Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-09-20

One man’s constant connection to the endless news and media feed and how it broke him. The differences between being rude, mean, and a bully. And the amazing tale of two brothers’ discovery that their parents were not Canadian emigrants to the US, but rather Russian spies. That’s the Jeneral Finds of the week: 2016-09-20

This is your brain on continuous information feed

The pervasive usage of digital devices is on my mind a lot lately. And by lately, I mean for the last two years. It started off as an exercise to come up with a strategy of how and when I would be comfortable getting a mobile phone for my daughters. As I read and think more though, the exercise is quickly morphing into examining what my own device usage is doing to me.

Andrew Sullivan’s long-form piece “I used to be a human being: Technology almost killed me” in the New York Magazine this week is an eye-opening cautionary tale. It is all the more terrifying to foresee how easily many more of us will experience the same breakdown as Sullivan.

Rude vs. Mean vs. Bullying

My younger daughter got pinched and pushed to the ground by another unknown child at school last week. When she later worked up the courage to tell me about it, she started off her story with “I was bullied today”. A phrase that sends the heart up the throat of any parent.

The info in “Rude vs. Mean vs. Bullying: Defining the Differences”, by Signe Whitson, was helpful to keep in mind while I assessed whether I needed to be alarmed about the occurrence. (thankfully it seems to be an isolated incident of a kid being super rude) With the hyper awareness and classroom discussion on the issue of bullying now in our schools, it is not surprising that she labels all aggressive behaviour as “bullying”.

Most of all, I am so proud of her that she put her hapkido self-defence training to use. She told us she immediately confronted the child by making a stop sign with her hand and saying assertively, “Stop that! That was not nice!”. She was shaken up by the experience that day, but she seems be be okay now.

The Spies who loved me

The day we discovered our parents were Russian spies“, by Shaun Walker in The Guardian is a fascinating read. The title of the article says it all; it’s a crazy story out of a TV show plot that happens to be true and real life.

~Jen

What if I have nothing interesting to say?

Recently my friend Eric proposed an idea to his circle of friends in the interest of deepening our knowledge of each other beyond our shared history and current situations of jobs and family. Would we be interested to gather one evening and to trade 10-minute talks about a topic we each find deeply interesting, TED-talk style?

Inspired by Shonda Rhimes’ memoir, Year of Yes, I immediately said “Yes”, even though I felt uncomfortable with the idea. Now that some weeks have passed, though, dread creeps upon me. Because even more frightening than the idea of public speaking is the thought, What if I have nothing interesting to say?

Continue reading What if I have nothing interesting to say?

Who will be the Battle Axe Champion?

A group date activity involving sharp implements and competition = a dubious decision?

Group date night. My hubby and I are fortunate enough to be a part of a circle of friends that make such a thing a reality roughly every 4 months or so. Among the 7 couples, we take turns planning the dates, involving activity and food. Then on the appointed days, we ditch our kids with babysitters, and enjoy some company, food and  activities with only adults.

This past spring, the planned activity was battle axe throwing. https://badaxethrowing.com/ In general, the point of it all is to throw the axe 10 meters and have it stick in the plywood target as close to the bullseye as possible. The bullseye scored you 6 points, with the score decreasing the with each subsequent ring of the target. To make things interesting, there are two small blue circles worth 10-points located within the 1-point ring, at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions.

The nine of us split into two teams. Eric was captain of Team Axe FX; Aneil the captain of Team Buns on the Run. The teams battled over the course of 3 different tournaments, each tournament with a different objective to achieve. The day ended with a forth tournament: the individual knockout.

Who will be battle axe champion?

The final two contestants in the final round of our individual Continue reading Who will be the Battle Axe Champion?

First day of school and the passage of time

First day of school. There’s nothing quite like the start of the school year to reflect on the passing of time. During my school-age and university-aged years, September always felt more like the natural start of a year than New Year’s Day. It’s the start of a new grade, new subjects, new teachers, new school supplies and clothes…nothing quite gave the feeling of a blank slate of opportunity than the first day of school. It was an exciting, energizing, if slightly anxious, feeling.

When I became an adult and joined the working world, the reset-button feeling of September faded from memory as the months and years blurred together. The feeling that September brought was of some irritation as the traffic on the roads were noticeably and considerably heavier than in the prior summer months, but otherwise life went on. New Years and birthdays passed, but it felt like aging was put on indefinite hold. A pause button instead of the reset button.

Fast forward a few more years, and now I have school-aged kids (aged 8 and 6) of my own. They change so much every 6 months that it really feels like life is being played at 2x speed. Their shrinking clothes and shoes play tricks on me, because they certainly can’t grow that fast that quickly, can they? And yet their weight is heavier while sitting on my lap. Their faces are higher in the view of the car’s rear-view mirror. Their stories and imagination are so vivid and complex. These tell me that no, this is not a trick.

The passage of time for me is now marked by their milestones—their birthdays, their first days of school at the beginning of September. Another new grade: new classroom, new teacher, new configuration of classmates, and subjects to learn. September to my daughters is like a reset button again. For me, however, it’s turned into a stationary marker that whizzes past me and makes me realize how fast the years are passing. And so I give them extra squeezes, cuddles and kisses, trying to will the tactile memory of their feeling in my arms and lips into the woefully inadequate storage vessel that is my brain. There is no other choice though, there’s no app or solution that can store that feeling in your heart, and in your throat. Quickly now, before another September rolls around.

Girls walking to school with backpacks

~Jen

Star Wars, and other Arts and Culture that moved me in 2015

I don’t get out on the town that much anymore, other than my season’s tickets to the National Ballet (young kids are such a bummer). Even so, there was still lots of arts and culture that moved me in 2015. And since it’s already into February in 2016, without further ado, let’s get to the list!

TV / Webseries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a webseries on Youtube.

This 2013 production takes Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and updates it to the current modern era and format with aplomb. Lizzie Bennett is a video blogger (aka vlogger) and through her semi-weekly videos (each usually lasting between 3 and 5 minutes), the story unfolds. It’s not necessary to know the plot of Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this series, but it does give an extra layer of enjoyment to be able to anticipate the plot, and compare the adaptations. It even won an Emmy! I love that Charlotte and Bingley/Bing Lee are Chinese! I love the costume theatre! (you’ll see) I missed this web series during the original publishing back in 2012, so I did lose out on the interactive trans-media aspect of it, but it was no matter, I was hooked all the same and binge watched this in two sessions. If you’re a romantic, give it to episode 7, and see if you too aren’t hooked for the count. Continue reading Star Wars, and other Arts and Culture that moved me in 2015

Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-01-30

The anniversary of Target Canada’s demise and my knowing head-nods to data problems behind it, the inspiration for the singular Disney villian Ursula in the Little Mermaid, and how J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech is still just as pointedly applicable in today’s culture of fear—it’s this week’s Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-01-30

  • During my days at Accenture Canada, implementing SAP systems was the crux of what my colleagues and I did. Many of these same colleagues were staffed at the Target Canada SAP implementation project. Several of my own project experiences were in the area of data migration and data enhancement for the Loblaw SAP implementation, so it’s with great interest that I read this article from Canadian Business,  “The Last Days of Target Canada“. I found myself nodding my head knowingly as the story unspooled. Again this underlines the extreme importance of the quality of data, as the huge volumes of both master data and transactions combine with errors in said data to take down the retailer. I’m sure the folks at Loblaw are feeling pretty good about their own implementation in comparison after reading this.
  • There was always something thrilling and compelling about Ursula the sea witch in the Little Mermaid animated Disney movie. This was one of my favourite movies growing up, and it’s still enjoyable now but for completely different reasons. Much of it has to do with Ursula and her power to get what she wants by trading it for what others foolishly want. Plus that song “Poor unfortunate souls” is bonkers.  “Unearthing the Sea Witch” by Nicole Pasulka and Brian Ferree tell the story about the inspiration for the character, particularly a real life Baltimore drag queen named Divine.
  • While poking around Youtube looking at David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, I came across J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Commencement. It is a remarkable address that again demonstrates she is a great writer in how she deftly uses humour and personal example to provide inspiriation to not fear failure, and the importance of imagination and empathy in our world of uncertainty, complexity and fear. It resonates just as clearly now, nearly 8 years later, and I have no doubt will stand the test of time to resonate truthfully into the future.
    (The transcript of her speech: bit.ly/1zeUPfA)
  • And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

    What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

~Jen

Daddy has the Magic Touch

We were just starting our drive home from our regular Sunday dinner at grandma’s and grandpa’s house.

E1: “Do you think we’ll get stopped at Hood Road again this time?”

Our route home takes us through the intersection of Denison and Hood Road, and it feels like we get faced with a red light 95% of the times we pass through going west-bound. It is particularly frustrating because A)it is approximately 100 meters from another set of traffic lights at Warden; B) it always seems to turn red seconds after the lights at Warden turn green, giving you the initial false hopes that you can pass through; and C)stays red for an inordinate amount of time, especially considering at 9pm on Sundays there is zero traffic driving on Hood Road. I had made enough comments and complaints about it on our drives home that E1 and E2 both knew the location and to look for the light.

Denison_and_Hood_Road

This week was one of those odd occasions where T was driving. I pulled my neck a few days earlier and couldn’t really turn my head well, so we all agreed it was safest to have T drive.

Me: “Well, we can only wait and see when we get there. Daddy does seem to have better success at getting through Hood Road without getting a red light though. I always seem to get stopped.”

T: “Probably because you drive way more than I do.” I laughed.

E1: “Well Mommy, I remember on Thanksgiving you got a green light.”

Me: “True, but that’s like the only time I remember.”

E1: “Daddy must have the magic touch.”

T, chuckling: “People have been saying that about me for years.”

E2: “So why does Daddy still get stopped sometimes with the red light there?”

Me: “His magic for Hood Road must be depleted and I guess it takes a while before it gets replenished.”

T: “That’s called mana. My mana must be depleted each time I get through Hood Road without a red light. You guys know what mana is?”

E1: “Yeah! Like the magic in our Magic Quest wands. Before we got them activated again, it kept saying to us ‘Your wand’s mana has been depleted’ when we tried to use the wands at Great Wolf Lodge.”

E2: “What does ‘depleted’ mean?”

Me: “Depleted means used up, drained, finished.”

E1: “Ahh, I don’t talk about it right now, or else Daddy’s magic will go away!”

T: “That’s called, ‘Jinxing’ it.”

We drive along Denison and get stopped at the red light on Warden Ave behind several cars, one light away from the infamous light.

E1 cranes her head to check out the Hood Road light situation. “Oh no! The light is green! That means it’s probably going to turn red by the time we get there again!”

E2: “Oh no oh no oh no!”

The light at Warden turns green and we drive the 100 meters towards Hood Road. Amazingly, the light stays green.

Me: “Oh my gosh guys! We’re going to make it through Hood Road! The light is staying green!”

All in the car: “Yaaayy!”

E2: “Daddy really *does* have the magic touch!”

~Jen

Jury selection duty in Toronto in 2015

I was summoned to attend jury selection duty in the fall of 2015. I was a dutiful citizen, and put my regular weekday schedule on hold to fulfill my duty. But what could I really expect about this whole jury selection duty in Toronto in 2015? I had visions of sitting around a courtroom for days on end, with nothing available to me other than newspapers and magazines. The information sheet provided by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General was decent in providing some answers about the process, but wasn’t very helpful in some of the more practical questions or information about the process that was specific to the Toronto district court house.

Based on my experience, this is what you might expect during jury selection duty in the Toronto court district (things may be different in other court districts around the province): Continue reading Jury selection duty in Toronto in 2015

Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-01-17

Women and unpaid emotional labour, the Genius of Music breaks down pop music, and the mash up of Star Wars and Calvin and Hobbes you didn’t know you needed. Also, 2016 gets off to a sad start with the loss to cancer of two big forces in arts and culture, David Bowie and Alan Rickman. The Jeneral finds this week: 2016-01-17

  • Leah McLaren asks “Should women be paid for emotional labour?“. It’s the unspoken glue that keeps communities together, isn’t it? And I another realm of unacknowledged tasks that many women perform on top of all they do at work and in their direct families. Examples: making phone calls to circle of friends just to check in, remembering to get birthday cards and/or presents for children’s classmates, organizing baby showers for work colleagues, keeping track of friends and acquaintances’ goings-on so you are aware when things aren’t well and help is needed…and then offering the help, etc. No wonder it seems women often seem to have a harder time to balance life and work, their buckets of work in the “life” column, beyond home maintenance and family duties, are larger than men’s.
  • Why are some pop songs just so catchy and infectious? Chilly Gonzales is a self-proclaimed Genius of Music, but he earns the title honestly. He is a pianist, producer, songwriter,  and more, working with the likes of Feist, Daft Punk, and Drake. He has a done a series of videos deconstructing popular songs that are fascinating. In this video, Gonzales breaks down The Weeknd’s “I can’t feel my face” 
  • Of course, the last month’s entertainment hype has been all about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And as a lovely response to this, Disney Animation Story Artist Brian Kesinger did a series of wonderful mashups of Star Wars and Calvin and Hobbes together. (these are just two of them, peruse some earlier posts in his twitter feed to see them all)

~Jen

Nostalgia for some books of my childhood

I recently finished rereading Anne of Green Gables. It is E1’s copy of the book we gave her for Christmas, and when I read the first few chapters aloud to her, I got hooked again. In the evenings, as she slept, I borrowed the book to read furtively onward. A smile was likely on my face the whole way through to the end, delighted with the character of Anne and the “scrapes” she got herself into.

It’s also delightful seeing E1 also getting taken up in not only the characters and the story of Anne of Green Gables, but of many of the books she’s reading. I look at her and I see myself at her age. I am nostalgic for the books of my childhood and early teens, and for how they made me feel, the childhood memories they invoke, or the lessons I still keep from them. Here are some of them. (Unfortunately, I am terrible at remembering plot details or character names, so please don’t expect a synopsis of these books!) Continue reading Nostalgia for some books of my childhood

A personal potpourri of thoughts

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