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My Opinion

Bitter about Litter! Mother Nature Needs You!

Over the last year I have become what some would refer to as an “avid runner”. Since June of last year I have run close to 500kms around the rural streets of North Langley and Fort Langley. For the first few months my focus was solely on breathing, running and not dying. Once I got all those things under control I was able to focus more on the music in my ears and the world around me. The gorgeous views across the Fraser River to Maple Ridge, the snow capped peaks of Golden Ears mountains and the piles and piles of garbage and litter that fills the ditches and fields of our relatively affluent community.

Now, I have never really considered myself an “environmentalist” but I have always felt that at some point everyone that lives within a community should care enough about where they live and raise their children to do something, once or twice a year, to make it a better place. This is big reason why I have volunteered every year  for the last 6 years as a Little League Coach and why my wife is on the Parental Advisory Council at our children’s school where as the treasurer she spends many hours fund-raising, attending meetings  and “doing the books”. This weekend however, I was informed of a clean up effort being held in our community of Walnut Grove. With all those visions from my runs fresh in my mind, I jumped at the opportunity to “pitch-in”. The plan was for the Township, the auxiliary police and a number of members of the community to meet up  at the local High school parking lot at 8:00 am on a Saturday morning to volunteer their time and clean up the surrounding area.

I was really looking forward to participating and wanted to bring my kids so that they could take part in this very worthwhile cause but both of them had sports to attend during the event so my wife shuttled them around while I signed my liability waiver, slipped on the latex gloves and grabbed my giant-sized tweezers (aka “the picker-uper-thingy). The group putting it on was very organized and had complimentary coffee and donuts donated by Tim Hortons. They also had blowers, plenty of garbage bags and pressure washers available, all that was missing was the hordes of volunteers I was expecting to be working with! Apparently there were over 60 people who had signed up and only 30 or so showed up even though it was not raining. I was shocked. I live in an area referred to as the Township of Langley which currently has a population of over 100,000 people, 25,000 of which live in Walnut Grove and at our once a year clean up day we had a whopping  0.001% of our population show up to “pitch-in”.

I put aside the fact that 99.99% of our community must have been unaware that this event was taking place or simply had important things to do that day and teamed up with a mother and her two kids aged 5 & 7 and set out to clean up our assigned area. We were charged with the responsibility for picking litter around the high school’s track, two all-weather fields, 4 baseball diamonds another huge field and the trail network that joined them together. A daunting task for a group three times the size but we set out to do the best we could. Now given that this area was frequented by numerous sports teams and the 2000+ students that attend the high school the volume of garbage was expected to be high and it lived up to my expectation. I was disgusted. We spent the better part of three and a half hours slowly and meticulously navigating our way around the perimeter of the fence that surrounds the running track, then into an open area along a trail and below a foot bridge along a creek. Even though the kids lost interest in picking litter after about an hour we still managed to fill six big black garbage bags, haul two broken lawn chairs and a smashed, rusty old computer tower out of the creek bed. The bulk of the other garbage was snack packaging, beer/pop cans, plastic water bottles and nearly a hundred slurpee cups, lids and straws from the nearby Mac’s convenience store.

The event only ran until noon with the last half hour being a complimentary lunch of smokies, hot dogs, veggies and dip, juice boxes, bottled water and cookies.  As I munched on my cookie, all I kept thinking was, there has to be a way to get more people out to events like this in the future. The township representative said that they had run a couple ads in the local papers and that it was listed under the community events on their website. The family that I had worked with had heard it through the young girls Brownie troop and I had heard about it through an email from the newly formed Walnut Grove Business Owners Association. I thought about the high school with 2000 students that make a big percentage of the mess and wondered why none of them were there.

Taking part in this event has made me realize a few things.

  1. Once you have spent a few hours picking up garbage you will now see it everywhere.
  2. Community events need to be promoted better, on a more personal level if they are to be a bigger success. I think getting the local sports organizations involved as well as a team from the high school would be a great place to start as well as some door to door visits to local residence and businesses in the week leading up to the big day.
  3. Our kids need to be better educated on the effects of their own pollution because at this point they just don’t get it. What ever happened to those “Woodsy the Owl” commercials that ran during the morning cartoons? Remember “Give a hoot, don’t pollute!”

Today I went for a run in the sun down 96th ave to Fort Langley and noticed that someone had dumped clothing items one by one out of a moving vehicle for over 2 kilometers. Cars were braking to avoid them not realizing what they were until the last minute. I am baffled as to what would make someone do this and it’s not the first time I have seen it done. My anger rose with every passing item. Ditches were littered with trash and road sides are covered in cigarette butts. The idea of trying to fix a problem like this is like trying to swim up Niagara falls but what I do know is that I am prepared to work with the Township next year to get more people out to take part in this great initiative. In the mean time, I will do what I did today. On my way back home from Fort Langley I picked up all of the clothing and carried it home to my own garbage can.

Once home, I fired up the computer to look into the Adopt-a-Street program to see how it all works and learned that the street in question from today is already adopted but clearly the person who has adopted it is not honoring their commitment of a once a month clean up. If you wish to adopt a street in your area it is free. To learn more about the Adopt-a-Street program and to see a map of the streets available in your area of the Township of Langley Click here. I am looking into it myself.

If you have taken the time to read this, Thank you. Now take a look at your own community and the world around you next time you are out and about. This is the world we are leaving for our children to raise our grand kids. Have a look online at your community events to see where you can help out. Be the .001% that makes a difference!

President’s Trophy Curse My Ass!

The Canucks are now at 109 points with six games to play .  If they win three of those remaining games, they will finish with at least 115 points and lock up the Presidents trophy for the first time in their 40 years of existence. As a result, they will enjoy home ice advantage for all four rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Or will they be done in by the “Presidents’ Trophy Curse?”

Over the past seven seasons, only one Presidents’ Trophy winner – the Detroit Red wings in 2008 – has gone on to win the Stanley Cup.  During that same period, four regular season point leaders have been given the boot in the first or second round. Not a very convincing record of success.

Given that I am trying to build a case for the Canucks to WIN the Stanley Cup this year I had to dig a little deeper. What I learned was that leading the NHL in standing points for the regular season is actually a good predictor of success in the playoffs.  While it does not guarantee taking home the coveted Holy Grail of hockey known as Lord Stanley’s Cup, the odds for the Presidents’ Trophy winner to make it to the final round and win the Stanley Cup are still pretty damn good.

Over the past 11 NHL seasons, the Presidents’ Trophy winner has captured the Stanley Cup four times.  Over the 24 seasons that the Presidents’ Trophy has been awarded there have been seven Cup winners and two losers in the final round.

Both of these stats put the odds of the Presidents’ Trophy winner making it to the Stanley Cup finals at around 37%.

If you go all the way back to the 1982 Stanley Cup, when the current playoff system was adopted (four rounds of seven games each), the case is even stronger.  In the 28 seasons starting with 1981-82, of the teams that led the NHL in points during the regular season:

•  12 have gone all the way to the Stanley Cup finals (43 percent).

•  Three-quarters of those teams have won the cup (9 of 12)

•  19 have made it to at least the Conference finals (68 percent)

•  Only five have been eliminated in the first round (18 percent) – Chicago in 1991, St Louis in 2ooo, Detroit Red Wings in 2006, San Jose Sharks in 2009 and The Washington Capitals in 2010.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the benefit of winning the President’s trophy is to review the fate of all other teams that have made it into the NHL playoffs.

Over the past 28 seasons, 42o other teams also started out in round one.  Only 44 of those teams (just over 10 percent) have made it to the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Only 19 (under 5 percent) have won the Cup.

If history is any guide, the team that leads the NHL in regular season points is four to five times more likely than any other team in the playoffs to make it into the Stanley Cup finals, and seven to eight times more likely to win the Cup.

Of course, history does not guarantee the Canucks anything. Only their talent, hard work, good coaching, and a little puck luck will give them the chance to take that first drink from Lord Stanley’s cup that has eluded this franchise for 40 years.

The deal closer on this one for me is the amazing coincidence that the last two times that a Canadian city hosted the Winter Olympics the host cities team went on to win the Cup the following year! The Canadiens did it in 1977 and the Flames did it in 1989.

Nevertheless, we can say with confidence that, when they win the 2011 Presidents’ Trophy, the Vancouver Canucks are well positioned to make a deep run into this years Stanley Cup playoffs. Go Canucks Go!

Green Bay Packers will win the Superbowl

As a huge Tennessee Titans fan it sucks not having your team to cheer for on Superbowl Sunday, however I do find some comfort in the fact that there are 30 other teams fans that are in the same boat. In looking at the Vegas line for Superbowl XLV in the billion dollar Cowboy Stadium, I was initially surprised to see that the Green Bay Packers are -2.5 favourites.  I mean the Pittsburgh Steelers have won an NFL record 6 Superbowls and have suffered just one loss. (’75, ’76, ’79, ’80, ’06, and ’09) Well let me break it down for you…

Let’s start out by taking a look at the Green Bay Packers. They clearly had the more difficult route to arrive for SB XLV. Often playing amid freezing temperatures and high winds, the Packers have thus far ruined the New York Giants playoff chances, eliminate the resurgent Michael Vick and his Philadelphia Eagles on their own turf, shattered what was poised to be the greatest season the Atlanta Falcons had ever had and make rabid Bears fans whimper in there over priced seats by destroying Cutler and company with great ease in their own backyard.

Then there are the Pittsburgh Steelers who have been their usual hard working selves all season long. They started the season without Roethlisberger for the first four games where they went 3-1 and then muscled their way to a 12-4 record to earn a first round bye in the playoffs. In their two playoff games thus far they have yet to play a full 4 quarters of football. Against the Ravens they found themselves down 21-7 at halftime but managed to claw their way back to victory in the second half. Then after building a huge lead against the streaking Jets they almost blew it late in the game.

Roelisberger does not seem 100%. His 35.5 QB rating in his last game is a good sign of that. Rodgers on the other hand is HOT, healthy, focused and set to be one of the fastest ever replacements for a Hall of Fame quarterback in Brett Farve. Mr Rodgers currently has the best all time career QB rating EVER at 98.4! He’s better than any of the great NFL quarterbacks you can name in this statistical category.

The game will see many great match ups.

Rashard “Strong like Tractor” Mendenhall who was huge in the game against the Jets vs. James “The Rookie” Stark who has shown some serious promise but will be in tough against the Steel Curtain. I will give the Steelers the edge on this one.

The Steeler’s receiving corps is fairly limited with Hines Ward and Mike Wallace carrying the lions share of the load but on the other side of the ball Rodgers has a number of targets that he loves to spread things around to with Driver, Jones, Jennings and Nelson. Troy “Head and Shoulders” Polamalu can’t be everywhere!

Speaking of Polamalu, both secondaries will be busy. Troy is a beast. There is no denying that but with the double threat of Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson don’t be surprised to see an INT or two on both sides of the ball. It will come down to who makes the most of them when they get them.

Kickers often play a big role in a close game as this one should turn out to be. The Packers definitely have the better kicker in Mason Crosby. He’s definitely more experienced than Shaun Suisham, the Steelers’ replacement for Jeff Reed, and if either team has to go for a long field goal to win the game Crosby gives Green Bay a better chance.

Defensive Lines are a dead heat. With Clay Matthews and AJ Hawk going after Roethlisberger and James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons with Rodgers in their sights both QBs are gonna see themselves flushed out of the pocket. I think both QBs will be on the run in this game for sure.

The final element, when it comes to Superbowl, is that X-Factor know as, “The Intangibles”. They are the surprising heroes, the young rookies that make key plays, the quiet guy playing the game of his life, injuries, whacky calls from the sideline and a long list of other unpredictable events. In many ways is will just come down to who wants it more and if recent play is the best indicator, I gotta give it to Green Bay for the first time since 1997! After all… Black and Gold is Getting Old.

Update Feb 7th/11


COSTCO Misses the Green Boat

On a recent visit to Costco I realized something that really made me shake my head. With most of the world in a heightened mindset of environmental awareness, where some consumers will pay more for products that are deemed eco-friendly, Costco has made some great strides. They have reinvented their detergents, baby-care products and their Kirkland brand household cleaners to be easier on the environment as well as making their packaging more eco-friendly.

All that being said, why is it that, with all of their buying power, huge inventory of products and emphasis on a greener image, would they give you a complimentary cup of coffee in a non-biodegradable styrofoam cup and give you a full size plastic spoon to stir in your cream and sugar. Why not a biodegradable cup with a wooden stir stick? Seriously! I’m no tree huggin’ environmental activist but this is a real no brainer isn’t it?

Update: Jan 26/11

I shared this link with the good folks are Costco and they seemed some what surprised about this. They asked me when this observation occurred, which location, what time of day and inquired as to whether it was someone sampling. I filled them in on all the details and they were quick to respond again to tell me that my blog posting was being sent to the managers of the Langley location to address. Crossing my fingers that next time I go to Costco in the morning they will still be offering complimentary coffee. Only in a more environmentally sustainable fashion!

Update: Feb 13th/11

I was hoping that I would receive some correspondence from management at Langley perhaps thanking me for pointing out such an obvious environmental faux-pas but I did not hear anything. So this past Sunday I went shopping at Costco in Langley and was eagerly waiting to see if my suggestion had been considered by the management. Well, I am sad to say it had clearly fallen on deaf ears. This honestly blows me away. Such a simple fix at next to no cost difference.

Update March 3rd/11

Today I received a phone call from the general manager of the Langley Costco branch. He wanted to let me know that he had received my letter and that he is currently in the processes of sourcing out a greener alternative to the styro foam cups and plastic spoons. He said he had been in discussions with the Vice President of Costco in Canada about his challenges in finding a cup that truly is as “Compostable” or “Biodegradable” as it claims to be. Apparently many of the take out containers out there that claim to be “green” are not thanks to a lack of a governing body that polices each individual companies claims. He said that a company as big as Costco must make absolutely sure they are changing to a product that is what it says it is. Which totally makes sense. He said that Costco is also looking at changing the takeout containers and cutlery that they use in their concession in an effort to move forward with a green initiative. Although the call came over a month after my initial contact I am extremely pleased to hear that the powers that be are giving this some serious consideration. Hopefully this story will have a happy ending after all is said and done!

Update Sept 22nd, 2011

Well, well, well, colour me impressed! It gives me great pleasure to share with everyone that on my visit to Costco today I was grinning from ear to ear when I helped myself to a complimentary coffee in a fully compostable, recyclable and biodegradable cup and then stirred in my Splenda with a wooden stir stick! The cup they are using is one that I suggested to the manager in my discussion with him back in March. Way to go Costco and thank you for listening to the voice of your customers!

Dear Customer… You’re Fired!

Today’s marketplace is extremely competitive. Companies are using every resource within their means to attract and retain customers for the long-term. Growing a repeat customer base of people who share their positive experiences in the community will help any business ensure future success. This really isn’t a news flash though, as this has been the business model of many companies for ages. What is newsworthy however is a company that thinks it can get busier by firing its customers. Flat out telling them that they are no longer welcome if they don’t spend as much as others.

Now clearly this requires some explanation. My wife and children recently visited an Iris Eye Centre for my daughter’s annual eye exam. An exam that is covered under our medical and Iris is paid for the service. What occurred bothered me to the point that I felt compelled to write them a letter and here it is.

Attn Customer Service,

I would like to first point out the fact that my family has been customers of your establishment for a few years now. Feel free to look it up. My wife had come to you for eye exams until she had laser eye surgery there, my daughter has been getting her eye exams there and my son also had an eye exam there. We chose Iris for exams because of its location, service and reputation. Two of which I now question.

That being said, I can only hope someone can appreciate how much it infuriated my wife and I to learn that if we don’t purchase our glasses at Iris that you no longer want us as clients for our eye exams. My daughter was getting an eye exam yesterday and happened to mention that she got her glasses at West Coast Optical. After the exam my wife was called in. She was told by the optometrist that the two businesses at Iris support each other and that if we weren’t going to buy our eyewear at Iris after the exam, he no longer wanted us as clients. A $50 off coupon was given toward a purchase if we chose to use it.

This is unbelievable. We have never purchased eyewear from Iris because we are money conscious people and we are loyal to the business owner at West Coast Optical so we shop there. We enjoy the service and the quality of their products are as good and often much less expensive. It is really none of Iris’s business where we buy our glasses. As a consumer I have choices and if I choose to visit for eye exams and go elsewhere to buy glasses that is my prerogative and my right.

I am not sure if this is the voice of one doctor or if this is policy now but it’s crazy to me. I work at a golf course that has a driving range. Could you imagine me going up to a person at the driving range and telling them, that if they were not going to golf at my course, they were not welcome at the driving range? Insanity!

Your mission statement on your website says, “OUR MISSION is to provide our customers with the highest quality products and professional services in the world of eye care.” It doesn’t say you can only get the professional services if you BUY the quality products.

I am giving you an opportunity to provide an explanation before I go public with this on my blog. A quick response would be appreciated.

I sent this letter 3 days ago and have yet to hear anything back. During those 3 days, everywhere I went, I saw countless businesses that offer multiple services and couldn’t imagine any of them turning me away if I only wanted to pay for one. If they reply I will up date this post.

Update – Jan 26/11: After sending two follow up emails over the course of a week I got a reply from Iris via email stating that they indeed had received my letter and informed me that the manager of the location would be contacting me. A couple more days went by and I got a call from her only to tell me that someone else from their company would be contacting me. I was starting to feel like no one cared or wanted to confront my concern. Well when I finally heard from someone to discuss the matter, it was very clear that they do care… about them selves. The person that wanted to speak with me was their lawyers! Apparently it is their company policy that when someone contacts them and uses words like “go public on my blog” in their letter it kind of a big deal. The lawyer was very pleasant and, to some extent, seemed to sympathized with my frustration in how long it was taking to get a response from Iris. She asked my side of it and said she would be contacting the location manager to speak with her as well. I reiterated everything in the letter and then was asked “what I want to come of my letter” I just said I wanted someone to call me and say that the optometrist misspoke and that that was not their policy. Two days later she called again and explained that apparently their was an email sent to me from a regional manager from an airport in Phoenix that did not get through to me or other people that were CC’d. This was part of the reason things took a while. She then stated that during her conversation with the location manager she was told that the manager had spoken directly with the optometrist in question and he had assured her that he never said that he didn’t want us as customers if we didn’t buy our glasses at Iris. Which is exactly what I expected them to say. It has basically come down to a “he said, she said” scenario. The difference is my wife knows what he said and she also knows what she said.

I was then asked nicely by the lawyer to remove my blog post. Iris would prefer not to have any bad publicity about them online, however given that this is 100% my right to share an opinion it shall remain.

So what is the end result? Well, Iris has lost us all as customers forever, which by the sounds of it is a disappointment to the manager but I guess for that one optometrist, it’s mission accomplished.

Loyalty vs. Price Point

I recently got into a discussion with a friend about the devaluation of loyalty by the modern-day consumer. We were both in the market for a new set of snow tires and me, being the resourceful computer savvy individual that I am, immediately went to the internet and started shopping around and comparing prices. I knew every tire seller within 20 miles of my house. I knew who charged what for installation, who had the ones I wanted in stock, who would fill my tires with air vs nitrogen and I knew who could get me in quickly. I spent a couple of the following evenings revisiting those sites while I waited to see if there were any sales and procrastinated about getting them later rather than sooner (always a foolish thing to do with snow tires!).

After explaining this to my friend, I asked him how his search was going. He replied, “Didn’t you notice them on my car? You parked right beside me.” I asked him how he got them so quickly. He just said, “It was easy, I just used the guy I always use. You see, I’m loyal to people because they take care of me, you’re not.” He didn’t mean it in a disrespectful way but I was admittedly a bit insulted at first. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he was right.

During my search I had checked a couple of times for tires for him and had found a couple good deals but hadn’t had the chance to pass them along. I asked him what he paid and it was a good 15% higher than the deals I had found.  When I told him this, he was unfazed because of the value he puts on returning to businesses where he knows the people and has built relationships over the years.

The bottom line is, he paid more and got them quickly and was happy with the process whereas I got a great deal on mine but had to wait to get them in, wait to get them put on and then had some complications at the garage that prolonged the process where all I got was a shrug of the shoulders and a “Sorry Buddy”. So who won here? If time is money then my friend won by a long shot but if you are like me and feel that saving money on a quality product is worth waiting for, then its a bit closer of a contest.

His comments about my lack of loyalty continued to bother me because I never really thought of it that way. I looked a little closer at how and where I spend my money and came to the realization that I do still possess some loyalty. I visit the same coffee shop every week with my Dad, I buy my gas from the same place, I have taken my kids for haircuts to the same place for years and I visit a local restaurant enough that some of the waitresses know me and my kids and they greet us by name when we come in. I suppose where I really lack loyalty is with the big purchases.  Personally, I feel that using all of today’s resources available will always find me the best and cheapest deal. I’m all about saving money but won’t sacrifice quality on a big-ticket item. Are you like me or like my friend?

My opinion is that today more and more people are becoming money conscious to the point that they only visit certain retailers when there is a sale. They only want to buy something if they are getting a deal. Black Friday, Cyber-Monday and Boxing Week sales that are held over until mid-January are proof of this.

Come on…Live a Little! (longer?)

As I sit here typing this I consider the fact that the alarm beside my bed is already set to wake me in just 4.5 hours from now for another glorious day of grinding away to make that almighty dollar. I have always been a night owl due to the fact that I have worked shift work my whole life. I have also proven time and time again that I simply don’t require the 8 – 10 hours sleep a night that many other need to function.

Here is my theory on sleeping less. Medical society will tell you not in so many words that if you get a “good night’s sleep” of 8 – 9 hours then there is a better chance that you will live a longer life than those that only sleep 4-5 hours a night. But ya see here is the catch, you may have lived to an older age, but really how much are you living when you are asleep?

If I live to the age of 70 having averaged 5.5 hours of sleep a night and my lovely wife sleeps an average of 9 hours a night and lives to the age of 80 I still would have technically enjoyed more “awake hours” on this lovely planet of ours than she did. Really! I did the math 3.5hours/day X 365.25 days/year X 70 years divided by 365.25 days = 10.21 years! That being said I suppose there is that time when you are a kid and you sleep a lot more but then there are those times a a crazy teen that you pull those all-nighters to. Oh well its just a theory! Sweet dreams people.