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Imagine my surprise when I turned on the radio on Monday for a little musical distraction while painting our house and I heard a quick between-the-songs promo for a local radio station.

Err…did I hear that right?

Sure enough, a trip outside to run some errands confirmed what I thought I’d heard. There it was, clear as day on a bus stop advertisement: Ho 89.9.

Seriously, Hot 89.9? Seriously?

I knew right away it must have been part of some ridiculous stunt/shock advertising campaign. They’ve done it before: in the spring of 2009 they partnered with Strathmere for a “Married in 24 Hours” contest where the winner received a quickie wedding complete with wedding bands, a dress, a bouquet and boutonnière, and a ceremony and reception at Strathmere. Sanctity of the institution of marriage be damned! (On a personal note, when Joe and I chose Strathmere for our wedding in 2008 we thought it was a lovely and charming location and had no idea that they would just a year later stoop to this level of offensive marketing…believe me, I would not have gotten married there had I known that was coming!)

Back to the current situation. I have to say that I am unimpressed with this new campaign and underwhelmed by their “creativity”. And I’m not the only one as a recent editorial in The Ottawa Citizen so clearly expresses.

It’s not like the brilliant minds at Hot 89.9 didn’t think it through – this was a well-organized campaign. All the radio spots, the bus ads, and a new domain name for their website, which I imagine they had to purchase from a porn purveyor.

They say that there is no such thing as “bad press”, and this stunt has certainly got people talking. But I can’t imagine that it’s the smartest business move to identify yourself as Ottawa’s trashiest radio station. And what about your listeners, Hot 89.9? You used to call them “Hotties”, which was lame and condescending enough. But now, will you be referring to them as your “Hos”?

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I read an article today called 15 Ways to Stop Worrying and Sleep Better. Before we get to that, though, isn’t it funny that self-help articles always claim that there are a “pretty” number of steps/tasks to do in order to accomplish something? I always wonder how many items on these lists are padding to bring it up to an even number. Or, God forbid, what crucially important thing was cut out to get it down to a good count?

Anyway, the most useful and interesting thing I pulled from this article was #4 – Put worry on a schedule. The idea is not to try to stop worrying, but to set aside some time regularly to deal with your anxieties so that they don’t interfere with your sleepy time.

“In today’s busy world, we don’t have time to do normal worrying until the lights go out,” says Dr. Mary Susan Esther, director of the Sleep Center at South Park in Charlotte, North Carolina, and president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Yet everyone needs a worry time,” she adds. The trick is to schedule it on a regular basis, early in the evening—any time before 8:00 p.m. 

The article goes on to suggest quickly jotting down each worry you have on a separate index card brainstorm-style. Then, go back through the cards and think about each problem. Is there anything you can do about this situation? If the answer is no, rip up the card and throw it away. If it’s yes, write down some possible actions you can take, put the card in a “worry box” and then give it some more thought the next day and decide what you’re going to do.

I like this approach. As someone who does what I feel is probably more than my fair share of worrying/obsessing/panicking, and often about things I have no business worrying about, I think it would be unnatural NOT to worry. Instead, this exercise would focus on getting things down on paper (already reducing their scariness by making them tangible) and then clearly thinking about them. If I can’t possibly do anything to change the situation or issue, I should just rip up the card and maybe hope for some of that serenity thing people talk about.

I would go a step further on the action side, though. Goal-setting experts always stress the importance of forward motion, or inertia, when accomplishing tasks. So if there’s something that can be done about a worry, I would say that your best bet isn’t to write those things down and then set it aside. Take a few minutes to estimate how long such a solution would take and write down the various tasks involved. Then, schedule something you can do the next day or at the very least this week. That way, you don’t have to start a whole new “worry box” for all the worrying you’ll do about the stuff you’re not doing about your original worries. Or maybe that would just be me…

Coming soon to simplysonya, “10 Things You Can Do at the First Sign of a Zombie Apocalypse”.

I’ve had some great ideas for blog posts the past few weeks but very little time to write them down. Hopefully that will change soon; in the meantime, I’ve added a new page called “Quotes and other tidbits” where I can drop all those little things that strike me as I find them. The kind of things that can be so powerful when you discover them but can get lost along the way if you don’t collect them in one place.

Please feel free to add your own favourite quotes or thoughts in the comments!

A study out of Western Washington University is the latest in a long list of experiments that demonstrate just how distracted the human mind can be when focusing on a mental task like talking on a cellphone. In psychology, this phenomenon is called “inattentional blindness” and it’s the reason that cellphone usage should be banned for drivers altogether – both hand-held and hands-free. It’s not only the physical dialing or texting on a phone that distracts drivers and causes accidents but the conversations themselves. When the mind is busy focusing on something, even the most obvious things can escape our attention.

Not convinced? See if you can count the number of basketball passes the team in white makes when there is another team in black shirts running around them distracting you in this awareness test (video) from the UK.

Although Ontario’s new law banning hand-held devices is a good start, it’s simply not enough if we want to prevent distraction-caused accidents. Besides concerns about the actual impact of bans and their enforcement, I think what truly needs to happen is a movement that makes people aware of the consequences of driving while distracted and makes it socially unacceptable, much like the anti-drunk driving movement has accomplished in the past two decades. Maybe a TV spot showing a mom driving her children to an activity, the kids buckled snuggly in the backseat while mom is having an animated conversation on her cellphone. The camera angle switches to an upcoming street light, which turns quickly from yellow to red. Mom doesn’t notice and continues into the intersection, where the SUV is broadsided by a fast-moving transport truck. Squealing tires, crunching metal, shattering glass, and then the commercial fades to black while a car horn blows continuously. “Driving while distracted kills” in big bold letters. That kind of thing.

Scientists confirmed today what most have already expected…that the scientific community spends far too much time confirming things we already know instead of discovering things we don’t know yet and/or want to know. Did you know that girls cry more than boys? http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Women+more+than+longer+Researchers/2100091/story.html

There have been a number of stories in the news lately that make me question the state and direction of our society. From men shooting at ducklings while laughing like buffoons to teenagers chasing and beating a baby moose to the point where it had to be put down. From Dany Heatley’s cowardly refusal to speak to the media about his desire to be traded to Michael Vick’s 60 Minutes interview about the “remorse” he feels about his barbaric acts (and the million dollar contract he landed with the Philadelphia Eagles). Then there were those parents filming their seven-year-old while he drove a car. While their other kids were in it. And no one had seat belts on.

I’ve been quite disgusted.

And this is the straw that broke the metaphorical camel’s back.

What person in their right mind leaves a BABY in a CAR? In plus-40 degree heat and humidity? An UNLOCKED car at that?!?!

Certainly not anyone fit to be a parent, in my opinion. A parent is responsible for caring for and raising their child(ren). For protecting them from harm. For teaching them right from wrong. For showing them how to love, how to live, and how to grow up to be responsible citizens of our planet.

Perhaps we need to think about a breeding license for society…

UPDATE: The Ottawa Citizen now reports that the mother will be facing charges of abandonment and failing to provide the necessities of life. There is justice! Read about it here. Also interesting that CBC radio interviewed a police rep who said that in a situation like this, you are legally allowed to use “reasonable force” to get into a locked car with a distressed child inside. This includes breaking windows.

I hate to write two anti-people posts in twenty-four hours, but I just can’t help myself after watching TWO people throw butts out of their car windows this morning on the way to work.

And open letter to the smokers of Ottawa (and elsewhere):

Dear Mr./Ms. Smoker,

I won’t pretend to understand your “habit”. I don’t. I’ll never understand why you fork over your hard-earned money to pad the pockets of über-rich corporate suits who don’t give a flip about you and your health for the privilege of sucking back dozens of chemicals that not only turn your fingers/teeth/skin yellow and make you smell funny NOW, but that will one day KILL YOU, robbing your spouse/kids/grandkids/friends of your love and future happy memories. But not before draining the health care system of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat your various grisly smoking-related diseases that you brought on yourself.

That being said, it’s your choice. It is. Go ahead. Just please don’t do it in the doorway of a public building so that people who are choosing NOT to smoke have to walk through your stinky cloud of carcinogens if they want to go into the library, or the mall, or to work. Oh, and please don’t do it right before you get onto a bus, or into an elevator, or anywhere else that’s enclosed.

If you choose to smoke inside your car, that’s fine. As long as your kids aren’t inside, of course. Because that would be illegal and a form of child abuse. Would you force-feed Johnny a cup of arsenic on the way to school in the morning? Didn’t think so. But if you ARE going to smoke inside your car, please leave the windows rolled up. Because when I’m sitting behind you in traffic, I can smell it wafting in through my air vents. Gross.

And above all, please for the sake of the Earth do not throw your disgusting, used-up butts out of your window and onto the road/grass outside. The world is not your ashtray. There should be one inside your car strictly for that purpose. And what if you’ve got a car without an ashtray because you didn’t pay for that extra feature? Bring a tin can and deal with the filth you created yourself instead of passing it onto someone else.

Thanks and have a great, smoke-filled day!

My mind loves to point things out to me for the simple reason of making me feel OLD. Usually I can slough it off, but this one’s a doosy…

You know you’re old when you recognize the actors playing the parents in kids movies. Better yet, when you can remember them as kids.

Here’s the deal: you know when you were a kid and you would watch a family movie and your parents would know the geezers playing the parents in the film? As you grew up, you learned that this person had a career before the kids’ movie you saw them in, but for you they will always be the mom or dad in that movie. Like Charles Grodin in Beethoven, Sam Elliot in Prancer, John Ritter in Problem Child, etc.

I stumbled on the trailers for two upcoming movies: Where the Wild Things Are and The Lovely Bones. Granted, The Lovely Bones isn’t really a kids’ movie, but the narrator/main character is so the theory still stands. Who are the parents in these movies?

Catherine Keener.

Mark Ruffalo (as the mom’s boyfriend).

Rachel Weisz.

Mark Wahlberg. As in Marky Mark. As in Calvin Klein ads in Times Square and “Good Vibrations” on the radio.

There will be a whole generation of kids who’ll grow up to think of Mark Wahlberg as the dad from The Lovely Bones. *le sigh*

I’ve been having a bit of a career/life direction crisis lately. The fact that a number of my friends are becoming accomplished in their careers and a few more are pregnant and growing their families is probably part of it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m wildly happy for my friends and their successes. But it has sparked some internal reflection. 

Of course, I remind myself that I have a lot to be thankful for. A husband I adore (and who, most days, feels the same); a house we’re slowly making a home together; wonderful friends and family who love, support and put up with me; a job with benefits in “these economic times”; etc. But these things also afford me the luxury of worrying about Where I’m Going as I approach the big 3-0 (T minus 1 year, 9 months, 19 days…).

After we had spent literally hours going over my life direction, the options out there for me and what I should do next, Joe gave me some words of wisdom:

Life is like a parade going through a downtown street. You could be leading the parade, you could be in the parade, you could be watching the parade from the sidelines, you could have heard about the parade but decided to stay home, or you could not even know the parade is going on at all. It’s up to you to decide which person you want to be.

I thought about that for a minute and then, deciding to be cheeky, I turned to him and asked “okay, but what if I want to be one of those girls in the parade who sits on a float and waves regally as everyone fawns all over her? How do I do that?”

Okay, so I’ve avoided commenting on the bus strike so far. It doesn’t really have a significant impact on my life – my husband and I both commute by car (show me a route that doesn’t take over an hour and three buses to get to work vs. a twenty-minute drive!). But I know people who have had to rearrange their lives because of this ridiculous labour dispute. Not to mention the people this strike is really hurting – the poor and the disadvantaged in our city who don’t have the voice or the political clout to defend themselves, let alone fight back against this corruption and bureaucracy.

Let’s call this what it is – a pissing contest between a hot-headed union rep and an ignorant mayor. If it were up to me (and oh, do I wish it was!), I would have canned them all long ago and found people who were interested in actually doing their jobs – which is, need I remind you, to negotiate a mutually agreeable settlement. And if this isn’t possible? Arbitration. Let a third party decide what’s really critical and come to a conclusion quickly and efficiently.

But alas, both sides dug in long ago and are now playing a war of media attrition. Who’s side is right? Who’s side has the support of the citizens of Ottawa?

Personally, I believe unions had their time and place in labour history. Now, they are woefully out-of-touch with the reality of These Economic Times and quite possibly irrelevant in today’s labour climate. But if they want to be unreasonable and demand ridiculously high wages and benefits and lose all their jobs to the foreign market or to non-unionized workers who appreciate a fair-wage job (hello, auto industry!), then so be it. They’ll learn on their own eventually or they’ll all be out of jobs.

I also believe the City of Ottawa has been shameful in its handling of this strike. The word “clusterf**k” seems apt, if you’ll excuse my language. They took their fight to the media like children, they had no contingency plans, they forced a vote they weren’t confident they’d win (or so O’Brien let slip on a CBC radio interview on the eve of the vote), and they’ve been ridiculously incapable, ineffective and useless.

I, for one, do not plan on voting for anyone involved in this debacle in the future. I will not support such incompetence and I wish I could withold my tax money from their salaries. I also will not be taking an OC Transpo bus or any form of public transit when (or if) they start running again, at least for the forseable future.

Can you blame me for not wanting to become dependent on a system that could be better managed by my cat?

Why I’m here

My name is Sonya. I live with my husband and our cat in the suburbs of Ottawa. I started this journal to document my thoughts and experiences and share them with friends, family and anyone else who happens to pass this way. My hope is that it will help to keep me focused on the simple things I value most in life and, above all, keep me writing.

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