Tag Archives: Harvard

Fit to a Tee

t-shirtsNot so long ago I arranged to have coffee with a dear old friend of mine at the local chain establishment that has become so prolific in the last few decades. I’m sure you know by now there’s nothing new or startling about that, which is why, when he strode towards me in his rather prominent Che Guevara tee, I took some notice. Mostly because I had never thought of this dear old friend of mine as someone who subscribed to the revolutionary thinking of the fella portrayed on the shirt. With my curiosity peaked, and resisting the temptation to raise a fist in solidarity, I had to ask what precipitated this rather surprising and, from my perspective anyway, newfound allegiance. Without hesitation, but with a detectable twinkle in his eye he replied, “It was on sale at the Bay”.  Which, as is apt to happen, got me thinking about “tees” and why people wear them.

You see, I like Tees. For a whole bunch of reasons but primarily because they make it so easy to get dressed each and every morning. I mean what’s to think about? Want to show off the tan? Pick white. Feeling a little plump? Black will take care of that. Add some jeans and you’re done. Simple. What’s not to like? But lately I’ve been thinking more and more about the real value of wearing a tee. Not in my own case, which as you can see, is fairly straightforward. But for other people. Because, from where I sit, other people seem to have a more complex relationship with their tees than I do. And it’s all more telling than you might think.

It seems to me that tees are, for some at least, not only a reflection of “the self” but also a way in which to express one’s likes and dislikes to the world. In some ways, I suppose, it’s the social media of yesterday. I mean what a great way to let people you don’t know and who don’t know you learn about how you view the world. Think about it. There are the proverbial sports tees that let you share with your part of the world your favourite team and pretty much what you will be watching on TV for most of any given season. Then there are those travel tees that you pick up to prove to people who don’t know you where you chose to spend most of last year’s salary. Of course we would all be remiss if we didn’t, at least once in awhile, wear a tee from our alma mater, and if not our own, at least one from some Ivy League school that we can pretend we attended. Or one with a giant pic of the rock star we always thought we could be, or be with. And while affinity tees say a lot, they’ve got nothing on those much more expressive tees with actual sayings on them.

You’ve seen them. They’re the ones that display the profound thoughts of our icons of the past and present. Perhaps the people who wear these tees are more introspective than I, but I do still wonder if they believe that simply because they are wearing the words of Aristotle “To perceive is to suffer” across their chest, that people will think they actually know, and more importantly, understand what he meant. Or that in some odd way they share with Churchill the notion that “When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber”  just because they put 20 bucks down on a medium red with white lettering.  Having said that, I will admit that these days I just might take a few steps back from someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” tee just in case they really mean it.

Truth be told though, if (and that’s a very big “if”) I ever decide to take a detour and go down this road, it will be for one of those “in your face”  tees because if you’re going to say something to the world you might as well say what you mean and mean what you say. Like the other day, in that proverbial coffee shop of mine, I saw a young woman wearing a “I’m having a shitty day. Does that answer your question?” tee. You gotta know, the last thing I’m gonna do is strike up a conversation with that gal. Or talk to the person who got up that morning, looked through their closet and with everything else they had to wear chose to don their “I don’t like morning people, or mornings, or people” shirt because, as a shallow person, I can relate to that. And me being me, I have to give them credit for being open, honest and to the point.

So here’s what I’m thinking now. Maybe I could get myself a couple of those tees that became so popular during the Brexit hoopla. I’d buy one that says “Leave” and another that says “Stay” because who needs to take sides at this point? Besides, I keep my clothes for a long time and need something with staying power. Just think how handy those would be when…well I’ll just leave that to your imagination. In the meantime, I’m going to see if I can pick up a couple in black and white.

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Don’t Worry! Be Happy!

smileyI’m about to embark on another learning journey. Surprised? Me too. But if you have been following me for some time you’ll know that, not too long ago I attended Harvard where I completed a course that explored the rather esoteric concept of justice. Ok, to be fair, I didn’t actually attend Harvard. I took that course online with maybe a hundred thousand or so other people, give or take a few. But I passed and now my Harvard certificate is proudly displayed in a most prominent spot on my office wall. Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t been reading this blog carefully enough. Shallow people know there’s no shame in exploitation when no one gets hurt. And honestly, is there any harm in people expecting you to be just a little smarter than you really are? Or happier? Because you see, for my next foray into the world of academe I will become immersed in the exploration of the “science of happiness”. You heard me right. I’m going to learn how to be happy.

The funny thing is most of the time I am happy. Which doesn’t mean I’m never grumpy or sad or temperamental or just plain ornery. There are times when I am all of those things. Like when I’m driving, minding my own business and some lunatic decides the speed limit is slightly more than double what I am doing. And passes me. On the inside. Or squirrels eat my car, which, if I can be so bold to say, hasn’t happened since we have managed to successfully evict them from the garage. Which has actually made me quite happy. Unless they come back. Which will make me all of the above. Or my hair goes curly in the rain. Yeah, that’s probably the proverbial straw. Yet all of these aside, I’m usually pretty happy. So you may be wondering why exactly I would devote the better part of the next three months learning about happiness.

First things first. I’m taking the course from Berkeley and, besides Harvard, who doesn’t want to go to Berkeley? Let’s face it. Anyone who grew up in the 60s, and I know quite a few people who did, feels a little tinge of nostalgia at the mention of the name. I mean Berkeley. Man, that’s where it was at. Berkeley. The epicenter of  the cultural revolution. Who doesn’t want to groove to that beat? And what better place to go to learn how to be happy? Although, if this were the sixties, I suspect that you wouldn’t have to take a course to figure out how to get happy at Berkeley.

And I gotta say, after seeing the course syllabus I’m pretty excited about what’s to come. Because not only is this course about learning how to be happy, it’s also about discovering how to live a meaningful life. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe it would have been better to have taken this in the sixties but since there’s no age limit on enrollment I’m guessing it’s not too late. Besides, there are readings and lectures, quizzes and practice exercises so surely something’s going to stick. But to be totally honest, my excitement for what’s to come is coupled with just a little bit of skepticism as I consider the implications of taking a course that talks about “measuring happiness” and provides a list (and you know what I think about lists) of “eight essentials when forgiving”. Do we really need to take a course that instructs us on how to forgive? I’m starting to wonder if the course about being happy could already be making me a little sad.

But despite my reservations I do think this course will be worth my time. As you know, every once in a while I have some trouble coming up with ideas for this blog. The truth of it is, I have an inkling that, if nothing else, I won’t find myself with that problem over the next few months. And you know what? That’s making me happier already!

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Meet Me at the Meet-Up

coffee_shop_smallIt’s a funny thing when something you don’t think about much suddenly crosses your path not once, but over and over again. I’m sure it has happened to you. You go about your life, minding your own business, with nothing particularly remarkable or out of the ordinary happening from one day to the next, just the “same old, same old” stuff. Next thing you know you’re reading the newspaper and your eye catches a small article on the bottom left hand corner of the page, the one with the full page ad your bank has placed to let you know how diligent they are about saving you money while you wonder why they had to spend all that money to let you know when a simple robo-call would have sufficed. The following day you’re on the bus avoiding eye contact with everyone, because who really wants to admit, even to themselves that they are on the bus, and you start reading the placards from front to back and there it is again. The last straw comes when you log into your most recent MOOC (did I mention I finally passed my Harvard course?) and lo and behold, there it is again and you’re convinced that not only is this a significant trend but maybe even a movement (thanks Arlo) and you better get down to business and start writing about it before someone else does. And that’s how we got here.

Let me start by saying that as a shallow person I’m not one for joining much of anything, especially not things that would put me into close contact with a whole bunch of people I don’t know. So as I write about this apparently new phenomenon I will put my bias on the table and admit upfront that the whole thing is not really something I can subscribe too or even understand. But it is what it is and, like Twitter, just because I don’t do it doesn’t mean it’s not happening and shouldn’t find its way to the Shallow Blog. Which is why, in case you haven’t already heard, I want to tell you about “Meet-Ups”, which are no longer “run of the mill” get togethers, you know, the kind you used to have with people you actually knew. No, these are special get togethers, and like much else in our overly connected world, have been redefined as “a meeting, especially a regular meeting of people who share a particular interest and have connected with each other through a social-networking Web site” (dictionary.com). And that’s the key. No longer do you just call up a couple of friends, people you have known and loved for who knows how long, to meet at the local coffee-shop and talk about whatever it is friends talk about. Nope. Now you go to your local “Meet-Up” website, find an aptly named group with a rather singular focus that interests you, determine if they are accepting new members and, if they are, if you are an acceptable new member, signup, check the calendar for the next meeting, put it in your calendar and finally, make your way to the designated site (ironically, usually a coffee shop of some sort) where, hopefully, there will be more than one other person with whom you can meet because otherwise, it seems to me, you’d have been just as well to have stayed home. You might also want to keep your fingers crossed that when you get to the ascribed location that there is a sign or something on the designated table as otherwise I fear you will be walking up to numerous groups of people you don’t know in an effort to find the right people you don’t know.

In case you think this is just some passing fad, a fleeting moment in time, have a look around the internet for Meet-Ups in your local area and I can assure you, having done extensive research for this blog, you will find no shortage of options from which to choose. In my area alone there must be a couple of hundred Meet-Ups covering an astounding array of topics. For example, there’s the “Libertarian Meet-Up” which I find a little confusing as what the heck are they doing forming an organization of like minded folks? The “Jesus, Ice Cream and Beer Group” is intriguing but makes me wonder whether you have to like all of those things to join or if you can just pick one. The “Church Thing Group“, while the name at first glance may appear a little vague, is more specific with their objective to “try to figure God out”. If you join this one I’m afraid you may be in for the long haul. And you might want to stay clear of the “Atheists, Agnostics and Skeptics Meet-Up” as I would hate to think what might happen should the two groups actually find themselves meeting up. Unlike the “Gardening, Vegetarian and Vegan Meet-Up” who could get together with the “Pagan Meet-Up” to form the “Pagan, Vegans”. There’s the “Emotion’s Anonymous Group” which is dedicated to getting people together to work out their emotional difficulties. Nice, but I would think this one could get a little depressing. Of course there are a whole bunch of groups that focus on achieving financial success and if I had to chose one to attend it would probably be the “Abundance and Cashflow Group” as I figure that’s my best shot at snagging a free coffee.

All this talk about Meet-Ups got me to thinking that there could be some value in organizing a “Shallow Meet-Up“. People could get together at their local coffee shop and sit around talking about stuff like how the guy cutting his nails in the next cubicle is really annoying, or who should or shouldn’t win the next season of “America’s Got Talent”, or how difficult it is to get a “no foam” latte made correctly, or maybe even about this blog. People can self-identify as shallow and just about anyone who wants to join is more than welcome. It would be very “Seinfeldesque” although that group just “met up” without having to organize a Meet-Up. The more I think about it the more convinced I am that it could work. And, if it does, it would be great if you could drop me a line to let me know how it goes.

A little something extra: To my friends in Southern Alberta, and especially those in High River, we are thinking about you all of the time. I hope this blog can bring a smile to your face, even if it’s just for a moment.

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Happy Anniversary to Me

cupcake_lightYou’ve probably been wondering what happened to me over these past few days since I’m a bit tardy getting to this post. Well, I’ve been celebrating a little of late and, if I must admit, feeling just a bit smug. I know it’s hard to believe but this week marks one year since I started the shallow blog, and I’m still here. As I recall, it was early on in this endeavor that I mentioned that, as a shallow person, I don’t have a stellar record when it comes to sticking things out. So it is somewhat remarkable, even to me, that I have been diligent enough to write this blog each and every week for a whole year. Ok, if I have to be totally honest, this is post number 51 (really, is anyone perfect?) which nonetheless is pretty indicative of my commitment to the cause. As you can only imagine, it’s a rather important milestone for me and I have struggled to find the right words for the occasion. At the six month mark I shared with you the progress that the blog had made and promised to update you on that at the end of the year. You know I’m a woman of my word but a cursory look at the current stats made me reconsider my earlier pledge as really, at 32 followers, 2,653 views and 150 comments there’s not that much to write about. Not to mention that there have been no t-shirts or mugs sold.

So I have to admit that it has taken an extraordinary amount of thinking on my part to come up with just the right topic for this auspicious event but I think I have finally figured out the “right thing to do”. Now here’s a little secret I haven’t shared with you to date. Most of my revelations about what to write for the blog come to me while I am in the shower (TMI?). I can’t really be sure, and this is not a proven scientific fact, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the water pounding on my head stimulating my brain. But that’s not what happened this time. No, this time I was sitting on a bench, waiting for the train that would get me to work and since I had just missed one I had a whole 9 minutes to kill. At first I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring a book but as I sat down on the cold, steel bench (which may also have had an effect albeit on a different part of my body) it occurred to me that I could use this time to think about the blog. And that’s when it hit me.

Something else you may not know about me is that I have spent a good deal of my life to date studying how adults learn and, as an educator of adults I know that reflection is a really important part of the learning process. So my first inclination was to help you to reflect by looking back at the blog for the whole year and sharing with you what you have learned about me and about being shallow. And then I thought “why not take this chance to do a little reflecting myself?” because the other thing I remembered about what I learned in school was the importance of self-reflection and what better time to do that than on an anniversary such as this one. Unlike New Year’s Eve, there’s no expectations around making resolutions or promises for a better year or anything like that. Rather reflection is an introspective process through which I may or may not decide to change and, in any case, whether I do or not will only be known to me as I’m not about to share that information with anyone else. So without further ado, and with deference and apologies to my hero, Mr. D. Letterman, (yes, shallow people have heroes too) I present to you the “top ten thingswe have learned about me over the past year.

  1. I’m ok with constantly being told I look like Babs and it doesn’t bother me much that I can’t sing like her. What really irks me is not having her money.
  2. I like small foreign cars. I sometimes drive them too fast. I always get caught. Maybe next time I should just settle for the Impala.
  3. When it comes to being shallow I have no problem making the grade. Not sure I’m going to be able to say the same about my course at Harvard.
  4. I’m an avid Folk Fest “goer” even though I don’t own any zip-offs or tie-dye; consider my flat iron to be my most valuable possession; and devoted three days of the blog to mocking (in my own way) this kumbaya event. Now that I’m thinking about it, perhaps I should give it a pass this year and save the 179 bucks.
  5. I don’t like lists so I have no resolutions and my bucket is empty. No matter, I still really want to to win the lottery.
  6. Shallow people get sad too although it would appear, never for more than a week at a time. Apparently we bleed just like everyone else but our skin may be a little thicker.
  7. I travel a lot for business and pleasure and I am pleased to have been able to substitute chit chat” for that “little white pill. I’m guessing there are a lot of people who probably wish I hadn’t.
  8. I refer to my Mother a lot. Come on people! She’s 97 years old! Just how shallow do you think I am?
  9. As much as I like Mr. Letterman I’m not as hooked on the number 10 as he is.

Well that’s it in a nutshell. I’ve paid my 18 bucks so I’m in for another round. Makes me think I just might have to change my mantra to “one year at a time.”

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Nothing Doing

comfy chairA curious thing happened to me the other night. Kind of out of the blue I got a call from a friend I hadn’t spoken to for some time. While it wasn’t one of those “blasts” from 40 years ago, it had been at least a couple of months since we last spoke so it was good to hear from her. But it wasn’t the call itself that was surprising. I mean it started out pretty ordinary what with catching up on her kids and my kids and a few other people’s kids too, but you don’t want to know about that. The curious part was when, without any prompting on my end (I wasn’t out of breath or talking fast or anything like that which I have been known to do when I want a conversation to end), she said:

My Friend: I’ve probably caught you on your way out the door.
Me: Nope. I’m not going anywhere right now.
My Friend: Oh, well you must be busy with stuff at home.
Me: Nope. I’m not really busy right now. As a matter of fact, I’m not doing anything at the moment.
My Friend: Oh, well this must be a first for you.

Now she couldn’t see me, but if she had I’m pretty sure she would have noticed the look of puzzlement on my face because, truth be told (I know, I say that a lot but shallow people never back away from the truth) there are many, many times that I am not going anywhere or doing anything in particular. As a matter of fact, I do nothing quite a lot of the time. And as a shallow person, I’m okay with that because doing nothing is not always a bad thing. Like when I call my Mother and ask her “what’s doing” and she says “nothing’s doing” which is often better than “something’s doing” ‘cause that “something” is not always so great when you’re 97 years old. So I come by all of this honestly. Which is why I spend much of my time at home sitting in my comfy chair in my study doing not much of anything unlike the cat who, making no distinction between the chair and the multitude of cardboard scratching posts we have strategically placed around the house for her convenience, is always busy doing something when she visits me at my chair, which again, is not such a good thing.

Now ordinarily I would be fine leaving you with this impression of me in my leisure time but as an honest shallow person who is somewhat reflective and introspective I find myself wanting to explain that, just because I am in my chair appearing to do nothing, doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not doing something.  Sometimes that something is reading a book, or finding valuable information on the internet like how much the house down the street sold for or whether I’ve lost a lot or a little in the stock market on any given day. Sometimes I plan whole vacations, booking hotels, airline tickets, making dinner reservations and arranging for sightseeing tours in my temporary home away from home and, believe me, that can be exhausting. Of late, much of my time spent in my chair has been devoted to attending my class at Harvard (have I mentioned I’m going to Harvard?) listening to lectures, reading excerpts from books and engaging in dialogue with my fellow students. Well I don’t really “engage” but I do read what some of them have to say. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that taking a course at Harvard is no walk in the park. Other times I’m just thinking about things which makes it really look as though I’m doing nothing but I’m not. I will admit that I am also prone to a couple of less lofty activities like watching reality TV shows or playing computer games, but those are things too. And, last but not least, I sit in my chair to write this blog which, I might add, I have stuck to for almost a year now and that’s really something.

Well now that I’ve got this one in the bag I should get back to what I was doing before I started writing which really was nothing and, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t even have to go anywhere to do it.

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