Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shows to Watch

Day after day, I hear about many new TV shows that are supposedly quite entertaining and/or funny. At the risk of sounding haughty, I've almost always had more pressing and important uses for my time than watching TV. Evenings are times to shuttle kids around, do odd jobs, repair and replace broken and worn-out house items or just take care of seasonal/holiday tasks like lawn mowing or general tidying.

There *have* been a very few shows that I've made time to watch, but even those ones have required a concerted effort to get in front of the television at the appointed time (usually just before bed on a Sunday night). When I sit down to take in Seinfeld, Sex in the City or one of the many other series that I overhear an office conversation about, I usually find them entertaining and I'm glad I found an hour to watch. In the past, I used to set aside Sunday night at 10 pm to watch a catty-but-fun serial called Desperate Housewives. Getting into the storylines and getting to know the characters doubled the enjoyment of certain scenes. For some reason, I fell off the Housewives bandwagon.

I'm quite pleased to see the production of season-in-a-set of DVDs, giving you a chance to watch a whole year of one show on your own time. I know that some people are getting Personal Video Recorders (or PVRs) to record satellite or cable broadcasts. These PVRs have a limited capacity and (I'm told) fill up rather quickly. That just puts pressure on you, as the queue of recorded shows quickly backs up into an hourglass-like funnel, waiting for you to un-stopper it. Having a DVD or two sitting on the shelf, waiting patiently suits my pace of TV watching much more closely.

The shows that I have planned to sit down and watch (someday), include Pushing Daisies; Nip and Tuck; Kath and Kim (the original series from Australia) and all the seasons of The Office that I haven't got around to. All I need is some free time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Catching On

After forty-three years, five months, one ex-wife, many ex-bosses and two daughters, I am finally learning that that you can expend your effort pleasing and impressing people, or you can expend your effort being consistent, honest about your feelings, straight-forward and respectful. They both take the same amount of effort - just a different mindset.

The best part about the second way is that you get to keep your sanity.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Speaking English

I just sat through an interesting course on Project Management, taught by man who was a very eloquent gentleman and an excellent instructor.

Part of the enjoyment that came from hearing him lecture was his use of language. He was tossing out common English colloquialisms like 'bumf' and 'Wellies' (after which he would stop and explain the meaning of the word) . I was a bit surprised when he paused after using the expression 'Red Herring' and after drawing mostly blank looks, then he did a perception check and asked, "Does anyone know what 'red herring' means?"

Some very blank looks were exchanged around the room, and I was the sole hand that went up. Rather than refer to me, he explained its meaning. I thought that was pretty common.

Am I starting to be from a different generation?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good Use

It is truly strange how much joy I extract from finishing off leftovers from my 'fridge.

It's not the act of eating them that gives me pleasure - it is the thought that I'm not generating much waste. I've always been a fan of living economically. Even though I haven't been aware of it, I've been doing so for years. I camp, hostel and hike and try to leave no trace of my visit. I like to make my bed every morning. I like to do any dishes in the kitchen before I toddle off to bed. I recycle when possible. I won't leave the toilet paper roll empty - I'll replace it with a fresh one and leave the old roll (with the few last sheets) on top of the new one. I encourage my daughters (much to their displeasure) to emulate these ideals. All of these little quirks are tied together by the concept of not taking more than what is needed and leaving the rest for others.

Economical with time, effort, money. Economical is different from being a cheapskate, of which my daughters jokingly accuse me. I have no problem spending money, as evidenced by my lifestyle and general lack of much extra cash lying around. I have a problem with the money being squandered. There has to be some lasting value or impact to having spent it.

I also don't want to take more than I need. This seems to be a big problem with Western society in general. When I see or deal with a person who feels entitled to something and insists on taking an amount conspicuously beyond their needs, they usually don't get a favorable review in my books.

So, when I finished off the last little bit of the butter chicken and the last bit of pork chops and mashed potatoes, I had a satisfied smile that didn't come from having a full tummy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Out East

My brother has found a great place for himself in the 'outback' of Nova Scotia. He has always wanted to own some wide open space. Kate and I went for a visit (actually, it was a 'meet' for Kate) this weekend and had a restful and enjoyable time.

As empty-nesters, I have noticed that they (and someday soon I, too) suddenly have many more choices available to them. Where they live, what they eat, when they eat, sleep and generally do things is now up their personal whims. Being on a farm emphasizes that freedom, as they are not tied into an urban schedule, either. As illustration, I came down for a bathroom run one night (well after 1 am) and found both Karen and Jeff up and puttering around their kitchen. Both seemed to be doing their own thing, happy to have the other for company but not specifically engaged with each other. Karen was preparing some food and Jeff was watching some recorded videos. I decided to stay up and visit a bit, then excused myself and went back to bed, leaving them to do their own thing with no hint that they might do the same soon.

I also noticed that my brother goes on regular strolls (five or six a day) around the periphery of his property. His dogs (and sometimes a cat or two) go with him. He seems relaxed, happy, at peace and full of life. I'm glad that Jeff and Karen have found a place to get into their own groove.

Kate was overwhelmed with the changing colors of the leaves. I was sure she was going to wear her digital camera out with pictures of leaves, bark, fallen leaves, leaves in the stream, leaves on the Jeff and Karen's patio deck, Karen and Jeff in the leaves, etc.. I admit that it is one thing to hear about Autumn in eastern Canada, but quite another to see it. The scale and scope of a valley full of brilliant yellows and reds has to be seen to be appreciated. Amazing as the pictures are, they just cannot do the full experience justice.

To say I'm happy for my brother is an understatement. He has a beautiful house to live in (with room for guests!), twenty-five acres of woods for he and his animals to wander in, a partner that shares and/or supports his passions, and many, many, many projects to keep him busy for the next 50 years or so that he will be tromping around out East.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Veer is almost a done deal for me. I found out a few weeks ago that I had an expiry date on my building access card, but I've spent the last little bit getting the details nailed down. Some of the other founding Veerdos have let slip with a hint of envy (most have golden handcuffs with the company for a few years yet) at my early departure.

Rather than rush into another job, I've decided to take some time to to gather myself. Aside from a hasty, two-week-break 6 years ago, I have worked continuously (leaving one job on a Friday, starting the next job on a Monday) since I graduated university. That's twenty-one years of straight slogging. The ski lift operators will be my friends for a while, as will the steady stream of Australians that are scheduled to live in our basement for the first half of the year. I'll also have a chance to tackle little 'home improvement' tasks that I have been imagining since we moved in.

I've enjoyed the challenges of starting this little company, doing all things electronic and having someone else's money to spend on cool technology. It certainly has been difficult at times, but look at the great amount of cool we've created.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

As You Like

In a complicated, quickly- and ever-changing world, it is helpful to have a clear guiding philosophy in life. This philosophy should be easy to remember, straightforward, and ideally have three parts to it (that seems to be universal - think 'Holy Trinity', tripod as the most simple-yet-stable structure, three Indiana Jones series, etc.). I've worked out a three-part mantra that I want to live my existence by and think I've just come up with the last part to complete the trifecta tonight.

The first principle I ascertained was that one needs to reduce suffering. I admit to borrowing this one from the Buhddists, as I think they have great stories and love koans. I try not to go out of my way to make life difficult for anyone, but at the same time I try not to increase my own suffering by doing a bunch of unnecessary work.

The second principle I try to follow is to let it go. By this, I mean to not fight against nature. That doesn't mean that I give up pursuing what I feel is right. It just means that you can step out of the way of much of the energy that is directed towards you, rather than stand in its path. I try to let things happen and redirect the bad energy and effort that are often sent hurling towards me into a positive result.

The third principle is one that I've struggled to put words to, as it seemed just too simple. Pursue fun. Pursuing fun needn't be about total hedonism and needs to run deeper than immediate gratification. You need to know what long-term conditions give you pleasure, then set up your life so that you can have them happen with reasonable regularity (but not to the distraction of the things that should be done in life). I know that my daughters struggle with putting a list of things that make them happy together - I've asked them. Once you have this list and know what has to be in place in order for your happy triggers to go off, you are set.

Here's some of the things that I find fulfilling:
  • being exposed to and having opportunity to create art
  • being able to be physically active
  • having an affectionate, considerate woman in my life
  • tinkering with and making things work (computers, bicycles, wires in walls, etc.)
  • listening to and being part of interesting conversations
  • being in and around water
  • having time to reflect and doing that reflection
  • having a home that I return to after traveling
  • having harmony and order in life, like having a simple set of rules to follow (See? See how these things are recursive?)

As a young person, you can strive towards having a life full of the things that you love, but you often have to do things that you don't love (school, manners, good posture, brushing your teeth) in order to get some of these fulfilling things. Having the foresight to keep doing the unpleasant things gets you to the point where you can do the pleasant things more often is the trick. As you get older, that gets easier.

Now that I have a lovely, well-set-up home, along with a bit of financial means and someone fun to share them with, I think I'm getting close to having things the way I want them to be.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fading Away

I am becoming a less-important man in the company.

At one point, I was the single point of reference for the company's computers; servers; network setup; alarm system; phone system and entrails; building leases, insurance and contracts; heating and ventilation problems; storage locations for seldom-used items and records; shipping, mailing and contact with the outside world.

These duties and nuggets of knowledge have either been pried out of me, changed or become unimportant in the new version of Veer I mean, Corbis. I was told yesterday that I no longer need to go to a meeting where I have been reporting my progress on transitioning my duties and knowledge. The powers that be want me to finish what I'm doing, do it quietly, then unobtrusively slip into the night.

To tell the truth, I am full ready to let these things go.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pleasant Way to Wake Up

... so there I was, laying in bed, debating whether it was actually late enough to put my feet on the floor when what should I hear but the clothes washer starting up, seemingly by itself.

My youngest daughter was in the laundry room, doing her own laundry.

I was so tickled, you would have thought it was my birthday.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ask the Oracle

The Internet is the death of interesting dinner conversation.

In the past, a topic of contention would come up around the dinner table and spark a lively debate.

"Who was the fitfh Jackson Five?"

"How did kitty-corner come to mean diagonally across an intersection?"

"Is a metric shitload bigger than a regular shitload?"

Two or more differing viewpoints would arise and things would go back and forth, back and forth, keeping the chatter going for ever. Debaters would present their viewpoints, along with assumed-to-be-truthful facts supporting their position.

Now, whenever a item of contention comes up, one of the diners says, "We should look that up on Google." and everyone else nods in agreement. Then silence.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What died?

There are pigeon feathers and down everywhere in our building, and it's starting to creep me out.