Thursday, September 8, 2011

By whom? Why? What would happen next?

I was travelling a lot at that time. Eight weeks out of ten on the road travelling all over the world. So it was somewhat strange for me to be home that day.

I got up about 5.45 am, got ready for work, went down to make coffee, ironed a shirt, chatted with our dog Gus gave him his grub, read the paper, answered a few texts from colleagues in Europe. The phone rang when I was just about to leave for work. Janice answered. It was her mom calling from Canada.

Her first question was, “Where is Dan”? Janice answered, “He’s here and just about to leave for work.” She said, “You should turn on the TV, there is something terrible happening.”

We turned on the TV to CNN. Given we were in California therefore three hours behind New York time, we looked on in disbelief as the reports, chaos, and speculation of what was happening flashed across the screen. When the plane crash reports came in from Washington things escalated fast.

It was surreal. Could the United States really be being attacked? By whom? Why? What would happen next?

I felt the need to get to work. We had staff in New York and 100’s of others travelling.

As I jumped in my car and proceeded to the highway, traffic was moving slower than normal. You could literally see other drivers listening to their radios and shaking their heads. In spots where the traffic slowed to a near stop, people had their windows down and were comparing notes.

When I got to work, the management team met and spoke about what we should do. We decided to gather the staff for an all hands meeting, speak to the fact that we were busy contacting all staff who were travelling (most all were already accounted for), and that anyone who wanted to could go home.

Staff were visibly shaken. There were all kinds of rumours of other potential targets. Our building was near an US Air Force base and some folks wondered if we were safer as a result or not. We had a moment of silence. It was the most silent minute I have ever experienced.

I can remember a guy at work that day speak about Afghanistan and the Taliban. I had never heard the term Taliban before. I can remember wondering how he could know this. Others began to get more and more angry, looking for revenge, but toward who?

Most folks, including me, headed home around noon.

Like most, Janice and I were glued to the TV for the entire day, seeing those twin towers fall and the reruns of the planes hitting the towers over and over.

Stories of colleagues stranded here and there, and the stories of strangers pooling together to rent cars to drive in some cases 1000’s of miles to get home were common.

A few days later, I can remember talking to our folks in New York City from our office on Broad Street. They told us about how when after the first tower fell, their windows were covered in grey soot in seconds. Many of these folks walked for hours to get to their homes in New Jersey etc.

Up and down our street in San Jose, US flags flew on every home.

I can remember being very proud of Canada for being so hospitable to stranded passengers.
I can remember business travel basically coming to a halt.
I can remember watching planes approach their landings into the San Jose airport and being hyper sensitive to what looked like any strange moves.
I can remember commercial flights starting back up, and how people stared at each other especially people who looked different.

In November 2001, I travelled to New York City on Business. I can remember being totally shocked by the buildings whose windows were blown out and boarded up. I can remember walking down the street and feeling some kind of airborne dust in my mouth.

As I look back at all this, like 100’s of millions of people around the world, I was only an observer from a far. A person not personally affected in terms of lost love ones or friends. Yet so many others were directly impacted that day or the days, months, and years later.

The world changed forever that day.

Thoughts are with all those who were affected that day and since.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Democracy Works!

Well, here we go again.

Another election, more shenanigans, more promises, more spin, more attack, fewer real issues tackled, more sarcasm, more voter apathy.

The average voter turnout for federal elections since 1867 has been 71.2%. Since the year 2000, the average has dropped to 61.4%. [Reference: Elections Canada ]

Some among us feel that their vote doesn't matter, that nothing will change, that all politicians are the same, that it is all a bunch of BS, that there are better causes to feel passionate about where they can make a real difference. I feel the same way some days, when I see/hear blatant lies and dirty tricks.

We need to try to understand and appreciate this perspective. We must not preach or force our own views.

What keeps me grounded and truly appreciating our democracy, even with all of its faults is a look around the world.

Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people in dozens of Middle Eastern and African countries are pouring into the streets, and in some cases giving their lives, to establish democracies. Many of these societies have been ruled by brutal dictators for decades. They are fighting for the very basics in human rights and security.

Meanwhile we find ourselves debating who is or isn’t likeable, who promised to deliver and did or didn’t, who is more trustworthy, etc. Not suggesting for a moment that these are not good things to discuss, any discussion about the alternative is good.

I am suggesting that we have the luxury of debating and openly sharing our views about the details, while millions of people around the world wouldn’t dare.

Democracy is not perfect, but it is better than any other system.

Democracy is ours to work on and improve overtime.

We must use it, or risk losing it.

Democracy works!

Check out which party your opinions seem to line up with:

Please exercise your right to vote and bring a friend on May 2, 2011.

**** Update ****

Thinks are looking very different all of a sudden:

- Advance poll turnout largest ever.
- Student Vote Mobs in virtually every university in the country.
- NDP heading for 2nd place ??? Including in Quebec. Wow !
- Who ever wins this is very good for Canadian democracy

**** Update ****

Well, you know the story by now.
Not sure if anyone would have predicted this.
But ! The people have spoken.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011



Thanks to Hollywood, the term mother-in-law brings up some stereo typical images of meddling interfering opinionated middle aged woman.

My experience has been very different.

I first met Margaret McGonnell, who would become my future mother-in-law when I was 17 years old. Yes, that’s right 17.

My early memories of Mrs. McGonnell (AKA Mernie, later AKA Nanny) included her amazing cooking, sense of humour, intelligence. and strong opinions on things that really mattered to her.

I spent a lot of time at the McGonnell’s and enjoyed Mernie's great meals.

As a shy, slim, relatively fit 17 year old [Yes, that’s right shy, slim and fit'ish] Mernie seem to always insist I was well fed. I could sense her keeping an eye on me as I ate. When I finished what was on my plate, she was right there with more insisting I needed to “finish it off, it would only go to waste, etc, etc”.

I will always remember,

- the words she said to me the day Janice and I got married
- how quickly she came to help out for a few weeks when our three children were born
- how she made a cake at the kitchen table with a couple of kids standing with make shift aprons helping out
- how she and my 2 year old son marched around the house banging pots with wooden spoons in some kind of parade
- how genuinely interested and proud she was of everything that was happening with our family, and how I would hear the tiniest details replayed back from other family members months later
- how she had so many great friends and how much fun they always seem to have. It was cool to hear much later how she was often the life of the party
- while she never once said anything to me, how sad she must have been when we move too far away for her to see her grandchildren on a regular basis
- when she and Roy drove all the way from PEI to Ontario in the middle of the winter to visit us, and brought us a 50lb bag of PEI potatoes :)
- how our birthdays were only a few days apart and she always reached out to remind me that all the special people were born in November
- how later in life, even when she was not well, she never lost her spunk and drive to make things better for people

Mernie passed away just about two weeks ago now. It was amazing for me and our children to hear stories of how she touched peoples’ lives in all different ways.

While it was not that obvious to me then, I now realize how privileged I was to have a mother-in-law like Mernie.

Rest in peace.

Your son-in-law

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Would have, could have, should have, ...

It is hard to believe we are about to transition to the year 2011.

I think it is healthy to "glance back" at 2010 before we move boldly forward.

2010 at a Glance:
  • Spouse doing very well with in university, while working and being an amazing mom
  • Son working hard at university while achieving personal trainer certification
  • Daughter 1 went and returned safely from South America, then went off to university
  • Daughter 2 started high school and plays varsity hockey Record as of late Dec: 15-0-1
  • Gus (small white dog) essentially running household
  • Me: I have a new challenging and rewarding job, healthy enough to cycle 1500'ish kms this summer with great friends

Everything perfect? No, but things are great.

I am proud to say that I have no "would have, could have, should have,..." list for 2010. Don't mean to preach, but that kind of second guessing only serves to slow us down.

2011? More of same with a twist here and there works for me :)

All the best to you and yours for 2011 !


Saturday, December 11, 2010

And it just started Snowing !

Timing is everything.

Janice and I have been working all morning to decorate for the holidays.
We have been crazy busy with work and stuff.

We purchased a nice tree (real of course) which makes the house smell great !
We seem to buy more or different lights for the tree every year, but then when we go to use them they seem never to do the job. Janice had to go and get some more.
Can you relate to this ?

I have the lights up out side.

I even cleaned the garage out to get both cars in before the winter really hits.

Our daughter comes home from University on Tuesday.

And it just started snowing. How good is all that ?

Happy Holidays Everyone !

The MacDonald's

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jonathan Haidt

With all the Tea Party discussion these days, remembered Jonathan Haidt's amazing discussion on Moral Judgment and Moral Politics.

I heard him speak at a conference in New York in 2007.

Take a listen. Starts a little slow, but I think you will be intrigued.

"What the Tea Partiers Really Want" Jonathan Haidt

Dan MacDonald

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Thanks Giving Canada!

Canadian Thanks Giving Weekend 2010

We have so much to be thankful for, I don't know where to begin.

Is everything perfect?
Of course not, but just think about all we have compared to the 100's of millions of people in the world who can only dream of what we have in Canada.

A key element of every conversation we have seems to be some sort of complaint about the weather, about service, the traffic, our busy lives, etc. We all do it unconsciously.

Just imagine if one of our typical conversations was over heard by a child who is literally starving or a family who is stuck in a refugee camp.

Don’t mean to preach.
Just reflecting on all we have compared to most.

Happy Thanks Giving Canada!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Irving Schwartz

RIP Irving Schwartz

An amazing individual.

Irving Schwartz was been involved with more than 30 different companies over the years, from the Schwartz Furniture Showrooms and Seaside Cable, to nursing homes, computer software & oyster fishing, to Bio Medical products . Irving was also co-founder of the Canadian International De-mining Corps. He says his proudest accomplishment was being appointed to the Order of Canada.

Friday, August 13, 2010

You were there when we needed you. Thank you!

You were there when we needed you. Thank you!

Almost two weeks ago now, we were relaxing at the end of a long day. My wife and I were looking forward to our 18-year-old daughter returning from South America the next evening. The trip was something she had been working towards for over two years. We were happy for her but also very concerned for her safety.

We were expecting to hear from her before midnight to confirm that all was well for the long journey home the next day. Quito/Ecuador, Miami, New York, to Halifax would be enough to make even the experienced traveler unsettled.

At about 10 pm, I sent her a text to see when she would call. She asked if it would be ok if she called a little later. Approximately 30 minutes later I received a txt from her stating “call now. it is an emergency”.

My heart skipped. I immediately dialed her number. Of course it rang and rang and no body answered. I looked at my wife and told her about the message. I called four more times no answer. We were both trying to be calm but were very concerned. Her extensive travel was supposed to be coming to an end and now this.

I sent her a text to try and connect. She responded to call now. I called, she answered.

“Are you ok? What’s going on? Why didn’t you answer? Are you safe? I said frantically and realizing I was not even giving her an opportunity to answer. She responded obviously very upset, “I am safe.” “Dad, I don’t know what to do now, our passports have been stolen. We have a flight in the morning at 6.30 am and we have no passports. What am I going to do?”

While I knew we were in for some complications, my fear that she was harmed settled. We chatted about the fact that she was safe and we would help her figure things out the best we could.

I grabbed my laptop and typed “canadian passport emergency Ecuador” into the google window. Within less than 10 minutes I was connected with a government of Canada Foreign Affairs Passport specialist. I told her the story and she calmly walked me through our options.

Now it is not appropriate to go into all of the details of this scenario, but as a worried parent with a daughter in a foreign country with no passport and a flight out in less than twelve hours, etc, etc I was blown away with the treatment we received.

Our daughter was serviced by the Canadian embassy in Quito/Ecuador and then by the fine folks at the Canadian consulate in Miami the next day so as to obtain temporary travel documents.

The professional service we received was truly amazing and included an official actually driving her and her friend back to the airport so as to ensure they made their flight.

My daughter was back home in her own bed in less than 36 hours later from her realizing her passport was stolen. This was part luck but mostly because of the efforts of others.

My wife and I sat up in bed that night and stared at the ceiling, I said, “Ok from now on no one leaves the cul-de-sac without an escort.” We laughed that off and recanted the whole scenario from the beginning.

Our daughter, my wife and I played a role in the successful return by being calm and working with the officials to get them every thing they needed as fast as possible. We were glad to have had a copy of her passport here and one in her luggage. We were glad to reach 4 non-family references that agreed to sit by the phone to wait for the embassy to call. We spent hours on the phone, provided info via email, fax, worked with the airlines, etc, etc.

That being said, I am so grateful for the fine Government of Canada folks in Ottawa, Quito Ecuador, and Miami that were so proficient in helping us.

You were there when we needed you. Thank you!

Dan MacDonald

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Had an interesting week when it comes to the topic of age.

Met with a very bright up and coming marketing expert this past week. He was probably half my age, yet we seem to connect over a hour long meeting on several levels especially around the social media mega trend.

Went cycling on Saturday with some friends and some folks I hadn't met before. The age range of riders literally went from 25 to 65. There was a 20 something guy joined us after we had already riden 20K or so. He sort of looked at us with a "hmm wonder if i will end up waiting for these guys along the ride" stair. The 65 year old set the pace (30+ Kph avg) for most of the 50 Km ride. On a couple of the larger hills, he dropped us behind, then like a gentleman looked back and waited up. We appreciated it.

One can get old, or one can be young as they age.
I am looking seriously at the latter.

Age only matters if you let it.