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Why is Simple So Hard? E-Mail Hell…

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From: Larry Green
Sent: Sunday, September 2, 2018 06:01 AM
To: Donald J. Trump
Subject: Re: FAKE E-Mails

 

Fake e-mail

What?

I get an e-mail from a friend, relative, or acquaintance at least once a week that is unintelligible. Clipp. Incomple. Non-sensi…

This week I got two in one day.

I’m gonna vent here because … well… maybe because I’m worn down by the smoky haze that hotly raging forest fires have inflicted on this valley for the month of August… or …

… maybe just because I’m sad that summer is winding up already and I’ve barely managed to swim in Okanagan Lake 3 or 4 times.

The trout are sending me soggy letters telling me they miss me.

When I was a young grasshopper, my English teachers pounded into my head the idea … the notion … that when you communicate with anyone, whether written or spoken, you need to remember your 5 W’s and H. Right?

Standard, journalistic stuff. Grammar gold nuggets.

And, if YOU don’t understand the 5 W’s and an H, then you’re probably on my “GD Frustrating Communicators” list.

OK… the 5 W’s are Who, What, Where, Why and When… the H is How.

Yes, I get impatient. Please shoot me in a few years if I start making remakes of Grumpy Old Men. 

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Like many of you out there, I know that there are only so many hours in a day and I want to travel somewhere stunning and exotic in my existence.

Truthfully, I waste a lot of time. My head likes nothing better than to float in the clouds, a lazy glider dipsy-doodling in the updrafts of invisible feathers.

And… if I get to the end of my day… and I feel like I’ve taken even a baby step forward, maybe a tiny 1% improvement in some area of my life, well…  I sleep better.

So, when folks send me an e-mail that’s supposed to help me along in my travels, I don’t want to be stuck in an airport holding lounge because they didn’t take the time or manufacture the thought energy to be clear in what they are saying.

You’re squandering my raindrops of time. Let me fly!

I know you have a wide-open prairie landscape of background and context inside your head, so please open up like a spring wheat kernel and share it with me, OK?

Right, an example.

This week, I got this e-mail from a friend (who hopefully doesn’t read my blog posts!) I play guitar and sing with sometimes:

Well it looks like this Friday night is back on at the request of the Widow …won’t be here 2 weeks down the line.. I’m not really ready for Right Down the Line yet Larry so if you are coming to play this week do your own stuff if not we’ll do it together in two weeks.

OK. Weird grammar aside (I accept punctuation and spelling gaffes in e-mails) I’m scratching my head wondering what’s wrong with me… like,

  1. Who the hell is the “Widow”?
  2. And, who won’t be there in 2 weeks, you or the “Widow”?

Is this message supposed to be encrypted in code so some crazed Nazi won’t intercept and lay waste to the earth?

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Author Ursula le Guin :

two people talking, form a community of two. People are also able to form communities of many, through sending and receiving bits of ourselves and others back and forth continually — through, in other words, talking and listening. Talking and listening are ultimately the same thing.

When you talk (write) to me, we both need to touch… feel… taste… the meaning and emotion of the communication dance. 1,2,3…1,2,3…

A good dance partner is clear in communicating the motion, whether giving or receiving.

Ginger always knew that Fred would be coherent and definite, Fred always knew that Ginger was conveying an equally clear response (even when dancing backwards in high heels!)

I write for a whole host of reasons, some selfish, some altruistic.

I write because words and language are ravishing and elegant and sexy.

I write because I want to understand.

I write because I want to communicate and be understood.

An e-mail message surely shouldn’t be a jigsaw puzzle of jumbled, mismatched pieces that I can’t decipher.

Bottom line…

• Who? All of us. Me included.

• What? Write an e-mail where I can understand your meaning and emotional direction.

• Where? Anywhere. Isn’t e-mail fantastic that way?

• When? All day, everyday.

• Why? So I don’t misunderstand and read your words through my own crazy, warped filter.

• How? Easy. Remember and use your high school 5W’s and H! Voilà!

Simple and yet so hard it seems.

No FAKE News or E-mails here.

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A Prelude To A But …

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so-you-think-you-can-dance-dancer-wallpaper

I was watching an episode of So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) the other night.

I love this show filled with crazy-talented young dancers.

How is it possible for JaJa and Virgil and Gaby to master 3 or 4 formidably challenging new dances EVERY week?

I look for inspiration everywhere, ALL the time.

These dancing Olympians are inspiration defined.

As it was, light rain drops pattered against my living room window ledge – occasional quiet thunder rumbles rolled in like bowling balls careening down the lane towards the pins –  and the early evening sun was trying mightily to edge its way through the clouds to brighten the 50 shades of grey.

One of the chickens in the yard was squawking loudly like she was giving birth but all the eggs had already been laid for the day.

I turned my attention back to the TV screen as one of the SYTYCD judges, Jason Derulo, began his critique of a just-finished dance.

Then an unexpected lightning bolt crashed into my head … his words were a PRELUDE TO A BUT.

PRELUDE TO A BUT?

Derulo meandered and danced through his critique – his words filled with “great” this and “dope” that .

But it struck me in a puzzling fashion that just by the tone of his voice, the expression on his face and the usage of his words, it wasn’t going to be all sunshine that he was dishing up, he would be crashing this love party with something negative to add …

At some point in his next few sentences or paragraphs, there would be a big BUT …

Big But

Nope. NOT a big BUTT… A big BUT!

He had signalled a Prelude to a BUT …

But … how did I know that?

I’m gobsmacked that the human mind in its understanding of language and nuance to tone, can feel, sense a change, a foreshadowing of things to come.

We all do it. We watch and wait for the signs with keen intent.

Many years ago, in my teenage or young adult years, I’d hit those rare eclipse-like moments.

The instant where I summoned the knee-knocking courage and found myself meekly asking a sweet young candy-scented maid to a movie or dinner.

Those first few words that slipped from her delicious lips? The hesitation? The smile or dour look on her countenance?

They would tell me if I should begin cheering or shrinking away in embarrassment like a naked man in an icy cold shower.

It didn’t matter if her first words were “NO” because the prelude to the “No” was enough to signal the direction of my exaltation or humiliation.

I’d love to … (oh oh! No, don’t say it…) … BUT … I have a hangnail treatment scheduled that day.

Or better still, “I’d love to because  (yay… no BUT!) I’ve always wanted to sky-dive. Sure, that would be nice.” See? No pause, no prelude to a BUT!

When a doctor enters the cubbyhole office room or slowly saunters into the hospital room where his patient awaits?

We all know from real life experience or vicariously through watching any of a million TV hospital shows just what the “news” is going to be.

The smile or look of reticence on the physician’s face, the slow or optimistic slide of the shoes over the floor, the medical chart held close to the chest or swinging at the doctor’s side, the small corny joke … there are so many tiny nuanced markers that answer the questions that have yet to be asked.

And then the tone of voice, the inflection of the words. Listening for a prelude to a BUT.

“Your lab test results are all fine (oh no, frown on Doc’s face, slowing speech)BUT … the CT scan has a small shadow we need to look into”

Your lab test results are all fine (no hesitation, serene look on Doc’s face)AND … the CT scan looks clear.”

doctors-exam

My ears are buzzing. Did you say I have 2 days or 2 years to live?

Will she go to the movie with me? Did he love my dance performance? Do I have terminal cancer or organ failure?

In most cases we know almost instantaneously because we’ve learned to observe all of the tiny details that speak to us before words ever float through the air.

We know if the dark brown stuff flying towards us is shit or chocolate before we ever get to taste it because we are amazingly attuned to the fine details of spoken language and body language.

The SYTYCD contestants are strong-willed soldiers of positivity and great attitude. The hours and years of dedicated effort and pain and sacrifice that come through in their attempt to impress, mean little in this competition they’ve willingly jumped into.

They smile brightly at the bouquets and the brickbats sent their way. Occasionally a small willful tear escapes and slides down a cheek.

But.

They know in a Santa-flew-down-the-chimney-in-a-flash moment when the judges begin to speak and critique their work.

They know if it is all just a Prelude to a But.

Happy sad eggs

F-Bomb Me …

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fbombs1

People are funny, aren’t they?

Of course I don’t mean YOU … I mean the “other” people … the ones who aren’t us!

Dr. Seuss knew that and made an incredible living making up strange and unusual and funny characters that kids and adults love to laugh at.

Bartholomew Cubbins, Lorax, Sam-I-Am, Cat in the Hat, the Grinch…

Sometimes when I’m around others, I imagine what Dr. Seuss would do and say to describe them… it’s way better than the old nerve-busting adage of pretending that you see people in their underwear.

Mind you, Dr. Seuss could see them in their underwear too and then just carry on from there.

Hey! I just realized that Dr. Seuss doesn’t even put underwear on any of his characters.

Dr Seuss characters

Dr. Seuss would have material for 5 new books if he popped into the gyms I go to.

Not kids’ books. Nope. Adults’ books. Very adult.

I visit the changerooms of 3 different local gyms each week. One is for spin class and boot camp class, another for weight training, one more for swimming. OK, four different gyms … one more for yoga class …

In the changeroom, I’ll encounter other guys preparing to hit the gym and sweat, or returning to shower away the buckets of sweat they’ve just earned.

It’s a manly sort of place with mixed uggg-mmmm scents of armpit BO and Axe body washes, and soggy socks, and Gillette shaving creams. Kind of like a high school gym class rehash.

Work-a-day clothes are shed and shoved into oblong grey metal lockers. Stretchy nylon and lycra and cotton are layered over the muscles and love handles and multi-toned tattoos. Some bodies are tanned, fully-muscled and toned. Other bodies are big and floppy and sallow.

This testosterone set – needing a dose of sweat and muscle-pumping energy – then heads to the weight room, or the CrossFit box, or the spin class.

An hour later, we all return, one by one, soppy, sweat-soaked, and groaning.

Sweaty dude

Then it begins.

Chatter. Conversation. Boy talk.

Often it’s simply a pair of us engaged in conversation as we peel away the salty-wet togs … routine discussions of weather and impending workouts … pleasant words exchanged in polite, amiable tones.

Then one-by-one, others enter the room … and … as the numbers increase the tone of the conversation quickly changes.

Testosterone and machismo levels rise measurably and the group becomes more pack-like, wolves gathering for a meat feast. There is a new dynamic at play.

It becomes more manly and blue-collar. Soon the room is more BLUE with words than it is blue collar.

Whether we’re discussing cars, or sports or work issues… the F-Bomb becomes a required interjection at a minimum of once per sentence.

Often more.

I start to see how the pack feeds off each other as normally calm, straight-laced guys morph into something else and it becomes apparent how gang-bang rape scenarios might unfortunately play out. The inhibitions and control sensors go haywire.

I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t participate. I watch and listen.

It’s almost like the Need More Cowbell sketch from SNL with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken… someone must be saying… “FellasI need more F- bombs”!!

more-cowbell

F-BOMBS are the main item on the conversation slate. Subject matter doesn’t matter. F-Bomb interjection is what is important now.

But. I’m not a good guy for F-Bombs. For me, the word FUCK is a little something that I pull out rarely and in a more romantic, teasing sense than what I’m hearing here in the changeroom. But that’s just me.

F-Bombs sound forced and girly coming from my mouth.

They don’t just roll off my tongue as if I were saying “Hi, how are You?” like they do with these guys. They sound more like, “So, I was having my nails done the other day…”. Yup, girly.

If I said them in this setting, I’m pretty sure the other dudes would pull their towels tightly around their naughty bits and turn around as if Mrs. O’Grady, the stern, ancient French teacher just walked in on them.

F-Bombs are laced with power. Power.

F-Bombs have their place. Place… and time.

And I think the fellas in the changeroom are losing out on something by overusing their weapon.

They might be well advised to holster their F-bomb usage and keep it in their arsenal for full impact. These are weapons that should be used carefully and smartly.

Carpet F-bombing loses its strength and meaning when the listener turns off their hearing and goes underground until the heat is off.

Used judiciously, F-bombs make people snap to attention and know that something important is happening. Something needs to be listened to. Something critical is about to happen.

Years ago, when my Mom – who never ever swore –  said, “Hell’s Bells” after hearing that my sister’s finance had been married previously, you could have heard a pin drop 100 metres away. The world just caught its breath and went silent. Her outburst was that powerful.

So, I’m holding onto my stockpile of F-Bombs. As I pull on my underwear and socks I’ll keep listening in the changeroom.

I’ll still smile at the boys when the words turn blue. But I’m not going to join in.

I know that Dr. Seuss wouldn’t approve of such language. Or would he………

Seuss F-Bombs

This Cool Word Will Improve Your Life …

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Caesura

I learned a new word this week and I love it already.

Yup, CAESURA.

See those two little slashes in the musical graphic above?

THAT is a Caesura and it means creating a momentary pause. It comes in different forms beyond music notation that have meaning in our lives.

A rioting cacophonous sound of bird calls draws me outdoors in early spring. A dark blue-toned Stellar Jay sits in the Ponderosa Pine madly squawking at me; a group of Mountain Chickadees are zooming this way and that around the yard pretending they’re Spitfire fighter planes.

Blossoms are erupting in bountiful numbers and the early morning air is scented and sweet … perhaps the daffodils, tulips, daphne and flowering almond have teamed together to make a rich perfumed blend to share with us early risers.

A few shiny sparkles of sharp-angled sunlight glint off dewy grass blades as I walk across the front lawn area.

When I wander aimlessly through my garden as I am wont to do on spring and summer early mornings, I love the concept of exercising Caesura – creating a momentary pause – as part of my spiritual side.

I take into my lungs a deep breath of clear morning air as if I were in a yoga class with instructor Marsha and absorb all that my senses can digest. Calm elation settles over me.

Some might say, “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day”. And I might respond, “Carpe Caesura” … “Seize the Pause”.

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Caesura plays a role in other areas of my life too.

In music, both in my teenage high-school band years and now when I play guitar and sing my own music I love the caesura … the pause … a moment in a tune when all stands still for a moment and we savour the silence and the power of the musical notes that have brought us to that point.

Years ago, John Denver sang a song (appropriately called Annie’s Song) about his then-wife Annie where he reaches a crescendo near the end:

You fill up my senses, like a night in the forest,
like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain,
like a storm in the desert, (….. caesura for a few seconds) … like a sleepy blue ocean.
You fill up my senses, come fill me again.

The caesura gives us just a second or two to feel the depth of his passion for her, making a delicious human moment of love stand still in time.

conductor pause

In my day-to-day interactions I’ve learned that the CAESURA is probably the most difficult, but most important part of interaction we have with those around us.

INTER-ACTION… the word tells me I must take action.

But, after all these years I know that my actions can have profound effects on not just me, but the other too.

If I take action too soon, too impulsively, and respond without taking a moment or day or week of caesura, I may, and often do, say something that doesn’t truly reflect my inner beliefs.

It’s a reflex, a gut reaction.

We’ve all had that sinking feeling of wishing we had said or done something differently if we hadn’t only responded so impulsively.

I don’t want my inter-actions coming from my gut alone, although times arise when our instinctive reaction is the one we end up choosing anyway.

I need time and thought and reflection to know what I really feel and think. I imagine this is why I enjoy writing blog posts; I can stand over my thoughts and view them from different angles before settling on the most appropriate.

In a 21st century world where the pace of living is faster than it has ever been, I want to live a life filled with the joys of caesura – creating a momentary pause … my morning garden walks, my musical pursuits, my personal interactions.

I like this new-to-me word Caesura, and I like what it means.

Caesura might take me a moment longer – which, for an impatient guy like me is challenging – but the pleasures, the rewards – are worth the wait.

morning garden walk

I’ve Slept With a Hundred Women …

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Probably more … Yup, it’s true …

Boy is this guy sleepy or what?

Is this guy sleepy or what?

… but not as many as former basketball great Wilt Chamberlain … please correct my math if necessary, but isn’t that one woman EVERY night for 55 years? With all that “sleeping”, Wilt must be VERY well rested … maybe lots of sleep makes a fellow tall.

And this is what brings me to one of my anal-side pet peeves.

When you came across and read this blog title, did you have visions of me making my best pouty-lipped Mick Jagger sexy look, bedding down and fornicating with dozens of lovelies? I thought so. Admit it.

NOPE, not the case … it’s just a euphemism:

An agreeable word or expression substituted for one that is potentially offensive, often having to do with bodily functions, sex, or death…”

Why do we use euphemisms to describe and hide what’s really happening?

Alright, I know the answer to my own question.

We often want to soften our words and statements if things appear too blunt in their truer form. I can understand the use of caring euphemisms when we don’t want to hurt someone.

euphemism lady's bathroom

I understand using the softer “passed away” rather than dead when talking to newly aggrieved family members. I understand describing someone as “big-boned” when it comes to sensitive weight issues.

We say these things to protect ourselves or others and their feelings, much like we utter little white lies when our partner says, “Does this make my ass look big?”, or “Was it good for you?“, or “Did you enjoy my new risotto recipe?

But the expression, “to sleep with someone”?? This one bugs me every time. It’s particularly deceptive and misleading.

Who are we protecting when we say “Margaret and John slept together”?

Is it so difficult for us to say that Margaret and John had sex … made love … mated … humped their little hearts out?

I hear “slept together” and I want to know …”Oh, does John snore much?” or  “what colour was Margaret’s flannel nightie?“. We all know there was no snoring (and if there was, I feel badly for them) and Margaret likely wasn’t wearing a flannel nightie at all, am I right?

When I hear someone say they slept with another person … I’m confused.

As a youngster living in a small home, I slept in a bed with my older brother every night until I was about 10 years old, yet to the best of my recollection, we never once “slept” ie. had sex, unless I’m suppressing some unpleasant memories. Please tell me I’m not suppressing any unpleasant memories!

When my kids were little toddlers, they climbed into our big adult bed to escape their fears or to seek comfort for their sickness, snuggled under the covers, and we “slept together”.

I’ve slept with many many others e.g. school groups, relatives, fellow travellers, over the years in tents, cabins, hotel rooms, living room floors, airplanes … but with rare exceptions, while “sleeping” with these women and men and kids, I’ve not had sexual relations of any type. I just : “SLEPT”.

euphemism

Euphemisms in and of themselves are not all bad. They often add colour or texture to our everyday language. Take as an example Meatloaf‘s song Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Now there’s a wonderful illustration of great use of the euphemism.

Some other examples of euphemisms?:

  • Correctional facility instead of jail
  • Departed instead of died
  • Differently-abled instead of handicapped or disabled
  • Ethnic cleansing instead of genocide
  • Turn a trick instead of engage in prostitution
  • Negative patient outcome instead of dead
  • Relocation center instead of prison camp
  • Collateral damage instead of accidental deaths
  • Letting someone go instead of firing someone
  • Put to sleep instead of euthanize
  • Pregnancy termination instead of abortion
  • Adult entertainment instead of pornography
  • Portly instead of heavy or overweight
  • Chronologically-challenged instead of late
  • Break wind instead of pass gas
  • Economical with the truth instead of liar
  • Powder your nose instead of using the toilet
  • The birds and the bees instead of sex
  • Between jobs instead of unemployed
  • Go all the way instead of have sex
  • Domestic engineer instead of maid
  • Sanitation engineer instead of garbage man
  • Vertically-challenged instead of short

Yes, our use of language is filled with sanitized ways of saying what we really mean and sometimes I just want to yell out in frustration.

For me at least, if I’ve made love or had sex with someone, the last thing I would want my lover to pass on to others is that they “slept with Larry“.

Whaddya mean, slept!??“.

Maybe Wilt Chamberlain has laid down beside so many women that the only energy he has left is for sleep. But I’m not that naive.

I prefer to keep a separation of state in the bedroom. Sleeping and making love are two separate activities, just like cooking and eating. They may be related and take place in the same room, but they are definitely not the same thing.

Sure, I’ve slept around, so have you. I love to sleep.

But I have way too much male ego bubbling inside me to have anyone insinuating I’d been so lax in the sexual, intimate arts that we were “sleeping”.

Let’s leave it at that, shall we? …

slept around

Become a Radical MODERATE!

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.

MODERATION. I hate the word. In a non-moderate kind of way. It races up my spine like nails scratching down a blackboard.

Someone has said to you, “I like you in moderation“. Huh?

This, like Shakespeare’s Friar Lawrence speaking to Romeo, “Love each other in moderation. That is the key to long-lasting love. Too fast is as bad as too slow” is just too confusing for me. What genuine meaning is there in love or anything else in life that corresponds to the word “moderation”?

I spend a lot of time when I speak and write trying to find and use the word that comes closest to expressing the exact point I’m making. English is a huge language vocabularily – and it’s expanding too, I just made up the word vocabularily, and you probably understand its meaning— which means we can say what we want in the clearest, subtlest, and most pinpoint way. I can shoot an arrow metaphorically and hit the bullseye 99% of the time because of this wonderful language. That’s cool because you can’t do that in every language out there!

I hope that people who read what I write understand what I’m saying because I expend a good deal of effort trying to make myself clear (NOTE: to be honest, this IS a work-in-progress). Verbal and written communication aren’t art forms in the sense that the Mona Lisa, or perhaps poetry, is art…it shouldn’t be left up to the receiver to decode and find their own individual interpretation of the words. When we communicate with each other, we shouldn’t have to say, “This what I think he meant to say with this statement”.

There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.

-Donald Rumsfeld

Obfuscation is not the AIM.

Many people are just damned lazy about their use of language.

Communication is fraught with often innocent people who don’t think in terms of how their words will be heard and construed by others. So often a simple statement in an e-mail comes across as heartless, insensitive, and hurtful, or just plain not understandable. “Did she say she’s vegan or a Brontosaurus burger eater?” A moment or two spent in thinking of how a phrase could possibly be interpreted by another person would go a hugely long way in smoothing our interactions with friends and colleagues.

But occasionally, an ambiguous word pops up that somehow gets into frequent usage, and the sad thing is, it means many different things to many different people.  The word I’m thinking of here, of course, is MODERATION.

If I remove 2 pickles and a slice of cheese, then that’s moderation. Cutting it by 2/3rds seems too extreme, wouldn’t you agree?

In the recent U.S. election, Mitt Romney was described as a “Moderate Republican”. Romney was moderate like a HUMMER is a compact car. Someone who thinks that a)healthcare is a frill for the upper echelon,b) who believes that only heterosexuals are his equals, c)who fancies women bound in binders…well…this stretches moderation as it might be interpreted like gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe on a scorching summer day.

When I go to see my doctor I’ll sometimes mention that I’d like to lose 10 pounds so that I can run my marathon races a bit faster. What does she say? “Try eating in moderation”. Ohhh…

SUPER, I think…

Well, right now I eat a large sized bowl of butterscotch ice cream for dessert each evening. Moderation would be scaling that back by about a quarter cup…problem solved; the weight should drop off now.

Not so fast, I discover. My dietitian wife who knows far more about these things tells me that moderation in this case means not only should I have a “small” bowl of ice cream just twice a week, but I should stop eating French fries and potato chips altogether. My brain tells me that this isn’t moderation; this is starvation, a far cry further.

When a 400-pound man is told to exercise by his health professional, the statement often used is “exercise in moderation”. I’m thinking that a 400 lb man got to be 400 pounds by walking to the fridge and telling himself that he’s had his workout for the day. So moderation means a slight uptick of activity, something like walking the long way around the house to the fridge. That should do it, right?

An anorexic teen who eats next to nothing and is told to use moderation in exercise so that they can gain some weight will hear moderation to mean, “only run 10 miles every day instead of the 12 you’ve been doing all along…and maybe only purge once each day instead of twice.” Not helpful.

Moderation is a useless word and does more harm than good. Let’s dump it as a tool for communication and substitute REAL tools with REAL meaning.

Eat 1500 calories, and ice cream just one time each week.

Run only 5 miles 3 times each week.

I love you with all my heart.”

These statements have real meaning and are concrete in their message.

Let’s use the word moderation, not in moderation, but oh, shall we say…NEVER. It doesn’t have a use in our language other than to confuse and perhaps allow us to rationalize the things we know are bad for us. And there are so many ways I can rationalize the bad things I do without going within a city block of the word moderation.

Words are meant to communicate and have meaning.

Moderation…YOU are a sad excuse for a word.