To my younger, more hip, relative as we walked along the ocean:
"Hey, check that out. The river otters are playing across the inlet."
"The River Otters? What band is that?"
"Uh, it's mother nature, not a Band."
Two friends sharing a futon: "Those are very special parts. Don't poke them."
Sandritia, on trying to decide what crackers to put out for an appitizer. "Digestives? It's the dessert cracker!"
Little LP, during a car ride home:
"Dad, can we go to 7-11 for a slurpee?"
He then turned to his little sister and wispered "We're not going because maybe means NO!"
Thursday, December 27, 2007
To my younger, more hip, relative as we walked along the ocean:
Thursday, December 20, 2007
"Why do I always do this?"
"You know, start the project the night before?" She plopped herself down at the kitchen table, bring with her a stack of cookbooks so tall it could have passed for the beginnings of a bunker under construction.
Although she had been talking about it for over two weeks, the night before 30+ kid-friendly Christmas treats needed baked for pre-school class tomorrow, LP-ette was still undecided what to make.
"I mean, it's 10pm and I have all these treats to bake. Safeway is still open, will you go and pick something up for me?"
I looked across the table, mustered all my strength and gave my best evil eye. It was hard to do over the stack of books, but I still felt I gave it my best shot. "No. And you know why? Because lack of planning on your part shouldn't be an emergency on my part - especially when you talked about planning for at least 2 weeks solid."
"You didn't answer my original question. Why do I always do this!"
"I know why. Like a Delta Force sniper, you are a highly trained to procrastinate. In fact, you are so skilled at it, you can do it without thinking. It comes as natural as breathing. Now that's a skill to be proud of."
She looked over at me and with almost no effort gave me back an evil eye that made mine melt.
"You want me to get my keys, right?"
"Will 2 dozen cookies be enough?" I asked, getting up and reaching for my coat and car keys.
"And should I pickup a Starbucks Latte as well?"
Later, as I departed from Starbucks and felt the Jedi force wash off me, it was only then that I realized she had another, more powerful, skill to recon with. Not only was I her unwitting procrastination backup, but I also doubled as her Starbucks delivery boy. And it all started with her needing to bake cookies. All I could think was Wow. She's good.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
While the snowstorm subsided (and turned to flooding) I still am busy working out the details and subject-to's of a potential property purchase.
"So can you inquire with your client about arranging removal of her items?"
"I'm sorry, I can't comment on that."
"You can't comment, or don't know, or do know and won't say?"
"I'm sorry, I can't comment on that either."
"So what you're saying is you don't know."
"I can't comment on that either. You'll have to do what you have to do."
"So you are saying I should go and get an Order of Possession and take your client's stuff?"
"I can't comment on that either."
THEN on Friday afternoon I get a voicemail from the lawyer.
"I talked with my client and you have permission to move her items into storage."
No mention of how to move it.
No mention of where to move it.
No mention of who is paying for it.
No mention of how long I have to store it.
If I did call to inquire about the above, I am sure her reply would include the phrase "no comment."
I hope the property sale goes through because I will need a vacation from the tenant fiasco when this month is over. Next week will be the make or break for both points. Wish me luck.
**Disclaimer: Since I am quoting a lawyer who sounded like she would sue me at the drop of the hat, please not I am paraphrasing, and the conversation may not have gone exactly as quoted. There may, in fact, been one or two more "I can't comment on that" than I recall.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
In the past 2 weeks I have:
Now you know why I haven't been blogging...
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
A telemarketer called my brother last week, asking for his wife, who passed away last September - or "Passed by" as Little LP says. Here's how the conversation went:
"hi, this is Britney and I am ......."
"no, sorry, already get it delivered at work for free."
"oh, and does your wife get it as well?"
" well, I am not married."
"oh, the listing says K?"
"well, that is because she died 2 months ago and your listing hasn't been updated."
"oh, oh, oh my god, I am so sorry....."
"well, it isn't your fault (laughing) but you must admit it is kinda funny about how you must be feeling. Have a good night calling countless others"
Now, you must admit that was pretty funny. Can't imagine what Britney is thinking right now about her last call.
Personally I can't stop laughing. Bet she doesn't call again.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Last June I wrote about the Dunbar Number and social networking.
This week Carl Bailak at the WSJ jumped onboard and did the same thing with his article entitled "Sorry, You May Have Gone Over Your Limit Of Network Friends"
Now all I need to do is figure out how to let them know where to send the royalty cheques....
Monday, November 12, 2007
I've been in Nashville for the past few days for work. I already am overwhelmed by the highways and miss the ocean breeze.
On the flip side I was given some good hunting tips today at lunch by a group of engineers.
I also have heard rumors of a Coyote Ugly bar in town.
It shall be an interesting week...
Monday, November 05, 2007
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
"I don't give out my number, but if you give me yours I'll be sure to call."
"How will I know?"
"I always call guys back that have an accent."
It had started innocently enough - what I thought was a couple on the plush chairs at Starbucks, relaxing and enjoying their drinks. Beside them were two empty plush chairs, facing the two they were sitting in. Not wanting to interrupt their conversation I made the international gesture for "are these seats taken". She gave me a look and quickly replied "Sorry, they both are." After a brief moment she broke into a smile and said "Just kidding, go ahead."
Getting lost in my thoughts I didn't pay attention to their talk. A while later he finished his coffee and headed off, while she started to pack her bag to go. As she got up she realized she needed to navigate around me to get out.
"Can you excuse me please?"
"No" I replied with a deadpan tone, dispensing payback without even thinking twice.
It took a second but she looked over and thinly smiled. "Ahhh, good one! Quick witted!" She stopped, tossing her hair to the side in a I-just-got-picked-up head flick. "Now that I have his number don't the guys give high-fives or something?" She continued on, adding some hand gestures. "You know, up high, down low, slide the fingers." Oh wait, I'm dating myself, I'm 34 so you probably don't know what the heck I'm talking about. Being only slightly younger than her I smiled silently to myself.
"Ok... got to go to the bathroom. Can you watch my stuff? I mean, you can leave, but if you don't that would be better. It's just my coat and scarf I have, but they are nice...”
I nodded and she headed off. After a few minutes she came back and plopped down on the plush seat.
“Thanks for watching my coat.” She looked me up and down – without looking me up and down – and continued on. “Aren't you a bike courier? You've got the biking jacket and shorts, with good legs and calves. I'm just assuming." Then she thought for a moment. "No...are you an Stock Broker? I mean, it’s 2 in the afternoon and you’re just hanging at Starbucks reading some business type book.”
"Was that what he was?” I replied, gesturing to the empty seat that the guy chatting in when I sat down. I did her them talking occupations, with the direction of gold-digging in her voice.
"Yeah, that’s what he said. But he was too old. Do you think I should call him? I should have told him I'm not dating.” She looked back at me again. “So what kind of job do you have that you can wear shorts to a meeting? Can I call you Biker Boy?”
“I’m a writer. You know, those people that hang out all day and watch other people so they have something to write about.”
"Oh, a writer? Oh my god, I'm so embarrassed.”
“That’s good because you just talked your way into something I will probably write about.”
She giggled “Hmmm, can you call me Isabella, no wait Paisley. If I see Paisley written somewhere I will know it was about me.”
Thankfully her swooning was interrupted by the ring of my phone with Sandritia coming up on my caller display. From four blocks away, she must have sensed the situation through her girl senses. “Sorry, I need to grab this” I noted, pulling out my phone.
"OK LP, I'm ready for a night on the town. You ready to go?"
"Yep, I’ll be on my way now and meet you there in a few minutes.”
I closed my phone and bag in one swoop, standing and readying myself for departure. “Have a great day Paisley. I’m sure there will be a stock broker coming in sometime after the markets close.”
“See you Biker Boy!” I heard her call out as I stepped out onto the street.
As I left I realized I didn't give her the high five. Maybe it was for the best. When I get home I'll ask my wife and she what she says. I'm sure she will agree...
Sunday, October 28, 2007
For the past few months Little LP has been taking drum lessons. Our goal was not to find him the noisiest instrument possible, but rather to channel his energy from banging on all the good furniture into drumming on a set of rubber drum practice pads.
Now, with a 4/4 beat down on the high-hat, kick-drum and snare, he has been progressing onto triplets and paradiddles to the beats of Tom Cochrane and Stevie Ray Vaughn. After seeing him play one of the 12 year olds having lessons exclaimed “Man, he’s going to be sooo cool when he gets to be in grade 6!” While he is far from banging out some Neil Pert solos, he can keep tempo with AC/DC’s For those about to Rock. Not bad for a 5 year old.
Another year of blogging has come up me - I am entering year 3 - the preschool years! While my posts have slowed down I have been working on more quality than quantity. Like Little LP, I’ve been working on the literary equivalent of triplets and paradidles, instead of just bashing the tom-toms all over the page and hoping some semblance of beat shows up in the form of well crafted prose.
In early January I started back to work, which shifted me towards writing more “Crazy Me” stories, instead of the historic “Crazy People” posts. To be honest I have missed being downtown watching the crazy homeless people and animated Starbucks yuppies providing me with stories. But I now revel in being at work where I can watch the crazy telemarketers from the building next door and animated Facebook Addicts updating their status between meetings. Blogging fodder – take it where I can get it.
You may be asking, what does this mean for the next year of blogging? I should be back to work full time, but plan to keep up with my posts, because I am hoping with all this writing practice I will become “soooo cool” when I get to the blogging equivalent of grade 6.
And when we all get there you’ll be able to say you knew me when I was still fumbling with the differences between a prepositional phrase and when to use an indefinite article.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Little LP was sent to the Principal's office today for punching another boy.
Not so surprising, except keeping in mind he is five and only in kindergarten. The other side of the story is that he swung back at the other boy, after he hit him first.
As a parent I am struggling between having my child hit someone elses child, and having my child not back down to the bully that hit him first.
Now that I think about it, I'm proud of little LP for taking the swing back! All those days of watching Star Wars with him paid off. He's taking after Han Solo - the revised edition where Greedo shot first
I worked it out: Only 2500 days of school left between now and grade 12. That's a lot of days to shoot first.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
“I need 3 large totes of your of coffee. To go.”
A look of panic crossed the barista’s face. She turned to her coworker and said “Start making coffee. Now.”
“Well sir, it will take ½ hour to brew that. We can’t use up all the store’s coffee in case people that come in want something as well.”
I looked down at my watch, mentally working out the commute time as compared to my meeting time. “Hmm. What can you do in 20 minutes?” I countered, seeing how far the Starbucks-Say-Yes policy would take me.
“We can do 2 totes for sure. I can do 3 but it will take another 10." I looked at my watch again, balancing off the need for being on time for my meeting, or being late but bringing coffee for everyone.
“Hmmm. Do two. It may be enough.” I added an extra bottle of San Pellegrino to my tab and sat down at the nearest table, settling in for my wait. With no laptop or work with me, I was forced to relax, just like the old days of 2005.
“Hey Coffee Guy!” one barista yelled over the counter at me. “How many people are there? I will have cups and lids ready to go for you as well.”
“50” I called back, realizing I was probably going to screw most of the people at the end of the line out of their drink, or at least make them wait longer. I felt like that big fat guy at the front of the buffet line that takes all the shrimp and doesn’t leave enough for the rest of the line. There were pangs of guilt, but they passed quickly. Very quickly.
She stopped and came around the counter waving her hands. “You can’t serve 50 people with two totes! You need four!”
I looked at her and shrugged my shoulders. Lack of planning on my part was not going to make it an emergency on my part because it was, after all, just coffee. Besides, she seemed to be taking care of being wound up for me. I sat there looking at her, wondering if when I came in and placed my order they all freaked out and had a shot of espresso before tackling the job.
22 minutes later the head barista came up to me. “Ok, here’s the scoop. It’s your lucky day as we’ve brewed a lot of extra coffee and everyone in the past 20 minutes only ordered bar drinks. So I have enough coffee for the four totes. That’s 50 people, easy. And do you need milk, cream, soy or ½ and ½? I can also give you decaf, dark roast or our light roast blend to choose from.”
“Well, I’ll take the three. I think that should be enough. And I’m not sure about the milk thing. Just give me what you think we need. For the coffee type, just surprise me.”
“Are you sure? Don’t you know what people want in their drinks, let alone what type of coffee they want?” Her voice was somewhat accusatory towards me, like somehow she was going to be blamed for me bringing coffee without the right mixes to make it like people want.
I decided at that point I should make my confession. “Look, here’s the deal. I don’t drink coffee. I have no idea how long it takes to brew coffee, or how many cups people drink in a morning. Nor do I know how much milk people need, or if they prefer cream. I just happened to be the guy from the team that was driving by Starbucks on his way to work and was asked to ‘pickup coffee for everyone’. I just made the assumption that when I needed coffee for 50 people, I could stop at a coffee shop and order some, and be on my way, even if I had to wait. And really, I don’t mind the wait and will just grab what I can before having to head out.” As her eyebrows rose at me I could almost hear her thinking How can you not drink coffee? I continued on “In fact, the only think I do know is that when I make coffee ice-cream for my wife at home, I need a free cup of coffee from Starbucks, and a cup is 12 ounces.”
A few minutes later she came out with my 3 full totes of coffee, and 4 venti cups full of cream, milk, ½ and ½ and soy. “I just gave you lots of everything. And just so you know, next time you can call ahead and we can have it ready.” With that I loaded up the car and headed making meeting on time with 2 minutes to spare.
Moral of the story: don’t send the non-coffee guy to pickup coffee for everyone. He may be late, will probably get the wrong type of coffee, and not bring the right mixers. The only reason I was saved was because of the barista, who must have felt the pain of my coworkers and ensured I had enough of everything.
Epilogue: I get to my meeting and put the coffee out for everyone. At the end of our presentation, everyone filed out of the room, having only drank the equivalent of one tote of coffee. That left two full ones there, standing beside 4 full venti cups of milk mixers. So now I know, people at my office drink it black, if they opt to drink at all. Lesson learned.
Friday, October 12, 2007
I have a confession to make.
I'm not proud of it, but she tricked me into it.
Honest. I thought it was a comedy. I was blindsided by Jack Black. And i'm sure she knew it.
In the last week I have watched not one, but two romantic comedy movies.
Watching them gave me time to think about why it was I willingly sat through them. Tranlsted into academic-speak - it gave me time to develop a theorm for why I was sitting though the movies.
Spousal Movie Rental Theorem: A man's willingness to watch a movie his better half has brought home from the movie store is directly proportional to the amount of "Chick Flick" content, as measured against the length of the relationship.It really comes down to the type of movie and how long you have been seeing the person that picked the movie for you. At the beginning of the relationship, it is anything goes! Not sure if you are there? A good check is consider if you would willingly sit though The English Patient. Over time the willingness drops, with fluctuations for events such as Marriage (going up), or having children (going down, because that's what started it after all!). Of course regardless of a relationship status certain types of movies will be a sure fire hit, namely any action movie. The comedy is usually a sure fire hit, with only small fluctuations dependant on the current state of the relationship.
In my case, both movies had more "comedy" than "romance" to outweigh and keep it below the relative threshold of "chick-ness" required for theatrical enjoyment. Having Seth Greene or Jack Black do their comedic routine of one liners and facial expressions was that "more comedy than romance" for me.
So there you have it. I was bamboozled. And I'm sure she knew it when she picked the movie. Now, armed with this knowledge, I can pass on some tips to all women who are about to venture to the movie store in hopes of finding a movie that will be measured a success when returning home:
1) Get all your chick flicks in during the early dating and marriage phase
2) Ensure there is enough comedic talent in the Romantic Comedy category of movies to spin them as a Comedy.
3) Ignore everything and say the immortal words "Why don't we snuggle and watch Star Wars together. I'll even wear my Golden Bikini."
Saturday, October 06, 2007
I spent part of my weekend with JT, who is our resident dentist in our group of friends. Apart from feeling self conscious about not flossing enough for the weekend, I learned something very value we can all draw from. Something we can all apply to about 80% of our lives.
Upon entering JT's bathroom I noticed not one, but two tubes of toothpaste sitting upright on his bathroom counter. One Crest and the other Colgate.
I peered around the corner and yelled out to my host. "Hey JT. I noticed you have two kinds of toothpaste. Which one do you use? I all of a sudden feel inferior with my tube of Aquafresh here."
"As long as it doesn't include diethylene glycol, you'll be fine. But for the record I use both. Or whatever I bring home from the office." I must have looked perplexed because he offhandedly finished his professional opinion with a "No preference really."
It was then I realized that about 95% of the statistics I hear in the form of advertising seem made up. Years of overexposure to corporate advertising turned into a statistical epiphany. "You mean to say, you're that 5th dentist we keep hearing about?"
So now you know - when 4 out of 5 dentists recommend Colgate, that 5th dentist? Well, it's not that he doesn't recommend it, but rather he uses them all, or has no preference. Suddenly that 2nd doctor's opinion has greater statistical weight of being different.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I learned this weekend that having your brother in law over to drink your good Scotch and simultaneously help move things will cost less than having your wife help move things.
Because if things go wrong with your brother in law you're just out of Scotch.
If things go wrong with your wife then you're out of the bed and sleeping on the couch you just tried to move with her.
At least when she stopped helping move the couch it was abandoned beside the heater in the hallway.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
"Nice Pants"Overheard as I walked by reception during my last visit to Sandritia's office.
I like my shorts. It's not that I like showing my cycling calves off, it's just that I like the cool breeze blowing gently across my thighs. Full disclosure: my roots are Scottish, so you derive what you want about me wearing a kilt in a gentle breeze. And to answer the question that you are most likely thinking of now - yes, I have worn a kilt before. And yes, I was wearing the appropriate attire beneath it, from the Scottish perspective. My mother was mortified, for that I am sure, but that is another long pandora's box of a story not to open today. Suffice to say a warm summer breeze is quite a different feeling than a cold air conditioner breeze.
During my last run-in with HOG, chronicled previously in part I, part II and part III, I felt as I had finally pulled enough stealth Mission Impossible stunts to know how to gain undetected entry into Sandritia's building. Undetected, as measured by my ability to breeze by reception without getting chased down the hall when I didn't stop for an ID check.
Today was the day to put "no-ID and run" plan into action. Or so I had hoped.
The timing: I arrived at the offices, running late due to a delay in my flight. Not even in the building, the weather had thrown my plans behind. Coming in late was a sure way to be noticed.
Bad weather and a late flight = Strike One.
The attire: I was planning on staying in Vancouver for a few days so opted to pack light. In fashion language this translated into me wearing my casual attire so I would not be required to lug my dress clothes around town for an extra 3 days. In my world, the definition of "casual dress" equates to wearing shorts, regardless of the weather.
Wearing shorts as to not blend in with the rest of the staff = Strike Two.
The locale: Unlike previous visits, I was not aware of the actual meeting location and thus came to the sudden realization that I was going to have to to ask HOG where I was going this morning. This realization happened in the elevator. Specifically as the elevator doors were opening on my destination floor.
Having this realization happen during the end of my elevator ride and having no time to improvise = Strike Three.
If was going to pull my entry off, I had to hope that the umpire didn't notice one of the strikes, but rather I could get away with a tipped ball.
The elevator pinged, and I exited, pivoting left and heading towards reception. Tipped ball. Tipped ball. Tipped ball. I kept repeating over and over in my head. Before I was even at the desk she looked at me and said with the universal commanding Head Office Gatekeeper tone "You're late Mr. Philosopher. Your meeting has already started."
I stood there and all I could hear was an umpire yelling "Strike Three! You're outta here!"
She pointed to her left. "Down the hall and into the conference room at the end. You are welcome to hang your coat up."
I was so shocked by HOG blitzing the field on me, I didn't even have a response. Thankful for the long meeting coming, I used the time to compose myself.On my way out of the meeting I asked HOG, "Did you get a heads up that I was coming?" I was hoping that if she had some advance warning of my arrival, I could at least feel better about being ambushed.
"Yep, about 30 minutes before you arrived."
Later that afternoon I rendezvoused Sandritia. "Hey LP, I heard from HOG you were already here! And wearing shorts too!"
"Heard from who? I thought you tipped her off about me coming?"
"No, not me. I also heard someone lost a bet that you wouldn't be wearing shorts."
"What? You mean to tell me that someone other than you let HOG know I was coming? And on top of that they independently had a bet on my shorts vs. pants attire?"
Sandritia started to protest and set her position relative to my ambush. "It wasn't me! Honest! They did it on their own! And for the record, I don't know who the 'they' is!"
This was a significant step for me. Now my reputation is starting to spread - without the aid of Sandritia. I am unsure if this is a step back or forwards. HOG's response to my arrival for my next meeting will be the indicator of direction.
Here's hoping I'm moving forward. Whatever direction I am going, at least I can rest easy that while I am standing there, I can still feel a cool, gentle breeze.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
As soon as he saw them on the shelf, the whining started. We were there for a roll of film and had so far managed to avoid the toy aisle, but like any five year old, he zeroed in on something else he “just had to have”.
“Come on dad, everyone has one. Even Grandpa, and he lets me use his!”
I tried to reason with him, wondering if I was yet again wasting my time. “Yes, but Grandpa has a boat and needs them so he can read markers on the ocean and doesn’t hit rocks. You are five. Five without a sail boat I should add. You’ll use them to spy on the neighbors.”
A moment passed and it became evident I was right. I had wasted my time. He peeled open the Velcro on his Mr. Incredibles wallet, spilling loose change onto the counter. “Look dad, I have lots of monies. At least 20. I can buy them!”
I looked at the pennies, nickels and quarters spread onto the counter and realized he was about $18 short of his goal to buy the binoculars. Sigh. This was going to be one of those times where I wasn’t going to get out of the store without some sort of scene. Seeing my face of desperation, the sales associate who has been watching the exchange came over to help out. “Hey buddy. Why don’t I count up your money and see if you have enough?”
After a few moments of counting he broke the news. “I think you are short a little money, but I am sure you can earn it. Maybe you’ll have to do some chores at home to earn some more quarters to get the binoculars.”
With a sigh and a shoulder shrug only a disappointed five year old can do, he slowly started to put his change back into his wallet.
Wanting to help some more, the sales associate offered some additional unsolicited advice to little LP. “You know, one thing you could do is take back some bottles. I am sure your mom and dad have some pop bottles that you could get five cents for. That is what I used to do!”
Little LP stopped, and slowly looked up, the wheels starting to realize that he could make his fortune after all. “Yeah…” he quietly exclaimed, looking back and forth between us. “I can take back bottles. Like dad’s beer bottles!”
He gave him an encouraging nod. “That’s right! Now you get it!”
The wheel turning picked up the pace to a rapid RPM of movement. “You know what I’ll do?!” he exclaimed. He was so excited about his idea he started to wave his hands around like he was doing a sales pitch. “I’ll take dad’s full beer bottles and sell them! That way I will get money faster and I can come back sooner to get the binoculars!”
Wow. Only five and he’s already scalping my liquor to pay for toys. A true entrepreneur… I just wish he would do it with some else’s liquor cabinet.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
He was new. Or at least new to me. It made no difference, I still chatted, although came out of the store bereft of my usual slurpee but clutching a receipt for a car wash in its place. I jumped in my car, started the motor and slowly pulled away, with the plan of circling around the lot and then heading over to the wash entrance.
I had not gone a car length when out of the corner of my eye I spotted the New Guy, sprinting towards my car and waving his arms like I was on fire. I’m a helpful guy, I thought. I should stop and see what he needs my assistance with. I rolled down my window to see if I could help, but was on the receiving end of an unexpected accusation.
“Hey! You didn’t pay for your gas.”
I stopped and slowly put the car back into park. “What?” I asked, confused as to what was going on. I had just been accused of theft by the New Guy who had just rung my purchase through.
He paused and took a deep breath. I guess the 10 yard sprint to my car was more of a battle than he expected. “Your fill-up. You didn’t pay.”
I looked at him with some bewilderment. “But I was just inside, I gave you my credit card. You handed it back and I signed it. Isn’t that the point of the transaction? For me to go in to see you, and you to take my money? Didn’t I pay for something?”
“I only charged you for the car wash.”
I looked down at my gas receipt and sure enough, I had been charged for just a car wash. Not only that, he had overcharged me for the car wash! I opted for the strategy of confusion by changing the subject from this whole "you stole some gas" thing. “Hey, you overcharged me for the wash. How come I paid $2.00 extra?”
He simply replied “Because you didn’t buy gas."
At this point all I could envision was Napolean Dynamite closing his eyes, tipping his head back and saying “unnnnnh. Idiot!”
After filling up at the same gas station for the past 5 years, I had become such a regular customer I was even comped a few slurpees now and again. But this New Guy was, well, new, so I figured I would see what I could get away with so I could tell the regulars next week. But my wife was with me so there was no way I could get away with anything.
This is what I wanted to say:
“What, did you think I just parked in front of the gas nozzle so I could go inside and buy a car wash?” As he would be opening his mouth to reply, I would cut him off and continue on. “So let me get this straight. I drive in, fill up and then head into the gas station to pay. I say ‘I would like a car wash with that’ and then you just assume I will request a second transaction to purchasing the gas? I went in and paid. You didn’t charge me for it. I’m not sensing this is my problem… except that you owe me two dollars for the overcharged car wash.”
Instead, this is what I actually said, keeping my inside voice inside of me this time:
"How about this - I'll swing back in after I go through the wash."
He nodded. "Great, much appreciated." then he headed back into the store.
But I couldn't resist and did let one thing slip out. As he walked back into the gas station I yelled after him. "And I want my two dollars!" Johnny the paperboy would have been proud. I'm sure in a way my wife was too...
Friday, September 07, 2007
I looked at the caller display and instantly knew what it was about. It was a call that deep down I didn’t think I would get, but always expected it would come. Just not today. Just not at this moment.
I wanted to let it ring, ignoring the call, but couldn’t. I flipped open my phone and turned away from the guests we were entertaining. “Hello.” I tentatively answered.
I heard a deep sigh as his initial response. “Hello,” he said, with a distant and detracted voice. “You don’t need to come back to the hospital tonight… if you get my drift.”
There was silence on both ends of the phone. After a moment I broke the silence. “When?”
“About half an hour ago.”
Another moment of silence came and went. “Thanks. I’ll call you later.” I closed my phone and looked up, almost as if I could see a new Angel looking down on us.
It is a difficult thing to watch those you love struggle with simple things we all take for granted. But it is inspiring to think that my worst day for a run or a bike ride, would be the best day of freedom for others.
My sister in law truly lived life to the fullest while refusing to allow her CF to limit passion, enthusiasm and joy for life. The reality is she was sick, and we all knew it. The hope was we would see a miracle. Now I know how John Wimber’s church felt.
For various reasons I have always avoided the talk of my Faith on this particular blog. However the occasion suggests for me to break with tradition for one time and leave you with 1st Peter 5:10, a verse which my sister in law had posted above her desk in her house:
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
For those who do not resonate with the above text, I leave you with Sia’s “Breath Me” song instead…
I’m going for a run… until then, see you next week…
Monday, August 27, 2007
Dedicated to A year of Living Edwardly.
I sat by the water. Stillness, with the occasional warm breeze blowing in to bring relief from the hot and muggy temperatures. A teasing of a summer shower, slow drop by slow drop. Then, the sun peaking in and out, clear sky moving slowly in from the horizon. Through it all, stillness prevailed. One hour. Two. Then three.
Those from the big city would remark on how still my own town is. “Where’s the traffic? Wheres’ the people? I can only see two Starbucks’s on one street – where are all the other coffee stores? And you have no Ikea!”
Yet I have come accustom to what I now see at bustle. But now, removed from a larger island to a smaller one – population 1000 – the pace has been downshifted another notch.
Don’t you find it odd that the older we get, the more experience we get, the more wisdom we get, the harder it is to put into practice what we already know what we should be doing?
Last April I wrote a 3 part series about the Speed of Slow. Perhaps this will becoming an unofficial part 4. While we all take cruise or Mexico resort vacations –then realizing we need to do it more, I am talking about something different. For those, even in their wisdom, that are unable to break from the pace of their work environment – an action plan is needed.
For the past few years my wife and I have been looking for a recreational property – on a slow paced gulf island. Close enough for a weekend getaway, but few amenities like phone or Internet which would only distract us from taking an actual break. Having it far enough away so “friends” can just “drop in for the afternoon” is also a hidden agenda of our location.
So, based on that, here’s my action plan: The Speed of Slow, Gulf Island Style.
So far all eyes point to Hornby Island, but an exploratory visit to Maine and Galiano may be in the works.
If you know of anything of interest, let me know. You all have a vested interest because moving to a lifestyle of slow weekends may well increase my writing quality and quantity. Leaving town for 48 hours last time gave me time for 1 long run to the middle of nowhere and a hike to see the spectacular view of the Trincomali Channel, which solidified the need for this post.
I look forward to your suggestions, as much as I am sure you look forward to the stories the slow travels will bring.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I spent the last week exploring the city of Montreal, learning about Culture, Fashion and how to speak French Canadian. I came to the realization that my grade 11 french didn’t get me far in a conversation, but it did allow me to pickup a few words to understand the direction of the conversation.
Here’s my top 12 cultural notes I learned about Montreal:
1) On Kids: Future of the West is the East. Even the kids at McDonalds were fluently switching back between French and English. If this were the west, they would all probably have high ranking Government positions, right out of high school.
2) On Language: Everyone wears t-shirts with English phrases. I guess the Quebec Language Police haven’t gotten to the t-shirt factories yet. I also found that influence of English on slang is much higher than I thought. For example, I would hear the hip-hop crowd talking to each other: “French French French French what up dawg French French French?”
3) On Bikers: They are certifiably crazy – and not in a good way. Weaving in and out of Montreal traffic on a beach cruiser, I did not see a single person wearing a helmet for protection. Oh wait, most were wearing only flip-flops for protection, so I guess that is something after all. At least the soles of their feet will be protected when they are dragged along the pavement by the crazy drivers.
4) On Drivers: I never thought jumping into a cab and saying “follow that cab” could be so dangerous. He did, but almost killed us by running a few red lights and cutting off a car at least every block. I think the driver was jealous that Nascar was in town and he wasn’t driving himself.
5) On Fashion: the fashion in the east easily eclipses the west. Leaving nothing to the imagination seemed to be the status quo. It made me wonder what the town will be like once the university students join in the foray.
6) On Women: Francophone women are much hotter than Anglophones… maybe it has to do with the fashion?
7) On Weather: A 35 degree heat, compounded with a 65% humidity index, makes it incredibly hot. This means under any circumstance your clothes will cling tightly to your sweaty, glistening, body while outside walking for even a block. In itself that is not noteworthy, but take it into account this happens at the same time as the above 2 points.
8) On Clubbing: Getting into nightclubs is harder than it looks when, at an age of 30, you refuse to tip the bouncer just on principle. However, that is not required if you meet up with some beautiful women dressed in the appropriate Montreal attire that, once they wink their way by the bouncer with “I don’t speak French, so don’t know which line to be in”, adding at the last minute “and those 2 gentlemen are with us” as they are lead past the line directly into the club. Without them, Eduardo and I would still be waiting outside…
9) On Smoked Meat: It is true – once you have some real Schwartz Smoked Meat, you’ll never go back.
10) On Pretending to Speak French: If you say Bonjour or Hello (with a French accent) to the waitress, she will talk to you in French and hand you a French menu. This is not necessarily a good thing when you don’t actually speak French. It makes ordering much more difficult…
11) On Translations: When the guide at the Science Centre gave a 2 to 3 minute introduction to the exhibit we were entering, I didn’t understand anything. When he asked if anyone only spoke English, and I raised my hand, he looked at me and said “No food. No drink. And no picture taking. Any questions?” It seemed like he said a lot more in French. What's up with that?
12) On Signage: Finally, for once, the sign for the Le Chateau clothing store didn’t look out of place when I walked by it.
When we travel there are two types of cultures: language and local customs. Being in a location where only one was an issue for me, it gave me a better understanding of what it is like when travelling to a foreign country where both of those are new. For this trip, I was happy I only had one, the language, to worry about.
While everyone I met did speak English, I did attempt to speak French as much as I could, or at least catch the meaning of the phrases and reply accordingly. What helped was my understanding of the cultural environment of North America. By picking up a few key words in the question or sentence, and pairing it with the social transaction – such as purchasing a drink – I could guess enough to answer yes or no. Although I must admit it really threw me off when one cashier asked something totally different, like “do you have air conditioning in your hotel?”, as she packed my bag. And replying with “No, the receipt in the bag is fine” will bring an awkward moment for all involved.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
“I don’t think you’re going to be happy… again. I think we have mold growing in the house.”
“Ahhh….” I said, as I closed my eyes and sunk back into the couch. “I swear this house will be the end of me. 80 years old and always something to fix, rip out or totally gut and rebuild from scratch.”
“Look at it,” she said, pointing towards the bathroom, “it’s these weird black flecks that keep sprouting up on the wall, even as high up as on the ceiling!” Some days, I thought, all I want to do is live in a van down by the river. No maintenance, or responsibilities, required. As she pulled me up from the couch and into the bathroom I could see what she was talking about. Over the last month mysterious black specks - like small flat pieces of seaweed, were randomly covering one wall and parts of the ceiling. One day I would scrub them off, only to have them reappear a few days later.
A few weeks later – after multiple more random black mold episodes – I heard giggling and the sound of squirting water from the bathroom. Little LP was having a bath, so when I peaked in I was rewarded with a stream of water being shot towards me. Not quite quick enough I felt a wet streak go across my shorts. Then, as I looked down at my now dripping shorts, I saw some pea size flecks of the mysterious black mold – now stuck to my clothing. Huh? I thought. How did I get this on me? I looked up and on the wall, were wet dripping streaks of water, with fresh black flecks throughout!
“Hey dad” he giggled, “check out my new bath game. If I fill up my squeeze bath toy I can shoot these black bits of dirt out!” As I stood there in disbelief he continued on “And you know what? I can even hit the ceiling sometimes!”
You guessed it – Little LP was my random mold growth generator. By putting dirt in his bath toys he figured out how to mark his shots of accuracy, or inaccuracy in this case. Then, with mom and dad erasing his work of water art every evening, he was given a fresh canvas to work on during his next bath.
I suspect when you think about it kids really are like mold – you leave them unattended for any period of time in a wet environment and they manage to leave their mark. Leave them long enough and they become a hazard to your health, via the stress of house repairs.
Monday, July 30, 2007
"Wasn't that TG? She was hot... and LP, you dated her!" JT exclaimed, motioning to me. While I normally would enjoy reminiscing about old flames to the guy - this was not the time to do it. Why? Unfortunately JT started this conversation while I was sitting beside my wife.
I am sure you all know what is coming next.
Logical Philosopher-ette looked at me, eyes opening up wide, and stated "TG, Who's that?!" I briefly had the 'deer caught in the headlights' look, but recovered from JT's fumble.
"Just a girl I dated in high school" I said, already on the defensive. Thanks JT, I thought, as I shot a look across the table at him.
"And JT - you knew her? I though she was the girl you dated when you lived up north?" Oh boy, I thought, they are bringing them all up now - and for what reason, apart from their enjoyment of watching me squirm?!
"Oh yeah," Sandritia helpfully chimed in. "Wasn't that the girl you cheated on with Logical Philosopher-ette when you were first dating?"
Hold up I thought. What exactly did I do to deserve this? Was the lull in the conversation a queue to dive into my past love life? I was being double teamed on my relationships of my youth, 10+ years after the fact. And, more to the point, why was it being done in front of my wife!?
As they looked to me for a reply - with my wife looking with eyebrows raised quite high - I realized this was a lose-lose situation, no matter my reply. So, like any oblivious male I opted to try to explain myself and opened my mouth.
"Well..." I cautiously started, "technically I was dating this, ahem, 'northern girl' first, and cheated on her with who is now my now lovely wife." After a long, and awkward pause, I foolishly continued to speak. "And since I married her, don't you think the whole cheating thing worked out for the good?"
After another, yet longer awkward pause, my wife slowly shook her head, noting to the group "I think he should have quit when you were ahead".
All I could think of was at exactly what point was I ever ahead in this conversation! Talk about a lose-lose scenario.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
"So, after all that complaining, how was your weekend away?"
"It was ok" I replied after a moment's pause. With more indifference than interest in my tone, I continued on. "It was what it was."
Not satisfied, she pressed on, hoping for me to reveal some deep dark secrets of what happens on a weekend retreat. "Did you discuss your inner trauma eggs? Get into the midnight male bonding things over pizza and beer? At least talk Plato or Thoreau?"
"Not sure. They may have, but I went on a hike and a long run, then sat by the water writing out LP posts for the rest of the time."
"Arrgg!" she cried, throwing her head back in exasperation. "You must have liked something!"
"Well, yes. I liked that I learned things. Specifically about getting old."
She leaned forward, sensing that I was about to let her in on something big. I started to think, formulating the list in my head. I had learned many things, sharing a cabin with 7 other guys that were 25 years older than me. These included:
1) They go to bed early. Really early.
2) They get up really, really early. Like 5am early. What's up with that?
3) They make their beds, complete with hospital corners. I guess I still have 25 years to get into that routine, much to my wife's disappointement.
4) Even rough and tough motorbikers have timble collections. "Well, they fit in my saddlebag when I am on a trip!" was his defense.
I thought for a moment, and summed up my experience. "I liked that I learned that I never want to get old, mostly because I'll be forced to get up earlier and make my bed with hospital corners..."
Sunday, July 22, 2007
So after a long car ride - and a short ferry ride, I finally arrived. And here's how my weekend started: I was promptly assigned a cabin - where my bunk mates average age was 25 years older than me.
"Where's the bathroom?" one of the younger, older men asked. I say younger-older, because he had just retired, as compared to several of the others who had been retired for many many years.
"Down the hill, by the forest edge." another said, as he lined up his pills for the weekend.
"But that's too far to walk at night!" he whined. "I have bad knees!"
"Then go round to the back of the cabin and use the bushes," another suggested. "Just lift your leg and you'll be fine."
"The bushes? I'm almost 60! I can't do that!"
All I can say is, thank goodness I packed my runners.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
"So LP, I hear you're going on a retreat?"
"I didn't think you were a retreat kind of guy?"
"So why go?"
"Logical Philosopher-ette signed me up and said she would be pretty mad if I didn't go and have a good time?"
"So are you planning on going and having a good time?"
"Of course... I packed my running shoes."
Monday, July 16, 2007
"Honey, don't you find it ironic that you're sending me on this men's church retreat?"
"Why is that?"
"Because all I want to do is go for a run to the middle of nowhere this weekend, and I can't fit in both my bible and my running shoes in my bag. Talk about a dilemma!"
"So what are you going to do?"
"Pack my run stuff and time it so I'm gone for a run during the speakers... then I won't need the bible!"
"You sound like a 4 year old. Now go get a bigger knapsack."
Friday, July 13, 2007
I have had writers un-block. Many stories, but no time to commit them to paper this week as I have had replace my writing time with tree-house building. Little LP is quite excited, and the Littler LP keeps asking me "You build me a house daddy?" She wants it pink. He wants it like a "green army thing." I may compromise and leave it the color of pressure treated lumber.
Fortunately it has been about 35 degrees (that's 95 for you Americans) while I was building, which made me feel OK about drinking vast amounts of Coke Slurpee's all day.
I'm heading off for a few days to a small Gulf Island where I suspect I won't be able to freeload on wi-fi, so will be offline. I will, however, have my blogging notebook so will come back with a pod of letters, hopefully in a story format.
See you on Monday!
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
The stories have been plentiful, but the deadly combination of extremely nice weather - and me having to spend it indoors huddled with my lawyers - has kept me too busy to write. Details shall be forthcoming... perhaps.
I shall be back next week for sure. In the mean time I'm still doing my "daily links" updates - just LOOK LEFT!
In the mean time I leave you with Little LP's comment of the week:
"Hey mom. When are you going to grow taller like dad?"
"Umm. I don't know. I don't think I will ever get taller."
"I know why you don't get taller. Because you drink coffee. Dad doesn't drink coffee and that's why he's tall and you're not!"
Let me know if you figure that logic out...
Thursday, June 28, 2007
"Can I put you on hold again?"
"What if I say no?" I asked.
"Because I've been put on hold, what, six times now? It's 46 minutes into this call and you yet to tell me you can email, fax or send by pigeon carrier a copy of the repair estimate that the previous support person told me you would do."
"You haven't been put on hold six times sir."
"Yes," I sighed, "You are right. It's been more like eight or ten once you count the other person that transferred me to you!"
After spending 58 minutes on the phone to the support line, I still am no closer to getting the piece of warranty paper I need to fix my iPod. Well, that's not totally true. I now have a ticket number for next time I call. Lucky me.
I found it ironic that in that wasted hour I could have worked and billed enough time to get a new one. Sometimes sticking to your principles costs more than just paying something you shouldn't have to pay for in the first place.
Monday, June 25, 2007
"We are the cyclists. The intermediate stage between humans and pure energy"
Ironically, I can relate to it all. Even riding on the sidewalk and squishing the dog. Too funny.
Friday, June 22, 2007
I apologize for not posting this week but I've had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Week.
Monday: knocked over a few glasses while cleaning the kitchen table, shattering them into pieces. Unfortunately at least one was still full of my spouses wine. It was red wine. She was not impressed.
Tuesday: Got to work and was so incoherent and spaced out, was sent home for the day. "Geeze LP, you look like you just got to work from being out on a bender." The tip-off may have been that I was wearing my sunglasses inside my office, with all the lights off - or maybe it was when I walked into a wall, missing the doorway to the conference room. For the record my 'bender' had consisted of me getting less than 9 hours sleep. Imagine that.
Wednesday: I accidentally backed over the front wheel of my bike because I forgot I put it there. The not so funny part is the time between me putting my wheel down and getting into the car to back it up was under 60 seconds. Fortunately it wasn't my sexy HED wheels, but I still bent the rim and it needs fixed before I can ride again.
Thursday: Forgot I had a dentist appointment for a filling, so had to cut out of work in the morning (after already missing a day). After finally getting to work at 10:30am, I had a frozen face until 3pm. I think I was drooling in my morning meetings, but at least nobody sent me home.
Friday: I get home from work to find I am out of Coke.
AggHHH!!! I want to move to Australia.
I can't wait until my coordination and brain are fully functioning again. At the very least it will cut down on the "walking into walls at work", which probably would have hurt had I been more coherent that morning.
Friday, June 15, 2007
"My first time in 2 years to get some HED and WHAM! I blew my wad before I even got to take her out for a spin."
"No way! Dude, you've been talking about running those sleek set of rims under your frame forever! What happened?"
"Yesterday I didn't use rim tape for protection and WHOOSH! blew my wad all over the room. But once blown, I learned my lesson pretty quickly so last night I slapped some new latex in them and KABOOM - still as hard as a rock today." Then I broke out into a I'm-going-for-a-bike-ride-tomorrow-no-matter-what kind of smile. "Life is good."
He nodded his head in agreement, and chipped in one final piece of advice. "Just make sure to use lots of lube if you blow out again. You know, to make it easier to get it on next time."
I've had my HED's sitting in the same unopened box they were shipped in, almost two years ago. I ordered them in preparation for Ironman Canada, but in the few days before they arrived a big black SUV decided to made sure I wouldn't be racing - let alone riding - that year.
However, with the consistent appearance of sunny skies this month I broke the seal on the box that my HED wheelset arrived in so long ago. Not only was I greeted by the smell of freshly weaved carbon fiber, but it made my bike look fast. Well, at least when I'm standing beside it they give the illusion of me going fast on them. But not tomorrow. For tomorrow I ride. Fast or slow, I don't really care, because I've been saving up my energy all week just to be able to go out for an hour workout.
While I will be all twinkied out to watch the local races this weekend, hopefully next year I will be well enough to race. Until then I will be the triathlete with the sexiest wheelset not racing anywhere fast this weekend. Remember to say 'hi' when you pass me on the Road to the Middle of Nowhere.
I hope I at least drop one person, even if it is an old lady wearing her helmet on backwards.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I want to be your new daily vice.I want you to check here before, and after, you check your facebook newsfeed while you are still at work.
Why? Over the past few years there has been quite a few times where I actually came to the end of the Internet. Really. At first I was Fazed. Then Digg and Reddit had given their all - and there were no new posts to see. And you know what? When I do emerge from being plugged in to the world's newsfeeds, I realize that not everyone has the passion to randomly digg like I do.
Last month I remember being asked about fixing an iPod battery for someone. "There's a guy in Montreal that will do it via mail order" I told him. "How can you possibly know that?" was the stunned reply. "I read the Internet last week. All of it."So, in keeping with my maven like tendencies of being a web 2.0 based Renaissance Man, I've updated my template to include my Daily Fresh Links (on your left). Based on many categories, there will always be one interesting article or link to read.
Michael at Google Video of the Day said it best when he started in 2005:
Check here before you check your email at work. Share these delightful gems of idiocy, cuteness, and weirdness with your coworkers. Make it a habit, because habits are hard to break, and I want your ass coming back here every single day.In the mean time I'll still be tweaking the layout & colors this week, but if you have any suggestions to make it flow better, or otherwise, let me know!
Friday, June 08, 2007
I walked through Chinatown this morning on my way to work – but for all I knew the apocalypse could have happened this morning without me knowing. Not a soul was present, not even behind the boarded shutters and gates. That was a surprise, particularly considering the time: 8:45 in the morning.
I usually take a stroll through Chinatown in the afternoon when I am in the area. It really is a sensory buffet, if one so chooses to watch and listen. Colorful arrangements of foreign fruit and vegetables in their waxen boxes, ready for testing by curious cooks. Banter of old men, discussing the latest sports event, their conversations moving in and out of English and Mandarin. Sweet smells of dumplings and Noodle Boxes, wafting out of the back alley kitchens. Without fail I always stopped for a batch of freshly baked fortune cookies. But not today.
Instead I was greeted by barren stalls, the wind gently pushing dried scraps of yesterdays produce down Fan Tan alleyway. Traffic was sparse too. No delivery trucks double parking and unloading more fresh wares, their engines still rumbling in case the Parking Attendant headed their way.
As I stood in the middle street and looked around I had an epiphany. Now I know why so many Chinese shop owners lived so long. It was just before 9 am and they were still at home, probably in bed. I was done my first meeting of the day and on my way to the second.
Is there a causal relationship of work philosophy of a culture and ones longevity?
Now, for those regular readers you know my 90 year old chinese neighbor seems to like to watch porn, occasionally forgetting to close his blinds. The gross factor notwithstanding, I pose another thought.
Is their a causal relationship of pornography viewing and ones longevity?
Putting the relationships together we get:
If you stay in bed at night and watch pornography, and you sleep in instead of going to work in the morning, will you live even longer?
Although I’m sure it would be a fascinating subject of the Work Life Balance many of us hear so much about, my wife would not be as impressed if I immersed myself in this research topic.
So for now if anyone wants to embark on research, let us know how it turns out.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
So what is the true purpose of social networking? Apart from keeping the labor lawyers busy with defending slanderous and malicious wall-to-wall writings, it also serves as a portal to reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones. Or does it? It actually changes our neocortical processing capacity, seen in our ability to connect with a finite amount of people at within the neocortex level in our brain – something that has been limited since the Neolithic age.
That poses an interesting social question: Can Web 2.0 undo 6000 years of evolved social limits?
It worries me that several of my last posts have been about Facebook. Yes, a time waster for all of us, but for me it provides a mark of how much more I am online, as compared to out people watching downtown for great blogging stories.
I find it funny that people on my list that I work with don't acknowledge the existence of it while at work. It's like "What happens in facebook, stays in facebook." I am sure that will all go to hell when something really good gets posted on facebook.
On the topic of reconnecting with old friends, someone said it best to me when they said "I haven't heard from these people for 10 years - why seek me out now, other than to boost their friends count?" As such, I was discussing the philosophy of facebook with Sandritia last weekend, and we came to an interesting point in our analysis.
Social Networking really provides three types of friendships:
1) A pure virtual friendship - no maintenance required, apart from the occasional poke. It is available 24/7 and can reach all corners of the networked globe, connecting individuals with the same obscure interests. Like any digital community it gives an arms-length form of a relationship, allowing us to morph in and out of a digital character, whether it be a true mirror of ourselves, or a made up avatar.
2) A reconnection of friendships – old acquaintances that you just lost touch with, but if you knew where they were, or what they were doing you would be sure to drop in and visit when you were in their part of town. But like any double edged sword this also includes acquaintances that you were glad to lose touch with.
3) New analog friendships, but with the social networking add-on. Instead of meeting somebody once at a social gathering, you now have the ability to keep tabs on what they are doing until you meet at another, real world, social gathering. Effectively accelerating the “getting to know you” from three or four meetings over a few weeks (or months) to twenty or so digital updates within a few days.
In reality we can only genuinely keep up with so many friends. Speaking from a sociologist’s point of view, there is an actual theoretical numerical limit to which we can reach where we begin to lose track of the social relationships with each person, and how they relate to everyone else we know. Highlighted in Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, this theory is seen as one of the central pillars of the Power of Context: The Dunbar Principle.
Dunbar’s research was measuring the “cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships.” The research looked at a variety of settlements over centuries of social data: Hutterite settlements, army sizes in both current state and as far back as Roman times, and even settlements reaching back to Neolithic farming villages. His conclusion was a human group size of no more than 150 people.
Ten years ago I would have suggested that most of us would be hard pressed to name 150 close social friends. In reality work colleagues, relatives and family took up a good portion, with the remainder being our social friends. But now? I’m not so confident of my suggestion. In the past year there has been a boom of social networking sites: 43 Things, Facebook, Myspace, Linked-in, Bebo, Friendster, Hi5, Livespace, etc… Not only do these sites allow us to keep track of our current friends and acquaintances, but more importantly they allow us to retain a connection to those we would have lost touch with when we moved on from a job, a school or a city.
Now, although I’m going to mention the word “statistical distribution”, trust me, this is where it gets interesting.
Long tail economics refers to the statistical distribution of high-amplitude populations followed by a tail of low-amplitude populations. It provides interesting model to look at social networking through – we now have a long tail of friends. They are no longer gone, but only a few Google clicks away of being found.
Mixing in the long tail economics with social networking it begs the question: Can Web 2.0 change the social dynamics of our social contacts enough to significantly change the way Dunbar’s Theory can be approached?
Yes – and it is already happening. It is like we all just got an expansion card for our neocortex, complements of the computer. And if you lose your card, Google will be there to archive it for you. Like it or not, I think we all just took one large step towards living in the Matrix.
If you are a Sociologist and want to explore this more, give me an email. I think we have the makings of a good research article here.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
“Dad, what’s a scull?”
“A what?” I asked, slightly perplexed. Only four and he was already into asking me questions that were probably leading somewhere I didn’t want to explain.
At least this time he didn’t ask me why his younger sister didn’t have a ‘dangly bit between her legs’.
“A skull. Yeah. What's a skull?"
I thought for a moment, trying to decide how to describe anatomy to a four year old. “It’s a bone, but in your head. Like your arm bone, your skull is like your head bone.” To demonstrate I made a hollow tapping noise as I gave my head a few taps, which gave way to a few giggles.
He thought for a moment, then cocked his head and squished his eyes together. “Like an eye bone?”
“Eyes don’t have bones. They are just flesh, made out of an anterior segment with the cornea and iris, and a posterior segment where the retina and optic nerve lie.”
After another rather long pause he asked “Ant mints? You mean beads, right?”
“Aren’t eyes made of beads?” he inquired.
I turned to look, seeing if he was serious. “Where did you ever get that idea?”
“Well,” he stated, “someone told me I had beady eyes.”
Next thing I know he’ll be yelling “Oh no, not the gumdrop buttons!” when I try to wash his belly button out.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I emailed a one of my older relatives a question the other day. After getting no reply I called her up to ask if she had received my email.
"No dearie, I haven't gotten your email. I'll do it next time I turn on that computer."
A few days later she called and left a message on my voicemail, telling me she had replied to my "mail message". After checking my email, and getting no reply, I gave her a call back.
"No dearie. I printed your email out and wrote the answer on the printout. But don't worry, I posted it this morning so you should have it by the end of the week."
Sure enough, a few days later Canada Post delivered my reply.
So that's what it was like in the old days...
Sunday, May 20, 2007
“So tell me, will I get sleep? People say I won’t, but I need it. They also tell me that I need more time away from the office, but I just made partner. How do I balance that?”
A friend I met during my ever so brief stint in law school just made partner this month in a large firm. Quite an accomplishment, because after working only a full 7 years of evenings, weekends and holidays, she’s are pretty much sure to be doing it for another 7 years. I’m sure Opinionistas would have something to say about that. When I spoke to her she sounded very excited about it, but was very worried about appearances as she was just about to take 4 months off for maternity leave for her first child that was due shortly.
I thought for a moment, and then laid it out for her. “You have to take your finger out” I said with conviction.
“Huh?” I heard, after a moment of silence.
“You know, your finger.”
“Is this somehow related to a piece of birthing advice? Because the way I’m feeling right now, even a well placed finger won’t be stopping this baby.”
“With the added baby and partner track at your firm, you’ve all of a sudden got too many bookmarks to manage.”
When I was younger my favorite novels were the Choose your own Adventure series. In fact, as a preamble to Logical Philosopher, one summer I even wrote my own Choose your own Adventure book – the summer of grade 5. Armed with a circa 1975 typewriter and a ream of yellow paper, I decided to become a writer. I don’t know what became of my first masterpiece, but I hope it was archived by my version of a Google cache back in the mid 1980’s – my mom’s baby boxes in the storage locker.
Without fail I would try to read these books in one sitting, trying to find the adventure ending I liked the best. A well honed process of small scraps of paper and fingers at certain junctions kept track of my choices – with the freedom of knowing I could undo a choice and path by flipping back a page or two. Inevitably I would find 3 or 4 paths and ending I liked, but I would have to try them all before I settled on how I wanted the story line to go.
This month I was questioned under oath about some of my previous choices in my academic life (details not forthcoming upon the advice of my attorney). What schools I went to. Why? How long? Why did I choose X University over Y University? When did I research my choices, and how much of the correspondence did I still have? On reflection of my day it made me think back to my life choices as my own Choose your own Adventure. It had explored many paths, researched results of choices, and made the best decision at that point in time. But, for some reason, I have always kept my finger in those older pages – just in case I get to a point I don’t like in my life, I can pickup where I want to restart it.
Unfortunately I realized my life book is getting so long, I am running out of fingers to keep tabs on the old decisions. A combination of age, children, school, work and lifestyle have spun into an ever growing, complex web of my life. The requirement of being a responsible husband and father also has a major impact on my bookmarks of life. The fallout is that as time marches on, going back to certain pages is becoming less of a reality. Like cement hardening, it has been a slow process, and over time I’ve reach a point where I can’t repour or reshape some of the steps, the bookmarks have been permanently removed.
It is not: I can’t do it all anymore
It is: I don’t have the luxury of time to do it all anymore
So after explaining my Choose your own Adventure theory to my friend, I continued on with my remove your finger advice.
“Move on. A kid is a whole Choose your own Adventure book in itself. Pick your chapters wisely, because now it’s really about to become more complex.”
There was another moment of silence on the other end of the phone. Then I heard her say, the words trailing off at the end “But I just made partner…”
She’ll figure it out, hopefully for her sake, sooner than later.
Monday, May 14, 2007
From Blogger to Digg, Facebook to Delicious - the knowlege management aspect of social networking is becoming another research interest for me.
On that topic, here's an interesting video I found on Martin Dugage's blog about Web 2.0
When you think about it, it makes web 2.0 like a happy version of the Matrix. Pass me over some of those red pills so I can see for sure.
"Hey, that's J's new little baby" I said to my wife. We were at the airport having a Starbucks and J's husband, who I have never met, was walking by with the newborn. Only 10 days old and already at the airport for an outing.
"How do you know that??" she exclaimed. "We haven't seen J for 15 years - at our grade 12 graduation to be exact. And I am sure you have never met her husband so how would you even know what HE looks like."
"Actually I recognize the newborn, not him."
"I'm on facebook and she's my friend now." I tried to explain.
She turned to me, looking quite perplexed. "So you don't see her for 15 years, then all of a sudden know her life details, like that she had a baby only 10 days ago."
"I also know the name if you'd like to know." I added, trying to be helpful in my maven like distribution of knowledge.
"Some days I can't even get you to remember to take out the recycling, yet you seem to recall things like this. Amazing... simply amazing."
"When we get home I can show you more pictures of him."
I have a feeling this won't be the last time Facebook will provide me with completely useless information that I can pull out at a party when I recognize someone from their profile...
Friday, May 04, 2007
Sorry I haven't posted this week - I've had a rough week and my blogging mind has been elsewhere. I did, however, have it turned on when I was in the elevator yesterday at a downtown office building.
A business woman to one of her coworkers: "AhhhH! I'm going back to 4" heels! I try to put on sensible, flat shoes and my back has been killing me all day. Tomorrow the stiletto's are coming back out. I don't care if the Secretary complains that I'm dressing to slutty."
As the elevator doors opened and they got off, heading down the hall, the other male from the elevator turned to me and nodded up and down and went "Oh yeah...back to the stiletto's... Office morale, going up!"
The next day I think I could hear the ping of the ascending morale from the outside of the building.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
“Dude, you should totally do it. Everyone is all over it.”
”That is so 2005. And besides, when I send you an invitation to Linked-in last year, you were all ‘Sorry, I don’t do social networking’ to me.”
“That was then. This is NOW. And besides, if you don’t sign up, then you’ll never be on the leading edge of what’s up with my life.”
My friend Eduardo convinced me to sign up for Facebook two weeks ago. Since then I have spent, er, more like wasted, an inordinate amount of time trying to boost my friends count and make it look like I really know more people than I actually do. In actual fact, that’s the main reason I haven’t posted for a week – I was busy making up profiles that were more entertaining than “went to high-school together”. I’m particularly proud of the one Rick Mercer approved with me.
I thought it would be all fun. Right after signing up I had that warm, happy feeling you can only get from a string of Matrix like one’s and zero’s. I was part of something – a network. But not any network – a network that I could control. I had the power to reconnect with old friends and lost loves, all while keeping up to date with the happenings of my current friends.
But what I hoped would happen, and what actually happened are two very different stories. Here’s how it went down:
1:34 pm: After getting badgered for the last time vial email from Eduardo, I cave and sign up for Facebook. I promptly added him to my ‘friend request’ list.
2:20 pm: My email alert chimed and I had my first friend (Eduardo)
2:37 pm: Surf to my High School Grad group’s and write on their wall, saying Eduardo told me to
8:43 pm: Ping! Another email alert, this time I had received my second friend request from an old swooner – a mere 6 hours after I posted on my High School Group I wall. Keeping in mind this is 15 YEARS after I graduated I was instantly afraid. Very afraid.
8:49 pm: Sent a panicky email to Sandritia and Eudardo, explaining I had already been poked and befriended and was now afraid for my life.
9:12 pm: Sandritia calls me, in a fit of laugher, and signs up while she was on the phone with me. Her reasoning for doing it now when before she didn’t want to “I’m in it just to see how some online stalking is going to go down!”
After that, I should have seen the warning signs and quit where I was. But I didn’t. On Day 2 I got a phone call from my younger sister who wanted to know “Since when are you into Facebook?!?”
”You know me, leading edge and all.” I replied in my best web 2.0 voice. “More to the point, how do you know I’m on it?” I’m not sure if it was a good or bad sign that she avoided my question.
Day 3 came, and another ping for a new friend – this time from one of my sisters friends that I know.
With that, I realized I was faced with a social networking moral dilemma: If I befriend my sisters friends, am I a Facebook slut? Am I robbing the Facebook cradle? Later that evening I talked over this dilemma with Sandritia, which brought me no closer to my decision.
”I to, am in the same spot” she confided. “I mean, I only have five friends now, and that makes me feel so unpopular! In fact, I’m thinking of poking some of my brother’s friends, just to see if they will take me in.” She continued on, “And when I get really desperate, I’ll just mine my other friends friends list.”
“Well, you were no more help.”
“Can’t you see? I’m all about upping the count – Facebook slut or not, if you’ve got the numbers you’re in charge. It doesn’t matter where you got them from!”
“Man, this is like pregnancy – you’re either in or out. There is no halfway when you get a request. It’s either say OK or tell them to take a digital powder.” I sighed, knowing what I was about to do was probably the beginning of the end. “You’re right. Ok. I’m accepting the request now, before I can back out.”
So I did and upon accepting her request I began the slippery slope of being a Facebook slut.And where does this leave me: A call for friends. Anyplace, anywhere, anytime. As long as it is still anonymous, I’ll be there for you. If you want to be my friend, post your profile link or email me and I’ll add you… but in doing so you agree to abide by the following rules:
Rule 1: What happens in Facebook, stays in Facebook
Rule 2: What happens in Logical Philosopher, says in Logical Philosopher
Rule 3: Do not compromise Rules 1 and 2 by cross-posting!
And right now, all I can think is “Man, I can’t believe I just wrote that post.”
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The local brewpub
“Why do you blog?” he asked over a mini-pint of freshly poured stout. We couldn't decide which ale to try so a sampler tray of six seemed to be the best decision. It took awhile but we finally got down to the samples of Irish Stout “I mean, it seems like it takes time away from your other projects. Why keep going?”
“Actually, it helps me find time - it helps me slow down and pick the important things to do. It helps to remember there is more in life than moving to the next task.” I gestured out the window into the rain. “Look at the people out there in the rain, rushing around. I have a feeling they would be rushing even if it was sunny.”
We had been talking about my blog for awhile now, but the consumption of a few beers seemed to help my blogging theories crystallize in his head. He started to nod, slowly at first. At last I could see the wheels moving as the nod sped to a steady bobbing. “I get it. Like people moving in general without unachieved direction. Whereas slowing down to blog gives perspective, which leads to priority, which helps chart a focused direction.”
“Yeah. That’s what I meant. At least in the direction of what I meant.” I took a sip of my stout and looked out into the rain. After a few moments I interrupted our silence with my newest thought. “That’s heavy.”
“Very. A whole new perspective on things.”
“No, I meant the stout. It’s heavy. But the perspective thing? It’s only heavy if you go against the flow. I am part iconoclast towards the cult of speed at this point in my life, so I’m just used to it.”
A How-to Instructional Book on Slow
Inspired by Carl Horne’s book “In Praise of Slow”, I wrote the preceding two parts of this post a few months back, during my visit to Toronto. Looking back I think it was ironic that while in one of Canada’s largest metropolitan cities I found the time to “go slow” and start to ruminate on Horne’s book. However, my reflection took a long time to culminate to something I could write about. It really wasn’t until the last few weeks when I appreciated it enough to write this final part. Five months to write 3 blog posts. Talk about going slow.
For those who haven’t read the book Horne talked about how slowing down, while still going fast in some aspects of life, can pay dividends in your life. On his blog he posts the following summary of the book:
“These days, many of us live in fast forward – and pay a heavy price for it. Our work, health and relationships suffer. Over-stimulated, over-scheduled and overwrought, we struggle to relax, to enjoy things properly, to spend time with family and friends. The Slow movement offers a lifeline. It is not a Luddite plot to abolish all things modern. You don’t have to shun technology, live in the wilderness or do everything at a snail’s pace. Being “Slow” means living better in the hectic modern world by striking a balance between fast and slow.”
He talks about his research, and experiences, in deceleration at meditation workshops in Tokyo to SuperSlow exercise in New York – and these are just two of many examples of how to go Slow. He goes on to way “In the war against the cult of speed, the front line is inside our heads. Acceleration will remain our default setting until attitudes change…If the Slow movement is really to take root, we need have to go deeper. We have to change the way we think.”
While I didn’t reach a state of slowness in any of his topics he undertook, I found on my own I had changed the way I thought, finding my own deceleration exercise: blogging. To write I had to slow down, and pay attention. Walk down the sidewalk and watch the world move around me. And once I did that, the details and inspiration sprung out.
“Traveling on foot can also be meditative, fostering a Slow frame of mind. When we walk, we are aware of the details around us – birds, trees, the sky, shops and houses, other people. We make connections”
So where do we go from here?
Horne finishes his book by pondering the question “When will the many acts of personal deceleration occurring across the world reach critical mass? When will the Slow movement turn into a Slow revolution.”
I, for one, am all for a revolution. As a (now) Slow writer, I have some perspective on why that is.
I have alluded in some past posts that I had to make some “go Slow” life changes in the past 20 months. In some ways I have missed out and seen less, but in experienced far more than I would have imagined. I see the speed of our pace as the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
Fast brings knowledge. Slow brings wisdom.The real question is, after taking the time to read all three posts on going slow – will you keep on driving, or stop to enjoy the view? Hopefully you will choose wisely.
If you do, come back as I would love to see your “Slow” stories posted in my comments.