What I Learned From Boko Haram Kidnappings

Usually, I like to be right. It’s nice to know that I can anticipate the outcome of an event, like a Super Bowl, or predict the “plot twist” in the evening’s 44 minute television crime drama. But today, I sadly say I was right.

2014 Demonstration in Nigeria - from news.com

2014 Demonstration in Nigeria – from news.com

You see, it was a year ago that the social media world briefly united, interlocking arms and thrusting #BringBackOurGirls into the top of the trending terms. And for good reason, Nigerian terrorists Boko Haram had boldly snatched away nearly 300 girls from their families in a mass kidnapping that caught the news and inspired outrage in every decent human being on the planet with access to a news feed.

Even as I was tweeting along with everyone else, I knew that #BringBackOurGirls wouldn’t bring back the girls. Boko Haram didn’t pop up over night, and the abductions weren’t their first foray into kidnapping of young girls, nor young boys for that matter. Some social media experts will argue that the bulge of Tweets and Facebook posts brought massive attention to this tragedy and forced action. I saw photos of Michelle Obama holding a sign that read #BringBackOurGirls, and I’m sure that as a parent, her heart ached along with the rest of us. I know that government leaders around the globe had advisers researching what to do.

Could we free these girls through social influence? No. Could we pressure our governments into pressuring other governments in Nigeria and the surrounding region to action. No. Well, yes, maybe we could have. We could have, if the focus remained on #BringBackOurGirls. Now to be fair to the foreign ministers of whichever country you want to point the finger at, and even to the Nigerian government, you have to remember that Boko Haram are terrorists, who kidnap girls and women to enslave them and be used in servitude of their cause. They kidnap boys and men threatening them with death if they don’t adopt the cause and fight along side of them. These people use their kidnap victims as human shields when faced with opposing forces, so imagine how difficult it would be to launch any effective rescue mission, or negotiate any release of the abducted. This is a complicated issue. Acknowledged.

And then our attention was diverted elsewhere, many elsewhere’s.

So here we are, a year later, and I started my day following a link on Twitter, and reading a news story reminding us of the horrific kidnapping, and in the time that I’ve been typing this post, I see that hundreds of new tweets have again shown support in using the hashtag, and again I know that it will do no good. Not unless your support of #BringBackOurGirls is sustained and in tangible form. Write letters to your members of parliament, or senators, or governors, your president, prime minister, or whoever you can. But we have to do it on a sustained basis, and then, some day a long time from now, with continued effort, the threat of Boko Haram in Nigeria will be eliminated.

There are thousands of good causes out there that need support, and there’s no way we can support them all, not in meaningful ways. When something strikes you as important, act on it, do something to contribute. I’m not saying don’t tweet it, or post it, or talk about it; But we need to do more than retweet the hashtag for the cause of the day while we wait in the queue for our venti latte or while sitting in the drive-thru for a large double-double, or we risk that as we flit to the next cause and hashtag, that we forget those girls.

I guess I wrote this piece because I feel bad that we didn’t do more, that I didn’t do more. Actions speak louder than words. I guess I learned something: Don’t just talk about doing good or making change, DO IT.

How The World’s Strongest Redneck Helped Me, Help You

Inspiration takes many forms. Sometimes it’s easy to connect the dots, like the beauty that Claude Monet found in his first wife, Camille; Or like Eric Clapton’s desire for Pattie Boyd (who was George Harrison’s wife at the time) helping old Slowhand convey his emotions in the classic Layla. Often there’s a practical approach: “here’s the problem, let’s find a solution”, like Joseph Salk and the world changing polio vaccine. Upon occasion, discovery and inspiration are the product of crossing paths of seemingly random forces, as the folks at Reese’s can surely attest.

It’s fair to say that my brief interaction with Steve McGranahan (@wsredneck) on Twitter today is an accidental inspiration, and not the workings of the muse of the lovelorn artist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that Steve’s a great dude, but honestly, I couldn’t paint my way out of kindergarten. However, in less than 140 characters, Steve’s brilliant insight into the human condition pushed my little red wagon of thinkin’ down the biggest hill in town. Here’s a recap from Twitter:

Spark of Inspiration;  from Twitter

Spark of Inspiration; from Twitter

When Steve commented on the pothole situation in Ohio, suggesting that the state might want to highlight the road breaks to assist motorists, I thought about our own road conditions in and around Edmonton, and what that might look like. I came to the conclusion that the whole road might look yellow, or blue, or red, or green, or whatever colour the City chooses to fix the potholes with.

This is stream of consciousness problem solving at it’s best.

Twister. Ah ha!!! Don’t pick just one colour, use them all, that way motorists could easily differentiate the potholes whilst navigating between them (if they’re ridiculously agile and talented drivers). For those who are unfamiliar with Twister, it’s a game, with rows of multi-coloured circles, and participants try to… Maybe it’d just be easier to show you? This particular video isn’t in English, but it’s a simple enough game that I think you’ll get the idea.

You might ask, why painting potholes is the right solution to the cavernous gouges littering our roadways?

I’m glad you asked, here’s the answers to that very question:

1. Painting is cheaper – because less machinery is required, and unskilled workers could easily apply the colouring

2. It will look pretty – from a distance, a roadway decorated with multi-coloured patches may even take on an impressionist styled appearance (think Monet)

3. It is fun – did you watch the Twister video? Hell yeah, that looks like fun!

Today I think we’ve learned that we don’t need any high priced think tank undertakings, or even a formal mandate to solve real world problems. Astute observation and creativity of everyday folks will go a long towards making the world a better place.

So get to work, and think you some thinks. I personally find that I do some of my best thinking with a beer in hand.


Shania Twain’s Coming To My House For Ice Cream

Oops! That was a typo, it should say she’s going on tour, but this is my blog so Imma tell it my way.

If you’re a music fan, and live in Canada, you probably know that Shania Twain is gonna “Rock This Country” with a tour, for the first time in over a decade.

Photo: ShaniaTwain.com

Photo: ShaniaTwain.com


That’s big news, because Ms Twain has helped shape the music landscape in this country and sold over 75 million albums worldwide, and because for 20+ years Shania Twain and I have had “a thing”. Okay, maybe it’s more truthful to say that I’ve had a thing for Shania, but can you blame me? Tell me she don’t impress you much.

So beyond the chart-busting hits, mega-selling albums, and our long standing relationship; I’m excited for Rock This Country, because Wes Mack will be the opening act for the Canadian dates.

Wes is a super-talented young man, and is going to break big because of the exposure of being lead blocker for Shania’s coast to coast rush (Sorry, for the sports analogy). I saw Wes last fall at the CCMA fanfest, and was impressed by his presence. It’s nice to see him get the spotlight on a big stage like this. Twenty years from now, you can say “I saw Wes Mack when he opened for Shania… before he was big-time.”

Wes Mack and  Jeff Johnson - 2014 CCMA Fanfest

Wes Mack and Jeff Johnson – 2014 CCMA Fanfest;  photo: BigDaddySaid

Mr. Mack’s latest single – Before You Drive Me Crazy – is a great tune, and is getting heavy radio play in advance of the tour. You can check out the video below, which was also directed by Wes. Yeah, as I’ve said before, he’s a multi-talented guy (But I can still probably drink beer better. So, no, I’m not jealous; Not one bit).

People, if you’re so lucky as to get your hands on a ticket for what will undoubtedly be a sold out tour, Rock This Country will surely rock your world.

Now, will that be chocolate or vanilla, Ms Twain?

Venn Diagrams, Hugh Hefner & The Maytag Repairman; My Life Working From Home

As 2014 ended, I made the transition from a daily commute to an office, to working at home. 3 months in, and I have real mixed feelings.

Positive: No driving in poor conditions, save money on parking and gas, start answering email before I would even make it to the office, and I have my coffee from a fancy French Press.

Negative: Some days lack structure and direction, numerous distractions of home, blurring of work / home responsibilities, and massive spike in my Cheez Whiz consumption.

And truly, I am unsure which category to put wearing pyjamas while working…

Let’s call it positive, after all, it works for Hugh Hefner.

Hef and Paris; NYTimes.com

Hef and Paris; NYTimes.com

Overall, the pluses outweigh the minuses, as eliminating the driving has added a couple of hours to my day. The question is how do I spend that time? Some days, it has allowed me to complete a heavy day’s work, without staying late at the office, other days I’ve managed to accomplish a couple of household tasks that might otherwise have been postponed until a weekend day where an uncommon combination of ambition and opportunity cross paths. (Insert Venn Diagram, resembling the proximity of Neptune to Uranus … whatever that means)

One slow day at the home office, I decided to tackle the chore of fixing the clothes washer. For a period that surely could be measured in weeks, the performance of our washing machine had been declining, to the point where it wouldn’t complete a cycle without hanging up with a couple of errors.

Consult Google, to find out what the error code means – revealing a problem with the pump. Check in with YouTube to see if anyone else has encountered a similar issue and had the presence of mind to record their experiences. If you take time to think about it, the family washing machine is put through some pretty serious torture. Over the last 5 years, it’s probably cleaned over a thousand loads of laundry. I figured if I could repair it, perhaps it could do another thousand?

Long story short, I removed the pump, extracted a surprising volume of refuse from said pump, re-installed it, and crossed my fingers while a “test” cycle was completed without incident. I won’t describe the sensory stimuli that I encountered in this task, but I have to share the photo I snapped of the assortment of treasures I pulled from the pump. Quite remarkable, really. Yes, that is a sock, along with the coins, Lego, and dryer sheets. Definitely a “WTF?” moment of discovery.

photo (3)

And now I know why the Maytag Repairman is so lonely: He insists upon showing people the stuff he’s recovered from their appliances. Fortunately for me, I’m much more charming. O_o

Even better, the washer works, just like brand new. Cause for celebration.

Oh, that reminds me, one more positive to working at home. Happy Hour starts now.


5 Best Photos of 2014

Ok, what I meant to say was MY 5 best photos of 2014. Or at least, 5 of my favourites.

Beluga, Vancouver Aquarium

Beluga, Vancouver Aquarium

Consider this the modern day equivalent of being invited over to the neighbours’ for drinks, only to find out that you also get to see their family reunion slideshow. Hit the lights, Agnes!

Purple Flower, Lolly's Garden

Purple Flower, Lolly’s Garden

I am not a great photographer, barely a good one, more like a guy who owns a phone that also functions as a camera. In 2014, I clicked over 1,400 pics with my phone. I shared a few with family members, posted a handful to social media, and didn’t print a single one.

Kayakers, Kananaskis Country

Kayakers, Kananaskis Country

I have a few frames of my fingers, visiting Vancouver, Kananaskis Lodge, the auto show, and even gardening. My digits get around, and occasionally, in the way.

When I was a kid, my folks bought me a little point and shoot Kodak, with film… 24 frames per roll… that we had to send away to develop… and pay for each print. A photo of my thumb was a much bigger deal then; Now I just delete them.

Oz & Lolly, Jasper Park Lodge

Oz & Lolly, Jasper Park Lodge

Lots of professional photographers roll their eyes at folks snapping away with their phones, but in most cases, a slightly shaky, poorly lit photo that I took means more to me than the perfect frame from someone else.

Once or twice in 1,400+ tries I’ll catch it just right, but even when I don’t, my digital pics from my phone serve as nice souvenirs of the places I’ve been, things I saw, and people I’ve met. What more could I ask for?


Frost Flowers, Lac Beauvert

So, I say, snap away!

Punch and pie will now be served in the dining room.



Another Cold January Day, in Edmonton

Captain’s Log: January 5th, 2015;

The Oilers are still struggling, our Christmas decorations are put away, and the cat won’t go outside. (Haha, I said log. I am soooo juvenile)

It’s winter in Edmonton, and the last few days have been more than a little on the chilly side. I’ll spare you the photo of the minus 30-something kajillion reading on my car’s temperature display, not because I’m merciful, nor because I think it’s an overused image, but because it means I’d have to go outside to do so.

It’s the kind of cold that makes the roof trusses in our 1970’s constructed bungalow creak like my elbows and knees, the kind that makes my dog do his business on the run and beg to get back in the house before I can close the door.

It’s the kind of cold that makes us visit travel sites, lingering on the beachfront resorts, even when we don’t have vacation time coming, nor the funds to get there. Bermuda looks nice, yes?

See: http://www.fairmont.com/hamilton-bermuda/

Fairmont Hamilton Princess - Bermuda

Fairmont Hamilton Princess – Bermuda

Thanks to Twitter, I saw this funny / sad / true to life cartoon from DepressedAlien.com and my reaction was “haha that’s funny, hey wait a minute, you’ve got a point there”.



I had a good laugh.

To be honest the number of days that we experience a level of cold that is truly oppressive is thankfully pretty minimal; assuming you live indoors.

When temperatures and wind chill dip to -40C , be grateful that you’re on the warm side of the glass, sipping your individual serving, pod brewed, gourmet coffee.

Imagine how you’d feel if there were no heated attached garage for you to pull your SUV into, no balmy temperatures in your kitchen, den, family room, or home office. The reality of it is simple, I’m fortunate and you probably are too, reading these word on a tablet or superphone in forced air, central heating, comfort. But there are folks out there who are faced with a much harsher life, dependent on the kindness of others to take the chill out of their bones, put a meal in their bellies, or provide a bed indoors for a cold winter’s night.

If you live somewhere that gives you occasion to ask yourself why you live somewhere so cold, and you are in a position to help, do it. There are many agencies that would welcome your support; It’ll give you a warm feeling too.


Happy New Year!

CCMA 2014 – Wrapping It Up and Giving It Away

Country Music Week and the 2014 CCMA Awards seems like such a distant, but fond memory. Many memories actually, both for me, and my blogging partner @OscarCares. If you haven’t seen his work yet, please click here, he’s got some cool stuff, and from a unique perspective. He interviewed Album of the Year nominee, Codie Prevost, did a brief public service announcement with Madeline Merlo, and had his photo taken with a multitude of country stars. He even got a hug from Michelle Wright :-) . Hey, wait minute. Why I didn’t get a hug from Michelle Wright :-( ?

I had the pleasure of interviewing hardworking artists / rising stars like Quentin Reddy, Samara Yung, and Ryan Bradley. I got to experience a metric tonne of great live music, in venues ranging from a garage (thanks @DogRumpCreek) to the city’s premier concert hall, the Winspear Centre.

Oscar and I thought that we’d cap off our Canadian Country Music odyssey by giving away some CDs, so that you can enjoy some rockin’ country too.

The Big Prize

The Big Prize

Our contest is easy to enter, all you have to do is Tweet to @OscarCares with the hashtag #CCMAWrapUp and you’ve got an entry to the draw. Tweet to me @BigDaddySaid with #CCMAWrapUp and you’ve got an entry. Leave us a comment on either of our blogs, including #CCMAWrapUp and it’s an entry, leave us both a comment and it’s two.

Tell your friends, shout it from the rooftops! Tweet! Comment! Enter! Win!

On October 4th, we’ll put all your names in a cowboy hat and draw some winners.

Our big prize is:

  • Autographed copy of Codie Prevost – All Kinds of Crazy +
  • Autographed copy of Madeline Merlo – self-titled EP +
  • Autographed copy of Quentin Reddy – Diamond in the Rough +
  • A copy of Jason Blaine – Everything I Love

Thanks to @ThatEricAlper, we also have copies of Everything I Love for 4 more music fans, as secondary prizes.

And THAT is wrapping up Country Music Week.