Sunday, May 22, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond

If Space Adventures offered trips to the moon for a million dollars per seat, it would technically be good value, because tickets are reportedly worth 150 million dollars. Good value isn't the same as practical value, however, which is why I'm not planning to make the trip, at least until the price comes down.

In a weird way, that's how I felt about the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs conference. While it was unquestionably superb value, it was also undoubtedly out of reach for most of us in Northwestern Ontario without the help of a rich uncle. The excursion cost nearly $2000, which is half of my annual training budget. While I gained a new perspective of the world, and connected with lots of wonderful people (hard to put a value on that), I'm going to have difficulty justifying attendance again unless I can work out a similar deal to this year

Deep philosophizing aside, I am glad that our rich uncle at OFM made it possible for me to go this year. Here are a few highlights from the conference:
  • The Firefighters Without Borders presentation conjured an unrealistic impulse to sign up for a trip to Honduras to help with their work. Strange thing about interests . . . some people's imagination is captured by diamonds or oil reserves, and they become millionaires that can afford trips to the moon. My imagination is captured by people camping on roofs for calendar fundraisers, and firefighters paying their own way to Honduras to deliver training and equipment. I guess a life of wealth is not in the cards for me.
  • Two presentations on the volunteer service, one by Chad Sartison from the Fire Within, and the other by Steve Gamble, Langley BC were of high interest. You can see the BC study on Transforming the Fire Service here. Anyone that champions volunteer firefighters is my hero.
  • A few of the presentations reminded me of those multi-vitamin horse pills that barely fit down your throat. The information presented was high value and educationally nutritious, but I wished the presenters had offered them as chewable kid's tablets instead.
  • One presentation on proper dinner etiquette made me wonder if I had taken a wrong turn and ended up at an Emily Post conference. Being an open-minded person, I did pay attention, and at the banquet that night made a point of eating continental style. When I found myself expounding on the finer points of etiquette to my children later that week, I realized that this lady made a bigger impression on me than I originally thought. Scary.
All kidding aside, I sensed a measure of power behind the OAFC.  If we can bridge the geographic and cultural gaps between the chiefs in Northwestern Ontario and those in the south, it would benefit us all. Our interests and needs are as varied as the Ontario landscape, which makes it challenging to present a unified front to the rest of the world, and especially to our political leaders. I have no immediate answer for this dilemma, and I'm not sure anyone else does either.


The Slave Lake story just got sadder. A pilot died when his chopper crashed into the lake yesterday. You can read more on the story here. 
A line of duty death unifies the global fire service, cutting across the widest cultural and geographic gaps. With lunar tourist travel emerging as a possibility, you'd think we'd be able to bridge a few terrestrial gaps without suffering the loss of fellow firefighter.

It's an astronomical goal, but it never hurts to shoot for the moon.

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