Monday, January 28, 2008

Big Ideas, Small Budget

bigideas_logov1.jpgHave you worked with any nonprofit groups to help them tell their stories? If you do, or if you ever have, then my friend and colleague Donna Papacosta of Trafalgar Communications would like to enlist your help.

Donna is the host of the Trafcom News Podcast, a tremendous resource for all of us in the PR and communications world who are interested in making use of new technology in the business world. As Donna puts it, its a "podcast for people who care about communicating."

Here's what she's planning:
Big Ideas, Small Budget will be a discussion about how nonprofit organizations can communicate better without spending wads of cash. Big Ideas, Small Budget will start as a conference call, the contents of which will become a special episode of the Trafcom News Podcast. You are invited to participate in this conference call.

Who can take part?
Anyone who works for or with a nonprofit organization can contribute – whether you’re a board or staff member, volunteer or consultant (writer, PR specialist, graphic designer, Web expert, podcaster, and so on). If you are involved in any way with communicating for nonprofits, we’d love your help.

The conference call is at 12 noon Eastern Standard Time on Friday, February 15, 2008. Dial 1-605-772-3285, then key in the access code 877696#. Don’t forget the pound key (number sign) at the end.
If you're interested, you can read the whole post here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Inside the Kenyan horror

The Globe and Mail's Stephanie Nolen takes a terrifying ride into the heart of Kenya to try to find out why this once most stable of African countries has turned into a nightmare of ethnic violence.

Her feature story in Saturday's print edition is a remarkable tale, told in a first-person format that brings the chilling details to life in a way that more conventional reports haven't. Once you've read it, take a look at her photos that accompany the story.

And if you want to hear more, she's going to be online live at Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 1pm EST to talk about what's happening in Kenya.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Auschwitz, Jan 27, 1945


Sunday is the 63rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Three years ago, the 60th anniversary was a major event, but I fear that might have been the last time that the world collectively examined the atrocity that was the final solution.

At the time, I wrote a post about my own feelings and looking at it again, I think it's worth reminding people about. So please take some time this weekend and follow the links in that original post and make your own tribute to those who died.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana (1863–1952)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thoughts on a gloomy day

354366312_067aba5794_m.jpgOutside, the sun is non-existent. It's threatening to rain and the sky is that cold, grey colour that nothing seems to be able to affect. It's a dreary, gloomy day, so my thoughts are a bit somber.

That's probably why this new series in the Christian Science Monitor, called "Sea Under Siege: The Mediterranean" caught my eye today. It's a sobering (even depressing) tale about declining fortunes for the fishermen who ply their trade in the Mediterranean. Here's an excerpt:
For more than 50 years, the nearly two dozen countries bordering the Mediterranean have struggled to jointly manage the shared bounty of the sea, whose uniqueness makes managing this crisis both unusually difficult and extremely important.

But their efforts have stalled often amid the conflicting political and economic interests in this diverse region, which contains everything from the heavily subsidized Italian fleet – one of the biggest in the sea with more than 14,000 boats – to thousands of subsistence fishermen in Morocco.

The benefits of preservation are manifold, however, in this marine ecosystem, whose share of global biodiversity is eight times greater than its size.

Now, that diversity is threatened. According to the United Nations, 85 percent of species in the sea are already being fished at or above sustainable levels. Some are near commercial extinction.

Other species, like turtles, dolphins, and sharks, often caught accidentally in fishermen's nets, are also being driven toward extinction. A recent report by the World Conservation Union, which monitors endangered species, found that 42 percent of the sea's 71 shark and ray species are threatened or endangered – a global high. Fishing is the most serious threat, the report found.
This story line is not new. The past year has seen climate change, and its startling effects, become front-page fodder around the world. While the glare of media attention has benefits, it has a downside as well. We hear about things so much, we stop paying attention.

Last week, we heard a remarkable story about how the Antarctic ice sheet is melting much quicker than expected. And we know that the same thing is happening in the Arctic. But as fast as we heard about it, it was gone, relegated to the "yesterday's news" section. Let's move on to something else.

I'm as guilty as anyone. I was more interested in the new toys that Apple released at MacWorld than climate change. I mean, who wouldn't be? But this morning, the Steve Jobs "reality-distortion field" effect was wearing off and I'm letting my thoughts wander to a bigger picture. And the picture isn't as pretty as one might hope.

Sitting here in my home on Vancouver Island (thankfully a few metres above sea level) I'm struck by how real these changes are becoming and how soon their effects will be felt. The number of species in the ocean is declining, the waters are rising along with the temperatures. Storms are stronger, heat waves last longer -- what's going to happen? And what can we do about it? Gloomy thoughts indeed. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Photo credit: Rutty, found at his Flickr site. Published under a Creative Commons Licence.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Steve Jobs does it again

I had fun this morning, watching Steve Jobs give his keynote address at MacWorld 2008 in San Francisco. I was following along via live blogs from the event and it was interesting to see the differences.

I had four going at the same time -- MacRumours, CNET, MacWorld and Engadget. I know there were others, but I was worried about bogging my system down so much nothing would run properly.

They all had a slightly different take on delivering the goods. Three of the sites were also posting pictures in real time, so it was almost like seeing video. (CNET elected not to show any pictures.) CNET and Engadget had some server problems. Both went down for awhile at the beginning, but were OK by the end.

MacWorld had the best writing, although it was a little slower delivering the news. But as with most of their coverage, it was well written and offered more detail. Engadget's Ryan Block was more opinionated, offering his comments along with coverage. The CNET blog, by Tom Krazit was fairly straight up. I found it the least interesting.

The MacRumours blog was the most straight-forward. "Just the facts, ma'am." The updates were simple but timely. There were lots of pictures to go with the slimmed down coverage. But what made it useful was that the site was continuously updated. Once I loaded the page, it updated all the time. I didn't have to hit the refresh button at all. That was a nice touch. The others all required refreshes to see the latest content.

The sites also delivered the latest content slightly differently. MacWorld used a traditional top to bottom format, with the most recent news at the bottom of the page. But when you refreshed the page, you were taken to the end, so the copy all read in the right order. It was the most useful for catching up with.

Engadget posted all the latest updates at the top of the page, but they had a big photo at the top, so the updates were below that and I had to page down to see them. If you wanted to read a few updates at a time it was a bit awkward, because you needed to look above the one you were reading for the next one.

The other problem with Engadget's site was that it was so ad-intensive, it took a long time to refresh and often lost the server connection before it had finished downloading everything. That was annoying.

CNET also posted their most recent updates on the top, but their format made it a little easier to distinguish which update was which.

So what about the content? It was very, very impressive.

Jobs announced a new version of the Apple TV software, which will allow you to rent movies and watch them on your TV. There's upgrades to the IPhone software (which will also be available on the ITouch), there's a new device called Time Capsule, to complement TimeMachine. And the finale was the introduction of the MacBook Air -- the world's thinnest laptop. You have to see this thing to believe it.

I want one right now -- and an Apple TV -- and a Time Capsule -- oh, and an IPhone too!

You can see all the details on the Apple site right now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Around the world update

40_photogallery1_2684558099_thumb_P9070014.JPGBack in October, I told you about Glenn Wakefield, a Victoria sailor who is sailing alone, non-stop, around the world, from east to west. He's now getting close to the half-way point of his voyage, somewhere in the Indian Ocean, south and west of Australia.

It's been an interesting trip so far (to say the least) and thanks to his wife, Marylou, we've been able to follow along through their website Kim Chow is the name of his boat.

While the daily reports have been great, Marylou now has some new pictures of her hubby on the boat. Back in December, Glenn was able to heave a package containing some letters and a digital card from his camera to a passing fishing boat when he was off the coast of New Zealand. According to the rules of the these circumnavigation voyages, he's not allowed to touch land or any other boat until he gets back to his home port. The fishing captain sent the package home when he got back to port.

So that's why when Marylou arrived home from work one day last month, there was a FedEx box waiting at her door. And just as she tore it open and stood flabbergasted looking at the letters from Glenn, her telephone rang. It was Glenn, on his now-working satellite phone, calling her for the first time. What a great Christmas present for everyone.

Here's the link to the pictures, which are on the site now. And who knows...maybe if another boat gets close enough we'll get some more to look at before the end of the voyage in July.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Melinda Gates steps out

Fortune magazine has a feature profile on Melinda Gates - who is arguably the richest woman in the world, since she's married to the richest man, Microsoft founder Bill Gates. But until now, Melinda has not been a well-known public figure, although her profile has been growing as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's work around the world became more public.

A year ago, fellow billionaire Warren Buffett (the world's second-richest man) decided to give his fortune to the Gates' to distribute through their foundation. This year, Bill is leaving his position as Chairman of Microsoft to take on a bigger role with the foundation and Melinda will also be taking on a larger role.

I've always been fascinated by the Gates and while I'd heard about some of the items in this story, there's a lot I hadn't. If you're interested in finding out more, here's the results of a Google search on Melinda Gates. And this is a link to the article in Time when the Gates and U2's Bono shared the 2005 Person of Year award. As this article demonstrates, Melinda is a powerful force and with her wealth and influence (and her influential friends) she appears poised to make a lot of interesting changes in the world.

It's interesting that she's decided to adopt a more public profile at a time when another famous spouse, Hilary Clinton, is taking a determined run at stepping out from behind her own famous husband and become the first woman to be President.

As Bob Dylan wrote, "The times, they are a-changing." Those words described a different time but if you've never read the full lyrics of that song, it's time you did. So here are the complete song lyrics.
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

By Bob Dylan, 1963

Monday, January 07, 2008

More examples of obsessive delights

250px-Death_Star.jpgNow there's a blog title for you. Does that whet your appetite or what?

Mind you, if you're not a Star Wars fan, or at least a bit of a geek, you might not find this entry all that exciting. But I wanted to follow up my post about the fabulous Star Wars Holiday Special from a couple of weeks ago with another example of how the Internet makes all things possible.

I introduce you to Wookieepedia, The Star Wars Wiki, in which I am pretty sure you will have all your questions about Star Wars answered. And where you'll also be able to find a whole bunch of other info that might or might not be of value to you the next time you're playing trivia at your local watering hole.

I'm not really a Star Wars geek, although I do have all the movies, of course. But what I find interesting is the explanation for how this amazing site came to be and if it looks like it spawned from Wikipedia, that other on-line encyclopedia, that's no accident. Here's the story:
Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki is a Wiki which was started on March 4, 2005 by Chad "WhiteBoy" Barbry and Steven "Riffsyphon1024" Greenwood. It strives to be the premier source of information on all aspects of the Star Wars universe. This includes information from the Star Wars films and Expanded Universe, as well as information of value to fans.

The Star Wars Wiki is considered to be a branch of Wikipedia, but can expand on Star Wars information in greater detail and with more freedom than Wikipedia. The Star Wars Wiki began when Wikipedia users began to complain of the overabundance of minutiae related to Star Wars, which began appearing on Wikipedia. Since then, it has expanded to become one of the largest Wikis on the internet.

As a fan-created encyclopedia, Wookieepedia is not intended to be a primary source, nor is it a replacement for the Databank or any other official source. Rather, it serves as a fan effort to summarize all aspects of the Star Wars universe in the best way possible, while pointing the reader to the respective official sources.
I like that. You learn something cool every day, don't you? Especially if you read this blog!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Number of dead reporters up dramatically

Here's a sobering story from the CBC.
The number of journalists killed in the field has skyrocketed by 244 per cent in the past five years, and more than half of the 86 reporters slain in 2007 fell in Iraq, according to an annual tally compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

The international media watchdog released on Wednesday its annual Press Freedom Roundup, which lists the number of journalists and media assistants killed in the line of duty over the past year, as well as statistics on media representatives who have been arrested and imprisoned.

According to the Paris-based group, there were 86 journalists killed in 2007 — the most since the 103 media deaths in 1994, which saw the Rwandan genocide, civil warfare in Algeria and fighting in the former Yugoslavia. The group said there has been a steady rise in the toll since 2002, when 25 journalists were slain.
Coming at a time when we're watching coverage of the election atrocities in Kenya and Pakistan, on-going fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and the presidential campaign in the US (OK -- maybe not quite as dangerous) it's useful to stop and consider the cost of that coverage. The next time you look at a picture from those places, remember that a journalist might have risked her life for that shot and say a quiet thank you.

Here's the link to the full story at

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad

094TraynorJC b.jpgNinety-two years ago today, a remarkable event occurred in Regina, Saskatchewan. My father, John Clair Traynor was born. While he's not around any longer, rarely does a day go by that I don't think of him.

As I journey along this life trail that continues to spread out in front of me, I can't help noticing how often my own actions seem to mirror those of my Dad. I notice it when I see photos of him at the same age as I am now and I'm struck by how similar we are. And now that I've got children of my own moving into their adult years, I understand a lot more about what my Dad might have been thinking while he watched me struggle through those early transitions.

Dad died a dozen years ago but he's still a big part of my life. And I know he'll stay that way for the rest of my life. As I grow older myself, I'm starting to realize just how profoundly the lives of those who came before me continue to blend with my own and how my experiences will become a part of those that follow me. So on this, my Dad's birthday, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge him and celebrate his birthday - an event that has meant so much to me and my family.

While poking around some dusty documents on my computer, I came across the eulogy I wrote for Dad's memorial service. While a few words hardly do justice to a complex and wonderful life, I'll post it here to give you a flavour of my Dad's life.

The photo at the top of this page is one of Dad when he was president of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association, back in the 1960s. It's posted on their site along with a nice write-up of him. It's the only digital photo I could find, since he died long before I got into digital photography. And since my scanner isn't hooked up, I can't get any of my photos into digital form.

J. C. (Clair) Traynor
January 2, 1916 - June 13, 1995

Clair Traynor was born and raised in Regina, part of the Traynor clan that arrived in this area in the 1880s. His grandfather, Adam Traynor, homesteaded in the Tregarva area in 1882. Clair's mother, Mabel Claire (Henderson) died when Clair was born and his father, James Dodds, followed her less than a year later. Clair and his four brothers were brought up by Miss Florence Dodds (Aunt Flo), who kept the family together.

Clair met Elinore, his wife of 52 years, at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, where he graduated as a civil engineer in 1942. Shortly after their wedding in January 1943, Clair left for Europe and WW II with the Canadian Army's Royal Corps of Engineers. When he returned to Saskatchewan, he began his career as a land surveyor. In the next few years, Clair surveyed in virtually every area of the province with Underwood and McLellan. He joined the Government of Saskatchewan in 1949 and was Director of Surveys for the Department of Highways until his retirement in 1980.

Throughout his working life and during his retirement, Clair was an active member of Lakeview United Church and the Lakeview community, where he and Elinore raised five children. In 1957, Clair and Elinore bought their cottage at Buena Vista Beach, a move Clair described as the best thing he ever did. It provided many happy times for family and friends over the years.

Clair's early years were difficult ones, by some standards. But, they instilled a respect for the importance of family and helped him to place family first throughout his life. Clair and Elinore fully supported their children as they made decisions about their education, career and life choices.

Clair was predeceased by his mother and father, and by brothers Charles, Don and Ken. He is survived by his older brother, Alan and Helen of Parksville, B.C. He is fondly remembered and will be missed by Elinore and his children and grandchildren: Beth and Sue Cook of Regina; Byron and Paulette of Saskatoon: Ken, Trish McAdie, and grandson Zola of Toronto; Dave, Heather Wood, and grandchildren Cory, Jaime and Kelly Anne of Regina; and Janice of Hinton, Alta.

Lakeview United Church was an important part of Clair's life. Friends so wishing may make a donation to the Lakeview United Church Building Fund