superhighway

In what is the most likely mismatched poll, CNN has postulated an on-line poll asking voters to choose only one of the following innovations that changed the face of America: the Interstate Highway system, television, or the Internet.

At the time of this writing, some 130,000 voters have pegged the Internet as the top innovation…by an astounding 58%. Lagging dead last is the Interstate at 15%. Comments posted about the article illustrate two altering users of social media…environmentalists who pinned the oil volatility and the war in the Middle East on the reliance of automobiles, while techies championed the dawn of renewed accessibility to information worldwide.

While the commentary following the article recognizes that the road network is not just about cars, but also about goods movement and the trucking industry, there is a disheartening gap in recognizing this by putting the virtual network and the need for information above the economy. While there is no discounting the power of the Information Superhighway (aka: the Internet), there is a tremendous amount of gratitude owed to the users of the Highway…after all, without the Highway we wouldn't have our laptops, desktops, modems, and other electronics at our avail to gain all that time sensitive information.

It's rather disappointing to see that Highways are the enemy, and the Internet is the friend. This rather oblique view on what impacted the landscape of today's America is disturbing at best. This continuing failure to recognize the value of goods movement is a slap in the face of progress of real proportions. On-line shopping requires a well-planned road network, and with approximately 75% of goods shipped in trucks (of all sizes…not just the 18-wheelers), operating in a real-time delivery model would be onerous. And while improvements have been made with other modes of transportation (rail, marine & air), work still needs to be completed on multi-modal facilities to maximize the use of the road networks.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flying HI

    Hamilton…it's a beautiful City. While not all would necessarily agree, others have gone out of their way to promote Hamilton as the place to live, work, and play. We've got our waterfalls; our prestigious waterfronts (yes, there are two of them…one known as Harbour West, and the other along the shore of Lake Ontario); our Port Authority which is the busiest of all the Canadian Great Lakes ports; and, we also have an International Airport nestled neatly in the southwest region of Hamilton's vast landscape. Tucked nicely between all this, are well-planned roads and rail networks allowing for smooth transitional movement of both goods and people.

    Today starts an unsolicited multi-part blog on Hamilton's transportation modes, and the role they play in driving Hamilton's economy. And, what better place to start with Hamilton's International Airport:

    Formally known as the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, it was built in 1940 and has since grown from a Training facility to an active passenger and cargo airport. Owned and operated by Tradeport International since 1996, the Airport has developed into a bit of a namesake among other Canadian Airports. However, there is more to building a successful airport than just landing strips and loading areas for passengers and cargo. All too often, and quite too easily, some view airports as land-hogs providing a service for fuel-starved machines designed for moving people and goods from one destination to another. Taking this simplistic assessment on any airport is too narrow of a focus.

    The buzz-word of the day would be any word that is either prefixed, suffixed, or blended with the word "green". Developing the lands surrounding the airport properly connected through rail and road networks, can actually lead to Hamilton's International Airport to melding into the "green" environment. Failing to respond to this growth opportunity will have dire circumstances on our employment capabilities. Distribution Centres, manufacturing facilities, transloading facilities, as well as proper passenger facilities, all encompass a successful airport facility. A successful airport facility is rich in employment lands. If one was to look east to our friends in Toronto, their success in planning and building employment lands has now been maximized. What this translates into is higher freight costs due to traffic congestion; higher container fees due to over-booked dockings; and in general…a not too environmentally pleasing execution of goods movement. (I won't go deeper on the higher costs to land at Pearson Airport.)

    Today, Hamilton is on the cusp of developing the lands surrounding the Airport into something positive for the growth of Hamilton: employment opportunities and commercial tax revenue…two things in desperate need in this City. With the development of the Airport Employment Growth District, Hamilton is poised to provide a greener, more economically viable, method of transporting freight and people. Leading the charge is Tradeport International Corporation, led by Richard Koroscil (President), a clear case for moving Hamilton's airport past a stale inflow & outflow of people and goods has been demonstrated. To be clear though, developing employment lands surrounding the airport is not the only saviour that Hamilton is looking for…it is one of the many employment land developments needed. Without one, the City can only offer a broken supply of lands, and would be limited on who they could offer said lands to.

    Successful Cities have successful airports. Successful airports have successful intermodal facilities. To be successful, proper optimization of land must be realized. Without a successful airport in Hamilton, we limit our growth of employment opportunities and (more importantly), we put added strain on the environment due to increased reliance on a road network.

    My next instalment will be on the Port of Hamilton, operated by Hamilton Port Authority.


Writer's note: While I am the current Chair of the Chamber's Transportation Committee, this opinion piece is in no way connected to or affiliated with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. The writings and musings contained therein are merely my own personal observations and notes on the development of Hamilton's transportation infrastructure. Comments are moderated as I would like an opportunity to respond. All comments are posted.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Making That Call While Driving

The pundits have made it clear that speaking on your cell phone while driving is dangerous to not only the user, but those around them. However, have they really identified the issue or merely created a smokescreen to the real issue…driver distraction? While I wouldn't advocate for talking on the phone while driving, I do wonder if perhaps we're trying to piece-meal legislation aimed at reducing driver distractions. With today's technologies, we have more resources at our fingertips, not to mention well-laid out road networks aimed at creating the easiest way to get from point A to point B.

The University of Illinois and Northwestern University in Illinois completed a study on the impact of legislation prohibiting hand-held cell phone use while driving. Their findings included several key points, including:

  • Cell phone subscribers in the US have skyrocketed from 97 million in June 200 to a whopping 267 million as of November 2008.
  • As reported in USA Today, approximately 11% of the population used a cell phone while driving at some point during their day.
  • Studies indicated that the average call was 4.5 minutes.
  • From 1994 to 2004, cell phone subscribers increased by 655%.
  • The number of minutes-of-use increased 3,600%.
  • Automobile accident rates dropped by around 5% over the same time period.
  • Driver distraction is purported to be the cause of nearly 80% of automobile accidents and 65% of near-accidents.
  • In 2006, these distractions caused 2,600 deaths, 330,000 moderate to critical injuries, and 1,500,000 instances of property damage annually in the USA.
  • Cell phones or car phones have been around for nearly 50 years…yep, that long. Just think of the classic Charlie's Angels or McMillan & Wife shows where they picked up the 5-odd pound phone in the car to make that all important call.

Using a phone while driving encompasses no less than three tasks on the user: locating or glancing at the phone; reaching for and dialling; and of course talking. All of these encumbrances affect either the attentiveness of the driver, or the driver's focus on the road. Investigations into whether cell phones actually contribute to a driver's inability to function correctly have been done predominately through simulators, tests, questionnaires, surveys, and observations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the USA completed a study in 2006 that concluded "…drivers talking or listening to a wireless device are no more likely to be involved in an accident or near-accident, than those not involved in such activities." In fact, of all the 'bans' on cell-phone use, not one jurisdiction has implemented a complete ban on all types of cell phones (hand-held or hands-free).With the introduction of Bluetooth technology which enables a user to provide voice-command interface with between the user and their phone have failed to demonstrate significant reductions of risk.

Here's another piece of statistical data worth chatting about: "…increased cell phone use does not translate into increased automobile accident rates. In particular, there has been an exponential growth in the number of cell phone subscribers from the late-1980s, while automobile accident rates in the US during this same time period have remained at a fairly constant level." By February 2007, sixteen States published data on accidents caused by cell-phone use while driving, and that number represented less than 1% of automobile accidents. Another question comes into play on how enforceable a cell phone ban can be executed; as an example, in New York prior to the ban there was an estimated 2.3% user rate (while driving) which fell to 1.1% after the ban, only to rebound back up to 2.1% a year later.

In order to provide full Legislative measures aimed at reducing automobile accidents, then they're going to need to look beyond one distraction opportunity. One could expect that items like DVDs in vehicles which are visible to other drivers could be argued as an unnecessary distraction; or how about legislating cameras to support going in reverse; or banning conversations with your spouse…because we all know how distracting that can be sometimes. So let's not just look at one distraction available to drivers…let's look at the whole menu, and work with the drivers on how to mitigate those opportunities.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Banning the ABCs

In the United States, folks spend around $20,000,000,000 (that's Billion) on toys each year. Monitoring the safety of these toys in the US is the Government funded Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) around $10,000,000 (that's Million) on testing toys and other consumer products. Also at play is the not-for-profit watchdogs Ecology Center, which posts unhealthy toys and products on If you're an avid purchaser of toys, you may find yourself dramatically altering your purchasing decisions.

I've not heard of a Zhu Zhu toy hamster, and yet it's been banned due to high levels of 'antimony'. Antimony is a metal extracted predominately from ore composites, with roughly 84% of the world's supply coming from China. Antimony will burn when a flame is held to it, but will extinguish itself when the flame is removed. While its use is in a variety of markets from children's clothing, toys, and seat covers, antimony's most important use is as a hardener in lead for storage batteries.

I have heard of the 'imaginarium cube' – that oddly-shaped cube that has 12 cut outs of various shapes, wherein a child then inserts the appropriately shaped object…and that too was banned, but for high levels of 'barium'. Barium is a soft silvery metal not easily extracted and is founded in certain ore composites. Like Antimony, barium has many uses ranging from the medical field to the making of bricks, glass, and the green colour seen in fireworks.

And, toys made with PVC are at risk of containing unsafe levels of 'cadmium' and have been banned accordingly. Cadmium joins the aforementioned as a metal extracted from ore composites. The highly toxic metal, cadmium is widely used as in electroplating due to its excellent corrosion resistance. You'll find it in solder, and it's used as a barrier to control neutrons in nuclear fission.

The US Government has decided that these particular metals require legislative intervention through the introduction of the Safe Kids' Jewelry Act, preventing the aforementioned ABC metals from being manufactured, sold, or distributed in children's jewelry. Hot on the heels of recent recalls of toys imported from China this past December, this latest piece of legislation may not have been fully thought out. Antimony in particular is used as a fire-retardant in toys and clothing. Remove this component, and we've opened up a whole new sub-set of concerns. This particular legislative piece is meant to dovetail into the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, and as such carries some pretty stiff controls and penalties for failure to comply.

While manufacturing and selling safe toys should be a given; and understanding that these particular metals are not exactly new to the industry; it calls into question the business ethics of manufacturers who knowingly create harmful toys intended for children. Whether it is ignorance or simply arrogance, the fact that it occurs at all is disturbing. To throw a loop into this particular legislation is that barium doesn't register on the HealthyStuff website. Perhaps they are reacting to a Canadian ban on Connecticut-based company Melissa & Doug manufactured products due to barium-laden paint on the recalled items.

While the children learn their ABCs, I guess the parents will also be watching their ABCs in their toy purchases.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My First Social Media Orgy

To start with, I've never really been a fan of "opening ceremonies" or "closing ceremonies" of any sporting event. While I understand the symbolic-ism of such events, I have found that they've become more of a show-piece as a means to raise revenues through ticket and advertising sales. I'd put it into the same category as singers who feel the need to change a National Anthem into a 'power ballad'.

Last night was the 2010 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver. While a fantastic showpiece that demonstrated some rather unusual performances; punked-out fiddlers, spoken-word presentation, poorly coordinated lip-syncing by Bryan Adams & Nelly Furtado, and some wild-haired Opera singer...and a malfunctioning cauldron to light the ultimate symbol of the Olympic Games.

After watching a few shows I had dvr'd, I decided to tune in to the ceremonies, missing the first hour or so. Mimicking what I imagined most social media folks on Twitter or Facebook or whatever were doing, I sat with my laptop open ready to comment at some point of the event. What I didn't realize, was just how many other folks were doing the same thing!

I consider myself as a bit of a social media hobbyist, and therefore not attuned to the intricacies of Twitter or Facebook. I've learned that the number sign (#) prefixed in front of a word in Twitter brings you to a whole new sub-set of Tweets specifically related to that word. Last night, I stumbled upon #Olympics, and soon found myself in (what I'll refer to as) a social media orgy.

Tweets were coming in at an astounding rate of (as high as) 1,000+ per minute. I struggled between reading the posts and watching the ceremony. And, what amazed me the most, was that I was witnessing the true power of social media. Folks from all over the world were sounding off, providing insight, or paying respect to the folks of Vancouver who coordinated such an amazing event. Most of the time, the content was rather hilarious.

I was rather pleased with the level of content which was posted. Incidents of offensive language was minimal, and for something as real-time as this was, there were no lewd comments (that I could see). No one was asking if there were any young girls on-line, and no one posted threatening language. In fact, the folks who oversee Twitter activity did a nice gesture by not updating posts during the moment of silence for Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died earlier in the day from a luge accident.

The Ceremony itself was rather confusing, and trying to keep up with the number of posts only exasperated the confusion. I'm not sure I'm ready to contribute to the social media main stream. So perhaps I will ease my way into larger social media venues, so that way I'll have an opportunity to hone in my multi-tasking skills.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Obesity Paradox

In honour of Heart Month, I thought I would expose "The Obesity Paradox". For starters, it's a real term, and while the outcome seems odd, I'm not sure I'd want to gamble with my life.

Let's start with the facts:

To define 'overweight' or 'obese', physicians/specialists use the Body Mass Index (BMI) scorecard. BMI is a statistical measurement, which takes a person’s weight and divides it by their height squared. [BMI = mass/(height)2] The resulting number is then applied to a graph which outlines whether a person is underweight (<18.5),> 30); it does not indicate a person’s percentage of body fat.

2004 Statistic Canada numbers showed that 36% of Canadians age 18 and over were ‘overweight’, and 23% are ‘obese’. Put those two numbers together and you have 59% of Canadians flouting around some excess baggage. The Heart & Stroke Foundation’s 2010 Annual Report dubs this "The Perfect Storm" highlighting the mere fact that we’re not getting any better at controlling our lifestyle. (The report also indicates other factors, but one certainly can’t ignore the ‘weight’ of Canadians.)

In a rather long-named Special Report released by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS) indicates that for each single unit increase in BMI greater than 25, the risk of heart failure increases by 5% in men, and 7% in women.

Enter the Obesity Paradox: According to the aforementioned CCS Special Report, once heart failure has become present in patients, subjects with a higher BMI are actually at a decreased risk of death and hospitalization compared to their lower scoring BMI peers. However, those higher scoring BMI patients with heart failure who went on to lose weight showed improved heart health.

One could read into this that those who choose to life an overweight lifestyle are given an opportunity to right the wrong, and lose the weight they should have in the first place. From my vantage point, I don’t know if I’d be willing to take that risk.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Regulating Day Nurseries Exposure to the Sun

Apparently the Ontario Government is short on dealing with matters more in tune with concerns of their constituents, or perhaps our elected officials have developed some control issues.

My last post touched on a proposed Bill currently entering its 2nd reading on making illegal guns illegal in bars...well we have perhaps a more idiotic Bill currently before the House.

Introducing Bill 229, Day Nurseries Amendment Act (Sun Protection), 2009. To be clear, this Bill is to address children in day care facilities or full-time care...not flowers.

Essentially if you run a day care facility, you will now be required to do the following:
  • If a child in your care is going to be outdoors for more than 30 minutes, you must provide adequate sun protection (unless a physician or parent of child advises otherwise in writing)
If this direction isn't enough, the Bill goes further to indicate what is acceptable methods for providing such care...including:
  1. applying sunscreen
  2. ensuring the child is in a shaded area
  3. ensuring the child is only outdoors during shady weather or shady times of the day. And,
  4. ensuring that the child is wearing appropriate clothing to cover his or her head, arms, legs and body
Taken in its literal sense, I will now ensure that my 2 year old niece has had sunscreen applied, placed under a tree at nine o'clock at night (because I'm not really sure what a 'shady time of day is...and will assume that means 'night'), and make sure she is wearing her winter snowsuit and hat.

Have we really sunk this far that we have abandoned our basic life-skills surrounding the care of children? Further still, mandating basic care to this level, of children in day-care facilities brings into question on the requirements needed to become licensed or their hiring skills.

Yes folks, this is our tax dollars at work. I feel so much better now!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Illegal Guns in Bars to be a No-No

Just when you thought it was safe to go to a bar with your buddy's and enjoy a few bubbly pops, when someone pulls out a gun. And, not just any 'unlawful' gun. You'd probably think that must be illegal. Certainly the law must be prevent such a thing from happening...yep, me too!

In response to a shooting on December 10, 2009 (and I'm sure others), Chief Government Whip Mike Colle (Liberal MPP Eglington-Lawrence) has thought it was about time illegal guns were banned from bars with the introduction of Bill 238. That's right, we're paying our Provincial representatives to debate the merit of an amendment to the Liquor License Act making licensed bars responsible for ensuring preventative measures are taken to ensure unlawful guns (weapons) make their way into the establishment. This includes: CCTV, metal detectors, presence of 'appropriately' trained security guards, and/or cooperation with the local law enforcement.

Without stating the obvious (the weapons are already 'unlawful' and shouldn't be on anyone's person anyways), and recognizing the intent of this Bill (I'm going to make my Constituents know that I care about their safety), I can't help but wonder if we're developing our political representation which does 'make-work' or reactionary legislation projects. The 'using a sledgehammer to kill a fly' phrase fits very nicely into this particular Bill. Colle is responding to recent shootings in Toronto, and appears to feel that added measures are required to the Liquor License Act to remove the danger from bars. I am concerned about any unintended consequences that could come from such legislation. On the surface alone, it would appear that the bar owner is at fault for preventing a punk from bringing in an illegal firearm into his/her establishment...thereby making the bar owner liable for any potential civil liabilities.

Without taking away the seriousness of individuals who choose to carry illegal weapons, I can't help think that the particular Bill is going to change anyone's particular actions: "Hey Bob, after we rob the store up the street, let's say we go to the bar and down a couple of beers?" "Yeah Joe, that's a great idea...but we'll have to leave our guns in the car. It's illegal now to bring them in." Somehow, I don't think that conversation is going to occur!

While I'm all for restricting illegal firearms, I'm somewhat dismayed that honest folks are being held hostage in the process. If a bar owner is supporting illegal firearms in his/her establishment, then nail the sucker...but don't make the majority of honest working bar owners held accountable for thugs who may happen to walk in to their establishment. After all, I doubt owners are lining up to start a bar with the intent of attracting the ill-repute of their community.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Apple Unveils the New iEdsel

It's not too often that you'll see a company invest so much of it's time and resources into one specific sku (stock keeping unit) as we've recently witnesses with the unveiling of the iPad earlier this week. The announcement followed probably one of the worst-kept secrets on Apple's latest introduction, as numerous blogs posted 'leaked' pictures of what was dubbed the iTablet. Rumours have gone as far to indicate that Apple has stopped making OS (operating system(s)) for their Mac computers, in favour of focusing on the OS for the iPhone and most likely the iPad. It would appear that Apple is banking on the future of mobile devices to preponderate the computer industry.

However, I have to wonder if Apple didn't just recreate the infamous Edsel that his predecessor Henry Ford and Co. had developed in response to "having more YOU ideas". (There's a good chance that there are a few of reading this are not aware of Ford's blunder with the launching of Edsel, and I would encourage you to read more about the famed automobile.) Like the Edsel, the iPad delivered a punch that really ended up being more like a slap.

The iPad is supposed to deliver all the benefits of a laptop, but with the added value of entertainment included. Yet when you look at the comparative numbers, the iPad just doesn't quite fit into a specific category (just like the Edsel).

Consider this: the iPad's hard drive is a disappointing 64G, versus a comparatively sized Netbook, which come with as much as a 250G hard drive. And, while you can't pinch and pull items on the screen like you can with the iPad, at least the Netbook comes with a cover so that you don't have to purchase a screen protector to keep your monitor free from scratches. Which brings me to my other concern - portability. Perhaps Apple is being mindful of the economy with the launch of the iPad, simply because of what will be a whole new category of accessories which will need to be purchased to protect the iPad.

Finally, the name iPad has garnered an incredible amount of chatter and snickering on blogs and Tweets around the world. Really, Apple? Couldn't you have gone with the iTablet instead?

Personally I'm in the market to purchase a new laptop, and thought that Apple may have the 'better' alternative, however, what they do have now is an iEdsel with no real category. I guess I'll continue shopping...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Living With an Unhealthy Lifestyle

On Monday, January 25th the Heart & Stroke Foundation released their annual report on cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Canadians…calling our current situation the "perfect storm" looming in the horizon. The report reinforced earlier findings that we are putting ourselves at increasing risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. The situation is so bad, that prognosticators are stating that parents will out-live their children.

Maybe we are reticent in responding to 'advice' on how to live our lives when we're not one of the 'statistics' identified, and maybe we just think that we're immune to troubles later on in life because we tell ourselves that we'll change. In either case we cannot dismiss some of the statistics in this and previous reports, including:

  • CVD accounts for 17% of all hospitalizations
  • Up to 80% of premature CVD is preventable
  • 9 out of 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one of 10 'risk' factors (overweight, inactive, hypertension, hereditary, et al), 30% have at least 3 factors.
  • We know how to prevent CVD, and we also know how to manage CVD
  • Over $22 Billion is spent annually in health care and lost productivity (2000)
  • Shave 4 ½ years off your lifespan if you have heart disease

Despite the statistics, generally speaking there remains a reluctance to change behaviour towards living a healthier lifestyle. We know that eating a Whopper® will provide 39 grams of fat, (that number jumps to 64 grams if you add the cheese) while eating a homemade burger gives you…well, quite frankly I don't know how much fat…it would depend greatly on how you prepared your meal; what kind of meat you chose; and whether the size was comparable. The one fact I do know is that homemade burgers taste a heck of a lot better than fast food burgers…the problem is that they take way too much time to prepare.

But choosing to consume 'convenience' foods is only part of the concern. In February 2009, the Heart & Stroke Foundation released its Annual Report outlining the striking price variances not only between healthy foods and 'snack' foods, but also pointed out the geographic variances. Examples included:

  • 6 apples purchased for $0.90 in Peterborough, Ontario would cost $7.64 in Rankin Inlet, Nunavet.
  • A 4L-bag of 1% milk was noted being as high as $15.70

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for 'snack' foods. Pop, chips and other 'convenience' foods failed to demonstrate the same price variances as their healthier counterparts. The pricing variance impacts Canadian consumers so much that as much as 47% of Canadians surveyed stated that they'd occasionally go without items like fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, whole grain products, meat, and fish due to the high cost.

Couple the ease of attaining less than healthy foods with a sedentary lifestyle, and you've created some deadly base ingredients for a shortened lifespan. In the HSF 2006 Annual Report, heightened concern was noted on the propensity for inactivity among baby boomers. What disturbs me most about this particular study was that of those surveyed, 81% cited "more funding for projects that would encourage me to be active instead of driving my car" as a factor for changing behaviour. Forget that it is the 'right' thing to do…nope…make sure we're rewarding good behaviour. No reward, no change.

To summarize then…we know that leading an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle, including consuming unhealthy foods and beverages leads to a higher risk of contracting CVD in later years. We know what behavioural changes we need to enact in order to minimize that risk. The question then remains: "What are YOU doing to ensure you live a healthy and long life?"

February 1st signifies the start of Heart Month. Continued research and advocacy is obviously still required to reach a consensus on what efforts are still required to change our behaviours. Through the generous support of your contributions to HSF initiatives, over $73,500,000 was used for research and health education in Ontario alone.

Selfishly speaking I need you to adapt your lifestyle so that more those funds can be spent on research into congenital heart defects. HSF has assisted in the much-needed research geared to heart surgery techniques, and required lifestyle changes post-operative, as well as developing ways to detect heart defects at an earlier stage in life. I've had three open heart surgeries due to a birth defect in my heart…and my only goal in life is to live. For those of you born with healthy hearts, make the necessary change and continue to support the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

To read more on the Report, visit

Monday, January 25, 2010

Life in the Social Media

Social Media is rapidly becoming the new 'norm'. And, if you're like me, you've got yourself a Facebook profile, a LinkedIn profile, and a Twitter account...not to mention a blog.

I'm often asked how I use each of these social media identities...and, for me it's rather simple: Facebook is my social network comprised mainly of friends and acquaintances; LinkedIn is my business network wherein I connect on work matters only; Twitter network connections offer me an opportunity to market my skills and musings; while my Blog offers me an opportunity to hone in on writing skills. I've gotten feedback from City Councillors and Staff, friends, family, and others on my Tweets, Status updates, and blog posts...both positive and negative. For me, these have provided an opportunity to hone in on what really matters to me and the community in which I live.

However, being in the social 'eye', you can't help but feel a little exposed. You must be conscious of what you opine about, as this area is a public place...and being at risk of liable or misrepresentation can be a word or phrase away. For my part, I will attempt to research as much as I can on a particular topic I am looking to blog...If it's a simple status update or post, I try to be respectful of those who may read it...either directly (a friend/family member) or indirectly (Google search).

The social media is rapidly changing our entitlement to current events and opinions. Newspapers (who I believe will always continue to publish in hard copy) are recognizing this by offering 'paid-for-service' updates. Municipalities and large corporations are rapidly developing methodologies for ROI in a web presence, while smaller companies utilize social media as a primary tool in seeking business. Confidence in social identity is shifting to wherein one almost seems archaic if they don't have some sort of web presence.

I'm working on keeping up with the 'Jones's' of the web world, while not getting too buried in spending every waking hour on preparing the appropriate words to publish. Hopefully I'll pick-up a regular writing gig one day...but until then, I'll continue to live a part of my life in the social world.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

There’s Something Floating in my Drink!

If you have a weak stomach, you may want to exercise caution before reading this particular post. As a matter of fact, if you have a weak immune system, you may want to think twice before you fill your cup with your favourite soda at your local fast food joint.

Apparently someone from Hollins University in Virginia, USA must have thought their cola tasted a little off and figured that perhaps the fountain might be a bit unkempt. So a team of scientist went on a mission to see how clean those self-serve fountains really are, and to serve as a comparative analysis, they looked at a few 'behind-the-counter' fountains as well. Now keep in mind, this study was done in the US…so you can either assume that we Canadians are a fickle (not fecal) bunch, or you can assume that our cleanliness habits are similar to those of our friends south of the border. And not to perpetuate any inaccuracies or misprints, I got my hands on the actual study…so what you'll see here is from the study itself…not a story about the study.

For the purposes of this blog, I'm going to refer to those self-serving fountains…you know the ones…they sit in the lobby area of the restaurant; you order a drink, and the cashier hands you a cup for you to go and fill yourself…I'm going to refer to these as Pop-Overly-Polluted, or POP. The 'behind-the-counter' fountains…the ones that only paid staff can access, and when you order a drink they do all the work and drop down a filled cup of your requested beverage…lid and all…I'll call these POP2.

When you hear the phrase "gathering around the office cooler", it would appear that bacteria mimic our desire to hang out in groups. More than 11% of beverages collected from POP and POP2 contained Escherichia coli, aka E-Coli. If that wasn't a good enough 'ick' factor for you, the report shows that over 17% of the beverages collected contained Chryseobacterium meningosepticum, or loosely translated means: bacteria which causes meningitis. While I'm not sure which is worse…the ickiness of the POP surroundings, or the fact that most of the identified bacteria "showed resistance to one or more of the 11 tested antibiotics".

Like any scientific study, strict controls were set in place and a tonne of documentation was completed. The samples included sugary drinks, diet drinks, and water. To test the contamination against a sample of (what should be) a controlled compliment, they purchased bottled drinks of the identical make up from a variety store. They conducted studies on POP and POP2 to see if there was any contamination difference between the fountains. After they collected their samples and followed a set process for testing, they found virtually no microbial growth in the bottled drinks, however over 70% of POP and POP2 samples had bacterial growth. And, if you thought there might be a difference in the amount of bacteria between POP and POP2…well, you'd be wrong. If you were looking to know which was safer, you may want to consider the time you decide to visit your local eatery. Apparently early morning soda drinkers are exposed to higher bacteria opportunities than those who chose to eat later in the afternoon.

So the next time you make that trip to your local fast food joint, maybe this could be a good argument for getting your drink in a bottle. After all, how many folks do you think lined up at the fountain to re-fill their cup before you took your turn? You'd probably be safer just to kiss everyone in the place instead. (Please don't follow this advice, as there has not been a study to prove whether this is the case or not J)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Blue Box Blues, Part Two: Garbage Disguised As Recycling

The Blue Box has become the household symbol of something good: the presence of a Blue Box in the home of business sends a message that the homeowner or business owner is doing their part to divert waste from a landfill. As a consumer, we feel a sense of worthiness as we deposit our empty bottle or can into a blue box or another receptacle that is labeled accordingly.

Despite the Blue Box format being around for roughly 30 years in Ontario, not all items are recycled, nor do all Municipalities operate a fully comprehensive recycling program. As a matter of fact, not all Municipalities collect blue boxes in the same manner…some have two-stream (fibres such as newspapers and cardboard in one; and containers like cans and bottles in another) blue box system; some have single-stream (everything in one box or more…no separation required) collection; while others have variations of a two-stream system. But how do you know that everything you're putting into the blue box is actually being recycled into something else? After all, that is the true meaning of recycling…having an item (plastic bottle) be transformed into something else (bag) which prevents it from ending up in a landfill.

A statistical term rarely shared in public domains is 'contamination'. In a report published in December 2009 by the Container Recycling Institute, residents who place all of their recyclables in one 'blue box' or single-stream, see the highest portion of their recyclables end up in a landfill versus their two-stream counterpart Municipalities. As an example, on average 40% of glass collected from single-stream collection Municipalities ends up in landfill, compared to nearly none from Municipalities that offer two-stream recycling. Another variance is the contamination of collected fibres, which hit about 15% from single-stream collected Municipalities, versus virtually no contamination from two-stream Municipalities. The statistics are overwhelming…if you're putting out 10 newspapers and 10 glass bottles/jars a week, 1 ½ newspapers and 6 bottles/jars are ending up in a landfill; maybe not your Municipally owned/operated landfill…but a landfill nonetheless.

So why do Municipalities choose single-stream over two-stream collection? Simply put…cost. Less blue boxes to purchase. And, because they don't see all of the wasted recyclables, they don't factor end-user contamination experienced by the factories that process recycling materials. Communities like Hamilton which currently offers two-stream curbside collection will review single-stream collection as an alternative because of the costs…not necessarily because of the efficacy of the collection options and the life-cycle of the collected item.

While the Municipalities sort out the hows and what's of curbside collection, the IC&I sector (Industrial, Commercial & Institutional) continue to be the worst offenders in terms of offering recycling options to their patrons, partners and users. Currently the lowest diverters of waste, sitting somewhere around a paltry 16 – 20% diversion rate, they have the least incentive to provide diversion options. It's more costly to offer a diversion waste stream; collection is performed by an outside company, and sent to a private landfill; waste doesn't ordinarily contribute to the revenue line; and, no one is actually monitoring their disposal practices. Consequently, retail businesses that 'pose' offerings of multi-stream waste collection containers may not actually be recycling…yes, this does happen. And, because the IC&I sector deal with similar companies as the Municipalities, there stands a good chance that items being placed in the recycling bin are ending up in the landfill.

So while you take your time to sort through your garbage, or deposit your waste in the appropriate bin at the Mall, know that while progress has been made to divert waste from landfills, we still have a long way to go to get it right. And don't automatically assume that just because it's in a blue bin or a container marked with the recycling symbol, that your item you're disposing of will be recycled. Studies show that the best measure to ensure complete 'cycling' of recycling is to utilize deposit fees on all bottles and cans. Removing these from the collection streams will go a long way to reducing the contamination of collected fibres.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Welcome to the Next Decade

Ten years ago the fright was on as we were crossing over into a new Century. Y2K became a household term, and businesses spent an inordinate amount of money taking inventory of their electronic inventory, and tagging everything that had a plug. Well we all know how that turned out…

Technology has vaulted our intelligence and accessibility of information to never seen before heights. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (among others) provide instantaneous gratification on current events, trends, tragedies, and infamy. Everything is changing faster than our generation is able to understand the consequences, both intended and unintended. Add to this, we've embraced the new 'greening' of our environment, our homes, work, and any other area where environmental change could be implemented, have seen significant impact of change.

The good news is that we've been given the resources to reach the most distant remote areas of the World. We've been able to contact with family members with relative (no pun intended) ease. I know I have certainly taken advantage of this one, as I have amassed 2,230 names of family members stretching across the globe so far. And, I have also been able to connect with them either electronically or through the old-fashioned phone-line.

We could also say that having the latest news stories at our disposal has empowered us to become more interested in the world in which we live. Unfortunately, this also allows for embellishment and sensationalism, as we were able to witness with the 'balloon boy' incident. That story alone demonstrated how vulnerable and gullible we can be when exposed to too much information too quickly. We also were able to immediately share the immediacy of Michael Jackson's death, and feel that we were actually in attendance at his funeral.

Now as we enter the second decade of the 21st Century, news of constantly changing 'smart' phones, computers, and electronic devices continue to arrive in my News Reader, telling me that we've not quite hit our learning potential on how far we can go with the technology available to us today. Without appearing to be a worry-wart, I have to wonder when the other foot is going to drop, signaling the downside of our technological progress. Small examples of 'unintended' consequences have started to creep out, none being tremendously harmful…yet. Because we've yet to go through a generational experience of this technological period, there has yet to be a true measure of our new hi-tech era. We measure each generation through a culmination of years, and currently we are in the supposed Information Age until 2025…although given the speed in which we've progressed, I wonder if we'll hit our target sooner.

Regardless of all we've done, and what we're about to do (technologically speaking), one can only hope that we don't lose our faith in faith, and our 'personability' in being personable. So to that, we should take a moment and write a letter…that is…write with a pen a paper, not print…and mail that letter to a friend or family member. I know it might be a bit nostalgic and maybe a bit immature…yet we need to take a break from the daily intake of change and settle in for a dose of time. Welcome to 2010.