Friday, December 24, 2010

Not quite old Ebenezer

Rudolph and Santa Claus Christmas Eve… a night for pondering GREAT mysteries, like how can eight reindeer pull a sleigh through the air and land so preciselyJesus & Mary on every housetop? That’s nine reindeer with Rudolph—and just what makes his nose glow? And what has made Santa Claus so endearing to all the Christian children, yes Christian children of the world (look it up—Santa mostly visits only the nations that are or were Christian!)? Yes, these are the mysteries of Xmas, but Christmas mysteries are even more profound: How did God become a human baby boy born on Christmas Eve? The Ancient of Days became an infant! What did the shepherds think of the spectacular angelic choir? Did Mary understand the uniqueness of the child she carried?
CN Tower lit up for Christmas Leave it to me to go from the sublime to the slick! What’s up with Tim Hortons’ holiday mugs this year? I love these holiday mugs! They are always a great gift for those who already have everything you could think to buy them. Every year it’s a new mug, so you can always do repeats ;) This year is a very nice Canadian mug with great Canadian scenes, but it’s only available in 9 not all 10 provinces! So have you heard about this controversy already? The Canadian scenes mug was apparently “too Canadian” for Quebec, so Tim Hortons dropped the CN Tower and other Canadian icons on the mug for Quebec and picked up the Chateau Frontenac other other Quebec icons.Prime Minister Harper getting the boot from Bonhomme? Maybe it’s just marketing and an attempt to cash in on Quebec, but it seemed a little odd for our national coffee chain to market a national holiday mug and also a Quebec holiday mug. What do you think about Tim Hortons’ strategy? Let me know and please be sure to watch the video… it’s close to being the first video on the Ken Symes’ YouTube channel to get over 2000 views :)


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Canada’s Winter Wonderland: Double Double

Winter has come on real strong in Alberta, the Maritimes and parts of Ontario with unusually high amounts of snow.  In less than a week, London received over 74cm, Alliston 83cm and an incredible 177cm in Lucan, Ontario! Oddly enough, most of the Greater Toronto Area didn’t receive hardly any snow, we were just surrounded by it. In the following video news clip, I was impressed by this very Canadian way of contrasting the amount of snow in Alliston versus the Durham region, east of Toronto, where I live. novideo

It’s going to be a better winter in the far north of Canada. Tim Hortons opened its first stores in our northernmost territory, Nunavut.IQALUIT: DECEMBER 3, 2010 -- IQALUIT TIMMIE'S -- Inukshuk and Michael use a traditional ulu knife to cut the ribbon and open the Iqaluit Timmie’s locations while flanked by Tim Hortons and North West Company management, associated charity heads and other dignitaries. Now Tim Hortons is in all 13 provinces and territories of Canada.

With Winter comes Christmas and for some that means stress, disappointment and grief. At Mere C.S. Lewis, I’ve been running quotes from his book A Grief Observed. I’ll be resuming the quotes from that book this week. I expanded one of these C.S. Lewis quotes with some of my own thoughts at Samartian XP, As empty as a Monday morning church: the grieving heart. I tried to find as much cheer and delight as I can throughout the season.

Did you already hear about what happened to poor Rudolph? A couple of weekends ago, during a Christmas parade in Virginia, a mega balloon Rudolph got taken out my a red light! Enjoy this great video with a Canadian humour track, and please don’t miss the irony of Rudolph being taken out by a red light!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ken Symes’ true coffee confession

I don’t sleep much these days. I NEED coffee. Sometimes I’m desperate for coffee. I gotta have it and I gotta love it. I’m as Canadian as can be so, of course, I drink Tim Hortons coffee (double double, even!). But I must confess to everyone now: sometimes I even drink McDonalds coffee—and like it!

McDonalds coffee appeals to my inner Scotsman. It costs LESS money, tastes good, and they’ll give me a muffin for only 20 cents with my coffee that costs LESS than a Timmies! Wow! What a great deal! But then, they went further… their coffee was FREE for the last couple weeks! Yes, FREE coffee! How could I resist? Barely seen Timmies for two weeks now, except for the occasional opportunity to get a donut for 49 cents with my coffee.

Too many donuts and muffins. Gotta get back to just coffee…


Blogs Update


Wow! I’m loving the great reaction I got to my blog post on PEI scrapping their remaining restrictions on Sunday openings of stores. I used the story as an opportunity to explore the meaning of Sabbath, rest, the significance of Sunday and the challenge for Christians to live Christianly everyday. I’d still love to have more people weigh in on that discussion.

Monday Morning Church But my favourite blog posting this week was one I did at Mere C.S. Lewis, matching up a great music video by Alan Jackson called Monday Morning Church with a reading by Lewis from his book A Grief Observed. Both the song and the reading present a husband grieving over the death of his wife. I was amazed by how well the two mediums blended and personally felt the impact multiplied by reviewing them together. As Lewis says later in the book, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you” (A Grief Observed, 20-21).
Heart used to be full of faith, now it only hurts

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No stopping the good folks of the Maritimes (at Tim Hortons, on Sundays, with Blackberrys!)

Ken Symes (Media Analyst, Maritimes News)  Yes, it’s my job—that’s why you’ll see me mentioning so many stories from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in my blog posts and writing. Here at, in addition to journalling and mentioning the other things I’m publishing on the Internet, I thought I might also blog about Tim Hortons which is certainly something I love. You’ll see I’ve already made several posts about Timmies, but the truth is I’ve been overwhelmed! In Canada, Tim Hortons is ALWAYS in the news. There’s more Tim Hortons news than I’ll ever have time to blog about! Last week, the big news was how Tim Hortons was finally going to accept Interac and I love how they covered this story in Charlottetown, PEI.


The even bigger story from PEI which I just blogged about involves the debate about Sunday shopping versus church and rest. (Check it out: Sunday law, church and shopping in PEI by Ken Symes.)  Prince Edward Island was the last province in Canada to still have legislated restriction on Sundays, in this case preventing retail businesses from opening. A while ago, they allowed stores to open on Sundays for the four weeks before Christmas.PEI flag Then, they became concerned about the tourist season which is one of the province’s biggest economic drivers, so they decided to allow stores to open on Sundays from Victoria Day to Christmas Eve (almost 8 months of the year). Last week, Olive Crane, the Leader of the Opposition, introduced a private member’s bill to scrap this last remaining restriction on Sunday and just leave it up to stores to decide for themselves whether to be open or closed.
This is when the real drama began. The following narrative is clipped from the CBC’s article, “God smote opposition leader, minister suggests.”

Following an appearance on CBC Television's Compass Monday, Crane slipped on the television set, injuring her ankle and wrist. Transportation Minister Ron MacKinley brought up the incident during the debate on the bill Thursday.
"I'm not what you call a saint, but I believe in God and I believe in [doing] the best I can do. You were at CBC pushing Sunday shopping, were you not? On TV?" he asked Crane. "Right after that interview what happened?"Olive Crane, PEI Leader of PC Opposition
"We had a bit of an accident," Crane responded.
"Does that not tell you something?" said MacKinley.
"Like what?" said Crane.
"Like the Lord works in mysterious ways, and maybe you should start worrying what's going on here? We are going all the time, we're getting farther and farther away, whether it's prayers in the schools or whatever it is," said MacKinley.
The minister wrapped up his arguments on the bill soon after.
Premier Robert Ghiz allowed a free vote on the bill. It came to a tie, which was broken in favour of passage by the Speaker.
I’ve posted the video of this drama as well: PEI Sunday shopping law. Bottom line for me: There’s a far better Christian response to this changing of law regarding Sundays. My blog post is an attempt to work towards giving a better Christian response than the one offered by Transport Minister Ron MacKinley: Sunday law, church and shopping in PEI by Ken Symes.
This is certainly not the first time I’ve blogged about a news story coming out of the Maritimes. I’m going to list a few of them. I’ll start with my favourite Maritime blog post; it was about a pastor with a great idea.
ew083110technology.jpg Blessing for your Blackberry, iPhone, netbook, etc.   Rev. Lisa Vaughn invited Blackberry addicts, iPhone worshippers and users of other gadgets to bring them to church on Labour Day weekend for a special blessing, that owners might use these devices for good, life-giving communication. If you visit the blog post, you’ll find that I included a link to a video where you might follow along and pray a blessing for your smartphone, etc.
Reading-a-Jack-Chick-tract The boy who is telling his friends about Jesus and how Jack Chick has made a mess of it   This boy in Halifax, Nova Scotia was excited about his faith in Christ. He was eager to tell his friends at school about his faith, but the school told him to stop. Why? His parents had armed him with Jack Chick tracts: violent, scary, not suitable for children. It had been a while since I’d read a Chick tract and I was surprised by what I found in them.
Copy of tripoli-jail I also blogged about the incredible story of Don Symes (no relation to me, I don’t think so at least), a Canadian from Terrence Bay, Nova Scotia. Working internationally for an oil company, Don ended up spending 56 days in a Libyan jail for he crime he didn’t commit. Very likely when a Pakistani co-worker accused Symes and two other men of assaulting him, his word was taken over that of Don Symes and his co-accused since they were non-Muslim, even though their alibi was solid. According to sharia law, the testimony of a Muslim far outweighs anything said by a kafir. My post is not at all meant to stir up any hatred or ill will, but rather to question the notion that all religions are equal. I raised the question, Are we sure that Islam is a “religion of peace”?
Temporary-BridgeFinally, my tour of Maritime stories I’ve blogged about wouldn’t be the same without my post on The Bridges of Yarmouth County ;)
Yep, a bridge on top of the bridge that they’re not sure about—makes these people feel safe but I think they’re missing something here…

For some of these stories which made the news and were posted elsewhere on the Internet, you can find me making comments. There were many great articles on the Blessing of Blackberrys. I love how everyone tried to get creative with the title:
With regard to The boy who is telling his friends about Jesus and how Jack Chick has made a mess of it, I also found many web articles on Jack Chick tracts:
That’s just a sampling. I’ve found it very beneficial to comment on related blogs and articles after I post to my blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tim Hortons coffee: Not just for Conservatives!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes a sip of his hot chocolate while visiting a Tim Horton's in Oakville, Ontario on Wednesday September 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn I was worried when I started reading an article in The Globe and Mail titled, “Does the Tim Hortons crowd really vote Tory?” Eric Grenier begins the article claiming that, “The Tim Hortons crowd is a blue collar bunch. They like their taxes low, the government out of their face and their leaders the kind you could have over for a beer. And, of course, they vote Conservative. Right?” Here, Ken Symes is thinking, “There is nothing right about this!”

Thankfully, “Analysis shows one’s double-double desire has no bearing on party preference”! And what an analysis it was! I found the article to be fascinating and the research done to support it to be very intriguing.


“Polls have shown there is absolutely nothing that connects coffee preference to political ideology. The relevant poll conducted by Harris-Decima in 2009 showed that the proportion of Liberal, New Democratic, and Conservative voters who preferred Tim Hortons to Starbucks were virtually identical for each party.”

Canadian (Conservative) Defence Minister Peter MacKay on a Tim Hortons coffee break with US (Republican) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Pictou, Nova Scotia, 2006 Let me share a great quote with you that I heard this week from a Republican campaign spokesperson. In the state of New York, the 60th District, Niagara County, they are still re-counting ballots on a very close race that could unseat the incumbent Democratic Senator, but, in fact, the Republican candidate is actually a registered Democrat who happens to have the support of the Republican and independent voters. Anyhow, Doug Curella, a spokesperson from that guy’s campaign said, “I’ve had more cups of Tim Horton’s coffee than I’ve had hours of sleep!” Oh, I know that feeling!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tim Hortons and Canada’s Wheel of Fortune

49¢ donuts are back at Tim Hortons. Purchase any size coffee (or some other beverage!?!) and you can get your choice of a donut for only 49¢. Yes, the Tempt Ken Symes with a Donut campaign has returned! This is way too tempting! I try so hard to stick to just the coffee, well, just the double double coffee. Why must they tempt me? And such a great ad too! The Wheel of Donuts is the most clever Canadianization of an American icon (ie. Wheel of Fortune) ever!

P.S. Back in September Macleans ran the article “Tim Hortons’ extra-large trouble trouble” which was all about how store owner Archibald Jollymore and other store owners were bringing a $1.95-billion class action lawsuit against Paul D. House (President) and Tim Hortons. The store owners claim that Tim Hortons is making them pay increasingly more for their donuts and thus eating into their profit margins. The group of store owners are largely loyal to former Tim Hortons President Ron Joyce and opposed to the overall approach of current Tim Hortons President Paul House. Even though the court hearing was scheduled for November, I have been unable to find out any new information on the case. Makes me think that Tim Hortons has settled out of court to make it go away. After all they were going to expose the secret that “Always Fresh” does not mean what you think it means. See my previous post.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Craving for Turkish Delight

I could not make it through tonight’s shift at work. I was just so tired. And then I began to crave chocolate. More specifically, chocolate over that jelly-goodness called Turkish Delight.

Nestle's Big Turk Turkish Delight
A couple weeks ago, I composed three blog posts about Turkish Delight—the real stuff which is a wee bit different than the Nestle candy bar edition. These posts were for one of the blogs I run called Mere C.S. Lewis. I spent that week working through quotes from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  In that novel, one of the four children, Edmund loves Turkish Delight and this becomes his downfall.

There is a theory about Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia—that each of the seven books presents one of the seven deadly sins. C.S. Lewis scholar Don King argues that,

Edmund Pevensie, personifies gluttony, the sin of excessively using things in themselves legitimate, normally associated with the appetite, and, in effect, making one's belly the god he serves (Phil. 3:19).Jadis tempts Edmund by appealng to his gluttony, giving him his favourite candy, Turkish Delight and promsing him even more! Jadis, the White Witch, exploits Edmund's weakness when she meets him in a snowy woods, offering him a warm drink and Turkish Delight, his favourite candy. From the first bite, he is hooked, for each "piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious." As she pumps him for information regarding his brother and sisters, he readily replies, driven by an insatiable hunger for more and more Turkish Delight: "At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one's mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate, the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive" (32; all references to the Narnia stories are from the Collier edition, 1970).

Some real Turkish Delight, no chocolate ;) You can see these quotes in more detail and illustrated at my C.S. Lewis blog: Turkish Delight posts at Mere C.S. Lewis. Or if you would like to see Don King’s full essay, it is titled Narnia and the Seven Deadly Sins. For my own part, I’m continue to work away at clipping quotes from the Narnia books as we countdown to the new movie Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in just 22 days!

While I have not written about the seven deadly sins in connection to The Chronicles of Narnia, I have, by the way, written about them in connection with… Gilligan’s Island! Seriously, it looks to me that each of the seven castaways on Gilligan’s Island was cast to represent one of the seven deadly sins. Many people have written about this and posted their ideas on the Internet—they are mostly wrong. Often it is claimed that the Skipper is the one who is guilty of gluttony, but this is based on the rather simplistic observation that he is a bit fatter than the others. Here’s the deal: the sin of gluttony is about an insatiable appetite; it is about living for the belly.Gilligan Everyone on the island expects Gilligan to serve them. The Howells offer him money to do things, but that doesn’t motivate him. The Skipper orders him or gets angry at him. Ginger uses her sexual power to convince Gilligan to do whatever she wants, sometimes merely the promise of a kiss will do it. Of course, even that spell is broken on Gilligan when Mary Ann comes along offering Gilligan a coconut cream pie. For that creamy pie, he will do anything. And when Gilligan is doing it for Mary Ann’s pie, nothing can break him of that spell—he would do anything for that pie and that is what makes him guilty of gluttony. You can check out Gilligan and the rest of the seven deadly sins and castaways at my Squidoo lens: Gilligan's Island and the Seven Deadly Sins by Ken Symes.

It’s after 4am… I guess I made it through the night shift! Thanks to Turkish Delight and the mere temptation to gluttony rather than the full blown gluttonous lifestyle. I’ll be sure to stop thinking about Big Turks now and not eat another one this week, at least for this week ;)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to cross without the bridge

Last week, during heavy rain, the people of Quinan, Nova Scotia were evacuated from their homes. Five days later, they were allowed to return home to visit, but there were concerns about the only bridge leading into their community. I am even more concerned about the solution to this problem!
One powerful approach to sharing the gospel is an illustration called The Bridge, but we may be guilty of assuming that this bridge will hold more weight than it can, even though it’s been flooded over by postmodernism. It may be time to learn how to share the cross without the bridge. A while ago, at Samaritan XP, I reviewed The Bridge and showed a new approach to sharing the Christian faith. See what you think: The Bridge to Nowhere by Ken Symes.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I’ve got a good feeling about this!

It’s always amazing to see someone do what looks like it would be impossible. In this case, Wheel of Fortune contestant Caitlin Burke solves a puzzle long before anyone else would think it possible! Long before! How about after just one letter on a 7-word puzzle? Now that’s amazing! Look at the reaction of the guy to the left!

After all those years of watching this show to try to connect with my father who loved it, it’s cool to tune in one more time via a youtube viral video just to see someone do a solve in what looks like an impossibly soon situation. Sorry Dad, it won’t be your son, Ken Symes, doing the miracle solve on Wheel of Fortune, instead it’s a friendly outgoing New York girl, Caitlin Burke. Way to go, Caitlin! I’ve got a good feeling about this!
P.S. The New York Post did a nice follow-up interview if you’d like to know more: ‘Wheely’ Fortunate.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

This is not my father, John Symes, who, unfortunately never had the experience of this D-Day veteran who returned to Normandy to remember. Hopefully, one day, I will go.

remembrance-day-poppy My father, John Symes (1915—2001), was a WWII veteran, serving with the First Hussars as a gunner on board a tank which landed on the shore of Normandy on D-Day. He continued in battle for eight days when he was shot through the abdomen. Thanks to the heroic effort of a fellow soldier, Dad was rescued from the battlefield and his life saved. His brother, George Symes, continued in battle for another seven days and then his tank ran over a landmine. Uncle George miraculously also survived and on the long boat ride home from England, the brothers were reunited.

He never talked much about it. I’m sure his life was never the same after it. My older brother, James Symes, was born in Ontario while my father trained in England. I am grateful that in his later years, he and my mother adopted me. On Remembrance Day, my thoughts weigh heavy on me, contemplating the sacrifices made by my dad and his generation for us. God bless the memories of John Symes and George Symes, real heroes.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tim Hortons’ double double trouble trouble

Tim Horton in Toronto Maple Leafs uniform If I hadn’t been born Ken Symes, I might like to have been Tim Horton! Sure growing up having fun playing hockey would have been great as would becoming a superstar Canadian hockey player, but imagine starting a coffee shop which becomes iconic to a nation! Now that is super cool!
So what trouble is Tim Hortons in? In spite of their claim “Always Fresh,” Tim Hortons donuts are, in fact, prepared in advance, frozen shipped out to all the branches where they cook them the last 5% in a special convection oven before dressing them up. Here’s the trouble. Some store owners are frustrated that the price of these pre-made donuts keeps going up. They are certain that their profits were much higher when the donuts really were “always fresh,” back when each store baked their own. They’re also certain that the donuts used to be bigger. A group of these store owners are suing the corporation and an Ontario court has ruled to allow this lawsuit to go forward in November.
Ken Symes' favourite: Tim Hortons Double Double and Sour Cream Glazed DonutThe trouble for Tim’s will be the disclosures of profit margins which may happen during the court proceedings this month. And it’s double trouble because many Canadians don’t even realize that the donuts are not really made fresh in each store. Watch the news this month for more details—I know I’ll be watching. The hockey thing never really worked out for Ken Symes nor did the coffee franchise thing so these days I work as a news media analyst who enjoys a good coffee and donut from Timmy’s :)

P.S. For more details on the lawsuit, here’s a great clip from CBC News.