Saturday, August 8, 2009

eat my words

Everything I love about baking are the same things I love about writing ads.

With food, my audience takes what I've made into their body, and it becomes part of them. The molecules dissolve and enter the bloodstream. The integrate themselves with the body. My work is consumed.

Writing ads, the reader takes my thoughts into their minds. The concepts weave themselves into the mental structure of the reader. It can become an integral part of how they view things. My thoughts are consumed.

Both kinds of work can take a few mere moments to prepare, or can be crafted over a period of time. I need to spend time thinking of who will be consuming my product. What are their likes and dislikes? What are the best things I can put into it.
Baking is like chemistry. You can't just double your recipe in all cases. Your results will vary. You need to have an iunderstanding of the finer principles, but so much also relies on technique, which comes with hours of practise.

The first class for Patissier I was puff pastry. And involved in it was a layer of dough, a block of butter, and the fleshy side of your hand. We needed to learn how to cut the butter into the dough, chopping the butter down with the side of our hands into an even layer inseparable from our dough. It was intimidating. It was ridiculous, as the first time any of us tried it, aside from the instructor, huge knobs of butter would come off, leaving gigantic lumps that would tear the dough or even slip and fly off. It became clear that day that simply having a recipe in front of oneself is not enough. One must generate the muscle memory. And the only way to do that is through physical repetition.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nice pants

Buy one half, get the other half FREE!

I came to the horrific realization the other day that I’m one of those people who give more detail than you ever wanted to know.

More specifically, when it comes to clothes compliments or commentary, I’ll give you a full update on the item in question.

For example, tell me I have a nice shirt. Go on. Tell me. My response will likely be "Oh this? I got it for $10 at Old Navy."

My pants? "I picked them up in Sault Ste. Marie when I went to a friend’s wedding and realized I didn’t bring any casual clothes."

Why I feel compelled to tell people this is beyond me. I suppose part of me wishes to communicate my assets, such as savvy shopping, or my ability to cope in a strange town when a crisis arises.

For some reason, I can tell you the purchase price of almost every piece of my wardrobe. I can’t remember names for the life of me, but purchase price of a black t-shirt from Old Navy, versus the Purchase price of a black T-shirt for the Bay? ($11.50 v. $12.50 respectively).

And given the chance, I’m likely to drag my purchasing history into conversation. I don’t know why. It’s not like you can go pick up a pair of the same pants that "I bought on a whim… and they were only $10!" And it’s not like I want you to.

You don’t care where I bought something. You don’t care how much it cost. And you likely don’t care how long I spent shopping around for "Just the right belt… and a month later I finally found this one!"

But it just tumbles out of my mouth the moment someone says "Nice belt."

I suppose the appropriate response would be "Thanks." Sounds a bit short to me. Like I’m gloating over the fact that I have a nice belt… maybe nicer than any belt you may have.

My other subconscious tactic is to deride the article in question. "Oh this? My mom picked it up at the Sally-Ann for me. I’ve had it forever!" Or even worse…"The pockets wore out but see… I got my sewing machine out and mended up the pockets."

I imagine you can tell a lot about a person my how they react to a compliment on their clothes.

Nice pants.

Thanks. I got them at for 50% off. — I’m thrifty.

Oh these? I’ve had them forever. – Why haven’t you noticed before? Or,

Oh these? I got them at this exclusive sale my friend told me about — I’m a savvy shopper and have the connections to get great deals.

Oh these? I got them for $12 at the Mendocino clearance. The place was packed! — Aren’t I lucky?

Thank you. I like them too. — Of course they’re nice! Thank you for reaffirming my good taste, which was obvious to all.

Thanks. I like yours too! — I don’t want you to think I’m lording my good fashion over you. I want you to like me.

Mind you, I think I would be put off by someone who respond with a simple "thank you" and just let it hang I the air. Unless it’s the bride on her wedding day, simply accepting a compliment and letting it sit there seems completely self aggrandizing to me.

Perhaps my focus on adding more information about the item is to deflect some of the complement without being self-effacing. Or at east not directly. More often than not, my response can be translated to "Aren’t I thrifty? Aren’t I Lucky? Aren’t I resourceful? Aren’t I creative?"

in praise of adequacy

meh, not my best work

“My goal today is to exceed your expectations.”

It seems that no one who monitors customer service is happy with simple adequacy these days. The drive in the service industry is to exceed expectations as a course of business. Good enough just isn’t good enough anymore.

The problem with this is we are in the equivalent of a service arms race. If you are not completely satisfied with the service you received today, talk to us. We are pushing service people to go the extra mile when simply meeting the original request would be enough.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we tried to exceed expectations every time, in every situation?

Imagine trying to execute this is your own home. Dinner would need to be a three-course meal every day, with luscious appetizers, entrée and dessert. The portions would need to be particularly fulsome, yet not overwhelming. And the menu would need to change to avoid the traditional pork-chop night.

But still, like a stay at a 5 star all-inclusive resort, after some time the novelty and selection would wear. There’s a reason so many celebrities like a fast-food burger.

Hours would be spent in preparation of a meal that was nutritionally balanced, wholesome and delicious. The effort that would go into exceeding these expectations would be taxing. There is a reason not every meal is a thanksgiving groaning board. And the joys of macaroni and cheese may never be revisited.

Macaroni and cheese can be a truly beautiful thing. Predictability and routine can be comfort for folks. Exceeding expectations can put customers outside of their comfort zone.

How can we exceed expectations when the simple ask is for a cheeseburger happy meal? I don’t need you to ask me if I need anything else. I don’t want you to offer me an apple pie. I want you to simply fulfill my request efficiently, politely and let me get on with my day.

In fact, that added touch that goes into trying to exceed my expectations is just ticking me off. I don’t want you to call me up two weeks after my oil change and ask if I was happy with the service. I especially don’t want it if I’ve been coming to you folks for every oil change I’ve needed for the past 4 years. I’m happy. I’m still coming to you, aren’t I? I don’t need you to give me a reminder call, because it always comes way too late.

Sure, every person in a relationship may have felt that twinge of insecurity that not all is right with the relationship. But this is business. If you’re so damn interested in learning if I’m happy, check my buying behaviour.

The pressure put on service people to “exceed expectations” gives them added stress, and in turn, can make them less effective in serving my simple needs for adequacy. I don’t like doing business with puppets. People or machines, yes, but not puppets.

And another thing – adequacy doesn’t mean efficiency. When I go to a fast food joint and place an order, I have something in mind, and my own thoughts on efficiency. Sure, ask questions to clarify, but don’t cut me off in an effort to get me to order your way. I don’t care if you call it a venti – I call it a medium coffee. At the food court, I know you need to know if the item is “for here or to go” so I specify right up front if the order is for here or to go. “I’d like, to go, white rice with beef and broccoli.”

If I’m ordering a pizza from a chain, and you have my order history on file, sure, let me know if I always order thin crust, but forgot to specify it this time. But don’t ask me if it’s pick up or delivery if I always have it delivery. Especially if I said “I’d like to place an order for delivery,” when I first called.

Things like this – this isn’t exceeding expectations. This is meeting my expectations. Maybe I have a high expectations, but it seems to me being treated like a human being shouldn’t be “exceeding.”

black russian roulette

We now join this nic fit in progress.

God I miss smoking.

A little shy of 6 years ago I parted ways with the devil weed. We had a good ten years together. I hated it. I loved it. I miss it. Immeasurably.

She and I parted ways just over ten years ago. Our lives crossed paths several times as I grew up. I have recollections of my mother smoking like a chimney when I was very young. I would curl up behind my mom's legs and watch TV as she would puff away and do crossword puzzles. I couldn't stand when the smoke would sting my eyes, The ashtray smelled awful. I have an especially vivid memory of a babysitter offering me a cigarette when I was young, and telling her no. I did not wish to try smoking.

Then in high school came my first kiss. The boy was a smoker and I recall thinking "Wow the first boy I kissed smokes. Didn't expect that."

Then time passed and I graduated. Went to university. Childhood friends smoked, and at parties I wished to try it, but they refused to share.

I met a man in university. Or someone on the verge of being a man anyway. I recall he smoked a brand that I associated with my grandmother. Not for me. I bummed a couple of smokes from him, and the effect was intoxicating. He and his friends were reluctant to share smokes, as we were all in the grips of student poverty, and the ability to shell out for a pack was passing.

Then finally I bought my first pack of smokes. A pack of Dunhills. I bought them before a party I was hosting at my parents' cottage. The thick blue smoke filled my lungs, yet somehow through the powers of youth I could ingest amazing amounts of alcohol and smoke great volumes of cigarettes and skirt that delicate edge of sensory overload and nausea.

The boy of my affections faded away to be replaced by another. And my brand of cigarettes did the same. I switched brands and switched beaus. I toyed with the idea of quitting smoking. I was still in the lean years of student poverty where I could not afford my own bed, yet somehow scraped together the money for a daily moccaccino and a pack of smokes every few days. Then every couple of days. Then, well. At this point I should buy them by the carton. They're cheaper that way./

There's a few milestones for a smoker. The first cigarette. Buying the first pack. The buying the first carton. So I bought them by the carton load. After all. One needs to be fiscally responsible. Then, I tried to slow down. Another smoker's dilemma. The decision to try to quit.

I tried several times. Beaus came and went. Jobs came and went. The ability to say I'm going out for a smoke made it possible to slice off 15 minute segments of my day for a walk away from my desk. Without excuse. Without justification. The "I'm going for a smoke" was rationale enough.

This carried me through many late nights at the university paper. It carried me through tedious days at the sign company. It provided bonding moments for housemates who spoke very little English, yet smoked. We had that commonality enough. So we would venture out on the balcony, and the sum of his discussion was "money for this, money for that." A new immigrant trying to earn enough money to bring his family over, I could understand the demands of money. I was a recent university grad with a $10- an hour job in a field where I had technical skills but very little talent.

Later I would go back to school. College. The cigarettes allowed me to bond with classmates. Make new friends. Meet new people. Make an excuse to spend time with another object of my affections. Again I found (on limited funds) a way to pay for my habit. A few half-hearted tries at quitting drifted off into oblivion. I was warned of the evils of having a portfolio case that smelled of cigarette smoke. And while I had no safe haven to store the sum total of what would convince a person to hire me, I still smoked.

Finally, my first job. Then my second. I worked at Eaton's during its final days before its bankruptcy. All advertising was cancelled for the year, yet we needed to still show up to work every day or else no severance for us. You could still smoke in restaurants at that time. And the Eaton's restaurant was only one floor below, beckoning with simple pressed aluminum ashtrays and coffee that sometimes held promise of freshness.

Jobs went. Time passed, employment changed. All through it I somehow found the way to buy my precious cancer sticks. That's what you start calling them when you feel you've surrendered to them. Why fight it. Yes I'm killing myself slowly. Why would I want to deny it. This silly little stick of leaves and paper and filter is the only thing that keeps me from wanting to end it all. It gets me out of bed in the morning. And it puts me to sleep at night.

God I miss smoking. Did I mention that?

My new object of my affections was a smoker too. Not my brand. As it should be. We don't wear the same underwear either. We shared a love with one another. Then shared an apartment . Then moved into a house. Our house was to be a smoking house. After all, we paid for it with our own money, so why should we need to smoke outside. So unfair. So uncivilized.

Then life changed. I lost my job. I had problems with breathing. Perhaps there was something in this new house that set off new unknown allergies.

I went for a chest x-ray.

They asked if I smoked.

I said yes. And I felt the weight of my decisions on the cold plate in front of me,

I would try again to quit smoking. And so I bought a book.

This was going to be it. I was unemployed and now being supported by someone I was unrelated to (aside from our common relations in our shared bed). We were already short on cash, and then I lost my job.

And I kept applying to jobs. With no avail.

So I decided I'd do it.

For some reason the investment in the book seemed like a greater investment than the one I was making weekly in smokes. After all. Cigarettes were a necessity. How could we get by without them?

If memory serves, the joint account covered the smokes. I covered the cost of the books.

I followed the instructions of the book to a tee. I switched brands. I switched my smoking frequency. I switched my rhythm. And I had gaps in my smoking.

Then I bought another book on quitting. It fascinated me as well.

I kept following the initial plan. No smoking within a certain period of eating. Of drinking. And then, as I neared the end o the second book, but entered the third week of my quitting smoking, I discovered that, for the last two weeks, I could have had a coffee with my cigarettes.

I had denied myself something I so craved. And I placed blame squarely on the poor instructions in the book. I decided to give up giving up.

I finished the other shorter book and had my last cigarette. I sat in my great grandfather's chair, in the parlour of our home, and had that last smoke.

It was, as old Billy Shakespere would say, such sweet sorrow.

I put the balance of the pack for cigarettes in the freezer just in case.

A few weeks later, after not making the shortlist a job I really wanted, I was wallowing in self pity and thought of the pack in the freezer. I took the pack out of the freezer. I ran it under water. I rung it out. And I put it in the garbage.

My career was pretty much in the toilet. If I couldn't get this two-bit place to hire me so be it, but was dammed if I was going to pick up smoking again.

And that was it.

Until recently.

I'm back pursuing the career. And I miss it. It's been 6 years, and I really want a cigarette again.

I watch Mad Men and they're all smoking.

I play music from my college days and would kill for a cigarette.

Tonight, I poured myself a black Russian. I just took the last sips. And I would love to have a cigarette.

There is nothing I want more, than my beau, than any former crush, than any Hollywood flash in the pan, than, dare I say it, any award. There is nothing I would like more than to go to my beau's bedside table, grab a smoke, bring it to my lips and light it.

It has been 6 long years. It was so hard to quit.

And I really want it so badly tonight.

But dammit. I've worked too hard for this.

I've saved too much money to fall into this trap. If my quit meter is to be believed, I've saved over $15000. And that's in 2003 prices.

God only knows where all the money went. But I know I didn't spend it on killing myself.

Tonight's Black Russian was definitely the trigger.

Another night it was listening to the Crash test Dummies

The triggers are still there. They lurk under rocks, around corners, in little ditches and behind chairs I wouldn't expect.

I just spent 4 pages of continuous typing about smoking. That's how bad I want one right now. I bet in this time I could have smoked a whole cigarette. I could be lighting my second.

But I will be DAMNED if I'm going to let some stupid craving, be it for love, for fame for recognition, or just for nicotine... I will be damned is I will let this be the end of me.

a cost-benefit analysis of sleepless nights given the current fiscal climate

i owe myself some credit.

I read recently that one of the biggest fears today is the fear that we will not be able to maintain the same standard of living as we have in the past. The fear of a global depression.

This, to the surprise of many, need not be the end of the world. The loss of money is not the loss of life. If you’re an investor who comes to realize you’ve lost your family’s wealth, don’t go and off yourself. It won’t get the money back. And you’ve likely suffered great changes in standard of living and survived quite nicely.

There once was a time in most people’s lives where they need not earn a penny to support themselves. All financial needs were attended to. And then the cold reality of life came to bear: leaving home, leaving school, and getting a job. Not necessarily in that order.

This change is embraced by many, because they see independence from family as a great thing. Sacrificing the comforts of home for a sense of self determination. In my case, my standard of living changed to smaller quarters, less free time, and greater stress. How was it for you?

Maintaining a standard of living indeed.

Standard of living is subjective. I cannot imagine willingly allowing my hard-won independence to be ripped from my grasp by 7lbs. 8oz. of screaming, writhing, defecating flesh.

I’m mystified as to how so many choose to sacrifice their current standard of living for a sense of immortality that comes with knowing your genetic material has been duplicated and is now off to make its way in the world. Yet millions of people do this. Arguably, procreation is what we were put on this earth to do. Most would assert that the addition of the bundle of joy has improved their quality of life by reframing it.

The birth of a child comes with a dramatic change in lifestyle, not only monetarily but in freedom of movement and sense of self direction.

It’s a choice to no longer live for oneself.

People make bad decisions every day. They choose convenience over wealth. They are blind to their own ability to change their actions and optimize their monetary efficiency.

Consider this: There is a white label bank machine one minute away – in the convenience store. Your bank machine is about 3 and a half minutes away. If you use the white label machine, you may spend as much as $2.50 go get your money out, plus a potential $1.50 charge from your own bank for withdrawing from another service provider. If you were willing to walk the extra 5 minute round trip, you could save $4 - the equivalent of $48/hr.

I’ve colleagues who surely earn less than $96,000/year, but I am sure they would not make the walk. Yet they will walk the same or greater distance for a cup of Starbucks coffee.

Yes, I have a fear that I won’t be able to maintain my current standard of living. I shudder to think of losing my job. But we have survived economic struggles in the past. When our income tumbled to half of our original income, we made it through. Really, during the time we made changes and tightened things up. If we had to sell our home, we still would have gotten the $ we put in back. Had we been paying our rent since we’ve moved into our house, we’d have spent $150,000 and had nothing to show for it. Losing our home would indeed suck. But we’d still be further ahead than we were in 2001. If we had to sell our things, they’re just things. We aren’t the sum total of our possessions.

I have no desire to move into a single room and eat tinned beans. But were it to happen, it would be survivable. I have done it before. It was not awful. It was life. In fact, since it’s in the realm of the known, it’s really nothing to fear.

Now winning several million dollars. That would be outside of the realm of my experience. Maybe that’s what we should all fear instead.

feelin' groovy

A month of a different elk.

Rut: Noun
1. a groove or furrow
2. a settled and monotonous routine that is hard to escape
3. a state or period of heightened sexual arousal and activity

It happens almost every year. What I affectionately refer to as Rutting Season.

In the Spring, my heart swells and aches in a fashion that I find hard to explain. The gnawing seems unbearable. Every fibre of my being feels alive and fully charged, wishing and aching for something that simply cannot be. Rationally I am astounded at my mental state, and often wonder "what the hell is this all about?" but emotionally there is no question... just inconsolable ungratifiable indefinable ache. Since I left high school, the object of my obsession varies, but there always seems to be something to fill the void.

I do think it began in high school, or perhaps in the last year of grade school, with the approaching end of every school year. It would mean two months I would not see the object of my obsession. Two long months where the high-school routine of anxiety and fear would be shelved, and the world of possibilities would open up.

Horrible horrible freedom. Freedom without the daily stimulus of the object of my obsession.

I knew that with every approaching summer, I was one summer closer to never seeing him again. How it could be? How it could happen that this one person with whom I was so enamoured would never share more than one ridiculous Grade 8 dance with me? How could this world ever really end and the door close on the possibility, no matter how infinitesimally slim?

I can remember the last time I saw him. I was attending university. He had stayed back for an extra year of high school, as he had realized in physics class that he wanted to study electronics technology.


Over the last two years of high school I'd gotten enough nerve to try to talk to him casually. I'd dialed down the open stalker level to 9 (from 472). And he seemed to be polite about conversation in the final year.

In my final year, I took physics with him. I took it only to be in the same class as him. I'd had a chance to see the books he needed, and then figured out what classes he was taking that I might take. I re-arranged my classes in my final year of high school so I would see him as much as possible.

It was in our physics class that we had a speaker, and he seemed to have the sudden revelation of what he wanted to do for a living. It would require him to spend another year at high school, and so he did.

I tried to latch onto this. I tried to rationalize that my leaving high school would not be the tragedy I thought it might be. I was "obviously" completely misguided in ever having such an attraction to him. Five and a half years of sleepless nights and pointless affection, aching for something I would never be able to have. How could I possibly moon for someone who could make such a clearly irresponsible choice... to stay at school another, a sixth, year?

He's a fool. He's a flake. He simply could not mean as much to me as every fibre in my being had led me to believe.

And I knew that it was impossible for me to rationally stay another year. I was sorely tempted, but I instead left for university. Just as I dated others as I carried this torch, I knew I had to get on with my life.


So it was the fall, and they were distributing the yearbooks back at the old high school. I decided to go back to get my yearbook and to possibly glimpse him one more time. Perhaps I would even ask him to sign my yearbook. Four years I'd asked him to, and four years he'd turned me down

I picked up my yearbook, and was walking down the hall when I saw him. I knew I needed to talk to him. This was it. This was the closest I would ever have to forever. I could not pass the opportunity up.

So I walked right up to him, virtually jumped in his path and said the only words that seemed appropriate.

"Hi. I've come back to haunt you."

It was then quickly followed by a lame question of did he know where a mutual acquaintance was, and a thanks, good to see you. And that was my goodbye to the safe, constant, reliable, and only once rivaled object of my affection during rutting season.

It took me another year to learn that the fun of rutting season is to revel in the ache. To wallow in the pain of emotions that are never to be requited. To fool oneself into thinking they may be requited is dangerous, for once rutting season ends, the desire often collapses, with disastrous results for all involved.

Rutting season is fleeting. It is like a dog chasing cars. The fun is in the wanting, not the having. And a shiny new jag to some poor whippet is completely useless.


it's not a mid life crisis... I'm just finally getting around to some things I meant to do

The big relevation I had from jumping out of a plane was that I am, indeed too hard on myself.

And yet, I would still assert: perhaps I am not too hard on myself — perhaps everyone else is too easy on themselves.

Many friends have said I'm too self-critical. I still don't know if I believe it though. I think it's truer that I'm just generally a pretty critical person. Harsh of everyone. Somehow I can maintain a balance of thinking the worst of people and the best of people simultaneously.

I realise I should delight in my parachuting accomplishment - jumping out of a plane on cue. However, I'm still critical of forgetting what I was supposed to do: arch, count.

Yes, I knew precisely how to address a minor malfunction ... indeed, a minor parachute malfunction at 3,500 feet and I kept my wits about me! I should be very proud. But had I arched I likely would not have had line twists.

And in case I'd forgotten, they talked me through it on the radio anyway.

As I fought the wind for position in the doorway, I had actually accepted "Yep... this is it. If I'm gonna die jumping out of a plane, so be it."

It wasn't to be death by parachute malfunction, and in some small way I'm a little surprised.


There's a lot of "shoulds" in my small-minded hypocritical little world. I should have accomplished more by now. Yet I also think I expected to be dead by now. Perhaps if I'd taken more risks I would be more accomplished, yet less breathing.

Caution has been my sherpa. Caution with my body, my money, my career. I'm pretty darn self-protective. It's served me adequately. I've stayed reasonably alive, but have surely sacrificed some highs and lows.

Without this cautious approach to life, I'm sure I would be disease-riddled, lame, destitute, and unemployed (or possibly self-employed in the sex trade).

However, there are trade offs.

Those I know who have lived life less cautiously may have been incarcerated, hospitalized, fired multiple times and penniless. But they have better travel pictures.


My hypercritical estimation of those who are less cautious, who aren't following the shoulds, who aren't flossing or buckling up or saving for retirement: they're making the world a worse place for all of us.

No, I don't floss regularly. And yes, I feel guilty because it makes a world a worse place. Because don't floss, I end up getting more cavities, so I miss work, cost the company benefits plan more... rates go up for everyone. I drive more to the dentist, resulting in more pollution. All because I wasn't willing to take a moment for oral hygene.

This kind of flagrant disregard for the rules is making everyone's life harder... including my own. It's causing heartache and pain for those of us who are cautious.

I'd love to grab everyone in the world and give them one big shake and say "What the hell are you thinking? Can't you signal your turns? Can't you wash out your containers for recycling?"

And I'm sure the world would like to give me a shake and say "It's not the end of the world if you press the wrong button in the elevator"

rem re-runs

can my subconscious not make an effort once in a while?

two dreams, one night, same imagery

Dream one

Scenario: mid-day to early afternoon in the countryside north of Oakville.

Driving in the car along a back road. Someone is with me. Not sure who. The paved back road reaches an intersection, with paved roads heading off to the right and left, and the road straight ahead turning to packed dirt. We stop at the intersection, and I consider turning left.

Instead I continue to drive along the dirt road trying to remember if it comes to a dead end when it reaches the 407. There are pot holes and washboarding on the road -- very much dirt, not stone.

A pickup truck passes me travelling the other way.

I am having trouble maintaining speed in the car... The accelleration keeps dropping. I'm pushing the engine to keep the speed up, but it's labouring. I start alternately pumping the brake and gas as if pedaling a bicycle. Instead of the speedometer showing the speed, it displays " M " (Manual?)

We approach a steep hill in the road. It stretches high in front of me. There is construction being done on the road, but the construction strikes me in memory now as being on the small scale - like the Doozers from Fraggle Rock. Although the road goes straight uphill, trees and traffic-calming dividers are being added to the road to necessitate weaving up the steep incline.

I can't remember if we started up the hill.


Dream two

At my grandmother's place, but not my grandmother's place -- much larger property, with an additional freestanding warehouse-like structure for the garage. Recall windows all around (the structure reminds me of a smaller version of the Tip Top building prior to its conversion to condos.)

You can see piles of fabric and papers and crap in the windows of the second and third floors. I realise there is much more contents in the building than originally thought... a whole additional level.

cut to:

We are heading from an event. Not sure who is with me (again). A friend -- could be Trent. I am driving on an errand from the place. The area reminds me of Waterdown, including the Waterdown hill... lots of wide-open spaces, fields, old buildings. I can see a few homes decorated for Halloween. One property has two highly arching trees with few branches and no leaves, and each terminating at the top bent toward one another. Like two high arching pointed telephone poles. At the pinnacle are two huge jack-o-lanterns hanging, pre-lit and ready. I wonder how the owners placed the lanterns so far up, and how they would light them.

I recall going down the hill during the daytime. We then are returning to the place after dark. We head up a long straight incline. There are cars behind me. Lots of traffic on the road. I am having trouble getting the car up the hill... I need to keep my foot on the accellerator to avoid rolling back into the cars behind me.

There are security guards that are stopping traffic at the top of the hill. I receive an announcement - on the car display. They are aware that we picked up two t-shirts that we should have paid for. I recall my friend and I decided to take the shirts as they were left over at the end of the event.

The security people say they have video evidence from May 2 and May 5th.

Traffic is packed in behind us. The car will roll if I take my foot off the gas pedal. Silhouettes of two people await at the top of the hill. Traffic in the opposite direction bears down. I realise that there is no escape, that I have to continue trying to get the car up to the top of the hill, even though I fear the fate waiting for us at the top.


...and some rules are made to be broken...

Until today, the rules of this section of my site were very simple.

Whatever went up stayed up.

Things were posted sequentially, with the newest stuff at the top.

While minor changes to content could be made over time (after editing and reflection), nothing would be taken down. I would need to live with regrets.

Screw that. I posted something about 4 days ago... a few days before I jumped out of a plane. The thoughts popped into my head while in the shower, and so I drafted it up and posted it in haste.

Now I've discovered the topic is just way to synchronous with other crap going on in friends' lives to leave it up. I don't want them to think it's remotely related, so down it comes. It'll go back up (before ROBSE) in a few months.

If yer curious, lemme know and I'll send you a copy. Whatever you think, it ain't about you.


These are the rules...

Rules Of Banana Sticker Engagement

I have banana stickers on my lunch box. The obsessive compulsive in me insists there are the following rules for placing the stickers on my lunch box

• Stickers from bananas that I have eaten during the work day may be placed on my lunchbox.

• Only stickers from bananas consumed by me can be placed on the lunch box. (No donated banana stickers.)

• Bananas must be eaten during the work day. Those from bananas eaten on the way to or from work do not count.

• Work day is defined as the time I arrive at the office until the time I leave the office. i.e., If I stay late at night and eat a banana bearing a sticker, the sticker is eligible for placement on my lunch box. If I go into work on the weekend, and eat a banana with sticker while I'm there, the sticker is eligible even if I don't have my lunch box with me.

• Only the traditionally "edible" part of the banana need be eaten. If the banana bearing a sticker is badly bruised, the bruised part need not be eaten. More than 50% of the banana must be un-bruised in order to be eligible.

• Stickers may be removed from the banana only once I have arrived at work. Stickers may be placed on the lunch box prior to eating; however, this commits me to eating the banana before leaving the office that day. This allows for the use of the banana in Peanut Butter and Banana sandwiches, but only if the banana is peeled and prepared at the office.

• Bananas must be selected as displayed at the point of purchase. No breaking apart bunches of bananas to get only "the ones with the good stickers".

• Purchasing pre-separated (i.e. individual) bananas is acceptable.

• No more than two units of bananas may be purchased at one time. A unit is considered a banana with or without other bananas attached to it. (i.e., no more than two individual bananas may be purchased at one time)

• If a bunch of bananas is purchased, bananas must be selected from the bunch from the outside-in. If the good sticker is on the centre banana, I cannot just pull the primo banana... I must eat my way in.

• If the bunch of bananas is several bananas wide, bananas may be selected alternately from the left or the right side of the bunch. Efforts must be made to keep the bunch balanced.

• If the bunch is multiple bananas deep, the utilization of the rows of bananas must be balanced, keeping in mind to keep the bunch as a whole balanced.

• A point on balance for illustrative purposes: If the starter bunch has four bananas on the bottom and three along the top, and a banana sticker on the top centre banana, I would need to eat a minimum of three bananas before getting to the banana with a sticker. (First back left, then front left, then back left, then centre). There have been several occassions where the bananas with the good stickers have not been consumed in time, as the bananas are over-ripe before I get to them.

• Stickers from bananas given to me during the work day can be placed on my lunch box so long as the banana is consumed during the work day. It need not be consumed the save day as it was given. All above rules regarding consumption apply to ensure banana sticker eligibility.

• No additional adhesive may be used to ensure banana stickers remain on my lunch box. They must be self-secured.

• Banana stickers are to be placed on the lid of the lunch box in the sequence of consumption, starting on the upper left corner, working horizontally in rows.

• Stickers may touch one another but should not overlap.

• Other fruit stickers may be applied to my lunch box, but the above rules apply. Other fruit stickers are acceptable only on the sides of the lunch box.

soaking in it

getting myself into hot water

I do not get along with hot tubs.

This isn't one of those female anatomy health things. Yes, they've been bad for my sex life, but not in that way.

My first opportunity to enjoy a hot tub was at a beau's parent's house in university. I wanted to make love in the hot tub (being young and naive and believing too much of what I'd seen depicted in film). He refused, which was my first disappointment.

My second disappointment came about half an hour later in his parents' bed, when he told me after making love (or perhaps "doin' it" would be more accurate) that, much to my surprise, I was not his “girlfriend”. How strange, given our 6 month ongoing public relationship. On the way home I recall thinking, in an effort to crank up my indignance, "I finally got to try a hot tub and he ruined it for me."

A fling and a beau later, I would again try the hot tub experiment. But this time I was in the driver's seat... down to Niagara Falls to stay in a room with a heart shaped tub.

By the time the pink champagne was cracked and the bubble bath was being added, the beau wasn't feeling too good. He put on a brave face throughout, though it was obvious he wasn't enjoying it. Few things are less romantic than your partner "enduring" foreplay. Later we found out he had come down with mono, and it was at its worse that weekend.

About 6 years and a break-up later, I was again with the same person in a hotel in Windsor. I'd convinced my friend-with-privileges of the value of a hot-tub suite. But that night he refused to join me in the tub, for reasons unknown to me. Maybe on some level he knew that would turn out to be our last night together. Or maybe he was just pissed that we'd had such a crappy time at the casino. Who knew the biggest gamble I'd lose is the extra $$ we spent for the hot tub.

A few years ago, I visited Mexico with my sweetheart. Our room had a hot tub. And while he was more than willing to join me in the tub, he fell under the spell of a day of beer and sunshine, capped with a warm soak in pulsating water. Too relaxed and exhausted for dinner or much else, he passed out, and I resigned myself to finishing my book and missing our dinner reservation.

I've always liked the idea of hot tubs. But perhaps I should learn and just give up on the dream. Because after all this time, it seems that I can either have the hot tub, or the man, but never, ever both.

dead as a doormat

Not your friendliest greeting...

"Do you have any enemies?"

It's kind of odd to be asked this question by three completely divergent people in the same day. But when I recounted my morning at work, to friends on the phone, and online, all came to the same question.

John was leaving on a work trip that morning, and I was driving him to the airport. We were leaving earlier than I'd normally leave for work, to ensure he would be at the airport on time.

That morning the light burned out in the shower. I thought "Gee, that seems pretty ominous". But bah... Our shower has black marbleized walls — evidence that the house addition was constructed in the late 80's. Without a light in the ceiling, it's a bit hard to see in the shadowy shower.

We soldiered on, he and I showering in the dark of a January morning, and half-asleep. He packed as I showered, and by the time I was dressed, he was pouring coffee. We put on our coats, I opened the front door and I learned my body was faster than my brain.

I shrieked and jumped back before even registering there was a dead rabbit on the doorstep.

A shriek and jump are my pitiful automatic responses to unexpectedly encountering dead animals in my path. Like a mouse in a pile of laundry, or once, under my bare foot.

However, I usually then get John to take care of the damn thing. This day, we were already running behind. As John started looking for rubber gloves, I said "we don't have time... you'll miss your flight." And so it was decided that dead was dead. The rabbit would remain untouched in its puzzling place until I returned from work... to a large empty home... to dispose of a suspicious dead rabbit after a very long day of work.

Over the day, as I recounted the story to co-workers, I pieced together possibilities as to why the rabbit would end up at our door.

I've seen dead rabbits in the area before. One morning I saw the horror of an injured one hopping in a panic and pain around our yard. I'd seen evidence of its demise a few days later in our shrubbery.

I'd seen rabbits spread across the pavement just out front of our house, obviously from poor road crossing skills. For such a small creature, its blood can be spread over a surprisingly large portion of the road.

Had this particular rabbit been dead on our front yard, or somewhere else on our property that I’d almost step on it, such as by the driver's side door of the car, I might have thought it was from the foxes I'd seen in the area.

If we had dogs, I would have assumed it was caught and presented to us. It was torn apart visibly, but there was still a substantial amount of flesh on it. If a wild animal had caught it for food, why would it leave it in a place so frequently traversed by people?

In the image below (rollover to get a full view) shows the only way it could have been closer is if it had been on our mat, physically against our front the door.

At the end of the day, I returned home, and had the presence of mind to take a couple pictures. The head was still attached, but mostly disconnected.

Then, after scooping up the rabbit, and disposing of it, I came inside, washed my hands (though I never touched the thing) and gave Inkblot and Rory a box of raisins each.


the two most valuable phrases: "like I meant to" and "because I'm an idiot"

A Theory : The incorportion of new technologies into everyday life is making society more error-tolerant

The cost of making a mistake these days is smaller than it used to be. We are so accustomed to easily fixing small mistakes, we don't get as concerned when they pop up now and again. So we're becoming less careful and more error-prone.

In the days of Smith-Corona, a typo required you to get out something to correct your mistake. If you were lucky, you would have correction tape or paper, which, with little effort, would allow you to resume typing within a minute or so. If you were less lucky, you'd have correction fluid, which would necesitate a great deal of shaking, blowing, waiting and, if you were impatient, scraping of paper, cleaning of ribbon, shaking reapplying and waiting again.

People took the time to think and type carefully and thoughtfully. Because one or two stray fingers could really slow you down.

The computer then brought us a little miracle we soon could not live without: the delete key. Making a mistake was not such a big deal. You could simply go back and erase from memory the mis-type you made. In a fraction of a second, your error was gone, with no evidence of it ever having occurred.

Then came another miracle: the undo function. This let you correct the correction you made. Then spellcheck -- great if you take the time to actually pay attention to the corrections it is suggesting.

On cellphones and many standard phones today, if you key in the phone number and mis-press a number, you simply backspace and try again until you have the entire phone number correct. Then and only then do you assert that you have mastered the skill of dialling a number by confirming you wish to be connected. Other phones have a display to show you the number as you dial it - handy for those who are prone to suddenly forgetting what on earth they are doing. If you find yourself grasping a receiver in one hand and your other hand pointedly poised over the keypad, just look at the display "oh yes...I must be calling someone in Toronto...I've already pressed 416".

It should be obvious to all now that my inner crumudgeon id blossoming a few years too soon. But in case it wasn't clear... I have my parents' original rotary phone from back in the day. It still works. If I go to call someone and accidentally dial the last digit of their number incorrectly, I have to hang the phone up and start all over again. At one time I had the capacity to hold in my mind up to 10 digits at once.

I once had faith in my ability to dial. Now modern conveniences have hobbled my brain.

At every place I have worked, I have seen the volume of work per person skyrocket, along with the tolerance for errors. The repetitive conditioning of backspacing and reprinting has made people not think twice when they make a mistake. Sure, there may be great gnashing of teeth upon first noticing the error, but the remorse passes swiftly, and the cogs continue to turn.


Questions from the shower...

The other day, a friend mentioned some relatives that recently divorced.

"He cheated on her after 37 years of marriage." She said this with such disgust.

Why is it so bad? Or so much worse than if he had cheated on her after, say, 20 years of marriage? Or after just a year?

If the man had been faithful and true to his wife for 37 years, should he not get some credit for that? Does one indiscretion wipe out all of the self-control he has exhibited over the years?

However, had he cheated on her at their reception... in the first month... in the first year of marriage, I believe the same level of disgust would be held by many.

So, the question is, what is the bottom of the curve of disgust... or the higest point of acceptability? When is the sweet-spot for cheating on your wife? At what point would we say "well, it could have been worse, they could have been married for longer/shorter when he cheated."


I missed a pill a couple months ago.

Were getting "fixed" not such horribly invasive and somewhat hazardous surgery, I would have had it done years ago. Instead, my religion is taking a few moments every day around 8:00 p.m. to take my pill. I live in terror of becoming pregnant. In fact, for a time in my early adolesence, I feared immaculate conception. Not rational, admittedly... but no one would ever claim I don't worry enough.

So when I realized my recent error, I immediately visited the pharmacy to get Plan B. I wanted to ensure if there was potential within me, it would not have a chance to inplant itself. And if it were to inplant, I would want to know within days that I needed to take further steps before the month was through.

I feel a strong responsiblity to snuff out such potential before it can become viable. It seems to me the longer you let something like that fester, the worse it is. The mere passage of time gives it more potential.

When children die in their youth, people mourn what could have been. "They had so much potential." For some reason shooting 15 year old seems far worse than a 19 year old.

What does the "potential" curve look like for a human being? From fertilization of egg, through trimesters, and birth through youth to adulthood? At what point is someone considered to have the most potential?

spanking the keys

is there such a thing as safe reading?

There's something to be said for the intimacy of the written word.

Right now it's just you, and me. Nobody else. Someone may be reading over your shoulder, but it's only you that's really hearing me.

Because you're the only person I'm speaking to.

There may be voyeurs to our shared experience, but at this moment, there is just you, the unknown reader, and me.

You could be my beau, my boss, my friend, or someone with a long seething grudge. And though I don't know who you are, here I am, talking to you all alone. The sound of my words ringing in your head.

It's one of the things I like about writing. getting into peoples brains. In fact you're welcoing me in. Just by continuing to read, you are providing me with a level of acceptance.

Love letters, hate mail, and everything in between. Anything I've written... as soon as it is read by some, it gives me acceptance. Them may not like what I say, but they have opened their minds and let me in.

When I write for clients, I get inside other people's heads and convince them to do things. Spend money. Apply for this job. Believe. I'll pop up in them and whisper little things in their conscious or subconscious, and then leave them alone.

I'll suggest people try new things. Sure, coffee with fake kahlua flavouring and mounds of whipped cream... so good it's evil.

Never tried it myself... but a friend did...apparently I misspelled vile.

When writing for World Youth Day, the joke in the office was "A heathen, an agnostic and a jew got together to make ads for the Pope." I was the heathen of that unholy trinity. And hundreds of thousands came.

When I write for myself, it gets far more interesting

Because I'm writing not to please a client. It's to please myself. Oh yes. that's what I'm doing. I like to think I'm trying to reach out to others, but really all I'm doing is sitting back in my comfy computer chair and pleasuring myself through my keyboard.

The reason it's online is because I'm a bit of an exhibitionist, and a bit of a trollop.

Oh yes, there are places where I have written things for others to read, and you won't even know it's me. The guilty pleasures of anonymous writing.

But the real intimacy comes from laying myself open for you to see. And then your eyes touch my words.

I'm here now... Inside your brain as you read this. And if my words can get in here, perhaps they'll find a way to look around inside your brain, and find a way to retrieve some of the things within.


Everything old is new again...

"The keynote here is receiving: messages, signals, gifts."

A long while ago I received a piece of mahogany from my mother.

She'd rescued the mahogany from a shipping crate that wound up at the dump near the cottage. Too good to be buried with waste.

I asked for the wood to make myself some runes. I thought they would have more strength if I crafted them with my own hands. They would be more in tune to me. And from practicality purposes, crafting runes would not be as labour intensive or daunting as creating my own tarot deck.

I purchased a set of stones around the same time, and goodness knows whatever happened to the stones, but the book that came with them has been with me since I carved those stones. The mahogany was carved into 25 identical pieces, and each then carved with the symbols.

A larger piece of mahogany was left over. From this, I decided to create an amulet for myself. Carved and sanded down by hand, I carefully selected the one symbol of 24 that would serve my purposes best. An indent was made in the top for a simple metal loop, constructed from coat hanger wire (of all things). A twisted piece of cord served as the necklace. Wore it once in a while, but it was too light, and I was afraid of losing it


Ran across the same symbolism in a comic I recently picked up. I was digging the synchronicity, and so went to grab my long neglected Book of Runes and necklace to confirm my recollection was correct.

So I picked up the book and it fell open at a page that refered to the the wrong name.

I think that's the real message I was supposed to find behind everything today. Although I relish finding typos and errors (not that you could tell from this section of my web site), I sometimes forget that people are fallible even when they throw every ounce of their effort at something.

No matter how hard you try to be perfect, shit still happens.

tinfoil haute couture

I know you think I'm paranoid. Everyone thinks that about me...

I have definite tinfoil-hat tendencies. But mock me if you will... these tendencies pay off.

In 1999, I moved to an apartment that had a wood-burning fireplace and was a quick walk away from the lake. Why? Because if something happened with Y2K, I'd be set. Lots of trees in the area for firewood, and water close by that could be made potable. I had a small cache of emergency supplies set aside — food for about 3 weeks if necessary. The new year came and went without incident. And I had a lovely fireplace to enjoy, and didn't have to go shopping for a few weeks.

When we had August 2003 blackout, I was in my office delighting — "I've been waiting years for this!" It may have taken forever to drive home, but as others were sitting around in traffic burning up fuel (without the ability to refuel at any stations), our hybrid was happily idling on battery. Got home, cranked up the Grundig to see what radio stations had power, and had a lovely meal by oil lamp, courtesy of our camping stove.

When I took holidays this past summer, it was the week skyrocketing gas prices in Toronto. Gas reached a high of about $1.33/L. And of all the books I picked up to read that week, I chose The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of the Oil Age, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century.

Perhaps not the best reading, but it's good to know the worst case scenario. When the time comes to get a second vehicle, it's going to be a diesel. One that we may get converted to run on vegetable oil (still to be negotiated).

The next thing I want to indulge my tinfoil hat tendencies just a little more is one of these:

Sure, it takes care of the space waves coming from the outside... and unlike a tinfoil hat, this has an undersheet to protect you from all angles.