The Clerk, Fleming, and Me

That’s an AMERICAN stamp!!!

Reacting to the tone more than the words, I take a half-step back. A clerk at the sub-post-office (sub-post office? sub post-office?) in my local drugstore has just snapped at me. I review the conversation to date.

Hey, good morning.

Me, sounding cheery.


Clerk, grunting.

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Never Overwhelmed

It turns out that, if you ask yourself “Can I keep going?”
rather than “Can I make it to the finish?”
you’re far more likely to answer in the affirmative.
Globe & Mail article on sports performance

I have whinged once or twice in these, um, screens, about the schedule uncertainty accompanying this pandemic. OK, OK, maybe a few times. As they say, global pandemics aren’t as much fun as they look: May you never live in interesting times.

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Bridge Face

What could be better than a face on a bridge?

I took this photo in Glasgow in 2012, and it happened to scroll by on the Big Guy’s screen-saver just now. Glancing at it from across the room, I saw a face I had never noticed before. With an imposing columnar nose, to boot.

I think that’s how most of these faces appear: A glance-in-passing triggers that pattern-recognition doohickey in the subconscious.

Pareidolia - bridge

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Damn Wow Hey

Damn, it was cold. We have no snow on the ground yet, but the wind was nasty.

Wow, it was sunny. We had a blue-sky day Alberta would be proud of.

Hey, it was, on balance, pretty cheery as I waited in a parking lot for two hours for a dental surgeon to release my covivant. I saw yellow everywhere.

Yellow pavement markings

Yellow nylon rope on black stanchion

3-photo collage of schoolbus and its reflection in its own mirrors

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A Year Ago

A year ago, who knew that we would all soon know what PPE stands for?

A year ago, who knew that we would toss off “comorbidities” in casual conversation and without having to take a run at it?

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Posted in Day-to-Day Encounters, Laughing Frequently | Tagged | 14 Comments

Just One

At 21, a young man from Florida becomes the first person with Down Syndrome to enter an Ironman competition.  He not only enters, he completes the triathlon within the 17-hour time limit. How does he do it? He starts with one push-up at age 18 and his father encourages him to get 1% better every day.

Just 1%.
You can do that, can’t you?

Yes, he can do that. And just like that, his progress comes under his control.

A former colleague maintains her weight for 10 years, at an age when year-over-year weight gain is so much the default it’s almost an obligation. How does she do it? Every year her doctor tells her he’d like to see her lose one pound by the time she comes in for her next annual check-up.

Just one pound.
You can do that, can’t you?

Yes, she can do that. And just like that, her weight comes under her control.

Over time, tiny increments add up to big improvement. Over time, tiny efforts lead to big control. Over time, achievable targets result in achievement.

It’s tempting to take on the world, set big goals, dream big dreams. There’s nothing wrong with big dreams, but maybe the path is traversed not with leaps and bounds but with many small steps. One. Another one. And another.

So, today, what if we joined Chris Nikic in his daily quest to get 1% better? Stronger. Flexible-er. Even patient-er. (What the heck. Dream big, right?) What if this year we joined that colleague and tried to lose just one pound?

We can do that, can’t we?
It’s just one.

Yes, we can do that.

Posted in New Perspectives, Relationships and Behaviour, Sports and Exercise, Thinking Broadly | Tagged | 8 Comments

Nothing Left to Take Away

Perfection is not when there is nothing left to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,
quoted in The Economist June 15, 1991

Painting, I’ve been told and have mentioned before, is said to be an additive art; photography, a subtractive one.

You’re responsible for everything in the frame.
– Typical composition advice for photographers

And so we learn to, ahem, choose a subject as well as a framing that, well, frames it. We learn to change our angle to eliminate detailed/active/messy backgrounds that would otherwise distract from the subject. We learn to blur said detailed/active/messy background when we can’t change our angle. We learn to watch for screwball conjunctions that the eye overlooks but the camera sees and records, dagnab it: the pole seeming to stick out of someone’s head, the branch seeming to bisect a bird, the decorative doodad atop a church spire a full 50 feet away but seeming to top a stone cross right in front of me.  Just to give a few completely random examples.

And if we don’t always execute these learnings perfectly, we do usually perfectly execute the identification of the failing in the resulting photo.

Editing, too, is a subtractive art, at least in part: eliminating extra words might not be sufficient but it’s almost always necessary.  I wonder how many other such arts there are, where less is more.

Sermonizing? Likely. Speechifying? Absolutely. Advicifying? I suspect so.

What do you think, Sheldon?

In the early 2000s, my father was happily working through his extra serving of ice cream, when the other male at the table appealed to him to say what *he* thought about the protracted wrangle at said table. At issue? Whether the tablemate should go to his granddaughter’s wedding, despite his dodgy health and tendency to fuss. The arguments put forth by the tablemate’s wife and by my father’s wife were extensive. Eloquent, even. Persuasive? Not quite.

It was my father who carried the day, without even looking up from his ice cream.


Perfect. I have nothing to take away from that.

Posted in Language and Communication, Laughing Frequently, Relationships and Behaviour | Tagged , | 14 Comments

On the Road Again

This palindromic and good-feng-shui gem had me stretching across the car with my phone to try to capture the moment before it was gone.

It put me in mind of hanging over into the front seat as the odometer on a family car ticked over some milestone, a whole series of nines rolling up into zeroes. Would you say that we knew know how to have a good time, back in the day?

In truth, I guess we did, and the how hasn’t changed much in sixty years, or maybe even in six hundred: Appreciate what’s around us.

Odometer showing 88088 km.

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Best Ever

Breaking bridge news!

Two years of work have led to the discovery
of the “lost” medieval bridge in the River Teviot near Ancrum.

Medieval, eh? Pretty old, then? I guess so.

Experts, using radiocarbon dating,
have confirmed it is from the mid-1300s.

Wow. That doesn’t happen every day, eh? I guess not.

They said that makes them
the oldest scientifically dated bridge remains
found in their original position
across one of Scotland’s rivers.

Wow. The oldest. But wait. What’s that strange tingling? Could it be my spidey-sense? I guess so.

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Posted in Laughing Frequently, Thinking Broadly | Tagged , | 12 Comments