The Seven Deadly Sins of Speaking

I first wanted to check out Julian Treasure's TED Talk How to speak so that people will want to listen to see if I could pick up a few Toastmaster type tips. Instead, I was schooled in how to be more mindful when I open my yapper.

I'm hyper aware of negativity in conversation. On occasion I am drawn to it (there are some very creative ranters and complainers) but more often than not, I'll start to check out. 

I've listed the sins below along with Treasure's comments.

  1. Gossip, speaking ill of somebody who's not present. Not a nice habit, and we know perfectly well the person gossiping five minutes later will be gossiping about us.
  2. Judging. We know people who are like this in conversation, and it's very hard to listen to somebody if you know that you're being judged and found wanting at the same time.
  3. Negativity. You can fall into this. My mother, in the last years of her life, became very, very negative, and it's hard to listen. I remember one day, I said to her, "It's October 1 today," and she said, "I know, isn't it dreadful?" (Laughter) It's hard to listen when somebody's that negative.
  4. Complaining. Well, this is the national art of the U.K. It's our national sport. We complain about the weather, about sport, about politics, about everything, but actually complaining is viral misery. It's not spreading sunshine and lightness in the world.
  5. Excuses. We've all met this guy. Maybe we've all been this guy. Some people have a blamethrower. They just pass it on to everybody else and don't take responsibility for their actions, and again, hard to listen to somebody who is being like that.
  6. Penultimate, the sixth of the seven, embroidery, exaggeration. It demeans our language, actually, sometimes. For example, if I see something that really is awesome, what do I call it? (Laughter) And then of course this exaggeration becomes lying, out and out lying, and we don't want to listen to people we know are lying to us.
  7. Dogmatism, the confusion of facts with opinions. When those two things get conflated, you're listening into the wind. You know, somebody is bombarding you with their opinions as if they were true.It's difficult to listen to that.

Occasionally people just need to listen to a friend who is going through a rough patch but I always like to say "It would be a shame if we were still talking about this a year from now."

Noel Gallagher is the Edgy Karl Pilkington of Rock

Seeing the dressy Arcade Fire hordes trundle off to the Saddledome in their finery reminded me of this awesome Noel Gallagher interview in Rolling Stone. I've excerpted his thoughts on Arcade Fire.

Did you hear Arcade Fire's new album? 
I haven't heard it. Anybody that comes back with a double album, to me, needs to pry themselves out of their own asshole. This is not the Seventies, okay? Go and ask Billy Corgan about a double album. Who has the fucking time, in 2013, to sit through 45 minutes of a single album? How arrogant are these people to think that you've got an hour and a half to listen to a fucking record?

Did you see that they've asked people to wear formal wear or costumes at their shows? [Ed. Note: Arcade Fire has clarified that this dress code is "super not mandatory."]
[Sighs] Well, what's the point of that? Do you know what the point of that is? That is to take away from the shit disco that's coming out of the speakers. Because everybody's dressed as one of the Three Musketeers on acid. "What was the gig like?" "I don't know, everyone was dressed as a teddy bear in the Seventies." "Yeah, but what was the gig like?" "Ah, fuck knows, man, I have no idea. I was dressed as a flying saucer." "Yeah, but what was the gig like?" "Fuck knows. I don't know. Seen Cheech and Chong, there, though." Not for me.





Documenting Shipping or Where's My Spy Camera

I'm gaining some customer service experience through Dress.Up Fitness bracelets. Currently we sell through eBay and our website, I am learning that consumers are no longer content to wait for something to arrive in the mail. They want to know when it was shipped and where the package is (and if they are like me, they might obsessively click the tracking page to see if there has been any progress). I've had a few experiences where the tracking info I received wasn't very helpful and ultimately, it doesn't allow packages to travel any faster. However, I understand that desire to KNOW.

Documenting Injustice - Bundy Ranch

Peter Gabriel was ahead of his time. In 1992 he co-founded WITNESS, an international nonprofit organization that has been using the power of video and storytelling for 20 years to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. Watch his TED talk from 2006, Fight injustice with raw video

The ideal of handing out portable DV cams to citizen journalists was born of technological innovation. Technological innovation has killed DV cams but today we have a nearly infinite number of citizen journalists. 

Our stories and injustices, real and perceived, are now documented in excruciating detail. 

Which brings me to the Bundy Ranch story. Cliven Bundy runs cattle in the middle of a desert north of Las Vegas. Bundy's cattle graze on public land. He claims pre-emptive rights due to his Mormon ancestry. The free range days ended quite some time ago for most ranchers. Tragedy of the commons stuff.  For background read CNN's Showdown on the range: Nevada rancher, feds face off over cattle grazing rights

The plight of a rancher is to be frustrated. Working the land is hard. Cattle prices fluctuate. Add increasing government regulation to the mix and tempers flair. In this case Bundy's last stand is the result of his failure to win in the courts. Bundy can't graze cattle but large solar facilities probably eradicate more tortoise habitat. Meat is out and solar is in and the government is trying to enforce the will of an increasingly fickle population. 

Back to citizen journalism. Watch the raw footage of the most recent "Bundy Ranch" confrontation. People are so immersed in capturing footage, that they trip over each other. It is half media scrum/half protest. Protesters are struggling to provoke government agents with one hand because the other is holding a phone camera.  

I doubt this is what Peter Gabriel had in mind when he started WITNESS but there is no question that these protesters feel empowered because they have the ability to document their encounters with agents of the US government. Hopefully this conflict can be resolved without anybody getting seriously hurt. If not, at least there will be video.

The Big Picture on Canada's Falling Dollar

Why is the Canadian Dollar dropping? The value of much of what Canada exports has been dropping. Jeff Rubin's Why the loonie’s fortunes are still tied to oil sums up the energy situation nicely. Thanks to George P. Mitchell, producers in the critically important energy sector are trying to find ways to export beyond the North American continent.

Unfortunately for Canadians, the Canadian Dollar is not just tied to energy. With the exception of lumber, most of our other commodity exports (metals and agriculture) are falling in value as well. In my talk at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference I pointed out Canada's relative lack of economic diversification. Canadian investors will start being more open to investments in technology over the next few years.

Meanwhile many of the speakers at the conference reminded me of this quote from Bob Lefsetz:

But you can’t speak this truth in the music business, oh no, because that’s undercutting the game!

The TSX Venture has been on a 3 year slide. It is currently at some key technical levels so maybe we'll get a bit of a run up but until commodity prices turn, I'd consider it a bounce, more than a longer term reversal.

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The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference now known by the #VRIC14 hashtag is looming. 

I'll spare you yet another long term TSX Venture chart. I'm not a gold conspiracy believer although I'm curious as to what the hell happened with Kitco and the $750 million in fines. I'm open to being wrong and seeing the gold price move higher but for the most part, I'd encourage people to broaden their horizons and keep diversified. I pretty much know what most of the speakers are going to say but I've been impressed with Ned Goodman. That alone is a good reason to attend.  


My Gmail Activity

Google Account Activity Reports show how my inbox is jammed up with emails. I'm never one to shy away from signing up for a new service but those emails start to add up. I regularly unsubscribe from services as well but obviously at a slower rate. I have numerous filters on my email so it is not uncommon for me to miss a few important ones but I'm blown away that the really important ones regularly find their way to the top of the pile. 

Here's what happened last month...

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Balance in the NFL

For every Richie Incognito, there's a John Moffitt:

I just want to be happy. And I find that people that have the least in life are sometimes the happiest. And I don't have the least in life. I have enough in life. And I won't sacrifice my health for that.

Moffitt majored in sociology at Wisconsin and said his world view was really shaped over the last couple of years when he began studying the writings of the Dalai Lama and Noam Chomsky.

John Moffitt walks away from NFL, $1 million

There's more than one kind of warrior. The ones like John Moffitt are winning.


Kickstarter for Boomers

Jawbone Up  is a product that is becoming popular but is not a household word yet. An Up is part of the wearable computing trend. An Up is part of the quantified self movement. An Up is made of rubber. More specifically medical-grade, hypoallergenic rubber. My wife bought one a few months ago.

My wife likes to dress up. She has a very large closet. She loves her Jawbone Up but she's not thrilled with its appearance when she's going out on the town. She's been to Coachella but prefers Broadway shows, opera and ballet.

It didn't take long for her to complain about the appearance of her bracelet. I didn't give it much thought but I agreed (the secret to a happy second marriage) and said that she needs one with sparkles or rhinestones on it. This led to some conversations with one of her friends. It wasn't long before Pat started experimenting. First she checked to see if covering an UP bracelet with material would effect its performance. Then they had a seamstress make a few prototypes out of different materials. Lace looked nice but was difficult to pull onto the bracelet. Stretchy fabrics worked very well. Julia and her friend Pat were encouraged enough to start a business around the idea and Dress Up Fitness Bracelets was born.

Big names like Rupert Murdoch and Gwyneth Paltrow happily wear rubber bracelets. Is this a case of the Emperor's New Clothes? I don't think so. Rubber bracelets are the new activist ribbon. Remember the Wayfarer 515 crash on Breaking Bad followed by Albuquerque residents wearing light blue and orange ribbons? It doesn't have to make sense, once the cool kids grab onto something, they make it so. Even rubber bracelets. They start conversations. Like a Macbook Air at a Starbucks did 2 years ago.

Livestrong's yellow bracelets were very popular and may explain the lack of yellow fitness bracelets on the market. We live in a world where the transgressions of a popular athlete can alter the colour trends of fashion. We're all just Sneetches.


When someone wears an activity tracking bracelet on their wrist, they're making a statement. "I track my sleep, I track my activity. I watch what I eat. Please please please ask me what this rubber thing on my arm is for."  Activity trackers are getting smaller but its no fun wearing one if nobody knows that you use one. I see a future where people will happily wear activity tracking earrings.  

A textbook marketing push by Jawbone during New York Fashion week got a great piece of press in the New York Post - Calorie counter is Fashion Week’s hottest accessory. In the article, New York designer Charlotte Ronson said that she’d like to see UP bracelets come in “different prints.”

I didn't really think too much about making a Kickstarter video. If you look at them they're as good as most Hollywood movie trailers. Slick as hell. I was using methods I taught my kids when they were in grade school.  My Donkey Kong graphics skills are not cutting it. We have help on the way and should have an awesome looking video up shortly.   

My wife has brought in some big supporters but with age comes friction and resistance to all things new. Two supporters want to pay by cheque, three people thought that Julia's email was hacked when she asked for support. Four people couldn't figure out what the campaign was about.  She's had several friends who say they've supported the project with no corresponding record of said donation.  Most boomers don't tweet and they're only on Facebook to see what their kids are up to. 

In spite of some challenges, with 10 days to go we are 38% funded. We have been amazed at the support we've received from family and friends which we know has been a leap of faith on their part. It isn't charity, it isn't angel investing, but it just might help Julia and Pat make fitness tracking bands look fantastic.

We need your help so please check out our project below.

Data shows where reals risks in moving oil lie

The big picture on moving oil around the continent so we can drive our cars. The spills referenced weren't actually oil but the main point of this column stands.  Reflexive opposition to pipelines flies in the face of the reality that they are the safest mode of transport.  

By Kenneth Green

Senior Director - Natural Resource Studies

The Fraser Institute 

CALGARY, AB/ Troy Media / - A pair of petroleum-related events in Canada has re-invigorated the public debate over the movement of petrochemicals such as oil and liquefied natural gas.

On October 17, a natural gas pipeline in a remote area of Alberta ruptured, releasing natural gas into the environment. As a result of the rupture, several major oil sands producers had to cut back on their operations. There was no fire, and as natural gas is non-toxic and disperses quickly in the atmosphere, there is little risk to the environment. Canada's National Energy Board quickly responded to the rupture, assuring people that there was no immediate safety concern for local residents.

On October 19, a Canadian National (CN) train derailed about 86 km west of Edmonton, with 13 cars coming off the rails. Three derailed cars were carrying liquid petroleum gas (propane) and four contained crude oil. The propane cars burst into flames upon derailment but the fire was quickly contained, and allowed to burn itself out. Nearly 100 people were evacuated from the local area but thankfully no injuries were reported as a result of the derailment.

The difference between these incidents, a pipeline rupture that threatened no-one and caused little or no environmental harm, and a train derailment that resulted in a serious fire, air pollution emissions, environmental destruction, and the displacement of a hundred people illustrates that, on virtually all metrics of safety, whether environmental, occupational, or residential, movement of oil and gas is safest via pipeline, less safe via rail, and still less safe via roadway.

Data pertaining to the safety of three modes of oil transport in North America show that, on an apples-to-apples basis, transporting a billion tons of oil over a mile of distance by pipeline has a very low likelihood of leakage - less than one incident per billion ton-mile. The risk of a leak by rail is twice as high, at two likely incidents per billion ton-mile. And trucks are 10 times higher still, with 20 incidents likely in moving a billion tons of oil over a mile.

In terms of volume spilled, it is true that pipeline ruptures release larger quantities of oil than individual truck or train spills, but again, when compared on an aggregate basis in terms of ton miles, pipelines are about equal to trucks, but worse than trains. The average releases for 2005-2009 were 11,286 gallons per billion ton-miles by pipeline, 13,707 gallons per billion ton-miles by roadway, but only 3,504 gallons per billion ton-miles shipped by rail.

When it comes to worker safety, pipelines also look safer. Safety data from the U.S. suggests that one would have only 0.007 injuries per billion ton-miles, while rail injury rates are 30 times as high. Road is still worse, with an injury rate 37 times that of the oil pipeline.

That pipelines are safer than trucks or trains should come as no surprise. A pipeline is fixed infrastructure with little exposure to the elements, fewer opportunities for operator failure, and with greater capacity for real-time monitoring and pre-planning for remediation based on the specific and well-understood characteristics of the pipeline route. Trains and trucks, running above ground, on fluid routes subject to constant change offer far more opportunities for breakdown, operator error, and injuries to workers as well as the general public. That's not to say that we should pick one particular mode: each has its pros and cons not only with regard to safety and environmental protection but with regard to economic factors such as changing market conditions - we'll need them all, we just need to understand that choices have consequences.

The public discourse over pipelines has been distorted by environmental groups that have exaggerated their dangers in order to persuade people to oppose their development. But as pipeline projects face increasing scrutiny, regulatory and social barriers, markets are responding in predictable ways, finding other ways to transport oil from where it is produced to where it will be consumed. Those changes, as we're seeing played out in the daily news, have consequences not only for the petroleum industry, but for the environment, for worker safety, and for the safety of those who live along transport routes, whether pipeline, railroad track, or highway.

Reflexive opposition to pipelines flies in the face of the data, which shows that pipelines are safer modes of transport than railways or roadways. Environmentalists engaging in anti-pipeline crusades risk causing considerably more harm than good.

Kenneth Green is Senior Director, Natural Resource Studies at the Fraser Institute. He is co-author of a recent report calledIntermodal Safety in the Transport of Oil.


A Kickstarter: Accessorising Fashionable Fitness Trackers

My wife Julia said that she didn't like having a plain black fitness bracelet. I said she should put rhinestones on it. That led to a Kickstarter campaign led by Julia and her friend Pat Daunais. The site went live this afternoon. I'm not seeing a rush of support just yet. 

Pat and Julia know fashion - they were ahead of the New York Fashion week crowd (read this article if you're confused - Calorie counter is Fashion Week’s hottest accessory )

Find out more below: