I prefer the pen. There is something elemental about the glide and flow of nib and ink on paper

James Robertson, The Testament of Gideon Mack
Treasures in the Mail and why Handwriting still Matters

Treasures in the Mail and why Handwriting still Matters

Posted by martin.parnell |

According to the website daysoftheyear.com, January 23rd. is National handwriting day.

National Handwriting Day was invented by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA).  "The purpose of National Handwriting Day is to alert the public to the importance of handwriting. It is a chance for all of us to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting. “

Last Friday, my wife and I received a handwritten letter from our 12 year old granddaughter Autumn. It’s a delight to see how her handwriting has changed over the years, from her first effort to write her name, with its backward letters and upper scale and lower scale letters mixed together, to this recent account of how school is going and her new interests.  Despite the fact that we regularly connect with her on Skype, there was something wonderful about receiving a letter from her, in the mail. But one noticeable aspect of her letter is that it is printed i.e. not cursive

My wife is a great believer in the importance of keeping the art of cursive handwriting alive. Some of her most precious possessions are notes and letters from her Mum, who had beautiful handwriting.  

In December 2014, The Guardian newspaper published an article by Anne Chemin on the question “Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard?” In it, she states that “Computers may dominate our lives, but mastery of penmanship brings us important cognitive benefits, research suggests.” And that “Some neuroscientists think that giving up handwriting will impact on how future generations learn to read.”

At first sight the battle between keyboards and pens might seem to be no more than the latest twist in a very long story, yet experts on writing do not agree: pens and keyboards bring into play very different cognitive processes. “Handwriting is a complex task which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement, and directing movement by thought,” says Edouard Gentaz, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Geneva. “Operating a keyboard is not the same at all: all you have to do is press the right key. “

Some neuroscientists think that giving up handwriting will affect how future generations learn to read. “Drawing each letter by hand substantially improves subsequent recognition,” Gentaz explains.

Marieke Longchamp and Jean-Luc Velay, two researchers at the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at Aix-Marseille University, have carried out a study of 76 children, aged three to five. The group that learned to write letters by hand were better at recognising them than the group that learned to type them on a computer. Learning to write by hand does seem to play an important part in reading.  

In a paper published by the journal Psychological Science, two US researchers, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, claim that note-taking with a pen, rather than a laptop, gives students a better grasp of the subject. The study focused on more than 300 students at Princeton University. It suggested that students who took longhand notes were better able to answer questions on the lecture than those using a laptop. For the scientists, the reason is clear: those working on paper rephrased information as they took notes, which required them to carry out a preliminary process of summarising and comprehension; in contrast, those working on a keyboard tended to take a lot of notes, but avoided what is known as “desirable difficulty”.

In France, in the early 2000s the ministry of education instructed schools to start teaching cursive writing when pupils entered primary school. “For a long time we attached little importance to handwriting,” says school inspector Viviane Bouysse. “But, in 2000, drawing on work in the neurosciences, we realised that this learning process was a key step in cognitive development.”

From August 2016, in Alabama, USA, a State law (Lexi’s Law) requires cursive handwriting to be taught by the end of third grade, in all state schools and all students should become proficient in writing words and sentences in cursive.

Cursive writing will begin in second grade with how to write lower-case and upper-case letters and will continue to be practiced in fourth and fifth grades.  When reaching out to local parents and teachers about Lexi's Law, many were positive explaining the benefits they have seen in teaching cursive writing to their children and students, especially those with learning disabilities.

Andrea Overman teaches at Alabama Christian Academy and said there is benefits to learning cursive writing before print. "With cursive all letters start on the baseline, which is the same place and therefore less confusing," Overman said. "Individual words are connected with spaces between words, which helps with word recognition. It requires less muscle control for their children who have fine motor issues.

Regardless of the scientific debate about the importance of handwriting in the development of cognitive skills, it is still something most of us will still do almost every day, whether it’s jotting down something on a post it note or  writing a shopping list, it is still something very useful and also something which can give pleasure to others. Think of the joy you get in receiving a Birthday card in the mail, or a postcard from abroad.

Handwriting Analyst, Julia Layton states that “Every person in the world has a unique way of writing.” She explains that we develop characteristics in our handwriting and this is why a sample of someone’s handwriting can be used as forensic evidence in court.  It would be a pity to lose some of that individuality, when so many aspects of communication are becoming standardized.

I for one will celebrate handwriting day by making notes for my next Blog and my wife will be writing a reply, by hand, to our granddaughter.

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Today’s amateurs are tomorrow’s champions

Matshona Dhliwayo Author
When things get Serious and making a Commitment to the Next Step

When things get Serious and making a Commitment to the Next Step

Posted by martin.parnell |

I recently read a blog by Oliver Balch entitled “Lycra leggings – The final step in the evolution of a running fanatic”. In it, he talks about the realisation that he has become a serious runner: 

I was out running the other morning, the usual steady pace, gulping down the frosty air, when it dawned on me that I was wearing running tights. You know, the ultra-tight compression ones. The ones with antimicrobial technology and go-faster stripes. The I-take-my-running-seriously ones.

It led him to ask himself............

When did it come to this? When did I become the man who wore Lycra leggings? Leggings that cost as much as Levi’s. It’s absurd – financially, fashion-wise, every which way. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have scoffed at the thought. Now, I’m slower to chide. It’s OK, I tell myself. I’m just being me. The new me. The runner me. The convert.” 

It got me thinking, about when I came to consider myself a serious runner. The runner in me first raised his head when one of my younger brothers, Peter, challenged me to run the Calgary marathon, in 2003. Over the years, I had attempted various sports, but just going out and running had never really appealed to me.

However, I wasn’t going to back off from a little sibling rivalry. After attempting to train alone, starting with a 1km jog from my front door, I soon realised I needed help, so I guess the first step I took to becoming “serious” about it was to join the Sudbury  Rocks Running Club, in Ontario. I became hooked and have since run literally hundreds of races, including marathons and ultra-marathons. I am frequently asked to speak to running groups, having become somewhat of an expert on the whole subject of running. This and my philanthropic endeavours for the children’s charity Right To Play, led to my career as an author and speaker.

I had written blogs and articles about my various events and experiences and it was when I decided to use this as a basis for the manuscript for my first book, Marathon Quest and was fortunate enough to be published, by Rocky Mountain Books, that I began to think of myself as a serious author.  In order to hone my writing skills, I worked with the people at Rocky Mountain Books, who provided me with a wonderful editor.

I was soon being asked to speak about these topics on a regular basis and when I started to be paid for doing so that I came to regard myself as a professional speaker.  For support, when it comes to improving and promoting my speaking skills, I joined the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS), whose members are a constant source of mentoring and sound advice.

Most of us decide, from the outset, on a serious path to take, whether it’s in a career, pastime or other endeavour. Sometimes, these things slowly come to us, from what might seem a fairly casual approach.  It’s worth being open to realising when that transition might occur, be prepared to embrace it and see it as an opportunity.

It may give you the chance to set goals, achieve a sense of fulfillment and set you on an unexpected path to great things.

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Let the sky rain potatoes

William Shakespeare
Spuds and Speeches, it's all in the Preparation

Spuds and Speeches, it's all in the Preparation

Posted by martin.parnell |

A friend of ours was telling my wife about a recipe for coconut snowballs, using mashed potato, apparently they are an old family favourite and delicious. 

The lowly potato has also made its mark in the pages of the Guinness World Records. 

These include the:

  • Largest serving of baked potatoes
  • Largest potato salad
  • Largest serving of mashed potato
  • Largest potato dumpling
  • Largest pie, potato
  • Largest bag of crisps 
  • Most mashed potato eaten in 30 seconds
  • Most wins of the Mashed Potato Wrestling Championships
  • Most potatoes carried between the knees in three minutes (team of six) 

And, one that caught my eye............. 

The fastest marathon dressed as a Mr Potato Head was 3 hr 38 min 20 sec by Andrew McKenzi. 

It got me thinking about how many different ways one could serve up the humble potato and there are many, from just plain boiled, with a knob of butter and pinch of pepper to that delicious dish, potatoes au gratin. 

In a way, potatoes are like speeches. Some take less time to prepare, some need spicing up a little, to make them interesting and some can be kept plain and simple and be just as satisfying. 

But, in the end, a potato is just a potato, just as a speech is just a speech, what makes either of them great is how well you prepare and then serve them. You don’t need to keep rewriting, but it’s always worth spending some time on a little tweaking here and there, according to your audience and other factors you need to take into consideration. e.g. time allotted. 

So, next time you’re about to present a talk, why not see if you can treat it like the potato, use the same basic ingredient, just present it a little differently. 

And, for those of you who might feel inclined to try that coconut snowball recipe: 

  • Cook and mash potatoes
  • In a large mixing bowl combine shredded coconut, confectioner’s sugar, mashed potatoes and nuts.
  • Mix with clean hands and mould into small balls.
  • Set on aluminum foil and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  • Can be dipped into melted caramel, strawberry or fudge flavoured almond bark. 

And, you can adapt this recipe by using sweet potatoes – apparently.

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But you can’t give them everything they want—they will always want more than they have.

Marie Lu, The Midnight Star
Time for parents to stop succumbing to the annual hype.

Time for parents to stop succumbing to the annual hype.

Posted by martin.parnell |

Apparently, “Several children have been left disappointed after their Hatchimals arguably the most coveted toy of the 2016 holiday season, failed to hatch.”

Each Hatchimal comes inside an egg-shaped capsule that is supposed to be rubbed and patted for anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes before the toy gradually begins to hatch. The toy inside responds to tapping gestures by tapping back with its beak while making a variety of noises. Once the Hatchimal hatches, kids can feed the creature and teach it how to walk and talk. As the weeks go on, the Hatchimal will grow from a child to an adult, at which point it’s able to have more sophisticated interactions.

Adding to many parents’ frustration is the fact that the toys became so in-demand before Christmas, they were nearly impossible to purchase. In fact, the $59.99 toy surfaced on eBay Canada for as much as $10,000 at the height of the demand. This story sounds oh so familiar. Every year there is the “must have” toy that many parents will go to great ends to ensure their offspring have wrapped and under the tree at Christmas time. Who can forget Cabbage Patch Kids, Beanie Babies, Transformers, Rubiks Cubes and Furbies.

I really have to shake my head and ask “WHY?”   I cannot honestly believe that a child, especially ones as young as 2 or 3 (as has been quoted in the press) will really be “inconsolable” or “devastated” if this particular toy does not appear. What are they going to do? At the worst they may sulk for a couple of hours, before being distracted by all their other gifts, or a card board box sitting in the corner!

Will older children really be suffering from peer pressure if they aren’t able to tell their friends Santa was unable to come up with the goods? It’s more than likely their parents were unable to snag one of the eggs themselves. Wouldn’t it make sense for parents to communicate and decide not to give in to the hype and refuse to spend weeks and money hunting down a piece of plastic that will, after a few months, or even sooner, be relegated to the bottom of the toy box?

Surely, it’s time parents stopped being swept up in these annual trends and thought of other ways to keep their young ones happy? Should parents really be letting their children hold them to emotional ransom?

Something parents have a year to think about.

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For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Embrace the New Year by Setting Goals that will make it Great

Embrace the New Year by Setting Goals that will make it Great

Posted by martin.parnell |

I have been thinking about how I might inspire readers of this blog to look upon the New Year as a chance of opportunity, a time when we can all embrace the challenge of the upcoming year, before complacency sets in. Whilst pondering this topic, I came across the following passage ...................

“Make New Year's goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you're interested in fully living life in the year to come. Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level. Goals give our life direction.

What would you like to have happen in your life this year? What would you like to do, to accomplish? What good would you like to attract into your life? What particular areas of growth would you like to have happen to you? What blocks, or character defects, would you like to have removed?

What would you like to attain? Little things and big things? Where would you like to go? What would you like to have happen in friendship and love? What would you like to have happen in your family life? What problems would you like to see solved? What decisions would you like to make? What would you like to happen in your career?

Write it down. Take a piece of paper, a few hours of your time, and write it all down - as an affirmation of you, your life, and your ability to choose. Then let it go. The New Year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

- Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations on Codependency 

I did think about trying to put these ideas in to my own words, as they pretty much exemplify what I had been thinking, but then, why would I need to? Why not, instead, let me give credit to someone who has put it so eloquently. 

New Year is merely a few days away and will be upon us before we know it, so why not give a little thought to what you would like to be thinking, in twelve months’ time, when you look back at 2017 and consider what sort of year it has been for you? 

If you can motivate yourself, it can be a great opportunity to inspire others to do the same. 

Wishing you all a very happy, peaceful, fulfilling year ahead.

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Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately

Charles M. Sheldon, social reformer
A New Year's Resolution to Take Up and Give Up

A New Year's Resolution to Take Up and Give Up

Posted by martin.parnell |

This may seem a little premature, but I’m sure there are some people out there who are already giving some thought to their New Year’s Resolutions. It would be great if we could all do two things – take something up and give something up. 

Taking something up could be really fun and exciting, a time to meet new people, improve your personal well-being, and spend time with family and friends, maybe all of those. Perhaps you’ll start doing regular exercise, calling home once a week, getting outdoors every day, reading all those books you’ve got piling up. Setting a challenge and achieving it can really make you feel good and give you that sense of satisfaction. 

Giving something up may prove to be more challenging. There are, of course, those things that most of us have resolved to give up at one time or another. Many people will decide to give up smoking, regulate their drinking or something less challenging like avoid buying those tempting chocolate bars at the grocery store checkout. 

But there is something else that I feel could make a profound difference in the lives of many people, but it would take a concerted effort. 

Just imagine if everyone who still persisted in the activities of drinking or texting while driving decided to give them up? If you are one of those people, why not make that your New Year’s Resolution?  Stop trying to convince yourself that you can text, talk on the phone or have another drink and drive safely. You know you’re only fooling yourself. 

Don’t risk getting stopped and having to face the fact you’re a law-breaker. But, most importantly, don’t risk your life and the lives of others, because you think you know better. 

Remember, while most of us will enjoy a wonderful holiday season with those nearest and dearest to us, somewhere, not too far away, will be a family left distraught and devastated, not just this year, but for all the years to come, because one of their loved ones is no longer with them, due to the reckless actions of someone who couldn’t resist that drink or checking their latest text. 

So, to carry on that Christmas spirit of giving, if you or someone you know is still persisting in ignoring the law, ignoring what common sense is telling them and still pursuing these reckless activities – give them something. Give them food for thought and ask them to read this blog. It’s just a little thing, but who knows, it might just make them stop and think. 

Happy Holidays and a safe New Year.

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Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!

Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
How to make Christmas an Experience to Treasure

How to make Christmas an Experience to Treasure

Posted by martin.parnell |

A couple of weeks ago, Sue and I were chatting to our friends, Leesha and Lau about the upcoming Christmas holiday. Leesha told us that, this year, she had made an “alternative” Advent calendar, for their children, Oasis and Zion. Instead of the usual candies or small gifts, each pocket contains a fun “experience” for them to share. 

Some of these include:  decorate the Christmas tree, bake Christmas cookies, wrap Christmas gifts, sing Christmas songs or watch a Christmas movie. Although they are things they would have probably done anyway, I thought it was a great idea.  Putting them in the calendar makes all of these activities special and they are all things they can do together. 

It got me thinking about the way in which so many  people tend to think of the holidays as a time when they have to spend vast amounts of money on “stuff”, just to show someone how much they care.  Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate that often we can give someone a gift of something that they really do appreciate, maybe something they wouldn’t go and buy for themselves. But, how often do we have to rack our brains to think of something, when the person we are buying for doesn’t really have a great yearning for anything in particular? 

Our son Calum was recently visiting, from England and was asking what he could get us for Christmas. To be honest, we couldn’t think of anything, so, for our Christmas “gift” he took us for a meal at the Bavarian Inn, in Bragg Creek.  We sat by the fire, enjoyed great food, some good German beer, the conversation flowed and we experienced the sheer joy of spending time together. It was a wonderful evening and left us with fond memories of the last night of his visit. Personally, I think sharing a memorable experience with those you love is priceless.

Why not give it a try. You don’t have to take them for a fancy meal, it could be something simple like going to the movies, hiring some snowshoes and heading into the outdoors, or a day of baking cookies to give as gifts. 

You could extend this idea to your business colleagues. So much money is spent on work –related Christmas parties, which can be enjoyable, but means a lot of people have to find and pay for a babysitter, pay for a taxi to get them safely home, the list goes on. So, why not, instead organise something that is more convenient, perhaps a trip to the movies for a film whole families can enjoy or give a gift that would be really appreciated, like a basket of Christmas goodies or a nice bottle of wine. 

Alternatively, if you are the boss, why not tell your staff that, this year, instead of parties and gifts, you will donate to a charity on their behalf – now that really would be in the spirit of the season. 

Whatever you choose to do. I sincerely hope you have a wonderful time in the company of those you love.

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Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will

W. Clement Stone
Paddle Boats of Afghanistan - Living in Hope

Paddle Boats of Afghanistan - Living in Hope

Posted by martin.parnell |

It’s been almost a month since I ran the Marathon of Afghanistan and I have been asked many questions about the race. However, that was only 7 hours out of an eleven day trip and I would like to share with you some of the other incredible aspects of my experience. I arrived in Kabul on the morning of October 28th and, along with three other racers, was met by James Wilcox, founder of the company, Untamed Borders, the group with whom we were traveling. After dropping our bags at a guest house, we headed into the city. Our first stop was a bread shop. Large flat loaves were being baked in an underground oven and then sold from the front window to men and women who were buying armfuls at a time. We were offered tea, a ritual that was repeated throughout our trip. 

We then visited the Shrine of Ali Mazar e Sharif. This is a beautiful, blue-tiled mosque, which sadly had been the site of a terrorist attack, one month previously, killing 14 men, women and children. Despite that, families were visiting the site. As we were leaving, we walked around a wall and there, in an open area was the most amazing playground I have ever seen. All the equipment was hand made. The centre piece was a hand cranked Ferris wheel with four compartments, for four children. A man turned a huge handle to get the contraption spinning and the kids laughed and yelled as they went flying around. Also in the playground was a merry-go-round with tiny planes as seats and there were swings, a slide and a teeter-totter. It made me realise that life goes on no matter what others try and do to stop it. 

Next day, we flew to Bamyan, in Bamyan Province which is populated by the Hazara people. Historically, they are the most persecuted ethnic group in Afghanistan but they are also recognized as the most progressive in the support of girls and women’s rights in education and sport. The town has a population of 60,000 and is cradled between the Hindu Kush and Koh-i-Baba mountain ranges, at 9,000 feet elevation. It’s 240 kms North West of Kabul but the road is deemed too dangerous to travel. 

Driving into town from the airport, we passed a field where a farmer was working with a plough pulled by oxen. He was ploughing around burnt out Russian tanks. There were at least ten tanks and troop carriers all from a previous era in history. The next day we traveled in two vans, 60 kms west to the only National Park in Afghanistan, Band-e-Amir. We spent 3 hours walking along trails which overlooked sheer cliffs into aqua blue lakes. At the end of the walk we arrived at the tourist information centre. Near the building, along the shoreline, were 15 swan-shaped paddle boats. The 10 of us jumped into 2 and 4 seater boats and started cruising around the lake. We joined Afghan families who were out for the day picnicking and having fun. It seems the more things are different, the more things are the same. 

If you want to hear more stories about the trip then come to the Cochrane Public Library on Saturday, December 10th at 1.00pm for a presentation. Afterwards, I will be signing my new book RUNNING TO THE EDGE. 

Everyone welcome.

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Wow, I never knew books could be so dangerous

Sue Carpenter- Parnell
How a Man in Motion can Spoil Your Day

How a Man in Motion can Spoil Your Day

Posted by martin.parnell |

The other day, my wife, Sue, decided to empty our bookshelves and go through our vast collection of books in order to set some aside for recycling. Unfortunately, one large hardback bounced off the top shelf, hit her in the mouth and left her with a swollen, cut lip.

It got me thinking about other everyday objects that might, unexpectedly cause an injury and there are some unusual ones e.g. I discovered that  toothpicks are a serious choking hazard, causing about 9,000 injuries per year and each year, 1,700 men are sent to the ER because of...zipper-related injuries!

We all know of people who’ve had accidents playing sports, even a game of golf can be more hazardous than you think. Apparently, golf clubs have reportedly killed four people after being tossed, breaking, springing back, and stabbing the golfer in the heart.

An anonymous contributor to the Reddit website confessed "I stapled my thumb with a stapler... Twice” and this same person managed to stab himself “with a nice sharp number 2 pencil sticking out of my side pocket. I still have the mark on my arm."

There are numerous activities that can cause injury and many of them can be experienced in the workplace. According to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the 3 most common injuries which occur in the workplace are:

Falls :

Falling down is not only the most common office accident, it is also responsible for causing the most disabling injuries. In fact, office workers are 2 to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a disabling injury from a fall than non-office workers. The most common causes of office falls, include:

  • Tripping over an open desk or file drawer, electrical cords or wires, loose carpeting, or objects in hallways/walkways.
  • Bending or reaching for something while seated in an unstable chair.
  • Using a chair in place of a ladder.
  • Slipping on wet floors.
  • Inadequate lighting.

Injury from Lifting:

Lifting even small loads (stacks of files, computer paper, a computer monitor, etc.) can lead to injury if done improperly. Your back, neck and shoulders are all susceptible to this type of injury.

Flying and Stationary Objects:

Office workers are often struck by objects, bump into objects themselves, or get caught in or between objects, and as a result, are injured. This includes bumping into desks, other people, file cabinets, copy machines, etc., and getting hit by objects that fall from cabinets tops, items dropped on feet, doors opening unexpectedly or cabinets that fall over if not properly balanced. 

So, whether it’s leaping books, sharp pencils or what you sit on, take care out there and make sure your employees do too! Ironically, the book in question that attacked Sue was Rick Hansen’s “Man in Motion”.

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Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Flu Season - How to Sub for an Absent Employee

Flu Season - How to Sub for an Absent Employee

Posted by martin.parnell |

I’m a great fan of the England Premier League Soccer team Arsenal, and it’s frustrating if a good player from the team is sick or injured. Fortunately, the manager, Arsene Wenger, is fully aware of what skills are needed in a substitute. That player may not have the same level of skill, but is trained well enough to get the job done and help the team. 

During the past week, I have noticed a number of signs popping up, in various locations, informing people where they can go to get their flu shot. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my step-son, Calum around this time last year, in which he was telling me that his work load had increased considerably due to colleagues being absent with the flu. His bosses felt it wasn’t worth getting temporary cover as, by the time they had learned the intricacies of a particular job, the employee would probably have recovered. 

I’m sure this is an issue for many businesses, at any time of year. If you have an employee that needs time to deal with health or other personal issues, how do you cope in the meantime? You may just hire a temporary worker, but this isn’t always viable. It may be that the absence is only for a day or two, but even that can cause some disruption or mean that someone else has to cover the workload. 

Basically, it’s a matter of prioritizing. In order to do that, you need to be aware of what aspects of their job your employees deem most important. It may not be what you think. 

So, I have a suggestion that might help in preparation for when this situation may arise. Ask each of you employees to spend ten minutes thinking about their typical day and jot down: 

  1. What is the first thing they do? 
  1. What other tasks need to be done every day and in what order do they do them? 
  1. Do they have any tips – things that they do that make certain tasks quicker or easier? 
  1. What areas of their work will affect their colleagues, if it isn’t done? 
  1. Are there tasks that are non-essential, but they do them because they have a little extra time? 

Doing this will help whoever has to cover to know what tasks are essential and which, if not done, will affect the smooth running of your organisation. These brief notes can then be filed away until they are needed. 

You may not have a bench full of subs to draw on, but at least, if you know what particular skills are needed and tasks to be completed, it makes being a manager a whole lot easier for you and your other players.

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The most fruitful and natural exercise for our minds is, in my opinion, conversation.

Michel de Montaigne, The Essays: A Selection
Talk not Tech - Remember how to enjoy the Conversation.

Talk not Tech - Remember how to enjoy the Conversation.

Posted by martin.parnell |

In her book The Art of Conversation: Or, What to say and When, Catherine Blyth tells us that “Every day we use our mobiles and computers to communicate, but ironically we are losing touch with face-to-face talk”. She reveals the endless possibilities of conversation and shows that when it works it can come close to heaven.

And, to a certain extent, I have to agree.

Every week my wife and I communicate with our three adult children and have great conversations with each of them, albeit on very different topics. Kyle is into sport and he can chat at length about the Calgary Flames, The Blue Jays, Stampeders, Oilers, The British Barclay’s Premier League, Formula One, the list goes on. He can weigh the losses and gains of everything from transfer deals to draft picks.

Calum lives in London, England and keeps us up to date with all that’s going on in the UK, from politics, Art exhibitions, new places to visit, in fact all that’s relevant to living there. This is great for us as we like to know what’s happening “back home”. He is also an avid reader and movie-goer and will give us great recommendations on good books to read and movies to watch.

Kristina, our youngest, is married with three children (the sons are lagging behind a bit in that department, but we live in hope). She is married to someone who works in mining and they live in Ontario. Having worked in that Province myself, as a mining engineer, I’m always interested to hear what’s going on in the industry and about life in general back there. She works and runs a busy household and so always has something to chat about, especially concerning our grandkids.

At home, Sue and I enjoy nothing more than sitting quietly, coffees at hand, poring over the newspaper or listening to something of interest on CBC Radio 1. As well as our regular weekday favourites like The Current, Alberta at Noon and Ideas, having more time at the weekends, we try and make a point of catching Daybreak Alberta, Quirks and Quarks, the Sunday Edition, The House and Writers and Company. Interestingly all of these programs tend to focus around conversations with guests or experts in a particular field. They all provide stimulating content for us to enjoy further conversations on a wide range of topics. Fortunately, for me, my wife is also a great fan of “the beautiful game’ i.e. soccer, and can hold her own when it comes to discussing that particular subject.

With my business, I’m lucky to be able to meet and engage in conversation with people who will often share my passions and goals. But, I also find it just as enjoyable when I meet someone who has an alternative take on things or whose life has taken a completely different path to mine. I love the diversity of topics which one can cover when meeting someone for the first time.

Sometimes it can take some effort to strike up a conversation, particularly when you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation or with people you don’t know. But, going on my own experience, it’s always worth that effort. Everyone has their own story, interests, expertise and it’s surprising what you can learn from just having that conversation. So, let’s put the devices down once in a while and let’s talk!

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Out of clutter, find simplicity

Albert Einstein
5 Ways to Improve when Writing for Business

5 Ways to Improve when Writing for Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

In late July, I was honoured to be asked by Jeri Maitland, Executive Director of the Cochrane Public Library, to be the library’s 2016 / 2017 Writer in Residence. To date my writing credentials include, my first book, the award winning MARATHON QUEST, my soon to be released second book RUNNING TO THE EDGE, both published by Rocky Mountain Books and having articles published in the Huffington Post, IMPACT magazine, Inspire Me Well by Lisa Belanger and numerous local and national newspapers, including the Cochrane Eagle.

During my residency I will be giving a number of workshops on topics such as “How to get Published”, “From Blog to Book” and a special children’s workshop on “How to create a Graphic Comic”. One area that I am particularly interested in is “Writing for Business”. My background is in the mining industry and over the years I have read thousands of reports, emails and memos and unfortunately many of them were poorly written. When I have to read anything connected to business I like it to be clear, as brief as possible and to the point.

I recently read an excellent book entitled “On Writing Well – the Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction” by William Zinsser and it is for anyone writing anything non- fiction, from a travel guidebook to a report, a formal letter to a handbook and more. As well as giving invaluable advice on how to write, Zinsser also makes it clear as to what one should avoid doing when constructing a piece of writing.

Here are just five of them to consider:

  1. Declutter: Examine every word you put on paper. You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose. Don’t use a long word when a short word will do, e.g. assist (help) numerous (many) implement (do). And as readers we should not be prisoners of a notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind.
  2. Write for yourself: Don’t be too concerned about who you are writing for. There are so many individuals in your audience.  Relax and say what you want to say. As long as you have mastered the tools of writing you will get your message across.
  3. Portray your uniqueness: According to Zinsser, most executives in North America do not write what appears above their signature. They have surrendered the qualities that make them unique. Do not rely on others to speak for you, in the style in which you wish to be heard. “Remember that what you write is often the only chance you’ll get to present yourself to someone whose business or money or goodwill you need.”
  4. Edit what you dictate: If you feel the need to dictate something to be typed up by another person, make sure you take the time to edit it.  Zissner explains that this is important if you do not wish to be perceived as “pompous or sloppy”, but a true reflection of who you really are, especially if it is a document which will go to someone who will judge you on your “personality” and “style”.
  5. Know when to stop: it’s not necessary to repeat, in a compressed form what you have already said, so avoid phrases like, “In conclusion’, “What we have learned from this is “, “ To sum up”.  Think of a good, clear, concise sentence or paragraph to end with and have a sense of finality. ‘The perfect ending should take your readers by surprise and yet seem exactly right.”

I am always in the process of writing something, whether it be my next book, my weekly blog, an article for the local newspaper or a piece for my website. I know I still have a lot to learn about the intricacies of a good piece of non- fiction writing, but with the help of William Zissner’s expertise, I know I’m making progress.

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And when someone else speaks your name you feel pleased. You feel wanted. You feel there. Alive. Even if they're saying your name with dislike, at least you know you're you, that you exist.

Aidan Chambers, Author of Nik: Now I Know
How to Win at the Name Game

How to Win at the Name Game

Posted by martin.parnell |

In his biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson reveals where the name Apple comes from: Apparently, on the naming of Apple, Jobs said he was “on one of my fruitarian diets.” He said he had just come back from an apple farm, and thought the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”

Reading this got me interested in how other well-known companies came by their names. I discovered that the name IKEA is made up from the initials of their founder, Ingvar Kamprad and the first letters of the farm Elmtaryd and the village of Agunnarydin in rural southern Sweden where he grew up.

Here are examples of how a couple of other very familiar company names were developed:

LEGO got its name when the founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, took the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning “play well”, and put them together – quite unaware that LEGO in Latin means ... “I put together”.

In the 1920s, the Dassler brothers operated a sports shoe company out of their mother's laundry room in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Adolf Dassler, who went by the nickname "Adi" handled the design of the shoes, and Rudi Dassler did the marketing. The company started to take off when they signed some big name athletes like Jesse Owens. However, the brothers had a severe falling out, split the company assets and ran competing sports shoe companies in the same town. Adi renamed his company "Adidas" using his nickname plus the first three letters of his last name. Rudi at first went with "Ruda" but, wisely, later renamed his company "Puma".

These are all interesting stories and I came across many more. I then wondered about the effect a name can have on a company.

Sometimes it might be necessary to rethink a company name and come up with something that better reflects the purpose of your company or just make it sound less intimidating or even just easier to spell, allowing for  quicker access on search engines etc. In a 2015 article for CNBC, Karissa Giuliano  listed  some of the biggest brands you may not have known any other way, but who had in fact started off under different names. Here are just three of them:

Back in 1996, the world's number one search engine was created under the name "BackRub." Creators Larry Page and Serge Brin's renamed their business and technology Google in 1998. It's "a play on the word 'googol,' a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. The use of the term reflects their mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web, says Google.

In 1893, a North Carolina pharmacist named Caleb Bradham started experimenting with a few soft drink recipes. One of these bore his name: "Brad's Drink." In 1898 Brad's Drink was renamed Pepsi-Cola and would become one of the world's most recognized brands.

Launched in 1995, eBay was initially named AuctionWeb – one of four sites housed under founder Pierre Omidyar's umbrella company called eBay Internet. Spurred by the media referring to AuctionWeb as ebay, the company made the name change official in 1997.

If you think a change of name might benefit your company, don’t be afraid to make that change. Consider whether your name is catchy, easy to remember or perhaps just better reflects what image you want to present. Here are some final tips from Martin Zwilling is CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals Inc. with some help from Alex frankel and others in a 2011 FORTUNE  publication:

Make your business name one that customers can pronounce and remember easily.

Keep it simple. The shorter in length, the better. Limit it to two syllables. Avoid using hyphens and other special characters. Since certain algorithms and directory listings work alphabetically, pick a name closer to A than Z. These days, it even helps if the name can easily be turned into a verb, like Google me. 

Make some sense. Occasionally, business owners will choose names that are nonsense words. Quirky words (Yahoo, Google, Fogdog) or trademark-proof names concocted from scratch (Novartis, Aventis, Lycos) are a big risk. Always check the international implications. More than one company has been embarrassed by a new name that had negative and even obscene connotations in another language. 

Finally, make sure the name is available. This may sound obvious, but a miss here will cost you dearly.

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Either I will find a way, or I will invent one

Philip Sidney - poet, scholar
Juggling Ideas to get Yourself Noticed

Juggling Ideas to get Yourself Noticed

Posted by martin.parnell |

Sometimes, in order to achieve, it is important to stand out. This isn’t always easy, especially when you are in a situation where many people are doing the same task as you and there doesn’t appear to be an opportunity to be different. For this reason, it’s important to take a broader look at what you are already doing and look for the little nuances which make the way you do things individual to you or if you can develop them to create something of note.

I was reminded of this, on recollection of an article in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

It was a small piece about Michael Kapral, who has been acknowledged, by the Guinness Book of Records, as the World’s Fastest Joggler, for his time of 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon. Joggling is a sport which involves running and juggling 3 balls, at the same time. I decided to find out more about Michael as, not only have I run that same race, but I am also the holder of 5 Guinness World Records, in endurance events.

What interested me was the way in which he came to be involved in his particular sport.

“Technically I learned to juggle first because I learned when I was about ten.” said Michael “I started marathon running in my 20s. I ran several marathons before I started joggling. I was pretty competitive. I won the Toronto Marathon in 2002. I knew that I was never going to the Olympics, but I was pretty serious. That’s why it was funny that I took up this not very serious sport of combining juggling and running. It turned out that it wasn’t just a stupid thing, and it is funny and entertaining to people.”

Despite being an exceptional runner, Michael realized he would not be fast enough to qualify for the Olympics, but by slightly altering what he was already doing and combining it with another skill that he already possessed, i.e. juggling, he has still achieved success and recognition. We don’t have to go to quite such extremes to get noticed, but taking a look at the way we do things, making small adaptations might not only make what we do more satisfying, but also get us noticed.

It might be worth asking yourself.

  1. When I look at the way my colleagues do the same job, are there slight differences I can make, in the way I tackle things that can be more productive?
  2. Can I add or deduct something in my approach that will make me more efficient?
  3. Am I able to find a way of doing things that will make me stand out from others in the same field?
  4. Could I be more optimistic and develop ways to inspire a more positive reaction in the way I present myself?
  5. Are there ideas that I abandoned, in the past, for being too different that I might consider using now?

Developing and evaluating new ideas, in your approach, might be the first step to getting the greater satisfaction in your role, whatever that might be.

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Procrastination is the thief of time

Edward Young, English poet
Take Action Now and Boost your Company's Success

Take Action Now and Boost your Company's Success

Posted by martin.parnell |

We’ve all read stories about people taking too long to make decisions and find that, regrettably, opportunities have been lost. Most of them relate to their personal lives e.g. If only they’d bought something when it was on sale, If only they’d asked her out before she started dating their best friend, If only they’d told someone how much they loved them, before it was too late. Author Agatha Christie wrote   “One doesn't recognize the really important moments in one's life until it's too late.” 

We must also remember that this can and often does apply in business. 

I want to be clear, I’m not talking about missed opportunities. It’s not worth dwelling on what might have been, that type of regret can eat away at you.  Atari founder Nolan Bushnell turned down an opportunity to invest $50,000 in seed money in Apple.  Had Bushnell said yes, he would have owned a third of Apple, a company that is today valued at about $480 billion. That’s a missed opportunity.

 What I’m talking about is knowing you should take action and for whatever reason, you just keep putting it off. In business, this may concern reinventing your company, whether it be a branding, reacting to new competition, refining operations, installing up-to-date technology or recognising an untapped market. It’s especially tempting to stall when your company is at the maturity stage and enjoying success. 

There are many excuses for doing this. Perhaps it feels more comfortable to stick with certain employees, perhaps you’d rather not spend money on marketing or you feel you might just be making changes for changes sake. Whatever the reason, it’s good to re-evaluate, from time-to-time.   

You don’t want your company to be pushed out of the market by one that is hungrier and ready to be innovative. You can’t afford to let your business stagnate as this will affect your image not only with your customers, but also with employees who value a challenge and have the energy to move the company forward. 

Of course, in order to take the right action, a company needs foresight and employees need to be encouraged to share ideas and be asked for input, on a regular basis. If, however your company is open to this idea, you must be prepared to act. Otherwise those same employees may feel their input isn’t valued and you could miss out on an idea that could be transformative in boosting efficiency, sales or several other areas of operation. 

Maybe it’s time to take stock, don’t wait until things break until you start fixing areas that could do with some reinvention. Look at your competition, evaluate your technology and look at ways to get the best from your employees and reward those who are a real asset to the company. 

And do it sooner rather than later.

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Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.

Aldous Huxley
Taking advantage of a Chance Opportunity causes a Rethink

Taking advantage of a Chance Opportunity causes a Rethink

Posted by martin.parnell |

Three weeks ago I ran the Edmonton half marathon, dressed as my alter ego, Captain Clot Buster. This character is a by-product of the “Long Walk to Recovery” I undertook, in 2015, to help me deal with having Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis, an extensive blood clot in my brain. 

As my condition improved, it was suggested I run the Calgary Marathon’s 10km Dash of Doom. It was a fancy dress event and it was that which inspired me to come up with the Captain persona. 

It turns out, that the Captain has become quite popular and I have recently been invited to speak about my medical condition and relate the experience to my other challenges, when completing my “Quests for Kids” initiative.

In addition, it has enabled me to engage with different audiences, people who can relate to another aspect of my life. I was often referred to as the “Marathon Man”, due to my running 250 marathons on one year and I know that there were people who could not relate to that or to someone who has five Guinness World Records in endurance events. But, there are untold numbers of people who can relate to overcoming adversity or dealing with life-threatening medical issues. 

I usually work with groups and corporations on the topic of setting goals and overcoming obstacles, in order to reach your full potential with references to my work for the humanitarian organisation Right To Play and my fundraising efforts, over 5 years, which culminated in me raising $1,360,000 for the organisation. 

It was a revelation that people would be interested in another side to my personal story and has certainly given a new dimension to my speaking topic “Finish the Race Attitude “. It’s surprising how coping with my medical condition has offered further insight on ways we deal with adversity and the actions we take in dealing with it, in order to have the best chance of a positive outcome. 

It has certainly made me reflect on ways in which I can inspire more people in reaching their goals in life, just simply by rethinking and adapting my approach. It has been a valuable lesson in recognizing that opportunities can manifest themselves in various ways and we should be open and adaptable.

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Climb every mountain, search high and low.

Julie Andrews, Sound of Music
King of the Mountain-Taking on Cochrane's BigHill

King of the Mountain-Taking on Cochrane's BigHill

Posted by martin.parnell |


The biggest sporting event that no-one seems to know about is coming to Cochrane on Friday September 2nd. The Tour of Alberta is a bike race along the lines of the Tour de France, in this case the riders will be completing 5 stages instead of 21. 

The first stage, on September 1st, is being held in Lethbridge Then its stage 2, Kananaskis to Olds. This is how the Tour of Alberta website describe this section: Departing in an area known as “Alberta’s Mountain Playground” with over 50 interconnected provincial parks and recreation areas, the peloton will begin Stage 2 at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis before embarking on their 182 kilometre quest. This stage includes the biggest climb of the 2016 Tour, “Big Hill” in Cochrane, before the peloton encounters predominately rolling and flat terrain through Mountain View County, nestled against the picturesque foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Upon making their way to one of Alberta’s esteemed college-towns, Olds, the race will feature three exciting finishing circuits in what is expected to be a thrilling mass sprint finish. On September 3rd Stage 3 is from Drayton valley to Rocky Mountain House and Stages 4 and 5 are in Edmonton. 

There are 13 teams competing, with a total of over 100 participants. Riders include defending champion Bauke Mollema and Canadian Superstar Ryder Hesjedal both from USA Team Trek-Segafredo. Other teams include USA based Cannondale, UnitedHealthCare, Rally and Jelly Belly; Dubai based Skydive; Ukraine based Amore / Vita-Selle and Canadian based Silber, H & R Block and Team Canada. 

How big is this event I hear you ask? To put this in context, the Grey Cup draws a viewership of 5m and the Stanley Cup 14m. The Tour of Alberta is watched by 47m people around the world and between 1.30pm and 2.30pm next Friday those eyes will be on Big Hill in Cochrane where the “King of the Mountain” section will be contested.

Now we know there’s going to be traffic issues on Friday afternoon with rolling road closures. The riders will be flying along the 1A crossing Hw 22 then up Big Hill before hitting junction 766 and heading north. So instead of getting frustrated why not take the afternoon off, leave the car at home and head up to Big Hill. 

So let’s make this a “Big Hill Party”. Students are out of school early that day so kids why not head up to the “King of the Mountain” section. I’m going to be on the hill at 1.30pm wearing my Canada Moose bike shirt and cowboy hat and, clanging my cow bell. Let’s give these athletes a hug cheer as the flash by and show the World what a real “Cochrane Welcome” looks like.


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Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.

John Lennon
Lost for Words and Filling in the Blanks

Lost for Words and Filling in the Blanks

Posted by martin.parnell |

I’m struggling.

It’s been a busy week, for me, with lots of meetings and other activities scheduled and I suddenly realised that today’s the only day I have the time to sit and write my next blog. But, I’ve drawn a blank – nothing- not one idea has entered my head that I feel compelled or even remotely inspired to write about.

This is hard to accept. Usually, my head is buzzing with ideas, reflections and thoughts I want to share. I have considered commenting on recent topics in the news. The Olympics immediately springs to mind and you’d think that with my interest in sports I could come up with an angle on that, but no.

I thought about things I’ve done this week that are slightly out of the ordinary, but shifting 11 cubic yards of mulch from my driveway onto my garden isn’t going to give me 400+ words. Being British, by birth, you’d think I could, at least make some profound comment about the state of the weather, but, living in Alberta, that particular topic only leaves me bemused.

I have to accept that for most of us, most of the time, life is pretty ordinary, and that it’s not necessary to be constantly looking outside of our own private world with the need to take a stance or comment on every little thing that’s going on. Sometimes, we just have to bask in the joy of having nothing in particular to do and even less of a need to say something.

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Instead of fretting over not knowing what to write, trawling through news sites for inspiration, agonising over how many “How to....”s or  “Ways to........”, I’m going to make a coffee, grab a good book and settle down for an hour and just enjoy some downtime. These moments in our day, whether it be an hour or just 5 minutes should be cherished.

These are the times when we can withdraw from the world and do what we want to do, just for us. It may be reading, going for a walk, watching TV or even catching up on the latest cat videos on You Tube, Who cares? It’s your time, you don’t have to be anywhere, or doing any particular thing and, in this day and age, those times can be very precious.

If you suddenly find you have a few minutes and honestly can’t think of what to do with them you might like to pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t spoken to, in a while. You’ll feel great for doing it and imagine how happy you could make someone else. Whatever you choose to do in those times, I want to thank you for when you have a few moments to spare and you choose to spend them reading my blogs

Hopefully, by next week, I’ll have something more stimulating to share.

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The writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.

Dr. Seuss
How to Edit your Life and Business

How to Edit your Life and Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

Over the past few weeks, I have been busy revising the manuscript, of my next book RUNNING TO THE EDGE. I could call it editing, but my publisher has a professional to do that for me. It’s a peculiar process, removing parts that you no longer think are relevant, and having your memory jogged into adding something you missed, first, or even second time around. 

Getting sections back from the editor is strange, too. She will ask questions about things that, as the writer, you may think are obvious, but have to be explained in more detail in order that your potential reader can properly follow a train of thought or recounting of an incident. Things that you might think are relevant can be totally removed and yet parts that you might have been pondering over whether to include, or not, can become, from someone else’s perspective, essential to the text. 

It’s a bit like life.  We’ve all experienced incidents that, at the time might appear to have a huge effect on your well-being, your standing within your group, your job, family etc.

Yet, in the grand scheme of things are actually rather trivial and you have probably spent too much time and effort dwelling on them. I looked at the work some editors carry out and it’s interesting to see the role they play, in various areas of the process:

A copy/ manuscript editor ensures that the manuscript meets in-house style standards and checks facts. We might look to ensure that our standards meet those of our employer or someone engaging our skills. We should always check that the facts we present are accurate, in order to make ourselves credible. 

A developmental editor helps the idea stage through to the final draft. We should formulate and plan our ideas and what strategies we will use to implement them. 

A substantive editor helps the writer focus on story elements, plot characterization, dialogue, scenes and multiple other aspects that could improve the strength of a manuscript and, in non- fiction ensures that there is consistency and flow, with events flowing logically. They examine both the big picture and the finer details. These are all skills we need to engage if we are to see a project through, successfully, from start to finish.

Basically, an editor is an enhancer, polishing and refining, directing focus and essentially removes what does not fit, what has no bearing on the finished article and draws attention to areas where the audience should focus. 

These are all skills we can use to tackle tasks and provide positive, rewarding outcomes in the way we approach life and business. 

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The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Lau Tzu
Pokemon Go - A Step in the Right Direction

Pokemon Go - A Step in the Right Direction

Posted by martin.parnell |

Recently, Sue and I headed over to Sudbury, Ontario, to spend some time with our grandchildren, Autumn aged 12, Nathan aged 7 and Matthew Connor aged 2. They are full of energy and had us on the go for most of the time. I was also pleasantly surprised to see daughter Kristina out and about so much. Now, don’t get me wrong Kris is a busy young women with the kids, a full time job and participates in “Amtgard”, a live-action, fantasy, roleplaying activity. However, she seemed to be taking more walks than usual. Then I realised what was going on. She had signed up for Pokémon Go.

Now, I have a somewhat love – hate relationship with video games. Back in the dark ages the first game I played was “Pong”. Two paddles and a puck and away we went. Next up was Space Invaders, Centipede and Pac-Man. Then I got a job. Years went by and games came and went. I would go to a party and everyone wanted to play “Guitar Hero”, why not? I even outscored Kristina on “Dance Dance Revolution”. She’s never forgiven me. Most recently it was Wii golf. I was just as bad at that as I was at real golf.

With regards to Pokémon Go, I didn’t want to judge too quickly, so I asked Kristina how it worked. She explained that an app had been created based on the classic Pokémon game, whereby you can walk, run or bike and, using GPS, find little Pokémon creatures and catch them. The cool thing is that they will appear on the screen of your cell phone and it seems as if they are really there. Apparently, this is called “augmented reality”.

Also, during our stay, Kristina really surprised me. She said she wanted to join me in a 5 km race. On the Sunday before I left, we got up bright and early and headed off to Massey, a small town 120 kms south west of Sudbury. Every year, this town of 3,000 people, puts on a marathon, half marathon and 10 km race. This year they had added a 5 km event. We waited at the race start line for five minutes and at exactly 5.45am the gun went off. This was Kristina’s first 5 km and she set off like a bullet. Over the next few kilometers she slowed down, but as we approached the end, she got very excited. There was a ”weedle”, one of the smaller Pokémon characters, sitting on the finish line. We both started to sprint and Kris pipped me by 0.1 of a second.

On the way back, Kris snoozed in the passenger seat and I reflected on the fact that, finally, there was a video game that got people off the couch, enjoying the outdoors and interacting with each other. Go Pokémon Go!

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