Ghost Selfies

It’s a beautiful beach. Clear blue green waves crashing over fine white sand. It’s wonderful to sit, read a book, enjoy a cocktail, then cool yourself off in the water and drip dry in the sun. The beach is full of people but not many of them seem to be sharing my experience.

I’m lounging and watching the waves from a beach bed. There are about thirty people, couples and a few small groups, scattered along the picturesque scene in front of me, and all of them are intent on capturing it. They are either engaged in taking a photo or posing for a photo, all of them are taking pictures of themselves, every single person on the beach.

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Kindness As Public Policy

Singapore wants to make you a better person, or at least talk you into not being an asshole. Signs, posters, and statues are sprinkled throughout the city, particularly in the transit system, imploring you to be kind and considerate to others. It’s an unusual thing for a government institution to do, but I’d love to see more of it in Canada.

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I think government should stay out of our lives as much as possible. I’m in favour of small government, but then, people also don’t really know what’s good for them. Without seatbelt laws we would never have transitioned to a near ubiquitous use of seatbelts in a generation, and clearly seatbelts are a good thing, they save individual lives and benefit everyone because they save society’s resources, we avoid paying the medical bills of people careening through windshields. It’s good that safety is public policy. Why not kindness and consideration?

If you’re able bodied and there is an injured person, a senior citizen, or a pregnant woman on the subway, offer them your seat. Your parents should have taught you that, but it can’t hurt for the government to reinforce the point. Society works better and is a nicer place to live when people look past their noses and consider others.

It’s like the seatbelts, sometimes we need to be lead to what’s good for us. Consideration benefits the individual, the elderly woman that could use a seat, but it also makes trains more efficient. Stepping back and allowing people to get off the train before you push your way on is considerate, but its also efficient, the trains run faster if everyone follows some common sense rules. As a bonus they are also thoughtful considerations.

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Singapore is known for it’s harsh penalties, death sentences for drug smugglers, caning for vandalism, no spitting, no gum chewing, huge fines for eating on the subway. Frankly, I’m for that approach, even if it does make it tough to get drugs, but I was more impressed with the subtle messages – Be kind, be considerate, we’re all in this together.

This may seem a contradiction to my fervent hatred of Family Parking signs, but subtle things make a big difference. This is a a society spending money to encourage people to be considerate, the Family Parking signs are individual corporations marketing to their demographic, in the guise of being nice. My sister argued you could encourage a good thing for a bad reason. I say, “No”, motivation matters. Family Parking signs are a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Singapore’s Kindness signs are just plain sheep.

This Princess Wears The Pants

JasminneI have three younger sisters. I wanted a brother so bad when I was eight that when my Dad came home from the hospital to announce I had gotten a third sister I burst into tears and the only way he could console me was to take me to work and let me hand out cigars to the guys. I’ve warmed up to her since, in fact she’s getting married and invited me to her bachelorette party.

This isn’t the first sister’s bachelorette party I’ve attended. My middle sister married young and when she went out with her girls there was a lot of small town naïveté in the group. Not being overly experienced when it came to throwing wild and crazy parties I was invited to throw gas on the fire, to make sure things didn’t get sleepy, sort of an anti-chaperone.

They picked a club and when we showed up to find a long line-up my sister was disappointed and started to discuss alternatives. I smiled, because that’s not how bachelorette parties work. I had a quick discussion with the bouncer, explaining I needed to get a bunch of cute young girls into the bar, and handed him some cash. Collecting my sister’s friends and ushering them past the line she was in awe, “How did you do that?” When they had their fill of the club meat market, I took them to a gay bar, no doubt a first for most in the group, and everyone enjoyed dancing and feeling risqué.

My youngest sister isn’t much of a wild child either. She decided to go to Disneyland for her Bachelorette. My Mom, my sisters, and a few of the bride’s friends all booked tickets. My brother-in-laws were supposed to come, but bailed, so I found myself in a place I’ve grown accustomed to, the lone male in a room full of women.

You have to make adjustments when you’re in group of eight and you’re the only one with a penis. Women like to make plans. Plans for dinner, plans for where to meet, plans for activities, and plans for what to wear. They knew where we were eating breakfast in Disneyland a month before we got there. It’s not bad, it’s just different, men throw some stuff in a bag and hope they remembered underwear when they arrive.

I registered most of the discussions regarding the plans leading up to our trip to Disneyland as background noise, information I was confident someone would relay when it became relevant. It was in this spirit that I was vaguely aware of a plan to wear matching T-Shirts one day of the trip. I tend to keep my head down, nod, and if by chance someone asks for an opinion I say, “Sounds good!”

My sister’s friend made shirts for everyone. The shirts were short sleeved in a variety of primary colours, and in keeping with the bachelorette / Disney theme, on the chest they had silhouettes of princesses, the heroines of Disney cartoons. You know, Ariel the mermaid, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, everyone on the trip got one, myself included, and when I was handed my orange cotton T-Shirt I was informed the image was of Jasmine, who was chosen specifically for me because she’s the only Disney Princess that doesn’t wear a dress.

When you have three younger sisters, sometimes you get to be the voice of experience, the one who knows how to bribe a bouncer, sometimes you get to be worldly, the one who knows a bunch of girls will enjoy themselves at a gay club and get to feel edgy and bold at the same time. Sometimes you get to be the cool older brother. But then, sometimes you just have to be content to be the Princess that wears pants.

Like A Reed In The Wind

My sister said an odd thing to me the other day. “Things just seem to work out for you.” I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I thought about that for a long time afterward, because something about it felt wrong. Do things work out for me? Sure, but I don’t think I’m unique in that respect.

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Are You An Entrepreneur?

black-boxWhen you start a job, they give you a black box, metaphorically, not a literal black box. Manuals, policies, procedures, spreadsheets, and templates shape your role. The box defines your job, which is to turn the crank on the box and produce reports, or widgets, or sales, or brochures, and hopefully a little profit.

On the second day I say, “Super excited to be here. I’ve been thinking about that black box. You fellas ever try it with rounded corners?”

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What the Doctor ordered

TherapistMy first experience with a Therapist wasn’t a good one. I didn’t go back for 20 years. Yet it’s now something I do regularly and it’s surprising how often I recommend the process to others. There has been a rash of people close to me experiencing heartache and trauma recently. It seemed a good reason to write to an audience again.

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Eulogy

Norman Britton

Norman Britton

My Grandfather went to the the hospital. I booked a flight to go see him, but he died before I arrived. My Dad phoned to tell me the news, and then he phoned back to ask if I’d do the eulogy. I said, Yes, of course, but I immediately felt overwhelmed by the idea. So I took my notebook and went seeking solace and inspiration in my Irish heritage. I got blind drunk. 

I met some Spanish gentlemen and took an education in sipping tequila. We talked of death, amongst other things. I awoke to find Juan’s phone number in my book, along with this scrawled epiphany, “Mexicans are very spiritual people”. Which might be true, but wasn’t much help in the eulogy.

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Star Crossed

We’ve taken our names off the adoption list. A decision we struggled with for months. It feels good to have it resolved, to reach closure.

baby11Have you ever taken a side trip, or an adventure everyone raves about, but it doesn’t live up to the hype? The good hotels are booked up, but you go anyway, with plans and expectations. But for you it’s just a series of misadventures punctuated by shitty weather and worse food. You know? We’re disappointed, but also, sort of over it.  Life is what happens while you’re making plans. I’ve always liked that saying.

We’ll have to combat our disappointment with early retirement and lazy Sundays enjoying each others company doing whatever it is we want. Then interrupt that difficult routine with lavish adventures bought with our imaginary kid’s college fund. I say this not to dismiss the feelings of loss associated with abandoning our arduous five year pursuit of a child, but to make the point that giving up on the baby idea is sad, no doubt, but it’s not tragic.  An entirely new set of possibilities is now open for the next twenty years.  That’s exciting.

Robot Cars

Google recently got a licence to operate automated driverless vehicles on public roads. This begins the transition from manually controlled vehicles to automated robots. We will continue to share the road as we move toward automated traffic, but robots will quickly dominate.

Studies of flocks of Starlings show that each bird pays attention to the seven birds around them. The flock votes many times a second on direction of travel. The birds make simple decisions based on limited information, and complex patterns emerge. The birds are able to travel in tight coordinated formations. Schools of fish are the same idea. They travel, find food, and avoid predators in elegant unison, as a team, and none of the individuals make difficult decisions or perform complicated actions.

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