I spent a significant chunk of time in the first half of 2009 working on the concept / development of a hockey skills reality TV show. My job was to produce draft after draft of the concept and to lead the pitch of the concept to lawyers and production companies.
I didn’t say much about this at the time as I had a gut feel that it wasn’t going to go anywhere. And I was right. I thought I’d learn a few things and meet some interesting people. Can’t say that it was a terrific return on investment so maybe the learning is to listen more carefully to my gut.
I did get to wear Mike Krushelnyski’s championship rings one night in a bar. That was fun.
A brilliant programmer / artist has created the ultimate random text generator. Much amusement for the nerdy, wordy, artsy geeks out there. Here is the site. Click on the words “this application” in the middle of the letter provided.
Here is my new bio.
Floozy Snortwrinkle makes conceptual artworks, performances, installations and mixed media artworks. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, Snortwrinkle tries to grasp language. Transformed into art, language becomes an ornament. At that moment, lots of ambiguities and indistinctnesses, which are inherent to the phenomenon, come to the surface.
Her conceptual artworks demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves. By investigating language on a meta-level, she seduces the viewer into a world of ongoing equilibrium and the interval that articulates the stream of daily events. Moments are depicted that only exist to punctuate the human drama in order to clarify our existence and to find poetic meaning in everyday life.
Her works sometimes radiate a cold and latent violence. At times, disconcerting beauty emerges. The inherent visual seductiveness, along with the conciseness of the exhibitions, further complicates the reception of their manifold layers of meaning. By emphasising aesthetics, her works references post-colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.
Her works focus on the inability of communication which is used to visualise reality, the attempt of dialogue, the dissonance between form and content and the dysfunctions of language. In short, the lack of clear references are key elements in the work. Floozy Snortwrinkle currently lives and works in Dubrovnik.
Recently, I have had occasion to have several windows open in my operating system as I attempt to achieve some kind of productivity. In addition to having two monitors on in my home office, from time to time, I may also have my work laptop open on a separate desk behind me, displaying yet more programs or activities. As I work my way through my to-do list, I am aware of how I’m “matrixing” my time, as a former boss used to call it. I will work away at one project and will need to wait for a screen to refresh, or for a distant server to respond to a request. This causes me to bump over to the next task, or screen,
(or Spider Solitaire) and continue working away at what had been going on there before needing to wait for something to happen.
Thus, one modern version of “multi-tasking” has been born from all the forced “waiting” that our otherwise lightning fast computer systems impose upon us.
Much of what I need to accomplish depends on the speed and reliability of my Internet connection, and the speed and reliability of remote systems, be that a remote webmail server or a remote learning management system server or a remote software application server. As we move more and more of our computing power to the cloud, we will inevitably experience greater wait times. I don’t care what the hype says about solid state servers or increased bandwidth to the masses. Working remotely might get faster but it won’t be as fast as it would be if all the processing were happening right here on my desk. In any case, many of us have chosen to fill those wait times with
Spider Solitaire productive activity working on the next task while we wait for the results of our previous task to take effect.
Add to this multiscreen, multitasking behaviour the constant presence of our new appendage – the mobile device with all its apps. We are all mental and cognitive jugglers with – dare I say it – a plethora of virtual balls.
We are evolving into a de facto multitasking workforce and I think this is simultaneously expensive and not very productive. A lose/lose situation. We are told by experts that single-tasking is really the only productive way to work. Multitasking is a fallacy, existing really as a series of single-tasking events in sequence. (Here is an article about this. Here is another one. Take your pick.) As our brains attempt to manage the switching costs, paid out in loss of cognitive function, of repeatedly leaving one task unfinished in favour of proceeding to continue on with the next incomplete task, we lose time, energy and the ability to synthesize complex ideas.
The actual cost? Although this is a vast generalization, we are losing the ability to focus deeply and think creatively. I think this is a huge loss and I do see this loss on a grand societal scale. It takes time to consider and reflect on our lives, our families, work, passions – all the elements that make up for a balanced way of living. We are, collectively, moving away from being a thoughtful society and into being a busy society in which ADD behaviour is rapidly becoming normative behaviour.
Real creativity, real revelation, true innovation – these valuable and expected outcomes of “successful societies” – these traits can’t arise out of a society that can’t focus long enough to complete one task well, from beginning to end. If our political leaders wish to be truly focused on closing an innovation and/or productivity gap, I would strongly urge them to consider working on forging some new cultural expectations on what true productivity looks like. It doesn’t look like “always being busy”. It looks like “producing well-thought-out, well-planned, quality output”. We need to reward thoughtful behaviours, single-tasking, creative and artistic endeavours, and any type of task that requires focus and clarity of thinking. And I think we need to pay attention to this sooner rather than later, before we devolve into a jumble of tales, told by idiots, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.*
*Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 26-28) Wanna bet that Shakespeare would have had only one screen open at a time?
Today seems to be all about the light.
I have just pulled away from having my headlight bulbs replaced in my car as they were inadequate for deep, dark, rural nighttime driving. While that was being done, I managed to find a powerful rechargeable spotlight/flashlight on sale which will allow all of us to go owling in our deep, dark, rural winter evenings. As I’m driving into the city this morning, it feels like a beautiful spring day although, in fact, it is a beautiful January day. The quality of the light hitting the vistas before me makes the world seem to glow. This type of day reminds me of the kind of spring day I remember growing up on the farm, with the sun thawing out the soil. You can smell everything loosening up and getting ready to grow. I loved this kind day as a child and I’m looking forward to experiencing this yet again when real spring hits in a few months.
Today is also about the light because I am on my way to a funeral. We have lost a bright and beautiful colleague to cancer and it has taken us all a bit by surprise. Although I didn’t know her well, Sue struck me as being one of the most positive people I know at work. She was upbeat, always, and the picture of health and wellness. Most of our conversations revolved around diet, exercise, living well and loving life. It is a bit of a shocker that cancer claimed her so quickly and completely. It feels important to respect and acknowledge this very bright light having left our particular corner of the world although, knowing Sue even the little bit that I did, I don’t think she would be interested in having us wander around in despair. I think she would want us to have a glass of wine, a good meal and a good dance party.
This light we have lost makes me reflect on the kind of legacy that I might be leaving behind one day, hopefully far in the future. I pause to wonder whether everything I’m putting the world is as positive and as straightforward as it could be. I wonder if I allow my inner demons to shout down my better angels. I fear that the answer, all too often, is “yes”. I over-think things, I over-analyze, and I make situations far more complicated than they need to be. I get lost in it sometimes, as one might in a deep, dark, rural night without good headlights or a decent flashlight. I don’t think it is possible for me to be a relentlessly positive and cheerful person, and I think my analytical skills are valuable at times, yet I think I can do better at not getting so lost. At curbing my tendency to wallow with my demons rather than celebrating with my angels.
Although I didn’t make specific New Year’s resolutions, I am going to take this opportunity to commit to dancing more and wallowing less. To celebrating that which is right in my world rather than highlighting that which is not right. To remembering that light exists, somewhere, even when I’m lost in the dark.
- … where only the finest messes are made!
Knotty Girl gave me this coffee sign for Christmas, for the Coffee Corner. I think it looks great. This is not a terrific shot of the Coffee Corner, but you can see the coffeemaker and the really fancy burr grinder, hiding in beside the coffeemaker.
I drove “over the river” to get this coffeemaker at Target in Niagara Falls, NY. It makes a good cup of coffee. I like the thermal carafe, although it is drippy and hard to pour. It has a cool, retro, green glowy clock timer thingy that I don’t use. When I take the time to clean it properly, it is shiny and nice to look at.
The coffeemaker has all the normal features of a basket style coffee maker. Basket to hold the filter, a place to pour the water. Although it is shiny (or can be), and it looks like more than your average coffeemaker, it is really just a basic filter drip coffeemaker. Put water in one place, fresh ground coffee in another, press a button, wait, pour, enjoy!
How hard can it be?
The foundational paradox about successfully making coffee first thing in the morning is that one has not yet had any coffee prior to initating a series of seemingly complex tasks. Let me list, from personal experience, in this very Coffee Corner, the multitude of ways in which the simple process of coffee making can go very, very wrong.
- Failing to open the resevoir flap on top before beginning to pour the water in.
- Removing the filter basket to empty old grinds but failing to put the filter basket back in. Oddly, the inside of the coffee maker looks the same to caffeine-free me with or without the filter basket. Sometimes, the filter just gets plonked down into the empty space and gets filled with fresh ground coffee. Once the button is pressed, all hell breaks loose.
- Failing to empty the thermal carafe of yesterday’s coffee before pressing the button. Yuck! I do love a thermal carafe vs. a glass carafe on a burner. But the visual of yesterday’s coffee is very, very useful at times.
- Using the carafe to pour the water in the resevoir vs. using something that can actually pour properly. This carafe is a drippy pouring disaster waiting to happen unless you can get it just so. Which I cannot, first thing in the a.m.
- Turning the grinder on without checking that the little cup that receives the ground coffee is properly seated in its place. If Carly Simon were witness to this, she would sing about “clouds of my coffee” rather than “clouds in my coffee”.
- Doing anything, really, that involves me getting the fresh ground coffee bits from the grinder into the coffee maker. This is just too hard for me to do without spillage.
Charlotte is the self-appointed coffee monitor. She inspects the area carefully and has done up some “tickets” for me – with construction paper and coloured pencils – that I get when I make a mess. I’m not sure how much I’m in hock for the fines at this point. She has politely omitted discussion of what my punishments may be. She even often helps clean up, bless her.
Uh oh. I’m in trouble.
Note to self: Learn to use the timer thingy.
There is probably a reason that I have not chosen parenting as a theme in my life. I’ve not much confidence in this area and, frankly, I have always been just a bit afraid of children. Afraid of saying the wrong things, or somehow putting the seed of some idea in their little heads that will result in years of therapy later. Of making an off-hand comment that will result in a grown up child needing to work out their fear of lawns or tea bags or picture frames.
I don’t really “get” kids. I was one, once, and that is helpful. I have tons of memories of growing up, of course, and most of them are well-worn stories about extraordinary moments of fun or perceived danger or adventure. I remember them with a writer’s eye, as if I was watching all the characters and recording the story as it unfolds, frame by frame.
Remembering the kid perspective is a whole other ballgame. It calls for me to give up the bystander perspective and be “in” the story and that feels like a rusty old tool in need of some WD 40. If I’m being entirely honest, the bystander perspective on memory gives me a ton of control. Switching perspectives, remembering how I felt in those moments, as a participant, gives me up to the gods of vulnerability. Feeling small, feet not touching the floor at the table, laughing inappropriately at my own peculiar logic, trying so hard to understand, trying not to show that I don’t understand, toughing it out (whatever it is), hanging in there and always – always – looking up at people.
Nonetheless, channeling my child of my past is helping me try to figure out the children of my present and the 1,000 ways in which I Do.Not.Understand them.
As an adult, I’ve become very wordy. Come to think of it, I think I was a pretty wordy, nerdy kid. (Others reading this blog are more qualified to comment.) I like to use words. I like to describe things. I expect other people to be able to articulate their thoughts clearly. Children have almost no practice at this and have only a fraction of the tools grown-ups have. As adults, we ask them to “use your words” but sometimes the words aren’t there yet and nothing can be articulated with certainty. Words turn ideas into defined, black and white statements and sometimes that is just too scary for kids. Sometimes communication has to be non-verbal and thus less defined. Murkier and more open to interpretation. This adult less good at murky. Less sure about what messages I’m sending and even less sure about what I’m receiving.
However, I’m learning to open this channel up a bit wider and listen with more than my ears. Today, for example, I learned more about The Jay Way.
A few days ago, the Gull River Snow Removal crew (me, Jay and Charlotte) tackled the removal of about 15 inches of snow off our 30 x 50 foot ice rink. I started and the kids joined me shortly thereafter, which was nice. Charlotte is a bit less focused on the objective but she does not lack in enthusiasm. Jay “gets” why we need to do this and gamely started shoveling in a sort of random way. After a few moments, I pointed out to him that he would have to move the same snow all over again and I wondered if that was really what he had intended. He looked at his work and groaned a bit. Then, he removed himself to a different area of the rink, not too far away yet untouched by our shovels, and started going in straight lines across the rink. Over and over again. The same line, or so it seemed. In fact, there is no way to fully clear the snow, scraping the surface of the ice, without leaving a trail behind. So he would take a bit of snow each time, clearing up his trails from previous passes. After about 20 minutes, I realized that his ice was cleaner than mine! Not only that, his way was more efficient and well-paced than my way. So, I adopted the Jay Way of snow removal.
It was time again today to take another 10 inches off our unfortunate, as yet unskate-able rink. Poor kids – helping to shovel a rink they haven’t even used yet. What good sports. I hadn’t anticipated any assistance but, lo and behold, the Gull River Snow Removal crew arrived shortly after I started. Jay needed no direction. He started at exactly the same place he had started two days ago, with exactly the same method. Straight across the rink, not trying to take all the snow in one go. Back and forth. Making One. Neat. Row. Then, making that One. Neat. Row bigger yet even neater. When we got to the part that does not, unfortunately, take a straight line across, he created a new, symmetrical, quite artistic yet efficient pattern.
Thus, here is what I know about The Jay Way (so far):
- I like tasks that let me make patterns.
- I like repeating patterns and straight lines.
- I like doing my pattern well.
- I don’t take direct compliments very well but feel free to tell my sister that I’m doing a good job.
- I’m not so good with direct supervision but don’t get too far away.
- I can concentrate easily when I work alone. In fact, I enjoy concentrating this way. But feel free to distract me with an impromptu, undeclared shovel race.
- (Also, for pete’s sake, when are we going to get to skate on this ice?!?)
About nine years ago, I had a short but mind-blowing chat with a woman in the choir-of-my-past. She had gotten involved with a woman who was living at quite a distance from Toronto and I had just struck up an intense long-distance connection with a woman in Copenhagen. As one does, one tries to seek some common ground and I said to her, “It is hard, isn’t it? Trying to manage building a relationship, a connection, at a distance?” And she looked at me with a penetrating, quizzical expression and said, “Why does everyone say that, that distance relationships are so hard? Who ever said that moving in together or getting married was easy? It is just what people are used to, what they view as ‘normal’. But in fact it is very hard. But people are used to that pattern so it gets called ‘easy’. You and I know that it isn’t easy, either way. So follow your heart.”
She gave me a lot to think about, as she usually did, in our little mid-rehearsal chats.
I’ve thought about this a lot lately, and not so much in relation to the fact that I have, indeed, moved in with the lovely Knotty Girl and her (mostly) adorable children. That part is as hard/easy/magnificent/mundane/challenging/fun/exciting/surprising/normal/frustrating/puzzling/funny/beautiful as it is supposed to be. I’m thinking more about the reactions people have had to me appearing to have gone mad by moving a vast distance out of the city.
The established, expected “pattern” would be to live close to work and to stay within spitting distance of the city that I’ve come to love and feel nurtured by. But is that truly the “easy” choice, or just the “expected” choice? How “easy” is it to live in very dense proximity to strangers who behave in unexpected ways, to cope with traffic that is worsening daily, to have very limited access to greenspace, to have to plan carefully one’s route to across town and back to account for time of day, traffic, road closures, protests, events and water main breaks?
The breaking point for me, where the rose-coloured glasses filtering “easy” fell off my eyes, happened one day when Knotty Girl and I pulled up to the arena for a hockey game and were astounded to witness a man stopping on the lawn in front of our car, pulling down his pants and defecating right in front of us. He just did his bidness and pulled his pants up and walked on. That was the beginning of the end for me living downtown. It was no longer “easy” and I could no longer pretend that I found it to be so.
I am, after all, a country girl. I am used to having cows, horses or pigs poo’ing in front of me. Not people.
My gorgeous condo was starting to feel cramped by lack of access to the outdoors and hauling bags of heavy groceries and hockey gear up three flights of stairs no longer seemed as easy as it once did. In fact, everything about city living started to feel cramped. Space is entirely at a premium, be it space to put a vehicle or space to put a desk to work at. Even space at Starbucks, for those with laptops and that need for the unique focus that public space can provide, can be hard to come by.
I was raised in a huge, rambling, rickety farmhouse with seven bedrooms and two kitchens. We had 750 acres of land, much of which was at my disposal to roam, plow or play cops/robbers/army/spy or whatever, with or without my little buddies. The brickwork in the house was so weak in some spots, like “my” tv watching spot in the living room, that you could feel the wind blow against your ankles for six months of the year. But it sure was big. And there was room for everyone.
Is it “easy” to live far from the city, work, friends and hockey? Not always. Does it feel more “normal” to me? Yes, actually it does. We watch the weather closely, we plan and prepare for things (usually) in a more considered way. We are distracted by birds at the feeders, by the arc of snow blowing in clumps off the trees and glinting in the sunlight, by the size and proximity of the full moon against a black sky, by the wild turkeys and their crazy footprints across the snow on the ice rink. This feels preferable to being distracted by car alarms, traffic tie-ups, unintelligible arguments in grocery stores and sirens. We are responsible for solving a lot of our own problems out here, or at least being somewhat prepared for them.
A few months ago, as Hurricane Sandy approached the North American coast line, Knotty Girl and I spent about two hours getting ready. We gathered up all that might blow around on our property and stashed it safely. We shopped. We parked our cars out of possible treefall zones. We charged up all our flashlights and other devices. The weather models didn’t really suggest we would get hit hard but we’ve come to learn that weather forecasting is a less-than-exact science. It was best to be ready. And we were. I slept so well that night, having done all that we could think of to minimize damage and maximize continuity of lifestyle. We woke up to a few small branches down on the lawn. The hydro didn’t even go out.
My point is that we had some things we could do to make ourselves as prepared as possible. I don’t find this as easy in the city, especially in living spaces like condos. I did make sure that I had a gas fireplace and a gas stove in my place and hoped I could operate them if the hydro were out for an extended period. Hauling items up and down the three flights of stairs was a trade off for not having to rely on an elevator. The hydro did go out a couple of times in the nine years I lived there and I was grateful for having heat, cooking ability, and normal access to my abode. But I couldn’t make my neighbours take their patio furniture and flower boxes off their balconies so that these items wouldn’t blow through MY windows. I’d be rewarded with a door slammed in my face if I tried such a thing. I couldn’t make all my condo neighbours be mindful of allowing strangers into the property and many of us were rewarded with an expensive overnight car break-in spree a few years ago. Hell – the city can’t even make dog owners be accountable for dog poo and that problem seemed to get worse and worse in my neighbourhood over the years.
I apologize for the poo theme. One might think that I have a shitty opinion of downtown life. I don’t entirely. Let’s just say it lost its glamour for me and I’m feeling less claustrophobic and more able to make choices about how things happen out here, away from the city lights. Easy? Not entirely. Preferable? Yes. More deeply familiar to me? Completely.
I love motivational sayings. I love parodies of motivational sayings. I love the quick hit of wisdom or humour one can glean on the go.
One of the giants in the world of motivational quips died on November 28 – Zig Ziglar. Here are a few of my fav Zig Ziglarisms:
Remember that failure is an event, not a person.
You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.
People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.
Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.
A goal properly set is halfway reached.
I’m not sure we are teaching some key things to up and coming generations. Goal-setting. Resiliance to get past failure. Altruism. Self-motivation. My Mom used to highly regard anyone she met who had, in her words, “stick-to-it-ive-ness”. (Mom and Zig would have gotten along fine.)
Others are noticing this too. Here is a review of a book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, that seems to come from the same perspective. I think I may need to ask Santa for this book. Given the author’s perspective on his material, I love that his last name is “Tough”.
(In August, I read and immediately saved this Globe and Mail column, which I found delightful and nostalgic. It has inspired this post.)
I have a scar on my left index finger from when I was about nine. My mother asked me to set up the MixMaster in its customary position on the kitchen work table. The Sunbeam MixMaster, the workhorse of 1950′s kitchen small appliances, was rarely far from usage. But our farm kitchen didn’t have enough counterspace to have all the truly useful appliances out and available. So, with each use, the MixMaster had to be set up and, afterwards, put away.
Today’s design wizards would have safety switches and braking systems to make sure that a child wouldn’t ever plug in a MixMaster with the power turned on. With their hand resting casually on the beaters. However, the machines of the 1950′s and the kitchens of the 1970′s were not designed thusly. And so, in my first solo attempt to set up the sacred machine, my hand got caught in the beaters momentarily. It was pretty scary, at the time, but no harm was done. And I have this tiny scar, a MixMaster war wound.
That is my only bad memory of the Sunbeam MixMaster. That, and the horrid, electric-motor-burning smell it made at the end of its useable life. I was in Toronto by then, living on my own in my condo, loving using my Mom’s MixMaster to get my Christmas baking done.
This photo was taken hours before it really gave up the ghost. This would have been 2008 and I put MixMaster’s birth date at about 1955. 53 years … not bad for a kitchen appliance.
Mom and I used that machine more than I can possibly describe. Endless batches of cookies, squares, bars, more cookies, fudge, candy … if it needed mixing, this was the machine to do it. Mom was pretty well known for her squares and cookies. Just recently, my cousin Steve has asked if I can make my Mom’s date squares. Perhaps no one can, Steve, without ye Olde MixMaster.
The MixMaster was also our mashed potato maker as it did operate as a very heavy hand mixer as well. Our family has a bit of a “thing” about mashed potatoes and I think the root/blame begins here, with the smooth operating MixMaster.
Mom baked endlessly before I came along, and carried on doing so long after I left the house, right up until her death in 1998. I secured the MixMaster for my own use shortly thereafter and used it, although not as consistently or regularly, until it self-selected itself out of active duty.
The Sunbeam MixMaster operates, rather cleverly, through the design of the bowls and a tiny plastic button on the end of one of the special beaters. The button gently turns the bowl as part of the motion of the beaters. When the MixMaster was in my possession, I always worried about one of the bowls or the beaters getting broken or somehow malfunctioning. So, when I saw this at a yard sale, I snapped it up “for parts”.
The same, but not quite the same.
The “for parts” mixer sat in a box, wrapped in old towels, and almost forgotten, for about 10 years. It was moved around through my various interim abodes. It was part of my collection of stuff that I paid Good Money to store while my condo was under construction. It just sat around in a box, waiting. And then, one day, when I needed it, “for parts” was there, 100%, ready for action. It has been operational for about seven months now, and it has had a decent workout.
I could have gone on like this for a while. “For parts” was doing okay, shuttling from one counter to another between uses, bowls precariously teetering on the stand as the mixer would be moved about. Lately, “for parts” has started to make me nervous. There is a little girl who likes to help. And this little girl has long hair and an intense curiosity about things that go “whirrrr”. Also, the other day, when I threw together some cookies on a whim, it seemed to struggle a bit. So, when out on an unrelated retail mission, Knotty Girl and I spotted this on sale at 40% off.
Very shiny new Sports Car mixer.
This is too heavy to shuttle around so it has to stay put in one place. The bowl can’t break and the single beater is more shielded away from small hands and hair. And it has a very good motor in it. So far, it has done a lovely job on cookie dough and waffles. I will report back, closer to Christmas, on the date squares (Steve).
“For parts” is in semi-retirement, specializing now in mashed potatoes. Right over my (and Charlotte’s) head, above the workspace in the kitchen, is the original – Mom’s MixMaster – now in a place of honour beside the mixing bowl that also forms such a big part of my baking memories with Mom.
Beside the equally sacred mixing bowl that I’m terrified to break.
As things go, I think this is a pretty appropriate evolution, don’t you?
(Anyone taking bets on the longevity of the KitchenAid? )
One of my “skills” as a new step parent appears to be introducing sweet innocent children to important songs that they will reference, remember and possibly be damaged by for the rest of their natural lives. This song is on my agenda for this evening – anyone remember this classic?
Great big gobs of greasy grimey gopher guts
Chopped up monkey meat
Perculated birdie’s feet
French Fried eye balls, swimming in a pool of blood
Gee, I forgot my spoon
But I brought my straw
(Slurp) – Ah!