Archive for January, 2015

What a wonderful world

Dreams that you dare to dream

Eva Cassidy

Troubles melt like lemon drops

I am feeling strangely great

In my life I saw Sarah Vaughan, at Niagara Falls; she fell down on the stage, then got up, singing; she was so wonderful. Made me somehow believe I will end up in heaven.

Sophisticated Lady.

My Favorite Things.

Every Time We Say Goodbye.

“When you are near, there is such an air of Spring about it!”


Happy Work


I do love my colleagues and students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. What an honour to be there, honestly.

Luxury Boxes in Buffalo, NY – No, really …

From my old and much admired colleague, Buffalo State University Professor Mike Niman:

People like new things. I get it. That’s what shopping malls are all about. Within this culture, it’s to be expected that the conventional wisdom says we need to replace a 74,000 seat football stadium that cost $22 million to build in 1973, with a sparkly new one that will seat about 74,000 people and cost upwards of $800 million.

The major problem with Ralph Wilson Stadium [home of the Buffalo Bills], why it’s supposedly obsolete, why it needs to be torn down, thrown away and replaced, is that it doesn’t have sufficient luxury boxes. That’s right. Luxury boxes. It all makes sense if you look at current economic indicators that predict that by next year, the richest one percent of the global population will have half of the world’s wealth. And they need luxury boxes, both to keep themselves out of the snow, and away from the rest of the Bill’s fans—whose average income puts them only among the richest 10 percent of the global population. …

Not only do I not want to pay for this stadium with a rent-to-own lien against my future tax bills, but no matter who pays for it, or how they get the money, I don’t want it in downtown Buffalo. …

An NFL football stadium is too large for any of the three proposed downtown sites. Too many people will come, and they won’t come often enough to justify the type of infrastructure, such as a monorail to a new city of parking, or better yet, a working regional public transportation system, that would be needed to make this thing work.

First off, none of the three proposed sites are toxic brownfields located on depopulated wastelands. We have plenty of toxic brownfields and depopulated wastelands that can certainly use some TLC to jumpstart an area revival. Downtown Buffalo, however, is not that place. …

A football stadium and its supporting infrastructure, as proposed, would devour up to 95 acres—entire blocks—of historic Buffalo real estate, landing a massive out-of-scale concrete erection on what were once urban streets. One proposal would wipe out blocks of housing while cutting the Old First Ward off from downtown, boxing it to the east and north with massive parking fields. …

Against all odds, Buffalo has persevered and is now coming back. We have an opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the past where we wiped out historic buildings and districts to make parking lots and build massive tombstone-like structures that, once abandoned, just serve to memorialize our stupidity. Downtown is coming back to life as a dynamic urban environment that is alive 365 days per year. Let’s not impede this renaissance by making a massive urban planning blunder.

Entire post here.

I was there at the Big Bang.

I did not write about it at the time, alas.

1 and 5



Professor Mayhew’s vivid, lucid take on religion and ridicule:

The non-religious are used to having our lack of religion dismissed, ridiculed, rebutted. Many of us grew up in religious communities, and are accustomed to displays of religiosity. We rarely take offense at the expression of religious opinions, except to the extent that they are offensive for other reasons. Only the attempt to make religious ritual a part of state functions is directly odious. I am personally offended by anyone saying that “religious murders are wrong, but…”. I fly into a rage when I hear that. Of course, nobody notices this because I am only at home in front of my computer. Of course, my rage does not mean that I have a right to commit physical violence against people expressing that opinion. By their own logic, though, they should expect me, and others like me, to be violent. After all, they have offended me! Why wouldn’t they expect a punch in the nose? The Pope made the analogy just yesterday, that if someone cursed his mother in the Argentine fashion, he would punch them. …

You insult my lack of religion, you don’t insult me at all, because that is not a part of me. You can burn effigies of Bertrand Russell or Darwin all day long, I don’t care. You might as well insult my love of cilantro or my lack of affection for cats.

Nobody cares about offending a secular humanist, and perhaps they are right not to care, because we are slow to offend and slow to violence.

… The claim to offense is a powerful tool that non-religious people don’t use a whole lot. By claiming this power you automatically gain a mother who can be cursed at obscenely, and hence the right to punch people in the face. The non-religious are orphans. You can say “chinga tu madre” all day and our answer is that we have no mother to be fucked.

More here.

The Canadian Target

I dislike shopping more than life itself (to paraphrase Marilyn Manson), but I was indeed pleased when Target opened a store in between my Canada Line stop and Kwantlen Polytechnic University‘s Richmond campus: No longer would I have to make a special trip to buy pants and shirts!

It was a bit of a strange experience, though, going through the store. To me Target was defined by the American stores my Washington State girlfriend takes me to (all the time): Huge, stocked with practically everything, packed with peppy people. It wasn’t clear what the Richmond Target was trying to be; it always seemed small, understocked, lonely for people, and in some disarray (though I *could* find pants and shirts, and get back out of the store in less than ten minutes).

At any rate, it is closing, along with all of the rest of Canada’s 133 Targets. The company entered the Canadian market only two years ago. According to today’s Vancouver Sun,

Target Corp. is pulling out of Canada after racking up over US$2-billion operating losses in less than two years, a retreat sure to go down as the biggest failure of an American retailer in this country to date.

“Simply put, we were losing money every day,” chief executive Brian Cornell said in a corporate blog post Thursday explaining Target’s decision to close its 133 Canadian stores after determining it would take another six years to turn a profit.

Shares of Wal-Mart’s biggest U.S. rival, which has seen its performance improve on its home turf of late, shot up as much as 8.7% in early trading. The move will lead to a US$5.4 billion writedown this quarter, as well as US$500 million to US$600 million in cash expenses. Still, the shutdown will lead to higher profit by next year, Target said.

The Globe and Mail explains how Target blew it. (I was surprised by Target’s poor online presence. I will have to ask my Digital Marketing students about this in class today!)

The 9 C’s of Editing


You cannot edit yourself any more than you can tickle yourself, and for the same reasons, the wonderful professor and biographer Diane Middlebrook once told me. Better writers understand this.


Here are the 9 C’s I use as an editor of other writers’ work:

1. Completeness

2. Conciseness

3. Clarity

4. Convincingness

5. Currency

6. Correctness

7. Consistency

8. Congruency

9. Courtesy

Almost all writers need a second set of eyes to assess and improve the first four qualities in a document they compose, because they typically *already believe* they’ve been concise, complete, clear, and convincing enough. To assess and improve the rest often requires that second set of eyes, too.

I believe that *courtesy* comprises all the other qualities, as the basis of successful communication, of fostering and maintaining relationships.

Thank you, Bob Crockett, for suggesting numbers 7 and 8 (though I’m embarrassed I hadn’t already placed “consistency” on the list).

[Note: My list overlaps a lot with this one but was put together independently. It’s not surprising its author and I reached similar conclusions, of course.]

An earlier version of this post appears in

Revision : Heterovision

I tell students and clients they shouldn’t take feedback on their work as personal critiques. “You are not the words on the paper on which your reports are printed.” This seems like a straight-forward point, but even seasoned editors tend to forget it on occasion, so I tend to make it a lot. “What we have in common is our concern for the usefulness of this prose here, this separate and individual bit of existence that is neither you nor me.”


The word “revision” comes from Latin word revisionem, meaning “to see again.” While an author and an editor might look at a single work of prose more than once, often the work itself needs to be seen, amended, and fixed by other stakeholders and document contributors as well (lawyers, accountants, scientists, project managers, executive assistants), folk who will look at this work of prose just once. What these latter individuals are doing is not, strictly speaking, “seeing again.”

So, perhaps we need a new word to explain what our written works really and more precisely need, over and above “revision.” I suggest heterovision – meaning “seen by others” (hetero- coming from the Greek for “other” or “different”). This neologism conveys the collaborative aspect of editing better than the word “revision” does. (Analogous expressions would be heterodoxy and heteronym.)

In sum: While the work itself is looked at again (“revised”), the people who do the fixing, who proffer their critiques, are usually heterovising.

(Could our nifty neologism catch on? I am not betting on it. The prefix “hetero” seems rather charged in our language at the moment, connoting culturally normative and uniform values, I think, rather than what’s inclusive, alternative and welcoming. And editing’s nothing if not “welcoming.”)



Note: An earlier version of this post appears in

The missing colleague

In the faculty copier- and mail-room on Kwantlen Polytechnic University‘s Richmond campus last semester, there was a small poster that read: “Where is Russel Ogden?” Ogden is a Kwantlen professor who has not taught at the university since 2008 yet who still receives a full-time salary. His research expertise is suicide. According to a recent Globe and Mail profile:

In 2005, the university’s research ethics board approved his proposal to attend assisted suicides.

But, he said by 2007, the university’s administration was starting to get nervous about his work, and in 2008 he signed an agreement with the university to begin a two-year “research leave” on Jan. 1, 2009.

He was unable to resume teaching in 2011, and he cannot discuss the reason because of the confidentiality agreement he signed the day before he was due to return.

John Lowman, an SFU criminology professor and expert on academic freedom, said Kwantlen’s actions “have implications for the academic freedom of every other researcher in this country.”

It is a baffling story.