Category Archives: Random

The next iteration

Here I am moderating a panel last December with business owners Jennifer Grimm (Lux Beauty Boutique), Susie Sykes (Catapult Marketing) and Sohail "Zee" Zaidi (Remedy Cafe). Photo: Topher Seguin
Moderating a panel last year with business owners Jennifer Grimm (Lux Beauty Boutique), Susie Sykes (Catapult Marketing) and Sohail “Zee” Zaidi (Remedy Cafe). Photo: Topher Seguin

I’m going to be celebrating this Christmas as a former employee of Capital Ideas and Postmedia. You may have heard, there are just a few changes happening at this company (and most large media organizations). I am not one of the lucky ones getting a retention bonus during the staffing changes. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on media and its importance to community soon but, for now, it’s just time to say goodbye.

I’ll be missing regular conversations with Edmonton business owners (and my trips to Calgary to meet with even more Alberta entrepreneurs!). These are people who are truly trying to “make something Edmonton” and building our community in many ways. Edmonton’s got a lot going on, and I’m continually surprised by the ideas and energy of people starting and running their own businesses here (and their willingness to share!). I hope to have helped put a couple of them on your radar these last two years, and I know I’ve learned about a lot of great shops and agencies to support (definitely a perk of working at Capital Ideas). It definitely rekindled that love of local I found while working at the edmontonian a little ways back.

The more things change, the more they stay the same though, and it’s true in the case of Capital Ideas, which will remain in the capable hands of our community managers Elise Campbell, in Edmonton, and Kim Smith, in Calgary. If you’ve been to one of our panel events, you’ve seen them in action and you’ll see them as the continuing faces of Capital Ideas in Alberta, where entrepreneurs get to share what they’ve learned along the way in an effort to make all businesses just a little bit better.

(Shout-outs to everyone who I can think of off the top of my head who has also helped build the Capital Ideas community: Vickie Laliotis, Sam Brooks, Baillie Scheetz, Michelle LePage, Jane Marshall, Kelly Zenkewich and…others I’m sure to be forgetting.)

It's always a packed house at Capital Ideas! photo: Jenn Pierce
It’s always a packed house at Capital Ideas! photo: Jenn Pierce

I joined Capital Ideas when I was looking for a new challenge, and I was also excited for an opportunity to work with a couple of the smartest people I know, Karen Unland and Brittney Le Blanc. They were the originators of Capital Ideas here in Edmonton, launching a startup within Canada’s largest newspaper chain. They also made something Edmonton (which then made something Calgary) and set the stage for the success Capital Ideas has had going on five years.

If you’re in Edmonton, I recommend you join Capital Ideas to share your own advice with other entrepreneurs and attend the panel events. In Calgary, you can join to do the same thing with thousands of business owners in your city.

Now I get to look forward to my next challenges (and finish my Christmas shopping). I’ll share my future plans soon, but for now I’d just like to thank every Capital Ideas member and entrepreneur I’ve crossed paths with, and all the business supporters at organizations like Business LinkAlberta Women Entrepreneurs and ATB Business for reminding me why Edmonton is such a fantastic place to live and Alberta is the best place to build your idea.

Alright, let's be honest. I lost my job in a fight with that robot. photo: Jenn Pierce
Alright, let’s be honest. I lost my job in a fight with that robot. photo: Jenn Pierce


Sugru To A New U

Following up on my post about toothpase as a camera lens-saver, here’s one about Sugru fixing our dishwashers.

Oh, and if you don’t know what Sugru is, let me tell you how great and excellent this weird to pronounce product is.

Sugru is a moldable glue that turns into a solid rubber after sitting for a few hours. And it has solved one of our most regular household annoyances; dishwasher wheels that won’t stay the F on.

We’ve got a GE dishwasher that’s about eight years old. Doing some Googling it appears GE has had some problems with their wheels staying put on the bottom rack. Certainly, in the great balance of problems in the world this is minor. But damn if it doesn’t annoy the crap out of you when opening and closing the thing. I would say every time we rolled out the bottom rack we had one of three options; all wheels would stay on, one wheel would come off, all wheels would come off (hilariously this would happen as we tried to fix one or two wheels, thus allowing all others to leap for freedom).

Sally remembered her brother using some kind of glue-y type thing from the Internet to fix things at one point and after a few searches we found Sugru. And our problem is solved.

If you have anything around the house that needs to be stuck more permanently to something else (or many other uses Sugru could have) I recommend you head to their website and order some Sugru right now. I’ll wait.

You ordered?

Did you get it in a fun colour?!

We got the white Sugru to blend in with the dishwasher.
We got the white Sugru to blend in with the dishwasher.

Anyway, Sugru explains everything pretty well on their site, but essentially you open the package, roll the little glue pad around and stick it to/on/around something. In our case it was around the clamp that holds the dishwasher wheels to the rack. 24 hours later the glue is a solid rubber that ain’t going nowhere. And, because it can withstand temperatures up to 180 degrees Celsius (and down to -50), it can do its thing in the dishwasher in the hottest of cycles.

We’ve still got a few sticks of Sugru left and I am actually kind of excited to see where we use it next. (It can keep for quite a while if you store it in the fridge.)

My Advice to Alberta’s Opposition Parties (Because They Wanted to Know)

TLDR: Alberta’s opposition parties (especially the progressive NDP, Liberals, and Alberta Party) need to work together to give a lot more Albertans a voice in the Legislature.

Let's get representin'!
Let’s get representin’

Now, the long version:

So, I wouldn’t call myself a very political person. I’ve only ever volunteered to help one candidate do some door-knocking and I think I’ve only donated to one candidate (the same guy actually).

I’ve certainly been aware of politics and government, thanks to 15 years as a journalist. And, not being from Alberta, I am fascinated by a province that has had the same provincial government longer than any one party has ruled provincially or federally in Canada’s history.

Watching the opposition parties – the NDP. Alberta Liberals, Wildrose, and Alberta Party – fight amongst themselves for a few seats and a few newspaper quotes gets a guy down when he’d like to see a little evolution in political thinking and governance.  Certainly the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta has stayed in power so long thanks to some re-positioning and swings around the right and centre of the political dial, but I can’t help but think they are also helped by the way we elect MLAs through a “first-past-the-post” vote (which is the standard across the country).

When we vote in a provincial election we choose the one person from the one party (or no party if they’re independent) we feel will best represent us at the Alberta Legislature. It’s a pretty good system and some of the time it gives a riding the person that most people felt was best. But, in some cases it sends a person to the Legislature who captured the most votes but fell short of convincing a majority of people in the riding they’re the best choice.  When an MLA can win with 40% or 30% of the votes cast it starts to feel like there’s got to be a better way.

Now, I am in favour of changing the way we vote, using some kind of proportional representation to elect government. This might mean a preferential ballot, where you rank candidates 1,2,3 and if the leading candidate isn’t everyone’s first choice they are probably at least second best. That’s still better than the least favourite choice of more than half of voters winning (as currently could happen).

I don’t think we’re going to see that kind of change in Alberta (or maybe not even anywhere else in Canada) for at least a couple of elections. (The federal NDP is pushing for such change.) So, in the meantime I would ask the opposition parties to think about NOT running against each other in every riding.

I like to be for things instead of against them, I think it’s a better way to make change than being a hater. Instead of saying this about knocking the PC Party out (which would be a negative approach) I’m positioning this call for co-operation as a positive, in that plenty of people in Alberta cast votes that don’t get them representation so maybe shake things up for an election or two until a more permanent, better way is created and we have a new option when we vote. We certainly saw progressive voters put the PC Party back into power in 2012, some likely holding their nose to vote to keep the Wildrose from forming a right-leaning government. That election is why I think progressive voters need a better choice at the ballot box.

I think the Alberta Party has been the most vocal, along with some Liberal MLAs about working with the other progressive parties. I would add the Wildrose to the mix in some of the ridings the party still holds after a mass defection to the PC Party. The NDP and the Liberal party itself appear to be against co-operation but I think it’s to their detriment. And that means it’s to the detriment of progressive, socially-minded voters who would support those two parties.

Laurie Blakeman has managed to swing some change in her riding of Edmonton-Centre. She will be the candidate for the Alberta Liberals and also the Alberta Party and Green Party of Alberta (a non-factor in our current system with first-past-the-post voting) meaning Edmonton-Centre voters can shoose Blakeman, the PC candidate, or the NDP candidate. As the incumbent, Blakeman’s already got a headstart on challengers, but this is a good model for other ridings.

I’m not endorsing moving to a two-party system where it would be a left-leaning party and a right, or PCs vs. NDP, which is why I think co-operation is the right move right now. And once the non-PC parties can form a coalition or minority government they could table legislation to change the voting system. Then they could go back to all running candidates in every riding because everyone would have a fairer chance at winning over voters.

In practical political terms, the smaller parties are in tough against a well-funded PC Party of Alberta. That means the PCs have money to put into the dozen or two campaigns where they face a challenge and spend a lot of money on advertising. If the opposition parties worked together and made more of the races ONE candidate vs. the PC candidate the long-governing PC Party now has to spend money and work for votes in almost every riding. It spreads their election machine thinner, which means they really do need to have winning candidates and policies to form government again.

Right now, they’ll face 20 or so tough races and outspend the other parties which will be lucky to win 20 or so of Alberta’s 87 seats.

I don’t know what the right plan is, or what the political campaigns could look like, but I think the opposition parties, especially the NDP, Liberals, and Alberta Party, need to work together to run the strongest candidate they can in every riding to give progressive voters a choice against a tired, oil-reliant PC government. There may be some voters who have to hold their nose while they vote, not happy about casting a ballot for the NDP or the Alberta Party, but I think that’s better in one election than watching the PCs sweep to another majority where their governing policy seems to be hoping for high oil prices.

/unsolicited political advice

No matter what happens in the next election (expected almost immediately), if you want to know more about the political parties in Alberta, head to their websites. Once the election is called you’ll be able to learn more about their policy ideas and how to volunteer and donate for the ideals and ideas you most believe in.

Alberta Party – Currently has no MLAs elected

Alberta Liberals

Alberta NDP

PC Party of Alberta – Current governing party

Wildrose Party – Current Official Opposition

Daveberta also has a candidate list, tracking everyone being nominated for each party in every riding.

Free Birthday Stuff (and not just gifts)

Red Robin birthday burger

Happy Birthday! (If it’s your birthday, that is.)

Today for my birthday I decided to scam find as much free food as I could. I mean, free stuff is always great, and nobody wants to take out a loan just to celebrate their birthday. A pending free birthday beverage at Starbucks got me thinking about other places I could get freebies on my date of birth.

Turns out, there are quite a lot of spots to pick up free food, beverages, and discounts. Maybe next year I’ll also ask for a letter from some local dignitary.

Anyway, after scoping things out and a mad rush to sign up for customer loyalty programs, here is what I  got today:

Breakfast – Free Grand Slam at Denny’s. All you need is some proof of your DOB at the ready and breakfast is yours.

Lunch –  Free burger (and fries) at Red Robin. You have to sign up for this one. But I only did it yesterday and still got the coupon (which is good for 2 weeks).

Dinner – Nothing free. I am actually happy to report I ate a salad.

Other freebies – Chai latte at Starbucks. A 2 for 1 coupon from the Dairy Queen Blizzard Fan Club (another signup and good for 2 weeks).

Note, while some places will give you free things with proof of birthday, most want you to sign up for their various customer loyalty or email programs (which, I suppose, you could always unsubscribe from right after scoring free birthday food).

Not only was Denny's the easiest place to score a free birthday meal, they are the only folks who wished me a happy birthday. Nice job, Denny's!
Not only was Denny’s the easiest place to score a free birthday meal, they are the only folks who wished me a happy birthday. Nice job, Denny’s!


Finally, a good use for toothpaste

Chalk one up for the Internet!

My one complaint about the HTC One X+ phone is the camera lens is poorly placed. It’s on the back of the phone and extends out, which means the lens surface is always flush with the table or desk it’s sitting on. Design flaw!

So, over the last year my camera lens got scratched up when I placed it face-up on surfaces and it vibrated during a call or message, or I grabbed for it without gently picking it straight up.

Recently, my photos were getting blurry:

Photo taken of my desk at home before toothpasting.
Photo taken of my desk at home before toothpasting.

But! I knew the Internet would have answers for my scratched up lens. And it did. Toothpaste.

Seriously, toothpaste.

Yes, cleaning the lens, then vigorously rubbing it with toothpaste for about 10 minutes improved the lens clarity. The lens scratch fog has lifted:

So much clearer after the toothpaste scrub!
So much clearer after the toothpaste scrub!

I only did this yesterday, so can’t tell how long the lens may stay clear. I’ve got the phone back in an Otter Box, which keeps the lens off surfaces, so if the toothpaste holds I should be taking clear photos the rest of the way.