Category Archives: creativity

Rust Belt revival: Lessons for southwest Ontario from America’s industrial heartland

What can Ontario learn from the rival happening in America’s rust belt

There has been less longing, in recent years, to be part of our own country’s version of a rust belt – the one that comprises such Southwestern Ontario cities as Windsor, London and St. Catharines, and patches of Eastern Ontario. Young people have fled in droves as the region’s employment numbers have tanked, seeing the loss of more than a quarter of manufacturing jobs in the last decade.

The plight of the region has been a driving force behind a provincial deficit that remains at over $10-billion, as well as a net loss for Ontario in the migration of people within Canada, and an alarmingly aging population.

Even with Alberta driving the national economy, the country could ill afford Ontario’s struggles; it’s hardly healthy for the largest province’s per-capita GDP to be lower than the rest of Canada’s, and it helps explain why the federal government has remained in the red.

With oil’s current slide, Canada really can’t afford for it to remain a drag – and in fact there is some expectation that Ontario will instead reclaim its old role as the leader of Canada’s economic growth. Its premier, Kathleen Wynne, recently expressed optimism that plummeting oil prices and a sinking dollar will prove a boon to manufacturing. “I don’t wish for low oil prices and a low dollar for Alberta,” she said earlier this month. “But at the same time, we want our manufacturing sector to rebound. So if that [low oil price] helps, then that’s a good thing.”

While they could indeed help in the short term, it’s difficult to imagine those volatile factors leading to the lasting revival of traditional sectors competing with consistently low-cost jurisdictions such as Mexico, China and even the American South.

For sustainable renewal, Ontario’s old industrial towns will have to work harder at reinvention – and they should be looking to some of their counterparts in the U.S. A two-week road trip through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan revealed in often surprising ways how our neighbours are much further along in reinventing their most hard-hit cities, and how much we have to learn.

“The wind is at the back of these cities in a way that it wasn’t before,” says Jennifer Vey, a fellow at the Brookings Institute who studies the revitalization of old industrial centres. And although many of them will remain smaller than in their industrial heyday, the numbers bear that sentiment out. When the Manhattan Institute ranked America’s 100 biggest U.S. metropolitan areas for their economic performance in the wake of the Great Recession, mid-size Northeastern and Midwestern cities accounted for nine of the top 20.

As Mr. Piiparinen and others are quick to stress, jobs will always be the cornerstone of any regeneration. But employers themselves can be drawn to a city by affordability and infrastructure, and like to set up shop where highly skilled people want to put down roots. The renaissance of former industrial powerhouses is fuelled by attracting and keeping well-educated, entrepreneurial citizens committed to community-building and capable of creating wealth and quality of life around them.

Of course, direct comparisons between the U.S. and Canadian experience is never exact: The places I visited tended to be larger than their Canadian counterparts; and although they may have such superior amenities as major-league sports teams and world-class museums, they also suffer from some entrenched disadvantages – notably an appalling history of race relations that has left a legacy of poverty, crime and troubled public schools.

So why is it that a younger generation is finding opportunity in these Rust Belt cities (or some of them, at least; nobody sees Flint, Mich., or Gary, Ind., as models) more than in places like London or Windsor, which have some decent bones themselves? As Ontario attempts to take back Canada’s economic reins, it would do well to learn from what’s worked, and know what it’s up against.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Teenagers | 2014 Edition

What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list.  The easy way out is cash and gift cards.  We aren’t going to take the easy route out.  We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.

Asus MeMo Pad 7

$150 for a cutting edge tablet?  I’m okay with that.  The Asus MeMo tablet runs a 1.33 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 4.4 KitKat, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework.  It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera

Asus MeMo Pad 7

While you are at it, pick up a case, Bluetooth keyboard, Micro SD card and speaker.

Pentax K-50 DSLR

We gave Mark my old Pentax K-x to him for his birthday and he loves it.  The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality.  The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it.  This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs.  The other advantage is the amazing price.  At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.

Pentax K-50 DSLR Camera

The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.

At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it.  This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see together.

If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.

Ricoh WG-4 Digital Camera
 
If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera.  It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo.  It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.  It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out.  Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet.  Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.

Sennheiser HD201 Headphones

There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already.  The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on.  Sennheisser headphones are a great bet.  The Sennheiser HD201 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.With great clarity, the Sennheiser HD201 headphones are the ideal entry into the world of powerful stereo sound. These excellent headphones also boast great attenuation of ambient noise and outstanding comfort at an affordable price.

Sennheiser HD201 Headphones

JVC Xtreme Xplosives Headphones
If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by JVC at an affordable price.  They are for are for people who demand powerful, dynamic deep bass sound from their headphones which kind of describes every teenager I know.
The OontZ Angle
One of the most popular and wished for items on Amazon.com.  Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems.  The Oontz Angle comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit.  For $40 it provides excellent size, portability and most importantly, it sounds good.

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Turcom Graphics Drawing Tablet

Tursion is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,

We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it.  It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.

The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make
 
From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.
 
The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

Royal & Langnickel 104-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

Royal & Langnickel 104-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

Royal & Langnickel Sketching and Drawing Easel Set is a comprehensive 104 piece collection of artist materials ideal for the beginner, student, or artist. This set features a wide assortment of pencils, pastels, and paints fitted into a convertible, two-drawer chest that opens to reveal a third tray of product. The storage chest converts into a sturdy table-top easel. An outstanding collection of tools for your studio or an ideal gift for an artist or serious art student.

Acer Aspire E-11 11.6-Inch Laptop 

There is always going to be a debate between Windows Netbooks and Google Chromebooks.  The Acer Aspire makes a compelling argument for the Windows Netbook.  Check out these specs.

  • 11.6" HD Widescreen ComfyViewâ„¢ LED-backlit Display: (1366 x 768) resolution; 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Intel® Celeron® N2840 Dual-Core Processor 2.16GHz with Intel® Burst Technology up to 2.58GHz
  • Windows 8.1 with Bing
  • Intel® HD Graphics
  • 2048MB DDR3L SDRAM Memory
  • 32GB internal storage
  • Digital Media Card Reader – Secure Digitalâ„¢ (SD) Card
  • 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth® 4.0
  • Acer Crystal Eye HD Webcam
  • High Definition Audio Support
  • Two Built-in stereo speakers
  • 1- USB 2.0 Port
  • 1- USB 3.0 Port
  • 1- HDMIâ„¢ Port with HDCP Support
  • 3-cell Lithium-Ion Battery (2640mAh)
  • Up to 5-hours battery life
  • 2.84 lbs.

Acer Aspire E-11 Netbook

Another cool part of these Aspire E-11’s is that they don’t have fans so they are completely silent.

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift.  You are opening up the wonders of the universe.   All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!

Tony Hawk Skateboard
 
Fender guitar and amp
If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender?  It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks.  Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.
With the Selphy CP910 Wireless Compact Photo Printer, celebrating your special memories has never been more convenient. Lightweight and compact in size, the Selphy CP910 is easy to take just about anywhere. But it’s more than just portable; it’s also loaded with features, like Portrait Image Optimize, which allows you to relive those cherished moments with beautiful and long-lasting borderless 4” x 6” photo prints. What’s more, it’s AirPrint enabled, making wireless printing from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch almost effortless. No drivers are needed! And Mobile Device Printing allows images on compatible Windows RT devices to be sent directly to the printer as well. Plus, with its new Access Point Mode, the Selphy CP910 allows you to directly connect your wireless camera or smart device without the need of a network.

Christma Wish Guides

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

The more you write, the less you make

It’s not easy being a writer

When author Richard Flanagan finished his latest novel, relative poverty forced him to contemplate getting a job in the mines in northern Australia. His Booker Prize win has spared him a life underground for the time being, but he did not waste the opportunity to acknowledge in his speech that “writing is a hard life for so many writers.”

And it’s only getting worse, as Elizabeth Renzetti wrote wrote recently in these pages. Twelve thousand dollars – that’s the figure the Writers’ Union of Canada estimates as the average annual income writers make from their writing in this country. I remember what it’s like to live on $12,000. You live in a shabby apartment furnished with hand-me-downs from your parents and garbage-picked gems, you allot $25 a week for food and you wear a borrowed dress when you’re invited to a gala fundraising dinner for writers at a fancy hotel. You take the subway there. If you are in your late 20s, as I was then, it’s fine, you make do because you are doing what you love and most people don’t have that extraordinary privilege.
You don’t squander that privilege. You work your ass off. And hopefully you’re rewarded for that effort. It worked for me, as it did for many writers of my generation, perhaps the last for whom it was possible to live off their writing. In Britain, writers’ incomes have fallen by 30 per cent in the past eight years, collapsing to what one Guardian headline called “abject” levels.

So many writers I know are looking back at this point in mid-life and saying, “I had a good run.” A good run saw us earn increasingly bigger if still modest advances. (Yes, $75,000 sounds like a lot, but when it takes five years to complete a book and your agent is taking a cut of 15 per cent, you’re still below the poverty line if this is your sole source of income.) Publishers were once able to invest in a career, with income from bestsellers offsetting the less sensational works in a catalogue. Now, every book has to be a winner. If you fail to earn out your advance through sales, your next advance will be lower, or perhaps, as has become increasingly the case among my mid-career contemporaries, you will lose your publishing home.

Writing seems to have become one of the few careers where the more experienced and proficient you become over the years, the less you are compensated. And the humiliations of this are great. It does become difficult to uphold belief in the worth of your work. And since this is work intrinsically tied to one’s sense of self, it becomes difficult to uphold a sense of self-worth. It takes ego and adrenalin to work in solitude, through years of confusion and uncertainty, in the writing of a book. If you don’t believe in it, no one else will. Of course, there is reward in art for art’s sake, but few can sustain morale, motivation or mortgage on an income of private aesthetic fulfilment.

Why your iPhone is stifling your creativity

From Fast Company

The value of boredom

Boredom has been defined as wanting to be able to engage in a satisfying activity and not being able to. Its sibling is downtime, both of which the smartphone–and the Angry Birds it implies–eradicates. Another way to look at boredom, Hall says, is to think of it as a creative pause where your mind can drift, which allows you to integrate your recent experiences into your present state of mind.

Sitting with boredom

So let’s get a little bit more refined in our terminology: it’s not that we should be in useless awful meetings, the kind that prompt the feeling of I’m so bored!, but rather that we resist the urge to always act on that gestural itch and give our brains a mindful break or time to daydream. Like any designer will tell you, absence has presence. Not doing is a kind of doing.

The boredom diet

In the same way that what we eat when we’re hungry has short- and long-term consequences, the actions we take when we’re bored have ongoing outcomes. So says NYU’s Gary Marcus: if you’re bored and use that energy to play an instrument and cook, you’ll be growing; if you drool before your television, you might be happy for a second, but that stimulation junk food will depress you later.

Since most of what we do on our phones is the daily dillydallying of social networks, playing games, and texting, your iPhone acts like an endless supply of Cheetos.

So before you dissolve into your screen, check your fingers for orange dust.