Technology, Design and Thinking

I’ve always enjoyed the sensations relating to hard physical work. At times my routines brought me to peaks of fitness. Other times I was injured and couldn’t keep up with the level of activity I aspired to. So, achievements in how many pull ups I managed or how far I could run, were always a side-note for me. Routine hard physical work pushes me to a level of focus that translates into my other engagements in life: Design, Technology and Thinking. How available my body will be to participate in my mental maintenance is clearly uncertain. This plays a significant part in my decision (if there ever was one) to avoiding professional sports.

Life can be simple, yet calculated.

However, in working out for the 5 Km event on June 23rd, I am benefiting from some interesting technology. Even before heading out, I can plan my course on my computer. Either Google maps or other web tools provide information such as distance, elevations and more. In order to select a proper running shoe, I browsed through some websites and got lost in more information I could handle. I even got some training plans to ease my way into a healthy progress. 

I can hardly buy simple shoes anymore, that’s for sure. No complaint here. The structure of shoes allows my running to be cushioned enough to avoid shock, yet braced in the right spots to keep my joints in place.

I took my cell phone with me occasionally to measure times and track my course. Recently I decided to try a fitness watch. Just like cell phones, I am browsing through it to find the features that really interest me. One day I might even create my own app for it. There’s still so much to explore before the optimum interface of a fitness watch will fit the needs of a majority of users. Product personalization means that we might never reach that optimum. Do we really have such elaborate needs?

Intermediate training plan for a 5 Km run.

Does running for a cause make my running different? As long as my body cooperates I try to provide it with opportunities for movement. Staying physically active in turn, nurtures my other interests and vocations. I see the connections in life in a pretty broad view. I could say that everything is connected, even if not always as a reflection of cause and effect. I definitely refrain from assigning values to what I can see as connections. So the cause is one part of my run and other parts are there whether I invest in them or not.

I’m practicing my writing skills; I’m engaging on a personal level with people I see only occasionally; and I’m developing new concepts for programs, services and products. I would have done all of these without the race. But as stated above, the level of focus I reach, benefits my other engagements. Contributing to the case of Mount Pleasant Neighborhood House (MPNH), is an opportunity for me to do more for myself as well.

Achievements, Results, Finish Line: Process is at the core of it all.

Design is a way of planning. I realized a long time ago that no matter what I do in life, I am a designer. So the race is a component within a complex, yet straightforward network of stories that make my life. The more I think of it, it makes sense to me. Design is a Matter of Life.

This is the fifth in a series of posts I’ve shared prior to the event on June 23. If you are interested in  stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar.


Mom and Pop Shops anyone?

In many of my visits to community consultations, I heard the desire for mom and pop shops. This, in light of the impossible hikes in rent, seemed to me like one of those paradoxes that lie in the platform of community consultations. City staff are honestly interested in hearing what residents want. Residents honestly share their interests.

Then property owners, especially owners of ones in desirable areas, raise the rent.

Terasen invested in transforming some crosswalks along Commercial Drive into Italian themed artwork.

Can mom and pop shops survive the scale of development and gentrification of a city? Typically, such venues are more expensive than your 5-minutes-drive-away Safeway or even cross-the-street “Medium Scale Neighborhood Market”. These chains have much more variety and the convenience of… anonymity. Yeah, some of us still yearn for mom and pop shops.

I’ve been shopping along Commercial drive for roughly 15 years now. What was called The First Ravioli Store is now Easy Shop. With the significant change of ownership and inventory, we still find our fresh pasta and favorite cheese there. Many mom and pop shops are really a sad and tired corner in retail streets. Typically their operators/owners struggle to make ends meet. After First Ravioli changed hands some years ago, I was impressed to see the efforts the new owner took to revitalize the space. And still, in a quickly changing street like Commercial drive, this corner store always seems to be at least one step behind. Jawid, the friendly owner of Easy Shop removed the sliced meats we occasionally got at First Ravioli. We still find our fresh pasta and favorite cheese there.

Another component in the Terasen street touch ups.

If you had to grade my enthusiasm with mom and pop shops, I’m probably on the lower side of the scale. But the community consultations I went to, made me curious to see what it really means for me to support this strange little beast.

At one point, early in his time there, I shared with Jawid a personal thought. That, to my surprise, made him grateful for my insight and generosity.

A few months later I shared with him my concern with finding the same cheese we were buying from him, significantly cheaper somewhere else. Before doing that I was struggling whether to bother talking with Jawid about the issue or not. He thanked me profusely and the next week – lo and behold – informed me that he talked with his supplier. We could continue buying our favorite cheese at Easy Shop.

Now, as part of my experiment in fundraising, I am handing my notes in places I visit. I casually approach people I know and share with them my call for support. Without expecting much, what drives me in this is a simple thought: If I don’t ask, how will people know?

The canopy, the cash register at Easy Shop and the link to my fundraising page:

Jawid, is the first shop owner I shared my fundraising run with. On my visit there today, my note was proudly posted on the cash machine. That was so heartwarming. I asked him if I could take some photos and promised to post them on my social platforms.

Mom and Pop Shops anyone?

This is the fourth in a series of posts I’ve shared prior to the event on June 23. If you are interested in  stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar.

Mental Core

There is a mental effort whether running on a treadmill or outdoors. The difference between the two is noticeable. But in both cases, whenever I run, the mental challenge exists. Here’s a useful mantra for myself: “There’s always a good reason; there’s never a good excuse.”

Some gravel, some paved, the Champlain Heights trail is one in many options.

The course of the Scotia Bank Vancouver race has a combination of paving and gravel. To practice for the race I wanted to do some of my runs in similar conditions in my neighborhood. The pathways beside Champlain Heights Community Center provide a good match. In recent months we’ve been going to the Champlain Heights gym almost exclusively. It was really nice to do a combined outdoors-indoors training recently.

Another good training venue is Trout Lake Park (John Hendry). One of its paths is about 1300 M long. Last year I ran there a few times. Then Killarney Park has a 400 M track that is great for working on my pacing. I’ve already done more than 5 KM outdoor runs. It wasn’t easy. I need to be ready for more.

In the highly visited course around Trout Lake, I can practice some chasing of other runners.

My inspiration comes in many forms. Watching Mo Farah win both the 10,000 M and 5,000 M races in two successive Olympics is good for boredom reduction on the treadmill. However, along the trails in a park I need something else to keep me going. The fresh air is one of the best incentives to run outside. The actual movement on real ground is another best. But my head, alas, is working against me occasionally. “OK, just one more round. I can’t do more than that today.” So easy to fall for that…

Boring yet useful, the 400 m track is great for pacing.

In the doc festival of last year I watched ‘Free Solo‘. This film follows Alex Honnold through his process of preparing for and eventually climbing the El Capitan rock without ropes. Just like I will never run as fast as any of the competitive runners, I will never climb anything the way a professional climber will. The act of climbing in itself is breathtaking. But, something else completely, was for me the core take away from watching the movie.

In order to make his climb, Alex had to prepare for every single move. Gradually, a mental image of the whole climb formed in his mind. What connects me so successfully to ‘Free Solo’ is my own attention to detail and perseverance. I came out of watching ‘Free Solo’ with a renewed sense of purpose. The phrase I’ve been using for quite a while now, keeps rolling: “Whatever you achieve is perfect. From there you can only improve.”

Alex Honnold writes down the day’s climbing event in his climbing journal. (National Geographic/Jimmy Chin)

In preparing for my 5 KM run, I am taking my mental core with me and putting it to the test. It’s not a huge task. My aim is to challenge myself to be my own best. Getting closer every day.

Expect a weekly post until the event on June 23. If you are interested in stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar.

Making Connections

Does running at 10 Km/h make you breathless? For the longest time I never really worried about the numeric value of my speed. I’m reasonably quick, to be honest.

Then I started watching athletes chase each other at more than 20 Km/h. These antelope-like human beings, keep this pace until my eyeballs can handle it no longer. Eventually I get to watch the same videos more than once. I memorize names. I become inspired. There’s no way I will ever manage the speeds these athletes reach. However, I’m happy with my own progress even if my results stay the same.

London 2012 Olympics. (Daily Mail)

I’ve always tried to be active. Then a slight injury kept me back a bit, the weather was crappy and other excuses made me a little less active. Then I returned to walking or jogging. I am active. I always want to do more.

In recent years I had some uplifting experiences that are unrelated to each other. I guess my thought process allows me to make the connections work for me. Walking out with Anat, my wife for an hour each day, became a habit of ours. The dry summer of 2017 extended deep into winter. Then finally, by the end of November, the rain returned to Vancouver. The evening chill and increasing darkness were also factors in our decision to consider the gym. “Just for walking” I thought initially.

A month passed and the half hour increased to 45 minutes. Then one hour. A few minutes jogging here and there… Some months later and I was surprised to realize I can do a full hour of running. The videos I watched managed to relieve some of the inevitable boredom that creeps in while trying to keep in shape.

Then the weather improved and I took the opportunity to walk and run outside again. It’s much harder to run on a static surface than on the belt of a treadmill. There is a mental difference apart from the physical one.

But the race in June is outdoors (thankfully). On April of this year I got an email from Mount Pleasant Neighborhood House (MPNH). In it were a few lines talking about their team for the Scotia Bank Half Marathon and 5 Km Run. MPNH is among the various agencies I try to support. My preference is in contributing some time and insights. Donating money is a lesser priority for me.

So tying my ongoing physical training to a fundraising event, seemed like an interesting opportunity. Exploring new connections.

About half of the 5 Km long course is taken around Lost Lagoon

I’ve already walked the course of the race twice to get to know it. Soon I will make the trip to check the run. In the meantime I am running in my neighborhood, on the east side of Vancouver and nearby.

Expect a weekly post until the event on June 23. If you are interested in stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar.

The Money and The Run

It’s interesting to fund raise.

Money is everywhere, but maybe not always where I might want it to be.

I have always admired people who engage in fundraising. My admiration comes from the impression that the act of convincing people to part with their money is a steep uphill battle. There are events you can see where the organizers managed to attract unbelievable sums. Then others stay in the realms of covering expenses at best. Most fundraising, as far as I can tell, is done as a volunteering act. Successful fundraising seems like a full time engagement.

Another part of my admiration stems from my own un-ease with trying to be in their position myself.

So when I decided to participate in the Scotia Bank Half Marathon and 5 Km Vancouver Run, I relieved myself from the stress of how much money I will manage to raise. It’s going to be a trial and error process. I will sweep through my mailing list and try to send as many calls to action as possible. There are people I know better than others in my mailing list.

However, I am in this for a cause that requires a very simple decision: donate or not. On the part of my prospect donors, the decision might be complicated by many considerations: one might have just sent money to a different cause; another might object to participating in fundraising; someone else could very well be excited to join!

So in my communications, I want to reflect the excited side of the decision. Reflecting back on people I’ve seen fundraising in the past I find connections in me to their traits: relentlessness; positivity; commitment. 

The section just north of the cycling tunnel that is the halfway of the 5 Km course.

When sending a call for donation to dozens of people, it’s my choice – not anyone else’s. I’m approaching it as an engagement similar to platonic love. All who receive my call are participating in this event whether you donate or not. For this I am grateful. I am inspired to move on.

Expect a weekly post until the event on June 23. If you are interested in stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar.

Over The Top

Over The Top

The creative process can be treacherous. You enter it not always knowing what to expect. You might be content with whatever comes out of your hands. Then you gain some knowledge, insights and understanding. That change takes time. And more time can be invested in making more progress.

In my workshops I challenge people to be inspired. Back in 2010 I was brought in to work with Yoko Tomita, a community artist, to deliver mosaic making workshops. Various residents joined us in Collingwood Neighborhood House for two-hour sessions. One of them especially, demonstrated to me the creative process she and other people can go through when doing art. She had been working on laying tile fragments on a mesh spread with mortar.

In her first session she couldn’t tell the difference between large or small, light-green or dark-green, aligned tiles or scattered. Her aim was to complete her mosaic. There was an image she was trying to trace with the tile fragments. So if I called it a dolphin, you might guess what the tail was and where the head was pointing. Otherwise, it was pretty much a mess of broken tiles on the surface of her table. But gradually we encouraged her to take her time. Another week passed and her piece was not finished yet. She seemed to worry about that but we reassured her that in time her piece would be complete.

Then, as she was about to apply the last shreds of tile onto the mesh, she approached me. I was impressed with the beautifully detailed image of a dolphin surging out of the water. She expressed her frustration with how “not beautiful” her mosaic looked. I was surprised and a bit confused.

I was amazed to realize the leap she’d gone through. It seemed like she herself transformed from trying to please us (she called me “teacher”), to having expectations from herself. In the state she had started a few weeks before, those expectations were different.

Yes, within me, I agreed with her that she could have done a much better job of mosaic making. But no. The moment of awakening can be a fragile state in a person’s development.

When I heard my “student” express her frustration, I wasn’t sure exactly what to say. I only thought of what I did say some time later:

“Whatever you achieve is perfect. From there you can only improve.”

A few years passed and these words stayed with me. Sometimes they seemed like an amusing contradiction. Occasionally they inspired me to consider the concept of perfection. Maybe we all strive for perfection. And then, even if I feel very close, it’s just close. It’s never there. Yet what makes me continue is the sense of possibilities. If I miss a bus, it really depends on what my destination is, that would determine my solution.

If my mosaic is not perfect, I have to consider a different set of obligations before I start making a new one. What is a perfect mosaic anyway? At one point in time something might seem perfect and later we could all find faults in it. So what is fault?

As my encounters with people continue, I am intrigued by similarities and differences in human traits. In communications we seem to face daily challenges. Someone’s skills can be unintentionally regarded as faults. One day’s challenges will turn into opportunities shortly after. As I was contemplating the encounter in the mosaic making workshop, a shorter version crossed my mind. It is a different take on the same concept:

Being perfect is not my only fault.

A shirt with the above phrase can be purchased in a variety of platforms:


The Alphabet you never thought of. Until now

Alphabet Trivia is a line of stories that captures insights. They make sense at the moment they are born but are always in danger of evaporating. You might think of it as fishing within the stream of consciousness. My own stream always feels alive with action. Ideas feel like currents of reality, passing by harmlessly in my mind.

And I’m just waiting for them. Waiting for the right moment to turn them into thought, then words, then action. The purpose is always there. But that too has to be defined. So I take the time to make sense of my own interests. And questions keep bubbling up.

As soon as I say a word, whoever hears me is already reacting to it. My intention might be aligned with my listener’s understanding and might not. Let’s say ‘Alphabet’. A mental image of what is already known to you is formed in your mind:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.

But I’m bilingual. You might be too. What this means in this case is that words in English have less of a cultural baggage attached to them for me. In Hebrew, my source language, I am more aware of the cultural context of words. But even with Hebrew, I still explore. Whatever insights I find interesting, I try to promote.

I think A L P H A B E T

My exploration involves process, engagement, triggers and outcome. Alphabet starts with A, yes. And it’s a word as much as it is a representation. We need it to efficiently communicate the letters in use in our language. Language is a tool-set. The word Alphabet as a tool within our language, can be seen as the mental container for letters – the building blocks. None of us is born with this awareness. I grow up into an existing family and society. How I navigate my own journey is influenced by endless inputs. Then I start talking. Then I start reading and writing and who knows what.

Now, what A L P H A B E T has in it will always surprise you, and even me.

A shirt with the design above can be purchased in a variety of platforms:

Etsy, Threadless, Søciety6, Zazzle, RedBubble