It completed me

I’ve always had a healthy skepticism about technology. It’s not that I don’t use technology. Like many I rarely leave a room without some sort of device attached to my hand. And I’m certainly not a Luddite (although I would have been proud to be one in the day) as I spent the later part of my career (yes, I am that old) devoted to making learning online the best experience it could possibly be for those who wanted that experience. But that doesn’t mean I buy in holus bolus to every knicknack or gadget that promises to make my life oh so much better than it already is. “Cause, if I might say so, my life ain’t so bad right now. Besides, how often do you invite the latest and greatest into your life only to discover that without a millennial in the house there’s no possible way to figure out how to make it work? Sure they showed you what to do in the store. But get the thing home and without all that fluorescent lighting nothing looks the same. As for me, you can bet your bottom dollar that, if there’s an “app for that” I’ll take a “pass for that“.

It’s not just figuring stuff out that’s the problem. There’s the whole over promising thing too. Like the self park feature on my car. Pretty exciting, eh? I mean all you have to do is press this one little button and lo and behold, the next thing you know you’re on the sidewalk waiting for the car to finish up and hand you the keys so you can be on your way. At least that’s what I thought it would do. Then I find out the car doesn’t actually find the parking spot for you. It just parks the car and what’s the point of that?  I know how to park a car. The problem is driving around the corner 15 times with the false hope that someone might actually leave just at the moment you sidle up to their spot. Or waiting for the person who has been sitting in the driver’s seat for nigh on 10 minutes (n reverse, I might add) before you realize they clearly have just broken up with their partner and are now calling each and every one of their friends to commiserate about the bum and how they never should have put up with all his/her nonsense in the first place. Fellas, It’s finding the parking space that’s the real problem. When you get that one worked out, call me.

Having said that, every once in a while something comes along that’s right up your alley. Something that fits like a glove, is on target and hits the proverbial nail on the head. Like those rather spendy noise cancellation headphones that you dithered about buying and then wondered what all of the anguish was about the very first time you wore them on a five hour flight and realized you no longer had to listen to the person beside you crunching on chips or worry every time the pilot “dinged” the flight attendant. Your logical self knows she probably just has to use the bathroom but there’s that niggling feeling it could be something else and at 39,000 feet “something else” can be a little disconcerting. Best not to hear at all which makes those buds worth their weight in gold. Then there’s that new fangled device that lets you see who’s at your front door without actually having to be anywhere near your front door. If that means not having to run down the stairs to find out there’s yet another person who wants to paint my “just been painted” house then, as Martha would say, it’s a good thing. But as good as those might be, neither can hold a candle to the hi tech wonder that has recently come into my life. If you ask me, it’s not even a horse race.

As you can probably imagine I spend a fair bit of my time at a computer, much but not all, dedicated to sending and responding to emails. It’s not that I don’t like writing emails. It’s just that so often I say the same thing over and over and over again. Like me, I’m sure that you have thought to yourself “if only there was an easier way”. “If only this computer could read my mind and finish all of my sentences”. Well my friends, you are in for a very pleasant surprise! The other day as I was typing away, much to my amazement my computer started typing all on its own. That’s right! Before my very eyes it was anticipating what it thought I wanted to say and then said it. Without any help at all, it completed me. At first I wasn’t all that receptive to this rather personal intrusion. My immediate reaction was “how do I get rid of this pesky little feature which is clearly something new from those Google peeps?” After all, it can’t possibly actually know what it is I want to say, can it? The truth is, it can’t but the reality is that, most of the time, what it had me say wasn’t so bad. I could live with it. And so it was that I decided to let the computer say what it thought I should say. Rather than the other way around. Which makes a lot of sense if you are a shallow person like me. I mean if it’s willing to do the work why the heck would I not let it? In most cases what I was going to say wasn’t really all that much better anyway.

Of course as it oft does, this got me thinking.  Why just emails? Why not let the computer finish all of my sentences everywhere? I gotta say it would make writing this blog a whole lot easier and I’m pretty sure that my computer could learn to be as shallow as I am in no time at all.

Yeah. Now I’m just gonna sit back and watch that skepticism of mine fade away.

PS: Thank you to the person who left the Starbucks mug on my doorstep. Just a guess but I’m thinking it must be someone who reads this blog as otherwise it was a very uncanny random act of kindness. Gotta admit. The last time I was in Saskatchewan I don’t think there was a SB, let alone a mug dedicated to the “Breadbasket of Canada“. It is very much appreciated and a wonderful addition to my collection!

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I’m back…sort of

Yes it has been a very long time and no I haven’t forgotten that I am the writer of this blog. So at the risk of sounding perhaps a tiny bit presumptuous it seems that I have had some more important things to do lately. First of all there was that little contract I may have mentioned three, four or five times before. It has kept me busier than expected. And then there was the 103rd birthday party I attended which, if you have ever been to one (and most I am guessing have not) was a really big deal. Beyond that there’s nothing much more to say except that I’m back now….sort of. And I say “sort of” because once again, and not for any reason connected to those excuses I just made, this will be a blog post, but not a shallow blog post. Mostly because I have had a long time to think about what I am going to say next and what better place to say it than in my own blog? At any rate, I do this every once in a while ‘cause even I can’t be shallow all of the time.

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, although it may be a surprise to those who don’t, but the thing is I have quite an aversion to dolls. I especially don’t like dolls that can talk, walk, eat, pee or do other things that something without blood coursing through its veins shouldn’t be able to do. And to be totally honest, it’s not just dolls I don’t like. While it’s a little hard to explain, for the most part I don’t like any type of inanimate object made to look like people, animals or even insects. Anything really that can be purposely or accidentally dismembered. Because when things can be dismembered they will be. Like when your little bro’ decides it would be fun to see what Barbie looks like without her head. Or has a grand old time slowly but surely eating each of the parts of a gingerbread man, delivering a virtual play by play in between bites. And it should suffice to say that I can in no way condone the travesties that occur around Easter and Christmas when the markets are flooded with chocolate bunnies, chicks and Santas.

Before you get too concerned let me state categorically that there was no early trauma in my life to blame for this state of mine.  As Ms. Germanotta would say, “I was born this way”. This is not a phobia (I’ve checked) but rather a preference, one which doesn’t have a significant impact on my life. It’s quite simple. My chocolate comes in bars, my cookies are round or square and it’s been a very long time since Barbie has been in my life. Besides, as someone once politely suggested when I explained why I was turning down their offer of a gummy bear, everyone has their quirks. This is mine. But that’s not what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about robots. Because for reasons I am sure you now understand, I don’t like them very much either. And while my problem with other inanimate objects might not have a huge impact on my life or yours, robots will.

In case you missed it, (or as the young people say icymi) not so long ago there was an article in the Globe and Mail, (so most probably not fake news) about a start-up in Vancouver where some very smart people are dedicating their lives to the development of some very smart robots. These robots they proclaim, will “move, speak and think for themselves and interact – as intellectual peers – with real people on a daily basis in intimate and vital roles…” . This, the article goes on to say, “will fundamentally alter the basis of capitalism itself by introducing an entirely new type of synthetic species that could do much of the work now done by humans”.  And not only will this new species talk, walk and think like us, they will also look like us since the creators have determined that we (as in humans) prefer to interface with our own likeness. Just in case you should think that this is some “pie in the sky” hoopla, the writer assures us that Mr. Rose (the fella at the helm of this project) is a successful visionary entrepreneur who is “the closest thing Canada has to Elon Musk”, although given the events of the past few weeks that might not be as stellar an endorsement as one would have previously thought. Nonetheless, it seems to me, even as a shallow person, that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that what these people (yes there is more than one really smart person involved) are doing is just about as big a deal as that 103rd.  

As I made my way through the article, learning perhaps more than I ever wanted to know about things like AGI (that would be “artificial general intelligence”) and the apparent inevitability of robots becoming part of our not so distant, and depending on your perspective Utopian or Dystopian future, I found myself wondering if any of these enthusiastic, and possibly overzealous geniuses had spent even a moment of their time thinking about the ethics of what they are doing.  So you can imagine my relief when quite near the end of this very long article the question of ethics was finally raised. I mean they had to, didn’t they? And they did. In black and white. Because they know there might be issues. Like what would happen if some unscrupulous human got fed up and decided to erase their robot’s memory? Or started taking advantage of their robot? Or treated their robot as a lesser being?

Wait a minute. Am I mistaken or are they thinking more about the welfare of the robots than they are about us humans? Surely these people have thought about how the creation of a whole new species might impact the species that currently inhabits this planet of ours. Alas, it would seem not. When asked “what if thinking robots challenge the goals or motivation systems programmed by humans?” or “who would be responsible if human-like robots commit crimes?” the answer was a very definitive “I don’t have any solid answers to these questions yet.” So here’s a suggestion. Maybe we should all try to come up with a few solid answers to these questions before you start creating robots that can fundamentally change the course of history, not to mention the human race. You know.  In case something goes wrong.

Ok, I’ve gone on a little long so I’ve only got one more thing to say. Truth be told, this whole thing scares me a whole lot more than biting off the arm of a gingerbread man.

BTW…If you want to take a gander on what’s going on in the lab, have a look at this.

All excerpts from Sean Silcoff, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, September 8, 2018. In the Company of Robots.

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A True Story (unlike some others)

Not everything I write on the blog is 100%, should I say, accurate but this is a true story. I may not have previously mentioned that I have a collection. I suppose you may think it’s odd that a shallow person like myself would feel the need to accumulate a whole lot of something. I’d be with you on that. Most collections I know of, and I really don’t know of that many, simply take up valuable space and require a rather futile effort to stave off an ever growing blanket of dust, not to mention, from what I understand, the time required to sort, photograph and catalogue each and every piece. Of course there’s also the cost of locating and acquiring the precious items which, I can only imagine, could inflict a fair amount of damage to the grocery budget. Just think about how difficult it has been for John Reznikoff to complete his collection of celebrity hair locks which includes samples from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and Ludwig Von Beethoven. Not exactly sure where he might have gone to get those but I’m guessing it cost him a pretty penny.

Perhaps the worst of it all is, although you most probably love whatever it is you are collecting, you are bound to leave everything virtually untouched in order to prepare for the day you decide to list the whole kit and caboodle as “new with tags” on eBay. This is particularly important if, like Dutch collector Niek Vermeulen, you have a penchant for collecting “airline barf bags” which one can only hope have remained in pristine condition over time. But think about how frustrating it must be for Manfred S. Rothstein to stare at the world’s largest back scratcher collection while trying to ignore the annoying itch he simply can’t reach without a little help. Or how disappointed Victor Taylor could be should he ever decide to scratch one of the 10,000, now expired lottery cards he has collected. It goes without saying that somewhere out there are multitudes of toys that can’t be played with, wine that can’t be drunk and cars that can’t be driven. I must say, there’s not one little bit of any of this that makes me want to run out and buy multiples of pretty much anything. And yet, here I sit with a collection of my very own. 

It all happened quite innocently. One day when travelling through those United States of America I thought it would be a good idea to buy myself a little souvenir as a remembrance of  the good times had. Of course I could have just taken a pic, but there’s a pretty good chance that one mountain or lake or beach, or whatever I set my eye on, would meld into the next and before you know it I would be wondering if I had been roaming around Idaho or Minnesota. No, I needed something definitive. Something that would tell me exactly where I had been. And that’s when I found it. Leisurely sipping on my afternoon Starbucks’ latte, (yes, even on holidays) I looked up and noticed that, there on the shelf, were dozens of mugs all with the name of the city I was currently sipping in. What could be better than that? Not only would I be able to remember where I was, I would take home something I could actually use. Whenever I wanted to reminisce about my time away I could pull out my mug, sit by the fire sipping on my tea (I never drink coffee at home) and think back longingly to the time I was wandering these lands of ours. Little did I know that would never be the case.

Because people started to notice. They would come to my house and I would give them a cuppa whatever in one of my mugs and they would remark on how interesting it was that I had begun collecting. Collecting? No, I’m just bringing back mugs from wherever I have been. But it seems when you have more than a few of something people begin to think you want even more and they apparently get some joy out of helping you add more of whatever that is. And so it was that whenever one of my friends would embark on their travels they would return with a mug from the city they had enjoyed a latte in as well. Which was nice, although not all that practical. You see, there was only so much room in my kitchen cupboards and since we didn’t drink all of our meals I needed to preserve some space for more practical items, like plates. Yet I enjoyed those mugs from places I had never been and accepted these gifts graciously. Truth be told, I even continued to pick up one or two more on my own.

Here things get a little blurry but one day while perusing eBay, I discovered that people purposely collected these Starbucks mugs and it was possible that I was sitting on a veritable gold mine. Who knew? Unfortunately my mugs had been used which any collector worth her salt knows is a cardinal sin. There was only one thing left to do. All my heretofore unused mugs were quickly moved from the kitchen cupboards to the safety of the glass enclosed china cabinet. Now “official”, this collection of mine has grown over time. Sometimes in fits and spurts, sometimes exponentially but in a pinch, I can accommodate upwards of 60 for tea. If I were to use them. Which of course, I won’t.

I should tell you that, like most collectors (I call myself that now) I’m not in this for the money. Nope. It’s about the thrill of the find. Although I must admit it’s a lot easier to walk into a Starbucks in just about any city and buy a mug than it would be to get your hands on, let’s say, a vintage 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. Of course that Ferrari is worth considerably more than my, for instance, Edmonton city mug which currently demands about 280.00 (US) on eBay.

Come to think of it, I have two of those. Doing a rethink. PM me if you’re interested.

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So far, so Meh!

It’s been just about a year since I started my shallow life of leisure so I figure, since I have nothing else to write about, I would update you on how things are going. Well so far, so meh! Which doesn’t mean it’s been bad. There have been great walks with the “walking ladies”; wonderful lunches and dinners with some old and new friends; and coffee, lots of coffee. But let me get this off my chest. For a gal whose motto to live by was  the least amount of work for the most amount of money”, you might find what I am about to say a tad surprising. The truth is, I’m not all that crazy (yet) about being retired. Not only that, I have another confession to make. I took a job. It’s not a very big job, but it is a job nonetheless. And I like it. So clearly, if there ever had been a plan for my retirement, and of course there wasn’t, this would not have been it. As you can imagine, at this point I figure I might benefit from some sage retirement advice. And can you think of anyone better than Oprah to call on when you need a little sage advice? Neither can I.

But before I get to the piece of wisdom she shared with me, let me talk a bit about procrastination. Mostly because I’m pretty good at it. I mean think about it. I’m actually writing this yearly update about a month too late since I did officially retire at the end of June 2017 and here we are staring down the end of July 2018. Not only that, I spent an inordinate amount of time “researching” procrastination, which was kind of silly since I already know so much about it. Although it did prove to be rather enlightening and not as much of a waste of time as I thought it would be. You see, I discovered that there are real benefits to procrastination including the possibility that if you put something off long enough you might not have to do it at all. And who hasn’t done that? It also gives you a chance to mull things over for a really long time so you end up with a better outcome. Maybe. Perhaps though, the most important thing I learned was that the best way to make sure you do what you say you are going to do is to “commit publicly to your task”. Nothing like a little peer pressure to motivate. So that’s exactly what I am going to do now. Commit. But before I do, let’s get back to Oprah.

I’ve always liked Oprah even though I was never in the audience when she gave away cars, or houses or anything else for that matter, mostly because I was never actually in her audience. But even though she no longer enters our living rooms each and every day, if you look closely and pay enough attention you will find her, like I did, on the magazine rack of your local grocery store. There she is, every month, gracing the cover, looking gorgeous I might add, and continuing to share with us her recipe for living our best life. So it’s not surprising that, given my current situation, this month’s O Magazine’s headline “What are you longing to do?” caught my eye. Of course Oprah is not one to leave us hanging so if I was prepared to buy the issue, which I was not, apparently I would get some help answering that question by finding out  “how to make my life synch up with my soul”.  That’s about as far as I got given that I always thought those two culprits were one in the same and was unlikely to get caught up in that spiritual bubble. Nonetheless, since I still have an imagination it got me thinking. Thinking that since, at my age, it’s quite legitimate for me not to work any longer, I really should figure out what else might keep me occupied for the remainder of my days. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

I want to make a table and I want to take some pictures. So come the Fall I will be enrolling in a woodworking course and a photography course. At different times of course. Not sure how this will go. Last time I was in the vicinity of a power saw I just about lost a thumb so hopefully I’ll do a little better this time. And while I most likely won’t stand out in the rain taking pics (my hair just hates when I do that) I’m hoping to be able to fill up a few inches of my blank wall space with a vista or two. And who knows, my new adventures might even give me something else to write about.

So that’s it. Simple, really. All I have to do is find a couple of courses, get myself registered, and attend the classes. And I’m sure I’ll get around to doing that sometime soon. But I figure there’s no real rush. Because now that I’ve told all of you what my plans are, I’m already well on my way.

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My Proposal

You know as well as I do that I’m a sucker for a good reality TV show. Well any reality TV show really because, as you can imagine, they are not all that good. If I had to rank them I’d probably put HGTV on top as, even though we know that no one buys one of the first three houses they look at and it actually takes more than a week to rebuild an entire house, at least we get some good decorating ideas and a chance at a little guessing game as we decide where the family we have no real connection to and even less of a vested interest in, will decide where it is they would like to raise their children and spend the rest of their lives. And that can be fun.

Next I gotta go with the food channel as I do so love watching those who are at the pinnacle of their craft. I mean what could be more exciting than witnessing a master baker create the most spectacular peanut butter and raspberry jelly charlotte royale adding the last petal of the rather spectacular chocolate flower with only seconds left on the clock. And who doesn’t drool over a creamy crème brûlée with lime and mint soufflé glacé plated with an assortment of white and dark chocolate swirls that are simply to die for. Now I’m no baker (or cook for that matter) but these shows make me want to waltz right into that kitchen of mine and give it the good ol’ college try.

Of course there’s that vicarious travel one does while watching 13 or so sets of mother/daughter, boyfriend/girlfriend, married couple, unmarried couple, recently divorced couple, never intend to get married couple, etc. race through the streets of all the countries you ever dreamed of visiting. With a million bucks on the line it’s not too surprising that there are a few arguments, a little backstabbing and some opportunistic alliances made along the way. For the most part though, things are pretty copacetic on this journey around the world. And while you may not be on this amazing race, you do have a chance to bond with the couple of your choice and cheer them on as they make their way to the elusive finish line. If you ask me, it’s a whole lot more enjoyable than watching a bunch of strangers get nasty living in a house with someone (not really sure who) peering into their lives 24/7, or almost starving to death on an island somewhere in the south pacific. But maybe that’s just me. I would be remiss at this point I suppose if I didn’t include all of the assorted talent shows. Some good. Some not so much. All watchable in a pinch.

From here I’m afraid, things take a pretty big tumble downhill. Because somehow someone somewhere thought it would be a good idea to create a show where one gal or one guy spends a couple weeks meeting and subsequently deleting a whole whack of potential mates until they are left with the “one”. Before that happens there will be tears and fears, way too many kisses, a few family meet and greets and a whole lot of who knows what. Inevitably the two pledge their love forever although in most cases, forever is not a long, long time. So one would think that those at the helm might decide that trying to find love on national TV might be a mistake. But not so. Now there’s yet another way to meet your soulmate and it only takes one short hour of your time. And who, these days, can’t spare an hour?

Because, in case you missed it, the newest foray into the world of TV love is “The Proposal”. That’s right. This is a sad but true story. Some TV genius decided that a match made in heaven can happen in one measly hour by having 10 potential mates answer a couple of questions, parade around the stage in beachwear (even Miss America canned that one), shake hands with the BFF (and dog if there is one) and say “how do you do” to the proud Mom and Dad of the soon to be betrothed. This is love before first sight. Now I may be shallow but I gotta tell you, this takes the cake. I mean who does this? Really. And then it hit me. Like a nail, on my head. As we all know, marriages are theoretically for a lifetime but politicians, well you can legitimately get rid of those guys every four years. So the stakes are considerably lower. Why not apply this one hour “who’s your guy/gal” format to choosing politicians? And for the sake of illustration, let say it’s a president. So here’s my proposal.

First things first. Find 10 people who have always wanted to be the prez. Appoint a panel of three judges in order to avoid a tie. It’s their job to whittle the 10 down to one so why not start by picking out those that are most visually appealing. Now move on to the skill testing question. Nothing too hard because there’s only a minute to respond.  Something like “what would you do in the event of a nuclear war?” could work. With three prospects left have them parade around the stage dressed as presidential as possible. Eliminate the one with the bad hair and we are down to the final two. A quick conflab to come to a consensus and we’ve got a winner!  Our guy/gal for the next four years! All this in just one hour.

I know. Sounds silly, doesn’t it. But I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the result won’t be any worse than what we’ve got now.

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