Saturday, November 18, 2006

Seasons Greetings?

The other morning I was driving my girls to school.

The weather was cold, drizzling and grey. I was as miserable as the weather.

The girls asked me to find something on the radio, so I hit the seek button. What do I find, but a Detroit station that started playing Christmas music November 1st. WNIC.

Bing Crosby was singing about a white Christmas.

"Leave it Daddy!" they shouted. "This music is for baby Jesus!"

How can you argue with that. But as soon as I dropped them off at school, I flipped to my CD changer and listened to Lewis Black go on a Tirade about how the Bush administration dealt with Katrina and the New Orleans flooding.

That made me smile. No not the tragedy - but Lewis Black's take on it.

Last weekend, my neighbor was outside hanging his Christmas lights. He gave me an apologetic glance as Darlene realized we must be behind schedule.

At work I am on the Staff Association. I am actually a co-chair person. We have been dealing with adult and kid's Christmas parties, Santa Clause bookings, dinner menus, table settings, kid's presents, a wrapping party, etc... since June.

It is not even the American Thanksgiving yet, and I am already all Christmas'ed out.

And we still have all of our family traditions to deal with:

  • Sending cards
  • Decorating outside (no it is still not done)
  • Getting a Tree (Darlene demands a real one) and decorating
  • Buying the girl's presents
  • Buying the grandparents, in-laws, aunt's and uncle's, and cousin's presents
and the family, yacht club, and work Christmas parties.

And all that driving in snow and freezing rain conditions.

I am still recovering from the World Series. Getting over the defeat of my Tigers.


Bah humbug.

Perhaps the three ghosts will visit me this year. Perhaps The Ghost of Christmas Future will show me a scene something like this:

"Alannah, it's Christmas morning, why are you all dressed up to go out?" I'll ask.

"I'm going Bradley's house for Christmas. His family likes Christmas." my daughter will answer.

"But we like Christmas too!" I will state. "You can't wear that to Bradley's parents house, what will they think?"

"Oh, his parents won't be there. They're in Florida".

And I will wake up in a cold sweat.

Perhaps this year we should do it up really right. Lot's of lights and an electric Santa singing Ho Ho Ho on the lawn.

And I had better go ask the kid next door to go buy me a turkey. Where is my wallet?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

If A Tree Falls In The Woods ...

It has been said that the art of selling your idea is to make those above you believe it was their idea.

And it is true. But there is a catch. It then ceases to be your idea. And it is not a given that you will be allowed to participate to carry their new idea out for them.

The plain fact of the matter is that everyone is caught up in their own ideas. It take s a generous person allow you to state your idea, get excited about your idea, support your idea, and explain to all that it was indeed your idea.

Of course it helps if you have good ideas. And that is the problem with good ideas. They are subjective. They are prone to the judgement of others. They are rated. Somebody litterally has to hold up a card like a figure skating competition to give the idea a score.

Should you ever have a brain storm that is of enough value that you wish to share it with a group, do yourself a favour and follow my advice:

Think it all the way the through. Do not present a high level version of your idea until you know all the details. Until you flesh it out. Until you drill all the way down to the most minute element of the idea.

And then only share the high level with the powers that be. And hint that there is more, and that you fully see this in your head.

The idea will be yours. And the project to realize that idea will also be yours. Becasue you're the only one with the vision that can lead the blind through the darkness.

Or at least that will be the impression that those who can provide such an opportunity will be left with.

But it had better be a damned good idea. Present one bad idea, and it may sink your chances of ever holding that audience again.

Kind of like this blog. If I write one dumb article here, and you're likely not to come back.

So why are you reading this one then?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

There Is No Place Like Home

During this last trip to Toronto, I re-discovered that I am not a big-city guy.

There are some who thrive in the hustle and bustle of the inner core of a major metropolitan area. They love the 24 X 7 of activity. They love the glitz, the skyscrapers, the digital surroundings. They love the mass transit options of trolleys, subways, and commuter trains.

And in some cities, they enjoy the vast underground environments.

I am not one of those people. I am not a metro-sexual.

The downtown core of Toronto is interesting above ground. But the majority of the city's core has an underground counterpart shared by the subway and the Eaton Centre – a long set of tunnels that comprise of shopping mall style. You can litterally live 25 city blocks away from your office and travel to and from work to home – and never see the light of day.
I think there are two factors that comprise my dislike for downtown Toronto:

I hate shopping malls

I truely do hate shopping malls. Perhaps for the reason that I hate shopping. But more so that I hate navigating a shopping mall. I get lost in shopping malls. If I go with a group of friends or family, and we split up – common at Christmas shopping outings – I am the guy that cannot find the meeting area. Thanks goodness for cell phones. Now I can get remote help to locate my compadres.

But the main reason I hate shopping malls is that there is no standard set of rules for traffic management. You may assume the rules to resemble those of driving – but the fact is there is no passing lane, slow lane, or intersection ettiquette. People merely wander where ever they want – and you constanly find yourself saying phrases like excuse me. I beg your pardon, or so quick as sorry. And you will never hear someone say thank you.

As I enter a mall environment, all my instinctual ettiquette in tact, I encounter all kinds of breaches of that ettiquette. People cut you off. Pushing and bumping to hurry around you. People walk straight at you with no intention to avoid you. Like a game of chicken to see who will concede right-of-way first.

And I always concede, in the begining anyway.

By the end of my period within the mall, I have been assimulated. Pushing back, bumping, pushing, and slamming into those people who refuse to step aside as I pass. I just plain have had enough.

As you pass a shop, there is constantly the shop patron emerging into the traffic area who stands there in the middle of traffic, taking that second to gather their bearings and determine their next route. Or they stand with a large group in your lane and talk about what to do now.

Shopping malls should have well defined traffic naviogation tools. Lines on the floor to determine lanes – with arrows to show direction. There should be off and on ramps. Group discussions should be held in gathering spots. Trafic lights would help – along with persons who direct traffic – with white gloves and whistles – waving you through. People should be given tail lights that can be put on their ...uh ... tails, They could blink to tell you when they are turning and beam red when they stop abruptly. There is a niche business here and I think someone should take advantage of it.

I miss my car

I miss the isolation – the privacy – the independence of my car. In the downtown core you are a pedestrian. You are truley in the mix – in the face – of every other individual you encounter.

You are at the whim of the mass transit schedule. You must wait for the subway or trolley to arrive – push your away aboard – and usually stand for the duration of your trip – hanging in to a rail and trying to look like you do this all the time. You must pay close attention to where your stop is – because if you miss it – you cannot simply get off and turn around. You must either get off and pay to get on the return train, or ride to the end – where it turns around and brings you back again until you find your stop ... again.

I like my car. I hop in my car, choose my route, have a smoke, listen to my radio, all in the comfort of my little isolation dome – the comfort of the interior of my car. I can say things like move it buddy! or #%&^ you – you $%# hole! – and know that I cannot be heard by the target of my profanity – thereby maintaining my own diginity in an indignant situation.

Those who do drive in downtown core areas do so in as much frustration as the pedestrian. Traffic lights do not allow left or right turns. Patience is essential. Parking is impossible. Driving is unreasonable.

Arriving home

When I got off the train in Windsor, I hailed a cab. I asked him to please take Riverside Drive so that I could enjoy the waterfront.

Across the river sits the downtown core of Detroit. No longer the metropolis it once was – it is still significant. Still significant enough to host All-Star games, Super Bowls, and this year the World Series. Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Championships.

Detroit's core is not as congested as Toronto. There is no underground or subway (although the People-Mover” El-train does visibly run throughout). The skyline from the Windsor side is actually very pretty at night. Usually when a big event in Detroit is televised, they come to Windsor to shoot video of Detroit from accross the river as it is the citiy's best presentation to the world.

And I looked at their skyline at felt like I was home. Home in my small town of Windsor. Where shopping malls can be avoided, and cars can get you any place you want to go. And the people say “Hi” as you pass them on the street.

There is certainly no place like home.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Riding the Train through Ontario in the Fall

Sounds kind of romantic doesn’t it?

In some ways it is. In some ways it is not.

As I am sitting here writing this, I am rocking back and forth like a baby in a cradle.

I always get a kick out of movies or TV shows where they show the person flip open their laptop (without fumbling with cords or plugs – they have ever lasting batteries that never fail until the plot deems it a necessity for dramatic purposes) and they start right in working as easily as sitting at their nice big desks with a real keyboard and a real mouse. They never make a mistake. And the ride is as smooth as gliding on air.

Sometimes they just happen to have internet access wherever they are – although WIFI is making that more possible everyday – but in the movies – they are just always connected and online? And as they are sending that email or uploading that file that will expose the corrupt while the corrupted henchmen are in hot pursuit – and then the battery dies – or they lose their internet connection – or some inexplicable error message comes up on screen.

But they win out in the end. They have to. Who pays to see the hero die a failure?

But I have digressed again. I am writing to tell you I am on the train from Windsor to Toronto. I had a couple of great Vodka – Cranberry Juices, a couple of white wines. A beautiful beef tips dinner, with chocolate liqueur to cleanse my palette. I watched the brand new Robin Williams movie “Man of the Year” on my laptop – how I did so will be a future Head Stuffing topic.

So I am having a nice trip.

I have no one to share the seat next to me. I am spread out and relaxed. It’s like the living room I don’t get to use at home. Ahhh. I think I will unbuckle and unfasten now. Yeah … that’s the ticket.

You don’t wear seat belts on a train. Yet it goes as fast if not faster than a car. Instead – in first class – you sit in your nice high-backed recliner – and you just hope you don’t de-rail – or hit a cow. I wonder why? It seems to go against all other travel trends.

So I wouldn’t say that riding the train is romantic. But I will say it is very elegant and very comfortable. But not romantic.

I don’t know what you’re doing right now. But I bet you had dishes to wash – or a squabble about who should do them. – I didn’t. I had a nice attendant treat me like a king. I told my daughters I love them and my wife that I miss her. I watched a great movie and now I am updating my blog. And still have fourty-five minutes at least until we arrive.

Riding the train through Ontario is certainly nice in the fall.

If only I could just step out the back door and have a smoke. Maybe we could hit a cow?

Friday, November 03, 2006

The First Lost Tooth

My eldest daughter Alannah lost her first tooth yesterday.

“Daddy, look at what I got!” she said with a big gapped tooth grin. There was a space where a bottom front tooth had been, and my pretty little girl now resembled a jack-o-lantern.

Luckily school pictures were taken the previous Thursday, while she still had a full head of teeth.

She went to bed and like every other little kid, she put the tooth under her pillow. The next morning she was excited because she had found a note under her pillow – and all the writing was in gold.

And attached was a $5.00 bill.

C’mon, it was her first one.

The note read:

Dear Alannah,

Congratulations on losing your very first tooth. You certainly are growing up to be a big girl.

All my love,

The Tooth Fairy.

When I wrote the note before going to bed the night before, I had a couple of drafts that I had fun with:

Dear Alannah,
I have taken possession of the tooth I found beneath your pillow. I am assuming on good faith that the tooth is indeed your own.

I have attached $5.00 CDN. The going rate for lost tooth pick-up is 75¢.
Please provide a colour photo of both before and after you lost said tooth. Also please leave my change of $4.25 under your pillow.

I look forward to doing future business with you.

The Tooth Fairy


To Whom it may concern,

I was unable to process your dental claim as you are currently an un-identified prescriber.

Please fill out recipient claim form 34872-1B, unless you are the eldest sibling, in which case you are required to fill out form 32987-B Long.

Please take special care in section 128-C as these calculations can be difficult but are essential to my successful processing of this and all subsequent claims.


The Tooth Fairy
Dental Removal Service Request Adjudicator and Processor
Fabled Service Provider Division

But of course, I didn’t send those.

As she unfolded the note she could not read – she was amazed that it was written in gold ink. This added a level of authenticity. But later in the morning as we were getting ready for school, she asked me “Daddy, did you write this note and sneak it under my pillow when you came home?”

“uh .. no? Why?”

“Because it looks your printing.”

“well, … it’s not. Ok?”

“Ok daddy”.

Fridays are show-and-tell days in Alannah’s class. She was going to take the note from the Tooth Fairy. As we were walking up to the school yard, she realized she left it at home. I offered to go back and get it for her.

Alannah turned and smiled, “That’s ok, Daddy, I can show them this instead”.

I think that gapped tooth smile was the prettiest one I ever saw.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trick or Treat or What?

Halloween is now the second most popular holiday, second only to Christmas. It is certainly funner than Easter, and more creative than Thanksgiving.

I was a teenager in the 1970's and reached adulthood in the 1980s. I think that if you were to ask any of my contemperaries, they would agree that in their mid-fourties, they do not feel like grown ups. And I believe that the generations that have fallowed us - from X to Z would or will follow suit.

We still listen to rock-n-roll. We still "party". We still try to act like the kids we think we are.

At Christmas we continue to try to recapture that magic we remeber as kids. Yet the actual experience was most likely not as magical as our memory portrays it. And we try to instill in our kids the same experiences we believe we had.

This is the reason for obnoxious parents of little league baseball and hockey players. Yet we try to control every moment of our kids lives now with play dates, and bike helmets, and scheduling their day with the precision of a senior project manager.

If you think I overstate this opinion - let me recount my day today - Halloween 2006.

It started the night before, as I unpacked my girls backpacks. Ashley is in junior kindergarten while Alannah is in senior kindergarten (are there really enough skills to learn requiring two levels of kindergarten?). A note fell out of each backpack; "There are no costumes, masks or face paintings allowed at school. Instead we encourage all children to wear a combination of orange and black".

My kids own nothing orange - save a Detroit Tiger T-shirt Darlene bought them at the ballpark last summer. And that is what they wore to school on Halloween.

Yes, they cried "I want to wear my Princess dress!".
"I'm sorry, but dressing like a princess is against school rules. Now please put on the Tigers T-shirt".

Halloween didn't start for my daughters until after dinner at 6 PM. They only got to wear their costumes for an hour and a half. And we all returned home - the bags were poured on the kitchen table to look for pin holes and razer blades. Halloween has actually gotten scarier.

When we were kids, we wore our costumes to school on Halloween. We had a parade and marched through the school and down the main street of town. That afternoon we went out to "Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF". We went home and ate dinner in our costume - removing only the mask because that mouth hole was to small to get a hot dog through. Then we went real trick-or treating for what seemed like all night. We ate half our candy before we even came home.

I dressed in black slacks and an orange dress shirt. I got the idea from .. well, I think you can guess. After dropping my girls off at school, I was served at the drive through coffee shop by a witch handing me my double-double.

At the office I was greeted by a staff of faries in the sales department. (the kind with wings I mean).

The IT staff were dresssed as pirates - with the manager dangling a CD around her neck - "I'm a software pirate" she explained.

In HR, everyone was dressed like Disney's It's a small world" exhibit wearing costume like replicas of the attire from Asia, Arabia, Europe and Africa. This stunned me as our HR is very sensitive to political correctness, and our company does employ people from all these areas. I think they must have cringed to see their heritages become fodder for office holiday celebrations. But I digress.

There were candies and cakes everywhere - a costume contest at noon with a cup of coffee as the winning entry (really well done I must point out). I would say our department worked at approximately 50% efficiency today. It was a lot of fun.

So yes, halloween is the second most poular holiday. But the line gets fuzzy when you ask if the kids or adults had more fun.

When I was a kid, I could hardly wait to be an adult. And now that I have - man is it fun.

© 2006 - 2017 Fred Brill - all rights reserved