Amazing Grace

Just wanted to share this beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace with you. (If you concentrate a little, you’ll begin to realize that the timing is a little different than the classic version.)

Claim to fame: Fellow Churchbass member Marc Miller is the bassist on this lovely track. 🙂




Latin Billy Jean by Tony Succar


This is incredible! So respectful of the original, while adding a tasteful Latin flare. I particularly love the bass and the percussion interpretations.

If you enjoy this, you can find more videos by Tony Succar on Facebook and on YouTube.





A stranger online recently did something really nice for me.

It was a bit of a fluke, really. I belong to a Facebook group called “You know you’re from Victoria, BC, when…” It’s a group I love to follow because I still strongly associate with being a Victorian. I lived there for nearly half my life; in fact, only recently did I pass the “I lived somewhere else longer than in Victoria” mark, which actually felt a little weird. (Part of me totally wishes I could move back there; the other part of me loves my not-new-anymore Surrey home and never wants to leave.)

Anyway, so, this fellow posts about downsizing his dad’s belongings, and wanting to pass on his 1940s-era Victoria High School yearbooks to an archive that would be grateful to get them. To his surprise, he heard nothing back after a few attempts at contacting the obvious candidates — the school, the BC Archives, a few others he could think of — so he asked for more suggestions for eager recipients from the YKYFVW members.

I wondered if there was any chance that one of them might be the 1945 yearbook, and if someone named Phyllis Stroud was in it. Turns out, one was, and yes, she was in it.

Whoa, cool… (I almost thought I could feel the universe vibrate, just a little, in that moment…)

So, I told the group my story, and my connection to Phyllis Stroud.

It’s a very sad, but interesting tale about her and how I found out about her, which I’ll save for another post because it’s long enough on its own. In short, however, she was my great aunt in my birth family, sister to my grandmother, and she died tragically, shortly after graduation.

In response, another member of the group said that she also went to school with my Great Aunt Phyllis, only in a different grade, and well remembered that terrible story about what had happened to her. (In that moment, I could swear I felt the world shrink just a tiny little bit more.)

And the original poster, a fellow named David, very kindly offered to send me the yearbook. He wanted it to go to a good home, and I got lucky! True to his word, he packaged it up and mailed it, and it arrived a couple of days ago.

imageAnd there she is, my Great Aunt Phyllis, a member of my birth family, in print, in her graduating yearbook, just a few short weeks before her death.

I can’t begin to say how special this treasure is to me, or how grateful I am to this complete stranger named David for his kindness in giving it to me, filling in a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of my family history and helping me feel more connected to the family I didn’t know anything about until after I’d already started one of my own. It would have been so simple for him to blue-bin it, and I’m so glad he didn’t.

The longer I live, no matter how much the daily bad news in the media — or awful experiences in my life or the lives of people I love — grinds away at my faith in humanity, the more convinced I am that there is still good all around us, and kind people really are everywhere.

Thank you, David from YKYFVW, for keeping my faith — and hope for the future — alive.

Kindness matters.




This picture hung on the wall of my childhood home, and now it hangs on mine. It reminds me daily of the power and peace that comes from gratitude.


Poetry etched in stone

Even in the dead of winter, I love reading the poetry etched on this stone along the walkway at Crescent Beach in Surrey, BC!



Ears versus eyes

I wasn’t eavesdropping.

I swear.

My son, Carlin, is in Grade 11. He has the biggest essay assignment of his life bubbling away on the hotplate this spring, so we’ve had a few conversations about writing, organizing our thoughts, capturing our reader’s interest, and avoiding that greatest of sins, the passive voice.

(Ah, yes, the passive voice. Note to self: Start drafting my anti-passive-voice rant. The over-heated HST pros/con debate in BC is providing me with lots of great examples right now!)

I’m excited about his project for many reasons. One: not that long ago he could barely put together a cogent email; now, his writing has progressed so far that his teacher gave him a personal challenge to prepare an essay that is somewhat larger than the class assignment! Two: he’s writing about a topic that has had a profound effect on my own life and health, food. (More on that topic here, Three: he really cares about this paper, and is researching and writing really hard, almost like he’s on a mission.

Then, this weekend, he gave me a fourth reason to be excited about his assignment.

Before I tell you why, I’ll tell you the same thing I told him about something I have learned to do when the message I want to communicate via writing really matters a lot.

I read it out loud.

If I can, I read it out loud to someone close to me — they are the most likely to be the most annoyed when I make no sense! Their stabs at my “beautiful work” can hurt, but even I, infamous Queen of Defensive Over-Reactions, must confess that their critiques are more like a surgeon’s scalpel than they are a switchblade.

However, I don’t always have a willing victim close at hand (I wonder why?), so I’ve had to develop an effective workaround. Reading my work aloud to myself helps me find “trippy” spots, the places where my language doesn’t flow as well as I imagine it does as I type it.

Back to Carlin and my fourth reason for excitement about his work-in-progress. It came from a conversation I overhead him having with a classmate on his cellphone, upstairs. I swear again, I wasn’t eavesdropping. He was talking so loudly, excitedly, jocularly, that I couldn’t help but hear every word as they came tumbling down the banister and into my ears.

He had just discovered an important editing device that he found both useful and funny, and was sharing this new knowledge with a classmate who was also grappling with the same monster assignment.

“I had it all drafted, and it was really good. And then I started reading it out loud.”

(He listened to some of my advice? Cool!)

“It sounded so ridiculous, I had no idea what I was trying to say — and I WAS THE ONE WHO WROTE IT!” he bellowed, laughing his head off. “It all made perfect sense in my head when I wrote it, but it made no sense at all when I read it out loud.” More guffaws.

(Since then, he’s been madly editing away. He has even asked me to read it through for him. That’s even more than cool!)

Sounds like the ears are better editors than the eyes!



The meaning is in the ear of the be-hearer

A friend, who also uses her computer every once in a while — uh, make that leaves her computer once in a while, sent me this. I hope you enjoy it, too!



Last night, my kids and I were sitting in the living room, having a chat. I said to them, “I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug.”

They got up, unplugged the computer, and threw out my wine.

They’re such a$$e$ …


Social media users and crows: What we have in common

A murder of crows

A murder of crows

Some years ago, I witnessed a “crow funeral” on the street in front of my house. What seemed like hundreds of crows suddenly appeared in the air, in the trees, on the lawns, on the roofs, everywhere around my neighbourhood. A young crow had just died on the roadway, and the noise its friends and relatives made was awe-inspiring. Fifteen minutes later the “service” was over and they all flew off in different directions, but I doubt I’ll ever forget impression they made on me.

When I related this story a little while ago, Tom, one of our lunch party, told me that a group of crows is called a “murder” because, when they work together, they can take down large beasts, one peck at a time.

Somehow, after experiencing what it felt like to have a murder of angry, grieving crows surround my house, I can believe it!

I shake my head in wonder at Horizon Realty’s ridiculous $50k lawsuit naming a twitterer who complained to her ~20 friends online about her moldy apartment (see: “Horizon Realty Sues Woman for $50,000,” at And I laugh at Sons of Maxwell’s hilarious music video jibe at United Airlines for wrecking a band member’s guitar, and marvel at United’s refusal to “make things right” until SoM’s video hit millions of views within a week of being posted to YouTube (see: These stories, and others, get me thinking about parallels between a murder of crows and (dare I say it?) a “murder” of twitterers, bloggers and YouTube-ers.

Individually, customers and observers might be small but, once agitated by a perceived injustice, together we are mighty. Corporate (institutional, governmental, etc) behavior, good and bad, has never been so exposed, and individuals have never been so powerful. And, like the crows, we’re a mostly a pretty smart lot. We’re noisy, too, when we want to be.

I’m curious to see how social media re-shapes communications between ordinary people and big, historically strong organizations in the weeks, months and years to come!

What do you think?


-originally posted on my old blog on July 31, 2009

– updated link to Horizon story after link to Chicago Sun article was broken (Dec 3, 2009)


Be Prepared: A True Story


Once upon a time (mid 1980s), in a land far away (UVic), Prince Ken (Athletics and Recreation Director Ken Shields, most decorated varsity basketball coach in Canadian history) had a problem. He knew there were many things his principality, his area of the kingdom, needed — and needed badly — but, alas, he had no gold coins with which to purchase them. Many of these things were very important to ensure the safety and health of his people! Other things were important to ensure they were also happy, and could keep on being the best athletes (rowers and basketballers and swimmers) in the entire world (Canada).

One day he received a message from the King Howard (UVic president Howard Petch). In fact, every single prince (it was a big kingdom) got the same message. It read something like this:

“A fairy godmother (anonymous donor) has offered the Kingdom a gift of $50,000, but she has some rules before she will give it to us. We have to be able to tell her exactly what we want to use it for, why we need it, and exactly how much money those things we need will cost. On top of that, we only have until Friday at 4:30 to get back to her on this or she’ll take her gift to another kingdom instead. And, if we do win the gold coins in time, we have to spend them within a week or she’ll take whatever’s left back and give them to some other kingdom.”

(This was already Wednesday afternoon.)

“Does anyone have anything they need? Please tell me right away! I need your lists by the time I have my morning coffee tomorrow, for tomorrow I will review your submissions and decide which projects to tell the fairy godmother we want to use her gold coins for. I hope to let as many as you have some of the gold coins as possible; act fast!”

Most of the princes responded to the message the same way: first with much excitement at the possibility of getting some of the gold coins for their principality, but then with dismay at the demands the fairy godmother had placed on the gift, and the incredibly short time they had to figure out their answer to the king. They called together all their wise men and, long into the night, heads wagged and people argued over what projects each of the princes should submit to the king the next day.

Not Prince Ken.

To everyone’s surprise, he went to bed just like usual, and was sleeping soundly that night. All his advisors were quite upset because they wanted to talk about the things their principality needed! The prince’s guards kept them far away, telling the advisors they had orders to let the prince sleep.

The next morning they rushed up to him, and started yelling all at once. “I need new lifejackets!” yelled the rowing master.

“I need a new time clock!” yelled the basketball master.

“I need a new emergency phone!” yelled the swimming master.

“Why didn’t we get to talk to you about this last night so that we could get our message in to the king before he has his coffee this morning?” they all demanded to know.

Prince Ken just listened for a while, and then, to everyone’s surprise, he smiled.

“The king already has our list,” he said, quietly.

“What did he say?” they asked each other.

“The king already has our list.”

“How did he know what we needed?” they asked each other.

One quiet little lady in the back corner finally spoke up and said, “Don’t you know? He’s been listening to us and making our wish list all this time.”

The advisors all rushed away and sent their messengers to check with their secret friends in the king’s office, and learned that it was, indeed, true. The king did have Prince Ken’s list already. In fact, even though the other princes had stayed up all night debating with their advisors what should be on their lists, none of the other princes got their list in to the king before he had his coffee.

Not one.

Only Prince Ken.

“Prince Ken arrived to see the king about fifteen minutes after he got the message about the gift, which means he must have mounted his horse and galloped right over there to get it there that quickly! As soon as he arrived, he tossed out the scroll on the king’s table, letting it unroll all the way, right before the king’s eyes. It was as long as the table! It had all the details — what the items his advisors and masters needed were, why they needed them, and how much they would cost, just like the fairy godmother instructed! He had even listed them in order of priority!”

The king was deeply impressed, and the fairy godmother was so surprised (she had really thought that she might get to keep her money after all!) she gave the king the whole bag of gold coins right away and told him to give the whole $50,000 to Prince Ken.

So it was that the Principality of Athletics and Recreation, in the land of UVic, received the largest single surprise donation anyone in the kingdom had ever seen. The prince and his advisors used up all the gold coins at once to help the athletes of the kingdom become even better than they ever were before!

It was an experience the other princes never forgot.

And guess what? They sat with their advisors and made their own lists, determined never to be unprepared to receive surprise gifts ever again!

And they all lived happily ever after.



Sharing thoughts across time and space

I have a friend, named Tim, who lives all the way across the country. Tim is a wonderful, affable, total geekhead, and I mean that in the very best of ways. He’s smart, he’s fascinated by minutiae, and he loves sharing his discoveries of the hidden treasures in the mundane world as he finds them, using his own special mental lens.

He has been a technical writer for… a while. He’s worked for some of the biggest names in the technical world. Happily, he decided to study communications at Royal Roads University at the same time as I did, which is how and where we met. Most of our academics were conducted long distance, done through an extensive university system built on a free platform called “Moodle.” We learned how to type ever faster in order to meet those firm, Sunday-at-midnight deadlines; we tried out collaborative and communication tools such as wikis, instant messaging, and Skype; we discovered online rabbit holes called “EbscoHost” and “ProQuest.” For two years, we worked together with classmates spread out all across the continent, putting together major class presentations without the benefit of proximity.

Tim has now started a personal project that he has invited me to take a look at. I know I’ll get my thinking-cap jammed firmly onto my head as I browse through Tim’s work, and he’d like me to share my thoughts with him, including how usable I find his wiki site. Instead of sitting here and taking notes as I go, and then trying to convert my scribbles into something cogent and coherent for Tim’s edification, it occurred to me that I could record my onscreen activities (I use ScreenFlow for Macs) and send the video to Tim, so then Tim could see for himself what I do and how I use the site (heuristics). I can even record my verbal comments as I wander about and, fifteen or twenty minutes later, Tim will have a much greater sense of how well his wiki construction works for new users. As he says, “I’ve worked hard at filling the site with ideas, instructions and pointers, but how well it fits together is difficult for the site implementer to understand.”

Sometimes the best way to see how someone uses something is to watch them using it.

Happily, with today’s technology, we don’t even have to be in the same time zone!