Saturday, August 29, 2009

Too Soon

It's a chilly summer morning in Windsor.

The sky is full of grey fluffy clouds that lead one to think rain could come at any moment. But then the sun pops through.

The coffee is extra good this morning, warm and rich – offsetting the cool breeze.

I do make good coffee, if I may say so myself.

The water in the pool is swirling turbulantly, powered by the filter pump – and I can hear the slight rippling sound amid the chirps of birds and the wind in the trees. And my faithful black lab Suzy lying on the deck at my feet – grumbling as only dogs can grumble as a bee buzzes her nose.

The large elm tree in Ernie's yard behind ours is starting to turn orange and yellow in one of it's corners.

Oh no. Say it isn't true.

Fall is coming. It can't be helped. It can't be stopped. It will slowly emerge, gradually taking over from summer. It has already begun its seasonal invasion.

My little girls have one more week of freedom before school starts. The next weekend to come is the long Labor Day weekend. Then the school busses come out of summer hibernation and begin making their weekday morning scheduled rounds.

I'm not a winter person.

And for that reason alone, I do not look forward to fall. I don't even look forward to Labor Day long weekends.

But there are things about this fall that I am looking forward to.

In the last weeks of September we will implement a pretty cool project into production. We have been working on this fine piece of digital surgery – integrating new functionality into a complex system – since early July. Some IT departments may stage something like this over the course of a year, but we are managing to accomplish it in the short course of two months. And nobody missed their vacation time in the process.

Not yet anyways.

My Detroit Tigers are in first place in the American League Central Division. They have a four-and-a-half game lead over those troublesome Minnesota Twins. The Twins have just overtaken the Chicago White Sox for second place – and they will have ample opportunity to make a run at my Tigers. The Twins always seem to be in the hunt in September.

So my Tigers are keeping me anxious.

The Turtle Club – the infamous little league organization from around the corner from our house – sits quiet now. No screams of encouragement coming from the distant diamonds of the immaculate green facilities – so pristine to me that they remind me of the baseball version of the Augusta National golf course. The green and white wooden scoreboards at the end of each diamond still populated with numbers by hand – no silly iconic Coca-Cola orange digital numbers at the Turtle Club – that would be blasphemous.

And a great season they had as well at the Turtle Club, sending teams out to win various divisions, provincial and national titles. Our boys major team missed going to the Little League World Series in Williamsport by one single game. The Turtle Club is a fantastic representation of Canadian baseball.

The company golf tournament is coming up. I have only played two rounds this summer. What a crime. I actually shot two over par on the back nine of my last round. But my clubs have sat idle – probably wondering why I don't love them anymore.

We have had very few visitors this year. No visits from my mother from Florida. No visits from our wonderful friends Ray and Shell from Ireland. Just the odd pop-over from friends – which were wonderful. Since Tina and Bill moved from Windsor to Miami, our back yard has been silent. They are enjoying the diving and underwater photography opportunities of the reefs and coastal waters around the southern tip of Florida.

No winter for them. Lucky buggers.

Today Glenn and Martina are down visiting from Collingwoord - a little hamlet of paradise sitting at the most southern point of Georgian Bay - a five hour drive on the best of days. But it's too cold to take a dip in the tropical waters of Windsor.

Where has this summer gone? And why does it seem like it just popped in for a short stay of a couple of weeks rather than the normal four solid months of years gone by?

Our beautiful back yard has been enjoyed mostly by our own little family of four. And we have it so nice back here this year. Flowers of purples and oranges and reds and pinks and whites – only for our own enjoyment it seems.

In other years we have had visitors for weeks at a time – adding the holiday flavor to the summer. But this year, we have been pretty much to ourselves. Not on purpose. It just seems to have worked out that way.

In the garage, there is a stack of small pre-cut pieces of wood. When assembled it will be an Adirondack chair meant to sit prominently in the center of the upper tier of the deck that surrounds the pool. The project was started by my lovely wife Darlene – who is intent on building this chair and painting it herself. But now the small wooden pieces will have to be dusted off before assembly. The chair did not make if for this summer.

Maybe if summer could stay just a little bit longer. Just long enough so that I could get sick of it. Just hot enough so I could look forward to the cool breezes of autumn.

But not this year.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Lunch With Great Friends

Today I am having lunch with old friends.

People I worked on a contract with for seven years.

I was the "new" guy, as the rest had worked on this contract for fourteen years total.

This lunch is occurring because one of the team members moved to British Columbia when the contract ended. He was chasing his dream of living out west. But a family matter brings him back to Windsor for a week.

I received his email last week through facebook.

The very reason I ever started using facebook was so that I could keep in touch with this fellow. For that period we worked together we became very good friends. His wife actually sold us the house we live in today.

So I created a facebook account, and so did he. We agreed to do this during a night on the town in Toronto while both there on business for different reasons. Pat created one to.

So Pat was my very first contact on facebook. But I never ever talked to him on there.

Within the course of a couple of days, my friends list on facebook grew to a huge number of people I have known in all parts of the continent that I have lived. High school friends I had thought about and tried to contact using more primitive means but failed suddenly showed up on facebook.

Poof. Instant contact.

But no Pat.

If you were to look at my friends list, you would see a long list of pictures of smiling faces. All but Pat. His was still the grey silhouette – only his name beside it, with no activity.

As time passed on, and things changed, Pat's profile remained empty. And I was talking to friends from Lawrenceville, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, London , Toronto, and Ottawa. My list continued to expand with friends from Dublin Ireland and the U.K.

But still no Pat.

Last week – I received an email. It said that Pat had added me as a friend on facebook.

I logged into facebook later that evening. There was a picture of Pat with his lovely wife and two children.

"Who the hell was that other guy?", I wondered.

So I wrote a note to the grey faced silhouette also named Pat.

A reply came back. "Wow, I had no idea I even had this account!". Indeed it was Pat.

In the days of that contract, we had a long standing tradition Fridays to that our team would go out together for lunch. There was a little Irish pub down the road from the office called Murphy's. We would go and sit and have great conversation while having a pint. The food was pretty mediocre, but we didn't really go to Murphy's for the food.

We went for each other's company.

Today we will all meet up again for lunch. But Murphy's is only an empty shell on a street corner. Instead we will meet up at an old roadhouse tavern on the outskirts of town, similar in atmosphere to Murphy's – but not Murphy's.

Pat will be there, and so will the few of us remaining at the company after the contract. And Roseanne will be there as well – who I used to tease by showing her pickle jars – asking her if we could keep her brain full of adjudication rules in there – because we would never learn all that she knew about that process.

And Crazy Roy will be there. I call him Crazy Roy out of respect, because the man is indeed a genious in my book – but slightly past the edge of eccentricity. I learned an awful lot from Crazy Roy, who was famous for his long grey beard and hair pulled back into a pony tail. Truly one of the most unique individuals I have ever met.

It will be good to be there with them all again. To sit and listen to them chat. To hear about what they are working on.

To feel that warmth of lost camaraderie.

A lot of workplace teams have lunch together on Fridays, or they get together for drinks on a chosen night – like paystub Thursdays. These are great experiences that build stronger teams – more committed to each other – more passion developing for what they do together.

But this team was the most passionate team I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

Perhaps at lunch I will suggest to those of the team not on facebook to join. And I will explain to them that we could create a group in facebook , and call it Murphy's. And we could find a time when we could all meet inside there and chat – the page decorated like the old Irish pub, maybe even post a picture of the old menu.

And maybe they would come. And chat.

But it wouldn't be the same. Not like sitting there at the old round table – elbows wet from the sweat of the pint glass as we laugh and talk about what's going on.

But it would never be the same.

Social networking has its place. It has its function. But it will never replace the camaraderie of really good friends sitting at a table – having a pint and a bite and the chatter and the laughs.

So today I will cherish this lunch. Because you can never be sure that you can all be together like that again.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Inspiring Passion

The new social aspects of the Internet have had me puzzled for some time.

How close can you get to maintaining friendships through facebook?

What is the real value of YouTube?

What the hell do you use Twitter for?

Do any of these tools help us strengthen relationships with the people we already know?

Do they help us make new friends – real friends – and not just new names on a screen we become familiar with?

I'm starting to figure this out.

My first conclusion was simple – "these are the new toolsets we have at our avail. They are only as effective as how we use them".

They're an extension of the tools we had already in email, instant messaging, books and magazines, and personal video recording camera and players.

We will all fashion these tools to use them to suit our needs. We will integrate these components into our lives. And perhaps we will integrate our lives into these components.

We will pick who we want to keep track of, by adding them as friends or by becoming fans of them in facebook, We can follow their updates – or tweets – on Twitter.

But that is too simple – the question is much deeper than that.

Why then are these tools having such a seemingly greater impact on society than even the tools we had before them?

I have found that I use facebook for keeping contact with people from my past and present that I care about. I use Twitter for searching out people that I can learn from. Both facebook and Twiitter will point me to blogs with more deeper richer content, like Ian Aspin's ReallyGoodThinking .

I write my headstuffing blog posts because I have a passion for writing, and I learn to be a better writer with each post – at least I hope I do.

Ian Aspin has been very interesting lately as he is delving into various impacts that these same social medias have had on our culture – both European and North American.

Yesterday, Ian inspired me with a simple tweet on Twitter – a text message to the world of no more than one hundred and forty characters long.

Yesterday, Ian sent out a Twitter tweet, simply thanking two people for inspiration for a series he is doing on the BBC's Radio 4 Sunday Morning show. Since Ian is a man I draw inspiration from, I was quite interested to see who Ian draws his inspirations from.

The first person was a former silicon valley entrepreneur from the first wave of the boom. Andrew Keen – since the dawn of this second wave of internet social tools have emerged – has written and spoken at length about the cautions and debates the world needs to hold about social media content – summing them up in a book called "The Cult of the Amateur".

The foundation of this book by Mr. Keen is that the new media – led by bloggers like me and posters of homemade video to sites like YouTube undermines our existing foundations for truly talented writers, authors, and truly talented video producers and such. He goes into great depth to defend this argument – exposing the already known truth that you cannot simply take internet content – using the known frailties of sites like Wikipedia and their unsupervised ability to allow anyone to post "facts" - and accept it as fact – and in the end, it becomes very difficult to discover talent or truth in the ocean of inane content.

Mr. Keen is a marvelous writer – and spells out his points and positions with great passion and vernacular elegance.

However his passion to dispel the new social medias rang out to be as loud as a Michael Moore pseudo-documentary – hell bent on proving his point and failing in such a loud voice that in my opinion it weakened his argument.

Now I am certain the Mr. Keen would be horrified that I compared him to Michael Moore. And rightly so should he take me to task – I would immediately apologize. His work was clearly much more thought out and not nearly as exaggerated as Moore's "Sicko" or "Bowling for Columbine".

But his passion struck me. And his conviction to what he believed moved me.

Which then led me to Ian Aspin's second receiver of tweeted appreciation. Patrick Dixon.

Patrick Dixon describes himself as a futurist. He sees trends and patterns in places some would not look. He inspires by a personality of seemingly natural leadership composed primarily of a positive passion. Mr. Dixon, like me, sees the existing tools like facebook and twitter and blogs as the current stepping stone on a long path to our social evolution.

It is what it is.

But there was that word again …


So I found a video on YouTube – the very site stated by Mr. Keen to be so swamped with untalented drivel and amateurish efforts – of Patrick Dixon delivering an entire motivational lecture to a group of public service workers from a city in Wales. The whole lecture!

I watched that entire lecture on YouTube as though I were a member of some week long seminar in Wales – with the absolute pleasure of seeing Mr. Dixon deliver the best keynote session I had ever witnessed.

So moving that I was ready to sell my house in Ontario, move to Wales and become a public servant.

Ok, not quite – but I learned so much from his lecture on leadership, and inspiring those that you work with – simply by holding your passions deep, and taking the interest in who you work with – as well as using tools such as demographics to trend a guided path to lead your troops passionately and sincerely on a path all are convinced is for the betterment of your teams goals.

So what did I come away from this single day of looking for truth and direction?

The answer is passion. The underlying desire to make things better!

Between these three individuals – all highly educated – all well respected – all persons of conviction in their quest to help lead society to a better place – the lowest common denominator was passion.

"Hey … I have that same passion too!", I said to myself as my epiphany unveiled itself before my very eyes.

We all do.

As I sat and thought about it more, I realized that I go out of my way to surround myself with passionate people.

My lovely wife Darlene is an excellent registered nurse, driven by her passion to ensure people receive the best medical attention possible.

The best people that I work with and am friends with are those that our passionate not only about what their role in their positions – but how they can help our company excel at our prime directive of enhancing the common good.

The best friends that I have are people passionate about their personal interests such as underwater photography, sailing, or even playing golf.

My favorite Detroit sports journalist, Pat Caputo, is so good because he is so passionate about sports and the area that he serves in Detroit and his desire to enhance peoples appreciation of both.

So what is the value of these new social medias like facebook, twitter, blogs, and YouTube?

You can use these mediums to spread your passion. To help inspire a world full of people like yourself, those that you know, and those you have not yet met, looking just as hard as you are to learning more about how to satisfy their passions to make things in their world – our world - better.

In the course of a day yesterday, these social media tools allowed me to uncover the tip of the iceberg to even more fantastic people, thoughts, concepts.


Perhaps even a better world.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Nearing The End Of The Old School Workplace

Yo, word up.

My little girls don't think their Dad is very cool.


Do I want to be seen as 'cool' in my little girls' eyes?

No. I want to be Dad the authority figure. The guy that Mom refers to when the kids are bad and she states "wait until your father comes home!"

But Dad can't be the authority figure.

Father holds the authority.

Dad is the guy who plays kick ball and throws them for flips in the pool.

But I am starting recognize that I have to be able to wear these two faces – with complete sincerity – at a moments notice.

So I am trying to bridge this new version the generation gap.

When we are playing on the Wii and they actually beat me – I have to be able to say to them "Oh no you did-n".

When do something really good, I have to respond with "BAM!".

Or sometimes "SNAP!".

So do I like talking that way? No. But it is becoming a necessity to reach inside what are becoming young girls minds – and speak their language.

I can't "dig their scene" – that was my generation, as groovy as it was. I have even caught myself holding my fingers in a V shape across my chest with my thumb up – saying "peace out" on the way out the door on my way to work.

But Father still has to speak plain clear concise instructions with no hip-hop inflections at all.

"I said put down the crayons and go to your room now young lady!"

I can't look at them and say "don't you be dis-n me!". It just doesn't work.

My older daughter Alannah – in her complete wisdom at the ripe age of eight – thinks she is pretty cool. I can hear and see the 'new west coast valley-girl' attitude already happening. She will stand there when she is mad – looking straight at me pursing her lips and her eyes in an angry glare as she struts her head from side to side like a bad Jennifer Lopez impression as she 'snaps me a Z'. In Canada – it would be a Zed –which doesn't carry the same weight at all.

I'm raising a couple of little J-Lo's. And I can't stop it – so I might as well go with the flow.

"Did you just snap a zed at me young lady?" I reply as Father. "Oh no you did-n! You can talk to the hand little girl!" I say as I accidentally slip into Dad. "You get in your room and clean that mess up!" says Father. "And don't be hate-n!".

As you can probably tell, I haven't yet perfected this skill of transition.

Now I realize this doesn't sound very masculine. But when you're the man in a house full of women – you have to acclimate. And you have to remember to lift the seat.

But I can't let Dad show up at work. I have to be Professional-Guy at the office, which is not as fun. Sometimes at the office I have too much fun. Ask anyone I work with.

But someday in the near future this might change.

Right now in my department, we are looking for a new programmer. It is a junior position. Ideally this new hire would be a young person for this role that can grow and mature with us.

But the younger people that my colleague is interviewing are of this same generation and influence as my daughters.

He'll probably be named Zeke or Mango. His pants will hang across the crack of his butt with his designer fruit of the looms exposed.

But I can imagine in ten years, as I am in my late fifties, sitting in a room full of early-twenty-somethings and holding a meeting that goes something like this:

"Yo word". I will start.

"Word", they will all reply.

"We have to make some changes to the holographic image translation service. So we are bustin' up into possies to optimize our productivity". I say pointing to the hologram chart projected over the round table floating in the air. I reach in and point at one of the team charts which makes it expand into focus.

"Mango, you'll be rolling with Ashton and Charity".

"Dude", would say Mango.

"Don't be hate-n", I will reply as I look at him over the rim of my bifocals. "Yo word to yer mother. You're a team of skilled individuals, and you will be professionals".

Charity would stand up and snap a Z at Mango.

Ashton would interrupt and say "Chill y'all".

"But that ain't how I roll", will reply Mango.

"Snap" will say Ashton.

I won't be able to discipline this new generation, as the laws of that day will require us to be much more tolerant of employee behavior. And we will require their new skill sets to achieve this holographic translator that I can't even imagine a use for now.

So I'll be stuck.

At that point, I will have lost this group – and I will have to reconsider my resource allocation in my project plan. Because the peeps in this one possy will simply not work together.

Good greif.

But at my retirement party – another ten years down the road – should I ever be lucky enough to retire – I would hope that Mango would get up and say a few nice words about me.

"Dude", he would start.

"Mr Brill is good peeps. We rode some rad narleys over the last ten years here and the man was always pretty phatt and good homie. Even though he always rolled it old school – you knew he was down with ya".

And my lovely wife Darlene will turn to me and say "ahhh … isn't that sweet".

I can see it coming.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Thud

I fell down today.


I went downstairs to the pop and beer fridge behind the pool table to get a can of pop for my lunch, and to get my work clothes I was freshening up in the dryer; and on my way back up stairs, in my still sleepy groggy state – I tripped on the top stair in the foyer.

Foyer is a fancy word for that space by the front door.

Our foyer floor is stone ceramic. It looks very pretty. But it makes for a hard landing.

I had my hands full – so I hit the floor hard. A thud. I laid there for a moment and took inventory.

And I noticed a crack in the grout work by the front door.

Everything was ok – except the cap of my good knee where I landed. It still hurts.

As I was lying there, I realized that this is the first time I ever fell, and didn't just pop back up. Usually when I fall (oh, yeah, I fall down once in a while), I hit the ground rolling, and just pop back up.

Not this time.

Nobody heard me. I laid there and listened to the silence in the house.

The girls were still asleep in their beds – lucky summer vacationing little second and third graders.

My lovely wife Darlene was still asleep as well. She usually gets up just before I leave to share a cup of coffee and make sure I understand my domestic duties for the day. But that time had not yet arrived. It was only six o'clock.

My faithful black lab Suzy was not even up yet. She was still stretched out on the floor beside my lovely wife's side of the bed.

But the kittens were up. And along they bounded, and climbed on me like a new piece of furniture to explore. When the one we call Misty climbed on my head – I realized I should probably just get up now.

For a second, I thought maybe one day I would have one of those Clapper devices – where you clap your hands and help comes to get you. But then I realized that the Clapper was actually the device that turned lights on and off when you clap your hands.

Now that would look silly. Me lying there – so happy at my foresight for personal safety to get a Clapper – and the one time I needed it I would discover my mistake as the lights in the house turned on and off.

"What would the neighbors think" , I laughed to myself.

Would they realize I got confused and call an ambulance on my behalf? – "Oh look – that Brill fellow must have got confused and bought the Clapper when he really wanted one of those I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up thingies."

I'm sure it's a common mistake.

But now Misty the kitty was sitting with her bum on my head, and I think I saw her come out of the litter box when I was downstairs mere seconds ago. So the thought of a freshly pooped kitty sitting on my head spurred me to finally get up.

I picked up my now well shaken can of pop and my re-wrinkled shirt and pants, and climbed back up to my feet.

I didn't just pop back up, I wrestled my way back up.

Now I have been very fortunate with the state of my condition to this point in my life. I may look kind of old, but I have always felt young.

I can still swim the butterfly in the pool. I can still stretch out for a ground ball that is just within reach. I can still juggle a soccer ball up one side of my body and down the other. And I can still follow through a golf swing until the club shaft bounces off my back. So I am still fairly agile.

But a couple of years ago, playing in a company softball game, I found myself going back for a fly ball over my head. In my younger days, I would have simply drifted back smoothly under the ball and made the easy catch. But on that occasion, I found it hard to track the ball as my body was bouncing when running – and my eyes couldn't stay on the ball.

And I missed it.

And that was the start of my feeling old.

But I'm not complaining. I know many people who suffer from debilitating ailments that drastically constrain their physical motion, my lovely wife Darlene's degenerative spine for example. So I know I am very lucky.

But it was just that next reminder that time is passing me by, that my life is progressing with time. And my body is aging.

And this realization rang the loudest when I thought to myself, "lucky thing I didn't break my hip".

But I might just go out and by a Clapper. It might be dark next time.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Optimizing Procrastination

It's a hot muggy day this Sunday morning on my back deck.

My lovely wife Darlene is sitting beside me reading another one of her fantasy books. She seems to like vampires a lot lately. I hope she's not turning goth on me.

My black lab Suzy is sitting by the door, watching the girls play with the kitty's in the living room, wanting so bad to go chase those cats away from her girls and get all the attention that the girls are pouring on the young felines.

Pat Caputo is on the radio – preaching cautious expectations to Detroit Lions fans who are starting to get excited about the hype the Lions sprew out before the first preseason game. And Pat is trying so hard to get the fans to not panic about the Tigers after losing eleven to nothing to American League Central division rivals – the Minnesota Twins.

These radio debates will continue until one o'clock – when the Tigers final game against those dastardly Twinkies begins – and all our household attention will turn to this hopefully epic battle. An epic battle that hopefully the Tigers will triumph in the end.

It rained all day yesterday. A good hard downpour – so the air is thick with the mugginess of the resulting damp covering everything on the property.

The pool is full of leaves, and needs to be vacuumed – because on a muggy day like today – we are going to want to listen to the ballgame from the comfort of the pool.

The grass grew an extra foot after that warm summer monsoon – and the weeds in the garden popped up out of nowhere. There is some yard maintenance to be dealt with.

This is my final day off – my third week of vacation for the summer coming to an end. And tomorrow I will find myself back at my desk and dealing with the projects I left behind ten days ago – and the urgen matters that may have arisen in my absence.

And I'm kind of looking forward to the return to my regular schedule.

I have been far to lethargic over this last week of vacation. My lovely wife Darlene has been quick to remind me of my accelerated advancement in the art of procrastination – and I certainly am in no position to deny here accusations.

I have been a lazy bum.

Procrastination is an art form. Truly it is best applied when you can still achieve your objectives without people realizing you have been putting them off. The masterful procrastinator will at some point finally rise to the task – exposing the timing of their activity to be the perfect moment – the moment waited for to achieve the optimum result of their efforts.

But I have not risen – and the optimum moment has now passed me by.

There are a lot of bloody leaves to haul out of that pool – although the water is indeed crystal clear.

That grass is really quite high now – bending over in the middle as though an uncared for part of farmland.

And it is muggy.

I was just about to explain to my lovely warden of my personal life that it is still too wet to cut this overgrown meadow that used to be my yard – but as I started to defend myself – the unmistakable whirr of a neighboring lawn more was heard over a distance backyard fence.

Drat that evil motivated self-proclaimed landscaper – and his mowing machine that can start on the first pull of the rip cord. Shouldn't he be at church right now?

But my lovely wife Darlene is still entrenched in her novel. She seems to still be content to let me sit and enter these words on this page.

So far – so good. And I still have an hour and forty-five minutes left before the game begins.

I can do the grass and the pool in an hour and three quarters. I can still pull off this masterful achievement of elevated procrastination. Because the right moment has arrived. And if I am to remain in any good level of respectability with the females masters of my world – I have to act now.

The time is right. The motivation is here.

But the coffee is good, and I could maybe have one more smoke and listen to Caputo debate likely hood of the Lions winning more than four games this fall.

And then I will jump right up and get this stuff done.

The moment will last.

But will my lovely wife Darlene's patience?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

How To Be Successful

Lately I have been looking at people who have really grown their blogs to incredibly high numbers of readers. Blogs like zen-habits and reallygoodthinking.

And why are they so successful? They offer the reader help. They offer assistance to make you a better person.

Be more productive.

Be more creative.

Be more … something.

Head stuffing's reader levels are nowhere near these two successful sites.

On head stuffing, I only offer you a laugh, and if I'm successful, I might make you think.

But I don't really offer to help you.

Here is what I have for you. Here is my list of things that I know of what it takes to be a successful person in life:

  1. Work hard
  2. Be sincere and honest
  3. Have a skill that people need
  4. Make decisions based on rational thought – not with your heart
  5. Enjoy what you do
  6. Enjoy the people that you do what you do with
  7. Keep your mind sharp
  8. Keep your body healthy
  9. Love somebody
  10. Love yourself

Now how many websites can you find this information on?

Could I talk more about being sincere and honest? Well, I think I talk about that a lot on head stuffing. I think I talk about all of these points a lot in my stories on head stuffing.

These principles are pretty simple to grasp, but pretty difficult to apply to your personal life. Especially if you don't have a skill that people need (I believe everybody does – they just may not realize it) – or if you don't have somebody to love (I believe everybody does, they just may not realize it).

That's the part I don't talk a lot about on head stuffing – how you can apply these aspects to your own life – or recognize that they already exist.

I guess I have given little care or consideration as to what niche I and my favorite passion – my head stuffing site – play in the bigger picture on the internet. What role does it play. What is this site's niche?

I'm not exactly a self-help guru. I can only tell you stories about events that have happened to me – and how they shaped my life.

I have been writing my stories on head stuffing for nearly three years now. And I have gotten some really great feedback from those of you who continue to return. And to those of you who do return – I would sincerely like to thank you.

I have been writing what I believe are great little stories on head stuffing. I try to put some sense of reason and meaning – perhaps a moral – or the obvious lack of a moral – in each one.

And sometimes I leave the stories behind and pretend I'm a sportswriter and write about the Detroit Tigers. Why? Because I am a big fan, and sometimes I have to get some of those thoughts out of my head as well.

I'm sure if you return to head stuffing you might be confused as to what you're expecting to find here. You might wonder why I think you, a reader from Atlanta or San Francisco or New York would even be interested in how I thought the Detroit Tigers season would play out?

I guess to this point, I have treated head stuffing like a note pad. Like a place to jot down whatever was stuffing up my brain at the moment. Because that has been my intention to date – and that is why this site is called "head stuffing".

So what can I offer you?

Do you know what your niche in this global network is? Do you use facebook to keep up with friends around the globe?

Do you use instant messaging to chat with loved ones far away? Certainly you must use email, and send pictures and videos and jokes to share them with your friends. You might even be using professional social networking sites like to track and communicate with your business contacts.

Maybe you use Twitter – although if you're like me – you're still trying to figure out what real purpose can 140 character text messages – tweets – can play in your life. Maybe you like to follow famous people like Ashton Kutcher or Ellen DeGeneres or golfer John Daly or any of the hundreds of other celebrities that think we need to know they're stopping off at shopping mall or a fast food joint.

But you're not sure what you could 'tweet' that would be of any interest to anyone else?

Maybe we can figure this out together.

I have tried using some of these sharing services to attract more readers to head stuffing, thinking that if they just came and read one good story that moved you and you enjoyed, you would come back for more. And it worked – kind of – but the numbers that do return are much lower than I expected. My statistics show that only 39% of my readers are return readers – the other 61% are brand new. But the number of visitors remains constant.

Honest – I'm not complaining. And sincerely – thank you for coming here to read head stuffing.

I post new head stuffing sites to,, and I share them on and I used to share them with, until they informed me that promoting my own site on was an offense that could get me banned from their service. In fact, most sites look down upon what they call self promotion. So how can I get the word out about head stuffing?

Now I announce new posts on Twitter.

So I am going to continue my struggle to come up with ways that I can offer you help.

And maybe together we can figure out just how do we all fit together in this new global community?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

That’s The Way It Was

Walter Cronkite died recently.

He was one of my heroes.

I grew up in a world where Walter Cronkite told us what the facts of the happenings of the world were. But I never wanted to grow up to be Walter Cronkite.

When I was in my first stint in University, I was trying desperately to figure out what to be. What to put the focus of my life behind.

I had always heard the common phrase "do what you love to do", but I didn't think being a professional athlete was really in the cards for me.

I was taking business classes, and the normal freshmen courses like biology and computer science, and advanced mathematics, and English literature. None of them interested me in the slightest.

Maybe computer science did a little bit. But punching all those holes in cards and running them through a card reader was really tedious. Am I dating myself here?

But that same semester, I took a political science class and a journalism class.

The year was 1980 and Ronald Reagan was running against incumbent President Jimmy Carter. The hallmark of this election was the great debate between President Carter and Governor Reagan.

What a perfect time to have been lucky enough to have taken both these courses.

The professors of both classes laid out very similar assignments.

The political science prof – a young man of liberal bent (much like most academics of the day) with longish hair and casual attire – assigned us to watch the debate and write an essay about how the debate inspired us to make some sort of conclusion.

The Journalism professor was also a younger man – but he was of a more conservative bent – or maybe I just remember it as so in comparison to the political science professor. But the common theme in his classroom was to be objective. To record and report without opinion. To lay the facts out and let the reader make his own decision. So the assignment was to write such an essay about the events of this debate.

So I found myself watching that debate with two different mindsets. The one objective was to draw a conclusion – the other to record and report without any bias.

Remember, I was eighteen years old at the time. And I fully subscribe to the theory that "if you have any conscious as a young man, you views will be liberal, but if you have any brains as you grow older, your views will be conservative".

I watched this debate in my dorm room. I watched it on the same little black and white portable TV I had bought myself as a kid. There was an illegal cable hookup running through the dormitory and I had hooked my little black and white portable into it in my dorm room. This was the first time I ever had cable TV.

The Iranian hostage crisis had plagued the Carter administration for the last eight months. Walter Cronkite would start every newscast with the number of days that Iran held those hostages. As well, the gasoline crisis had seen long line ups at gas stations and the price of gas reach what were ridiculous prices for the day. Gremlins and Pintos and small Japanese imports were quickly becoming the cars of choice as for the first time Americans started worrying about fuel efficiency – from the standpoint of their own personal budgets.

So while Jimmy Carter – a very fine man to this day – a man of the highest moral character and best sincere intentions to indeed serve his people to the best of his ability, was plagued by these two foreign and domestic crisis. His approval rating at the time of the debate was not great.

The only thing buoying Jimmy Carter at the time was the fact that during the past decade, America had just removed themselves from Vietnam. President Nixon had been caught red handed in the Watergate scandal, and his non-elected successor – Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon. Americans were not very high on themselves back then. The hippies of the sixties were starting to influence both politics and business – and the music of the day had little positive to say about American political government. As I remember it, America was scared to return control of the White House to a Republican President.

But Ronald Reagan, although staunchly conservative – was already known to the American people as a movie star. He was a successful Governor of the most liberal state in the Union – California. He was charismatic. He was older than Mr. Carter, and held a presence of distinguished righteousness. He had pulled California out of a bad financial state when the rest of the nation was in a deep recession.

As the debate unfolded, there was a very somber and gentle spoken Jimmy Carter – who I believe had his mind elsewhere – distracted by having to run the embattled nation while running in this presidential election. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, was clear and focused. He was upbeat and positive about what America could be, and where America could go.

I watched the exchange of these two men, like boxers in a ring, with Mr. Reagan moving Mr. Carter into the ropes defending his positions as Mr. Reagan criticized Mr. Carters current policies and counterpunched with his own solutions.

The knockout punch came as Mr. Carter explained his position on – yes it's true – a move towards national healthcare reform – measures to cut the cost of services and make the services available to residents who could not afford the high cost of health care benefits. When he ended his statement that "Governor Reagan does not …", Mr. Reagan counterpunched with the fatal blow "There you go again..". He then explained how the private sector pressured by competition would manage the cost of health care much better than any government intervention could, but that some federal regulation would help to ensure a fair and balanced playing field.

"There you go again" became the sound bite of that whole campaign. And essentially Mr. Reagan won that election by a landslide.

But I guess if you're my age, you remember all that.

As a student witnessing such an overwhelming shift in momentum, and taken with Mr. Reagan myself – attending University in Mr. Carters home state of Georgia – I found it easy to answer the task of the political science professors assignment and I wrote what I thought was a great essay on the great debate.

But answering the journalism professors request was much more difficult. To be so inspired and then forced to write about it matter-of-factly, that was much more difficult. To me it was a matter of fact that Mr. Reagan dominated the debate and knocked his opponent out with a single blow.

I turned both papers in. I was certain I would get an A for the political science essay, and if I was lucky, I might get a B for the journalism essay.

A couple of days later, I received both essays back. And I was shocked at the results.

I got an A for the journalism essay. The professor had written in blue pen at the bottom that my even handed understanding of how the direction of the debate was influenced by a personality like Reagan's over the lackluster enthusiasm of the beleaguered President was both accurate and objective.


I got a C- for the political science essay. Most of the students did. Because the professor was clearly a staunch Democrat who did not view Mr. Reagan's arguments to bear merit, and he clearly thought President Carter had finally exposed Mr. Reagan as the fraud riding on the popularity of his celebrity that this professor of academics was convinced he was.


So I rode out the poli-sci course to the end of the semester and took my C grade believing in my heart that it was unfair, but learning quickly that … well … life is unfair.

But I got my only A in that University in Journalism.

This is it, I thought. Journalism is the path I shall take.

After writing that final Journalism final exam, I was asked to come by the professors office. When I arrived he was sitting in a chair at his desk. Walls of books in shelves sitting behind him. He was – no word of a lie – wearing a tweed jacket with leather patches and having a puff on his pipe.

"This is so cool" – I thought to myself. I had just gotten the A and I thought that he was going to help me plot out my future journalism academic objectives.

But I was wrong.

I don't remember his exact words so I will paraphrase it like this:

"You did very well in my class Fred".

"Thank you sir".

"But the world of journalism is changing right now."

"Yes sir."

"Television and radio are taking over."

"Yes sir".

"To be a journalist in this new world – in the modern age of the eighties, you will have to have more to offer than just being able to be an objective writer."

No response, I just stared.

"You will have to be able to hold a presence on television, or the radio, I don't know, perhaps both. But the days of printed journalism are clearly on their way out. There's a new cable news networking growing in Atlanta, more like it will come. People won't read newspapers anymore. They will just watch TV. "


"Quite so. But young man, you do not have what it takes to be authoritative on television. And your voice is far to nasal for anyone to want to listen to."

"I see".

The criticisms of this professor I respected continued about how looks and voice mattered, and how he just didn't see me pursuing a line of work in the new age of broadcast journalism. It was not in the cards for me.

I couldn't disagree. All signs at that time did point to the fact that print was primitive and television was really blossoming by way of Cable TV. I could see it in my own dorm room.

"But surely they will still need people to gather facts, and write copy, and you know … do the hard stuff", I responded.

"The juniors will do all that, I predict", replied the professor. "The juniors who will someday move up to be in front of the microphone or camera".

I took this man's criticisms and direction to heart. I respected him, and was even thankful to him for being so honest with me.

So I gave up on that short-lived dream.

And I gave up on writing as well. I didn't start writing stories like the ones on Head Stuffing until shortly after I met my lovely wife Darlene. And I discovered again, that I really do enjoy writing. And I think now, finally, I am just getting half-way decent at it.

But when Walter Cronkite died shortly back, I really started thinking about that University professor. I wondered if he was still alive. I wondered what he thought of the Internet mediums like blogs and web sites like The Smoking Gun, and Twitter. I wondered what that professor would thought of the Cable News and their biased perspectives like the right wing views of Fox News and the left wing views of MSNBC and CNN. I wondered what he would have thought about the way that wars are covered now and how the media embraced Barack Obama so completely at election time. And what would he have thought about the coverage of Micheal Jackson's death?

But then I realized the times in which that occurred, as society looked forward to the change from the turbulent 1970s into what we thought were the ultra-modern 1980s.

And I realized what Walter Cronkite probably would have said to me- had I known him - about those perceptions held then:

"That's the way it was …".

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Detroit Tigers – There’s A Big Storm Brewing

Hold on to your hats Tiger fans!

Or at least turn them inside out and wear them as rally caps.

There's a big storm brewing! It's already on the radar screen.

Last night the Tigers took the first game of a six game home stand with the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins by coming from five runs back and tying the game in the fifth – then winning the game with a two out two strike blast by Clete Thomas into the bushes in center field.

It was a bomb.

As well, Tiger's ace Justin Verlander did not let a five run first inning phase him. He pitched lights out ball the next seven innings getting better with each pitch he threw. It was that beautiful Verlander poise and presence coming through yet again.

But this time the Tigers offense woke up.

Leading the way was superstar Miguel Cabrera – who while he has big numbers and hitting .334 – had been very quite in clutch situations with men in scoring position – knocked in three RBIs with a big clutch double and the game tying homerun.

To recap - the Tigers came back and caught the Orioles in the fifth. And won it with a walk off homer in the ninth.

That was an exciting game – and many things that Tiger fans have been waiting to see finally appeared.

But it was a home game. In Comerica Park. The Tigers usually win at home.

I'm not trying to put a damper on last night's elation. Please hear me out. I'm just trying to be objective.

The Tigers have a chance in the next few weeks to widen the gap between them and the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. They might expand their lead by as many as four games ahead of their Central Division rivals.

But, like I said already, there is a big storm brewing!

As I look at the Tigers long range weather forecast, I can see a tropical storm brewing over the American Midwest. And it looks like it could build into a category five hurricane. The conditions look like they could be just right for this monstrous storm to hit the Tigers right where they are weakest – weak as a West New Orleans levy of sandbags – when the Tigers play away games.

The Tigers will need a lot more sandbags to weather this storm. Let me explain:

The Tigers record at home at Comerica Park is 32 wins and 16 losses.

The Tigers record when they are away from Comerica Park is 23 wins and 33 losses.

The Tigers stink on the road.

But luckily so do most of the other teams in the American League.

So what is this storm brewing that has me so worried?

It's a ten game road trip – starting on the 18th of September and ending on the 27th of September. During that trip, the Tigers will play three games in Minnesota (a park where they have little luck), four games in Cleveland (who just took two out of three from Detroit in Cleveland last weekend), and then the final three against the Chicago White Sox at what should be called New Cominsky Park.

The Tigers record on the road stinks. Mainly because their offense stagnites - the air in the eye of a storm. They cannot score runs on the road.

It is possible that the Tigers could lose six to eight of those games. Such a result would possibly be enough to sink the Tigers 2009 chances. Drowned by the lack of offense they are known for on the road this season.

As I look at the remaining schedule of the Tigers, White Sox and Twins in 2009 - if current trends continue - I see the Tigers being even with Chicago by the time the first pitch of that September 25th weekend series begins. Games in that horrible dome in Minneapolis and Cleveland's Progressive field will erode at least two games of what I expect to be a three game lead.

Two of the three sandbags will be blown off the Tigers soft away game levy, leaving a single sandbag or two to ride out the three game hurricane of games at Chicago.

Chicago is the windy city.

And some would try to say that Detroit is No-Mo-Town now. This would be the worst possible outcome if the Tigers lose eight out of ten on that road trip.

Now there are some elements that entered into the radar that may slightly change this American League Central weather patterns development over the last week.

The Tigers have picked up some pitching to make their rotation even stronger, acquiring Jarrod Washburn from Seattle in return for Lucas French and a Minor League rising star Mauricio Robles.

Washburn was having an above average year with Seattle – with an 8 win 6 loss record – throwing 79 strikeouts and 33 walks in 133 innings. How will he do as a Tiger? Tonight will be his first outing clad in the old English D. And his first start will be in Comerica – after the elation of a great win last night. So fingers are crossed that Washburn starts off strong as a Tiger.

But as well, Chicago has strengthened their pitching, picking up Jake Peavy from San Diego. Peavy is considered to around the same barometer readings with the Tigers Verlander, Anderson, and now Washburn. The white Sox already have perfect game pitcher Mark Burhle in their rotation.

Do the Tigers Verlander and Jackson combined outweigh the dominance of Mark Burhle? Are Washburn and Peavy simply going to cancel each other out? It will be very interesting and exciting to see.

But there is good news for us Tiger fans in all of this. After what promises to be the most exciting road trip of the season during that last half of September, the Tigers return home – to trusty and faithful Comerica Park. The Tigers safe harbor from the storm.

And who is coming to play those final six games of the 2009 season in the Tigers safe harbor? Who else.

The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.

This is going to be one wild storm during the last four weeks of the American League Central Pennant race my friends. And if I were you, I would get tickets to all six of the final home stand games.

Because if the Tigers can ride out the hurricane brewing for the end of September, that first week in October will be the most amazing games played yet at Comerica park.

Can the Tigers ride that fast approaching storm? Will they have stashed away enough wins to survive the expected offensive power outage they seem to experience during road trips?

But I think - like 2006 - we need as big a lead built right now to survive that final onslaught.

In 2006 we had the luxury of being in the Wildcard division. We sat in August and September and helplessly watched the water rise high enough to erode the Tigers once ten game lead.

Is the 2009 version of the Tigers stronger than the 2006 version? It's certainly different. But this year I think the Tigers pitching is actually better than in 2006.

We got the pitching to slow down the storm - but we need these bats of this potentially explosive offense to get better on the road.

2009 has the potential to be one of the most exciting finishes of Tiger baseball history.

Hang onto your hats Tiger fans, because there is a big storm heading our way.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Dealing with it

I am very proud of my eldest daughter Alannah.

It's not easy being a kid these days.

Especially an eight year old little girl.

She wants to be Hannah Montana. She wants to be popular, and she wants to be a pop-star.

Not a nurse like her Mum, or a computer geek like her old man (thank God), or anything else really. She wants to be a pop star.

The problem is – right now at the age of eight – she can't sing worth a lick.

But she loves to watch Hannah Montana, and other videos by teen stars like Taylor Swift. She loves American Idol and Canadian Idol – the thought of being on a stage singing with millions of people screaming for her – well, that's what floats her boat right now.

I was hoping for a shortstop myself.

Last week, my lovely wife Darlene took Alannah to the orthodontist. It seems that Alannah's teeth – beautiful as I think they are – suffer a crossbite - and are not quite perfect enough to win auditions for toothpaste commercials.

Her newest teeth are trying to come in, but the older new teeth (still with me?) are in the way. So the orthodontist wants to spread out her upper jaw.

So the orthodontist put in an expander - or a spreader as I call it.

The spreader is a device that attaches to her upper molars and eye teeth. It has a little crank in the middle that - when turned with a key – spreads the upper jaw wider.

So the new teeth can come in.

It makes it hard to talk. Your tongue has to learn to work around the crank case in the middle of your upper pallet.

I know, I had one when I was younger. Not when I was a kid, but around the age of thirty five.

I was born with a cleft pallet. And at the age of thirty five, I found my self – single at the time – in a position where I could try to take advantage of the new technologies that didn't exist when I was a child. But before that work could start – they had to spread my mouth open wider.

I remember the weekday morning that I had mine put in. I was going to visit Dr. Lathyam – a very well respected orthodontist in London who specialized in helping mostly young children who were born with the same condition I was born with. His office was full of children with their parents. But everyone of these kids all looked great.

Since the age of 19, I have worn a mustache to hide the scar of my hair lip and cleft pallet birth defect.

It was a very big deal to me from my earliest childhood memories . I was very self conscious and shy. I thought that the first thing everyone noticed about was this bump above my lip and the crease in the middle of my lip. I thought everyone thought I was a freak. And I certainly did not feel like I was a normal person.

Now of course I wear a full mustache with goatee. Both are probably a little longer than they should be – but only to ensure the scar is well hidden.

When you're a kid, other kids can be rather cruel. They would tease and call me names. It made them look cooler to the other kids. Sometimes I would fight, other times I would just stand there and take it.

The times I fought, I lost more than I won.

The times I walked away, I was chastised as I left.

It just wasn't a situation that offered any positive outcomes.

I had always had a good sense of humor, so often I tried to joke around the situation. But it was such a morally deflating situation that I sometimes crumpled and just had to sit there and take it.

That was until my family moved to Lawrenceville, Georgia.

I was a little older then. Just about to enter high school. And I was a pretty good athlete which helped me fit in better. The guys in my neighborhood there didn't give me any of that kind of nonsense. There, it was just about being a guy. A good guy. If you could just be a good guy, you were in.

There was the odd clown who tried. One kid, who I think was a little slow – perhaps from perpetual inbreeding within his clan, would sometimes walk up to me and just punch me in the nose – and as I would hit the ground he would say "fat nose funny lip". But another guy would come over and knock his block off.

Another kid, who had been deemed to obese to remain on the wrestling team would constantly simply refer to me "hairlip". Oddly enough, this kid had friends that surrounded him and would laugh as he would say it. Often during practice, this kid would sit up in the stands and call it out as we were running drills. And his little gaggle of friends would laugh – which encouraged him more.

Coach Brown told me one day to go up in the stands and beat the … out of this kid. I looked at Coach Brown, whose respect meant more to me than anyone other than my own Dad at that time, and said "Why? That won't make him stop. He'll do it more."

Coach Brown just looked at me and walked away, his respect lost.

But other guys I really looked up to, like Mark Zirkle and Bill Huseby, and Damon Brown and Kirk Ewing would tell me that I was right to just walk away.

Since this fat kid was a wrestler, I just assumed that all the guys on the wrestling team felt that way, so I distanced myself from them. That was too bad, because there were some really good guys on that team. Guys I didn't realize were good guys until later.

There was one girl in my neighborhood who was just simply (to me anyways) the most beautiful girl in the world. She was part of our Plantation Woods gang, and would hang out with us at the pool. Usually lying in the sun to get a tan. This girl was way to pretty for me to ever tell her that I thought she was a princess. She did have a friend who was cute, and I thought she was more in my league. One day, as our group was hanging around, one of the other guys told this second girl that I liked her.

"Oh gross", said the girl, with the princess standing beside her.

I crumpled inside. I knew I was gross. But, as I remember it, I answered with something stupid like:

"I don't like you".

Pretty cool eh?

Most likely her response had nothing to do with my fat nose or funny lip. It probably had more to with the fact that I was a dork. I didn't figure that out until much later.

But I really did like the princess.

Shortly after that, I heard that the princess actually like me.

How did I handle that? Not very well, because – truth be told – I was indeed a dork. So I tried to impress her with goofy jokes and such.

So much for that.

But – even though I did screw that up so bad – it was a major turning point for me. I started to realize for the first time that it wasn't my fat nose and funny lip that mattered – but my personality. I can never thank that princess enough for teaching me that. To this day I am still very proud – that at least for the short course of a couple of days, maybe a week – this girl, the most beautiful in the world – would actually take to liking me.

As I left Berkmar High School and went to University (for the first time) on a soccer scholarship (which I basically pissed away) – I grew this mustache. And I grew my personality – based on the way my Plantation Woods friends taught me to be .. a guy.

I had a great circle of friends, and I dated some pretty good looking and fantastic girls. And that whole self-conscious part of me shriveled up and left. I had confidence. I had a personality that people liked to be around.

I changed.

As I grew up my confidence grew. It grew from playing very high levels of sports. It grew from becoming extremely good at what I finally ended up doing for a living. And it grew from some public speaking I had to do for my job – presenting to an auditorium of people that I could not only inform but entertain as well. They enjoyed my sessions at various conferences that we held.

And it was during this time that I read about some new technologies that had been advanced since my childhood. Some that would almost eradicate the one self-conscious issue that I still periodically wrestled with.

That is how I found myself in Dr. Latham's office, being fitted for this spreader. It would spread my jaw to allow further work be done. But man, that spreader was hard to get used to. I had to learn how to talk all over again. And I had to wrestle with all those self conscious demons all over again. Only now I had to maintain my professional poise as I talked with colleagues and customers – in person or on the phone – trying to form words around this stupid contraption in my mouth.

Quite often I would be in the middle of trying to pronounce a word in a sentence as I spoke – only to realize I had no chance of doing so and being understood – so I learned how to swap out words I couldn't say with words I could say – on the fly – and get the same meaning.

This is where some of my humor comes from. That self conscious side of me. The side that knows I am not perfect, but I'll be damned if I let you know that.

I certainly am not perfect.

That is why I am so proud of my little girl Alannah.

Alannah is very beautiful and has no such distinguishing marks to impact her confidence. Ashley-Rae – while born three months pre-mature and was doubtful to live, let alone to grow into the healthy beautiful girl she is now, also has no such defects.

But I teach them every chance I get to not judge people by their outsides – but by their insides.

And of course, not to be dorks like me.

So Alannah has only shown a slight frustration with this spreader in her mouth. She comes to show me frequently as she adapts to talking with it in her mouth.

"Look Dad, now I can say "precious" … see "pre-shuish", as she smiles at me.

"That's great, darlin!", I reply.

"And I can sing better too", she says with the excitement only an eight year old little girl can project. She picks up the microphone to her little Karioke machine and sings along with Hannah Montana. Only this time she doesn't sound so nasal, and she is thinking about how to make her voice sound clearer.

"Wow", I say. "You keep on working on that you just might be a great singer!"

And then I give her a great big hug.

"You're sure handling this better than your old man did."

What a little princess.

© 2006 - 2017 Fred Brill - all rights reserved