Saturday, October 19, 2013

oh, i knew that

How do you spot a liar?   

How do you fight a liar?

This is something that I have been struggling with for a long time, and only recently has it become a problem in my own home. 

A few months ago I was asked to sit on the board of directors for the condiminium of my residence.  I had run for the board, but was not succesfully voted on.  One member resigned after the most recent AGM, and as I recieved the second most votes, I was asked to sit until the end of the term which would be in 8-10 months (depending on the AGM).

My only experience with the board prior to joining was when I ran into 2 of 3 Directors in the parking elevators after the initial AGM a few years ago.  I greeted them and was greeted with the following;

"Who did you vote for in the election?"

Not 'hello', or 'how are you?', but an agressive statement which had me on my heels.  At that point, I made a quick judgement call that these Directors were primarily interested in power.  Finding out who was on their side and who was not.  What other reason could there be for such an unorthodox greeting?

In the most recent AGM each candidate was given a chance to speak.  The candidate who spoke before me (the winner of the "vote") was actually asked to stop by the crowd because he was rambling.  

At the time I went up and started to speak, the same two board members who had greeted me in the parking elevators started speaking amongst themselves behind me while I attempted to speak.  I say attempted because their conversation was audible enough for me to turn around, look at them until they stopped talking, and then return to face the audience for my speech.

Now, my speech was nothing of consequence.  It was the general, this is who I am, this is what I would stand for, proper governance and transperency.  But I was told by multiple parties afterwards that I had spoken quite well, and I felt that I had given the best speech,  the fact that I was the only candidate who didn't read off a piece of paper did help.

Once the votes were counted, something interesting happened.  The lawyers reading the vote results stopped, looked up and stared right at me.  At that point I knew that I had lost and I knew exactly why.

A few days before the election, there was a coffee club meeting where some of the candidates were given a chance to meet with residents and introduce themselves.  At that meeting were myself and the winning candidate.  Along with the same Director who was in the parking elevator and speaking outloud during my candidate speech.  

This Director made his support for the winning candidate known.  In fact, he didn't even mention that I was there or running.  That's fine, I don't need him to know who I am, but I did know where he stood as a result of his words.

Back to the election; in order to have a quorum, proxy forms were signed and handed out by residents who did not attend the AGM.  Their votes, if left blank went to the incumbent board of directors.  It is safe to say that none of their blank proxy votes were in my favor.   I finished second in the voting.  The proxy votes accounted for 1/3 of the votes and there were only 3 candidates running.

After a few days I was called in and asked to join the board by the property manager.  I took a day to accept, but I did.  This being a volunteer position, my only interest was to ensure that proper governance was in place and that the corporation was financialy sound.  As it was a new building, maintenance fees were low, expenses were also low, so the corporation was flush with cash.  But that cash would be needed in the future so  unnecessary  spending would need to be looked out for.

However, once I was on the board the lies started to begin.  

I'm not going to bore you with all the lies, I'm just going to highlight one as the most recent example of the outragousness that goes on.

And it has to do with Apple Quicktime.  

Property management was given a file by an outside party and their PC recognized the file as being in Quicktime format.  The property manager asked me (being in IT) if I could help with it.  

At that point the liar spoke.  The same man who had confronted me in the elevator, spoke while I was giving my speech, and who on one occassion had lied to me directly by saying he had handed me a document which he clearly had never done so, said this about Quicktime;

"I know what quicktime is."  He then started using his hands to help explain.  He held one higher than the other and then as he spoke he brought one down and said, "Quicktime is a type of camera where they take this picture on a camera through a tube." 

At which point he brought one hand forward as though he was putting it through a tube and made a sound "And pfff, the camera goes quick through and they take the picture and they pull it back through the tube"  at which point he returned his hands to his starting position.

I was flabbergasted.  Not only was he not asked the question, but he decided to jump in and speak and, quite frankly, speak right out of his ass.  

I ignored what he said and told management what Quicktime really was and that I would be glad to help.  After I finished speaking the liar said,

"Oh, I knew that."

In this experience I have learned one thing.  If a person says "I know that" more than actually stating what "that" is, they're probably a liar. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

welcome back

'As to this - well, we have lived so long in a garden that we have all but forgotten the common places of survival.  It was said : Si fueris Romae, Romani vivito more, and quite sensibly, too.  But it is a more fundamental expression of the same sentiment to say: If you want to keep alive in the jungle, you must live as the jungle does...' - John Wyndham, The Midwich Cuckoos
It is not surprising that we humans anthropomorphize objects of our affection.  We may love our cars, our television shows, our lamps, our favourite sports teams.  We may feel that certain inanimate objects return their "affection" by operating as they were intended to.  We may love our local franchise of a multinational coffee shop and express our affection in kindness to the people who provide us our drinks from there.  We may even become regulars and form relationships with the people who are the face of the corporation behind the counters.  In doing so, we may begin to associate further with the corporation.  In these cases, where there are human faces, anthropomorphizing a corporation perhaps becomes easier.

Brand ambassadors seems to be a phrase that is used by corporations to define those people who customers interact with.  We may be able to go as far as to say that the manager of a retail store plays a larger role as a brand ambassador than a corporate executive who manages multiple stores.

However; the 4th wall behind which our relationship with the non-human objects exists comes tumbling down at times.  In the recent case of the NHL lockout, many fans have (or will) chose to detach themselves from the sport, citing many different reasons.  All of which are valid, yet none of which exist beyond the singular "fan" and the corporate entity of the NHL.  Even though the game is played by humans, and the corporations or management is also human, the league does not need the singular human"fan". Instead, they have a relationship with "the fan", a large entity encompassing all fans, who provide the money and attention that the professional game needs to survive.   

As a "fan" realizes that the NHL machine is larger than one person, one petition, or even one small group of people, or has felt that the lack of attention they have provided the game is enough, they shall return.  Much like parents who ground their kids, when the "fan" feels the NHL has learned its lesson, it will allow the NHL to come down and rejoin the rest of the family.

There are those who will continue to stand on their reasons and stay away, but they will be outnumbered by those whose attention shifts and who come back.  And they will come back, seemingly, they always do.  Their attention spans being what they are these days with all the twitters and the youfaces.

A shiny example of how attention quickly things turn today is what happened with the Toronto Maple Leafs and their (former) general manager and president, Brian Burke. 

Many people have speculated as to the reason(s) behind the (seemingly) sudden decision by the new owners (via their boards it is assumed) to relieve Mr. Burke of his duties.  Rather than play hypothetical regarding reasons why; hypotheticals which are very hard to understand when my first hand knowledge of conversations between the parties is nil, I present the result.

The result is after 100 plus odd days of a lockout which prevented the season from starting around it's normally scheduled time, a resolution was reached.  The news regarding the reaching of the resolution lasted exactly 3 days as the headline topic of discussion/attention.  On the 4th day, in the largest media market in the country with the most fervent support of the game, the story became about 1 man versus a conglomerate/board.

If this was a litmus test to see how the NHL would fare in the eyes of "the fan", the result appears to be that the past is forgotten (at least in Toronto).  That might be more of a survival technique of Leaf fans that we need to forget the past to be able to live with the team, but the fact is there is a new story; "Why did Burke get fired?"

Feeding that story was a press conference.  In which two people were on stage; the new GM for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the COO.  They were well prepared as to what questions may be asked.  There was  a narrative being searched for by the journalists, for most of them the firing was a Black Swan event.

For most of us it was too, but that's because we're consumers, we're on the receiving end of the information flow.  We get told what we need to, enough to keep the interest piqued until the games start and the games again become the narrative.

It is not my game, the NHL, it is entertainment which I can choose to turn on or off.  It does not owe me anything, especially not a start date.  The game did not go as planned in the fall due to no fault of my own.  The fault lies in the game itself being broken beyond one (or two or three) lockouts.  But as I understand that in 8 years this cycle will most likely repeat itself, if the game grows in size and people want a bigger piece of the bigger pie, I also understand there is more to the game than my relationship to the game.

There are many relationships with this game, different parties needing or wanting the game to fulfill needs or wants on their ends.  The biggest reason it continues to be a success in Canada is that it fills our winter nights with entertainment.   Our jungle is dark and cold in the winter time, and the stories of truculence on the ice keep some of us entertained. 

tautology: n 1 : needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word 2 : an instance of tautology

Friday, November 30, 2012

a visit to city hall

Its not often that I can be made to feel that I am a fool within 15 minutes of making a statement.  The statement in this instance was a tweet, and the tweet was about how as citizens of the city (of Toronto in my case) we should be more focused on the issues rather than the drama that may be unfolding in the personal or professional lives of our City Councillors.

The statement was inspired by a visit to a city meeting this past Wednesday night when I sat in on council session.   I was only there for a couple of hours, so I only heard one issue being discussed. It was centred around holiday shopping.  Specifically, Victoria day (a Holiday in August) was being debated and the opening of stores to allow people to shop on that day was being discussed.

There are businesses who wish to be open in Toronto so they don't "lose" shoppers to areas that allow shopping on holidays.  Workers don't want to have to work on holidays.  It sounded like this issue of shopping on holidays comes up quite often, as the frequency of this issue being debated was brought forward by numerous Councillors.

After a few votes and presentations, a vote was taken and the idea for retailers to be open on Victoria day was defeated.  Much to the delight of many workers who were in attendance that day showing support for no work on holiday, mostly hourly workers who get "persuaded" to work by their employers.  Persuasion often being in the form of the choice of work on that day or get fired.

It was a good victory for those in attendance, especially one first generation immigrant (by her own account) grocery store grandmother, who was given a voice by having a video play of her speech that must have been given recently during a public consultation.   She was seen drying her eyes after the video came up, I'm not sure if she knew it was to be played before hand or not, but nevertheless, the issue was close to her heart and perhaps being given a voice on such a stage contributed to the emotions where were coming to the surface.

Most encouraging about the process was that regardless of views, council seemed to be working under a consensus building environment.  Shelley Carroll herself talked as though she was in support of shopping on retail days, but since she could see that the motion was strongly opposed, was going to vote against it.

Good to see mature, emotional intelligent reasoning and discussion, the likes of which we (as news watching citizens) don't often get.  We're often shown the drama-of-the-day, which was quite dramatic the day after we attended. When there's so much work being done on issues at hand, he said-she said gets more attention from us.

After listening to the discussion, I felt as though both sides had a point.  And there was a third side (and a fourth perhaps) that also was motioned and discussed.  A scenario was painted where those with children or urgent needs would be able to go to a pharmacy and obtain the medication they need (because health doesn't take a holiday) rather than populating the emergency ward of a hospital.  Pharmacies being open would help mitigate that, but pharmacies in the city now are more like mini-grocery stores to the point where they are large enough to be the anchors in some suburban plazas.   At what point does a pharmacy become more of grocery store with a pharmacy (7500 sq. ft versus 15000 sq. feet)?

Needless to say, a simple but  still complex issue.  People who choose one side or another would most likely lather, rinse and repeat their arguments ad infinitum to the other side.  Which is why we need councilors and leaders who can see all sides and reason and discuss a resolution which is to the benefit of the greater good.

And I thought to myself that discussion of issues in a calm, reasoned manner is a good method, process to utilize when leading and bringing our society forward.  There is construction that can arise out of deconstruction of arguments.  But deconstruction of discussion leads us backwards to defining the terms of the discussion.  Perhaps it leads to a viscous cycle of talking to make a point rather than talking to understand the other side.

Then, in a few minutes, my whole statement of "stick to the issues" was remarkably deconstructed by Michael Kruse in a recent TEDx talk.

h/t Bruce Arthur

Basically, issues don't captivate us.  Stories do. Conflict makes stories.  City Hall in Toronto is making news, international news, perhaps like never before.  And it's not because they are discussing whether or not shops should be open on Holidays.  Analogous perhaps to rubbernecking an accident on the highway more than paying attention to the eagle soaring in the sky above, we are attracted, compelled, to friction and conflict.  

This may not be a revelation to most, it wasn't exactly brand new to me (have to give myself a little credit), but it was another reminder of how issues, debates, often aren't as simple as we'd like them to be.


1. To declare formally; state.
2. To pronounce clearly; enunciate.

access information

"Our society has reached a critical moment.  Our capacity to access information has grown to the point where we are in danger of overwhelming our ability to process it.  The exponential growth in the power of our computers and network, while opening vast opportunities, is outpacing our human abilities and altering our forms of communications in ways that alienate us from each other.  We are being deluged with information through electrical signals and radio waves, reduced to a digital, super-literal form that can be reproduced and redistributed at almost no cost.  The technology makes no distinction between value and junk. The abundance and availability of free digital information is dazzling and distracting.  It removes us from our own nature as complex, unpredictable, passionate people." - Neil Turok, The Universe Within

Monday, September 10, 2012

leaving the game to enjoy the game

This year, after almost 20 years of playing fantasy football, I decided to not manage a single fantasy football team.  This past Sunday was the first non-playoff Sunday that I watched football with little to no regard of how individual players performed.

This is a journal to record how it went.

I would call myself a football fan in the way that I am fanatical about the game. 

Is it a variation of chess in a physical form?  Yes.

Did I play strat-o-matic football growing up?  Yes.  The Cowboys were a beast of a team.

Do I watch a game and spend more time watching how the defence is lining up pre-snap than I would like to admit?  Yes.

Are these arbitrary questions that really establish little to no context of the sentence that preceded them?  Most probably.

It was opening Sunday, half an hour before kick off and I was nowhere near a computer or pre-game telecast.  I was about to dip my body into a very cold bath and trying to brace myself for that "experience", while audibly convincing my delicate parts not to retreat back up into my body. 

I've read that taking a cold bath after a run helps reduce inflammation in the joints, so it was my first week of doing that activity.  When I started running again last year, I used to dread the pain that my legs would be in about 5 minutes into my run.  Now I quite look forward to the runs in comparison to the bath afterwards. 

I used to run pretending zombies were chasing me.  There's an app for that.  Now?  I run from the pretend zombies but not home, because when I get home I have this torture facing me, so I continue to run, from baths. 

I guess a zombie crawling out of a bathtub would be one of my greatest fears. 
I researched the cold-bath therapy instead of checking the weather in New York to decide which kicker to start.  Instead of seeing what defences were weakest against the pass this year to choose my 3rd WR.

What was happening was that it felt like doing those activities, setting the lineup, evaluating scenarios, it had become tedious, almost routine, and I wasn't getting anything from it.  Could I half ass it and not do all that?  Yes, but, really, no. 

Being competitive, you don't want to fail out of ignorance.  So I devour information.  Fantasy football information gathering offers nothing that could be of any use in social settings, not even social settings that only involve other players of fantasy football, for in those settings, people are just waiting to talk about their own team.

I feel more comfortable sharing information about cold bath therapy than I do discussing the merits of TEs who get more playing time because they are good blockers. 

So as this past Sunday rolled around, I was introduced to a new channel on TV, the redzone channel.  Oh my football goodness!  It is a thing to behold.  I am considering getting the channel, even though I don't care who scores for any personal preferences.  There is no better way to watch a slate of games than through the redzone channel.  To the person/s who came up with that channel and to all those who work on it, I give my thanks.

Even though this channel may have been like freebasing a drug if I had a fantasy team, it was viewed with little to no negative emotional feeling when it didn't matter who on the team scored, just what team scored. 

And that's the crux of the problem.  Fantasy football, initially and in its purest form is meant to add, not subtract from the enjoyment of football.  I enjoy football, I enjoy participating in fantasy leagues with my friends.  For some reason though, unlike peanut butter and chocolate, the twine fail to meet.

Of course, it doesn't help that last year our fantasy league was partially decided by a coin flip rather than a cognitive interpretation of rules.   

But that may have been the straw that broke the camel's back. 

How did I feel watching the ending of Seattle Arizona with no financial, fantasy impact on the line?  I felt entertained.

And that's what these games are, entertainment.  Do you need to have a fantasy football team to be entertained?  Maybe, but then for you, perhaps the fantasy is the entertainment.

For me?  I prefer making up my own storylines. 

Last season, Pittsburgh went into Denver in the playoffs and lost a highly entertaining game.  This season, they started in Denver and lost an entertaining football game.  It was more interesting to me to see that Pittsburgh had found a way to drive consistently against the Broncos, rather than concerning myself with who was on the field and why my RB wasn't getting the hand-offs from Peyton Manning.

Because its not about me.  Its about the players who play the game, the coaches who coach the game and everyone else who is involved in the entertaining spectacle of sport.

I spend all week working on me and things that have something to do with my decisions.  Having my Sundays to enjoy football and enjoy watching other people work, that's a pretty good fantasy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

east of eden

Updated: August 22, 2011: Considering the passing of Jack Layton today, I have decided to update this post and put the quote from East of Eden at the top, and move my previous intro to the end of the quote. Reason being, I feel that these words by John Steinbeck apply to Jack Layton's legacy. Your body may die, but you may live forever as long as people talk about you. Please excuse the attempt at humour at the end, that was my original intro to this passage.


A child may ask, “What is the world’s story about?” And a grown man or woman may wonder, “What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s the story about?”

I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught – in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too – in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story.A man, after he has brushed of the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well – or ill?

Herodotus, in the Persian War, tells a story of how Croesus, the richest and most favoured king of his time, asked Solon the Athenian a leading question. He would not have asked it if he had not been worried about the answer. “Who,” he asked, “is the luckiest person in the world?” He must have been eaten with doubt and hungry for reassurance. Solon told him of three lucky people in old times. And Croesus more than likely did not listen, so anxious was he about himself. And when Solon did not mention him, Croesus was forced to say “Do you not consider me lucky?”

Solon did not hesitate in his answer. “How can I tell?” he said. “You aren’t dead yet.”

And this answer must have haunted Croesus dismally as his luck disappeared, and his wealth and his kingdom. And he was being burned on a tall fire, he may have thought of it and perhaps wished he had not asked or not been answered.

And in our time, when a man dies – if he has had wealth and influence and power and all the vestments that arouse envy, and after the living take stock of the dead man’s property and his eminence and works and monuments – the question is still there: Was his life good or was it evil? – which is another way of putting Croesus’s question. Envies are gone, and the measuring stick is: “Was he loved or was he hated? Is his death felt as a loss or does a kind of joy come of it?”

I remember clearly the deaths of three men. One was the richest man of the century, who, having clawed his way to wealth through the souls and bodies of men, spent many years trying to buy back the love he had forfeited and by that process performed great service to the world and perhaps, had much more than balanced the evils of his rise. I was on a ship when he died.The news was posted on the bulletin board, and nearly everyone received the news with pleasure. Several said, “Thank God that son of a bitch is dead.”

Then there was a man, smart as Satan, who, lacking some perception of human dignity and knowing all too well every aspect of human weakness and wickedness, used his special knowledge to warp men, to buy men, to bribe and threaten and seduce until he found himself in a position of great power. He clothed his motives in the names of virtue, and I have wondered whether he ever knew that no gift will ever buy back a man’s love when you have removed his self-love. A bribed man can only hate his briber. When this man died the nation rang with praise and, just beneath, with gladness that he was dead.

There was a third man, who perhaps made many errors in performance but whose effective life was devoted to making men brave and dignified and good in a time when they were poor and frightened and when ugly forces were loose in the world to utilize their fears. This man was hated by the few. When he died, the people burst into tears in the streets and their minds wailed, “What can we do now? How can we go on without him?”

In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty, men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influences and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try to live so that our death brings no pleasure to the world.

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly re-spawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.


Googling images for "East of Eden" brought me to a picture of a popular Korean Drama called, unsurprisingly, "East of Eden". Apparently it is popular in Korea.

The East of Eden that I was looking for was the novel by John Steinbeck. I read it. It melted my face off. Apparently it has Biblical under/over tones.


Apartment Advice from Cocoa on Vimeo.

Ok, perhaps not irrelevant, as it safe to say that the book's title perhaps also alludes to a Biblical reference. But that's not why I wanted to write about it.

The book is in 4 parts, and the beginning of the 4th part has a chapter which, considering what has happened in the book up and to that point, well, let me just say that this part melted my face off.

After a cursory check on copyright laws (5% can be copied) which may have been more of an academic regulation than a legal one, I have determined that I can, nay, shall, transcribe the portion that I so enjoyed.

If you plan on reading East of Eden, you may not want to read on. If you don't plan on reading East of Eden, then you really should adjust your plans. If you've mistakenly arrived thinking this is a post about a Korean TV drama, my apologies.


Monday, April 18, 2011

the book from where i sit

Just finished reading Doug Glanville's The Game from where I Stand over the weekend. It fulfilled my quota of a baseball book every April, a little personal reading exercise I've participated in for the last 5 or six years.

Baseball and books seem to go hand in hand together. Perhaps because unlike some other, faster paced sports, in baseball there can be a story within every pitch.

But that's not what Glanville approaches in his book. The Game From Where I Stand is more of a very brief life story about a man who's primary occupation has been baseball for the past few years. Glanville does a good job of heaping praise; for example his admiration for Tom Glavine isn't anything groundbreaking for anyone who's been exposed to Glavine's personality from beat writers. He does an even better job of respecting the privacy of others, whether it be a female associate or a player suspected of juicing (whose name has not been revealed by the Mitchell report).

In that respect, his book fails in the shocking expose category, a category easily catered to by the TMZing of mainstream society. His stories are real, but in keeping somethings held back you get to understand that Glanville is a man of integrity who will not attract attention to himself by using others.

I'm not saying I want an expose of a book like Canseco's Juiced, far from it. Although releasing a name or two as a suspected "juicer" surely would have put Glanville's book on a more populated book tour and perhaps garnered a greater release, it would have lowered the class of the book.

This book has class. It's about baseball from the viewpoint of a professional major leaguer who's played very recently. His anecdotes are heartfelt; and if you're an Expos fan, you will enjoy his take on Montreal.

It was fun to read, a good insight into another major leaguer. To that extent I will provide a single excerpt of a passage that spoke to me;

We call it advancement, the act of getting closer to something ahead or in front of us. But when we lock in on that target as the next step, sometimes we forget what got us here. The need to demonstrated success, the show, and glitter all play into why we can end up chasing illusions that take us away from our true selves.
All players battle with this in some form, and most get lost for at least a moment or two. (If you are lucky, that's the worst of it.) But when you get disoriented, you just have to be courageous enough to turn around, regroup, and look for home. That place where you can look closer of the matchup of needs versus wants.
Even if you have to go back down those stairs for a while.

morass n: swamp

Monday, May 12, 2008

Unassisted Triple play

This is how fast the internet works. 8:30 pm Lyle Overbay hits into an unassisted triple play.

By 8:35 Wikipedia has been updated.

By 8:40 I had checked online to see how many unassisted triple plays there have been in the history of baseball (15 now including today).

cogent adj 1: having power to compel or constrain [cogent forces]2 a: appealing forcibly to the mind or reason : convincing [cogent evidence] b: pertinent, relevant [a cogent analysis]