You Can Dress for It…So What!

Not so long ago I found myself in my old hometown for a short visit. Since I come and go relatively frequently I wasn’t really anticipating any surprises. Sure, the big city always seems to get a little bigger over time, but then so do I. And I have come to understand that getting ensnared in the ever expanding “rush hour” (which seems to be a rather gross misnomer given that it encompasses most of the hours of the day) is simply a new (for me) reality. Besides, most of what I do while in town is visit family and nothing can ever surprise me on that front. As you can tell, I’m pretty much prepared for anything. Except maybe the ice cold blast of air that confronted me as I stepped out of YYZ. When the heck did Toronto get “this” cold?

Now you and I both know I’m no stranger to the cold. Let’s recall that I’m the one who spent 38 years in the “Gateway to the North”, where temps were known to hover around -30 (that’s celsius) for weeks at a time. Metric or Imperial, that’s cold. Without getting too graphic, at -30 every feature associated with your face freezes pretty much as soon as you step outside. Those tears of regret you shed as you try to remember why you ever came here in the first place, will quickly form icicles on your cheeks. If you are foolish enough to think your fitness still matters, you will arrive home from your morning run very much resembling what I can only imagine the abominable snowman would looks like if the abominable snowman actually exists. Believe me, I know cold. And yet there are people who insist on living in a state of denial by proclaiming to those of us who “came from away” that it might be cold but (are you ready for it?) “you can dress for it”. Sure you can. But so what!

Let me explain. For those of you who are less familiar with northern climes perhaps I should describe what it means to dress for the cold. First you put on your “base layer” which is simply a fancy word for the long-johns your Mother always wanted you to wear and you never did. Now the layering really begins. You see, in most cases while it’s cold outside it’s warm and toasty inside so whatever you decide to put on to stave off the cold will have to come off shortly after reaching your destination. So some combination of shirts, light sweaters, and, of course, heavy sweaters will be in order. You can decide how to shed these as you thaw. Optimally your pants will have some kind of lining and be large enough to fit over that base layer of yours. People say the camera adds 10 pounds. Well just imagine what this outfit will do. Nevermind. It’s -30. YOu’ll get your figure back in the Spring.

Now you’re ready for the outside layer. You’re going to need a rather substantial down coat with a decent hood. These days that should set you back about a grand. Whatever you do give a pass to that little number with the fur. trim It might be warm but those icy stares you’ll get will pierce your very soul. It goes without saying that you’ll want a pair of sheepskin boots, preferably one or two sizes larger than your regular shoes as they will need to accommodate those extra thick, woollen socks someone bought you when you mentioned you were moving “up north”. If you’re really lucky, once you manage to get those on,  you’ll still be able to walk

You probably think you’re done, but you’re not. Attention must now be paid to your head. I know. You bought that coat with the hood but it’s not going to be enough. A hat is a must, preferably one that covers the ears. Forget about the couple hundred dollars you just spent on your “do”. That went by the wayside the moment you picked up that toque with the lovely pom pom on top.  For your hands, mittens work better than gloves although once on there will be very little you can do without taking them off again. Finally, you’re gonna need a scarf. This one’s a little tricky. The problem is, to keep you warm it will have to be long enough to cover as much of your face as possible. But here’s the problem. When the warm air from your mouth and nose meets the frigid air in which you are walking, it’s going to freeze. So get ready. At some point in your journey your lovely, long, warm, scarf is going to turn into what is essentially a block of ice. It’s not pretty but there’s really nothing you can do other than grin (if you still can) and bear it.

Ok. So now you’re dressed for “it”. You walk outside and, whoa! You’re still cold. Of course you are. It’s 30 effing degrees below zero! (My little bro’ taught me that). What did you think would happen? So here’s some unsolicited advice from a shallow gal who knows. Do what I say. Take all the money you were going to spend on that little outfit of yours and hightail it down to your favourite beach town. Because you know what? You can dress for that too. 

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I’m in it to Win it

Once again it’s been a while. I’m guessing by now you think I’ve retired. I have. But surprisingly, not from the blog. Nope. The thing is, this shallow gal has been very busy. It’s not just my Tuesday morning walks with the walking women, or the daily afternoon sojourns to the local coffee shop that are taking up my time. It’s been much more than that. You see, for the last month or so I have been working on my submission to a writing contest. That’s right! I’ve entered a contest. And let me tell you, that was no small feat. As a matter of fact, it was a rather grueling process. There was the thinking about what to write, the thinking about how to write it and last, but not least, the writing of it. It’s not easy to come up with 450 words (exactly) that will (potentially) be read by none other than Mr. Dave Barry. Remember Dave Barry? Well I do. His rather iconic “open shirt over a T” look was my family’s fashion influence for most of the ‘90s. And he’s really funny. So, as you can imagine, this was a pretty daunting task.

Now here’s something you might or might not know, depending on how well we know each other. I’m not only shallow. I’m really competitive too. And I’ll be the first to admit that. For me “doing my best” just doesn’t cut it. Nor do I want to “learn from the experience” or take pride in knowing “I tried my hardest”. That’s just not me. When I enter a contest, I enter to win. Of course that’s only for contests where I actually have to do something. I mean, if I’m just filling out a form and placing it in a box with hundreds of other entries, I would like to win but I’m not overly concerned if I don’t. Or if I have to go to the internet to enter some random number from a yogurt container in order to potentially win one of 10,000 prizes I’m ok with the not unexpected “sorry, better luck next time” message that I invariably get. But when I have to actually perform in some way, well for me it’s all or nothing. Honourable mention? That would be nice…for someone else. Not for this gal. This gal is in it to win it.

For those of you who are still not convinced, allow me to refer you to one of my many Words With Friends partners. They know I’m relentless. I will literally sit for many minutes, scrutinizing the board in an effort to make the very best move possible. It goes without saying that I use the little green meter that lets me know if I have made my best move.  Let me tell you. It’s a blessing and a curse. If the meter goes to the top, I’m good. If not, if there is even one little sliver of opportunity to get a few more points, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to find it. No matter how long it takes I will figure out how to maximize my points. But I’ll only make that move if I’m not setting up my opponent for a triple play. That’s the trick. You need to be aggressive and defensive all at the same time. But you can be sure, when it’s safe to do so, I’ll go in for the kill. Just a game you say?  You do realize that I just analyzed my game-play for WWF. Yeah, that’s how competitive I am. So you can only imagine my feelings about entering a contest where my actual skill will be judged. And perhaps even more importantly, where there’s a prize to be won.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Did she say 450 words? What the heck took her so long to write 450 words?!” Well here’s the thing about 450 words. That’s not a lot. And when you don’t have a lot of words to use you have to use them very carefully. The fewer the words, the more important each and every one of them is. With 450 words there are none to mince. You’ve got to get to the point pretty darn quickly. There’s no rambling like there is in this blog of mine. So it’s a lot of work. And it takes time. Lots of it. Which brings me back to where I started and hopefully provides you with an answer to why I haven’t posted for so long.

Anyway, while I’m here, and since I have no self-imposed word limits, let me take this time to wish you and your families a very happy New Year. If you make resolutions, make good ones ‘cause they’ll be with you all year long. Me? I’ll be looking forward to the Spring when the results of the competition will be out. And I’ll let you know how things go.  But only if I win.

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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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I am not a Robot

I gotta tell you. Writing a shallow blog these days is tough. There are just so many things that make it hard. Believe me. It’s not just about the “moron” (not my words) down south. He’s a problem but like many things, he too shall pass. Unfortunately there are more endemic issues we all face over the long term. Like climate change. Unless you have been living under a rock, and one that miraculously hasn’t been uprooted by a major hurricane, or bulldozed by those brave men and women fighting the extraordinary fires of late, it seems almost impossible to deny that our climate is, in fact, changing, leaving paths of death and destruction in it’s wake. And guns. I suppose not guns in and of themselves. But guns without controls. Guns that end up in the hands of people who, perhaps due to mental illness or, in my less benevolent moments, are quite simply horrible, decide to use them to take away hundreds and thousands of innocent lives. Lately that’s happened a lot. Honestly, it seems not a week goes by without some natural or unnatural disaster taking place and so it’s hard. Hard to be shallow in this world of ours.

Here’s the thing. I’m sure you understand by now that even though I am a self professed shallow person, I have feelings. Just like you. Well almost. So all this stuff bothers me too. Afterall, I am not a robot. Google knows that ‘cause I always check off the “I am not a robot” CAPTCHA on their sites. Which is a good thing since, to be brutally honest, I don’t really like robots very much. As a matter of fact, I find them pretty creepy. And if I must say so myself, I’m in pretty good company with the likes of Elon Musk, and my personal fav, Dr. Sherry Turkle, weighing in on what our collective future could hold with a bunch of tin men and women walking by our sides. Ok, they might not be made of tin but, make no mistake about it, they will be walking by our sides.  

I’m guessing that for some of you this revelation may come as a bit of a surprise. Because you might expect that if anyone was going to embrace the prospect of having a companion who, for all intents and purposes, looks and feels like you and me but remains unencumbered by the complexities of the human condition, it would be me. After all, we’re talking about a facsimile that will pretty much do your bidding without batting an eyelash, which, by the way, they will have. No questions asked. No drama. No feelings to hurt. Actually, no feelings what so ever. They’ll laugh when you laugh, cry when you cry. Out of bananas? They’ll get those for you without all the whining that would normally accompany such a request to the “real” people who reside in your home. With a robot by your side you could start to think that life had become that proverbial bowl of cherries. And I’m pretty sure they’ll pit those for you too. So what’s my beef? Why would the shallow gal feel so apprehensive about what is clearly touted as the next best thing since sliced bread? Well, here’s why.

Call me crazy but somehow I don’t cherish the prospect of sharing my life with an animate, inanimate object. Especially one that has a brain programmed to learn way more than my brain ever will. I’m an adult educator. I know all about lifelong learning. But this brings that concept to a whole new level. We’re not talking just about intelligence. We’re talking about artificial intelligence. This is not computer assisted learning. This is computers actually learning. Computers that are walking around your homes, businesses, playgrounds. Yep, there too. Computers that are getting smarter and smarter every day. Certainly smarter than you and me but also smarter than the smartest people we have among us. And they’re going to look a lot like us, although they are never going to get blemishes or wrinkles or big brown spots on their faces and hands. Elon Musk is worried that robots will take away our jobs. Rightly so. They can already teach themselves how to walk and talk and very soon they will be able to do what you and I do, only much better. Sherry Turkle worries that we have become so accustomed to interacting with devices that soon we won’t know what’s real and what’s not. Nor will we care. It’s a worry for sure. But I’m worried about a couple of other things.

Like guns. Guns and robots. We all know that guns are a problem. Guns in the hands of the wrong people are a bigger problem. Guns in the hands of robots? A problem perhaps too big to imagine. Here’s a scenario for you. A robot walks into a gun shop. Asks to buy a gun. Of course they do a background check. Not a problem. Robots don’t have backgrounds. It gets the gun. Now it tells its robot friends how easy it was. They all decide this is a really good idea and do the same. Remember.  There are hundreds and hundreds of robots who are smarter than us and have no real feelings. But now they have guns. Maybe they decide they don’t like people who are not as smart as they are. Or maybe they decide they just want to have some fun. You know. Like in the movies or the video games. I don’t know about you but this seems like a big problem and a pretty good reason to not like robots very much.

But that’s not the only reason I don’t like robots. It seems to me that if anyone or anything could be more shallow than me, it would  be a robot. A really smart robot. With no feelings. Smarter and shallower than me. I’m guessing that robot would never be stumped for ideas about what to write. No matter what’s going on in this world of ours. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to give this some more thought. Under the circumstances, getting a robot to write this blog might not be such a bad idea. 

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I’m Sorry

I didn’t start out writing this blog post. I started writing a blog about robots. A shallow blog. And then the world blew up. Again. A dear friend of mine posted a passionate, well-written, well-reasoned response to the grievous events in Charlottesville, and she said this. She encouraged all of her friends to think about ways they too could speak out about what happened and what continues to happen in the United States of America. To no longer remain silent. To stand up and be counted. This is my way.

I am pretty much your quintessential Canadian. I was born in Canada and other than a short stint in the very southern U.S of A, have lived all of my life in this great country of ours. I listen to Gordon Lightfoot, love 5 pin bowling and always pour pure maple syrup on my pancakes. I’m not sure why I am even telling you this as it doesn’t seem to be much of a secret. According to my American friends I sport a Canadian accent which apparently becomes most evident when I use words like “out” and “about”. I also say “pop” not “soda”, assume that everyone knows I want a hot drink when I order “tea”, and always ask for directions to the “washroom” not the “bathroom”.  I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that sometime during a conversation I will inadvertently end a sentence with “eh”, which you would think, would be the most telling of all. But if there needs to be icing on this cake, like most good Canadians, I share with my compatriots a propensity to quite unapologetically say “I’m sorry” for, well just about everything. And that’s exactly what I am about to do now. Because unfortunately, right now in this world of ours, there is plenty to be sorry about.

First and foremost I would like to say I’m sorry to all of my American friends who find themselves in the midst of the turmoil through no fault of their own. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to wake up each and every morning and realize that the man in charge is actually the man in charge. A man who has hijacked their country and taken it on such a turbulent flight that no one knows where and if it will safely land. It’s not a dream, or rather a nightmare. It’s really, really happening. Of course we all know that things have never been perfect. Not here, not anywhere. When it comes to governments, even on this side of the planet, there’s always something to beef about. You know what I mean. There are roads that need to be fixed, money wrongly squandered, past injustices to be apologized for.  But I can’t for the life of me recall the last time that one of the “leaders of the free world” came out in blatant support of a group of white supremacists and Neo Nazis. Not even the “fine” ones.

I’m sorry too for all of the people who lived through the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the white supremacists in the not too distant past. The horrific images etched into their memories, never faded.  The survivors of the holocaust. The men and women who fought in wars to keep our countries free. Those who put their fear aside and marched in the streets of Alabama, and many more streets, in the ’60s. I may be shallow but I’m no fool. I know our problems were never solved. I know that there is still plenty of hatred and bigotry in this world of ours. But for a while there at least, it was frowned upon to walk down the street chanting Nazi slogans and proudly displaying swastika laden clothing. Just ask Prince Harry about that. It hurts me to think that the people who fought so hard for our rights, who implore us to “never forget” must again witness this unadulterated hatred in our streets.

And now let me apologize for myself. I’m sorry for all of the times I stood silent, walked away knowing that something someone had said or done was antisemitic, racist, sexist or egregious in some other way. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t always walk away. There were times that I stood my ground. Let others know what I thought. Fought the good fight. But there were also times when I told myself that battles had to be chosen. When I was too tired to take a stand. Not ready for the confrontations. I had been there, done that. Didn’t want to do it again. Looking back I know better. I just should have done something, said something. As should we all. But now I watch as the daughter and son-in-law of the man in charge have apparently decided to pick their battles too. If I can be so bold, I’d like to say something to them. Here’s some unsolicited advice from one Mother, who at times stood silent, to another.

You are two powerful people. You have a platform, a voice. You have his ear. We counted on you to be his voice of reason. To do the right thing. So where are you now? Ok. I get it. He’s your Father. You work for him. That aside, there are many reasons for you to speak out now, but here’s just one. You made a choice to bring Jewish children into this world. They are your legacy. There is nothing, not anything, that is more important to you than your children. It’s your responsibility to protect them. To speak up, if not on your own, on their behalf. Because if you don’t, one day you’re going to look back and realize that you too, have plenty to be sorry about.  

So there you have it. I’m sorry that this is not really a shallow blog. But I’m not sorry that I wrote it.

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