Home

Letters Of Hope From Mom and Bill Gates

Leave a comment

IMG_0394.JPG

My young playful Mom

I got a bunch of letters from my Mom the other day.

There were, and still are, hours of wonderful reading and digesting.

The artistically sculpted handwriting that wove the stories of my family’s daily goings-on wasn’t a genetic trait passed on to me as it was to my two sisters … I find my words sinking into a steadily deteriorating scribble that’s readable, but just.

Did I mention that my Mom died more than 45 years ago?

Obviously, the letters that I’m talking about weren’t written yesterday. They’re nestled in a box of archived family photos and memorabilia I’ve held onto. A good deal of it has also been passed to me by others, my siblings, aunts and uncles and distant cousins.

My eyes glaze a tiny bit as I hum Jim Croce’s Photographs and Memories.

My night owl Mom would write late at night when she was most awake, the house dark and silent. Sitting at the dining room table, smoking her homemade, unfiltered cigarettes, her words and thoughts glided onto the pages. Sometimes 3, 4, even 10 pages long.

Most of the letters were written in the 1960’s and early 1970’s to my older brother Robert who had moved west to Edmonton for university. These were the years where my siblings and myself were at our most volatile and malleable, the times when most of our life’s major decisions were being formulated and dreamed.

Lots of talk about school exams and boyfriends/girlfriends/weddings, painful ear infections, paper routes and bitter snowstorms.

 

IMG_0410.jpg

The “small” stories held in the probably more than 200 pages of handwritten love aren’t the ones that capture newspaper headlines: there are no abbreviations like LOL or UR or WTF, the script lines are written on clean white unlined paper, mostly 8.5 x 11 inch.

The grammar and spelling are excellent (although I would call her out for using real instead of the adverb really!) given they were written by a farm girl from tiny Hillsburg, Ontario, born in an era when education for girls was far less important than striving for their MRS.

Mom’s words were mostly fun and newsy and very optimistic. Nostalgic and warm. Written close to the end of her years – she sadly died before she reached 61 years old – they were filled with the plans and stories that show a woman who found the best in each person and the immense love for the family that she had surrounded herself with.

Yes, my Mom was dedicated to her family … my Mom was optimistic despite any troubles that no doubt existed. Everyone has troubles.

Sure, Mom would have had problems (tell me one woman with 5 kids that doesn’t have troubles) … Bill Gates has troubles too I bet. Yes, THAT Bill Gates.

Bill Gates sees troubles in the world.

I got a bunch of words in a letter from Bill and Melinda Gates the other day.

Gates Letter 2018

Their letter outlines a myriad collection of problems that exist in the world, “we’re highlighting nine more things that have surprised us along this journey. Some worry us. Others inspire us. All of them are prodding us to action. We hope they do the same for you, because that’s how the world gets better.”

I wasn’t a great fan of Bill Gates when he ran Microsoft.

He always seemed to be attempting to take over the technology of the world with inferior products. He shoved and elbowed to crush whatever competition was waiting and was willing to use all the levers at his devious disposal to eliminate them.

But since leaving as head of Microsoft 10 years ago, Gates and his partner Melinda have found a softer side, or at the very least, a very positive use for his drive to dominate.

The Gates Foundation is a huge philanthropic force dedicated to improving the lives of everyone using technology and intelligent processes. Diseases such as AIDS and malaria have been major focuses, as has the education of young women.

Gates is the antithesis of Trump… Gates, like me, believes that improving the lot of the poorest, sickest, and most destitute the world over improves all our lives. He uses real data, real news, real hope, to combat the fake and the transparently false.

Reading my Mom’s and Gates’ letters this week has left a warm glow inside me.

I’m always on the lookout for mentors, near and far… those who inspire with their deeds.

This week has brought me the gift of a positive glow from that most intimate source… my mother, speaking to me from the past… and an external source of wisdom and hope, Bill Gates, holding confidence and promise in the future.

Optimism … I watched Kacey Musgraves singing at the Grammy Awards this week… her simply optimistic song, Rainbow, “ … there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head.”

Or, as Bill and Melinda Gates write: “The more optimists there are working for a better future, the more reasons there are to be optimistic.”

optimism.jpg

 

Advertisements

SING! SING!! SING!!!

2 Comments

 

MAry Poppins singing

Mary Poppins loves to laugh… Ha Ha Ha!

Laughter is wonderful and marvellous… yet, it’s a moment that dissipates quickly like steam clouds from a kettle. Like snowflakes on your tongue. Like a shooting star in an inky sky. Like losing my virginity. Gone…

But singing … yes, Mary Poppins loves to sing too!

Singing is a lasting memento that lingers and meanders and harmonizes … like a light tongue lick across your soft shoulder skin that tingles and teases and melts down through your body to the nether regions of dark deliciousness.

Sorry, where was I?

Kids love to sing. Dogs and coyotes love to sing.

I love to sing… I’ll bet you do too…

People just love to sing…

I sing by myself in the car … I sing in the shower … I sing solo at Open Mics … I sing in duets on various stages here in the Okanagan Valley. I’ll sing anywhere.

Sometimes people listen, sometimes they don’t. Doesn’t matter (I lied, it does!). Singing transcends ego.

IMG_0385.jpg

Me, Nancy and Jimmy in Yellowknife’s Hoist Room. 1978.

In Yellowknife, I sang Valdy and CSN songs with Jimmy and Nancy and Steve in the Arctic bars; in William’s Lake I sang Dylan songs in Cowboy Country coffeehouses with John; today I sing Civil Wars and Willie Nelson songs with Marie and David.

My earliest memories of singing were in Grade 6 at Glen Brae Middle School in Hamilton, Ontario.

I sang in Mrs. Laing’s class choir… my friend Danny and I both loved harmonizing- at lunch break we’d rush over to the Millionaire Drive-Inn (best Vanilla milk shakes ever!) and buy a root beer and a 25¢ burger wrapped in tin foil, before running back to practice with the group. We sang Love Is Blue (L’Amour Est Bleu). Simple harmony parts but it was beautiful.

I wonder if Danny still sings somewhere out there today?

My daughter went out to sing last night … Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre was jammed with 1,000 enthusiastic strangers filled like feathers in a pillow to the peak of the balcony … every single person there singing their hearts out for one night … belting out DANCING QUEEN young and sweet, only seventeen …oooooo oooooooo.

CHOIR! CHOIR! CHOIR!

choir choir choir vancouver

In a few months my sister in Ontario will be having the same CHOIR! CHOIR! CHOIR! experience (except a different song I’m sure). Communal singing in sheer joy.

My daughter and sister aren’t unusual.

It used to be that adult choirs were typically associated with churchgoers. That’s still true to a certain extent but general community choirs are rising like fervent yeast in a warm cozy kitchen. Everyone loves to sing and harmonize.

Singing is the like the mellowing effects of legal cannabis, an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.

Endorphins and oxytocin don’t only emanate from the runner’s high that carried the Boomers through the ’70’s and ’80’s.

Singing releases these “feel good” hormones too. That explains why a number of studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness.

The great thing about choir singing is you can really suck at it and no one knows. My wife, who could be described as lacking “perfect pitch” but charged with lots of vocal enthusiasm, joined a Sweet Adelines chorus years ago and her voice became subsumed and absorbed into the blender of voices. What is better than that?

All sorts of people with terrible voices sing at Karaoke bars because … well… it’s fun, it’s merry, it’s joyous – to use an old expression… it’s gay … even without 10 B-52 shooters on board.

Singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and less sweat inducing than working out.

Singing immerses us in the waters of our past with small tidal fragments of memories, ripples of happiness and melancholy … all the things that make us real and human.

Yes, singing is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed … where darkness is shaded out by light, depression pushed down and away, smiles made brighter and broader…

… and Mary Poppin’s kites fly higher and higher in the sweet gentle air of endorphins.

water memories

Oscar and The Side Effects That Might Make You A Better Person

Leave a comment

 

AStarisBornBlackKKlansmanBohemianRhapsody

BlackPantherGreenBookRoma

TheFavouriteVice

Oscars-Best-Picture-2019.png

Frankly Scarlett, it’s almost Oscar time again.

I can’t wait to tear up during the In Memorium section. I love the melancholy, the bittersweet.

I’ve seen slightly more than half the 2019 Best Picture nominees so far, and it’s a rich crop this time around the sun.

But which movie made me a better person?

Aside from the sheer entertainment value of watching a great movie, what are the lingering side effects?

Over the years, I’ve learned not to eat a sandwich in a New York restaurant next to Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. I’ve learned that to escape the claws of police after a bank heist, one needs only race across the next State border (why a Canadian should know this is another question) in a depression-era Model T Ford. I’ve learned that a chance encounter with a famous drunken country rocker can lead to untold fame and wealth (but ultimate sorrow).

But should movies have side effects? Not hangovers and tummy aches but … positive side effects?

Of course they should. We pay money to see these artistic creations. There’s gotta be more than awe and catharsis and greasy popcorn fingers.

We often read books with the conscious notion of becoming more intelligent, rounded, complete people. We grow and become better people with each chapter consumed.

Should movies be any different?

Most films are like reading a trashy novel on the beach. Tawdry and easily defecated out the back door of the theatre as we leave.

But … some … some movies are epic and long-lasting, unforgettable, priceless and timeless in their message and format. Like a great song, they get inside your head and linger like the aroma of a beautiful bolognese sauce simmering on the stove.

A couple of positive side effects? Examples?

A Star is Born.jpg

I watched A Star is Born where Bradley Cooper (Jackson Maine) knocks Lady Gaga (Ally) out of her sleepy repose:

Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know. That’s just the truth. And there’s one reason we’re supposed to be here is to say something so people want to hear. So you got to grab it, and you don’t apologize, and you don’t worry about why they’re listening, or how long they’re going to be listening for, you just tell them what you want to say.

That is a reminder, a reinforcement of a life lesson. The raw ingredients … talent, ability, intelligence are only the first steps to making a statement. Delivering that statement with confidence and balls, courage and sustained effort is what is needed.

green book.jpg

Green Book is a Shakespearean adventure where the “Fool” Bronx-born Tony Lip learns lessons of the world from his “colored” employer Dr. Don Shirley. In turn, Tony reflects back some unconventional teaching moments that inform the life of an “educated” man:

Dr. Don Shirley: Pull over.
Tony Lip: What?
Dr. Don Shirley: Pull over.
Tony Lip: I ain’t pulling over!
Dr. Don Shirley: Stop the car, Tony!
[Tony stops the car and Don gets out and starts walking in the rain]
Tony Lip: What? What are you doing?! Doc? Doc, what the hell are you doing? Doc, get back in the car!
Dr. Don Shirley: Yes, I live in a castle! Tony. Alone! And rich white people pay me to play piano for them, because it makes them feel cultured. But as soon as I step off that stage, I go right back to being just another n****r to them. Because that is their true culture. And I suffer that slight alone, because I’m not accepted by my own people, because I’m not like them either! So if I’m not black enough, and if I’m not white enough, and if I’m not man enough, then tell me Tony, what am I?!

Classic.

The side effect message? To make something special, something great, we have to accept the possibility of setting ourselves apart from our comfortable world. There is a bitter price to be paid for the exceptional.

Bohemain rhapsody

How about the flamboyant Freddie Mercury? Bohemian Rhapsody?

Filmmaker Bryan Singer presents Mercury’s father as having been disappointed with his son’s penchant for nightlife and theatricality, urging him over and over again to get serious about his life and follow his refrain:

Good thought, good word, good deed.

Mercury ends up living by his dad’s words, but in his own way. In one scene, the mercurial singer tells a potential manager that Queen is the champion of the oddball: “We’re misfits who don’t belong together, playing for the other misfits. The outcasts. The ones right at the back of the room. Who are pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.” His good thought, word and deed, in other words, is for them — the stigmatized, marginalized and misunderstood.

Finally, eventually, Mercury’s father seems to recognize that his son has lived up to his expectations in their last interaction on screen. Mercury goes home to introduce his family to his boyfriend, Jim Hutton, who remained his partner until the singer’s death from AIDS-related complications at 45, and tell them about his plans to perform in a charity concert (Live Aid) to raise money for famine relief in Africa.

Good thought, good word, good deed.

Just like you taught me, Papa.”

The resulting theme from each of these flicks? The life lesson? The side effect that can make you better?

It’s simple. Occam’s razor simple.

No matter the “size” of one’s existence, greatness is a Herculean struggle. To be better tomorrow than you are today takes effort and strain and pain.

It takes a sizable tub of popcorn to impart these side effects into my brain, because…

… Frankly dear, I do give a damn!

Frankly dear.jpg

 

 

 

The Lamp Is Burning Low …

Leave a comment

winter ghost 2.jpg

Winter almost ghosted us here …

As we creep alongside the start of a new month, there is finally a tiny white cupcake frosting layer on the ground.

Typically by this point, the Okanagan Valley has reliably weathered through a bum-chilling cold snap (or two) where the temperature slips downwards to -15C, occasionally even -18C or so.

Even though the temperatures haven’t dipped much below -5C this season, and snow has been virtually non-existent, the vistas outside my windows are at long last those that resemble true winter. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

It’s in these greyer days of winter when my mind absorbs the darkness and wanders to the family and friends and acquaintances whose footsteps can no longer be heard treading the halls of real life.

In many ways, it’s surreal, like maybe they never truly existed, like whispers in the forest.

I know they did, but it still feels dreamy, water slipping between my fingers.

I had grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, in-laws, neighbours and friends; real fleshy, imperfect people who lived the same as me, ones that breathed and worked and fucked and worried and laughed and shit and sweat and dreamed…

moon dream

I dreamed of my boyhood friend Frank the other night.

When Frank died in a motorcycle accident in 1989 (age 32) I sobbed my memories and smiles and worries as I read the mournful letter his Mom sent me.

Her writing was a grief-laden waterfall of tears in words.

I washed over that painful parapet along with her in the bittersweet memory of youth lost. Heartbreak poured across the page from her pen.

I once saved Frank from the certainty of high school suspension when he was falling down drunk at a Grade 11 dance … we played touch football in the summer and street hockey beneath winter street lights … he and I shared a strange enjoyment of growing Venus Flytrap plants … he trounced me regularly at chess and ping-pong matches … we ate up the love in his Mom’s Hungarian cooking whenever – day or night – we walked through the door to his house … we consoled each other when our hearts were broken by pretty young attractions …

Thirty years on, and he, and others, still live inside me, the laughter and the tears.

We all carry an inner vision of those who mattered to us and are gone, those who were a part of shaping us from rough pieces of clay … I never met 3 of my 4 grandparents and yet I still envision them as components of my real world … a puzzle piece in my creation.

When I play my guitar quietly in the dim light of wintry evening darkness, my mind and heart wander the bygone roads where so many have travelled, where so many have faded into the fog.

These lives are the profusion of faces and voices I’ve known or known of … those whose memory lamp is burning low but not yet extinguished … within me.

candle burning

 

 

 

The Carousel of Cardio & Pain*

Leave a comment

MoS2 Template Master

Is there anything better than waking up to the screaming voices of tortured muscles and limbs?

Don’t answer that … yet!

You know, the body parts that have been stretched and run and twisted and pushed to a moderate degree beyond comfort while exercising.

It’s no secret that I’m a goal-oriented dude who, paradoxically prefers nothing better than hours and hours of slackadaisical repose… unless… a venture lays before me in the near future that requires a steady simmering build-up of energy.

I met a guy my age – Cary – at the gym the other day, he said… 10 years ago, I ran 10 kilometres in about 42 minutes.

I told him that my “younger” man goal had been to run a 40 minute 10k. I came up short by 21 seconds in 1990 and was never able to get my running fitness to that level ever again.

Cary had a pulmonary embolism 7 years ago and now pushes hard to run a 55 minute 10k.

I didn’t have a pulmonary embolus and I have to run hard now to make a 55 minute 10k.

Training for those runs as a young guy was stimulating … and also came with a modicum of pain. But back then, my mental stamina was strong and pushing hard through the pain was a price I happily paid to myself to compensate for the payoff of attaining my goals.

The training needed to run a 10k in 55 minutes or a half marathon in 2 hours now leaves me with about the same physical pain I experienced in 1990 with 40 minute 10k’s and 1.5 hour half marathons.

tough mudder

What has changed for me, above and beyond the natural aging process, is my mental strength. I can’t crush the gas pedal the way I once did.

Like a cascading river washing over rocks for centuries and millennia, the smoothing and wearing down over time has worked the same process on my mental stamina and grit.

The mere act of physically pushing over decades has polished down the keen edge of mental competitive spirit that once filled my head and body.

It’s kind of funny to me because the mental edge of sharpness that was present for running (and swimming and cycling) has more recently transferred – transformed – into an eager mental edge for improvement on the musical side of my character.

Today, I’m willing and passion-filled to push myself to refine and enhance my guitar skills – skills where I tended towards laziness in years’ past.

Do you find something similar happening to you in the areas of your world where you embrace an enthusiasm and zest – are you too morphing from the ardour of one facet of your life and experiencing a surge in another?

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same…

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange

David Bowie

I’ve changed … I’m always changing but …

I still love pushing myself and feeling a bit of muscular pain in the morning.

I still love crossing the finish line of a running race.

I still love the rush of endorphins when I strum the last chord of a song and I hear the whoops of the audience that felt a tiny river of joy … or memory … or love … that my song gave them.

The carousel that sometimes gives us pain may also leave a beautiful aftertaste of pleasure in its wake.

* with thanks to Margot H for the blog title.

carousel.jpg

 

 

My Island of Lost Focus

2 Comments

educated

The bloody epic battle between knowledge, education and understanding vs Trump World idiocy and xenophobia will end soon.

I have to have hope.

Reading leads me to greater understanding. Reading takes concentration and focus.

Educated (Tara Westover) and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Yuval Noah Harari).

These are the books I’m currently “reading”. They’re both excellent, somewhat disturbing books for our disturbing times. But ultimately they offer hope.

Hope is a human joy and strength.

Some people read a book or two each week. I’m lucky if I get through one per month (or 3 months).

I don’t read enough to truly satisfy my quest for greater understanding of humanity and I probably never will.

You see, I hope that if I read of someone else’s effort and expertise I can shorten the 10,000 hour requirement of getting weally good at something.

But I don’t seem capable of juggling my desire to participate in 10 activities simultaneously with any aplomb. Sad.

The clutter in my mind is a blessing and a curse. You too, right?

My daily to-do list starts as a focussed, “I’ll do these 3 things… well” affair that evolves into a list of a dozen items. It’s my pseudo-ADHD gene acting up.

Focus Lost.

Which brings me back to reading because reading demands focus and attention.

I just hate it when I’ve read a page of great writing only to discover that I’ve totally not absorbed a page of great writing. My mind has moved on to the next item(s) on my daily list. Squirrel!

Yup, Focus Lost.

Reading is only one example of My Island of Lost Focus.

Today I’m using you to help me focus on FOCUS.

So, what are 8 things I can do to re-establish focus in my daily world?

  1. Be ruthless in making a daily to-do list that doesn’t exceed 5 items. I’m sorry, but anything else will just have to wait (or be lost forever). Example from today’s list: 1. Write this blog post 2. Research and write up a list of potential investment choices for a friend who’s asked for my help 3. Write an e-mail of condolence to an old friend whose Mom died recently 4. Work on developing an introductory instrumental for a song my duet partner has written lyrics for 5. Investigate the purchase of an inexpensive used laptop for my Syrian student.
  2. Always do the most challenging point(s) early on in the day (before 11 am). Anything I do after the witching hour of 11 am or noon is just sheer gravy. Peak productivity for me happens for only a half dozen hours after my 5 am internal alarm rings. I admire those who have power surges in the evening, but when the sun sets, so does my kinetic energy.
  3. Take a short break every hour. Make a cup of tea or latte and then return to the task with a refreshed outlook.
  4. Or change tasks for the next hour, not all points need to be completed in one go so long as I come back to finish it the same day.

da vinci quote

 5. Be sure to share the important things that you want to do with your family and friends so that your feet are held to the fire. Motivation comes from the energy and input of the ones you admire and mirror. Remember you’re the average of all the people who surround you.


 6. Listen to some bright, peppy music to get the energy flowing back to its peak. Beach Boys, Eagles, even an old ’80’s song I listened to while run training by Wayne Gretzky’s former girlfriend Vikki Moss.

 7. Stay focussed on the bigger picture. A life can pass by so easily by doing only the tiny everyday items (laundry, vacuuming, washing the car) that obstruct our view of what we truly want to accomplish with our time. We’re all working in a world of limitless possibilities but we’re also in a world of limited time.

8. Finally, I must remember, like in Desiderata, Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself … And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

…………………….

Whew… that was a mere 8 Lessons for the 21st Century for me … OK … item #1 knocked off my to-do list (of course I got diverted while writing and have already completed numbers 4 and 5!).

Latte time, then it’s back to #2 and #3.

Oh, and thanks for keeping me from being a forlorn castaway on My Island of Lost Focus.

castaway.png

 

 

 

 

 

F*** What????

2 Comments

FuckedUpedness.jpeg

FuckedUpEdNess!

There, I said it… forgive me but… YAY!!

It’s a word I’ve anxiously saved and hoarded all of last year to make use of, so please excuse my bold application, but at last, its time has come.

And really, using it to describe my own actions (and those of the Man Down South) makes it OK to use, doesn’t it?

I’m writing this week’s post with a slightly rosy hue burning my cheeks (not the ones I’m sitting on!).

I spend a not-inconsiderable amount of time each day, week, and year, examining and studying, then finally purchasing (and selling) tiny amounts of publicly-traded companies in both Canada and the US.

My long-stated goal has been to swing a bat with care and sagacity to bring about an average return of about 15% on my accounts and those I advise on.

Each year (mostly), I happily highlight my investment acumen in the cases where I’ve made some head-swelling choices, and to be fair, grimly excoriate my less well-chosen trades on the markets.

BUT! The big bold F word above tells you which direction my choices have driven this past year… a Thelma and Louise skid off the steep cliffs of investment return. NEGATIVE!

Because I act as a kind of amateur investment advisor to my kids, I’ve already sent them each a letter of (FuckedUpedNess) apology and mea culpa for the bad news I wrought in their accounts that wasn’t so bad until … the final month of the year when the wheels were violently ripped off this market money wagon… CRASH!

To be a little gentle on myself, I know that all North American markets took a big haircut on the year. To be a little less gentle on others, I feel exasperated and irked with the Man Down South.

trump buck.jpg

But blaming others just isn’t healthy. I won’t go down that road. Please please please help me to not go down that road.

I know from lengthy experience that markets aren’t a solid, joyous ride up the rollercoaster…. on occasion, there is an underwear-staining heart-thumping tear down a steep track that we must expect.

OK… brass tacks … what’s all this FuckedUpedNess fuss about?

The bottom line: the return on my investments for 2018 was a sub-standard -1.76%.  My first down year since 2008. By comparison, the S&P 500 (the broad U.S. measure of markets) dropped 4.4% in 2018 and the TSX Composite fell 8.9%.

I hate it when I see my net worth sink even a little. When you invest on a serious level, net worth has a rough correlation with net self-esteem!

OUCH!

A negative result is different now than before.

I’m finding out in a non-fictional way today that negative returns have a real-life impact on a Retiree’s (there’s that nasty “R” word!) world… the regular bi-weekly paycheque has gone AWOL and is no longer a credit to balance the debits! The teeter-totter has lost one of its players.

But I’ve long known that a job is only one source of income. The American IRS suggests the average millionaire has seven sources of income. We should all strive for multiple streams of $, yes?

OK, enough delay… it’s time to pony up and share my results over the short and longer-terms.

I’m definitely no Warren Buffett when it comes to investing – the multi-billions keep slipping from my hands – but I’ve carried out my role in an OK kind-of-way over time, and more importantly, I love the pursuit, the challenge.

So here are my cumulative annualized returns over the past decade (to shrink my head a tiny bit, I’ve added in year 11 as that was the year of the big 2008 slide… a harrowing -37.1% return):

  • 1 year     -1.8%
  • 3 year     +6.1%
  • 5 year     +6.8%
  • 10 year   +19.7%
  • 11 year   +14.5%

Only over the 10 year period have I attained the pinnacle (15%+ returns) that I’ve been climbing towards. Clearly, my goals have outshot my reality. I’m not giving up!

And for this past year, I’m putting my investing acumen and self-accolades in the FUCKEDUPEDNESS column.

Guess I’ve gotta keep working on my swing (maybe I just haven’t reached my 10,000 hours of mastery yet). I hate those years when I strike out.

I don’t want to have to pull out that F word again next year!light sabre bat.jpg

 

This Pilgrim’s Progress: Young… or… Old?

2 Comments

Summerland snow

It was like receiving a belated birthday wish from a long-time friend.

The wait lasted until December 26 – Boxing Day in Canada – for the first cotton snowflakes to drift and plump and fluff and find their way through the skies to perch on the impatient evergreens here in Summerland.

For a few weeks now I’ve been peering out my window over to the frosted eastern hillsides of Okanagan Lake, breathing in the visual white line of demarcation halfway up the slope, knowing that snow was out there somewhere, just not where I could touch it and roll it up into little snowmen and snowladies and snow non-binary specific people.

This same story plays out most years, although usually about a month earlier than this trip around the sun.

It’s gone on for so long now that I’m thinking about aging and getting old.

I find myself joking around a lot, telling people the reason I don’t remember this, or don’t do that, is cuz I’m OLD!

But am I? I’m not really sure….

Is old wearing reading glasses? Is old forgetting where I put my reading glasses? Is old passing more gas than I used to? Is old eating dinner at 5 o’clock and falling asleep by 10?  Is old slowing down or speeding up (philanthropist David Rubenstein urges us “to accelerate” as we entered the last chapters of our lives.) Is old when I can’t run a 10 minute mile anymore? Is old when I stop being interested in new information and experiences? Is old when I stop jumping from airplanes and swimming across lakes? Is old when I start to talk about the good ole days?

Is old now… or always coming tomorrow or tomorrow after that?

old and young tom hanks

Sergei Scherbov, lead researcher of a multiyear study on aging, in answer to the
question, When does old begin?, says for Americans, it’s roughly 70 to 71 for men and 73 to 74 for women, though, as he has written, “your true age is not just the number of years you have lived.”

It’s intrigued me because a while back when I asked my Syrian student-friend how old his parents – refugees that have just been resettled in England – were, he said…

… oh, they’re old, both my father and mother are 55.

What!?

He was dead serious.

I paused, thought wistfully for a moment, smiled, and then reminded him that I was 61.

He grinned back at me sheepishly, and replied earnestly, yes, but 55 is old when you live in Syria… 61 is not old when you live in Canada.

According to a 2017 study by U.S. Trust, Millennials, now in their 20s and 30s, say that old starts at 59. Gen Xers, now in their 40s — and no doubt with a new appreciation for just how close they are to entering their 50s — say 65 is the onset of old. Boomers and older pegged 73 as the beginning of old.

I knew I was pretty much on the start of the pathway to “old” when a younger person first called me “Sir”. Who you talking to?

If I asked every single one of you that reads this, “what is old?“, I’d get a different answer from each of you. Old has a different meaning, a unique connotation, in our minds.

For me, the feeling of excitement, of inspiration that runs through my days is the biggest indicator of age, young and old.

Writing these blogs, playing guitar, writing music and singing make me feel young. Apart from the bastard mirror that lies when it shows me my face, I can almost believe that I’m 19. I still run and bike and ski, I read and learn, I travel and cook, I vacuum and wash dishes. I drive without leaving my left signal flashing for 10 minutes.

But I run more slowly. My eyes glaze over after reading but a chapter or two. I sleep in hotels instead of hostels or tents. I forget things my kids did when they were 8 years old. I forget things I did last weekend!

Cancer and heart disease drifts like a lazy river through my family. My get-up-and-go attitude could slip away with a single CT scan, car crash, or unstuck plaque in my arteries.

It’s possible that I may be only a hobbling step or two away from jumping the fence to old.

Poke me with a fork, I’m almost done! Maybe…

All the more reason to pick up the pace now. Accelerate!

May the chapter entitled 2019 that YOU write in your life book be one of not merely seizure… but seized challenges, opportunities, and maybe even acceleration.

Now, if you could just tell me where my reading glasses are?

 

What Language Will You Learn in 2019?

Leave a comment

Merry Xmas language.jpg

Son of a Moose!

It’s so simultaneously frustrating and delightful… I know you’re speaking English, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.

And it’s not only because I’ve been drinking myself into an every-waking-moment anti-Trump sh*thole – OK, guilty as charged… but…

I love languages…  a kaleidoscope of colour and nuance and beauty in the form of words and the way they’re strung together. The phrase-work of Venus and Shakespeare.

I guess that’s why I enjoy writing this blog so much.

How many languages do you speak?

No, not Punjabi or Portuguese or Cree. If you can speak any of these, I am super-impressed and orgasmically jealous, but…

No matter your answer because we’re all multilingual.

Let me explain.

Just to be Christian seasonal, I’m pretty fluently Christmaslingual, but not Hannukahlingual or Diwalilingual … in my laboratory working life I was Blood-cellslingual and Bacterialingual but not fluent at all in Orthopedicese or Oncologese.

Different languages… in each stage of our lives we learn new languages, the words and phrases and acronyms that are confusing to most, yet have meaning to others surrounding us with whom we share a common bond.

In my days of working in hospital labs in Yellowknife or Comox or William’s Lake I would be called to SURG125 to draw a CBC for a TUPR on a patient with BPH to be done STAT.

Got that? Makes perfect sense if you speak LABese, right? You’ve had the same experience in whatever field you’ve travelled en-route to your livelihood.

This year I’ve been a “life coach” to a Syrian refugee family that needs assistance with the discombobulated convolutions of government and institutional bureaucracy. It’s been a crash course in a new set of language skills.

No matter how much French I learned in the classrooms of high school or Spanish in a language school in Cusco, Peru, I’m unprepared yet exhilarated by the onslaught of vocabulary needed to be effective or even understood in this latest incarnation of my life.

So while learning and understanding national languages is wonderful, adding to the richness of our existence, so too is learning a new “language” within our own tongue.

The fine-tuning of our brains needs the stretch of unknown unknowns that later become the known knowns.

In 2018, in addition to bureaucracy language I dangled my tongue in the tepid new language waters of:

  • Vegan cooking
  • Music production and recording
  • Non-lab related medical issues
  • Different music styles and tastes
  • Skate-style Cross-country skiing
  • Tai Chi
  • Parachuting

Skate skiing.jpg

Some new words that graced my tongue in 2018: AUG Funding and Permanent Resident Card, TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein) and Cashew Cream, EQ and Normalization, Fenestration and Intracystic Septation, Fragile Chords and Pentatonic Scales, Diagonal Skate and Double Pole, Pushing Hands, Reserve Handle and Canopy.

When you think over your own past year of activity and events, what new words were added to your vocabulary? What levels of understanding became a part of who you are? What were the stretches of language you encountered along your journey?

With only a few days left in 2018, I’m searching my mind, trying to foresee, like the Spirit of Christmas Yet-To-Come, the vocabulary that will define the year 2019 for me.

But honestly, I have no idea where the path will lead… which languages will find a place in my lexicon.

Perhaps I’ll merely live by the words of lovably cantankerous Ebenezer Scrooge:

Ghost of the Future … But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart.”

And finally, as we draw close to the day of Christmas and the sight of a new year, a new beginning:

And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!’’

Scrooge.jpg

Our Inner Psychopath

Leave a comment

Heath Ledger- Joker.jpg

She felt the warm, wet mascara running down her cheeks.

Wondering to herself why she ever slipped into this narrow black alley at 1:30 in the morning… wondering why she left her friends at the curb as they climbed into a UBER outside the club … wondering how much alcohol she had consumed, how much weed smoked … wondering what gave her the courage, the stupidity, in a blinding snowstorm … to seek out …. eek…. it doesn’t matter what she’s looking for when a heavy quilt-shadow silently creeps up behind her…

Cue the blood spatters and curdled screams… zoom in closely on dark rivers of viscous inky fluid slowly spreading in cloudy storm patterns through the slushy snow on the ground.

And … CUT!

How many people will die on your TV screen tonight? At the local Cineplex?

How much blood and guts will be splashed via XBox or PlayStation by 10 year-olds on a basement couch?

We’re mostly wonderful people and yet, in the books we read, the movies and TV we watch, many feel the strange urge, the inner fascination that draws us with magnetic attraction towards death … frequent, violent, often gruesome.

We know that murder is bad. BAD BAD BAD!!

Irrevocably awful, terrifying and so hard to understand. We know not to do it and we know we’re meant to be really scared of it. Most of us see death as a complicated concept to try and come to terms with at the best of times, but murder?

Is there something wrong that this “entertains” many of us?

It’s the season of love and warm tidings and yet one of the most acclaimed Christmas movies, Die Hard, accumulates a body total of 23 victims by the time the end credits roll. HO HO HO! (maybe one day I’ll actually watch it following It’s A Wonderful Life … Sweet and Sour on the menu)

die hard grinch.jpg

It’s confusing because we all know the same results flashing across our TV screens from a war zone in Afghanistan or a mall shooting in Topeka is usually met with our horror, revulsion, and cries of anguish.

So, are we beasts?…. is it simple Schadenfreude…. an inner need to see others’ suffer so that we feel better about ourselves? A similar tale to why we can nastily gossip about the person who just left the room with whom we just smiled and joked?

Do we have an inner psychopath lingering in the deep recesses?

Is it an addictive need for adrenaline, like riding a rollercoaster?

It can’t be a gender thing because women appear to watch and read murder stories in numbers that equal (some studies suggest exceed) men’s fascination.

We are contradictory people, we humans.

We abhor violence, murder, rape, abuse in all its forms … and yet … here we soak up the crime shows, the murder mysteries, the Fifty Shades of BDSM Abusive Behaviour.

We are mostly able to detach and go along for the wild ride with no apparent ill effect. Not totally of course. I still harbour nightmares about the little red-coated girl from Schindler’s List.

It may just come down to the desire for guilty pleasure… the wondrous high of a sweet cinnamon bun, the juiced sensation of diving from an airplane, the taboo notion of being bound and taken advantage of sexually.

I spend my days in a cycle of bemused wonder at the complexity and contradictions of myself and the souls that surround me.

Each day we live adds another perplexing question to the immense wall that will never be totally built.

Even Alex Trebek doesn’t know the answers to ALL the questions.

Alex trebek.jpg

 

Older Entries