A missed connection in the subconscious.

What time does my connection leave?

If dreams are a representation of the subconscious, then apparently I’m worried about missing my connecting flight when I go to China.  While I won’t get into the dream details, I thought it interesting to point out that for the past two days, my dreams have had to do with my upcoming new adventures.  I don’t think I’m worried about it– at least not consciously.

I’ve realized that while I have a pseudonym for the school I’m teaching at, SchoolU, I’m missing one for the city in which I’ll be living.  A part of me wonders if I should even bother trying to keep it anonymous.  Especially if at some point I start posting pictures here (which will inevitably happen).  I guess it makes sense as I don’t really need any students or faculty reading this here collection of my words.  It probably wouldn’t take much to find this space via search engine.  I just tried using the mainland’s primary search engine and could find this site if I used the title, but realistically speaking, how many people will know?  Further, I searched my authorial pseudonym, and it was not on the first page.  Despite this discovery, I think I’ll still refrain from using the city’s name.  Call me paranoid.

If anyone has any suggestions for a name, I’d love to hear it.

Although it’s not going to start it quite yet, after being inspired by Ed Pratt’s unicycling adventure across China, I think I’m going to add a vlogging component to my experiences.  The first time around, I made a couple videos of comedic value, but little substance.  I’m older now, and.. older, but having a video perspective of my adventures that are less filtered than they would be if I had written them, could prove interesting.  But we’ll see.  I still have time.

Answering the why.

Author’s Notes:  For those whom I haven’t told yet, my career is taking me back to Asia.  I wrote the following on June 11.  For the purposes of surprise visits upon my return to Ontario, I decided to delay this entry.  I’m sneaky that way.  I may have also fibbed to a few people.  Obviously, I am not here on vacation.

—-

So it certainly is beginning to feel more real.  Now that I’ve officially graduated, the task of packing up my life in Victoria truly begins.  Vehicles took next to zero effort to sell, thankfully.  The tough part will be selling the odds and ends.  One of the advantages of having moved out to the west coast in the first place is that I was able to do away with a lot of things, minimalizing what I’ve owned.  This makes the process infinitely easier.

Here we go again…

I’ve spent the past couple of days washing up some clothes and loading suitcases.  I’ve been able to fit almost my entire wardrobe in two bags.  I feel as though that is a great accomplishment!  I then look at TheWife’s™ packing, and I am incredibly humbled.  A carry on and half a full-sized suit-case.  This realization is somewhat mitigated with the knowledge that I am twice the size as she.  I’ll take this as a victory.

So, the question may be circling some heads.  Why is he going back?  There are multiple reasons for this.  In all honesty, I knew this day would come again at some point.  As those closest to me know, I have the itch.  I like to wander.  As I’ve said before, I compare myself to a potted plant as opposed to a tree.  I have difficulty rooting myself to one place.  A second aspect to what has brought me to here relates to the whole mid-life crisis thang, and my general desire to experience more of Asia.  My trip to China will not be my last stop.  China is my refresher course.  Further on the docket are destinations such as Thailand, Vietnam, and the Holy Grail that is Nippon!  Let’s face it.  I am not getting any younger and my window to experience these countries the way I want to experience them is closing ever so slowly.  Third, is of course, timing.  Everything seemed to align to make this happen, with my getting laid-off from my employer and me completing my degree in close proximity.  What really sealed it, though, is a bit more complicated.

As I’ve gotten older, I have come to the conclusion that there is something horrendously wrong with the world and how it functions.  Many of us are still living in a world where we consciously or subconsciously believe that buying things makes us happy (although it is good to see that more people are spending on experiences than on things).  We accept the status quo of governments and businesses working in tandem to keep power in the hands of an increasingly select few.  The betterment of society as a whole is only used when it is convenient for corporate or governmental needs.  I, up until recently, worked in a company that, while I firmly believe was cleaner than most, worked in the very grey industry of internet advertising.  The excuse I heard most often was basically lemming theory (i.e. everyone else is doing it).  The majority of what we do, by extension, is corrupt somewhere down the line.  I, for one, want to participate as little as possible in these machinations.  I also believe that the best place to initiate change is with students.  I am now in a place educationally, and mentally, to start to plant my own seeds, in an effort to get the next generation to think more critically and hopefully come to similar conclusions so they can be a part of the change in which needs to come if society is to move forward.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
-Nelson Mandela

So, yeah.  Part of my decision is certainly self serving, but I’d like to think that it also has a greater purpose than just what I want for myself.

 

 

150 Years – what are we celebrating?

I may get some hate from this, but hey, it wouldn’t be the first time I got heat for something I’ve written online.

So Canada celebrates its sesquicentennial on Saturday (in upfront honesty, a friend tipped me off to that word).  150 years ago, the Queen gave her royal assent to the British North America Act, which united the province of Canada (which became Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia into one union.  This law came into act on July 1, 1867.  A century and a half later, we have been blanketed with advertisers telling us that to we should give company X our money as a form of the grand celebration.  I’m sure the fathers of confederation certainly expected that this is what our celebrations would turn into– a reason to buy things.

Maybe this makes me a bad Canadian, but I cannot buy into these celebrations (pun intended).  Will I go see the fireworks on Saturday evening?  Sure.  It’s a 150 year celebration, and I expect it to be quite the explosive affair (again.. intended).  I will even partake in a beer beverage or two during the day, but Canada Day is just a convenient excuse for me to crack a cold one open.  What is escaping me more and more as I age is the notion of patriotism and nationalism.  It’s funny to say that, as I’ve just put on a top 150 Canadian songs playlist, but I’ll chalk that up to nostalgia.
One of the more difficult things for me to grasp now is taking pride in the accomplishments of other Canadians.  Whether it’s an actor, musician, comedian, doctor, athlete, etc., I fail to recognize what sharing being born within the same arbitrary borders has to do with someone else’s success and why I should be proud of it.
There is also the thought of so-called shared Canadian values.  What are these values?  I can promise you that for every value you pinpoint, I can find someone in my social media streams that run contrary to that value (even if only from my perspective).  Part of the Canadian identity is that we are not American.  By country borders, I cannot disagree with that, however I would also bet that I could find at least one American that has 95% value similarities to match with one of Canada’s 36 million people.
We are also far from being saints as a nation.  We upper classes still repress the lesser classes.  By celebrating 150 years of Confederation we are also celebrating colonialism and the failure of reparations for our forefathers misdeeds.

I want to acknowledge that I am thankful and fortunate that by genetic lottery, I am a Canadian.  People have fought for many things that we now take for granted (like celebrating 150 years by participating in a neo-liberal economic structure).  But why do we fight for our country?  Shouldn’t we be doing it because it’s the right thing to do?  Our acts of heroism, courage, kindness, or benevolence should have nothing to do with the country in which we were born or live in, but be done out of simple morality.  I recognize that not all countries are as fortunate as we are here, and perhaps it is our good fortune that we are not living in a North Korea, Syria, Sudan, or Somalia.  And perhaps that is what we should be celebrating.  The problem here is that we are celebrating our good fortune that has come from basically piggy backing off of the hard work and dedication of others, meanwhile the vast majority of us have done very little to move the needle forward.  Hell, in the last 6 elections, we averaged on a 62.6% voter turnout rate.  Voting, in my mind, is the easiest form of participation and 13.5 million of us can’t even do that (I don’t include Facebook posts as participation as it is a form of bitching, not acting.. like and share if you agree).

I think my biggest issue is that we still find ourselves thinking in terms of nationalities, genders, sexualities, and ethnicities.  We have yet to truly understand that we are all Earthlings and should be celebrating the culmination of all our lives together.  I still long for the day where we recognize and respect differences, but these differences have no impact on how we treat and think about each other.  Someone’s gay friend becomes just their friend.  Like Jim Jeffries reminds us, “we can do better.”

So, yeah, Happy Canada Day.  And stuff.

“Imagine there’s no countries…”
-John Lennon

Be who you are.

One of the things I love about the city of Victoria, British Columbia is that you never need to be apologetic for who you are. Growing up in a conservative suburban factory town, I grew up thinking that if you are not of the white majority,then you are the other, a term which caries biases, connotations, and let’s face it, racial overtones.  What’s more, there was very little in the way of other in my neighborhood or my schools.  I really didn’t get much exposure to anything other than euro-centric hetero groups until I began working and living in downtown Toronto.  Even then, I was still ignorant to a lot of things, and probably will always be someone ignorant simply because I grew up as the majority.  As the adage goes, you can’t fully understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.. or something like that.  Having said that, it doesn’t mean that I cannot at least appreciate, be comfortable with, and value the diversity that I see before me.  And while this will sound a bit cliché and gaudy, I hope that within my lifetime a discussion like this won’t need to ever take place because the human race will have finally realized that ethnicity and sexualty is not a form of judgement towards others.

The bridge that still burns.

I was having a conversation with TheWife™ the other day, and while discussing the actions of some others that she knows, she said something which I could not agree more with, and that is (I’m paraphrasing here) “holding onto hate is not good for you.”  I could go all Yoda on this, but I don’t believe that extrapolating on this point is necessary.

Afterwards, I started reflecting on our conversation and started going through echoing caverns of my cranium, looking if see if there was anyone that I actually hated.  I was happy when I came to the conclusion that I, at this current moment, hold no hate in my heart aimed at any individuals.  Then I got to thinking that while there is no on residing in the hate chamber, there is reduced vacancy in the resentment area.  I discovered that I carry ill will towards a senior manager of my first employer out of college.  Even after fifteen years of the defining moment I would still like to stir things up with him.  In hindsight, though, his assholery was what pushed me into investigating teaching ESL which, as many know, is what landed me in China and meeting me now wife of almost fourteen years.  Like hell I’d ever thank him for it though.  Ends never justify the means.

“We sell beer, motherf*cker.”
-Steven Page, an epithet to a Molson Amphitheatre manager

Blank-collar workers

I’m not a class warrior.  Or maybe I am.  I don’t know.  Whether I am or not, there certainly seems to be frequent mention of the shrinking middle class.  I can’t help but wonder how much the current buzz-word, the so-called gig-economy feeds into this.  All sense of stability is on its way out the window (look at me.. talking about stability! What rot) which could only increase the likelihood of living paycheck to paycheck.

One of the best things that came out of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X was how the novel added new lexicon in the margins of the book.  It’s where he coined the phrase “McJob.”  In his recent book, he added a few more new words, which was the impetus of my writing here:

From Bit-Rot

Blank-colllar workers
The new post-class class.  They are a future global mono-class of citizenry adrift in a classless sea.  Neither middle-class nor working-class–and certainly not rich–blank collar workers are aware of their status as simply one unit among seven billion other units.  Blank-collar workers rely on a grab bag of skills to pay the rent and see themselves as having seventeen different careers before they suffer death from neglect in a government-run senior-care facility in the year 2042.

This paints a very conceivable picture of what is/could be happening.  It reminds me of the bidding sites for development work, where a person puts in a request of what they want done, and developers bid on the work.  To put this into a nerd perspective (just because you program, does not automatically place you into a nerd category! Stop profiling!), think about the pen and paper RPG Shadowrun.  Doing runs were a more black market style of gig-market, but it’s basically the same thing.  Imagine it, though.  Bidding on taking out people’s trash or cleaning houses.  A corporation needs someone to clean their wipe boards after a marathon development sessions.  Or, if you are more fortunate, a new marketing plan for the upcoming holiday season.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, but it will certainly leave people of my generation at a complete loss.

Trying something a little different.

Up until now, most of what I have put here has leaned towards the TLDR realm.. and for those unfamiliar with the acronym, it means “Too Long, Didn’t Read.”  I’ve been reading Douglas Coupland’s latest book, Bit Rot: stories + essays, and it has inspired me to try and write more frequently, but with less content.  More off the cuff thoughts that may range from being insightful to borderline nonsensical.  This might be more akin to how I used to blog back in the days of RUHome, where posts were often short, my spelling and grammar were horrible, and I would post for the simple sake of posting.


The majestic magpie!

Magpies.  I know, right?  You’ve heard the name.  At some point, in the back of your cranium, you may even recall that it is a bird.  To some, magpies are a plenty and are annoying scavenger, like a crow or seagull.  If you are like me, you just witnessed your first magpie a mere week ago and become slightly fascinated.
I was talking with my mother the other day about them, and we had difficulties coming to a conclusion why these birds haven’t found their way to southern Ontario or Vancouver Island (maybe they have, but we just haven’t seen them?).  Why is it these birds are so localized?  What keeps them from the east?  Do we just smell that badly?

Music taste and adult evolution

One of the great things about where I live, and there are many similar locations across the country, is the proximity to a local park/nature trail.  The one in my neck of woods surrounds a municipally owned golf course, which has a path covered in mulch on the outer extremities of the property.  The majority of the course rests upon a large and rocky hilltop and has a creek that runs underneath it, ultimately forming into a pond in the centre of the north side.  Of course, there are plenty of ducks happily reside there, safe in the knowledge that the people who walk through the area will leave them be, or drop breadcrumbs for them to squabble over.  I’ve witnessed the odd feeding, and it is not for the faint of heart.

Usually, my strolls through this trail are not done solo.  The pleasant atmosphere makes it ideal for nice sixty-minute walk with a partner.  I actually had my first unaccompanied journey around the golf course this week.  When walking by myself, like many, my ears are caressed with music delivered from headphones or earbuds.  Knowing a situation like would eventually arise, I previously curated my phone with a bunch of artists that I have enjoyed listening over my four decades of life.  Some are guilty pleasures, and some I believe to be true musical artists who are honest to their craft.  What I am slowly trying to say is, don’t judge me with what is about to be transcribed to the permanence of TheInterwebz™.

I was approaching the second bend of the trail when a song from Sum 41 came on.  It might have been from their release from a couple months ago, I can’t remember.  What the song was does not really matter, but what it did do was remind me of events of my past when a song of theirs might have played.  Nostalgia was triggered in the way that only music can do.  How many times have we heard songs that we loved when we were growing up being used a modern television program, commercial, a movie, only to have it inspire us to buy a product or at the very least listen to the song or entire album?  Of course listening to this throwaway song from Sum 41 did not just trigger said nostalgia, but it lead me along a different path than what was before my eyes in the park.  I began to take stock in the music that I’ve been listening to or have purchased over the past couple of years.  More importantly, I thought about my usual process of finding new music to listen to.  Sadly, it goes something like the following:  First, on Friday mornings, I log into my Apple Music account and navigate to the new music prompt.  Second, I scan for artists I recognize.  Third, if there is an artist I know, I will listen to the album and purchase where appropriate.  Fourth, I navigate to the Just for You new music section and go through a similar process.  Sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll listen to the entire new music playlist that Apple generates for me, and maybe 10% of the time I find something or someone new that I enjoy and will investigate further.  The thought of this process yielded some conclusions that disappoint me and sparked further questions.

Eight short years ago (I remember when eight years seemed like a long time), I began my twenty episode podcast journey which explored new music and celebrated music from my past.  Since then, I’ve experimented with Nerdcore Hip-hop, EDM, but my roots still remain, which lean towards the rock, ska, SoCal punk, and 90s alternative (not the god awful stuff that counts as alternative these days), with bands and performers like Incubus, The Offspring, Foo Fighters (of course), Ben Folds, Gorillaz, Mad Caddies, Tegan and Sara, and yes, the aforementioned Sum 41.  While I still find new artists I enjoy, like Halsy, CHVRCHES, Tove Lo, and Dorothy, my scope modern music that I enjoy grows increasingly narrow.  I am getting perilously close to the point that most adults eventually reach.  That point where you believe all new music is crap, with music from our generation being infinitely better than what is currently being produced.

It began to dawn on me that perhaps this musical evolution is an indicator that the listener has completed the “growing-up” process.  A sign of full adulthood.  At first, this made sense.  I felt that even through my early thirties, I still had yet to completely grow up.  I quickly called bullshit on this, as there are people who have yet to really grow up and are listening to eighties hair bands.  While I called BS, the train of thought had merit.  The ability to enjoy new music as an adult could also be an indicator of ones ability to continue evolving.  There comes the point when a person becomes a full-on zebra.  This idea, I think, has more merit.  When I reflect on how much personal change I have gone through over the past few years, I know I am still evolving.  At the same time, I still occasionally find new music that I fall in love with.  I know I have not stopped my personal evolution.  In some aspects, I think my evolution is just beginning.  When I think honestly, I remember a period back in the doughnuts when I realized how much popular music is churned out like butter.  It is my hope that it’s not my evolution that has stuttered, but that I have become more of a wine taster.  I know what is good, and what I like.  Part of the role of a taster is also to experiment and try new things—which I still do.  It is with that in mind I find myself having a positive outlook on what is yet to come.  This journey that I am on, I believe, is far from being over.

People evolve and it’s important to not stop evolving just because you’ve reached ‘adulthood.’

-J. K. Simmons

Use your money for what?

Now that I’ve officially completed my degree it’s high time that I come back to my blogging roots.

There was an article in Forbes back in August of 2016 discussing a study pitting spending money on experiences over things.  From the article:

A 20-year study conducted by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, reached a powerful and straightforward conclusion: Don’t spend your money on things. The trouble with things is that the happiness they provide fades quickly.

This article more-or-less preaches to the Andy choir.  I have lived at both ends of the spectrum.  My early adulting period I numbed my loneliness and overall unhappiness through retail therapy.  Once I acquired the travel bug, my possessions began to shrink to a point where I would not say I became minimalist, but at least to a point where my physical purchases are more tied to necessities than temporary appeasements.  I would have no qualms about grabbing my laptop, my phone, my camera, and simply abandoning everything else I have.  It’s just stuff.  I’ve lost emotional attachment to pretty much anything I own.  I’ve learned that I don’t need a trinket to remind me of something I did or someone I care about (people can argue this with me once dementia sets in when I’m into my 80s).

The study further explains that our purchases foster comparisons.  What isn’t mentioned in the Forbes take on the study is what often accompanies the comparisons.  How often is it that we talk to people about our purchases?  In a demonstration of some sort of buyer braggadocio, we comment on the product, how much we paid for it, how awesome it is, and how much its improved lives.  What we buy becomes some sort of weird point of pride.  Using myself as an example, when I purchased my LG G5 as a replacement for my iPhone 6, I spewed fourth details of the phone, the price point, how much I saved, and all the extras I got with it.  I know this is not something that is unique to me, as I have heard it from many, many folk as well.  This ridiculously placed pride generates talking points, which brings me to my next one.

Think about your best experiences.  These usually carry several memories, stories and anecdotes that will have likely come up again several times over your life.  I have had my new phone since December, and now that I am four months in I don’t talk about it anymore.  Part of the joys of our lives comes from discussing and sharing out experiences with others, and the things you buy certainly have a limited shelf life.

Why does experiences have to end with vacations and activities, though?  My life and career has taken me living in suburban Ontario, to Toronto and the GTA, China, and Vancouver Island.  From my standpoint, living a life of experiences has been far more influential to my character and wisdom (stop laughing) than buying things ever has.  More, I think my grandiose movements have shown to me who my true friends are, which is something I’ll treasure far more than anything else.

When focus keeps me away

“It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.” – Lester Burnham, American Beauty

It's a bit of a rare opportunity for me to be able to spend some time clacking away at my tiny keyboard and be able to drop some text to TheInterweb™.

I'm going to try and not sound disgruntled, but I make no promises.

Summer is winding down (although it feels like it ended weeks ago, if it had even started at all), it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that I'll be turning 39 soon. Part of me wants to be bitter about it, but at the same time, I'm not entirely sure I really care. This isn't being cynical, or a denial about aging. This also isn't the mantra of only being as old as you feel. While I can pinpoint certain possibilities that it is not, its still difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what it actually is. It could be that, despite my being of middle age, and the acknowledgement that there are no certainties about life span, I know that I still have at least a couple of tricks left. I still have the capability to surprise myself (not always a good thing, but generally leans to toward the positive).

A weak example, but applicable. On Saturday I made and committed to the action of a slight change of style. Since I departed from my pervious employer, I have been wearing nothing but street clothes, day in and day out. Hoodies, jeans, runners, and pop-culture T-Shirts. While observers might consider me upping my game to remove the hoodie and runners, and add a blazer and matching kicks insignificant, I personally consider it to be a bit of a big deal. Yes, the pop-culture Ts and the jeans are still intact, but part of that is because I do not have the means to change my wardrobe overnight. Plus, abandoning my sizeable T-Shirt collection would hurt my soul a little bit. I am not changing as a person. It's still the same engine, its just a bit of a cosmetic change.

So does this matter? This was an unprompted change. No one was forcing me, nor encouraging me. However, this small change alters the perception of me by others, and more importantly, the perception I have of myself. This is likely the first time I've really made a style change that wasn't forced or strongly encouraged. It means I have the capability to change more than just my physical location every couple of years. In a way, this could act as a bit of a catalyst. While I am hardly a mirror image, this introduction to change is rather Lester Burnham.