Sunday, August 29, 2010

shameless promotion

I am deplorably behind on my blogging, but it is summer - in fact it is the end of summer - and who wants to hammer away on a laptop when you can water ski or tube or fish or picnic or snooze in the shade. So there is my excuse.

The Sleeping Giant Writers Festival this past weekend is yet another reason for my blogging delinquency. The festival stretched over the whole weekend, but being the tight-fisted, miserly, skin-flint that I am, I only attended one workshop. I chose Terry Fallis's Shameless Self-Promotion.

Terry podcasts a chapter of his new book The High Road each week, in spite of his publisher's reservations about giving away a book that they hope to sell in bundles next month. Whether his "offer free podcasts to promote sales" philosophy is based on science or wishful thinking, it's a radical idea, and radical ideas often appeal to me.

Later, in the car, I floated the concept of a Spontaneous Combustion podcast to my 15 year old son, who was firmly earplugged into Patrick McManus.

Me: "How would you like to listen to Spontaneous Combustion on your iPod?"

Phillip: "Oh boy." [is there such a thing as unenthusiastic sarcasm?]

Vanessa (my 12 year old daughter): "What is Spontaneous Combustion?"

Me: "You don't know?! . . . [cough, sputter] . . . um, it's the name of the column I write for Fire and EMS Quarterly . . . (!@?)"

Phillip: "It's called Spontaneous Combustion?"

I guess Shameless Promotion, like charity, begins in the home [side note: I bet Patrick McManus didn't give away any of his books by podcast].

Speaking of shameless promotion, here is the calendar cover shot for our new calendar, which also launches next month (don't worry Terry, we won't cut into your book sales).

We are planning an event to shamelessly promote our calendar and the volunteer fire service on Saturday, September 11 at the Stanley Hotel. We will also be shamelessly giving away prizes and dunking politicians. If you are anywhere near the neighbourhood, you won't want to miss this event.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Chaos. Everyone needs a little in their life to stave off the deadly doldrums (sorry Brian, I keep piggybacking off your last post).

My afternoon plans were set. A bite of lunch, a drive to town, a few errands (aka - spend money and stimulate the economy), meet the Fire Within photographer Charles Hope for supper, then go to Upsala Fire Department's very first calendar photo shoot (which we are sharing with two other departments).

Lunch wasn't quite ready when my pager went off. A train car was on fire. Possibly hazardous materials involved. Oh well, Kraft dinner was overrated anyway. At the fire hall, I found that only two other firefighters had responded. One was our highly valued scribe, who takes awesome notes and is a great communicator, but who doesn't fight fires. Oh well, large crews were overrated too. Who needs dozens of firefighters when you can take four times as long, wear yourself out eight times as fast, and still get the job done with two?

En route, we got a page that there were no hazardous materials involved, but a locomotive was burning. Locomotives are big. We had two firefighters. This could take a while. Then the dispatcher wanted to know if we needed MNR because the fire had spread to the bush. Bush fire? So much for going to Thunder Bay. Oh well, calendar shoots were another overrated event.

We arrived at the scene and found that the locomotive driver was a volunteer firefighter friend from Neebing fire department. He had the sense to disconnect the fuel lines to the engine, and the fire had pretty well gone out. But the bush was still burning, and unlike Moses, we had to put this one out.

Luckily, the fire was small and mostly contained between a swamp and the tracks, but it still took a couple hours to extinguish. Once I finally hit the road, I figured I still had time to do at least an errand or two in Thunder Bay before supper with Charles.

Then I hit the road construction. Lots of waiting. My empty stomach, which I had left at home with the report of a hazmat fire, had caught up with me. After several long delays, I decided that stimulating the economy was overrated as well, but I was not prepared to give up dinner. I connected with Charles in Thunder Bay, and we forged on.

We were running late, but the Chinese restaurant I had chosen was known for promptness, so I wasn't worried. Charles was also having a bad day. His bags were missing. The airline had suggested that they might be in Toronto or Timbuktu, but they definitely were not in Thunder Bay. No problem, except that his lights, tripods, and other cool accessories that make life simple for photographers were inside the bags. Add simplicity to the list of overrated items. Then I discovered that Charles didn't care for Chinese food. Oh well, impressing the photographer was overrated as well. Fortunately, chicken fingers were also on the menu.

There was plenty of daylight left when we arrived at the photo shoot site, but the chosen location was near the edge of the forest. I didn't need a photographic mind to know we would be in shadows within a half an hour. Shadows may produce cool effects in some scenes, but they were going to cause trouble in this one.

Fire Within calendar photography is only a fraction of what Charles Hope does with his cameras, and he took all of the chaos in stride. He assumed command of the 30+ firefighters with calm, quiet, composure, placing them in a precise manner to take full advantage of the light. I haven't seen the pictures yet, but I have confidence the finished product will make a show-stopper calendar cover.

Chaos. At least it helps us get rid of all the overrated stuff in life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Whether or not I'm a real writer, I do have experiences that at least parallel the real folks. Like deadlines. Today I met my deadline for the October issue of Fire and EMS Quarterly. Well, I sort of met it. I finished the article and Erinn critiqued it, but it isn't really finished until it sits for a couple days and cools down. Then I like to read it one more time, and I usually find a thing or two to change. It may seem weird, but it beats opening up the October issue and thinking, "Man, I shouldn't have written it like that."

Considering that yesterday morning the article consisted of a decent beginning, a scramble of discombobulated of ideas scattered across the middle, and no ending, I feel fairly accomplished. I'm not sure why I had to wait until last night to wrangle all those recalcitrant ideas into a semblence of order, but it has something to do with deadline pressure.

Alternately, it could be the Deadly Digital Doldrums, which I may have caught from Brian over at Switch2PlanB. It seems to be contagious, so if your fingers start feeling heavy, and you start nodding off, run Norton and disinfect your keyboard. The Digital Doldrums may actually be related to Digital Swine Flu, which I grappled with last winter. You can read my wisdom on Digital Swine Flu here.

You can't read my October article yet, but you may as well know that it addresses the Evil Anti Volunteer Syndicates, which I said I would reckon with a while ago. Maybe this time they'll listen. You can read my July article, if you haven't already.

Now I'm starting to sniffle a little. I just had to conjure up those digital swine.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Political Pinatas

Politicians and bureaucrats are easy targets . . . and sometimes they deserve to be bashed like a birthday pinata. However, I don't agree with indiscriminate literary bludgeoning of these unfortunate public servants, mostly because they aren't full of candy.

Seriously, I do realize that it isn't fair to pummel everyone with the same club. I know a few honest, hardworking bureaucrats, and I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I'd find some true-blue politicians as well. MP John Rafferty, whom you may remember me saying nice things about, is an example of a political pinata edging out of reach of my beating stick. He agreed to take a turn on the dunk tank seat at our fundraising calendar kick off. Hopefully he won't be an easy target that day. The more people that miss, the more money we make. No one can resist a dry politician in a dunk tank seat.

John suggested that we find a Stephen Harper mask for him to wear, which would generate even more frenzied target practice. I briefly balked at the disrespectful prospect of dunking our Prime Minister in proxy, but visions of potential revenue quickly drowned my last flake of conscience. Besides, Stephen Harper is perfectly welcome to take the seat in person, if he so desires. If you are reading, Right Honourable Sir, consider yourself challenged.

MPP Bill Mauro also agreed to take a turn in the wet seat, earning himself one free pass by my pinata club. I'm reserving final judgment on Mr. Mauro, however. He is, after all, a member of the ruling Liberal Party of Ontario, which seems to be making war on the fire service these days. I do intend to meet him one day though, and we'll see. Maybe he's just blissfully ignorant of the financial and recruiting nooses that are tightening around many volunteer fire departments' necks. Honourable Sir, consider yourself on probation. [after note: apparently MPP Mauro didn't say he would take a turn in the dunk tank. He did make a sponsor contribution to our calendar, and took the time to attend the event in person though. Still on probation. TB].

Speaking of dunk tanks and calendars, our Fire Within calendar project is moving along nicely. The photo shoot is August 19, and our kick off event is scheduled for September 11, to coincide with other departments that are doing the Heroes in the Sky event. Sadly, we won't be camping on the roof, as we originally planned. Along with the many advantages that accompany group projects, comes the disadvantage of compromise. In this case, the other stakeholders wanted to host the event at the Stanley Hotel, a well known landmark right in the middle of volunteer country . . . which has a peaked roof. I put up a feeble protest, but I was out-voted. The up side is that the other stakeholders have strong organizational skills, and I believe that with the help of MP Rafferty and others, we will have a successful event.

With such a long history of having crazy ideas voted down, at least I know I'll never run for elected office. It's okay though. I'd much rather be the club than the pinata.

Friday, August 6, 2010

in the drink

Someday I still might write about the volunteer/career issue, but I'm not feeling politically daredevilish enough to tackle it today.

You'd think we would all get along fine. You know, one big, happy fire/rescue brotherhood, with volunteer and career guys and gals all hanging out together playing Yahtzee and drinking root beer. Except that I don't know anyone that plays Yahtzee, and I may be the only firefighter in North America that likes root beer.

Speaking of root beer, why can't you order one at a bar? Or maybe you can, but folks in "the know" tell me it would be uncool to try. Even an alcohol-challenged guy like me goes to the bar once in a while with his friends (volunteer, career, and hybrid all in the same bar . . . but I digress). I even order a drink while I'm there. It just isn't a real drink like real firefighters order (I know, that was my theme last post). But if I'm going to order a non-real drink at a bar, you'd think I should be able to order any non-real drink I want. Except that I'm told that Coke or Pepsi are the only non-real drinks that are appropriate at a bar, along with those really non-real clear soft drinks like 7-up, Sprite, and ginger ale. But not root beer.

I say it's unfair. The words "root" and "beer" are similar to "ginger" and "ale." Ginger is a root, and ale is beer. I suspect discrimination based on colour, and I would refer it to the Ethics Commission for Equality of Drinks, except there isn't one. Yet another important matter for me to fix when I'm King of the World. For now, I'll just have to order Coke and hope everyone thinks it has rum in it.

While I'm on the topic of barroom etiquette, how do you know when to order Coke and when to order Pepsi? Those of you that are alcohol educated must know what I mean. The cool guys walk up to the bar and intuitively know whether it's a Pepsi or Coke establishment. Me? I order a Pepsi, and the waitress looks at me like I ordered a Whopper at MacDonalds. "Sorry sir, this is a Coke establishment." If it weren't for the fact that I was with real firefighters ordering real drinks, the bouncers would be on me like cops in a crack house. But my friends wave them off and say something like, "he's from Upsala," which explains everything.

I guess Coke and Pepsi get along about as well as career and volunteer firefighters. I really am going to have to write about that someday . . .

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