Quirky and Quaint: Signs of Saint John (Pt. 1)

On a recent late Spring visit to Saint John, N.B. the distinctive signs adorning area shops and walls added lots of color and charm to a meandering walk through the city center.

Similar posts on O’Canada:

Signs of Vibrant Charlottetown

On the Street Toronto: Fun & Unusual Signs

Love These Vintage Neon and Bulb Signs!


Vintage Tools From 1912 Hardware Catalogue


Because I love doing projects that involve hand tools I probably have way more than any reasonable person should have.  But if you work enough with your hands you know that the right tool makes all the difference.  Traditional hardware stores are now a dying breed of retail but back in the day they were the one-stop shop for most tool needs. The McLennan, McFeely & Co. Hardware Store opened in Vancouver in 1885 and for many years was a substantial business enterprise.

These pages are from that merchant’s 1912 catalogue.  Among the wrenches above, the crescent adjustable wrench must have made quite a splash because it was only first introduced around 1907 and to this day is a standard in any well-equipped tool box. Though less common nowadays, variations of the hand drills pictured below can still be found today and are quite useful.

The City of Vancouver Archives has digitized some of the old McLennan, McFeely catalogues, and flipping through the pages makes for an interesting diversion as you ponder how much more laborious it was to do various chores over a century ago.

Hand Drills

Cheeky Humor of Vintage Canadian Tire Catalogues



Wherever you go in Canada, you’re probably not far from a Canadian Tire location, a retailer that carries auto parts, sporting goods, hardware and some appliances, clothing and all manner of other goods.  Canadian Tire is so popular it even has its own pseudo-currency — Canadian Tire Dollars — that are both usable and collectible.  Many of the retailer’s older advertisements featured humorous bits — some slightly suggestive — as illustrated by these Spring and Summer catalogs across the years. (I’ll post later some others from Fall and Winter editions of the C.T. catalogs.)














RIM, the PlayBook and Canadian Innovation

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I try to stay abreast of major trends in technology and its relationship to innovation, both of which are propelled as much by art as by science.  It would be difficult for anyone not to have noticed the emergence of tablet devices over the past year following the introduction by Apple of its iPad on the heels of the amazing success of the iPhone.  For my part, I’ve not yet succumbed to the allures of either of those devices, preferring to keep my electronic devices and wireless plans to a minimum.  I have long carried a BlackBerry, which is very functional for the things that this smartphone device  is renowned for and because of which it practically invented the smartphone category. 

Research in Motion, or RIM, as it is more popularly known, one of Canada’s leading technology companies, releases its PlayBook tablet device this coming Tuesday, so the advance reviews of the PlayBook have caught my attention as someone who is already part of the “RIM ecosystem.”  A story in this past Friday’s Globe and Mail about the development process is particularly interesting, both for the back story on the product’s development and because of the weight placed upon RIM in carrying the torch of innovation for Canada’s tech sector.  I can’t yet speak to the merits of the PlayBook firsthand but am looking forward to how it takes hold in the marketplace.

Quebec’s Distinguished Office In Atlanta

While I’ve long been aware of Quebec’s many cultural treasures and business opportunities, it’s only recently that I’ve become better acquainted with the sophisticated approach taken by the province of Quebec in cultivating economic development and other ties with the United States.  The province has long maintained six regional offices in the U.S.  — in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. — each of which (other than the D.C. office) is responsible for coordinating relations with a large group of surrounding states.

The leadership of the Quebec Office in Atlanta includes: Ginette Chenard, Delegate of the Quebec Government, who is also the Head of Mission; Andrée Tremblay, Govermental and Public Affairs Attaché; Louise Fortin, Head of Economic Affairs Services; and Liliane Laverdière, Business Development Manager for Investissiment Quebec, which combines the strengths of both a financial institution and an economic development agency.

Over the past year, I’ve encountered the staff of this Office on several occasions.  In one of these meetings, I  attended a  masterful presentation on investing in Quebec, which the Quebec Office organized in conjunction with the always superb Canadian Consulate in Atlanta, that opened my eyes to aspects of the province about which I was unaware.    More recently, I visited with some of the Office’s representatives at a multi-national trade showcase held at a nearby convention center.  In each of these and other instances I’ve been impressed with how engaging and talented the staff is in presenting a positive impression for the province.

If each of the other five Quebec offices in the U.S. do anywhere near as professional a job as does the Atlanta Office then many useful benefits should continue to accrue between Quebec and the U.S.   Mai beaucoup de bonnes choses continuent de se développer entre nous!

Link to Quebec Office in Atlanta:  http://www.gouv.qc.ca/portail/quebec/international/usa/accueil/atlanta/

Canada’s “Boring” Banks Have Last Laugh

Because I’ve attended a fair number of presentations over the years by Canadian economic development representatives and other boosters of the great northland, I’ve got many of the salient talking points down pat.  Canada’s got a good thing going in terms of a vibrant economy, well-educated people and a top quality of life.  But you know the message must be getting out when such things are espoused in the unlikeliest of places.  Such is the case in the September issue of Esquire magazine, which has long been regarded as the more literary of the mainstream men’s magazine, its typical fare running towards good fiction, an occasional profile of a public figure, recreation and fashion, but not much regarding business.  Yet, an article by Ken Kurson in this latest issue makes the case that Canada’s steady-as-you-go “boring” banks have managed to outperform most financial institutions in other countries during the industry meltdown of the past couple of years.  The following quote provides the gist:

“When the worldwide system collapsed, boring Canada didn’t have a single bank poisoned by toxic assets and not a penny of public money was used to bail out its financial institutions.

“More than simply avoiding crisis, the fact that the banks didn’t collapse allowed them to do what they’re supposed to do (and what ours are still largely failing to do) — lend money. See, in America, more than half the mortgages originated were intended for sale. In Canada, nearly all mortgages are held by the banks that issued them. That means it was harder for a piker to get a loan in Canada five years ago — and easier for the guy with good credit to do so today. The result? Canada’s economy is expected to grow by more than 3 percent this year and next. The combination of a robust commodities supply and the tech and banking strengths that are enhanced by stable business practices is formidable.”

Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/portfolio/canada-economic-development-0910?click=main_sr

Link to article:

Captivate’s Toronto Sweepstakes

Captivate is the clever company that operates those small display screens in office building elevators.  The screens provide info-bytes that help to pass the time as the compartments ascend and descend throughout the day.  Last week while in the elevators I noticed the tell-tale maple leaf adorning various screen shots and that piqued my interest.   Captivate, in partnership with several Ontario tourism agencies, is running a sweepstakes for which the prize is a trip for two to Toronto.  Cool!  I had not made the effort before to visit the Captivate website but this caused me to track it down.  Here’s the link to the sweepstakes:  http://www.captivate.com/explorecanada/

Whether or not you enter this sweepstakes, you should check out Toronto, which is indeed a great place to visit and explore.

The Ambassador Bridge and Control of the Canadian-American Border


The Ambassador Bridge

Although it seems like an absurd question at some level, the question of whether a private individual or business should be allowed to own a major access point — perhaps even the single most critical access point — along the U.S.-Canada border came to mind as I read an article from The Globe and Mail sent to me last week by a Canadian friend.  The Ambassador Bridge, which spans the Detroit River, is the principal transportation link between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, and across this route passes an astounding 40% or so of all goods that trade between Canada and the United States. 

According to the G&M article, the federal government in Ottawa has offered to loan nearly US $600 million to cash-strapped Michigan to help finance the construction of a new more modern bridge in an effort to relieve the massive congestion that currently exists on the Canadian side of this border crossing.  Standing in the way of this much-needed improvement is the Detroit International Bridge Company, which  actually owns the bridge and, unsurprisingly, wants to prevent any new bridge that it does not control. 

Even less than a century ago it was common for ferry crossings across many rivers in each country to be operated by private citizens who were enterprising enough to organize a ferry service.   In the present situation of what to do about the need for a better river span, I’ll concede that there are many nuances and competing interests involved that are easily glossed over.  Yet, it is amazing that at this late date, such a major artery of commerce and one that is so vital to both countries could be solely in the hands of a private entity and without any substantial public oversight.   

Link to article:    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/ottawas-550-million-loan-offer-for-new-bridge-launches-war-of-words-in-michigan/article1551117/


Snopes.com: Canada’s Connection to Debunking Internet Nonsense



As we all know, for all the wonders that the Internet has to offer, it also makes available its fair share of misinformation.  This is most often seen in the ridiculous stories and urban legends that periodically make their way across the Web and into our e-mail inboxes.  As a measure of the craftiness with which many such tales are constructed, occasionally even major media outlets are fooled by false stories circulating across the Internet.   I expect that many readers when confronted with a dubious story that just doesn’t quite make sense do what I do, which is to go to Snopes.com (www.snopes.com) and see if the matter has been debunked or validated,

The Snopes site, which has been doing its thing for about the past 15 or so years, is entertaining to peruse even if you are not then trying to sort fact from fiction.  So, it’s fitting, that Snopes — like much of  the entertainment industry below the 49th parallel, which, unbeknownst to many Americans, is actually stealthily populated by an inordinate number of Canadians — is run by a husband and wife team, one of whom, Barbara Mikkelson, is a Canadian citizen.  I like the idea that one of the best Web sites devoted to setting the record straight on Internet nonsense is animated, at least in good measure, by the down to earth Canadian sensibility.

Canada Shines at HIMSS Conference


This week about 28,000 healthcare IT professionals converged on Atlanta for the 2010 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference.  Among the hundreds of exhibitors were at least 36 Canadian information technology companies with a connection to healthcare.  On the morning of the second day of the conference the Consulate General of Canada in Atlanta hosted an informational session, which I attended, for these companies to meet with U.S. businesses interested in working together.   As usual, the outstanding staff in the Atlanta office of the Consulate General acquitted themselves well in pulling together an excellent event.

Because the Olympics had just concluded a couple of days before on a high note for Canada, there were more than a few figurative tips of the hat to the visitors from the great north.  It was nice to see Canada receiving the benefit of the goodwill generated by its successful hosting of the Winter Olympics.  A particularly humorous moment was a light-hearted expression of support (which I think was appreciated by most of those in attendance) by a U.S. panelist for the celebratory exuberance of the Canadian women’s hockey team after winning gold — a candid display of youthful joy and enthusiasm that many in the U.S. readily understood and had no problem with.

More impressive though was the depth of technical and business talent displayed by the three dozen or so Canadian companies in attendance.  While Ontario not unexpectedly had the largest contingent, many of the other provinces were also well represented.  The innovative solutions offered by these companies included mobile device accessibility to healthcare information, one-stop health information storage applications, telemedicine software, electronic patient charts for paramedics, and web-based assessment tools for behavioral issues, among many other amazing offerings.  Canada is obviously holding its own in the critically important healthcare IT arena.

A listing of many of the visiting Canadian companies follows:

Alpha Global IT (www.alpha-it.com)

Applepeak (www.applepeak.com)

Benchmark Consulting (www.benchmarkconsulting.com)

Centre for Global eHealth Innovation (www.ehealthinnovation.org)

CGI Healthcare (www.cgi.com/healthcare)

Client Outlook (www.clientoutlook.com)

Clarity Healthcare Journal (www.clarityhealthjournal.com)

Coremotive (www.coremotive.com)

Diversified Business Communications Canada (www.divbusiness.com)

Diversinet (www.diversinet.com)

eCenter Research (www.ecenterresearch.com)

Electrovaya (www.electrovaya.com)

eSentire (www.esentire.com)

Guard RFID Solutions (www.guardrfid.com)

HIPAAT  (www.hipaat.com)

Ideal Life (www.ideallifeonline.com)

Ignition (www.ignitionmsp.com)

Infonium (www.infonium.ca)

Intelliware Development (www.intelliware.ca)

ISIS Health Informatics Resource Group (no site available)

Karos Health (www.karoshealth.com)

Knowledge4You (www.knowledge4you.com)

MDIT Innovations (www.mditinnovations.com)

Medusa Medical Technologies (www.medusamedical.com)

Mensante (www.feelingbetternow.com)

Oasys Healthcare (www.oasyshealthcare.com)

Ontario Telemedicine Network (www.otn.ca)

Operitel (www.operitel.com)

Professional Quality Assurance (www.pqa.ca)

Ramsoft (www.ramsoft.com)

SmartSimple Software (www.smartsimple.com)

Strata Health Solutions (www.stratahealth.com)

SwiftRadius (www.swiftradius.com)

Telus Health Solutions (www.telushealth.com)

Teradici (www.teradici.com)

Terida Systems (www.terida.com)

ThoughtSpeed eCommerce (www.thoughtspeed.biz)

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