Friday, March 30, 2007


That's it, I've had enough. My fingers are worked to the bone, and I haven't spent nearly enough time with my family. We're packing up, shifting off and heading to Cyprus for two weeks of sun and not much actually.

I may do the odd bit of blogging, and then again, I may not. Amuse yourselves while I'm gone, and I shall write a short post confirming I've done piss all when I get back.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sane Insanity

Four Dinners asked, “On a scale of 1 - 10 how sane are you - or do you think you are?”

Now that is an interesting question to answer. Its pretty easy to define insanity when you see it. If you’ve never had a brush against it, and I have (too often), you find a person who’s reality is just… different. They are reacting to a world that just isn’t the same one. You can point to it and say, that person is insane.

How do you define sanity though? Though you can clearly see someone who’s a zero on the scale to ten, can you really tell if someone is a five? They may act and react to the same reality we all share, but it may be a guise. Inside they may be hiding or amusing themselves by pretending to act to the rest of the world in the way expected.

When you look inside yourself, can you say whether you’re sane or insane? To some level, I think you can. Certainly those I’ve known who were clearly insane, usually had an inkling they were a bit bonkers. Its not an on off switch that turns you from one to the other, so a gradual slide can usually be seen.

So, to answer the question, am I sane? On objective measures, I think I stand up. I have a pretty even emotional keel, deal with stress well, and most people who know me use the phrase “You’re a really nice guy”. I have a wife who loves me, our relationship, though having the usual bumps and arguments couples have, is strong. I live my life to deep personal standards, and think I would be judged moral by most who know me.

Yet I have an active inner life. Technicolour fantasies that most would look at and say where pretty freeky. I’ve got an inner imagination that plays out a very realistic world. I do though believe I distinguish between reality and fantasy with clear blue water between them.

Yet… Yet… they say it’s those with the best imaginations who most easily slip into insanity. I don’t believe I will, don’t intend to in any shape or form. I like my life and don’t want to see it ruined. Is insanity always a choice though? I think it is for some, its an escape that’s chosen. I don’t believe that for everyone though. I’ve seen people fight their insanity, struggle to keep hold of what is real. It is a path that scares me more than just about anything. Loosing your mind means loosing yourself.

So, on a scale of one to ten? I’d say I’m a seven or maybe an eight. Not a ten, I know the risk of my inner life. I’ve seen that take hold in others, and though its easy for me to say I’ll never go down that road, I don’t control every aspect of my life. There are burdens I know I would find horrific to bear, that possibly could break me. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Life, the universe, and everything

Stu Savory asked, “42?”

Technically 42 is an answer, not a question. That of course is the problem. Deep thought the computer, having thought deeply for millennium, came up with the answer to life, the universe, and indeed everything. That answer was 42. The issue was then, what was the question?

As wit goes it rather neatly sums up mans attempt to answer why we’re here on the world. What purpose do we serve because we can’t merely be an accident can we? Well, you know what? That’s exactly what we are. A very successful accident, but an accident of evolution all the same. We are one branch of a multiple attempt to create life that is successful. We are one of a few life forms that has self adapted to suit every climate and every part of the world.

For me, an undisputable truth is that there is one reason, on indisputable reason, for why we are on this great green earth. To reproduce. Our sole purpose is to live a life that allows us to successfully create a new generation that can further our species. That we are here just to further the aims of evolution and role the genetic dice. Its an answer very few people I talk to like or agree with.

Truth can often be ugly.

That doesn’t mean every person has to personally reproduce. That is the true joy of our success as a species. Because we have self awareness and will, we can choose to reproduce directly, or through our efforts support the common good to reproduce. Our ability to team work beyond finding or killing food is one of the hall marks of our success.

Yet the truth remains. We are here for one purpose, to further our species, to create the next generation. Nothing more, indeed nothing less for it is as worthy and noble an answer as there is. So 42 folks, the answer is right there in front of your noses.

I still don’t know what the question is though…

Friday, March 23, 2007

Where oh where

Clarissa also asked, “If you had to have a second home where you actually spent 6 months out of the year, where would it be and why would you choose it?”

This is both a very tough and a very easy question to answer. Its tough in that where you live is not always a question of choice. Jobs matter, and even for the relatively well off, there are mortgages to pay, bills to answer to. The type of work LL and I have brought ourselves into limit the number of places we could live. Our jobs are big city jobs, so there are maybe 10 cities in the world we could stay in our current careers and live in.

Of those ten there are places I could and would live, and places I wouldn’t. New York and LA for example, I enjoy visiting but just don’t think I could stand living in. I’m a Canadian through and through, and though what that is may not be clear to the rest of you, I’d really struggle to live in big US cities, though there are some of the smaller ones I would consider. Saying that I would not live in Toronto, us Western Canadians dislike most things Eastern. I have lived in Geneva, and would not choose to return there. The Swiss are just odd, nice, especially when you actually get to know them, but odd. I would not ever live in Frankfurt, though I’ve been there often and have many friends in the city. I don’t think I could survive long in Tokyo, again, its fascinating to visit, but I think it would start to get on my nerves quickly, like NY would.

Then there are cities I positively want to live in. Paris for example. I struggle with Parisians as a whole, but what a city. I’d happily live in Singapore or Hong Kong. Growing up in Canada I grew up surrounded by Asians of all sorts, and feel comfortable around them. I think I’d both love and hate living in Rome or Milan, but I’d give it go. Same goes for Madrid. Though they aren’t financial centres, I lived in Amsterdam for almost a year, and could happily settle back there. Same goes for Stockholm or Copenhagen. I just feel comfortable there.

To twist the question around, if I was financially free, and could live anywhere, shifting every six months, where would I settle ? To be honest, I’d get a home close to Vancouver, but either on one of the Islands or just up the coast out of the city. It would give me the best of everything. Outdoors with mountains and water, but close to a city that is cosmopolitan enough to have access to art and culture.

I would then have a second place in the tropics, St Lucia or maybe Fiji. Somewhere right on the water, with both a sail boat and a good motor launch. Though I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about it, I’m a keen diver. I’ve logged over a thousand dives over the years in everything from iced over lakes, to caves to tropical coral.

I don’t think I could split it six months and six months. I’d need to be able to move myself and the family about as needs and whims took us. We’d need some time in Vancouver in the winter for Skiing, but also some winter sun time. Vancouver in the summer is marvellous, but there are good summer times for diving in the tropics. I suppose I’d be regulated somewhat by the kids schooling, but I’d still want flexibility.

So, hopefully that answers you C. Big cities for work, but not just any big city. Smaller places that are bigger for life and style.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Clarrisa asked, "Is there really gold at the end of the rainbow, and if so, how does one get there?"

Well, I can honestly and truthfully answer this question, as I have been to the end of a rainbow.

When I was young I was a boyscout, son of a boyscout. Camping was what my family did for holidays. By camping I don't mean this namby pamby English variety where you show up at a camp in France to find a two room tent already set up, with flush toilets and showers. I mean camping by carrying what you need with you. Laying your own fires to cook the fish you just caught. Real camping in wilderness where you won't see anyone else for days.

One of my favourite trips, I was about 12, was to a chain of lakes in Northern British Columbia. The lakes are in a rough square, so you can canoe around them in about a week. Its real wilderness, no buildings, no planes flying overhead, and you can not see another soul for days. Mostly its easy canoeing, but there are parts where you have to unload everything and portage your kit and canoe a mile or two to the next lake.

I was in one canoe with my sister, my parents in another. Mostly the weather was fine, but we had sporadic light showers over the week. One particular day we were canoeing along in a light misty sprinkle. I was in the back of the boat and as the rain slowed the most amazing thing happened.

Right beside us, not three feet away, a rainbow appeared. Not a big one, it was all of 2 feet across, but it was right there. Both my sister and I could see it, as could my parents, all in the same location. A veritable freak of nature. It was so close I could put my paddle through it, and did.

We where in shallow water, no more than six feet. We both looking down, laughing in delight. All there was in the bottom was lake mud. My sis joked I should dive in to check for a pot of gold, but I wasn't in the digging mood. Plus, the water was so perfectly clear there wasn't much doubt about what was down there.

So, I can tell you exactly where to go to find the end of a rainbow, though you have to do it at just the right time and its a long way away. However, I am 99.9% positive there was no real pot of leprechaun's money at its end. The memory though, that's pure pristine gold.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Egg on face

A brief sideline from question answering for a momentary Angriesque rant. Normal service will return shortly when I shall answer exactly what lies at the end of the rainbow, for I have been there.

Last night, whilst getting ready for bed, the news was on. A piece on the fraudulent sale of over 1,000,000 non free range eggs masked as free range egss per week. A picture flashed up on the screen. It was one of those grainy CCTV pictures usually used in connection with mass murderers or terrorists. The news reader droned on about how the police where seeking the identity of this man in connection with the egg fraud.

It stopped me in my tracks. One million fraudulent eggs sold per week and the best lead they have is a grainy picture of one man? Really? Our police forces can find and sieve through massive amounts of information on murdering fiends and find them in a snap, but the best they can do on the sale of over one million eggs per week is… one picture.

It does make me wonder exactly what happens at those massive supermarket depots. I have only one scenario in my mind, and my mind is pretty good at scenarios. Picture this, late at night, the rain lashing down. A beat up old 18 wheel lorry pulls up, and a shadowy man slips out to talk to the duty manager.

“Hiya mate, got a million free range eggs in the back. Have to shift them fast, you know how they go.”

“A million? How odd, I just got a request from 18 supermarkets for a fill of eggs tomorrow! They wouldn’t happen to be in our own brand free range egg boxes would they?”

“What do I look like to you? Some fraudulent egg seller? ‘Course mate, they’re packed and ready to go.”

“Well, I’ll buy them then. What sort of price are you looking for?”

“Hey, for you? Today only, 1p an egg.”

“1p? My oh my, I can’t even buy British grown factory farmed eggs for that, you must be one fine upstanding and efficient example of the British farmer you must!”

“Indeed I am mate, indeed I am. Now, I don’t suppose you can do that in cash can you? See, the ball and chain, poor crippled dear, has to go to the dentist tomorrow. He’s one of those American bastards, only takes cash. You know how it is.”

“Let me see, I’ll have to check my wallet. Well what do you know, I just happen to have £10,000 in unmarked notes. Will that do my fine fellow?”

“A pleasure doing business with you, where shall I offload them?”

“Bay number nine, there just happens to be a team just waiting, and a fleet of delivery trucks to get them off to the stores. By the way, I didn’t seem to catch you name?”

“John Doe mate, John Doe…”

The news went on, and a rather poignant interview of a Farmer surrounded by what appeared to be a very healthy flock of chickens clucking about in the dirt was shown. He rather grimly said that the industry had thought something was wrong. Demand for free range eggs kept growing, yet the price kept dropping. So people, next time you’re in the supermarket, and buying those free range eggs grown of happy chickens, don’t wince at paying a few extra pence, and think of the farmer who needs those pence. Don’t think of the poor deluded supermarket who seems to have “bought” free range eggs in their millions, but don’t seem to know from whom.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Z asked “How did you go from being a butcher to what you do now?”

It’s a 40% cultural, 60% family history answer. In Canada its common for high school students to take a weekend job to earn a little extra money. Its even more common for university students as we’ve been paying tuition fees and taking out student loans all along (can’t quite figure out what the fuss is here, you should have to pay for your future). It seems not at all common over here, but I suspect that’s a class thing. So I was just doing as most of my friends did, and took a very part time job to earn some money.

Why I choose the job I did is a more complex answer. My mother’s parents both died before I was born. Though I have a lot of very strong influences in my life from that side of the family, it all comes through my mother. There was no direct contact. It was my father’s parents that I got to know. Indeed my grandmother lived to the ripe old age of 94 and didn’t die until I was in my mid twenties.

My grandfather died when I was younger, and I think his influence on me was all the stronger for it. I worshiped him, not least because he and my father had a fractuous relationship. No arguing, just odd. There are off comments he made that still form a core part of my personality.

In one rambling discussion, when we were puttering in his workshop, he talked about what a real man was. He had grown up on the family ranch. Not one of these little British operations where 200 head is deemed a large herd, but a proper Canadian ranch. Indeed it was one of the biggest in the country at the time. 6,000 acres and between 5,000 and 10,000 head of cattle. The height was during WWI when we fed the empire (as grampa put it). He grew up to take the family fortunes in a different direction and built a canning operation (tinned food for you brits). He quickly proudly put it that we fed the empire again in WWII, just differently. Mind you, the business never quite recovered from the soldiers coming home and not really wanting to see their wives stocking up on cans of food with the prominent brand name that had fed them on the fields of France…

As we talked he went on that no matter how important a man you were you should always have known real work. For him it was working the ranch with the hands. For my dad it was working in the factory. He said it was important both so you always knew what hard work delivered the good life you lived, but also to have something to fall back on if it all went wrong. I don’t know why this latter was important to him, as the family hadn’t had hard times in many generations, yet he emphasised it.

It stuck.

So in my sixteen year old mind when I had a choice between doing a counter monkey’s job at Mickie D’s or learning a trade, it wasn’t a hard choice. In fact it wasn’t even a choice, I went out looking for something different. I did it for a bit less than a couple years, and have absolutely no regrets. It was often hard work, but it was good. Even today I have something I could fall back on. Might take a bit of practice to get back into it,

In university I picked up a different trade, became a life guard on the beeches in Vancouver. That rested on the same justifications, just had rather different benefits… but that’s another story.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Question Time

OK, bloggers block has settled in, just as I reach my first bloggy year too. Yesterday I asked in general what you wanted me to write. Today its question time. Ask a question, any question. No personal intimacy to private not to share, no question too silly. Want to know how video streaming on the internet works? Every wondered what flowers are planted in the boys garden? Curious how one should manage organisational cultural change? What does any feature of the boy look like?

Ask and you shall be answered…

As an aside, I quite enjoy these. Thanks to Clarissa, my most frequently googled post (other than the sex ones, naturaument) was “What is Cooch Grass”. Number two is my rhubarb crumble recipe. Go figure…

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

B... b... b... blogging

I realised last night, as I was digging in my blog archive, that I’ve been posting for more than a year now. My blogversary came and went without my noticing. Rather like my birthdays, I am what I am, age doesn’t matter much. Well, other than encroaching decrepitude. Its not something I pay much attention to.

Still, quite something. I started this as a somewhat personal experiment. A chance to play a bit and test my own ideas of what does and doesn’t work in the web. Not too surprising, my naughty posts are the ones which get the most traffic by a significant order of magnitude. Curiously for me, the posts which have received the most comments have either been my business case studies, controversial statements of belief, or the pure personal angst ones.

Still, there’s this lot of you out there who come back and read my ramblings regularly.That’s what’s kept me posting, and that’s why we do it all right? This need to place our own view of our lives on display to see if anyone cares? The joy of this mad blogging world is that there is interest and care out there. Those precious comments leaving a breadcrumb of notice.

So, life has been busy of late. I haven’t been blogging or commenting as much as I’d like. That too will change in time. So, thank you for your kind attentions, and here’s a virtual glass of champers to the next year (and the one after that, and…)

And as you raise the glass, can I ask a question? I ramble on about all sorts of things, but is there something you’d like me to ramble on in particular? You’re allowed to ask for more of the naughty bits, or even just to say “all of it”. I’m just a curious sort and want to please the punters!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Twig Ham

I did my annual feeding at the corporate trough yesterday, England v France at Twickenham. I played some Rugby at school (even broke my nose in a scrum). Its common in Canada, though there’s nothing more than amateur leagues, so we’re generally crap at it internationally. Still, it’s a game I’ve got a bit more affinity to.

So, for me, a much better experience than the World Cup final. I loved that, mind you, but it was almost a platonic enjoyment. A one night stand of sex with someone you’ll never see again

Rugby, that’s a game I can understand. I have nothing against football, its just not my game. Don’t get me started on cricket, I can at least get the point of football. Rugny though, its all there. The risk of injury is high, therefore the stakes are higher. You put your soul into Rugby, and not for the big bucks footballers draw down.

When the call came with an invite, and it turned out it was with a number of people I know and like, I didn’t turn it down. LL was gracious in letting me go, if a little jealous. Then again, she took the kids off on a picnic up on the downs, so the jealousy goes both ways…

We were in what’s known as the Captain’s Club. Will Carling’s means after the game to make a living. He brings in a slew of retired international Captains. They do a little reminiscing for the crowd, then circulate to the tables to sit down and gab a bit. Carling spent some time at our table, so I got a rugby ball signed by him for the boys (they didn’t have a clue who he was, but were impressed because LL was (she said I should have got a ball signed for her (then swooned a bit about Carling (women…))))

Then a bang up meal with liberal amounts of bitter and not bad wine (Penfolds 2005 Special Reserve Cab, worth picking up). Then up to the stands, 2nd teir north, just off the centre line, perfect.

What a game. I don’t watch sports as a rule, but that game was grand. Two sides, well matched, fighting it out. A win well deserved, then back down to the club for a bit of tea and crumpets while the crowds dispersed then the waddle home. I’ve been to the Rugby before, and some things always amuse me. Its bitter and champagne (I kid you not) rather than lager in the stands. The singing also usually is in 3 part harmony, something about all those old grammar and public school boys being in the school choir I guess. There’s lots of polite clapping for the other side too.

I don’t believe in partaking of too much “corporate hospitality”, but this was a vendor I’ve bought from and will continue with. Not because of the ch, but it did help cement some of the personal relationships, and that has value. Also, when I do partake, especially for something like this, its all the sweeter.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dead Donkeys

Pirate Pete, like so many kids, started his musical career playing the recorder. He did pretty well, and managed to pick up reading music quite easily. Last year his previous school did a good thing. They did a series of events getting musicians in with different instruments. Heavens know why, but he decided he thought the saxophone was cool (which it is).

So, a year later, and a changed school we start him on the sax. I thought he’d pick it up easily. I was wrong. The autumn was horrid. He’d do his practice, but the sound was truly like a dying donkey. He even seemed to regress in his ability to read music. Though we never talked to the man I got the feeling his teacher was just going through the paces with Pirate Pete. Both LL and I thought it likely he’d just chuck it in.

So over Christmas we agreed with him to give it one last chance. One of us would work with him, and, if by the end of the next term, he still didn’t like it, he could stop. He and I seemed to click in his practices. Just a dad and son thing I guess. We worked hard over Christmas, sometimes doing 2 or 3 short practices in a day.

Something clicked. He started to get it, and the dying donkey died. I won’t say all the sounds that come out of his big brass sax are totally melodic, but he’s good. His teacher has woken up as well. We now pass notes back and forth to each other on what to work on, where he needs focus. I only practice with him at the weekends, but its doing the trick.

What’s really pleasing is the big grin he gives when he does a whole tune right. He’s got a way to go yet, but the raw talent is there. He seems to particularly get on with the fast jazzy tunes. This is a good thing if he sticks with the sax. His teacher just came back and said he thinks he’s ready to sit his grade 1 exams soon. The kid’s only seven, so this is doing pretty well. I couldn’t be more chuffed.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Spring has Sprung

I love this time of year. The air is still crisp, but the first signs of spring are pushing out. We spent Saturday afternoon in the garden, just puttering. Doing some of those little jobs that a garden needs after winter. A bit of rose pruning. Our gardener had done most of this, but there is one monster of a rose we share, the rambling rector. He takes a good long time to prune, and we share the load. A bit of compost here and there.

A sweep up of the terrace, not the first time this year, nor the last. We use our terrace as an extension of the house. In the summer we live out there, so it gets kept pretty clean, otherwise all sorts would get tracked in. The weekly clean of the guinea pig’s cage. He lives inside, so his cage gets kept pretty tidy, the kids do another clean mid week. A game or two of it thrown in thrown in the middle and the time slid away.

It was nothing special of an afternoon, just chores and the kids. Yet it was very peaceful. The weather was perfect, the birds (and we have a lot of birds around us) beginning their spring chirp, and the garden starting to wake up.

We’re just at the start of the first big blush. The snow drops are dying down, and the dafs, crocus, primula and thorn trees are just starting to come out. By the end of the week the lower lawn will be a blanket of yellow and white. A bit more time and the apple tree trees explode in their week of glory. It’s a lovely time, one I always look forward to, and always enjoy.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mananagement Men

Perhaps one of the hardest things about being a manager, next to firing, is coaching and advising people to change behaviour. Its not a manipulative thing, but organisations work in certain ways, and, particularly at more senior levels, people need to mostly conform, or know when not conforming is most effective.

I’ve got an instance now that is causing me no end of grief. One of my key managers is not young (early thirties) but on the young side. He’s a highly effective programme manager, excellent at juggling status reports, ensuring the right things get escalated to the right people. I regard him pretty highly, but he has a few emotional ticks I need to work with him on.

Being an ambitious sort he absolutely loves being in the know, to appear to those more senior around him that he understands everything. For the most part, I have no issue with that. Part of his job is keeping the senior team well informed. However, he can tell a tale to make himself look good. Like he sees an issue that no one else does or is managing.

The problem is, he’s not aware of everything, nor can he be. A few times recently he’s told the status of an issue such that it has swung around and been used politically. I just can’t have someone telling an issue differently to different people.

So, we’ve had one chat, and now we need another. The first was of a friendly sort, the second will be a bit more stern. He’s a smart guy, so I know this can be resolved, but sometimes I just wish it wasn’t necessary. Someday we’ll have a big group mind and all understand each other perfectly. Until then, its muddle along and manage…

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Imagination is an interesting phenomenon. Some have it, some have it in spades and some have it not at all. Being of a curious bent one of the many things I love about being a parent is seeing evolution in action. Half of my genes and half of LL’s genes thrown together in a random tumble dryer produces three quite different new people. The reason imagination has been intriguing me this week is its been parent teacher week, we’ve been discussing in depth our little Darlings.

Pirate Pete has it in spades. He’s a book worm, will literally read everything put in his path, from the cereal box, to the Beano, to Harry Potter (and he’s only seven). He loves telling stories, and his game play is wild. I still remember coming across him and Ali Baba one day were he was putting a pretend bandage around Ali’s arm.

“So, playing Doctor?”

I got a very adult look of consternation, “No Daddy, we’re playing Robbers, I’m the good Robber.” I didn’t probe too much, they were in a world of their own, just were they should be.

He loves making his stories real, building boats and houses and rocket ships out of our sofas and cushions. Drawing doesn’t interest him much, but give him a box of lego and he’s entranced for hours.

My Princess is another one. She has a whole imaginary world built up that she talks about continually. She has a tree house, not too far from her Nanny’s house. She keeps sheep and dogs and rabbits there. Indeed, the one who keeps the house, who she plays with and gets into all kind of adventures is her Rabbit. Rabbit doesn’t have a name other than Rabbit but he (or sometimes she, gender is irrelevant when you’re three) is her bestest friend. That imaginary world is very real to her, and she sometimes gets upset when we stop her going out the front door to get to her tree house (at eight o’clock at night such tantrums are the lesser side of fun parenting).

She loves her words and speech. I have no doubt she’ll be the linguist or author in the family.

Ali Baba though is completely different. We had a long conversation with his teacher about “imagination”. In her mind this word relates to creative writing, the ability to tell stories. Its not his bent, and being a literalist of a little boy he just doesn’t get it. He loves hearing stories, but just isn’t particularly interested in making ones up.

LL was getting wound up about it. Maternal Pride and Teacherly Concern are a heady combination. I had to step in and point a few things out. The boy’s got imagination, rather large amounts of it, its just visual. He draws complicated worlds, wars, under the sea, far off planets and rocket ships. He can tell you exactly what’s going on in the picture, and clearly his mind is in those far off places. He just needs to see it, feel it, touch it. A boy who can invent a lego super star destroyer that can best the Empire has imagination enough in my books. He’ll be the engineer in the family.