Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hey EPSB I have an idea!

I am the proud owner of a kiddo about to embark on her first foray into the weird and wonderful world of public school.  Ah yes, in mere weeks she will be headed to kindergarten.  So I have a few ideas for the folks at Edmonton Public, as well as Alberta Ed.

1. The Kindergarten Application Process
 Did you know that we are only allowed to submit ONE application to any public school of our choice?  If our child does not get in, they are automatically enrolled in their catchment school.  Now this is all good and well as I’m sure the EPSB will claim that all public schools in Edmonton are equal, but that’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow when some catchment schools offer alternative programming while others do not.  So basically, if I lose the lottery, my kid can’t learn a second language.  Lames.  How hard would it be to allow parents to apply to a variety of schools and then require them to make a decision earlier to allow for some rejigging?  Surely there’s some algorithm that could solve this.  Bueller?  Bueller?

2. The Have's and the Have-nots 
I was chatting with a friend whose daughter is also slated to start K in the fall.  She was telling me that she was very impressed by her local school for a number of reasons, but it was one reason in particular that has me all worked up.  Apparently, the students at this school, let's call it School A, send fruit over to say School B, to ya know, help the less fortunate.  I believe that everyone's heart is in the right place here, but the delivery, well let's just say the delivery needs some work.  From their website:

 "Fruit for a friend is a local citizenship project for [School A], initiated in 2007.   This program is designed to provide breakfast to children who would not necessarily receive it at home, and is greatly appreciated by the students, parents and staff of [School B]."

So the [] were from me.  Did you catch that?  Cause apparently EPSB has no problem branding their schools as haves vs have-nots.  But, you see I do.  It’s the same thinking that got us all to believe that the whole nation of Ethiopia was starving in the 80s.  Peeps are still surprised to find food at the Ethiopian tent at Heritage Days!  These very same kids are going to meet up in Jr high someday on the basketball court and things are gonna get ugly.  How about some anonymity here people?  For the CHILDREN.  FIX THIS.

3. Schools as the centre of the community
So my third “idea” is kind of at odds with my first one.  I am lamenting the loss of schools as the centre of a community.  Back in the day, there was no real choice in where you went to school.  You just went to where you could walk to.  And all the neighbourhood kids did too.  And it was fine.  But, ya know, things change.  My daughter will not be attending her neighbourhood school.  You see, we would like her to learn a second language.  But I don’t see why she can’t participate in extra-curricular activities at her local school? Why can’t she be on the local school’s track team? Or in the band? Is this a logistical problem?  Capacity?  Liability?  Again, I feel a simple algorithm could solve this.  And as a parent, it would give me an opportunity to connect with my neighbourhood.  No brainer.

Now, coincidentally, in my quest to become mayor one day, I recently had the pleasure of spending an evening with my ward's Edmonton Public School Board Trustee, Leslie Cleary.  Now truth be told, I really had no idea about what a School Board Trustee actually does but I seized the opportunity (sorry Leslie!) to raise some of my ideas with someone who may actually be in a position to do something about it.  What a concept! 

If you’ve got something to say, I encourage you to contact your trustee.  You’d be surprised at how open their door is.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An open letter to the Organizers of The Edmonton Heritage Festival

I would like to start off by congratulating you on yet another stellar event.  This festival ranks at the top of my list of things to do in Edmonton, and your continued efforts to improve upon it, year after year do not go unnoticed.  It was great to see Colombia and Brazil come out with such a bang on the first go!  As a person of mixed-heritage, I love this opportunity to celebrate diversity.  My family and I are there for all three days gorging on the sights, sounds and foods on display.  With over 80 distinct cultures participating it surely must be the largest celebration of multiculturalism in the world.  You prove that the Canadian ideal of a peaceful, multicultural society is not only possible, but is a reality.  You should be proud of what you have built.

It is precisely because I have such respect for the work that you do, that I find your silence on the recent controversy surrounding the judges for the event, perplexing.  What seemed to start out as a simple observation on the part of some attendees, spiraled into a vitriolic attack on those who noticed, those who were asked to judge and those who weighed in on the issue.  I suppose we have social media to thank for that.  But your silence on the matter served to, in my opinion, exacerbate the problem.  You left your “celebrities” high and dry to defend themselves for a decision I can only assume was made by you.  Some apologized.  Some freaked out.  And some made comments that could be seen as demeaning to visible minorities.  They should not have been put into the position to comment.  But you should.

I feel it fitting that you offer an explanation to the public outlining your selection criteria.  I would also like to know if you feel there is any merit to the controversy and if so, how you will handle it moving forward.  I feel strongly that Edmontonians from every corner are awaiting your response.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hey Warner Bros. I have an idea!

So today I went to see SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL.  I should probably mention here that I never go to the movies so don't think that my great idea is to become a movie reviewer.  It's not.

Now I generally don't like going for 5 reasons:
1. Movie theatres are cold. Like sub-zero.  My huzzie and I almost froze to death watching that Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  The irony is not lost on me.
2.  There's loud, and then there's just being an asshole.
3. This magna cum laude HD/3D thing makes me feel like I can see the people acting.  Suddenly you're all  "Hey I have that same IKEA lamp in my apartment!"
4. (Related to #3) Every once in a while I see a bug in the shot and I'm like "Damn, they have FLIES on KRYPTON???
5. The bump on the headrest, like on an airplane, is in EXACTLY the wrong spot.  Double chins yo.  (I don't really blame movies for this one.  More my gene pool).

My huzzie on the other hand is a super fan.  In fact he's one of those people that goes to movies by himself in the middle of the day.  He thinks it's Don Draper.  I think it's Archie Bunker.  Whatevs.  But, ya know, on occasion (so he doesn't leave me for those dreamy pre-teens wooing him with acne), I indulge him.  Today was one of those days.

As usual I was being my annoying self.  I wore a sweater.  I carried a blanket.  I brought a a thermos full of tea.  Some rhubarb cake.  I was trying to miss the previews. 


Anyways, it was awesome.  Here's what I liked:
1.  The guy really looks like #Superman.  Like A SUPER MAN.  This helped with problem #1 above.
2.  I'm really digging this whole "Superheros are just like you and me" trend.  OF COURSE he needs a special suit!! All his people clothes were being destroyed dammit!  Someone cc The Hulk!   
The Hulk could really use a suit.
3.  The whole thing looked like it was shot through an #Instagram filter.
4.  It was deep.

But, here's what I didn't like:
1. Do we really need 43 minutes of 143 to be of Superman punching people who aren't really hurt by Superman punches?  How about 27 minutes of people shooting bullets at people not harmed by being shot?  Sigh.
2. There was a 4 year old sitting next to me.  Really??? (see above).
3. #2 through 4 above above.

So I had an idea!  When they release these blockbusters, why don't they release a sort of SUPERMAN: MAN OF REALLY HARD BUT NOT AS HARD AS STEEL version!.  Like same movie, just lite.  Quieter.  Gentler.  Warmer.  Shorter.  (But maybe more shorties!) NAILED IT!

Or would it only be me and YOUR MOM there?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Edmonton's Philly Cheesesteak?

So I spend quite a bit of time in Vancouver.  And I'm always struck by how often I feel the need to apologize for choosing the City of Champions as my home.  Convos usually go something like this:

Me: Hi nice to meet you!

Vancouverites: Oh hey.  Ya we were just having a convo about the many ways to prepare nutritional yeast.

Me: What's nutritional yeast?

Vancouverites:  Oh right.  You're from Ed-Mon-Ton.  Yawn.

It's Ehmintin bitches! And I'm sick of feeling this pity.  It's a great town but tis true at times I wish I had more handy examples of why I have chosen this place as my home.  So I have come up with an #ideas4yeg.

I want to have a cooking contest that brings all of #yeg 's top chefs (and one lucky NAIT culinary arts student) together to create a signature dish for E-town.  Think Philly Cheesesteak or Montreal smoked meat!

The contest (which could be set up as a charity event) allows top chefs to prepare an entree and have local celebrity judges vote for the winners.  The top 3 would then be available for sale at say Taste of Edmonton or Heritage days (or maybe all the summer festivals), and #yeg citizens can vote for the one they want to see named E-town's signature dish.  The dish can be officially crowned by the Mayor and the winning chef gets accolades galore.  Hopefully it prompts other local restaurants to try to create their own versions.  If it works, then maybe 10 years from now my convos in Vancouver could be more like:

Me: Hey I'm from Edmonton.

Vancouverites:  Awesome.  You know I'm really craving me some Etown [insert name here].

Me: Just had some yesterday sucka!

If you like this idea, please consider voting for me at #ideas4yeg

So what's the big idea???!!?

So if you know me, none of this will come as a surprise.  I have a lot of big ideas.  Like A LOT.  And like BIG.  There is no pattern or area of expertise.  And they're not very well thought out.  And they often come to me while under the influence.  But they're HUGE!

I used to dream of one day having a job where my title was something awesome like Chief Visionary Officer.  Somebody rich and probably eccentric would pay me big dollas to come up with big ideas.  And I'd come through for them.

Now I have started to become more realistic.  Such a job doesn't exist.  And if it does, entry-level salary is likely well beneath my salary expectations.  So alas, I have decided to blog about them.  I invite commentary more in terms of suggestions on where to turn with these ideas.  Or like some procedural feedback.  Less, "hey good for you you're S-M-R-T" and more like: "that's already been done".  Who knows, maybe we'll strike gold together!

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Leveraging" and "Social Media" - The Most Hated Words of 2012

So I had a revelation recently.  OK so maybe it was more like a brain fart.  And unlike my usual brain farts which explode all over my husband, I decided to spare him and set it out to all y'all.  Of late, I've been trying to understand the various social media channels.  You know, like FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.  I mean, I get the gist: connect with a community of people with similar interests from your bedroom, whatever.  But, why is FB buying Instagram, a free app for $1 BILLION??? Why are companies buying "likes" with coupons and promos?  Why are people bragging about the number of Twitter followers they have on their resumes?  What's the big deal?

My exploration began a few years ago over my parent's dining room table.  We busted my 16 year old niece posting what we deemed to be inappropriate photos of herself on her FB account and we came down HARD.  So hard in fact that she blocked all of us from seeing her profile forevermore.  Now god knows, surely she continues to share "too much" on FB in a way that makes we stodgy grownups cringe, and makes us go into diatribes about the importance of privacy, etc.  But it is inherently natural to these younger generations.  What is the real value of privacy?  Does it have real value, or is it simply an archaic barrier we put up out of habit?  Are these younggins on to something, or are they just naive?

So I set out to find out. And this is what I've come up with:

The average social media user is someone who uses it to connect to their real-life social circle.  Of course there are so-called power users, but by and large, most of us just use it to exchange info with people we already exchange info with.  So why are these channels turning into BILLION dollar companies?  You wanna watch me and @akaida fawn over the cuteness of our babies?  Hardly.

The whole social media platform is fueled by the idea that centuries of traditional marketing has rendered consumers numb.  We fast forward through commercials on our PVRs.  We read our news online.  We arrive late to movies to skip the previews (OK maybe that's just me).  So where do we get our pressure to consume?

For me, and I like to think like most of us, it is the trusted network of friends and family that I have distilled down over a life time to only the very best and brightest and now proudly call my social network.  "Hey @GeorgieCreative, I just tried #Cafvino, coffee wine! My friend @MsSchif_dD just started importing it! It's da bomb!  DO IT!"  And voila, I have given my social network the best advertising money CAN'T buy!  A testimonial!  No research necessary!  After all, hopefully my network trusts me.  Our kids play together.  We debauch together.  We pick each others' brains about anything and everything.  And THIS is social media's power.

But, most of us aren't using this power (see above).  Most of us don't see the use.  But here it is people:

You and I have the power to craft an online persona of ourselves.  The more true that persona is to our real-life selves, the more trusted we will be to our online community.  And the more trusted we are, the more powerful our voices become.  And what a platform FB (or any channel for that matter) is for a powerful voice!  If I post a comment and a friend "likes" it, that friend's friends can see it too.  If one of them "likes" it, then their friends', friends can see it.  And so on and so on.  We can connect with thousands and in some cases millions of people from our phones!!!  WTF???  WHY DO I KEEP POSTING PICS OF MY BABIES????

Now some of you will say, "I don't care to get anything out of social media.  I am happy with my use of social media as is."  But, ask yourself:  "Why not?"  I mean you're already doing it anyway.  Why be passive?   Be active.  Purposeful.

So maybe my niece was onto something?  But surely there is a way to responsibly "leverage" (i threw up in my mouth a little when I wrote that word) this power. And I think my brain fart gave me the answer:  we need to RECONNECT with our truest of true friends.  Go back to the beginning.  Meet up for an online chat with EVERY person you graciously "added" as friends over the years.  Re-introduce yourself.  Your true self.  Remind them of where you left off in real life.  Tell them what you've been up to .  IN DETAIL.  Ask them to do the same.  Re-friend them.  THAT is our power.

Starting today I am working my way alphabetically through my FB friends.  This is my challenge. (Challenge was a weekend theme after we googled cinnamon challenge.  So awesome.)  If you know me, expect a message.  If you don't, try it for yourselves and report back.  I am too curious.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The ABCs of RESPs

As parents we often think of the major milestones our children will accomplish – first word, first step, first day of kindergarten, and the list goes on… A growing number of parents are taking this one step further and are planning for their child’s first day of postsecondary education. 

While it may seem far away now, considering that your child may not even know how to sit yet, it is important to start preparing for that day sooner rather than later.

 Why save?

According to Statistics Canada, university tuition fees in 2011/12 were an average $6,062 - that’s 17.7% higher than they were four years ago. Costs continue to rise faster than the pace of inflation, leading some to believe that children born today will be looking at post-secondary costs in excess of $100,000.  As parents, no one wants to see their child struggle to pay for school and end up in debt.

Maximize your savings with an RESP

A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is a plan registered under the Federal Income Tax Act that helps families save for postsecondary education. Not to be confused with a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), contributions are made with after-tax dollars and income earned on contributions grows in a tax-shelter until a child is ready to attend college, university or trade school.

As an added incentive, the federal government’s Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) and the provincial government’s Alberta Centennial Education Savings (ACES) grant can add up to an additional $8000 plus interest over the life of the plan!

The ABCs of RESPs

There are two main types of RESPs:  Group and Individual/Family savings plans: 

Group Savings Plans

Group plans are education savings plans with a scholarship plan dealer where regular contributions are pooled with those of other planholders providing better opportunities for higher returns than you would achieve on your own due to greater economies of scale.  These plans are ideal for those saving for children aged 12 or younger who are comfortable making regular contributions.  Some group plan providers offer additional incentives such as a share of income from cancelled plans, donations from the plan provider (often a foundation) and a refund of enrollment fees.  There is an option to transfer to an Individual or Family savings plan after having been enrolled for 3 years or more.

Individual and Family Savings Plans

Also known as self-determined plans, these are ideal for children 13 years or older, for parents who anticipate their child will attend a postsecondary program of two years or less, or for families who do not want to establish a regular contribution schedule.  The plans are managed by the planholder themselves or a financial or investment advisor. These plans offer greater flexibility than group plans but have a lower potential payout as there are no additional sources of funds and tend to have to assume greater risk to match the returns of group plans.  You can name one Canadian-resident child as the beneficiary in an Individual Plan.  In a Family Plan, you can name one or more children as beneficiaries provided they are all siblings and under the age of 21.

Start saving today

Many of us do save – but very often if is for our own retirement which is decades away. We tend to forget about saving for our kids’ education which comes much sooner than we think. The reality is that many parents will need and want to help pay for their child’s education before they retire - an RESP is often the best way to reach this savings goal.