TEDx 2: Ideas Worth CREATING

Just prior to attending my second TEDx event (this one in Waterloo), I got a lot of questions form friends and family:

  • What is the conference about?
  • What are you going to get out of it?
  • Who is going to be there?

I would just smile, and say “I’ll tell you when I get back.” I could have told them about TED’s tagline of ‘Ideas worth Spreading’, pointed them to the TED.com website, or have said ‘I am going to spend some time amongst other people –like me– that just love ideas’, but somehow those didn’t do a good job of explaining why I go. People are conditioned to want to know ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIIFM) or ‘what’s in it for you’ (WIIFY). I couldn’t explain TEDx in their ‘immediate payback’ terms.

Not being able to answer WIIFM would never stop me from doing something that I know is intuitively right, but for those that need to understand, I think I have figured it out: It helps ignite your brain and create ideas.

After two events –TEDx Ottawa and TEDx Waterloo– I have noticed that there is one thing I consistently get out of attending: The days after a TEDx event are filled with the relentless churning of my brain giving me ideas, so fast that I have trouble keeping track of them.

In brain science, there is an adage that ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’. New neural pathways are created a lot in your youth during your brain’s hyper-plastic phases, but as people get older they –and their brain’s wiring– tend to get set in their ways. Your brain is designed to find the path of least resistance, so as you get older you try harder and harder to use those existing neural pathways to solve problems, relate to the world, and to other people, because it required less energy (literally!). You may start to surround yourself with like-minded people because it is less effort than to try and relate to those that have very different views than yours. Group-think ensues.

When you are at a TEDx conference (and I would venture to guess, a TED conference) you are presented such a plethora of big ideas, that come from all directions, it forces your brain to start creating new pathways between parts of your brain that perhaps never talked to each other before. In the following short summaries of each presenter, I will talk about the new ‘Oh Snap!’ moment that each presenter gave me; that moment where my brain found two previously unrelated concepts and slammed them together.

Disclaimer for other TEDx Waterloo participants: your brains are different than mine, your results will vary.  I would be very happy to hear your own epiphanies in the comments field below!!

Terry O’Reilly on Friction

My friend Gary kept asking me I had yet listened to ‘Age of Persuasion‘, and two days before TEDx I got around to listening.  I was happily impressed with the quality and content of the show, took some notes, and filed it away. I hadn’t paid much attention to who was presenting at TEDx Waterloo, since I knew one of the key organizers, and his reputation told me it was going to be some great content.  Then Terry O’Reilly walks up on stage… I look down at my notebook and see that I am still writing on the same pages as my notes from his radio show?!  Find this hard to believe? Have a look at the dates and content of my notebook:

Weird Coincidence

For those cynical bastards that choose to think that I had just looked up Terry because I was going to see him at TEDx: You are a cynical bastard.

So what was the O’Snap moment? FRICTION can create CREDIBILITY

Terry gave several examples in his talk about how people were not willing to believe in products that seemed too miraculous: antiseptics like Bactine that wouldn’t sell because they no longer caused pain, and hair products that were marketed as working in 30 minutes (instead of the actual 2) because it was more consistent with the salon experience. Because the new product was so far from the customer’s previous experience, it lacked credibility. That credibility was only created by adding some friction (alcohol back into the antiseptic to create pain, or a 30-minute wait before rinsing in the conditioner) to allow the customers to believe in the product.  For those of you who have seen my presentation on ‘Made to Stick‘ and/or read the book by Chip and Dan Heath you will remember how important credibility is to make a message sticky!

A quick chat with Terry after the presentation (another great perk of TEDx) also allowed me to conclude two things: 1) I like the guy and 2) I am now a Terry O’Reilly fan.

Philip Beesley on the  Hylozoic Ground

If I were putting on an event like this, I would start and finish with ‘sure things’; that is, presentations that will appeal and be understood by the whole audience (Terry and Amy were good choices!). Speaker #2 allows you to take risks with topics that might really challenge the audience to relate and understand.

Well, it was a challenge for me anyway. Philip’s current project is beautiful, shows great imagination, and I am really glad there are places in the world that nurture this kind of creativity. I hope some day to see his work in person, and that would allow me to have a greater link to the work he clearly has so much passion for.  While I found it hard to grasp, there were a couple of Oh Snaps! that got my brain churning:

In cities we stand on fragile ground, which is not a natural state for human beings. When you think about it, if you are standing in nature: on a beach, or on a mountain top, you are standing on solid earth that is (in human terms) immovable, solid and permanent. In cities, we stand on paved streets above the voids of sewers, subways or in buildings comprised of many layers of poured concrete hanging precariously in space. Does the human mind perceive this? Are we impacted buy it? I don’t know, but it certainly made me go hmmmm…

Almost contradictory to his previous point (but this assumes I understand it), using materials that are pushed to their structural limits, on the verge of collapse, leads to more sensitivity and a state of calm. This made me think of asian architecture where rooms are separated by paper walls and materials that seem engineered to be ‘just strong enough’ to fulfill their designed purpose. Does this actually have an impact on culture? Again, I don’t know… but it made me go hmmm…

Aimee Mullins on Dis-abled vs. En-Abled

TEDx organizers choose TED videos to be presented during the event that are consistent with the chosed TEDx theme. Being an avid TED video fan, I had seen Aimee’s (2nd) TED talk before, but TED videos are always best experienced in groups, so I was happy to see it again!

Oh Snap! moment: “That’s not fair!” With advances in science, people who in the past would have been viewed as ‘disabled’ could instead be viewed as almost super-human. For Star Trek TNG fans, you can think of Geordi La Forge, the blind officer who’s visual prosthetic allows him super-human vision. For a more recent example, you can look to the career of Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee ‘blade runner’, who’s gets banned from races because people think his carbon-fibre legs give him an unfair advantage! Aimee uses the example of how she can vary her height by 6″ depending on the pair of prosthetics she chooses. Imagine using this to your advantage in a business meeting where (unfortunately) height still translates into higher salaries and promotions!

Ray Laflamme on Quantum Computing

I have a degree in Engineering Physics, which required me to take courses in quantum mechanics. If I had a professor like Ray, I might still be passionate about that field instead of afraid of it!

Oh Snap!: I have been trying to understand the concepts behind the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment for years, and Ray explained it for me in 10 seconds… If a bullet can be in two places at once (quantum superposition theory), and cat is shot, the cat can be both alive and dead. While it begs the question of ‘What do physicists have against cats?’ it finally cemented this concept for me after 14 years of trying. Thanks Ray!

<BREAK where I got to chat with some cool participants and speakers>

Paul Saltzman on The Beatles

You ever met a person who is funny without even having to try? That’s Paul.

He tells a story about how he bumps into The Beatles while trying to learn how to meditate in India. The Beatles had secluded themselves from the world, and their meditations led to 48 songs being written during a 7 week period. Paul S. has a picture of The Beatles whilst composing their hit ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, and speaks of profound conversations with George Harrison in particular (for the pic, see David’s great summary of the event HERE).

Oh Snap!: Nothing Changes Until You Do. Much of our focus is placed on how we change OTHERs’ attitudes or behaviours. How much time and energy to we spend thinking about how we change ourselves? If  life isn’t about the fans, the money, the ‘success’ but love, health and peace inside, (as George Harrison said to Paul) isn’t the time best spent trying to understand how you can change yourself to meet these objectives? That said…I am off to the gym.

Caroline Disler on the ‘Western Civilization’ Misnomer

Caroline explains how the term ‘Western Civilization’ is a very polarizing term that down-plays the significant –if not dominant– influences of the whole world (and the middle east in particular) in the development of what is now called ‘Western Civilization’. For example, we often credit the Greek philosophers as the origin of many of our concepts, including scientific thought. Caroline illustrated that the Greeks credit much of their thought to the Egyptians and Indians, and their knowledge was only allowed to be passed on by the patronage of Persians (Iran) when they were persecuted by the Christians. Ironic huh? Also notable was how the very influential ‘western’ philosophy of Thomas Aquinas was in turn influenced by works of arab philosophers like Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali who he cited 31 times.

Oh Snap!: I am going to wait until the next summary.  Caroline’s talk was like a perfect setup and complement to the next presentation, a TED video of Wade Davis.

Wade Davis on Endangered Cultures

This guy should get a short film Oscar for colourful use of hyperbole! Lines like “to have that powder blown up your nose is rather like being shot out of a rifle barrel lined with Baroque paintings and landing on a sea of electricity” brought uproarious laughter from the crowd.

Oh Snap!: Different cultures create different realities. Wether it is an Inuit hunter fashioning a shiv out of his frozen feces to kill food, or a tribe from NE Ecuador where  54% of their mortality rate is from spearing each other to death (but could track specific animals from the smell of their urine), or a culture where the children see their first sunrise at the age of 18, they see the world in very importantly different ways than our own culture.  I used to think that the increasing hegemony of cultures was actually a good thing… perhaps a side-effect of my own colonialist culture that actually celebrates Ethnocide as a form of developing civilization. I thought that the more we understand each other, or even become like each other, the less conflict there will be in the world. But wait, remember that ‘group think’ comment form earlier? You avoid this and increase the richness in the world by ensuring that cultures are not eradicated. This was the first time that I really understood the Canadian perspective of ‘multiculturalism’ vs. the American ‘melting pot’ concept.

A very tangible example of different cultural realities creating great contributions to the world is the work of Vilayanur S. Ramachandran. VS is a neurologist who devised a means to alleviate phantom limb pain and fix limbs previously ‘locked in’ (paralyzed) by pain. In the book The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, he asserts that this cultural influence was key to Ramachandran’s discoveries:

In India, Ramachandran grew up in a world where many things that seem fantastic to Westerners were commonplace… the idea that living things change their forms was widely accepted; the power of the mind to influence the body was taken for granted, and illusion was seen as so fundamental a force that it was represented in the deity Maya, the goddess of illusion. He has transposed a sense of wonder from the streets of India to Western neurology, and his work inspires questions that mingle the two.

For me, the Davis/Disler double-whammy was the biggest Oh Shap! moment of TEDx Waterloo.

Madhur Anand on Restoration Ecology

This was a presentation that didn’t go clunk for me. I got the importance of Restoration Ecology, putting mined or logged environments back to their original state, not just ‘replanting’ or ‘filling in the hole’ but the link to poetry was lost.

Oh Snap!: I concluded that I have a really bad view of poetry.  As someone who loves how a few words can be very powerful in imparting a rich mental landscape, why do I dislike poetry so much? Did high school make me hate it? Perhaps I was just hung-over from The Davis/Disler Oh Snap!

Micheal Sacco on Horizontal Trade

For those of you who read my review on TEDx Ottawa or participated in the event, this talk reminded me a lot of Tracey Clarke’s talk about coffee. There was a common theme that treating coffee beans or cocoa purely as commodities removes a relationship with the growers and producers that actually is a net loss to consumers.

I spoke to Micheal after his talk, but his discussion continued to give me a crew cut as it went flying over my head. He gave me some great chocolate (thanks!) and I went on my way pondering the ‘so what’ of his message. Perhaps this ‘horizontal trade alternative to pure capitalism’ is something that has to be experienced to be understood. He kept reinforcing that the chocolate was just a symbol to remind us that other worlds were possible.

Oh Snap! Moment: It hasn’t happened yet, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t coming some time down the road.

<BREAK>

Darren Werschler on Imaginary Media

He did his talk on several types of ‘Imaginary Media’ and their impact on us:

  1. Untimely Media like the Babbage Difference Engine, that –while not completed until 153 years after its design(!)– still had a profound impact on our thinking and the emergence of computers.
  2. Conceptual Media that are not just prototypes, but indicative of major shifts in media (Lolz Schrödinger’s Catz?)
  3. Impossible Media that expresses our desire for ‘perfect’ communication like the Star Trek transporter.

Oh Snap!: It doesn’t have to actually work to get people’s imaginations going. The Babbage Difference Engine surprised me. I had always heard that Babbage was credited with the world’s first computer, but I had always assumed it actually worked! But then I started to remember how much science fiction was credited for actual inventions and even impact on media and culture. This reinforces Darren’s final point of his presentation: ‘ You must take the risk of trying.’

Matthew Childs on the 9 Life Lessons from Rock Climbing

Since you can go see the 9 life lessons by going to the TED.com website, I will focus on the Oh Snap! moment: Strength does not equal success (lesson #8) – Women often succeed where men fail because men too often focus on strength. Matthew gave the example of women rock climbers who are more consistent than their male counterparts because they have less ego tied to showing how strong they are; they find positions that leverage the natural strength of our legs. This collided with something else in my brain from a book I read called Born to Run where the author talked about how a much larger % of women complete the gruelling Leadville Ultra-marathon than men. Not sure what I am going to do with it, but an interesting observation.

Marty Avery on Nemaste

Westerners, and particularly men, grow up with the concept that strong people never show that they are vulnerable.

Oh Snap! moment: It takes great strength to be vulnerable. Marty gave the example of one of her high school teachers who –instead of being confrontational– appealed to her student (Marty) to help her with her inability to get key ideas across to her class. While a person in a position of authority –like her teacher– is loath to appear vulnerable to her subordinates, this teacher was able to create a bond with a key ally by being strong enough to show her vulnerability.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal on the 7 Notes of Life

Amy is a person that –much like Marty– exudes a large amount of positive energy. Amy loves the little coincidences you see in life, and has turned them into children’s books, books for adults, and viral internet videos. I had a quick look at one of her children’s books Duck! Rabbit! Have a quick look at the cover and see if you can get the theme of the book:

I’d bet that parents reading this book to their children get their own life lesson: how two people can look at the same thing, and see something completely different! You can also see the book performed HERE on Youtube.

Before I get to the ‘Oh Snap!’ moment, I want to summarize Amy’s 7-Notes on Life which I hope you will get as much out of as I did:

  • A – Always Trust Magic or ‘ATM’: embrace coincidences in life
  • B – Beckon The Lovely: what you look for is what you will see, why not look for the lovely?
  • C – Connected: we are all connected
  • D – Do: don’t talk about what you are going to do, it drains you… just do it!
  • E – Empty: choose to disconnect, get out of reaction mode and create
  • F – Figure it Out as You Go: you can’t plan it all out, get started
  • G – Go to It: ask not what the world needs, but what makes you come alive

If those are the 7 notes to life, it begs the questions: What key is it sung in, and What are the lyrics? Amy answered those questions as well. The Key to life is ‘You’ and the lyrics for the 7 notes are “MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME HERE”.

The Oh Snap! moment: When I heard notes D, E, F & G I immediately thought of a book I have *almost* completed Linchpinby Seth Godin. These notes resonate with many of the traits that Seth identifies with the indispensable ‘linchpin’. Linchpins ship (D & F), don’t spend time doing busy-work like checking Twitter responses and their page hits (E), and they do what they are passionate about (G). This is more supporting evidence for my endeavour to become a ‘linchpin’!

So for those of you who are struggling with how to generate new ideas in your organization here is an idea: Stop sending your people to ‘group-think’ trade shows, and send them to a TEDx event.  You won’t regret it!

I want to express my thanks to the whole TEDx Waterloo team for putting on an amazing show, that make it more than worthwhile for me to make the long trip from Ottawa, and a worthy sequel to TEDx Ottawa!

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TEDx Ottawa: A Resounding S.U.C.C.E.S.s!!

TED conferences are mind-blowing, but expensive and far away.  Sp when I heard about the TEDx concept (locally organized TED events) I was excited to hear that an event was being organized in Ottawa!  But how was a local event going to compare to TED conferences which regularly attract the worlds top thinkers?

The same weekend, I was trying to complete my presentation on a very compelling book that my wife bought for me: Made to Stick. This timing was very fortunate for my presentation because TEDx provided so many great examples about how to make ideas ‘Sticky’. I thought I would use the S.U.C.C.E.S.s acronym used by the book to illustrate some of my key take-aways from TEDx Ottawa:

S – Simple: Keep your message core and compact to increase the chance that people remember the one most important thing you want them to act on.

If someone really succeeded in getting their message across, I shouldn’t have to look at my notes! And one great example of this was Bob Ledrew who’s key message was to “Sing your song.”, which was all about remembering what things you were passionate about in your youth, and making sure that you make time for them in adulthood.  His personal story about his rediscovery of his passion for music, and his ‘House’ concerts was very inspiring.

U – Unexpected: If you can break a person’s guessing machine you keep their interest and increase the chance that they will absorb your message.

For me the ‘unexpected’ story that stuck with me most from the day was Ray Zahab‘s story about how he entered a Yukon ultra-marathon, and the mental and physical battles he fought during the race to convince himself that he could finish it.  At the end of the race he then says “Nobody is more surprised than me that I finished this race.” and the race marshall responded: “You didn’t just finish, you won.”

Cindy Chastain and Kip Voytek surprised me by clarifying the difference between ‘cooperation vs. collaboration’, and how most ‘collaboration’ strategies actually are about cooperation.  This surprise caused me to furiously write down their proposed approach to collaboration, which I will use!  As a result, I have a lot more ‘pleasure in not knowing’.  😉

C – Concrete: Everyone will take in your message using their own filters and lenses, you must make your message concrete to ensure that your audience gets your message, regardless of their background.

Images and video are fantastic ways to make your message concrete and accessible to a wide audience.  Najeeb Mirza used a video shot in Afghanistan to illustrate how people around have more in common than you would think!  It made me laugh to see a bunch of turban doffing Afghani tribesmen talking about who had the best cell phone.

Williams Jans‘ message about how ‘Bad Roads Bring Good People’ was driven home by his many great photos and video showing how friendly and happy people can be at the fringes of the inhabited world, and showed the joys (and laughs) of learning new languages!

Finally, Mark Levison talked about how images are ‘Google for the mind’ and there doesn’t appear to be an upper limit to how many images the brain can process.  So many of Mark’s comments echoed the ‘Made to Stick’ concepts that I ended up giving him my copy of the book when I was surprised to find out he hadn’t read it!

C – Credible: To get people to believe your message, you need credibility.  The book has many suggestions on how to accomplish this, but I used some TEDx presenters to illustrate.

Tracey Clarke has credibility for many reasons.  First of all, she is the managing director of Bridgehead Coffee, a company who has beaten the mighty Starbucks at the own game (in Ottawa anyway). This should be credibility enough, but then teaches us more about the dynamics of coffee business than I thought possible in such a short presentation!  Her many stories, pictures and detail about Bridgehead’s stance on coffee supply made me proud to be a Bridgehead customer!

Robert Mittelman, a Kiva Fellow, leant a lot of credibility to Kiva’s microcredit initiatives by his experiences with the program abroad.  It was good to hear how this money was being used, and how the inspiration flows both ways: debtor to creditor, creditor to debtor.

E – Emotional: In order to get people to act on your message, you have to hit them in the heart with it; with emotion comes action.

Mark Blevis and his message of the importance of children’s books really hit me at an emotional level.  It made me realize how I really didn’t recognize the importance of these books in providing children context on how to interpret and interact with their world.  The reminder that this is actually a high art form of imparting messages in a compact way to people with a limited vocabulary.  So is this emotion making me act?  Absolutely.  Just one week after TEDx I am sure I have had at least 4-5 conversations about the significance of children’s books!

S – Story: If you tell your message as a story, there is no way that your audience can remain passive. The act of listening to a story (as opposed to just a bunch of facts) forces the listener to build the mental image of the story as it is told, which increases the chances of the listener remembering it.

Danny Brown‘s presentation was all about story telling, digital storytelling in particular.  He told of the new Star Wars series that lost the viewer because it forgot that telling a human story was the important part, and not all the technology that enables it (actually I think it WAS Jar Jar’s fault).  I really liked how he compared the Millenium Falcon to everybody’s beater first car!

Nothing illustrates the power of story like Jowi Taylor‘s Six String Nation ‘Voyageur’ guitar!!  Every piece of this guitar has a story, and is perfectly united to his message of ‘One Canada’.  There was certainly a lot of emotion in his stories as well, as there were several that brought a tear to my eye, and the passion of Jowi about telling these stories was clearly apparent!  The best part about this guitar is that, for all the stories that are built into this guitar already, the guitar itself is creating so many new stories that are being captured by Jowi.  All Canadians must hear the story of this guitar, and I am certainly doing my small part.

I don’t want to diminish any of the other presentations by their omission here!  I got at least one great nugget from each presentation, and many great discussions with the presenters in the interludes.  It was a fabulous event, exceptionally executed.  Even the box lunch was fabulous!  I hope all people that attend TEDx events around the world are as lucky as we are in Ottawa to have such a great experience!  An experience worthy of the ‘TED’ name!

The BEST Burger Joint in Ottawa: Burger & Shakes

Well, I am cheating a bit, it is actually in Manotick Station which is just East of Manotick (crossing of Limebank and Mitch Owens); but it is certainly worth the drive!  You can click here to see it on the map.

I was heading over to Omer’s place for a jamming session, where I pretend to be able to play the drums, and I needed to grab a bite on the way.  I call Omer to ask him where to eat and he says “You have to try Burger & Shakes… its a couple miles east of Mantotick across from the high school.”  Since Omer is a big fan of food -as am I- I didn’t take much convincing for me to give it a try.

Sure enough, in the middle of nowhere, is Burger & Shakes, attached to a golf & mini-putt business which is closed for the winter season.  Its 8:30 PM on a Thursday night and there are actually cars in the parking lot.  This is a good sign…

I am pretty hungry, so looking up at the board I try and decide between the 10oz ‘Double Burger’ and the 7oz ‘Super Burger’.  I decide I don’t want a double, and order the Super with a side of poutine.

When the fresh (certainly NOT ever frozen!) beef patty is placed on the grill, I am shocked to see that it resembles a large pancake in size!  This is going to be a big meal.

While I wait for the burger to cook, I have a chance to talk to Ali and Zainab about their business.  They are clearly the sort of people that should be running a business like this:  Really passionate about what they do, and it’s very obvious they enjoy interacting -and getting to know-  their customers.  Ali tells me about how they get their top quality beef locally, pointing in the direction of the farm they get it from.  As our discussion continues, my patty on the grill shrinks from massive to just huge.  Ali asks if I want some steak spice, yep!

I get my meal and sit down to enjoy it.  Wow, what a great burger!  Not only the patty is good, but the bun is super fresh.  The poutine is also fabulous, with the large cut fries being perfecty cooked and also from potatoes of high quality.  About half way through Ali asks how I like it…. “Awesome!” I reply between bites.

Since I like to help send good businesspeople good business, I had decided about half way through my meal to do a blog post on this restaurant.  It was a testament to how good a sport Zainab was that she was willing to let me take the picture below of them after a long day at work.

Thanks to Ali and Zainab for the great food, and Omer for the recommendation!  I think Omer and I are going to make this part of our bi-weekly jamming ritual.  🙂

Sam Roberts: Bronson Centre, January 30, 2008

As an early celebration of Clint’s birthday, we went to the Sam Roberts concert at the Bronson Centre.  I had lived next to the Bronson Centre my first 7 years in Ottawa, and had no idea that it was used for concerts.  Perhaps that is a new thing?  It turns out that it is actually quite a nice venue, with good acoustics.
It wasn’t advertised who the opening band was, but I was really pleasantly surprised to find out (4 songs in, when I recognized ‘Don’t Talk Down’) that it was The Stills, also from MTL (Sam Roberts is).
The Stills at the Bronson Centre Ottawa

The Stills at the Bronson Centre Ottawa

The Stills Set:

  1. … I missed the first two songs before I even realized I was listening to The Stills!
  2. ??
  3. Snow in California
  4. Don’t Talk Down
  5. Snakecharming the Masses  (introduced as the ‘f-ing masses’)
  6. Lola Stars and Stripes
  7. Panic
  8. Hands on Fire
  9. ??
  10. Being Here

They did an awesome live version of ‘Being Here’ which really ended their set on a high note!  This was a great bonus to the Sam Roberts show.

Sam Roberts at the Bronson Centre

Sam Roberts at the Bronson Centre

Sam Roberts Set:

  1. Love At the End of the World
  2. The Resistance
  3. Fixed to Ruin
  4. Hard Road
  5. Stripmall Religion
  6. Bridge to Nowhere
  7. Up Sister
  8. Where Have All the Good People Gone ***
  9. An American Draft Dodger In Thunder Bay
  10. Lions of the Kalahari
  11. Them Kids
  12. Brother Down.***
  13. ??  Not sure if this was just an extended ‘Brother Down’ “Got something to live for…” in the lyrics

Encore:

  1. Detroit ’67
  2. Words & Fire
  3. Mind Flood

Sam Roberts is GREAT live!

Mind Flood was an interesting choice to finish off the set.  I think it must have gone on for 10+ minutes in a very ‘psychalelic’ rendition that made me think I was at a Pink Floyd concert, pot smoke and all.

Sam Roberts is a class act, I was really impressed that at the close of his set he must have spend 5-10 minutes leaning off the state shaking hands with the front three rows of people against the stage.  This wasn’t your politician giving a quick hand shake to every person, but a solid handshake while the made eye contact and said something to each person (can anyone comment below on what he said?).  A lot of work, but I am sure each one of those people are a fan for life!

If you have any corrections on the set list, or other comments, I would be very happy to hear from you!

Our Engagement!

Hello everyone, as you hopefully have heard already by now, Lori and I are engaged!  Here is the tale of the day, and preparation of the day, from my point of view…

I had been thinking about a Christmas engagement for a few months now.  Lori and I were in Scotland over the summer, which would seem to be a perfect opportunity (castles, cliffs, etc.), but the timing just didn’t seem right and I decided that Christmas was the right time.  The first part of the process was to get the right ring, but to somehow do it without Lori knowing anything about it.

The Fellowship of the Ring

I had been looking at some diamonds at Jubilee Jewelers (Bonnie at Rideau helped me out) and was attracted to the Lazare ‘Ideal Cut’.  I liked the idea cut because it is cut in a manner that takes advantage of the physical properties of light to create at ‘retroflector‘.  I am going to geek out here for a bit…  Lazare Kaplan has been cutting diamonds since 1903, and in 1919 Marcel Tolkowsky (Lazare’s cousin) came up with a mathematical formula for the cut of a diamond to maximize the refraction of light using the concept of total internal reflection.  Basically its a ‘cats eye’ which reflects the maximum amount of light back to its source, much like the little glass spheres that they use in the paint of stop signs.  All that to say that 1) an Engineering Physics degree can be useful when diamond shopping and 2) the diamond looks really really pretty.

I was going to shop around a lot more, but then Lori’s friend Naomi told me that Lori had been into a different Jubilee shop and had fallen in love with the exact same cut (in a slightly different setting than I had selected).  I thought that this was a good sign that I should focus on this diamond.

Naomi was kind enough to come help me pick out the final choice, which you can see in the picture below (not to scale):

Lori's Rock

For those into diamond specifications, it is a 0.91 carat Ideal cut SI2 diamond with a ‘G’ clarity rating.  The setting is in platinum.

Jubilee was able to get me the ring before the weekend, which allowed my plan to go off without a hitch.  While I visited the store twice, I managed to bump into people I know BOTH times!  Luckily, they were not people that would bump into Lori on a regular basis.

The Special Day

I had made reservations at 18 Restaurant in the Market as well as the Chateau Laurier for the evening of the 21st of December.  Being a Sunday night, and in a snowstorm (which I didn’t plan), I expected things to be quiet at both places, which was exactly what I was looking for.

At this point, I still had not completely cemented the plan, and the location of the proposal was still up in the air (restaurant, lobby of hotel, hotel room were all possibilities).  I tend to think best under pressure, so my brain helped me out in the end.  I checked into the hotel room so that I could get my bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne chilling on the coffee table with a couple of glasses.  This also gave me a chance to check out the room which was a corner suite (RM# 596) with a great north facing view over the river which you can see below:

Ottawa River from Chateau Laurier

I have to thank the staff at the Chateau Laurier for the great choice of room.  Once I told them what the mission of the evening was they upgraded me to a corner suite with that great view!  Their mission statement is “Turning moments into memories.”, and it certainly seems they practice what they preach.

So the rough plan now was: park at the Chateau, have a great dinner, get her to the hotel to set the mood, get to the room for the proposal, all without tipping her off as to what was going on.

This was when the final plan started to gel.  Rule #1 to creating a really believeable -but false- story, is to root it in as much truth as possible.  I chose my friend Matt Gorbet to be the core of the story.  Matt was a good choice because Lori hasn’t actually had the pleasure of meeting him yet, so there was no risk of her getting suspicious about anything I said.  I have talked about Matt enough so that Lori knows that he does many weird and wonderful things, is from Ottawa, and the idea that he would be too busy visiting friends and family during his ‘short visit’ to Ottawa to have made plans with us ahead of time was plausible.

When I got home, I told Lori that I had bumped into Matt in downtown Ottawa during the day, who was visiting the town on business, and we had discussed that Lori and I were going to have dinner in the Market.  He had then offered his parking pass since he had got one with his really swank room, but was using taxis and didn’t need it.  This allowed me to park at the Chateau without getting Lori suspicious.  It also gave me the excuse to come back to the hotel late in the evening to visit Matt.

After a great dinner at 18 Restaurant, it was clear that Lori did not suspect a thing.  So little did she suspect anything, she actually had us go shopping at Chapters for Christmas gifts for my niece Julia.  Finally, after dragging her out of the store, we made our way to the Chateau to inspect he Yousef Karsh photos that grace the room off of the main lobby.

Karsh came up in conversation before because Lori had bought some stamps that featured a picture of Audrey Hepburn which had been snapped by the photographer.  She didn’t know that Yousef had actually resided in the hotel for some time, taking photos of many famous people including Einstein and Winston Churchill, which are both on display in the hotel.

This gave me the opportunity to get her up to the room.  I pretended to answer my iPhone which Lori knows is always on vibrate (so this was not suspicious):  “Hi Matt… oh ok…. about 15 minutes?….  sure we can wait there… do you really think the parking pass will work?… do you have a mini-bar?… are you being comped?  If so we will help you by cleaning out your mini bar <laugh>… ok, see you soon.”

I then told Lori that Matt would meet us soon, but in the interim, we should wait in his room and we were welcome to have a drink while we were waiting.  Lori then proceeded to take me on a tour of the hotel showing me the various rooms where she had fraternity socials, wedding, receptions etc.  She CLEARLY wasn’t catching on…

FINALLY, I got her to follow me up to the room.  I had swapped the parking pass in my wallet for the room key (which look much the same) and tried the door telling Lori that I wasn’t sure that the key would work, but Matt was sure so there was a good chance that it would.

We entered the room, and I thought the champagne on the table might finally tip her off, but apparently she thought it just fit in to such a swanky room.  I pointed to the following element of the room which forms the corner of the corner suite, and looks like a turret from the outside of the building, and asked “What do you think that is for?”:

Turret at Chateau LaurierLori replies: “Reading!”

After palming the ring box from my jacket pocket, I guide her to the corner and sit down with her.  At this point she still hadn’t noticed that I was holding anything.

Adrian: “I have some good news and some bad news, what do you want to hear first?”

Lori: <look of panic on her face> “Uh… bad news?” [People always want the bad news first.]

Adrian: “The bad news is that I am broke, I have no money to buy you any Christmas presents!”

Lori: <confused panicked look continues>

Adrian: “The good news…” <kneels down on one knee, opens ring box presenting the ring> “Will you marry me?”

Lori: <panicked look changes to combined, about-to-cry/excited/happy look> “Yes.”

And now the punch line…

Lori: “Does Matt know about this??”

Adrian: [This ruse worked a little too well…] “Um… Matt is not coming, this isn’t his room, it is ours.”

Lori: “Oh my… and I had you shop at Chapters!!”

Yah… I thought that was pretty funny too.

Here is a picture of the re-enactment of the happy moment (you can tell it is a re-enactment, she isn’t nearly as excited-looking in this photo):

Lori & Adrian Engaged

So anyway, we had a great night!  Thanks to all for your congratulations!!

My parents probably gave the best response: “We are very happy with your choice… and about time!!”

Awww What a Cute Couple!


Awww What a Cute Couple!

Originally uploaded by Adrian F1

For anyone who hasn’t already found this out, I wanted to use the VAST readership of my blog to make sure that EVERYONE knows about this, and to give Barry the obligatory hard time.

Some reasons to give Barry a hard time (please feel free to add in the comments below):

1. Barry decided to wait until Laura moved 16,000km+ away BEFORE starting a relationship… DUH!

2. If you see Barry, you know he didn’t get any for at least the last 24 hours, and won’t for at least the next 24.

3. While Barry & Laura were keeping their passion a secret, good friends set Barry up with HOT & LOCAL women, which he had to spurn in favour of his remote lust-muffin.

4. Barry spent $2000 on his first date. Has anyone who isn’t on a reality TV show done this??

5. Ask Barry what he really thought you meant when you asked him ‘if he wanted to eat out at Singapore’??

6. Barry must believe that opposites really do attract! Could he have found anyone so ‘opposite’ from his triathlon-competing self?

7. Barry worked with Laura for 3+ years and STILL wants to go out with her… DUH!

On the plus side, kudos to Barry for going out on a BIG limb for his first date. That would have been a LOOOONG flight home if he got dumped. 😉

If you feel like donating Barry some of your Aeroplan miles so that he can get some, please use his ID# 720 149 394.

My Longest Day


Singapore Changi Airport

Originally uploaded by Adrian F1

After some sleep I have a chance to contemplate my record travel day: 30 hours of travel, and 16,390 kms all in one day (Singapore – Seoul – Vancouver – Ottawa)!

Due to crossing the national date line during my flight, all of my flights actually occurred within the 19th of January, also making this my longest day at 37 hours.

Unfortunately for me, I am not one of these people who can sleep on planes. Even with some extra space on one of the three flights, a blindfold and sound isolating earphones I think I managed to nod off for maybe 45 minutes during those 30 hours!

During my 4 hour stopover in Vancouver, I actually had to stay standing, because if I sat down I would have surely fallen asleep and missed my flight.

Anyway, I am home safe and sound after an EXCELLENT trip to Vancouver and Southeast Asia! Check out all the pictures here.

A special thanks to Laura for hosting me in Singapore, Leigh and Chad for showing us around in Vancouver, and finally Todd and Marianne for inviting us to their wedding in Kamloops!

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