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What are you doing Valentine's Day?

On Valentine's Eve we asked what you had planned for the big day of sweethearts, chocolate and slightly disturbing teddy bears. We tracked down some lovely ladies who call Ottawa home to see what they got up to on the big day.

[caption id="attachment_541" align="aligncenter" width="612" caption="Tori, Multi-tasker Extraordinaire: "I worked from 10am until 9:30pm - how creative!""][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_542" align="aligncenter" width="612" caption="Hanna, Grad Student: "Dinner and a movie with my roomie.""][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_543" align="aligncenter" width="612" caption="Alex, political staffer: "Dinner out with my best friend.""][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_544" align="aligncenter" width="612" caption="Tammy, parliamentary assistant: "I watched my favourite movie, Natural Born Killers, with my date, a bottle of wine.""][/caption]

Hmmm...the only constant seems to be the lack of lads. Talk about independent ladies!

I choo choo choose you

It's Valentine's Day Eve and we're decking the halls with...candy?

Without a doubt, Valentine's - or Saint Valentine's as purists would have it - is one of the most polarizing holidays of the year. While its practitioners point all the way back to the poet Chaucer for the celebration's roots, skeptics claim the holiday is merely a fabrication of the powerful greeting card conglomerate.

The jury's still out here at OOHLALA. But we want to know how you are spending Valentine's Day. Do you have a romantic evening of fondue and John Mayer planned with your sweetheart? Will you be devouring a mountain of chocolate in front of the TV? Or maybe you're donning an all-black outfit for an "It's Complicated" party?

Tune in tomorrow to find out how some young folks in the nation's capital have spent their day...

OOHLALA cracks iTunes Top 50!

It's an exciting day for the OOHLALA team as we've been listed at #44 in iTunes' Top 50 Education Apps. If you haven't already, now's a better time than ever to check us out. OOHLALA is free - and always will be!

Point of Order! The story behind Robert’s Rules

[caption id="attachment_515" align="aligncenter" width="466" caption="Order, Order! A reported 90 percent of organizations in the U.S. are governed by Robert's Rules"][/caption]

In our day-to-day lives, we don’t do much in the same manner as we did in 1876. To be sure, we still use the telephone, an invention for which Alexander Graham Bell filed a patent in 1876.  And we still read Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which first appeared that same year. In fact, there’s another holdover from that era: Robert’s Rules.

If you’ve ever attended a formal meeting at university, you’ve probably heard the term “Robert’s Rules” thrown around. Although it’s difficult to gauge, a reported 90 percent of organizations in the United States are governed by Robert’s Rules. But what exactly are they?

Simply put, Robert’s Rules are a convention of rules governing parliamentary-style meetings, and have become a classic since they were first published in the United States in February 1876. When Brigadier-General Henry Robert, an engineering officer in the post-Civil War Army, was left tongue-tied in his attempts to lead a church meeting in San Francisco, he endeavored to ensure it never happened again. “His embarrassment was supreme,” according to the official Robert’s Rules website.

“To bring order out of chaos, he decided to write Robert's Rules of Order,” the website continues. Now the go-to guide on parliamentary procedure, more than 5 million copies of the manual have been sold in its various incarnations.

Craig Ruttan, a former vice president in student government at the University of Toronto, explains that Robert’s Rules ensures order and fairness in student council meetings. “It helps ensure everyone gets their opinion heard and is treated fairly, and ensures due process and consideration is given to all motions.”

Admittedly a “big fan of procedure in general,” Ruttan, who now works at the Ontario Legislature, points out that the conventions also help guarantee legitimacy, especially when it comes to precedence. “Not only does it help student governments conduct business more effectively, it also grants them greater legitimacy in defending past decisions.”

Although highly technical and seemingly archaic, the current stewards of Robert’s Rules have made strides in adapting them to modern society. Now in its 11th edition, the manual is available in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic. Robert’s Rules now consider 21st issues such as video conferencing, and their lexicon has been updated to include terms such as “chairwoman.”

“I'm sure there are elements that are outdated, but I'm a fan of the general concepts,” explains Ruttan. “While it's not the only possible legitimate system, I think overall it functions fairly well.”

Now more than 700 pages long, Robert’s Rules of Order may seem counterintuitive to today’s fast-paced, frenetic way of life. But like any good parliamentarian, Ruttan argues that taking the time to do your homework pays off.

“Like any formal system of rules, it privileges those who take the effort to learn them, which means they can use them to their advantage.”

 Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress/Flickr