Looking back to my school years, I realize that I was lucky to have had some good teachers.  If I haven’t turned out to be more successful, it isn’t their fault.  Sometimes a lump of coal will never turn into a diamond.  I take full credit for my failures.  But, that isn’t my focus here.  Instead I wanted to praise one of my past teachers and recommend a website.

Below are two photos of my dictionary.  Buying it was one of the assignments given to me and my classmates from our grade 5 teacher, Mr. Doug Shaw.  He didn’t tell us what dictionary to buy, but he told us to make sure we got a good one.  He took the time to explain that a good dictionary would be with us for a long time and would help teach us a lot of words.  He was right. This book was with me through middle school, high school and university.

I still like and use my paper dictionary, but I also find myself going online for my word searches.  My favourite site is Merriam-Webster’s: http://www.merriam-webster.com/   (Yes, it is essentially the same company that made my dictionary 40 years ago.)  Besides the regular dictionary functions, I’ve really enjoy their video series.  The videos are Merriam-Webster editors explaining a language feature in a simple, but engaging way.  Check it out; the “word nerd” in you will be satisfied.

And, one more thing: apparently my Grade 5 self felt that the edge of the book needed to be a little more “high class”, so I added some blue stripes.







I must begin by saying that I do realize the brand is “Elegant Touch” and not “Elegant Ouch”.  It has been a busy week with not too much in the way of happy news.  So, when I saw this product on a store shelf, I had to smile.  This isn’t meant as a criticism of the product (I’ve never used it), so before I get into why I don’t like the typeface, I’ll elegantly end this post here.


It was hard to go back to work today.  Not just because it was -12C outside, but because I had a nice mini-vacation.  No exotic trips, I just stayed in the city and spent time with loved ones.

There is a very simple concept from the world of finance: if you want to stay economically afloat, don’t let your expenses exceed your revenue.  Some of that applies to how you seek pleasurable moments in life.  If you have the time and can afford to take trips to far away destinations, by all means do so.  But, if you can’t, it is still possible to be happy.

I know this isn’t anything new, but these last few days reminded me that if you are content with what you have then you’re already rich.

The photos below were taken last week in Toronto’s Allan Gardens.  Built over a hundred years ago, it is a real oasis in the city’s downtown area.  And, it was a nice treat to complement a physically tiring, but emotionally happy hour spent shovelling a wet and heavy snowfall.  This was followed by tea and later a delicious home cooked dinner.  A good day.

Hope you have had some good ones recently and that 2016 is a great year for you.

Alland Gardens at Christmas


Allan Gardens - Leda and the Swan

Allan Gardens Interior View


I’m going to prove that I’m a little (?) strange.  I’m going to recommend a TEDx talk that is well intentioned, makes some good points, is worth discussion, and is flawed.  The link to the talk is here: Why You Will Fail To Have A Great Career

To prevent you from seeing my argument too early, I’m including photos I took while visiting some parks and ravines in Toronto.




OK.  Now that you are back, or you decided to skip the talk, here is what I’m thinking.  I agree with Larry Smith that people with great careers can also be good people.  And, blaming your family for not following your dream isn’t nice.  My problem is near the end of his talk, the “tombstone” scenario, where he pities the person who “merely” invents Velcro.

I get that he is trying to inspire his audience to dream big.  The problem is the invention of the hook and loop fastener, commonly known by the original maker’s name “Velcro” is a great invention. Hook and loop fasteners are everywhere today since they provide a secure and easy way to secure garments and other objects together.  The’re also a great example of biomimicry.

So, why doesn’t Larry Smith and perhaps the average person see it this way?  My guess is because of a prejudice against what is considered ordinary. What I would like to see is people understand and appreciate that common, everyday objects, events and activities  and people can also have high value.  Not everyone gets to be a celebrity.

Many years ago, a friend told me of a woman who had a medical condition that had kept her bed-ridden for close to 20 years.  He asked me if I wanted to visit her in the hospital.  I was in my early twenties, still not sure of myself, so I said, “I don’t think I could say or do anything to cheer her up.” To which my friend replied, “You don’t understand.  People don’t go to see her to cheer her up, they go because she cheers them up.  Even though she is quite sick, her attitude and kind heart inspires everyone she encounters.”  Unfortunately, before I could find time, she passed away.

My point in telling her story is to show it as an example of a person who did the best with what she was given.  We are all in situations that are not completely of our choosing, we have to do our best with what we got in front of us. This woman who I wish I met, didn’t have any kind of a career and there are no fancy words on her tombstone, but she was a great person.  And, being a great person is harder than physics.


I’ve been a fan of the work from Studio Ghibli ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studio_Ghibli ) for years.  The director mostly associated with Ghibli is Hayao Miyazaki.  But, other directors have made films there.  One of them is Isao Takahata, a friend of Miyazaki’s and also a founder of Studio Ghibli. Recently, I watched his 2013 film, The Tale of Princess Kaguya ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2576852/ ).

The movie is an adaptation of an old Japanese folktale, so it is fine for all audiences.  The style of the animation is fluid with the feel of how the original animator first drew the characters and the scenes.  It is a joy to watch and I highly recommend it.

I found myself sketching after the film and one of the things I drew is the cartoon you see below.  In keeping with the spirit of the film, I’m leaving it as I first drew it.  Normally, I would clean it up, use the computer to caption it and maybe add some colour.

Half-Ply Toilet Paper is the employee's worst nightmare.

As for the inspiration for the “half-ply” joke, it comes in part from a story from Ryerson University.  A journalism student at the school discovered that Ryerson has a “two-tier” toilet paper system: most of the school gets one-ply while some get the plushier two-ply.  While school officials may be embarassed, they can take comfort in knowing their journalism program is effective.  ( http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/10/30/ryersons-two-tier-toilet-paper-system-exposed.html )  Another part is from all these stories of cut-backs and austerity and weird work situations.

My first post back from my sabbatical pretty much reflected my attitude after seeing some bad human behaviour.  This post, on the other hand, gives me a chance to pay tribute to some excellent human beings.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the event that allowed these people to shine was a negative one.

A week ago today, my mother became very ill.  I was with her in dowtown Toronto, just about to drive her home when she felt weak.  She sat down and I ran to get the car (to either take her home or to a hospital).  Just as I returned, she fainted, hitting her head on the pavement.  And that is when some strangers and health professionals stepped up and made a great impression on me and my mother.

Except for the doctor and a nurse at the hospital, I don’t know the names of these people, but I would like to thank them nonetheless. So a big thank you to:
– the woman who offered a granola bar when my mom was feeling weak.
– the woman who called 911 for me, allowing me to comfort my mother.
– the pysiotherapist (ex-paramedic) who remembered his paramedic training and even put his coat under my mother so she wouldn’t be cold.
– the med student who came to help (I’m sure you will be compassionate health practitioner when you graduate).
– the fire fighters who were at the scene quickly.
– the paramedics who were also at the scene quickly, who hadn’t had lunch (it was 4:30pm) and wouldn’t be able to eat for another hour.  Thank you also for your positive attitude and professionalism.
– the staff in the parking garage for their compassion.
– the hospital staff and especially the doctor and the nurses who were thorough, calm and caring.
Bless you all for what you did and who you are.  My family will always be grateful.

There were times it seemed like my mother would die that day. She is better now, although she is still a little weak. These kind of events have the power to refocus you.  It did with me — I continue to appreciate good people more and do what I can to be one of them.

Thank you for dropping by. I wish you good health and happiness.

When I decided to take a hiatus from my blog, it was primarily so I could make progress on a number of projects that I had begun but I was having trouble finishing. I made some progress on all them.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the last two and half months have been wasted dealing with someone that I shouldn’t even have to speak to.  The positive result of this misadventure is that I have become more grateful for the good things and the good people in my life.

I thought about writing about what happened, but I’ve come to the conlusion that the specifics don’t matter much.  Everyone has a story about a person, or people, that have made their lives difficult. I’m grateful that this person isn’t part of my circle of friends or family. People who have to deal with a terrible family member have it worse than me. I’m also grateful that there may be a solution soon.

Besides being thankful, I’ve become more practical when it comes to dealing with other people.  To those who have good hearts and are trying to do their best, I’ve become even nicer.  So, if you are a bank teller, a service associate, or a coworker, I’m even more likely to mention your good work to your boss or on a survey.  (I did that before, but I’m doing it even more now.)

If you are a sneaky, greedy person, I have no respect for you.  I may chose to leave you to God, Karma or whatever system will apply justice or I may excercise my right to prevent you from screwing over an innocent person.  Too many good people have been bullied for too long.  And, if you do get ahead, I have seen many instances when those victories are short-lived or balanced with negative events, so there is no need for stress.

It sounds simple, but I know it isn’t.  People are often complicated and irrational.  That’s OK.  I’ve also learned (or relearned) to be humble in my expectations.  Like I said before, I’m grateful for the good things and the good people in my life.  Thank you for stopping by.


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