Stick. String. Nerve. Not.

Why don’t you put down “stick and string”?

Standing on the public side of the counter, pen in hand, I glance up at the speaker. She is standing on the working side of the counter—what some would call the pointy end of the stick in this business, I guess, but I’ve pretty much had it with sticks at this point. As it were.

Her sally is greeted with broad smiles from her colleagues, of whom there seem to be an unreasonable number, milling about amid stacks of flat cardboard boxes, bags of Styrofoam™ peanuts slung from ceiling hooks, toffee-coloured towers of packing tape, and waist-high metal tables with stray bits of toffee-coloured packing tape adhered. Do all these people really work here? And if so, why aren’t they, you know, working?

Although my answering smile might be a bit forced, my annoyance is not really with the smart-aleckette but, rather, with myself. How did I let it come to this? My mind drifts back to the previous day.   Continue reading


Filed under Management & work, New perspectives

Is That the Best You Can Do?

Netflix traffic accounted for 34% of North America’s downloads
during the busiest hours of the day this year.
Drew Fitzgerald, Wall Street Journal, 2014 May 14

Maybe you already knew that Netflix accounts for one-third of internet downloads. But maybe you didn’t know that I accounted for another one-third of internet traffic this last week, downloading new software and uploading my documents and photos to online storage.

OK, not quite a full one-third share. But combined with our current Netflix preoccupation (“MI-5,” a BBC intelligence thriller with ten (count ’em, ten) seasons), my reconfiguration of my laptop and my foray into cloud storage did push us over the bandwidth limit on our internet package. A limit we’d never paid any attention to before, not in six years with this provider. It’s hard to get to 60 GB/month just by downloading Word files from shared work sites and uploading vacation photos to Google+ albums, 30 at a time.

But it turns out it’s quite easy to blow through 60 GB watching Netflix offerings—especially in the dog days of the network summer schedule—and uploading, oh, say, 30 GB in accumulated photos for backup. Just to pick a number out of the air.

Continue reading


Filed under Business, New perspectives

We Appreciate Your Business

Thank you for calling the blank-blank-blank. All of our associates/agents/technicians are currently serving other customers. We appreciate your business. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.

In the recovery period after the Great Crash, I’ve spent quite some time on the phone with various folks, reconstructing my suite of downloaded software. I’ve spent almost as much time on hold.

We appreciate your business and apologize for the delay. Call volumes are higher than normal.

Just my luck, eh? To have a hard drive fail when higher-than-normal numbers of other failures are occurring. What are the odds of that, do you suppose?   Continue reading


Filed under Management & work

We Know Where That Information Is

Have you seen a blue binder?

From his glassed-in perch, the bulldozer operator frowns for a moment at the note in his hand, looks down suspiciously at the guy with the mop of curly hair who is looking up at him hopefully, and then checks the note again. Yup, that’s what it says, all right.

Have you seen a blue binder?

The operator shakes his head, trying to look regretful rather than stupefied. As the guy with the mop of curly hair walks off, shoulders slumped, the operator reaches for a lever. The bulldozer lurches forward, pushing the next mound of garbage into the channel prepared for it, and life at the Saskatoon city dump goes on.   Continue reading


Filed under Business

Life is a Purse


Sitting in an airport holding pen, I look up, disoriented. Have I missed my flight? As panic rises, the thinking part of my brain rouses. Reluctantly. Sluggishly. My watch is still on Vancouver time from a trip a few weeks ago. It’s 6:10 where I am. Whew.

But, once roused, my snippy internal monitor is not content with merely correcting my mistake, or with alleviating my (mis)apprehension. What’s that she’s saying? That if the watch showed the correct time, I’d be early for my flight, not late?

Thanks for that. Given that the 6:10 in question is the oh-dark-hundred kind, not the glass-of-wine kind, and that I’ve been up since oh-4:30, I’ll cut myself some slack for slow thought processes.   Continue reading


Filed under New perspectives

Sayin’ Somethin’ Stupid

I haven’t actually seen that, but, yeah, potentially.

In our back-row seat, the Big Guy nudges me with his elbow and I turn my head in a mute, What? Just as quietly, he subtly inclines his head toward the front of the van, where our Glaswegian tour guide has just wrapped up his answer to an earnest and sort of silly question from one of our tour group.

Ah, I think. This is what he was talking about. After a week listening to various interactions betwixt this tour leader and our fellow tourees, the Big Guy has broken the code.

It always starts the same way. Walking or riding, someone spots something and asks the guide about it.

What bird/flower/bush/tree/crop/mountain/river/ruined castle is that?

For these questions—a genuine if sometimes casual request for information—the matter ends there. But other questions lead to more back-and-forth.   Continue reading


Filed under Uncategorized


I’ve had it with sex.

No, I mean it. There’s no point in trying to change my mind: I understand its benefits, all right. Where else, as they say, can you have so much fun with your boots on? Or was that with them off?


And of course there’s that whole thing about how it mixes up the gene pool, combining things in never-before-seen ways. In a world where TV ads urge us to “Celebrate (those who are) Different,” celebrating sex would seem as natural as, well, sex itself.    Continue reading


Filed under New perspectives

Black is the New Clear

Clear, please.

There is a short pause and then a disarmingly frank admission.

I’m sorry. I don’t know what that means.

I’m in an aisle seat at the back of the plane and the flight attendant is, perforce, standing well within the comfortable limits of my personal space.

She has just asked how I want my tea; I have answered without looking up. Now I tilt my head sideways and up so I can see her face, all without touching the stranger in the middle seat. It’s a bit awkward but I do my best. Sometimes conversation demands eye contact.

When I explain that ‘clear’ tea is tea without creamer or sugar, she happily corrects me, Oh, you mean ‘black.’
Continue reading


Filed under Relationships & behaviour

Devoutly To be Wish’d

All that information is on the website.

Ouch. It’s not the words, it’s the tone. Biting. Impatient. Annoyed.

I’m guessing this is not the time to mention that the requested information—an email address—was not, in fact, on the parent website from which I got the name of this association.

I’m gathering email addresses so my publisher’s publicist can send out notices about my book to those who might want to buy it. Finding a national motherlode of association listings, I doggedly follow the links through to provincial listings of local and regional associations, only to find that many provide phone, fax, and snail-mail contact information, but no email address. Odd.

Down the rabbit hole I go, only to find that there is no email address shown on many of the home sites either. I check every page, tab, and category I can think of, but no joy. Rather than slog through all 47 listings for nothing, it seems better to just pick up the phone. And so I follow business hours across the time zones from Newfoundland & Labrador to Vancouver Island, gathering email addresses—and reactions—as I go.    Continue reading


Filed under Relationships & behaviour

Snip Snip

This one will never come to anything.

Snip snip. A long, skinny twig growing sideways off a major branch is gone. The professional gardener is explaining as he goes—a favour to me, since I mentioned an interest in becoming a better pruner.

This one is crossed.

Snip snip. This time, his clippers move too quickly for me to see the habit of growth to which he’s objecting—to see the branches that were crossing over each other. Nor do I quite get how he has chosen one branch over the other.

And this one is growing inward.

Snip snip. I squint at the tree sideways. Now I’m confused. Wasn’t there also something about not leaving holes? If all the branches growing inward are removed, won’t that leave holes everywhere?   Continue reading


Filed under New perspectives