Category Archives: A little serious

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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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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Two sides to every coin

It’s no surprise that, as a shallow person, I don’t spend much time thinking about what other people are thinking. It’s not that I don’t care about other people. It’s just that I don’t usually attempt to understand them. Nor do I think they should attempt to understand me. Because, it seems to me, that each of us comes to see this world of ours from our own perspectives and it takes a whole lot of energy to try to put oneself in somebody else’s shoes. So it might shock you when I say that lately, for reasons unbeknownst to even me, I have been devoting a bit of my time to mucking about in what I think could possibly be going on in some other people’s heads. And without trying to sound overly magniloquent, this little exercise of mine has provided me with what I imagine to be explanations for why there are people who do things one way while others do it another. Albeit in some very limited cases which I will share with you now.

For those who don’t know, I have always been a “car person” which essentially means that I really like cars. Not for what they do, like enable me to go places with relative ease, but just for what they are. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family of “car people”. I don’t know. One brother or another was always bringing home some cute little tattered sporty number that with a little elbow grease turned into a shiny, hot machine from which they could roam the streets of our town. And my Father would buy nothing but convertibles. I mean who wouldn’t want a convertible in a country where almost 6 months of each year are covered in snow? The thing is, he knew what cars were for. Cruising down the highway on a gorgeous summer day, Beach Boys blaring on the radio, hair and cares blowing in the wind. I suppose it’s in my blood. Cars become part of our family. We give them names, take really good care of them and keep them for an extraordinarily long time. Cars have never been about practicality or “just” transportation which might help to explain why our Mini Cooper (Red Emma) is currently the “big” car in our family.

But there are two sides to this coin. For some people cars are just cars. I know this because I see them everyday, everywhere. Practical cars with four doors for ease of getting in and out; that comfortably seat four people, five in a crunch; have trunks large enough to hold all the stuff needed for a  2 or 3 week road trip; and are equipped with a few but not too many options, mostly ones focused on increased safety. I get that not everyone develops an intimate connection with the rather expensive, gas guzzling, inanimate object that sits in their driveway. I can see why any sane person would shy away from taking a trip down the I-5 in something that could easily fit under the transport truck barreling down behind at 80 clicks an hour. And it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to be sitting in the backseat hoping that your legs will regain at least some feeling once you get to your final destination. See, I get it. And I understand. We have different perspectives on what cars are about and that’s ok. For both you and for me.

I’ve been thinking about other things too. Like height. I’ve never really considered myself to be a short person but at 5’1 and a half (5’2” at my peak) I’m afraid that some other people do. The thing is, lately I’ve been noticing there are a lot of tall people around and I began wondering what life would be like from that perspective. Never having to struggle to reach the top shelf at the grocery store. Not having to wait for some benevolent soul to offer to put your carry-on into the baggage compartment. Being able to wear horizontal stripes. And then I thought, tall people must think that being short has its advantages too. Think about it. If your pants are too long you can always hem them. Too short? You’re hooped. Short people are rarely accused of looking down on others;  are very unlikely to hit their head on the doorframe and, of course, find it way easier to fit into the back seat of that Mini of mine. So you see. It’s all about how you look at things, isn’t it.

With this new found inquisitiveness I thought, what the heck, maybe I should try to better understand what’s going on in the world. Try to look at things from both sides now. So I thought about “45” and friends whose penchant for showing “strength” manifests itself in disallowing those who face the most abhorrent life conditions to further suffer the indignity of arrest, detention and most tragically, separation from their children. What could possibly be the reasoning behind taking children from the arms of their parents; locking them up in cages and admiting they may never find a way to reunite these families. Surely, I thought, there must be some justification for these atrocities. If I look hard enough I’ll discover the other side of this story. Ivanka, you haven’t said much but maybe you can help me out. Or Melania. After all, you said it yourself. Your purpose is to defend children against bullies. I suppose though, this isn’t cyberspace. But surely there has to be a better explanation other than these are the acts of a fearful, bigoted, megalomaniac that favours brutal dictatorial regimes over, well over just about anything else and who, surrounded by a bunch of like-minded people, fails to recognize the brutality of his actions. Ok, I’ve looked. There isn’t.

Damn! Must have forgot this was a shallow blog once again.

Update: He’s stopping it now. Too late. We’ve seen the pics. It happened.

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Put Those Scissors Away!

I’m pretty sure it’s not just me. I’ll bet this has happened to you too. In my case it usually occurs once or twice a day but then I’m a shallow person. For you, maybe more. Whatever the number, it seems to me that by hook or by crook at some point in each and every day you will, without a doubt, have one, or perhaps many, decisions to make. Some big, some not. Like when you decide to go for a coffee. What do you do now that your local and most fav Starbucks is under renovation? (There will be more about that another time). Do you drive to the one by the water with the perfect view or do you save both gas and the environment by taking that rather lengthy walk, albeit through one of the most beautiful urban parks in this country of ours, to a more mundane location? In this case it’s really a win/win since the outcome (that would be the coffee) is the same. You just have to decide what’s more important. The “getting there” or the “being there”. Which really doesn’t make for a very difficult decision. But they’re not all like that. Some decisions, as we all know, are really hard to make.

Like maybe you’re thinking about retiring but are not entirely sure it’s a good idea. Do you or don’t you? And if you do, what will you do? There’s some significance to that. Or you’re looking to buy a house, or have a baby, or trying to decide who to vote for in the next election. Ok, if you live in those United States of America that last one should be a no-brainer (did I really say that?) but it will have an impact for sure. So it’s important. If you are anything like me, when it comes to big decisions you dither. Quite a lot. And you make lists. There’s the pros and there’s the cons. When that doesn’t help you create some kind of point system. On a spreadsheet. Once completed it looks quite impressive but does little to help you make up your mind. After all of these shenanigans you finally decide that you have exhausted the decision-making possibilities and you do the only thing you know that’s left to do. You trust your gut. Followed perhaps, by just a short little prayer to who/whatever you might call upon in these sorts of situations. And the reason you do all of this is that you know, when you make the big decision, it’s made. Done. No turning back. You’re stuck with it. Or are you?

Not so long ago I was visiting a dear friend who found herself in need of a new frock. This was not a frivolous undertaking. This frock was going to find itself at some very important meetings so of course, it had to be just right.  As most of us would, she set off to find just the right thing at just the right store. And she found it. At least she was pretty sure she had found it. The thing is, when you shell out a considerable sum of money, which I am guessing she did but can’t say for sure, on what you think could be your “go to” dress, you need to have not even one little doubt about it. So she did what any reasonable person in her position would do. She wore the dress to the meeting, price tag and all. Now some of you might be thinking “Who does that?” Who leaves the tag on the dress, just in case?” But I gotta tell you. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Because it puts a whole new perspective on the decision-making process.

Here’s what I mean. What if you could “leave the tag” on all of your big decisions? Like when you buy a house. Maybe instead of going home to sleep “on it” you should actually be sleeping “in it”. Not only would you have a chance to learn first hand about all the quirks and quarks, you would also know exactly what they meant when they said the neighbors were a “little” eccentric. And it will be ok because you left the tag on. After a week or two in the new abode you can change your mind and go back home. Or maybe you’re trying to decide what new car to buy. That 12 minute test drive doesn’t really help all that much. If you could just bring that puppy home, maybe try it out during the first snowfall, the decision would be oh so much easier to make. If all is not well you can just take it back ‘cause the tag’s still on. Or you retired and decided it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Endless days of lunches, coffees, walks around the park just don’t cut it for you. If you had left the proverbial tag on you could just go back to do whatever it was you were doing before you left. Not that you necessarily would. I’m just sayin’ that you could. And if you had known that from the start there might have been fewer sleepless nights wondering if it was the right or wrong thing to do in the first place.

Not convinced yet? Then think about this. What if all of those people in the United States of America had been able to leave the tag on after the last election? Just for a little while. To see how things worked out. Bet you’re with me now! What do you say we all put those scissors away.

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