Transit Debate Continues

The newest Regional transit survey comes from The Record. Given, the paper’s hot and cold coverage of the “debate”, with its often controversial letters to the editor and opinion pieces, this should be interesting.

If you missed my post about the LRT Rally, I am pro light rail. I am pro anything that encourages people to use their feet and transit to get from A to B. Granted KW is not currently set-up that way, we are a sprawling city, and I have had countless people argue with me that the LRT will not serve everybody, only those along the line, therefore it is not a good use of money. Ok.

My final two cents on this debate: move along the line. When relocating here we chose where to live based on its accessibility to amenities like restaurants, transit and my place of work. As a result, we are able to make do with one vehicle (the other unfortunately goes to Guelph every week day).  If we could do without, we would. An LRT would provide us with a quick scoot into Uptown Waterloo and down to the Market – making it a viable option even in bad weather. Yes, we get less square footage than we would if we moved into the suburbs. But the freedom of being carless evenings and weekends is delicious (and far more economical).

Get involved. If you are a newbie to the debate, check out Tritag for the pro (and ways to have your voice heard) and search The Record for any number of cons.

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Filed under Kitchener-Waterloo, urban design

Two Great Finds

One of my biggest beefs with living in Kitchener-Waterloo has been the lack of truly great restaurants. There are many places that are OK, but none that have stood out as of late, especially in the “reasonable” category (under $25/entree).

Last Saturday friends took us to the Raintree Cafe in Waterloo, one of their frequent stops. Located in an unattractive strip mall, Maxwell’s Music House is just next door, the Raintree is understated to say the least. Looking like a cross between a tea house and university pizza haunt, the cafe’s interior isn’t winning any awards. But that’s where the negative commentary stops. The food is amazing.

As a mixed carnivore/vegetarian group we all found something appetizing – the specials are really worth the ask – and even managed to make a dent in their truly exceptional desserts. The offerings are diverse, think lentil soup to rack of lamb, and weigh in $10+. Dinner for 2 with salads, entree, 1/2 a bottle of wine and 1 desserts cost $75. One of the best investments we’ve made eating out.

Living and working in downtown Kitchener I am also always on a quest for lunch and after work watering holes. I’ve been a fan of Little Bean since we stumbled upon it in its first week. Tucked in beside Ziggy’s cycle and sandwiched between the Kaufman Lofts and the Tannery, Little Bean offers one of the best lunch values for actual, real food. Gluten free and vegetarian options are on offer and the selection of breads are just fantastic. The staff are always very friendly and accommodating.

We were very excited when Little Bean gained its liquor license and started offering an after 6 menu.  The lights dimmed, the comfortable space becomes venue for salsa and swing lessons, local music and even karaoke on a weekly schedule. On St.Patrick’s Day our green beers were accompanied by pics from their tapas menu and, as always, the food was truly tasty (and under $10).

What’s your favorite dining venue and watering hole in KW?

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Mashup

Map of the World

Yes it has been a while. Ironically, the sheer mass of events, information and happenings locally and globally have made it very difficult to isolate my thoughts – uprisings in the Middle East, ideas sparked by the TEDxWaterloo experience, my recent vacation to a still Castro run Cuba, my 33rd birthday and, on the same day, the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunamis in Japan. I’ve been questioning the very notion of democracy and freedom and coming to grips with the sometimes cruel realities of  nature. The world is in flux – especially today.

17 year old sailor Abbey Sunderland, who attempted to solo circumnavigate the globe in January 2010,  ended her TEDxWaterloo presentation with, “When your rouge wave hits, what will you do?” At the time, I likened her words more to my everyday “rouge waves” rather than the literally mammoth one brewing across the globe. By March 11th, as I was sitting on a beach feeling really lucky just to be birthday girl me while others were just trying to survive in Japan – it occurred to me that the real question should be, “When a rouge wave hits others, what I am going to do to help?”  Surprisingly, that’s when things got complicated.  I tried to figure out not only how to help, but who to help. After all, there are so many people and places in need of all kinds of things, where do I start?

Does building a better world for ourselves and others start at home or “out there?” Is fighting for arts funding in my backyard just as important as helping people to fight for their right to free speech? Is donating money just as good as time? Is it all for nothing anyway? Is there a middle ground in all this?

In the end I do think that it is all worthly of our time and attention, that “there” and “here” are equally important. That no effort to make things better is a waste of time – period. Focusing our efforts on different things is not a waste, there are simply a lot of things/issues/ideas/people to care about. So pick the arts, disaster relief, human rights advocacy or make your child’s school a better place or your street a little bit cleaner. Discovering what we care about individually and collectively will help all of us to build happy and thriving groups, communities, countries and ultimately a larger global family. One is not complete without the others. And if we’re successful, we’ll get to ride those “rouge waves” together. It will still be a rough ride, you’ll definitely lose your hat and most likely your boom, but it’s always easier when you are not alone.

How to get started:
KW Volunteer Action Center>
The Red Cross>

GAP Adventures Volunteer Trips>
Engineers without Borders Canada>

– More to come on democracy, freedom and all things truly confounding in the coming weeks.

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An interview with artist David Hoover

Late Nights and Blue Collar Mornings

Local artist David Hoover´s February 19th show Late Nights and Blue Collar Mornings is just around the corner (check out the details and invite here). He was game to answer a couple of my questions via email.

Why Late Nights and Blue Collar Mornings?
The title is a reflection of what i’m going through. The show is not just about me but friends, co-workers and really anyone in general who works a 9-5 job then goes home and works another x amount of hours on their passion (not subject to just painting). So the “late nights” is a mix of working on passion and balancing a social life (friends, relationships, straight enjoying life). And the realization that if you wanna take “it” somewhere… you’ll never get anywhere without giving some sacrifice. So for example while my friends go out to party friday night im painting… legal or illegal then hooking up with my girlfriend at 2 in the a.m. to keep all that in check.

Then the “blue collars” comes when my alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. To remind me that i either have to go to work to pay the bills… or that i have more painting to do.

Kosta v.s David? Two entirely different people or one and the same?
Painting graffiti you have to come up with an alias. However there is also an element of creating a personality/identity. Kinda abstract but look at Peter Parker vs. Spider man. During the day he gets pushed around by his boss, kinda nerdy, has trouble with the girls, etc. However at night, when the mask goes one and it gets dark out he becomes a super hero. Know what i’m saying?

You use letters and words often in your work, how did this come about?
The goal with painting graffiti is to come up with your own style of font. Tagging is the most basic element of creating that font. I started doing canvas work to practice/develop my personal font. The stencil/block letters is there to create contrast against my font.

What would your perfect day entail?
ha ha ha this question is great. My perfect day? Oh man it would start at 4:30 a.m.  with black coffee, three eggs over easy with sriracha hot sauce and pumpernickel bread. Followed by a back pack full of paint and a date with a freight train,  finishing my piece just in time for the sunrise. This would follow with a morning back yard mini ramp session (skateboarding) and a nice lunch of sandwiches (any kind i’m not a picky eater) and a big salad of fresh greens followed by a honey dew melon for desert. A quick nap. Then hitting up the underworld (can’t give specific locations) again to paint another piece. After that was done and i was finished hanging out with the crew. I’d call up my girl and we would go have a nice dinner (preferably indian) of chole with rice, naan and mango pickle. To finish the evening drinks (beer, tea or wine) on a patio somewhere under the stars, urban setting but somewhat secluded. Teamed up with a hookah session.
After that i would fall asleep content, knowing that my day wasn’t wasted.

Yup, he is a cool guy.

Find out more about the show and RSVP on Facebook>

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Filed under cool whip, events

Vlogging 101

Video Blogging

Video rules as a powerful communications tool. There is nothing like being able to express your of the moment experience with your audience, or experiencing someone else´s. And as it turns out, voyeuristic tendencies are more widespread than we´d ever thought. In 2010 YouTube exceeded 2 billion views a day with more video uploaded in 60 days than all 3 major US Networks created in 60 years. We´re using YouTube to connect to all sort of information and, in addition to cute cat videos, we´re learning from other´s expertise, showing off what we´re doing and experiencing reality as it exists on the other side of the globe.  Making  the jump from video consumer to maker is easier than ever with the advent of low-cost digital cameras of the stand alone and even mobile phone variety.

In my communications role at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (a non-profit) I find great value in video, although given my budget and time constraints vlogging is my only option – highly produced and expensive video productions are out. Vlogging or video blogging, roughly defined as the capturing of an experience, if done with energy, passion and clear message can be powerful content, populating your social media properties like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. As I rely heavily on free communications channels like these to get our message out, video is a cost and time effective way to engage and connect with a wide audience.

All you need to get started with vlogging is a message, some basic equipment and real energy and passion.

What´s your message?
Great video turns your message into something people can relate to. When real energy, passion and enthusiasm comes together on camera your audience gets caught up in it. One of the best´organisational videos I´ve seen is Craig Kielburger´s well digging video for Free the Children. He not only demonstrates the organisation´s message, he literally shows you why you should support them. (Check out my own of the moment plea). When it comes to message the keys are easy to navigate: keep it simple, concise and real. Get out the essential information, tell people where to find out more and provide a call to action like donate now or come to our event. If you are not comfy in front of a camera find someone who is, but make sure they share your passion. And do it all in under 3 min.

The right camera for you.
Finding the equipment that fits your needs and budget can still be tricky. There is a lot to choose from, and with the rapid advancement of digital film, I´m always hesitant to pay any more than I have to. I choose the Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera ($168) for the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery for a couple of reasons. It had built-in usb arm that allows one click uploads to YouTube, eliminating the need for a double upload (once to the computer, then to YouTube). The reviews also gave it a thumbs up when it came to sound, and as one of the only cameras under $350 with an external mic jack (an additional $25 at The Source) I felt confident that I could capture both candid and more formal moments. Best of all it is easy to use, can be strapped to a tripod (perfect for solo recordings), is HD and has a decent editing software package included.

Harnessing knowledge and passion.
I recently tagged along on a Gallery tour looking for a photo op. Kate, the tour leader completely blew me away, she made the exhibitions come alive with her insight and commentary. The next week we filmed a mini version of that tour to provide a virtual intro to the exhibitions. I think she´s as good on camera as off because her knowledge (the accessible expert voice), energy and passion are very clear. If you´ve got it – share it.

So you´ve filmed and uploaded your video, now what? Spread the word – use your social media and in person networks to let people know that it is there. Post a link on Facebook, tweet about it, include it in your eNews, put it on your blog or website, get your friends to post it on their sites. Videos go viral because word of mouth passes them around. You may not get a million views, but those that watch it will not only know who you are, they will “feel” it, making them more likely to engage with your organisation or brand again.

Creating video can seem daunting, but once you´ve done it a couple of times  it becomes a lot of fun.

I want to hear about your experiences vlogging, the good – the bad – and the ugly. Suggestions, ideas?

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Filed under cherries, cool whip, social media

Epic Dog Walk

From last Sunday’s EPIC, and very snowy, dog walk at Snyder’s Flats with @commonthreadnat @Paddy_Mack @benjaminbach @Mindseyestudio @ScienceSteph @kirstiepaterson @those2girls @kwsarah plus doggies.

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The Power of One: a cautionary tale

Facebook

I’ve always felt that companies are missing the boat when it comes to social media.  Slow adoption, lack of understanding and fear of the unknown creates resistance and barriers that finds even the best social media team having a hard time functioning effectively. However in my view, the biggest mistake many companies make is not taking the time and effort to build company champions within their own walls. Simply put, people who have reached positive mass with the company – they like it and are not afraid to say so in public.

In the past, negative employee comments didn’t have many outlets that reached a wide audience. Social media has leveled the playing field. For example, my company’s Facebook page gets less views that those generated from the combined total of its employee’s pages. Social media is also instant, so the slight you feel at work CAN translate into an of the moment virtual slap for your company if you want it to.

Case in point, the settlement reached between an employer and their employee over disparaging comments posted to Facebook. Evidently, the employee had an axe to grind with her Manager and expressed it on her personal page, from her home computer. She was fired and being a union employee was able to file a complaint. The company’s defense of their actions hinged on their social media policy which prohibits workers from:

…”making “disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the company or the employee’s superiors, co-workers and/or competitors.”

The ruling in the employee’s favor stated that:

“Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees may discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with coworkers and others,” the NLRB said in a statement on Monday announcing the settlement.” [Find the Ottawa Citizen story here>]

While I would tend to agree that taking your grievances social media public is not the best way  to deal with workplace conflict, it has been made clear that it is your right to do so. I hope employers are listening.

If you already have social media within your company, ask them what they are encountering. (Make sure you ask your Community Manger rather than a high level manager,  they live it every day and will have the best take on what is happening).  Is there a negative perception of your company? Was it created or being buoyed by employees? Are there concerns that you can address that would help alleviate this? It may feel like a massive pain to do this run down (and do it often), but it will save you in the long run –

  • Recruitment: When I look at companies I want to work for I check out what their employees are saying about them in addition to what they are saying about themselves.
  • Costs of PR and media fixes: Traditional media is listening to what is coming out of social media, even CBC is quoting tweets as sources. The cost of fixing negative PR can be massive and long term.
  • Internal strife: Your Marketing, Communications and Social Media teams all deal with the fall out of online employee negativity. No one wants to fight a battle they feel is unwinable and they won’t stay long.
  • In real life conflict: Know it or not, your employees are using social media. They know what Nancy two cubicles down is saying about her team, or her supervisor or the company. Negativity breeds negativity.

Now you certainly can’t catch everything especially if you are a large company, but much of this equates to simply listening to employees and treating them with the respect and attention that you would like others to confer on you. Your employees have a voice and, with social media, the tools to air their grievances or positive feelings to a massive audience. Don’t underestimate the power of  one tweet or post, the American Medical Response of Connecticut sure won’t.

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Filed under reflections, social media