Sunday, June 18, 2017


Saying those words can be difficult but they open the path to change.   It doesn't have to be phrased like that unless you just hit a baseball into someone's front window.   (You did stick around and make arrangements to cover the cost, right? ).  You might have said something like, 'I could have done better,'  or 'I think next time I'll try it this way," or even 'I'm going to start writing down my appointments so I don't forget them.'    Any of these phrases, or something similar, all have something in common:   You are taking ownership for your actions.

It's interesting how people like taking credit for something they did that turns out well, even if success was also a surprise to them.   But admitting that what happened was a direct result of your actions is not so easy when the outcome is negative.    Perhaps society, in the form of parents and teachers, must bear some responsibility.   We could see errors, bad choices and poor behaviours as teachable moments, suggest ways to improve and then --this is the important part -- hold children accountable for improvement.  But sometimes we choose to rain down criticism and punishments without future solutions that leave the child/student deciding to avoid future similar events at all costs.   Thus, is blame someone else born.


Some children/adults will lie -- if they think they can get away with it.  Even with the chocolate cupcake icing smeared on their face they will deny that they took one after being told not to before dinner.   In a two year old it's almost comical.   Some people get good at lying, straight-faced and with righteous indignation that someone else was to blame.   The problem is there is this thing called credibility.   The courts rely on it a lot to decipher the truth and most of us develop a sixth sense about it even though it is not reliable.    But once you have categorized someone as a liar or at least prone to fantasy or wild exaggeration their future veracity is in doubt.   Kind of like the boy who cried wolf.

I think there is an inherited component to it.   Young children who never acknowledge that there are areas of their education they need to work on - like not habitually losing assignments before handing them in will often have parents, who at parent/teacher interviews, will tell me that relatives came to visit or that the child had to go shopping with them or that Johnny wasn't feeling well as the reason homework was undone.   How many times do excuses work before they don't?    Children grow into adults and hang onto their habits.   It's always someone else's fault  that they can't hold onto a job, get into a financial bind, smoke and abuse prescription drugs.   I don't know if by now they believe their own excuses but I sometimes notice that they seem to check to see if the person they are talking to has bought into their excuse or do they need to work on honing their pitch.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Keeping Track of Characters

This morning I picked up an ordered book from our local library, my favourite place to find books to read (but don't let that stop you from purchasing mine!).  It might have been a donation because on the inside cover someone had written the characters names with their occupation next to it.   At first I thought, 'what a shame to disfigure a book' but when I started to read I found occasion to check back as to the significance of a name.  I was aware of the name of the main character as it had been given and explained on the back cover as a Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, but there was no mention of the other character in the opening scene.    I felt a little guilty as if I was validating the desecration but suspected I might have need of the information further on.   I've written before about the occasional difficulty in keeping track of a multitude of characters and that wasn't even about War and Peace.    

I will give the name of the book:  A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch.   I found this title when reading an on-line blog.   I've formed the habit of immediately going to my library account and ordering a book that strikes me as something I would enjoy whenever I come across an on-line recommendation.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Ah, MIllennials . . .


If you are anything like me, you will find yourself going down an internet rabbit hole -- or is it following a trail of  bread crumbs --  on a topic that has caught your imagination.   Recently it was all about how millennials (which is is not a group I am a member of) are thumbing their nose at what the establishment thinks they should be doing.   If I were an old hippie, which I am also not, I would be fist pumping, 'Yeah, go for it!' But I am silently cheering them on in their rejection of what the mainstream marketers think that age group, presently about 18 to 35 years, should be doing to keep the present business model going.

How are they not cooperating?  Why they are not buying diamond engagement rings? I can remember the ad that oh so helpfully advised young men that two months' salary was the right amount to spend.   Not working anymore, it seems.   I find many past (and present) advertisements degrading to women.   Is it just me?

They are also not so interested in buying cars.   Too much pollution, fracking, unstable oil prices, exploiting companies and workers and so on.   They are not interested in staying in the same job for thirty years, slowly working their way up the corporate ladder, hoping their loyalty will be matched by the corporation.  Millennials tend not to play golf;   takes too long and costs too much.   Not much exercise either.   Shopping in malls?   Not so much.   Nightclubs with expensive, watered down drinks and cover charges.  Not much fun to be had there.  Even car and home ownership seem dubious goals.

But, but, but say the baby boomers.   They should want these things.   We did . . . eventually.   Plus we need them to buy our million dollar+ homes and finance our retirement.     We need them to keep old industries afloat, pay a lot of taxes and finance our healthcare and relaxing retirement.    

Frankly, I don't blame the millennials one bit.   Wages and salaries have been stagnant for decades; prices and taxes have gone up.   Whereas a new immigrant, one income family (my parents) could buy a house in one of the most expensive cities in the world for housing (Vancouver) within 18 months of arriving, it would be more realistic now to suggest 18 years of saving plus help from the bank of mom and dad to buy a small condominium.

I'd rebel, too.   


Sunday, May 28, 2017



I was shocked to read in The Atlantic that "Nationally, around 23 percent of men ages 23 to 54 are not working . . ."  This would be the age when traditionally most men would be working.   Maybe a few at the lower end were still students pursuing postgraduate degrees but the observation can be made that if a man is not working during that age span, when then?   The location covered in the article is the mid-west United States, an area that has experienced a severe decline in manufacturing jobs.

The article is entitled The Lonely Women of the Rust Belt and there are some overtones of the dated perspective that women are lonely without a man, a traditional man with a job who is able to fix things around the house.  But others might observe that the family is the time honoured unit of society without which things start to fall apart or at least crack around the edges.   I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle.   It can be hard to be a single parent and a society without children would be lacklustre.

If it were only a slowdown in the economy it would be difficult enough for many to overcome but a byproduct has been an opioid and heroin epidemic.   Many people are dying of overdoses.  Which came first the unemployment or the drug addiction?   It is difficult to suss that out.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Disadvantages of being a sometime Mystery Writer


I have written a few mysteries of the type known as cozy mysteries.   This genre is also popular in television shows, the type you can watch with your children or your grandmother.   Maybe that sounds boring to some who are looking for more gore or sexual content but there's a place and an audience for everything.   Television shows like Murdoch Mysteries  set in  early 20th century Toronto or Death in Paradise, located on an imagined Caribbean Island (but filmed on Guadeloupe) in the present time.    An interesting location or time adds to the mystery.

One of the problems I have discovered arises from the limited budgets that television programs have as well as the constraints of time after commercial interruptions  are taken into account.   The whole point behind the mystery is that it is difficult to know who the perpetrator is and the show usually revolves around the detective(s) following various trails in an attempt to uncover the truth.    The audience of both the programs and similar books enjoys matching wits with the show writers.   But this is where the constraints of television enter into the picture.

  I was enjoying a recent season of the latter program when  a small scene was played out involving an incidental character.   It seemed a little out of place to my writer's mind and used up valuable air time.    The character didn't appear again so I was prepared to discount my suspicions--I'm not that perceptive apparently.  But just when all appeared to be lost, the brief scene did in fact play a pivotal role in determining the culprit.    Vindication all around!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Pretending is the New Thing

When you buy a pair of  pre-dirtied, $425 (USD) jeans from Nordstrom you want people to think you are a person who works hard; physical work that makes you sweat.   You are so focussed that you don't notice and don't care that you are getting dirty:

No couch potato here;   a real man's man (whatever that is).  We expect rippling muscles from the man wearing these jeans.   All that exercise must have made a difference.
Naturally good looking but doesn't know it, or at least doesn't act like he knows it.   He's not so vain.  But even better than the real thing, it doesn't smell of dirt or tar or even dog poo.   And it doesn't leave a trail of detritus from the job site.   

I suppose it isn't very different from the ubiquitous yoga pants worn by many who don't practise yoga.  (now in see-through style):

One of the more conservative looks

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Future of Automation

Some newsmagazines and blogs delight in publishing attention getting headlines.   Actually, that's probably the goal.   So this article in the Huffington Post, citing The Economist, warns us that by 2034 forty-seven percent of all jobs will be automated.   I get a kick out of predictions with this degree of precision.   I mean, why not write half of all jobs which sounds more of an approximation compared to the implied precision of 47%.

2034 doesn't seem so far away now that it is 2017.   Most of us plan to still be alive on that date, especially with extending life expectancies.   Maybe some of us will be retired and reassure ourselves that we don't plan on having a job anyway as we will be, at long last, retired.   Maybe others are part of the Early Retirement movement that is saving and investing prodigiously to reach whatever amount will be sufficient at the prescribed four percent withdrawal rate to allow retirement at forty.  But then there are our children and grandchildren.   Will they all have to move into our basement?   

We sometimes think the automatons will look somewhat humanoid but the robots who work in Japanese car factories don't seem to mind their lack of charm.

This article by expat Karen McCann describes an automated restaurant with no employees.  Eatsa, in New York and San Francisco, seeks to fill a gap for good but less expensive meals in notoriously high priced cities.    The picture attached looks like a larger version of the automats seen in airports and railroad stations that hold a sandwich or muffin.   The difference here is that instead of pressing buttons on the automat, you enter your order on a mounted iPad.   Not really much difference.   Your order may or may not be prepared fresh and there may even be human hands behind the scene facilitating matters but you will never know.    No banter about the weather, you hardly have to take your eyes off your phone.