Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Traffic in the city

Living in a big city has it’s advantages and then there are the disadvantages and I think traffic is one of the disadvantages.

For anyone that has to commute to work on a daily basis they really understand how traffic can impact them. It doesn’t matter if you take public transit or you drive to work you are doing to deal with traffic at some point on your commute. It can be as simple as a little bit of congestion on a side street or a main street or the bumper to bumper traffic that you will encounter on one of the highways.

In the big cities sure we have rush hour but now rush hour seems to be getting longer and longer because of the number of people that are commuting to work longer distances. There are times that I wonder when rush hour isn’t in Toronto. In some cases it seems that rush hour even occurs on the weekends especially on the highways. It doesn’t matter when you are on a highway there seems to be a lot of traffic.

For people that don’t know Toronto we have a major highway that at some points is between 12 and 16 lanes wide. Yes, the Highway 401 is that highway here in Toronto that is extremely wide and is one of the main routes along the top of the city for us. It is busy no matter when you are on it and that is because it is the main route from Montreal, Quebec to Windsor, Ontario. It is used by transport trucks as a means of getting across Ontario.

Now traffic isn’t just busy on the highways it can be busy on any of the main streets. Traffic can be impacts by a number of things and more common are accidents and construction. Another thing that impacts traffic is power outages, especially those that impact the traffic signals. When the traffic signals go out it can be a challenge to get around the city and especially through intersections. Some people understand how no traffic signals means an all way stop and then there are the people that figure they have the right of way no matter what. If a traffic signal is out sure you might want to just keep driving but there are other directions that are also trying to get where they are going. In some cases when a street is three lanes in all directions it can be a challenge to get across. It is nice when you can see that directions start taking turns and all the lanes in one direction go at once, one car at a time. Sure, it can mean it is a slower process to get through the intersection in some ways but it is the safest way to do it.

Traffic in a big city can be a disadvantage but when you have a good highway and road system it can work pretty well. Sure, there are going to be times when traffic is extremely heavy but you just have to plan for it and ensure that you give yourself the extra time to get where you are going.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Organzing

I think everyone goes through a time where they look at all the stuff they have and then think do I really need all of this stuff.

Recently we have been doing through just that thought process as we have been preparing for the new windows at home. Sure there are things that you will keep some for sentimental reasons and then there are the things that you are going to keep because they are used. There are then the things that you keep because you aren’t sure if you are going to need them or not. Of course, this is the group of things that are going to be sitting and not used for a long time but you kept them because of some other reason.

During this clean up we have been going through a lot of things and what is nice is finding new homes for some of the stuff. When I say new homes I am meaning places outside of our home and we continue to do this even now that the windows have been done. For us, we didn’t get a chance to go through everything before the windows so we are now working on doing through the rest of the stuff as we continue to put it into spots.

There are a lot of ways you can find new homes for your stuff that you no longer want and we have used some of them. Here are some of the different ways you can find new homes for your stuff.
  • Consignment stores – this are good for some things but you will have to remember that the store is going to take a percentage of the final purchase price and if it doesn’t sell you are going to be getting the items back.
  • Thrift stores – a thrift store is a great place to give your gently used items and this is great for clothes and smaller kitchen items.
  • Habitat for Humanity – here is where you can give your gently used furniture and appliances. You can either drop it off at a depot or you can also arrange to have it picked up.
  • Used books stores – depending on your books you may find a store that will take them for a small amount of money or a credit to the store.
  • Environment day events – this is a great way to be able to get rid of stuff in one location because there are different types of areas to give items to. The list at least in Toronto are, electronics (this is where you ca dispose of old electronic devices, computers, etc); hazardous waste (old paint, lights, etc); thrift store (they will take all the items that a thrift store can sell so a good spot for clothing, books, etc); and craft supplies (this is a stop where they will accept craft supplies that schools can use for arts and crafts).
  • Recycle bins – good spot for all the paper that you have around and not longer need but not for sensitive or personal information.
  • Shredding locations – a spot to get rid of all the personal papers that you have accumulated and need to dispose of. This can be done at home if you only have a little bit and you also have a shredder available or a fire place.
  • Garbage – this is for all that other stuff that isn’t good enough to be given away to anyone or is broken.

We have used a lot of these items and are looking into some of the other ways as we continue to find things that need to have a new home. I am thinking that over the next few months we are going to be continuing to clean up the place and continue to find the different methods of disposing of some of the things that we no longer want.

Organizing every once in a while is a good thing because it gives you a chance to go through all of your things and really think about if you still want them or not. If you have things that you no longer want but are still usable, check out where you can donate them because it is a way to help other people out as well.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Our crazy weather

Living in Canada you get use to having weather that changes very quickly and you also learn how to deal with the differences.

This last week we had some crazy weather that in some ways was really nice and in other ways it was too quick. For two days in the past week we had temperatures of around 30C and the normal for the middle of May is around 18C so yes it was a big change. It wasn’t as if we had days of the 20C’s before this so it was a big shock. Sure a lot of people enjoyed the two days of wonderful weather but of course these days happened in the middle of the week and not on the weekend when more people could have taken advantage of the nice weather. Of course, now that the weekend is coming up the temperatures are back to around 16C and a chance of rain.

Besides these temperatures we have been having we have also had a lot of rain and that is something that has caused a lot of damage not just in Ontario but in Quebec as well. The lake levels are higher than they have been for years and people have lots their homes because of the floods that have occurred due to this weather.

For us in Toronto, Centre Island which is both an amusement park and home to some families has been impacted. The ferry service that normally goes to the amusement park section of the island has been suspended due to quite a bit of the walking trails being floods as well as some of the beaches. The school that is normally on the island has relocated to the main land for the rest of the school year because of the flooding as well. The residents that live on the island have had to put sand bags around to try and keep the water out. The only ferry service that is available to the island is for residence and staff to ensure that everything is ok on the rest of the island. The walking trails, beaches and amusement section of Centre Island is now closed and it may open in July if the water goes down enough and the ground has a chance to dry some.

Yes the weather does play a major role in what happens around us. We may live away from the water but we are still impacted due to all the rivers and streams that are in the city. For everyone we are all looking that the water levels and wondering how much higher the lake is going to rise because they say it could continue to raise into mid June.

Other cities and towns have been impacted as well as us. Montreal and the Ottawa region are just two of the areas that have also had to deal with the floods and they are also like us and wondering when the water level will start to go down. Hopefully this is the end of the crazy rainy weather and things will start to get back to normal but until then we just have to be careful when near any body of water because the banks have been damaged and they are no longer stable.

Everyone in the various parts of Canada are looking at the weather and wondering what is next. Some people are still having snow and others are dealing with the rain so now to see what the rest of this year is like for us. Like everyone else we deal with the crazy weather and understand that tomorrow things could change again.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Window Replacement

Windows before replacement
We recently had to deal with the windows and balcony doors being replaced in our apartment unit. There are some really nice improvements with windows and I am going to say that I do like these new windows as they keep a lot of the sounds from outside out. The windows that were in the unit were put in when the building was built and that was almost 50 years ago so there were not windows that would keep the cold out.

The window replacement was part of another renovation that has been going on at the same time and that is adding insulation on the outside of the entire building. As you can guess this isn’t a quick project when you think of every unit needing new windows and all the outside of the building needing bits of brick work and then the insulation being added. The windows were replaced in the building in stages and there were actually four stages and we were in the last stage. I can’t complain because this also gave us some time to do a lot of sorting out of stuff in our unit.

One of the biggest issues with replacing windows is you need to ensure that the weather is going to cooperate as well. Some people had their window replacement delayed because it was too cold out so that means a day or more of waiting for the windows. Other people were delayed because it was either too windy or it was raining out again delays. When it came to our area I was hoping that the weather was going to cooperate because it is a huge impact to have our home/office offline for a day.

Well the time came to actually replace the windows in our unit so here is a bit about that actual experience.

New windows
The work that is involved to prepare your apartment for getting the windows is a lot of work.  A lot of the instructions you get (4 days) before they replace your windows are common sense.  We have been working on getting ready for this window replacement for a while as the overall project has been going on in the entire building for over a year now.  So we finally heard that our windows were going to be replaced on a date (weather permitting).   Over the last couple of weeks we have moved a lot of the furniture around in the unit as we needed to ensure that everything was between 3 - 4 feet from all the windows and balcony doors.  The day before the window replacement involved putting drop sheets over everything to help prevent the dust from going everywhere.  Another reason for the drop sheets was to prevent things from blowing around as they take all the windows out at once and then put all the new windows in. 

We returned to the unit after being out for the entire day (you are not allowed to stay in the unit during the window replacement) and found that the people doing the work left the unit fairly clean. Sure there is dust that we are dealing with but the drop sheets really helped contain the dust. Also the people doing the work did an amazing job cleaning up after they were finished and we didn’t find too many pieces of glass or concrete so were happy.

After the windows were done the following work day you have the painter come in and do some of the touch up of the paint. That was something that wasn’t bad because he pained the ceiling and the window sill and the walls right beside the windows for about six inches. This was done and finally the work on getting the unit back to how you want it could start.

The end result is some really nice windows but of course now we need to put all the furniture back where it was.  We are going to be taking our time doing that because we are also going to continue to clean up and organize things. The actual returning of furniture is taking some time because we are also looking to see if the rooms can be better arranged now.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ad Astra - Part 2

The rest of the weekend is now about to start and will see how it goes.

Saturday evening
Book Launch – Brave New Girls
So it was off to attend another book launch and this one was for a collection fo sci-fi stories featuring brainy young heroines. The actual book isn’t going to be out until August but three of the authors were doing reading from their stories that are part of the book.

Masquerade
Now the Masquerade is sort of a competition for amateurs and this year the show was only about half an hour which worked out really well considering as you can guess there were other things to attend in the evening. I do like attending as I like to see some of the costumes even if I don’t know who the person is suppose to be or anything like that. Seeing the amount of work some people put into their costumes is amazing.

Book Launch – Matthew Bin
One more book launch was on our schedule and again this was Saturday evening. The books sounds really amazing so we picked up a copy of it and now to see when we have the time to actually read it along with everything else that we have to read.

Remainder of the evening
So the remainder of the evening was off to another party which was the GenreCon party and then head back to the room to get some sleep and recharge for Sunday which is the last day of the convention.

Sunday
Of course, by Sunday the energy level is starting to wear out and that is for most of the attendees as we are trying to do a lot of things all weekend long and don’t have a lot of time to relax and recover between the various events.

Project Management for Writers
This panel was to show writers have to move forward on their writing projects. The panelists all used different methods to track their projects and how they were getting things done so it was nice to hear what they all had to say. The two things that I really got out of this session were:
  • Time management is also brain management and needs to be managed
  • Stop starting and start finishing

Brandon Sanderson – Reading
Once again it was time to get into this panel early to ensure that we could get a seat and that is what we did. The session that was before our panel wasn’t as full so it meant that we could get a good seat and once it was over we moved up right to the front of the room and really enjoyed the reading.

Brandon again did the q&a’s and another reading. Now this reading was really interesting because he told us very little about where the book was part of or anything about it. The reading was great and what he did tell us was the book was very new as it was written on the plane on the way to Toronto from Salt Lake City. It was amazing to hear a reading from a book that was just being written.

Robert Sawyer – Reading
Now this was my final panel of the weekend and again it was a reading by an author that I enjoy reading. Robert Sawyer also did a q&a section and then did a reading from a book that he is currently writing. What is interesting is finding out that this book may never actually come out so we may be the few people that actually got to hear anything about it. Robert Sawyer also apologized about now being at the book signing when he was suppose to be there and once again it was due to the wrong time being on his badge for the signing.

Final notes and observations
The overall convention was a lot of fun and I have to admit that we were both very tired by the time we headed for home. It is always great to see all the friends that we have made and only see at this convention. We see other friends that we see during the year as well so it is a nice mix of friends.

The hotel is great because they deal with a lot of people running around in costumes and also parties that go well into the evening. Now to see how next year’s convention is because it is going to be held in July instead of the normal April or May.

We picked up a couple of other books that were available at the convention but we did keep the number of books down this year which was something for us. Normally the two of us come out of the convention with a pile of books and then realize that we may not have a chance to read them. I did buy one book on Sunday and part of the reasoning with this book was I could get it signed by Brandon Sanderson as soon as I bought it without having to deal with a line up. Now I have a book that is over 1,200 pages so will see when I get to read it.

Conventions can be extremely exhausting like this one is but it is also a lot of fun and I hope that it continues and next year the problems with the panelists schedule won’t happen.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ad Astra - Part 1

Ad Astra is a volunteer run science fiction literary convention in Toronto.

Here are some of my notes from the weekend event.

Friday evening is when most of the attendees, vendors, panelists and guests of honour arrive for the weekend. The event runs from 6 pm on the Friday event through to around 5 pm on the Sunday and there are a lot of different things to see and do.

The Guests of Honour this year were:
Brandon Sanderson
Kristen Britain
S.M. Stirling
Eric Choi

My schedule was a little lighter this year but I also wanted a bit of time to relax and see some of the other activities and not just be going to panels like I did a couple of years. So now, here is what I did this weekend with my observations and such.

Friday evening
Book Launch - Brandon Draga
This was a book launch of an author that we have got to know through attending Ad Astra. This was the fourth and final book of a series and we had to go and make sure we got one of the first copies of the book. It is always great to go to a book launch and help support a Canadian author.

Meet and Greet
This is an event held in the ConSuite where the Guests of Honours and Returning Guests of Honours are all together and also a chance to meet and maybe talk with them. This year Brandon Sanderson was one of the more popular guests and when he walked into the ConSuite he realized just how busy it was so he decided to go out into the hall for a while. Because it was busy we also decided to go out in the hall to cool down and am ever happy we did. The result of going out into the hall was the ability to listen to Brandon answer questions and talk with a bunch of attendees. Sure the hall wasn't very wide but it a wonderful chance to be among a small group of people standing and listening to him talk. After about an hour Brandon actually made it into the ConSuite and continued to talk to a group of people in one of the small areas of the room. It was great to see how this went and he did spend the entire two hours of the meet and greet talking to people.

After the meet and greet was over we stayed in the ConSuite for a while and then headed back to our room to relax and prepare for a busy Saturday.

Saturday
The Art of World Building
This was my first panel of the day and one of the reasons I wanted this panel was to hear Brandon Sanderson talk as well. I know that there had been a problem with the information that the book and the schedule have. The pull out schedule has one time and the program book has a different time. What ended up happening is Brandon Sanderson missed this talk because the time on his badge was 1 pm and the panel on the pull out was 12 pm. The panel was pretty good and there were five our panelists involved so it was pretty busy.


Guest of Honour Hour – Brandon Sanderson
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a Guest of Honour Hour but wanted to go to it as I wanted to enjoy listening to Brandon as I have heard him talk on a podcast (Writing Excuses) that we listen to. I knew this was going to be a popular session because even Art of World Building was extremely full and it was in biggest room that the convention had. We made sure that we got there in time to see part of the panel before this to ensure that we would get a seat. Once Brandon arrived we knew it was going to be a good time.

Brandon immediately apologized for the mix up about his schedule and offered that if the convention could find him a room he would do a short version of Art of World Building to make up for the mess up. That was really nice because it wasn’t his error but the convention that put the wrong time on his badge. It ended up that the person that was going to be setting up the large room for another evening for the evening which was also part of the convention gave up a half hour and that way Brandon was able to do both the Guest of Honour Hour as well as the other half an hour in the same room.

Brandon has a wonderful style of presenting and he did a part q&a’s then did a reading from one of his books and then finished up with some more questions. The second part which was the art of world building was also good because he was explaining how he builds his stories and it was great.

The time went extremely fast and I was then looking forward to the reading that Brandon was scheduled to do on Sunday afternoon.

Book Signing
The convention does offer a chance for the attendees to get books and other items signed by some of the Guest of Honours as well as other authors that are attending the convention. As soon as the extra time was over for Brandon we headed down to the signing room to ensure that we could get in line and as you can guess it the line up had already started to grow and that was about half an hour before the signings started. I stayed in line to ensure to get a couple of books signed by Brandon Sanderson. We also had a couple of books for Robert Sawyer to sign but he didn’t show up and that is when we figured out there might be a problem with more schedules. I did get the books signed by Brandon Sanderson and then it was off for a quick dinner and then onto more events.

Now to grab some food.  The remainder of Saturday and all of Sunday will be posted on May 15th.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A quiet zone

There are times that most of us need that spot that is quiet and a place where we can escape to.

We go to conferences and I have noticed that especially at a Literary conference there isn’t a spot where writers can go and do some writing without all the conversations that are happening at the end. I am not saying that an area needs to be a large area but having a spot where you can do and write down those thoughts and ideas that you have collected through panels you have attended or other conversations would be great.

For people that are staying at the hotel there might be time to go back to your room for a little bit of time but after waiting for the elevator and such you normally don’t have a lot of time in your room to do that writing. I know that I have found it difficult to do the writing that I enjoy doing at the conference because of all the conversations and such that are always going on. Sure you can learn a lot from the various conversations but there can be times that even 15 or 20 minutes of sitting without those conversations can really assist in helping you regain a focus.

If a writing room was to be provided at a Literary conference there would need to be rules outside the door to the room outlining some of the expectations/rules of the room. Some of the possible ideas are:
  • Talking in this room is not allowed, conversations are to be taken into the hall.
  • Any music or videos must be watched with headphones to respect the other writings/guests in the room.
  • Please respect the area and remember you aren’t the only one using the room so ensure you don’t take up an entire table to yourself.

This idea of a quiet zone/room came to me as we are preparing to go to a Literary conference and are staying at the hotel. Yes, I can go back to my room if I can a long gap between panels but if I only have half hour or 45 minutes, I would love a spot close to the actual conference where I could curl up and do some of that idea capturing. Not everything is going to need a spot for capturing ideas because they have their own methods but knowing this spot is available may help to inspire ideas and also show individuals the value of capturing the ideas when they are fresh and not trying to remember everything.

A quiet zone is just that, a spot where you can spend some time focusing on something you want to do but without all those other distractions that we have normally. Sure, the writers/quiet room may not be full all the time but at least giving people a spot could have a high return of investment. Maybe one people that used the room may have that great novel in their head and the key ideas were written while sitting in that room.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Networking

As someone that is in business for ourselves networking is extremely important.

Networking can sometimes seem like it isn’t helping you but then all of a sudden you find out that during one of those conversations you have made am impression on someone and they remember you. Them remembering you can result in some business that you wouldn’t have got if you didn’t network.

The thing about networking is it isn’t a do it once within a group of people and then forget it. The networking that you do should be a continual part of what you do. We were recently at an event and I was watching how so many of the people just talked to the people right around them but never really made an attempt to talk to others during the breaks or at lunch. Sure the process of networking can be exhausting but it is something that you need to do.

What I noticed when we arrived at the session we were met by someone that we had met a few times and right away it was “welcome back, and it’s great to see you again.” Yes, that is a little something and that is important because a lot of the people were returning attendees to this training session but even before we said our names we were recognized.

Most training sessions or conferences give you a name tag to wear and part of the purpose of the name tag is so that you can start a conversation with someone else. As a consulting business it means that sometimes we are approached by someone at the event that wants to find out what type of consulting we do as they are looking for a consulting to assist them. Sometimes we are approached by vendors to see if we want to become resellers for them. Again we are approached because we are standing up during the breaks and at lunch and making it look as if we are willing to have that conversation with someone else. Yes, there are times during a break or lunch when checking emails are important but if a response can wait until after the event it’s a good idea to leave that email until then. The urgent email messages get returned and then its back to networking.

When you go to these events make sure that you have your business cards handy so that when you meet someone it is easy to exchange your business cards with them. What we quite often do is place a few of our business cards in the back of the name tag so that they are easy to find especially when you are away from your spot where you having more cards.

You may not see the results of the networking you do quickly but it’s important that each time you are at an event you do some networking. You never know what will come out of some networking you did even a couple of years ago.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Renovations at home

I think most people have had to deal with some sort of renovation at home and the amount of work that is involved is major.

For us, we live in an apartment building so a lot of the renovations that happen don’t impact us which is great. Sure we may have to deal with the noise or the dust but those are things that you can deal with especially if we don’t work from home. We work from home so we do deal with those issues sometimes when there are renovations going on around us.

Now this renovation that is happening in our apartment building is going to impact us personally as they are replacing the windows in all the units. Sure it doesn’t sound like it would impact you too much until you look around and see what you have and where things are located. See, for this installation of the windows it means that you have to move everything away from the windows by a minimum of 3 feet. Sure, that doesn’t sound like big distance but in our case one entire wall of each of our rooms is a window so we only have three walls in some cases for the wall units and the other furniture. In my office area (original dining room), husbands office area (2nd bedroom) and our living room we only have two full walls to put wall units and those items.

I guess you can figure out that there are going to be things right up to the window in most of the rooms considering the actual lack of physical wall space. In my office area the location of my desk is right at the window so that I can enjoy looking out when I am sitting and working. It is also a spot that I enjoy sitting at when I am going a lot of other things as I have good light sitting at my desk or in my second chair beside the desk.

The actual installation of the windows hasn’t happened in our unit yet so we are still in the getting things organized before we have to move things. The actual installation of all the windows and new patio doors takes one day so that means for one day we don’t have our normal working spots so we are going to have to figure out how we will work that day but thank goodness we have a few ideas.

There is some good points about the organizing that we are doing and that is we are finding things that have been tucked away for a while. We have also used this time to actually go through things and quite a few things have found new homes or they have been recycled or thrown out. It feels good seeing how much we have been able to clean up so once the windows are done we will see what the apartment looks like without all the boxes we have been packing up. Yes, with all the moving around of stuff we have decided that until the windows are done we are packing up areas of the apartment so that it is easier to move the stuff.

The windows should be a lot easier for me to open which is something I am looking forward to. The renovation means that we have been able to do some of our spring cleaning but more cleaning will happen once the windows has been installed and we can start to resettle into our unit. Renovations can have a little or a major impact on you and how you deal with it can make a big difference. For us, we have been working on the organizing for a while now so once we get the notice that the windows are going to be installed we hopefully won’t have a lot of stuff to do.