--> Gill Blog: May 2005

Gill Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Human Resources HR Continuity

As reported at Continuity Central online:
It is widely recognised that people are one of the prime resources that organisations have, but little attention is given to ongoing human resource protection in many business continuity plans.

Business Continuity, the Risk Management Expo advertises itself as the only exhibition in the UK dealing with all these aspects of business continuity:

* Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Chemical attack
* Surveillance and physical security,
* IT and telecoms continuity
* Brand reputation
* Human resources continuity

HR Continuity is a broad subject, and an economically important one too, as a new report released by the UK Health and Safety Executive on the subject of self-reported work-related illness in 2003/2004 highlights the economic cost of one area of human resources continuity, that of work-related illness.

Monday, May 30, 2005

SARS: Down But Still a Threat

Following the worldwide outbreak of SARS in 2003, the NIC, the National Intelligence Council, prepared an Intelligence Community Assessment, titled SARS: Down But Still a Threat, highlighting the evolution of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the potential implications for the United States.

Even though SARS infected and killed far fewer people than other common infectious diseases such as influenza, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS, it had "a disproportionately large economic and political impact because it spread in areas with broad international commercial links and received intense media attention as a mysterious new illness that seemed able to go anywhere and hit anyone."

The National Intelligence Council's assessment called for building better defenses against disease generally, including pandemic influenza and HIV/AIDS.
The emergence of SARS has sparked widespread calls for greater international surveillance and cooperation against such diseases. SARS has demonstrated to even skeptical government leaders that health matters in profound social, econominc, and political ways.

Political leaders, the public, and healthcare professionals should be prepared for this continuing threat, even when it's not the focus of intense media attention. For more information, refer to the WHO and the CDC websites about SARS from which important lessons must be learned.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Managing SARS in Toronto: Lessons in Biosecurity

SARS! The name leaps out at us as from a horror film. The plague doctor, with his frightening mask stuffed with gauze, herbs, and camphor during the pneumonic plagues of earlier centuries, symbolizes the terror of victims and caregivers. As the story of SARS unfolded, they were often the same, as caregivers were both the victims and the vectors of disease in the outbreak in Toronto.

So begins a Harvard Health Policy Course presented by Martin McKneally, MD, PhD, of the Department of Surgery and Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto. Dr. McKneally is not an authority on epidemics or infectious disease, but delivered this excellent presentation "as an unembedded reporter who has good access to some of the frontline heroes of the SARS wars."

This is an interesting and informative narrative with a slide show that is a great read from beginning to end. We highlight here this important excerpt:
First, the lesson that stands out most clearly is the need to upgrade the public health system through public education of citizens. It is imperative that people at all levels learn how to protect the public's health through elementary sanitation, isolation and quarantine measures. A powerful lesson was delivered when Jim Young, the Commissioner of Public Security, sent the police to the home of a quarantined citizen who defied the quarantine and was not there to answer the phone when he was called by the public health nurses. Second, we need to intensify health worker education. The work ethic that drove one nurse to ride on the commuter train when she had myalgia and fever led to a far greater problem in "chase & trace" epidemiology than the benefit of her living up to the commitment to put her patients first. I feel that all health workers should be appropriately retrained. After training, they should be "on call" for public health responsibilities, so that the problems and the solutions do not have to be learned ad hoc during an epidemic or a terrorist attack. Third, screening for illness should be part of the entry level requirements for travelers. Far better to know whether a patient is febrile than whether he is carrying nail clippers. I don't say this to criticize the efforts that have been made, but to refocus them.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Plague City: SARS in Toronto

As we mark the second anniversary of the Gill Blog this month, it's interesting to look at The Impact of SARS on Business, our first post, particularly in the context of the media attention now being given to the possibility of a pandemic virus. This weekend, CTV, the Canadian television network, is airing a made for TV movie dramatizing the events of two years ago.
CTV Movie - Plague City: SARS In Toronto

Sunday, May 29 at 9pm ET - Condemned by the world, a city faces tragedy in Plague City: SARS in Toronto. Medical thriller humanizes the struggle of heroic health care workers during SARS crisis

Toronto, ON (April 21, 2005) - In the spring of 2003, Canada's most populated city struggled desperately to control a mysterious and deadly virus named SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Now, after extensive research and months of production, CTV invites Canadians to step back in time past the quarantines and police barricades and straight into the heart of the crisis in Plague City: SARS in Toronto. An emotional, medical and political thriller, the timely CTV Signature Series Movie premieres Sunday, May 29 at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings) on CTV and in High Definition on CTV HD East and CTV HD West.

This announcement coincided with the second anniversary of the World Health Organization's travel ban on Toronto (imposed April 23, 2003).

Based on true events and bolstered by extensive research with medical experts, Plague City brings to television the stories of the actual heroes of the SARS crisis: the many health care workers who risked their lives on a daily basis caring for sick and dying patients. At the same time, the CTV movie underscores the struggle of Toronto's public health officials and politicians as they attempted to control the quickly spreading disease, suppress the rising public panic and mitigate the devastating economic repercussions.

Plague City takes us from the town in China where a small scratch on a butcher's hand, inflicted by an infected civet cat, kicks off a deadly chain of infection that lands, quite randomly, in Toronto. Without diagnostic criteria, effective treatments or definitive infection controls, the number of diagnosed cases and deaths from SARS mounted steadily. And with panic spreading faster than the virus, the once clean and healthy city of Toronto became the pariah of the western world. Restaurants, theatres and streets emptied, and incoming travel and tourism were virtually shut down.

"This movie is a tribute to the scores of health care workers who stood fast and weathered one of the most compelling events in recent Canadian medical history," said Susanne Boyce, CTV President of Programming and Chair of the CTV Media Group. "These men and woman are heroes for sacrificing so much in the face of a potential medical catastrophe."

"Most of the characters in Plague City are composites of individuals we met during our research. We heard a lot of very frightening and emotional stories," said Executive Producer Jon Slan. "The film gives audiences a glimpse of both the heroism of the health care workers and the ways in which deadly virus was so quickly able to bring the city to a halt."

Also this week, Nature the international weekly journal of science, published a "news feature" titled "Avian flu special: The flu pandemic: were we ready?"

This feature article is presented online, in the style of a blog.
Welcome to my weblog. I'm Sally O'Reilly, a freelance journalist based in Washington DC. I've been researching a book on pandemic preparedness. But now the time for preparation has run out.

Actually written by Declan Butler, Nature's senior reporter in Paris, the article is a series of futuristic blog posts, chronologically from 26 December 2005 when President Bush announces a full-scale pandemic influenza alert, to 17 May 2006 when the pandemic is declared over.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

HP's Foray into SME BCP

The ad world has created a number of memorable messages intended to make consumers rethink the way they traditionally perceive a product or service. Two examples that immediately come to mind are Oldsmobile's slogan "This is not Your Father's Oldsmobile" - which was intended to convince consumers that Olds was actually cool (alas, the Olds brand was put away for good in 2000); and the "It's not Just For Breakfast Anymore" campaign launched by the Florida Orange Growers to sell more OJ (great campaign that worked very well).

I cite these examples today, because they could very well serve as metaphors for how business continuity planning has not only gone enterprise-wide, but has moved into new market segments. Take small to medium sized enterprises for instance. HP has recently launched a program aimed squarely at this segment:
The HP Business Protection portfolio offers business continuity for SMBs through security, data protection and availability features.

To stress the importance of continuity and disaster preparedness, HP cited a recent University of Texas study that found that 43 percent of companies that suffered catastrophic data loss due to disaster never reopened, and 51 percent closed within two years.

BCP - It's not just for Financial Services and IT anymore. Hmmm, I could be on to something.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Workplace Continuity Defined

Althought I'm on the road this week, I came across this site that provides a pretty interesting definition of workplace continuity:
Workplace Continuity
One of the biggest areas for business disruption is a loss of workplace. For a manufacturer, this could threaten the very existence of the company; but even for a small service sector business, the results could be far reaching. Workplace continuity is becoming increasingly important in facilities management because access to the workplace is threatened in many ways.

Let's see, business disruption, loss of workplace, small service sector business and facilities. Yep, that about covers it.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Face Time Shmace Time

Workplace continuity is the major theme of this forum. For those who may be a little unsure here's the basic gist: tecnology, demographic shifts, lifestyle considerations and risk will force organizations to change the basic configuration and management structures of thier respective workplaces. Through presentations and research, we have strenuously argued that new methods need to devised to measure the performance and productivity of workers - traditional methods such as 'time at desk' and charisma are measures that are relics of a bygone era, and just won't hold water in a contemporary workplace. In fact, this was a major theme we focussed on when we spoke at last year's W4 Conference in Washington D.C.

I've been a big believer that knowledge work doesn't align with the traditional notion of 9-5. It should be no suprise then, that when I stumbled upon this article published in Business Week last month, I smiled and felt as though the world was starting to understand me a little more:
Why do we insist on what, in the current vernacular, is known as "face time"? I define it as the love some managers have for the sight of workers sitting dutifully at their desks hour after hour. Face time made perfect sense for factory workers, who literally had to stay on the line to do their jobs. But today, many of the people who are encouraged, prodded, and shamed into staying at the office from sunup to sundown could work -- probably more productively -- from almost anywhere.

Why? Because the assembly line of ideas chugs on night and day. Knowledge work is 24/7/365, and proceeds whether any one worker is well or unwell, present or absent, alive or dead. In fact, one of the challenges of working in the knowledge economy is the difficulty of taking a vacation. You miss a couple of weeks of work, and you face catch-up frenzy upon return.

So, to hold knowledge workers to the same face-time requirements that Henry Ford used defies common sense. Although companies can use business results to evaluate sales managers, marketing gurus, telecommunications engineers, financial analysts, and most other office types, managers still love to ride herd on their work hours, too. And not just their work hours: Face-time addicts fixate on in-the-office work hours specifically. We all know that our employees jump back on their PCs after dinner at home, but somehow that doesn't count.

I was particularly amused by this section that describes some of the lengths employees will go in order to be physically counted:
One evening, I watched a young man meet the Chinese restaurant delivery person at the side entrance. He returned to his office, opened the container, stuck a fork in the chicken chow mein, turned up his desk radio, and arranged his jacket over the back of his chair. Then, leaving his light on, the dinner on his desk, and his office door ajar, he went to his car.

A carton of food wasted! Well, not in his mind: He had bought himself an extra hour or two of face time, because if a higher-up walked by that open door he'd be likely to think the employee was still working (just at the copier or in the men's room).

This struck a particularly familiar chord with me, simply because last summer, when I addressed the W4 Conference, I began my discussion by running a commercial that lampooned this phenomenon. To see this commercial in all of its glory, click here, and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Beginning or the End of the Line?

Today is like any other typical working day in our household, and one that usually begins when I drop my wife off at her office first thing in the morning. Late last week, we noticed something unusual, a throng of shabby loiterers dressed in odd costumes, aimlessly hanging around the entrance to my wife's building. Not usually something to take notice of, but in this case they also had lawn chairs and sleeping bags, and it was before 7 in the morning. Was there some kind of protest brewing? We didn't give it a second thought.

On Monday, it occurred to us that this wasn't any random gathering, in fact it was the start of a lineup for the new Star Wars movie that debuts this Friday (my wife's office has a movie multiplex on its ground floor). The Star Wars franchise has indeed been unlike any other, as it has transcended the screen to become the basis for what can only be described as cult like behavior; line-ups such as the one I have described demonstrate the magnitude of this following's devotion.

The question I suppose is now that George Lucas has already announced this installment will be the last, will we ever see these kinds of lineups again? When I ponder this, I can't help but think beyond Star Wars to the bigger picture issues and wonder about the changing nature of how we go about watching films. Hollywood, we are told, is in the midst of a massive slump characterized by a marked decrease in box office receipts. Analysts could be dismissive about this and simply chalk this up to a temporary creativity deficit in Hollywood that has resulted in a spate of awful re-renderings of 60's TV shows repackaged for the screen. Once the product gets better, the crowds will come back.

Or will they? The trend in fact could be indicative of something much bigger and more significant, namely, the redundancy of movie theaters themselves. Technology it would seem is having a huge effect on the way people watch movies. DVDs, On-Demand content offered by cable and satellite providers, and sophisticated in-home audio and visual equipment (e.g. HDTV) are equalizing the playing field leaving many consumers indifferent between going out for a flick, or enjoying one at home that is increasingly providing them with a near identical experience. Faced with the choice and the prospect of shelling out a small fortune for the ticket price at a local theater (part of which goes to financing the development charges associated with the over-building of a ton of expensive multiplex theaters in the 90’s, that were supposed to serve as the anchoring strategy for the new retail complexes of the future), more and more consumers are taking a pass on the theater option and staying at home. The result is predictable, box office receipts are down, and theater operators are being forced to drastically reduce their prices.

The point of today’s rant? Amidst all the change that has taken place in business over the past century, what with the decline of manufacturing, the rise of knowledge work much greater participation rates of women and minorities in the mainstream workforce, and other significant factors (such as risk), the motion picture industry has remained relatively unchanged, and true to a business model that has worked for almost a hundred years. It now finds itself at a crossroads; in order to move forward, it now needs to make significant changes to that business model, mainly because the bricks and mortar are really not that an important significant consideration in the overall equation. If change of this magnitude can radically impact the movie business, we would be naïve to assume that external forces will not affect the way we conduct work, and change the bricks and mortar equation associated with workplace.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Davis's Committment to Teleworking

Last summer we extensively reviewed the Congressional hearings on telework, sessions that linked risk management to teleworking. Yesterday, the following piece came out that reviewed where things stand a year later.
House Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) revisited the issue of emergency preparedness and telework for federal employees last month at a hearing on the government's progress on continuity of operations (COOP) planning.

Teleworking, it seems, will play an increasingly important role in providing essential services in the event of a crisis for the safety of its federal workers. Despite the urgency, adoption is still slow. In the article, Davis is quoted as making a direct link between continuity planning, teleworking and dispersion:
Davis said telework is an important component of continuity planning. By allowing employees to work from home or remote locations, government agencies can operate flexibly, and a dispersed workforce can maintain operations during an emergency.

"It is imperative that we incorporate telework into our government's continuity planning," Davis said.

These are familiar themes on this forum, and we will continue to monitor this situation closely.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

National Hurricane Preparedness Week, 2005

May 15 through May 21 is National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Each year from June through November, Americans living on the Eastern seaboard and along the Gulf of Mexico face an increased threat of hurricanes. These powerful storms can create severe flooding, cause power outages, and damage homes and businesses with their high winds, tornadoes, storm surges, and heavy rainfall. The effects of these storms can be devastating to families and cause lasting economic distress. During National Hurricane Preparedness Week, we call attention to the importance of planning ahead and securing our homes and property in advance of storms.

Last year, six hurricanes and three tropical storms hit the United States, causing the loss of dozens of lives and billions of dollars in damage. Across the United States, Americans responded to these natural disasters with extraordinary strength, compassion, and generosity. Many volunteers donated their time and talents to help with the cleanup, recovery, and rebuilding of communities devastated by the hurricanes and tropical storms.

To prepare for the 2005 hurricane season, I urge all our citizens to become aware of the dangers of hurricanes and tropical storms and to learn how to minimize their destructive effects. Our Nation's weather researchers and forecasters continue to improve the accuracy of hurricane warnings, enabling residents and visitors to prepare for storms. By working together, Federal, State, and local agencies, first responders, the news media, and private citizens can help save lives and diminish the damage caused by these natural disasters.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 15 through May 21, 2005, as National Hurricane Preparedness Week. I call upon government agencies, private organizations, schools, and the news media to share information about hurricane preparedness and response to help save lives and prevent property damage. I also call upon Americans living in hurricane-prone areas of our Nation to use this opportunity to learn more about protecting themselves against the effects of hurricanes and tropical storms.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty ninth.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Gridlock Getting Worse

The 2005 Urban Mobility Report, measuring traffic congestion trends between 1982 and 2003 was released this past Monday, and showed that traffic congestion is costing Americans $63.1 billion per year. The report, released by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) demonstrated among other things that there is a growing list of metropolitan areas where commuters are delayed at least 20 hours per year. According to this article in the Detroit Free Press, gridlock continues to worsen:
There are 51 such places now, compared with five in 1982. Among some of the newer entries: Colorado Springs, Colo.; Virginia Beach, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; New Haven, Conn.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Salt Lake City, and Cincinnati.

The authors contend that much of the problem has to do with a failure of urban areas to provide the capacity required to keep pace with growth. The time and money required to get back to a state of equilibrium further reinforces the depth and dimension of the problem, as reported here:
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials estimated it would take as much as $400 billion in federal spending over the next six years to solve traffic problems, based on a 2002 study...Roads aren't being built fast enough to carry all the people who now drive on them, according to the Transportation Development Foundation, a group that advocates transportation construction.

The TTI suggests that problems can be addressed by better planning:
The release of the annual study by the Texas Transportation Institute comes at a time when the U.S. Congress is considering legislation to re-authorize funding for transportation programs and projects across the nation. The House-passed version of the six-year bill includes a Congestion Relief Program to address urban congestion problems. "The bill includes important sections dedicated to developing a strategy to improve mobility by attacking congestion in a systematic way using an array of traffic congestion relief activities," says study author Tim Lomax, a research engineer at TTI. Those include building more road and public transportation capacity, operating that capacity for the most efficient service, and innovative pricing and truck-only lane projects.

The proposals suggested to address the problem fall into what I can only call the "Abra-Cadabra" approach to planning - i.e. build it and abra-cadabra, problem solved. In fact solutions such as these fail to address the systemic problems that need to be addressed before we can meaningfully move ahead. Not once did this report or any of the other random articles I found on the web talk about telework, or a dispersed, web-enabled workplace. Anita Campbell's blog talks about Ross Mayfield, CEO of SocialText, who discusses "net-enabled bootstrapping" and how technology will create redundancies in real estate:
"I am convinced that being virtual is the best way to start a company. The benefits go beyond cost (although the culture of frugality can go a very long way). In our case, it improves the product. But generally it is more productive. When the bandwidth for collaboration is constrained at times, you gain a certain focus."

Until policy makers realize their proposed solutions have about as much long-term viability as the little Dutch Boy's solution to repairing leaky dams, the issue of traffic congestion will only get worse.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

An Overly Democratic Approach to Risk?

I was having a discussion with a public safety official at a local college the other day where we exchanged differing views on our respective approaches to risk management. He seemed to subscribe to a strategy that was geared to equally addressing all hazards. I thought (as I have for the last few years) that when it came to formulating strategy, business continuity planners, emergency managers and even real estate and facility managers were being a tad too democratic.

Too democratic? Before you banish me and the blog to a Siberian labor camp let me explain. If any institution receives a set amount of funding to construct an all encompassing risk management program, they have a choice - they can be democratic and equally allocate their funds to all areas that provide a blanketed approach to risk, or they can be a little more analytical - authoritarian even - and allocate those monies towards the areas that require it most. Where the monies are allocated depends on the probabilities of events occurring. Let's use a basic example, Columbia University, located in Manhattan will clearly spend more on security-related systems than, say the University of British Columbia, an institution better served by putting their dollars toward strategies that mitigate the impact of earthquakes.

I barely had a chance to have a cup of coffee before my brother called and alerted me to the cover story on the Sunday New York Times that discussed how many of the monitoring systems put in place by the Department of Homeland Security - an estimated $4.5 billion worth - have become obsolete:
Many of the monitoring tools - intended to detect guns, explosives, and nuclear and biological weapons - were bought during the blitz in security spending after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In its effort to create a virtual shield around America, the Department of Homeland Security now plans to spend billions of dollars more. Although some changes are being made because of technology that has emerged in the last couple of years, many of them are planned because devices currently in use have done little to improve the nation's security, according to a review of agency documents and interviews with federal officials and outside experts.

...Federal officials say they bought the best available equipment. They acknowledge that it might not have been cutting-edge technology but said that to speed installation they bought only devices that were readily available instead of trying to buy promising technology that was not yet in production.

The effects of such hastiness have become quite apparent:
At airports, similar shortcomings in technology have caused problems.

The Transportation Security Administration bought 1,344 machines costing more than $1 million each to search for explosives in checked bags by examining the density of objects inside. But innocuous items as varied as Yorkshire pudding and shampoo bottles, which happen to have a density similar to certain explosives, can set off the machines, causing false alarms for 15 percent to 30 percent of all luggage, an agency official said. The frequent alarms require airports across the country to have extra screeners to examine these bags.

Because the machines were installed under tight timetables imposed by Congress, they were squeezed into airport lobbies instead of integrated into baggage conveyor systems. That slowed the screening process - the machines could handle far fewer bags per hour - and pushed up labor costs by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The overly democratic approach to risk management I was discussing with my friend at the college seems to not only be occurring on a micro level, but on a macro level too. This article in the Financial Times points out the inefficiency of a blanketed approach to risk management:
Glenville is unlikely to figure high on any list of potential terrorist targets.

The small town in south-east Georgia is little more than a ramshackle collection of one-storey wooden homes and whitewashed churches, surrounded by miles of farmland. Yet, beside a road junction outside the town stands a large billboard advertising a government website that informs people how to prepare for a terrorist attack.

The image illustrates one of the most striking features of the US response to the events of September 11: that much of the government money to protect against future attacks is being spent in places foreign terrorists would have trouble even finding.

...Much of the problem has been due to the way in which Congress allocated the funds in the months after September 11. Under the influence of politicians from rural districts eager to get their share of the new windfall in homeland security spending, the 2001 Patriot Act guaranteed that each state would receive minimum shares regardless of its location or population.

When billions of dollars began flowing for homeland security, many states simply did not know how to spend the money. The state of Missouri, for instance, bought 13,000 chem-bio warfare suits at $400 apiece, enough for every police officer in the entire state.

The point here is not to be an armchair critic of policy, but instead to use these anecdotes as a way to refine policy and move to a more efficient level of management.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Remembering Mom

Mother's Day is always a time to put aside issues that consume us in our day to day lives, and focus on Mom. Although I lost my mother four years ago, she is always with me. Today, I thought I would do something a little different to remember her. After she passed, I submitted a piece about her to The Globe and Mail, hoping that they would publish it. On December 21, 2001, they did, so I thought today would be a good day to republish it as my way of saying thanks to Mom.
Mohindra Pal (Dhaliwal) Gill
Earthy, Enlightened, Progressive, Canadian; way ahead of her time.
Born May 13, 1928, Matta, Punjab, India.
Died May 11, 2001, Markham, Ont. of respiratory disorder.

Mohindra Gill was born into a family of agricultural landowners in rural Punjab. The traditions of the day prevented women from laying claim to their ancestral land. For women, the trick was having their parents find a good husband from a similar background, raising kids, cooking, and most importantly, keeping opinions to oneself. Women’s colleges were merely finishing schools; higher education was never even considered. Her mother, having lived through the oppression of that cycle, wanted a different world for Mohindra and steered her toward the stars. The result? Mohindra was the first person from her village, male or female, to graduate from university.

In the 40’s she enrolled in an exclusive college in Lahore just before the winds of revolution began blowing. The British were pulling out of India and Partition between India and Pakistan was beginning. Soon, she found herself in the midst of riots, where people of all faiths were being butchered in the streets. Education took a back seat to survival. On one particular evening while trying to find refuge from the riots that surrounded her on the streets, she spotted a horse drawn cart with some ominous-looking characters hurtling toward her. It was her father who had come to Lahore to rescue his daughter. Flanked by a team of hearty field hands ready for a good fight (a small arsenal of weapons and ammunition accompanied the crew), my grandfather bundled her into the back of the cart, and they returned to the Indian side by moonlight.

After getting engaged and planning her wedding, Mohindra suddenly fell ill. It was tuberculosis and in 1951, this was a death sentence; doctors told her that she would not survive the year. She simply wanted five more years. Buoyed by the support of her devoted fiancée Ajit, she recovered three years later.

After marrying, Ajit and Mohindra arrived in Toronto in 1958 to enroll as graduate students at the University of Toronto. The game plan was simple: exorcise their wanderlust with a 1-2 year junket to the Americas; earn a Masters’; head back home to India to prestige and privilege. Instead they decided to pursue their doctorates, while raising two boys.

In 1967 she presented her doctoral thesis in Education. It was entitled “Pattern of Achievement in Relation to Self Concept” and proposed the idea that people were born neither smart nor stupid, but influenced by self-perception. It was a groundbreaking study and followed by a whirlwind North American tour. On December 7, 1968 the Toronto Star covered her speech to the Ontario Educational Research Council, and suggested that this topic may be instrumental in eliminating the use of intelligence testing in the classroom, which is eventually what happened. Regardless of what society told her, she defined what an Indian woman could be in Toronto in the 1960’s.

Being one of Toronto’s early pioneers from India, Dr. Gill retired from the OISE at UofT in the mid 1980’s to offer sagely advice and guidance to members of her community. In recent years her health began deteriorating. On a routine visit to the hospital in May, she suffered a serious respiratory attack. On the morning she died, she was flanked by her family, including three beautiful and inquisitive little granddaughters, Maureen, Julia and Hana who seemed particularly quiet yet comforted in the presence of their ailing grandmother.

My wife and I have enrolled Hana in Montessori school during the fall. The teacher tells us that even when all the other kids are obediently sitting in a circle, Hana is more interested in roaming around and exploring her new environment. It makes perfect sense to me.

Tony Gill
Tony Gill is Mohindra Gill’s son.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ballistic Missile Defense

reproduced with permission from Wordlab

BMD: Ballistic Missile Defense systems were all but deployed in New Mexico this week when a middle school was terrorized by a student.
Someone called authorities Thursday after seeing a boy carrying something long and wrapped into Marshall Junior High.

The drama ended two hours later when the suspicious item was identified as a 30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole, lettuce, salsa and jalapenos and wrapped inside tin foil and a white T-shirt.

"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," school Principal Diana Russell said.

State police, Clovis police and the Curry County Sheriff's Department arrived at the school shortly after 8:30 a.m. They searched the premises and determined there was no immediate danger.

The suspicious weapon was just a Burrito of Mass Distraction.