Archive for June, 2011

I could see myself being a beekeeper, perhaps, although, aside from other constraints, my fascination is tempered by a fear of bees. I sat in on a workshop at the Local Food Fest last summer and it struck me that beekeeping is a natural extension of backyard or community gardening. Beekeepers and their bees can be found in many surprising places such as rooftops in New York City and London.

Bees are essential to the ecosystem, we have a deep connection to them, and they are under threat. That’s the message filmmakers Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz communicate in their wonderful documentary “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?” The film weaves a story around the disappearance of bees and their importance to humans, agriculture and the larger ecosystem through a cast of devoted beekeepers, scientists, and prominent food security writers/speakers.

Bees are pollinators and they’re responsible for approximately 40% of all agricultural food crops. The disappearance of honey bees, most notable in the U.S. but also observed in Europe, is a serious issue. Colony Collapse Disorder may be the result of a number of different stressors, which include migration (bees are trucked around the country to pollinate mono crops), pesticides, poor nutrition, weakened immune systems, and pests.

The film and its website list a number of things you can do to help save the bees such as planting bee-friendly flowers in your garden, putting a bowl of fresh water outside for the bees to drink, buying local raw honey, and learning to be a sustainable beekeeper.

I highly recommend the film. It’s an important story, told in a visually appealing, accessible and engaging way.

Alison Van Alten’s bee yard at Ignatius Jesuit Centre, Guelph ON

FYI: Here are a couple sites that discuss colony collapse disorder.



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I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.

I wanted a song to tie into this post and it may seem like the Rolling Stone’s career-jettisoning 1965 critique of commercial culture is a bit of a leap but I’m focusing on the aspect of it that is a search for authenticity.  Sometimes we find ourselves in jobs and environments that do not provide any fulfillment. We’re disengaged. Sometimes we find ourselves in a new phase of life and, perhaps, in need of a little direction. Maybe we desire authenticity and need to connect with our fire and passion. Sometimes we just find ourselves in that limbo land of unemployment. … Authenticity … Satisfaction.

We are all unique complex beings and self knowledge is important for job seekers and career changers. It can be enlightening, or at least useful, to explore who you are through a combination of personality and career assessments. It’s a process that helps you identify and synthesize your skills, traits, strengths, preferences and the types of work and environments that would most appeal to you.

Personality Dimensions uses a series of picture card sets. Once you’ve made your selections you add up the scores to see where you fall on the green, gold, blue and orange spectrum. Core needs are rooted in knowledge and competence for a green, belonging through a sense of duty and responsibility for a gold, relationships and self actualization for a blue, and freedom, activity and variety for an orange. Essentially, we are all plaid but our preferences will be distributed differently. One of the nice things about this assessment is that once you’ve identified your colour you break into colour groups, come up with responses to a few questions and then present the information to the other groups. The general characteristics of each colour group are quite different and it serves as a tool for not only understanding yourself but others, too.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is another personality assessment tool. The MBTI measures your preferences for introversion and extroversion; sensing and intuitiveness; feeling and thinking; and perceiving and judging. The result is a four-letter personality type code. There are 16 in total. Self-assessments aren’t foolproof so you do need to question whether the result is really a reflection of you. For a bit of MBTI humour checkout a slight variation of Elis N. Harsham’s type prayers.

Holland codes are another tool for helping you explore career options. You can do a quick party preference version or a longer skills and interests version. With this tool you come up with a three-letter preference code based on six categories – artistic, investigative, social, conventional, enterprising, and realistic.

And, one of the best job seeking/career changing resources around is still the infamous What Color is Your Parachute book by Richard Bolles. For it to be a useful resource, you need to do the exercises.

How well do you know yourself? Most, or all, of these aids are available free through various employment centres and programs.

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Small business, sustainable livelihoods, social enterprise, and community economic development are initiatives that appeal to me. Len Fardella’s Peter’s New Jobs listing comes with a calendar of weekly events – some quite intriguing. I decided to check one out Tuesday evening and attended Art of the Start, free trade show and event put on by the Ottawa Community Loan Fund (OCLF). I first read about small business microfinancing in the early 90s and how it could dramatically improve the lives of people, particularly women, in the Global South. I wasn`t aware of any similar initiatives in Ontario or Canada at the time though. However, the restructuring of the economy over the last 30 years seems to be opening doors to social investment here now.

The Art of the Start trade show included representatives from The Hub, a worldwide creative space for social enterprise that will be setting up in Ottawa, Causeway, an organization that has launched a few alternative businesses, and a few other projects, as well as Alterna Credit Union and BDC. The highlight of the evening were the presentations by four entrepreneurs.

Hendrick Jean-Louis of TireNew Recycling talked about his focus and determination and how the OCLF saved his business when his truck broke down. He started the business not quite two years ago and is now the fourth largest tire exporter in Ontario.

Amir Rahim of Grounded Kitchen & Coffeehouse has been an entrepreneur before. He spoke about learning from mistakes, picking a business that he knew about, what he was able to accomplish prior to having the money to open, and the importance of doing something that you love. He`s been open about a year and wants to open a second location.

Emma Inns of Adorit helped start a CED initiative while working in Nepal. Back in Canada she found herself on the other side of the lending equation. She`s recently moved her fair trade eco-fabric shop to a larger location and spoke of the importance of finding a mentor who has strengths in your weaknesses.

The special guest presenter was Tal Dehtiar of Oliberté – This Is Africa. His shoe manufacturing company is based in Ethiopia and has a pretty complex distribution web for what he said is still a small business. Tal spent part of his youth travelling, he`s still young, before getting an MBA and he emphasized the importance of business to lift people out of poverty and into the middle class. He is a determined entrepreneur with strong opinions and big dreams and goals. As he said, there’s money to be made and there are 4.5 billion people who would switch places with you in a heartbeat to be in this country.

It was an inspiring evening!

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I’m a job seeker. What I expected to be a two or three week process has gone on for over two years. That’s longer than many of my paid jobs lasted.

My current journey has led me along the interview road to a few pretty awesome positions, including the closest I’ve ever been to a dream job, and a handful of ones that didn’t excite me but most of which would be preferable to my current condition. I’ve been shut out of the “survival” job category, which I had expected to be a good career transition option. During this process I’ve read books and articles, attended workshops, and implemented some of the strategies I’ve found along the way.

Lately, I’ve been going to the workshops at Pinecrest-Queensway Employment Centre. If you live in Ottawa and are looking for work I recommend checking them out. Kari Drouin, the employment trainer at PQCHC, is a high energy presenter. Last week she delivered a workshop on The Effective Job Search. Effective means working smarter not harder and you do this by engaging in a variety of proactive strategies. Proactive is the key concept and involves making yourself known. A couple days later I attended a workshop by Len Fardella of Peter’s New Jobs. This upbeat Google & You workshop focused on building your Internet presence, as the title implies, and interacting in the virtual networking world.

The concept of networking isn’t new to me; however, the workshops offer fresh insight and motivation for a search that’s feeling a little stale.

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Central Chambers building, Queen Anne Revival style, 1890

June 4th & 5th marked the 10th annual Doors Open Ottawa weekend. Of the 111 participating sites I made it out to about 10. There were a few others I would have liked to visit but late starts, bus schedules, distances, walking and just enjoying the day came into play. Weatherwise it was a perfect weekend.

The Central Chambers building is one of my favourites. It looks more like a contemporary revival rather than a Victorian-era building. It was the first building in Ottawa to have an electric elevator and is thought to be the first in North America with bay windows.

The grounds at Rideau Hall are spectacular. I wonder if the Governor Generals ever have the time or inclination to enjoy this beautiful oasis. As for the residence, the tent room, a former indoor tennis court, is kinda quirky and gay, but, what I most enjoyed were the paintings representing early immigration to Canada.

And just a couple blocks away, Gordon Harrison’s cottage studio was a lovely spot with live music, wine and, of course, quite awesome art works.

The Lester B. Pearson building, home to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, had a great collection of models of Canadian embassies in other parts of the world, as well as staff, literature and video on DFAIT’s roles.

Maplelawn is a beautiful Georgian-style home and garden. The historical building has been re-adapted and currently functions as a restaurant. The walled gardens date back to 1833 and served as a vegetable garden. It holds a lovely collection of perennials and the grounds are maintained by volunteers.

The Enriched Bread Artists and Gladstone Clayworks Coop are housed in another re-adapted building. The 1924 industrial building was the site of the Standard Bread Factory. I had meant to stop in at the nearby Traffic Operations but with thoughts of coffee in my head it slipped my mind.

I had started Sunday at Fairfields, a 19th century Gothic Revival farmhouse. It was home to five generations of the Bell family and also functioned as a tavern and hotel. In addition to farming, various members of the family were active in law and politics. A number of period artifacts were on display in the garden and, even with the interpreter’s clues, I was not able to guess what most of them had been used for.

Keg Manor – Thompson House, Maplelawn

Maplelawn Gardens

Standard Bread, 1924

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I’ve been meaning to checkout Hogs Back Falls for a while and today I finally did. Visually, technically and historically it’s an impressive site.

The falls are a result of the dam that was constructed for the Rideau Canal and are a waste water weir. Prior to the creation of the dam Hogs Back Falls, also known as Prince of Wales Falls,  did not exist. At that time what existed were the Three Rock Rapids, which had a drop of 1.8 metres (6 feet). The dam was necessary to raise the water level of the river. The dam raised the river 12.5 metres (41 feet) and hence created the falls.

This is the point where the canal leaves the Rideau River and the artificial channel continues to the Ottawa River. The canal is located to the west of the dam and the falls are to the east. Directly south is what is now Mooney’s Bay. For more information about the history of the dam’s construction click here.

Back in the late 1820s the Ottawa area was still a wilderness. One of the interpretation plaques states that it was a three-day journey from downtown Ottawa through forest and swamp to reach this site.

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