Has this ever happened to you? You’re with a group of people discussing some issue of greater or lesser importance. You are doing the talking, not dominating the conversation, not going on too long, making a point, getting a few wry chuckles, coming to the conclusion of a well-developed point of view, when one of the other folks cuts in and says, “I don’t mean to interrupt but…” and then takes over the conversation.
Or perhaps a similar but slightly different scenario, you are holding forth, but not in a bad way, about to sum up, when someone sticks their head in the room and says those words “I don’t mean to interrupt but…”
I think I should let you know that I’ll probably be buying a new cell phone in the next couple months. My guess is that this bit of news will likely engender two types of reactions.
The first reaction, held I suspect by most readers, would go something like this: “Who cares that you’re thinking of buying a new cell phone. Why do you think that everything you do or think about doing has to be shared with the whole world? You’re probably one of those people who takes pictures of all their meals and posts them on every possible site to let everyone know what they’re doing at every moment. Can’t we please get a little rest? If I want to know if you’re getting a new cell phone I’ll ask you – and if I don’t ask you it’s because I don’t care.”
[show cancelled due to “Bad Weather” – sorry, Dean]
There is no question we are living in wildly innovative times. Self-driving cars are on the horizon – I think is see one now. We have electronic assistants that wait in our home for us to ask them things and then magically and instantly find out the information we want, and turn on and off appliances, and adjust the heat in the house, and play the songs we want to hear and those they think we will want to hear, and relay all this information to their overlords who are compiling massive amounts of data about us that, if we’re lucky, they’re just selling to benign corporate behemoths who use that information to better provide us with things that we never realized we needed, and if we’re not lucky use that information to manipulate us to vote for absurd propositions and ridiculous politicians – but I digress. The self-driving car and the electronic home assistants are pretty neat things, but they are not, for me, the greatest invention of the past 10 years.
You may not be aware of this, but 2018 is the Canada-China Year of Tourism – pretty exciting isn’t it? And this is serious – there’s even a logo – a kind yin-yang thing with a polar bear on one half and a panda on the other (of course). And there’s a hash tag too with a few posts, mostly pictures of pandas (of course). The hashtag, if you’re interested is 2018CCYT. That’s actually a kind of clever hashtag because both Canada and China can lay claim to the first C so that lowered the tension in the room when the idea was first discussed. While I wrote that it was the Canada-China Year of Tourism (and that’s what the government of Canada calls it) if you go to China’s Canadian Embassy webpage it’s the China-Canada Year of Tourism. Everybody’s right (or as the Buffalo Springfield sang so long ago, perhaps everybody’s wrong).
Don’t you hate rhetorical questions?
I could stop now but let me push on…
As much as I dislike rhetorical questions, I can’t stand them when they made are by a machine. Let me give you an example.
On days when I am driving in the city I sometimes need to park in a parking lot. Parking lots these days are increasingly automated. You get your ticket and then pay on your way out. Recently I parked at the Eaton Centre. I dutifully got my ticket and, at the end of my day, as instructed, went to the “pay station” to get ready to leave. I put in the ticket, inserted my credit card, and on the screen it said “$456 – OK?” (I may have exaggerated the amount on the screen, but it seemed like a lot).
27th Annual Robbie Burns Celebration
Please join us for another evening of kid and adult friendly fun!
There will be some Burns, some Scottish music, lottsa whisky,
your neighbours and, of course, the Haggis!
The Bar Celebration will be at
The Free Times Café -320 College at Major
8:00 pm till closing
For the last few weeks I have returned to the winter of my youth. The snow remains white. You have to make sure to wear sunglasses when you go walking during the day. When you do venture out the snow crunches under your feet with a sound that is unique to winter in Canada. Shoveling snow at night the sky is clear and the sound of the shovel against the pavement bounces off the darkness. The air has its own special feel and even taste. When you go out and breathe deeply the fine hairs in your nose stick together. If you decide to drive you start the car ten minutes early to warm it up.
Yes, this is the winter of my youth. And I’ve had enough of it.
Like many people (not everyone, but many) I have a smartphone. To be precise I have a Blackberry, and one that is more than a few years old. So, while I may technically have a smartphone, how smart I am to have that particular smartphone is a discussion for another time (but I do love that physical keyboard).
As you know from watching TV commercials and ads running whenever you try to search anything on the Internet, the smartphones we have today (even my Blackberry) can do lots of amazing things. But when I’m on a bus or subway or train or plane you know what I see most people do with their smartphones – they use it to play solitaire. Now I admit this is not the most scientific survey ever because when I am on a bus or subway or train or plane I am often playing solitaire on my smartphone so it’s not like I’m spending all my time checking out what other folks are doing – but whenever I do look up that’s what I see – people using their incredibly sophisticated smartphones to play solitaire.
I have to admit I was a little freaked out a few weeks ago when I received an email from my e-reader. Yes, I have an e-reader, and yes I know that there is something magical, nay transcendent, about turning the pages of a real book, and yes, an e-reader can never give off that ineffable – if musty – book smell – although I hear Febreze is working on something like that – but it’s not like I hate books and won’t ever read them, I just like my e-reader so can we just leave it at that please (can you tell I’ve had this discussion before).
Where was I? Oh yeah, I was defending my use of an e-reader and trying to get to the scary e-mail part. Now the email itself was not particularly scary. It’s not like the e-reader threatened to tell everyone what I was reading (not that I have anything to be ashamed of in that regard, really) or even to make up what I was reading – but it could have. The actual email just told me what I had read the past month and how much time I had spent reading on the e-reader. There is nothing particularly frightening or sinister about that, but nor does it give me any information I don’t already have.
I am sometimes asked whether I have a list of possible topics for my missives, rants, and pensees, or do I think up a new one every month. The answer to this is – a bit of both. I do keep a small unlined notebook covered in a fine leather (or faux leather for vegetarians) and once an idea comes to me I stop, unscrew the top from my exquisite fountain pen, and in an impeccable script, jot down a line or two that will help me recall the topic later. Or at least that’s what I’d like to do but instead I scribble something on a piece of paper that I can’t read five minutes later or just type a note in my phone. Some topics can sit there for a while and are ready for the world to see at some later point but others are time sensitive – they don’t make much sense if they’re not discussed in the appropriate month. Such is the case with this month’s topic, which could only be the topic in October. Why? Because the subject is pumpkins.
A field of pumpkins in the fall sunlight is a lovely thing to behold, but as we know from great works of literature the pumpkin patch at night can be a very scary place (I am here referring of course to the much lauded and esteemed author Charles Schultz who gave us the incredibly complex and richly detailed lives of the Peanuts crew over many decades). Essentially Linus was right (but you knew that all along).