Monday, March 31, 2003

Being polite, self-effacing Canadians, we sometimes don’t know how to take a compliment.

Even though some people give out glad and encouraging words like advertising pamphlets (“Nice to see ya!”, “Lookin’ good, Charlie!”), most of us only remark on a trait or ability of someone else when we see a change or improvement. Weight is a common thing that others notice, but a flattering sweater or the ability to do something well is also noteworthy. When someone takes the time to voice a genuine compliment, it’s a conscious action. Being able to graciously take a compliment is a wonderful social ability that not only helps pick up your self-esteem, it also tells the complimenter that you respect their opinion and trust in their honesty.

So now I switch to Miss Manners mode and give you my instructions on how to graciously accept a compliment.

When you hear the compliment (wolf whistle, gasp or whatever), you should:
  • stop what you’re doing and look the complimenter in the eye
  • pause for about half a second
  • give the complimenter a heart-felt smile
  • respond with “why, thank you” or “what a nice thing to say”
  • don’t get into a discussion about the compliment unless the complimenter starts it up. There are times to break this rule, but not often.
I've been knocked on the head a few times for not accepting kind words. Finally, a friend (to whom I am forever grateful) taught me how to do this, so I'm just passing this on. Following these steps will leave you and your complimenter with a nice, warm feeling.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Enjoyable weekend? I'll say. Check this out:
  • Four personal best times at provincials
  • overall (all age category) winner of the 200 free
  • witness of a Master's world record being set
  • new respect for my lawyer's ability to make a highly enjoyable pot of baked brown beans
  • several hours of pleasant and entertaining banter with Jay, the Two Broads and others in the swim team cast of regulars
  • word that my little brother is kickin' butt in the classroom in pursuit of his carpentry ticket
  • a amicable end to a Cranium game where my two increasingly-competitive daughters were pitted against one another (each paired with one parent as a partner)
  • 60 minutes of peaceful, meditative ironing whilst grooving to a rediscovered Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler CD
  • a weekend of lovely, lovely no-jackets-required weather, hinting at the impending arrival of outdoor cycling season.
What a great way to end a week.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Provincial swimming championships are on for all us old farts this weekend. No time for this blogging nonsense.

I'm trying to make the leap from diehard sprinter to middle distance man. As one gets older, the middle distances get shorter - 200 metres qualifies as a middle distance event. I'm racing the 100 I.M., 200 I.M., 200 free, 50 free and a few assorted relays. One really has to let go of what you were capable of as a teenager. Those days are gone. I'm willing to settle for beating my best adult times at this meet.

I'll have to remember to get to bed at a decent hour.

Friday, March 28, 2003

What! Another free hockey ticket?

Damn! You gotta give me some warning on these!

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Is your mind all sluggish and flabby from watching lame, predictable Hollywood crap? Give it a workout by renting Amelie. I just finished watching it. Wild, wild storyline, excelent cinematography and an adorable main character. Sorry Americans, but it's French. Get over it. At least they provided subtitles.

Brain hurts, but it hurts good.
Ho hum. Everything's working fine here. How's things where you're at?

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

What a fulfilling day. Fulfilling but tiring.

Rest is good. Sleep is better.
I looked up "cad" in my Webster's dictionary and the definition was, a person without gentlemanly instincts.

I looked up "gentleman" and the definition was, a person of good or noble birth.

I don't buy that. To me, a gentleman is a male adult (sorry kids and ladies) who has a code of standards and ethics by which he conducts his life. The code of conduct takes into account the feelings and reactions of others (being considerate) and also includes such virtues as honesty, bravery and generosity. Everyone is free to add their own quirky, quasi-virtues such as chivalry and promptness, but I really see them as being tied back to the original four. The important distinction is that a gentleman is following some set of standards and making deliberate choices throughout his life based on those standards.

I strive towards being a gentleman and I know I'm not as "there" as I'd like to be, but I'm sure I'm not a cad. At least, not by Rick Marin's definition.

I guess my definition wasn't included in Webster's dictionary because they've got to watch their word count or things could really get out of hand.

Friday, March 21, 2003

I'm all for taking a risk, but the benefits have to be worth it.

The most exhilarating parts of life are experienced by doing things that you've never done before - things that you're not sure are within your reach. Think of the first time you rode a bicycle. You started out wobbly, going faster than you are used to going by foot, on a device that looked precarious and had the potential for taking you to speeds (going downhill, anyways) that you considered reckless. Still, due to a bit of prompting from parents or peers, you got on and tried to master balance, steering and locomotion all at once. But oh, the feeling once you DID get it! That is one of the sweetest fruits of life - the adrenaline of success.

Some things that you might try are within your comfort level or have the risks and possible consequences carefully explained to you. Others, you have to just guess at the outcome and the consequences and decide whether you want to put in the effort of trying. It is so much easier to hang back in the shadows, claiming that to try would be too risky - even hoping to succeed would invite defeat. The longer I live and the more I see about taking risks, the more I'm convinced that calculated leaps of faith are usually worth the effort.

I see risk all around me in my life. Risk in Banana's striving for ringette greatness; my business' drive towards being a viable, profitable company; the effort I put into growing my friendships and trusting them with pieces of me that I might not have let out before; my effort at producing well-rounded kids; all of these things are risky undertakings with potential for failure and perhaps disastrous outcomes. I only need to look at the potential benefit of what even *one* of these efforts being successful would bring as far as benefits, and I know it would move than make up for any failures that might happen from all my trying.

An important learning moment came after Banana lost in the gold medal game last weekend. During the trip home, there was much moping about losing, lots of propping up of her ego (by both Jenn and me) and a few tears. At one point I posed the question to her, "Would you rather have come home with a silver medal or never have competed in the provincial tournament?" She answered how I hoped she would, and I saw (hopefully) the seed of risk-taking sprouting in a young, incredibly fertile mind.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

I had this jingle running through my head all day today.

Rice-a-roni, the San Francisco treat.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Happy Birthday, Mom. I'm glad you were born so that I could be born.

Besides, hasn't it been a fun and educational trip so far? Think of all the adventures you haven't had yet. I bet you can't wait to see what the next few years bring. Whatever they might be, know that we think you're the greatest, you can handle it, and we're willing to help you get through it all.

Monday, March 17, 2003

I'm working hard at a lot of things these days, but I'm not getting much spontaneous joy out of life.
We came, we saw, we competed, we came back with silver.

Banana and the Hurricanes competed in the Provincial Ringette Championships this past weekend. The team ended up playing in the finals, losing to the Saint Albert team 3 – 2. I was very proud of the team and the parents with respect to how they handled losing the final game. Yes, we were all disappointed. Yes, there were a few tears from the players. On the whole, we handled it very well.

The players applauded for the other team when they were presented with medals, a trophy and a banner. All of our parents stayed in the stands right to the end of the ceremony. We were congratulatory in the main hall after the game. I even restrained myself from dealing with the jackass with the airhorn (supposedly illegal in the arenas) who was only using it to drown out our team’s cheers and not to positively cheer for his own team. It was hard for parents and players alike, but we did it.

I think we all learned more by losing the finals then we would have by winning.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

The message you convey to everyone when you use profanity is, "I have lost all use of common sense - do no try and communicate with me logically." Sometimes the use of profanity is warranted ... even, dare I say, necessary. Situations such as bank robbers threatening tellers; soldiers dealing with each other and opposing forces under fire; a firefighter trying to clear a burning building; anyone dealing with telemarketers - these are all situations when you don't want any backtalk, you just want results.

It is a good thing when you are consciously trying to convey the shut-up-and-do-what-I-say subtext. It is wholly another when you accidentally broadcast your lack of self-control and/or ignorance of the subtleties of communication.

But don't worry - you won't see very much of that here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

I've always been a touter of the dogma, "Be grateful for what you have." I believe that the act of being grateful is a conscious choice - one that nourishes the soul.

Having said that, here is a question to you, gentle reader - do you believe that you can choose to be satisfied with what you have, or is that something that runs deeper? I have really been struggling with this lately.
Ooooo, look who's got blog comments now.
"I must be off to go to work."

Inflection is everything, man.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Someone mentioned that it looks like I lost some weight.

I know that I have lost a few pounds, but still, it's nice to be told that to your face once in a while.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

You gotta know that when your parents call you and ask you if you're "any good" at doing something, they want you to come and perform that task for them.

Even I can figure that out.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

I'm pleased that my children are becoming interesting people.

Banana reads the newspaper from time to time and McMonk is becoming aware of geopolitical zones and leadership issues in them. They are starting to interpret lyrics from songs and we discuss them as or after they play on the radio when we drive. Both are fully aware of what is appropriate and inappropriate language in movies. We even watched a crappy movie last night that was full of swearing - neither of the kids seemed put off by this and they started a discussion about the courseness of the language after the show. "We've heard lots worse on the playground," Banana remarked.


Due to this nagging cold I've been trying to shake, this week I haven't had as much energy to spend on my wife and kids as they deserve. Finally, tonight, I felt like we had a good evening together.
Jenn makes awesome, awesome chili. I am so lucky.
For years I've berated my kids for coming in the house on a cold winters afternoon and immediately peeling off their drippy boots, sopping wet gloves, hats, scarves, neck warmers, jackets, snowpants and and any other paraphernalia they took with them outside. I find a trail starting at the door, tracing each individual's path into the house and towards the snack cupboard. Dutifully, every time if find such a trail, I summon them back to clean up the mess and everytime, they look at me as if cleaning up after yourself is some brand new request or stipulation of proper behaviour.

Well, I just came in from shovelling the walk and did exactly what they do, leaving a mess right in the way of everyone, blocking the back door from closing. Wanna know a secret? I've found that shedding all that itchy, hot clothing in a hurry isn't just convenient - it's insurmountably fun.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Back into good health, back to work. A good solid day of sleep does wonders. I started yesterday by shooing my wife and kids out of the house, taking a shot glass full of Nyquil and then counting backwards from 99. I got somewhere in the eighties before my vision started to blur. Shortly afterwards, I passed out on the sofa under a wool blanket.

There are few things that make you feel uglier than having a head cold. Your nose is swollen and red from being blown and wiped; your skin is clammy and sweaty; you wear comfy, non-flattering baggy clothes that provide warmth above style; your eyes are glassy and half-open; your voice is most likely a raspy, scratchy version of the original and don't even ask about shaving - all these multiply the "don't touch me, I haven't showered yet" look into something that would scare your own mother away. You want to crawl into the back of a cave to moan and watch bad daytime TV. So that's what I did. I stayed inside all day, only venturing to stick my arm out the front door long enough to bring the mail in. Today, I'm better for it.

The phone rang a few times, re-enforcing the feeling of being loved by my officemates. Strangely enough, their inquiries of concern were always followed by technical questions. Go figure.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

On our way back from Fernie, we decided to stop at a aviation museum in a small town south of Calgary. When we got in, we were all amazed at the rich bit of history that the place contained. We were able to touch and climb inside old World War II aircraft, including a Lancaster bomber. We tried to imagine the feelings that some of the pilots must have had, being mostly farm boys from the prairies with little or no experience of the outside world. One day, they were driving a tractor or helping on the farm. Two months later, they might be trying to keep warm in the rear turret of a bomber, 30,000 feet over France and very possibly about to die. It was awe inspiring. I was particularly impressed with the curators, who were all obviously ex-servicemen. Their stories of life during the war and even just in the early days of aerial warfare were rich and detailed.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Hanging out with your buddies is a necessary thing - once in a while.

Don't get me wrong. I love my family. I did have a blast, though, skiing and then drinking with a random collection of coworker compadres. We did the moguls at Fernie, which is a very, very challenging hill. The weather was a bit nippy but the testosterone ran high. Although none of us would admit it out loud, we were all pushed to the limits trying to keep up with one another. Towards the end of the afternoon, my quadriceps were feeling heavy and slow. Once we gave up on skiing, we headed for the bar where, thanks to our fearless leader, the beer pitchers were never empty. No one got sick, arrested or did anything they couldn't have told their wives or girlfriends about. Well, maybe Garett might have to dumb down the story a bit, but the rest of us were clean.

Fun as it was, I don't think I could do that EVERY weekend. I missed the girls final ski lessons at our local hill and one of Banana's ringette practices. It was good to get away, and it was good to get back.

It's all about balance.