Toys R Us breaks bad news to children

Opinion_breaking bad

Why pulling meth-dealing action figures is a fruitless cause

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 28, 2014

On October 21, Toys R Us effectively pulled a series of Breaking Bad inspired action figures off their shelves after a petition conducted by a collective of mothers from Florida. With 9,000 signatures, the Walter White and Jess Pinkman toys were sent away for their “sabbatical,” leaving me wondering how those concerned mothers came to such a nearsighted solution.

Now and then I wander into a Toys R Us retailer and feel disappointment that resembles a knee to the groin. There is no nostalgia; the florescent-lit store could not feel more foreign to me. Still, I’ll explore the aisle and see the common toys: fake weapons, brawny plastic action figurines constructed to battle to the death, and sultry dolls that nurture the unobtainable expectation of beauty. As Aaron Paul tweeted: “Hmmmm… I wonder what is more damaging?”

Paul continues to stand by the toys constructed from his image. His countering petition to return the Breaking Bad toys to Toys R Us has already received approximately 30,000 supporters. And although I haven’t signed anything to contribute, I do think the original removal of the toys to be a ridiculous initiative.

First off, if parents are worried about their children becoming methamphetamine addicts or dealers, then they’ll have to do a bit more than eliminate a few toys. Moms, talk to your children about what drugs even are: explain the legalities and educate them on the harmful effects of addiction. Action figures are not the gateway into a life of crime, but poor parenting is.

Nothing hinders the growth of children more than paranoid, overprotective parents. We’ve seen many attempts to hide drug usage and deter temptations, but it appears that concealing cigarettes behind the corner store cabinets and administrating drinking ages is only creating another obstacle that can easily be thwarted should the youth dare to experiment.

Secondly, mothers need to focus on the big picture. Drugs, violence, and sex cannot be avoided in this world, so prepare your kids effectively with confidence and intelligence. Hell, maybe even watch Breaking Bad with them and show them the horrible destructive outcome of each character involved.

There are a billion other concerns out in the world that should worry mothers. It’s funny that they chose a battle against an inanimate object. After all, the worst pain those action figures could cause is the crippling pain of stepping on them barefoot. Moms of Florida, why not turn your attention toward gun control, drug trafficking, the broken educational system, overzealous spending, racism, sexism, gang crimes, pollution, heart disease, cancer, homelessness, unemployment, and many other dire problems in the world?

On a chaotic planet, we should just let the children play, imagine, and have the freedom to explore what they are curious about, guiding their curiosity in a positive direction without limiting them. No more half-measures, moms.

How Making, Recording, and Measuring Decisions as a Team Can Change Your Company

Nothing says teamwork better than a group of people aligned in the decision making process. While some workplaces are guided by the “executive decisions” of the boss, that leadership practice might not necessary be the best approach in advocating change, nurturing involvement and learning from prior mistakes (i.e. bad decisions).

Steven Forth, CEO and director of Nugg, an application that enable workplace team members to focus, decide, track and align ideas, believes that decisions should not be made in a vacuum, and that the full decision-making cycle begins and ends with proper communication.

Forth wrote: “Some would say research, and research is sometimes needed, but the best decisions are made as part of conversations.”

Intuitive decisions should not feel random

The decision making cycle includes five key steps: surface, discuss, decide, execute, and review; all of which plays into a long-term goal. It’s true that not all decisions are of equal value; some are undoubtedly more serious than others. With that being said, the process of making decisions should not feel random, even though gut feelings, deadlines and stress may play a role.

“Emotions are critical to making intuitive decisions. ‘It feels right’ is a valid reason to make a decision,” wrote Forth. “But you still need to think through what the outcomes will be. Nugg let’s you mark any update or comment as a decision and then you or another person on your team can unfold that decision in more detail.”

Designate time to perform and review

By establishing a workplace culture that track, measure and review decisions after time have passed, allows team members to stay alert and execute appropriately in the future. Setting deadlines may seem like a stress magnifier, but that is not necessarily true. Implementing deadlines can sharpen intuitive decision-making, dampen procrastination and offer a more focused timeframe for exploration.

“Review date and getting explicit about expected and actual outcomes is so important,” Forth wrote. “And in most cases the first review should be relatively soon, within three months at the very longest. If you expect an outcome and are not getting it you need to review the decision.”

Don’t let good ideas and bad results get lost in the clutter

It’s not surprising that most people would want to quickly dismiss a bad decision from the past, wipe it from their mind and start anew. But that mentality will lead to history repeating itself. Don’t simply brush bad results under the desk, because they’ll likely reemerge in another form to waste time, effort and money.

On the flip side of the coin, good ideas are exchanged on the daily with zero trace. These ideas are often lost in an email thread, scattered amongst the shambles on your desk or simply placed in the back of your mind.

“Recording decisions and measuring the outcomes is critical today,” noted Gord Kukec, Member of the BCFerries Board of Directors, in a conversation with Nugg. “With so much happening it is easy for people to lose track of decisions and fail to check what actually results, but few teams do this in any systematic way. If you don’t record your decisions and measure the outcomes, you will never improve.”

Employ team members to participate in the decision-making process

Making decisions, especially on behalf of a whole company, is a scary venture. Ultimately, most long-term results are unpredictable.

That being the case, an individual may panic, second-guess or be guided by a bias intention. Even the most apt leaders will have trouble making those “executive decisions,” but the pressure shouldn’t fall solely on the boss—the supporting team should have equal responsibility to supply input and review previous cases, thus leading the best possible result, even if the decision was made in haste.

The Olympics that no one wants

Freestyle Skiing - Winter Olympics Day 13

Why world-class cities opt out of hosting

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 21, 2014

And then there were two: Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, People’s Republic of China. How on Earth did this happen? Is it because hosting an Olympic event is such a drain on a country’s economy, or is it because people just don’t care about the Winter Olympics?

When Oslo, Norway—the frontrunner to host the 2022 Olympics—withdrew its bid on October 1, many fans, organizers, and athletes awoke to a realization: the Winter Olympics was just not worth the trouble. For too long, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had been the popular girl at prom, but now she might have a profile on Plenty of Fish.

The problem is not necessarily the Olympics’ attractiveness, but rather its high standards. The IOC is demanding, and that was the greatest turn-off for the Norwegians. After all, the committee did send over a 7,000-page handbook and requested alterations of traffic and airport customs just for the officials, in addition to a cocktail party with the Norwegian royal family. Such pompous demands say a lot about the organization’s culture. And it’s not too surprising to see that Norway wanted nothing to do with it.

With that being said, there is prestige from hosting the two-week event. Just look at the result of the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver, and you’ll see that the event elevated the city into the world-class standard. It put us centre stage and we astounded the world, in addition to proving many skeptics wrong. We can all agree that Vancouver’s infrastructure, traffic, and tourism economy has taken a step in a positive direction since.

The global situation is that not many cities are capable of becoming world-class cities. Sochi, for example, struggled with the event to the very last moment, and tourism is not exactly flourishing there now. Recessions across many European countries also make the opportunity to host risky.

The most likely event now is that the IOC will select Beijing as the host of the 2022 Olympics—it’s the most reasonable choice. The second possibility is that the committee will offer the opportunity to a country that has proven experience hosting recent large-scale events. What the committee needs to establish is six to 10 world-class cities across the globe that can host the Olympics should a newcomer fail to meet the exceptionally high standards. The United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Italy, France, Russia, and whoever else the IOC deems suitable should be added to their little black book.

No doubt having a list of suitable candidates will reduce the status of the IOC, but is that such a bad thing? What’s the alternative? Waiting by the telephone, hoping that a rich country will call? The IOC should know better: the Winter Olympics is not to be compared with the World Cup or the Summer Olympics. People just don’t need it as much.

Innovators at Interface Summit Forecast Paradigm Shift in Personalization of Tech and Healthcare

Innovators in digital healthcare assembled at Sanotron’s third annual Interface Summit at Vancouver Convention Centre to wrap up the last couple of days of September and to connect technology leaps to global wellness.

A collective voice from many influential speakers addressed a strong demand for practicality in digital health innovations. No longer are stakeholders, practitioners and patients looking for “cool,” “complex” gadgets—they are looking for devices and treatment that “empower” people in all markets and wellness to take better care of themselves.

One area of technology worth highlighting is the design aspect. According to Dr. David Dunne of Rotman School of Business, in digital healthcare designers need to understand three key aspects in order to enhance the user’s experience and achieve the desired outcome: reframing the problem, understanding the user and the context and making is the way of thinking.

“Doctors are empathetic about diseases, they know what diseases and the effects are,” said Dr. Dunne. “I would argue that doctors’ empathy is about the effects, while designers’ empathy is about the experience.”

For chronic diseases, such as diabetes, patients don’t approach therapy and treatment as the “centre of their life.” People get disconnected with the treatment they have, so it is critical that digital healthcare—in order to be effective—must approach treatment through the user’s lifestyle.

Which leads us to the revolving-door-pharmaceutical experience, something we’re all familiar with. After all, approximately 600,000 Canadians visit a pharmacy in a day. We drop out and pick up with little to no information acquired. We take the daily dose as prescribed and cross our fingers, no questions asked. In an aging demographic, it becomes ever more important that doctors, pharmacists and the patients themselves participate in both the monitoring of health and the follow-up stages to ensure that the treatment is performing as planned.

Pharmacist and UBC grad Aaron Sihota believes the dispensary transaction-based paradigm has to change: “I heard a lot today about telehealth and telemedicine, but not too much about telepharmacy. There is huge potential. Take for example the clinic model; you can have the pharmacy work alongside the prescriber to identify safe and effective therapy. Once that’s been done, the person can just fire it off to a vending machine, where a technician can dispense it or that machine can automatically dispense it and do a live feed counseling. So it’s a completely different practice model. I don’t envision it taking over mainstream dispensary, but definitely working alongside it.”

Moreover, much of pharmaceutical medicine is trial and error, an ancient method that has lasted to this day. In a world where automobiles are tested repeatedly before hitting the showroom and airplanes are soaring 35,000 feet in the sky, it’s hard to accept that doctors and pharmacist are still playing the guessing game with our wellbeing. It seems that only technology can change that, and all that will start with experts from different fields joining hands.

“We have to understand that as much as we have to think about the cause, the solution is very important,” said Ali Tehrani, Zymeworks, “and that is the marriage of high-tech and bio-tech.”

Ultimately, changing one aspect will affect another. In the case of global health, there is much to be done in developing countries. If affordable treatments are a problem here in our industrialized world, it is seemingly impossible for those in third worlds. Digital healthcare should not, and cannot, be exclusive to the rich. Therefore, business models need to change along with the technology created.

“There is a view that you can only deal with these problems in developing worlds by having the money endlessly poured in by Gates Foundation or Grand Challenges Canada,” said Loki Jorgenson, LionsGate Technologies, “and it’ll simply be something the market will never be interested in. And so what we have defined as our mission is to make that market work; it’s a business innovation. How do we make money going into developing worlds? And make a lot of money saving those lives? The reason they die and continue to die is because the market is never interested. Why not?”

Digital healthcare is making significant strides, but there are still many leagues to go, a fact proven by all the paradigm shifts suggested at Interface Summit. If a product, a treatment or a solution wants to succeed and help people in the digital health space then it must be guided by those in need of it. After all, the coolest technologies are the one that saves lives.

What’s in a name?

Opinons_Bad namesA bad name lasts a lifetime

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. October 9, 2014

Like a birth defect, poor name choices can be an everlasting nuisance to a person’s life. Although, I don’t know the formula for perfect naming, I do know that certain words have a particular connotation that may evoke emotions that you wouldn’t necessarily want to have associated with a person.

When I was growing up, I didn’t like the name Elliot. I thought it had too many syllables, too many variations, which would lead to incorrect spelling, and of course, it rhymes with idiot, if the person could even pronounce it properly. Elliot is an uncommon name, but it grew on me, and now, I can’t imagine my life with any other name. All in all, I’m sure glad my parents didn’t give me a name that was the first noun they heard when arriving in Canada or a direct translation of a name from another culture or language. Elliot fits me; it fits my environment.

Naming is a big responsibility, and parents should not mess around with it and try to be original or clever. Allow your children to be unique by giving them a blank canvas to work with, rather than imposing a name that they’ll have to explain every time they introduce themselves at a party. Believe me, the story of why your kid is named after your favourite patio furniture will not be enjoyable to tell when they’re at a job interview.

There is nothing wrong with reusing names that have been around for generations. Some of my best friends are people with the same names as each other. I’m talking about the Ryans, the Stephanies, the Michaels, and the Erics out there who actually have a personality that doesn’t play into having a particular name.

Your Instagram user name can be witty, but your real name—the one you have on your birth certificate—should not. And if it is, you should really ask your hipster parents why they decided it was a good idea. You deserve an explanation.

Liberal naming, such as hyphenated surnames, are cool and all, and have come to the fore in this generation. I’m meeting more and more people with two last names and a couple of middle names in addition to their first name. As someone with only a first and a last name, I’m a bit befuddled as to why so many names are needed to represent a person. Can it be that having more is better? I don’t think so. I think all that having extra names does is add to the confusion: a small identity crisis.

I’m happy with my name, and I’m sure many people who have “bad” names are happy as well. But we’ve all met someone or overheard a conversation where we leave saying to ourselves: “What an unfortunate name. His parents must have hated him.” For those thinking of having kids in the future, please heed the name.

I’m not a creep; I’m not a weird-oh

Male fear of being labeled a creep is the creepiest thing of all


By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. September 30, 2014

Boys, have you ever been talking to a girl and suddenly have a thought pop into your head? You know, the one that says: “She’s not interested in you. She doesn’t want to talk to you. You should probably just leave.” Of course, this anxiety is normal. But feeling nervous is one thing, letting it sink in and destroy you is another.

Once that thought materializes it’s hard to overcome it, but understand this: if you aren’t able to rise above that thought, you have officially self-destructed. So please, do walk away before your lack of confidence rips you open and causes you to bleed anxiety all over the sweet girl. It doesn’t matter if she was interested in you or not, whether you were just chatting or if you were flirting, you cannot sell what you aren’t persuaded by yourself.

The overwhelming fear of being labeled a “creep” is what keeps most men from approaching women—not the other way around. So stop identifying everything you do as creepy. Making eye contact with a woman is not creepy. Asking a woman a question is not creepy. Being engaged in a conversation is not creepy. The only thing that is creepy is the weird thought inside your head that is telling you to feel guilty over nothing.

Good intentions shine through and bad intentions deserve to be discovered.

In many scenarios, a man often feels as though he is in a competition for a woman’s attention, but if that is your mentality, then you will be doomed; maybe not in a short-term sense, but definitely in the long run. You should not subject yourself to such pressure, especially if you are in a social environment where other people are waiting for you to strike out. Trying to control someone’s attention is not only creepy, but also neurotic. Don’t try to win someone over with a grand gesture or a long-winded story. The goal is not to keep her attention, the goal is to allow her to comfortably establish a rapport with you.

Your fear of losing the spotlight makes you creepy. You don’t need to be in the spotlight to be appreciated. Most people don’t want to engage with the entertainer, most people want to engage with a fan. So try to be attentive instead of attractive. Show that you can actively listen. Listening is the least creepy thing you can do.

As the Shins said, “caring is creepy,” but worrying about being creepy is 10 times creepier. Forget about it, act cool, and try to stay out of the spotlight. Focus on the story she is telling you, make eye contact, and don’t worry about what your subconscious might think of you.

Not a walk in a park(ing lot)

Opinions_Parking Space

The problem with hoarding parking spaces

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. September 30, 2014

Unless you have paid to reserve a spot to park your vehicle, you have no right to block a space on a public road with a lawn chair, a traffic cone, or an empty milk jug.

While some residential street parking requires a visible permit, many others don’t. This can cause unpredictability for those who drive to and from work. Drivers tend to have little patience to seek out an empty spot; so instead, they will just mark one as their own. Parking spaces are a limited commodity, especially in neighbourhoods where homes don’t have driveways, and garages are used as multi-purpose storages and home fitness centres. With each family having an average of two cars, the streets can become crowded, causing people to wrongfully reserve public property.

While homeowners will argue that the property immediately in front of their house belongs to them, that is untrue. The area belongs to the city and that means anyone in the city can use it. Although the “No Parking” sign people buy from dollar stores is forthright, it often ushers a tone of entitlement, instead of asking for others to be considerate. Perhaps—in Canadian fashion—there should be “Please, I had a long day at work and would like to just get home with as little effort as possible” signs available at Dollarama. Alas, there are not. And unless it’s a government-issued sign, it doesn’t have any authority.

Private or reserved street parking in residential areas do not exist in this city. It doesn’t matter what sign or obstruction you have, you cannot claim a space that doesn’t belong to you.

Street parking is completely legal, and if you see someone who has placed objects on the road to assert their territory, throw them in the trash, because that is littering. With that being said, drivers should also know that according to Vancouver’s city bylaws, a vehicle may only be parked in front of a stranger’s house for a maximum of 72 hours, unless signage states otherwise.

I understand that having someone else parked in front of your house feels like a violation of your privacy, but it isn’t. You live in a community with people who have equal rights as you. The same way you don’t have a reserved spot on the bus or SkyTrain when you get on board, you cannot have a reserved parking space on a public street.

Driving is all about sharing the road, but just as important, it should also be about sharing parking spots. So what? Walk a little for once.

Emerging from beneath the Beijing umbrella

Opinoins_protesters-hong-kong-walking-web1Protests are necessary for democratic Hong Kong future

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. September 30, 2014

There is certainly more to the Hong Kong protest situation than what we see and hear on television and the Internet. With a foreign eye though, I can only assume that those protesters are just striving for what we have here in Canada—surely that cannot be wrong, although the method of obtaining it’s not necessarily kosher.

When a chief executive is elected by a 1,200-member committee for a region of over seven-million people, that can hardly be defined as democracy; the same democracy that was promised in 1997 when Hong Kong was handed back to be ruled under the Chinese “one country, two system” structure; the same democracy that citizens of Hong Kong have still yet to experience; and the same democracy that mainland China is now keeping at arm’s length, making protocols ever harder for equality to be achieved. The word democracy is a lie. So began the unrest in Hong Kong that resulted in 80,000 people crowding the streets, using umbrellas to fend off law enforcers armed with tear gas.

“Crowded” is the apt word for life in that metropolitan city. My father spent much of his childhood and teenage years there, and I continue to have family residing in Hong Kong; what they always tell me is that the conditions are cramped. A living area the size of a Yaletown micro-suite, with far less lavishness, will commonly house a family of four, five, six, seven, and more. I should be grateful, they hint.

Although Hong Kong is a main hub for international commerce and is an economic powerhouse, the citizens are not wealthy. The majority are middle-class and they are getting by. In addition to this, 50 per cent of the population is living in government-supported or -subsidized housing. And the future influencers—the current students—are looking pessimistically at what can be and what probably will be: a government with a fist full of dollars and a region at its knees. Hong Kong is not what it once was. Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou have now taken Hong Kong’s dominance as China’s gateway from the west. It can be said that Hong Kong needs China more than China needs Hong Kong.

However, Hong Kong’s culture and the Hong Kong people have long been removed from the mainlander’s ideals and values. A simple point is that the two regions don’t even speak the same language. There is no doubt in my mind that the two places need one another, but with a strong desire to take steps further apart, I accept the fact that those of Hong Kong are identifying more with Western culture as opposed to the traditional Chinese way of handling politics.

People of Hong Kong want money and they want status within the global economy—not just China’s. We know what it would be if it stays. I’m interested to see what the people of Hong Kong can do if they depart further.

The 2014-15 fantasy hockey picks


Top 16 players in the NHL

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 7, 2014

The NHL season has officially arrived, and fantasy pools are filling up fast. If you haven’t joined one yet, I highly recommend it: it’s a fun way to get distracted from homework, work, or anything else that is totally bumming you out—there, I’ve convinced you. Now with that being said, there’s no time to be wasted, so here are the top 16 players (four from each forward position and four defencemen, goalies omitted) you should do anything you can to acquire:

1) Sidney Crosby, Centre: Since his concussion, I’ve been hesitant to select him first. Needless to say, every year that I don’t pick him, I ended up regretting it. He is the best player in the league, there is no point arguing.

2) John Tavares, Centre: The last few years showed Tavares coming into full form. I’m convinced he’ll have another 90-point season.

3) Steven Stamkos, Centre: There is just something about Canadian centres. Many will argue that Stamkos should in fact be the second pick behind Crosby, but I say, it really doesn’t matter. You can’t go wrong with either of the top three.

4) Anze Kopitar, Centre: And the fourth is not too shabby either. Coming off of a Stanley Cup victory, Kopitar is finally stepping into the spotlight as one of the league’s most dominant players.

5) Patrick Kane, Right Wing: With the memories of the Western Conference Finals loss to LA still fresh in Kane’s mind, I foresee a more determined Chicago squad.

6) Corey Perry, Right Wing: Always a sound player alongside his line-mate, Ryan Getzlaf, Perry can realistically reach the 40-goal mark again.

7) Alex Ovechkin, Right Wing: Once the titan contending for number one spot, now a potential candidate to fly under the radar. Ovechkin is still a prized choice regardless.

8) Martin St. Louis, Right Wing: An inspiration to his team and a 30-goal scorer last season. St. Louis was a slow starter when he was traded to the Rangers, but with eight goals in the playoffs, things look promising.

9) Gabriel Landeskog, Left Wing: The captain of a young Avalanche team has done nothing but impress. This season will surely prove that Landeskog and Colorado’s success was not a fluke.

10) Zach Parise, Left Wing: Always consistent and clutch. That’s how every sniper wants to be described.

11) Jamie Benn, Left Wing: Benn would not likely be your first pick, but if he is still an option in your second or third, don’t hesitate—he was one point away from the 80-point mark last season.

12) Taylor Hall, Left Wing: There is so much potential and hype. Could this be the year that Hall takes it to the next level? He’s a gamble that might pay in dividends.

13) Erik Karlsson, Defenceman: No argument. Karlsson is the best offensive defenceman in the league.

14) PK Subban, Defenceman: He has finally found his style and a new contract. This season will determine what type of player he’ll be going forward, and I predict he’ll be excellent.

15) Shea Weber, Defenceman: Weber’s big shot from the blue-line is just one asset you’ll gain if you select him. I won’t bother mentioning the others.

16) Zdeno Chara, Defenceman: The veteran with still much to prove.

So there are my top 16 picks. If you can get at least one player in each position onto your fantasy lineup, I can almost guarantee success—but I won’t, because I know this season is going to be full of surprises.