Category Archives: Commentary

General thoughts about what is happening in the business, life and the world.

Political Perfection

I’ve said it before that for some reason I love following politics. True, it usually ends up being an exercise in anger management by the time I get to the end of the comments section of any article, but still, I enjoy being able to consider myself a somewhat-informed citizen.

The one thing that i have never understood about politics is the amount of contempt that is reserved for “flip-floppers”.

I don’t know what other people are like, but I’m incorrect often. Even when I’m right, circumstances can change and based on the new information opinions and plans can change accordingly.

Personally, I would rather know a politician is flexible and has the ability to adapt upon learning new information. If we’re honest withour

 

I’m Losing My Spelling

Yesterday I participated in an event in which I had to take notes the old-fashioned pen and paper style and it made me feel worse about myself than I have for a while. Not only has the quality of my penmanship deteriorated (and it didn’t have too far to fall), but I found myself thinking far too long about the spelling of far too many words. What’s worse is that I wasn’t even getting them correct after all of that thought.

It got me thinking about the debate you sometimes hear about technology in the classroom, whether it is beneficial for students or detrimental. Although it’s not a huge concern for me, as I don’t anticipate repeating elementary school any time soon, it still was interesting to think about how I’ve noticed changes in my own life.

The funniest thing is that I haven’t had any issues spelling while typing this. Now that I’m consciously thinking about it, I think that the biggest difference for me between typing vs writing is the rhythm and use of the delete key.

When I’m writing on the computer I seem to often stop typing half way through words to finish thoughts, which isn’t natural when writing on paper. Also, the deletion and retyping of phrasings is something that is near constant. I’ll write a few words, think of a better way of phrasing something and go back. Not something that is to easy with a pen and paper.

Going through all of this in my mind, what I kept coming back to is, “Who really cares?” I mean, if the vast majority of any important writing that I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life is going to be on a computer, then who really cares if my spelling isn’t up to where it used to be? I guess it really comes down to the pride of once being better at something that I’m now not as good at.

I guess part of my decision that it isn’t that big of a deal is the only logical remedy to this situation is to start writing more long hand, which I honestly don’t see myself doing. I’d usually just have to transcribe it onto the computer, anyway, which seems like a waste of time. Oh well, out with the old, in with the new.

Balancing Boredom

A few months back I had an interesting conversation with a friend that has been weighing on my mind. It was about how we are constantly surrounded by stimuli like no other time in history. While this can definitely be a good thing, there are also likely some repercussions.

Thinking about it from my own perspective, there is virtually no time where I am not consuming content, creating my own (writing or having a conversation), and am often times doing both at the same time. A typical day I start listening to a podcast on the way into work, work throughout the day, often listening to music or podcasts depending on the task, head home to work, watch tv, read or visit with friends. There are other activities like sports or running errands that I guess are a little bit different, but the brain is occupied regardless. Especially when I’m ‘that guy’ in the grocery store with headphones in.

All of this to say that I don’t live a life where I often experience true boredom and I don’t think that I’m alone. The modern-day equivalent to being bored is hitting up Netflix or scrolling aimlessly through Instagram on your phone, which isn’t the same as it’s been throughout history and I think there are some things we may want to consider.

Consider being bored in the year 1900. If you got home and no one was there to talk to, the neighbours weren’t around and you didn’t have a book or newspaper to read, you basically were out of options. Note: According to my quick Google search radio wasn’t invented until 1895, so I’m assuming 5 years later not too many people owned on in their homes. Even if they did, if you didn’t like what was being played on the one available channel you were SOL.

What is a person to do? I’m sure some just kept working, increasing productivity. Some went for a walk, perhaps meeting new people or seeing new things. Some went to bed and got full night of sleep. Some had their minds wander and thought up great ideas, then filled their ‘bored time’ with making those ideas a reality.

Fast-forward to today and if there is ever a moment where you feel less than 100% entertained and engaged, all of the information available in the world can be accessed by the machine in your pocket. We have defeated boredom!

What if defeating boredom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, though? What if by not giving our brains a rest from the constant consumption / creation demands we put on it, we’re doing ourselves a great disservice.

This is interesting to me because one of the reasons that I stopped blogging a while back is that I found it hard to come up with topics. I thought that maybe there was nothing that interested me that I hadn’t already written about and quickly filled up my time with other things. After speaking to this friend, however, I realized that quiet time to myself was vital to formulating thoughts.

My typical process is hearing about a topic that seems interesting and reading more about it. Then I talk to some friends about it. Then I forget about it for a while. Then it pops back into my head and I write it down. Without the quiet that comes from being unplugged, that last ‘pop’ back into my head doesn’t happen, therefore my productivity grinds to a halt.

I’m sure that this applies to many more aspects in life and I’m going to make an effort to enjoy the silence a bit more. At the very least I’ll stop wearing earbuds at Safeway.

UBER where art thou?

As the UBER debate rages across our country and others, I have a few holiday-time stories that make my opinion clear.

The first was early in the month. I was attending an event that gave out taxi chits at the end of the evening, very responsible, very classy. No fewer than three times on the ride home (it was a 10 minute drive) the driver said that I should just give the chit to him and he’ll take care of filling it out. I never said anything, but intending on filling the thing out myself, thinking it only fair considering it wasn’t my money that was footing the bill.

Once we arrived at my house I started filling out the information with every intention of giving a generous by fair tip. However, as soon as the driver noticed this he started yelling and berating me that I should of given it to him to fill out and that I would never get a cab again in my life if I didn’t. I handed him the chit and walked into my house, but the whole situation was fairly unnecessary and unsettling.

Number two was post-Christmas leaving a Jets game. A friend and I were both going to the St. Boniface-ish area and flagged down the closest taxi. When the driver pulled over he wouldn’t unlock the doors, but rolled down the window. When he asked where we were going and was told “St. Boniface” he responded, “Not far enough,” and drove away. We were able to find another cab, but still that is a pretty terrible way to treat potential customers.

The third incident was later that same night. Leaving a different friend’s place I called another taxi, which arrived on time. The driver than proceeded to drive like a maniac to my place, and when I paid I was told that I couldn’t use credit card and he didn’t have any change. He cemented himself a very nice tip.

There are so many similar stories to these and many far worse, which serve as the reason that so many consumers are hoping and praying for the government to get out of the way of UBER. To be fair I understand that the regulations put on taxis are unfair, but by artificially creating a duopoly in the market, customer service and innovation are dead. Having a system like UBER’s could easily have solved all the above issues:

  1. After the holiday party the UBER rides could be automatically charged to the company’s account, eliminating the need for any paperwork to be filled out.
  2. We would have been assigned an UBER car and left them a lousy review if they refused to pick us up.
  3. The payment being done electronically gets rid of the awkward “My card machine is broken” conversation that is part of so many cab rides. Also, I could leave a bad review for the poor driving.

Who knows if and when ride services will be allowed into Manitoba, but I hope they are by the time any kids of mine can drive (probably still a tall order, if past ‘progress’ in this province has been any indication). On top of everything else, it seems like a great way to earn some money for someone with a car.

My Birthday

I was born on Christmas Eve. December 24. A week before New Years.

This isn’t based on any sort of study, but I’m going to venture a guess that being born in the immediate vicinity of Christmas Day (December 24 to 26 for sure, but probably the week preceding and following to a lesser extent) has a greater impact on your life than any other time of year. This isn’t a sob story, but rather me reflecting on a life of essentially everyone to learns my birthday making some sort of comment.

For the majority of you who are born during another time of year, think of the reactions that you’ve received upon telling someone your birthday. I have to assume there isn’t much of a dialogue other than the occasional, “Oh, you’re born August 23? My Grandma was born August 26. Crazy.” Quite often you probably are met with 5 seconds of interest followed by indifference.

Now imagine that a good 50% of the time (number completely made up, but that’s how it seems) someone finds out about your birthday be it through conversation, an invitation or renewing a drivers license, it’s the starting off point of a conversation. Not just any conversation, but inevitably one of two conversations:

  1. Is it weird being born the day before Christmas?
  2. Do you get ripped off with presents?

For years my standard response has been, “I’ve never had another birthday, so I can’t really compare it to anything.” I think it’s fairly polite, but still points out that it’s a fairly awkward question to answer. What do I say? “Yeah, I never get enough stuff!” or “It’s so weird and I regret being born every day.”? Seems a little extreme and both are likely inaccurate.

I’m sure as a kid I pouted, but truth be told all evidence shows my parents are painfully fair with their kids. Not to mention that I have a brother born December 13 and my mom’s birthday is December 28, we’re well versed with having birthdays being side attractions.

The other thing that throws a wrinkle into the mix is that my parents had the choice to either put me in kindergarten when I was 4-turning-5, but chose to delay me starting school a year. So I went to school with people born in 1987, but was born at the end of 1986. They’re teachers and that year of development can mean a lot in terms of academic success. There was some teasing that I was too stupid for kindergarten the first time around, but luckily I was usually a pretty smart kid so it usually fell flat. I also hold onto the fact that my parents bought me a Mensa puzzle book as a kid to show I wasn’t a complete dunce. The whole genius thing definitely didn’t pan out, though.

So other than having that same conversations hundreds of time over my lifetime about a couple of situations that weren’t in my control and some businesses not being open on my birthday (there’s been some good attempts at having lunch at favourite restaurants that didn’t work out), it’s nice that family and friends are already making an attempt to see one another during this time of year. That is until Malcolm Gladwell wrote Outliers.

For those of you who haven’t read it, the first part of the book is about how birthdays can be broad indicators of academic and athletic success. That is to say, kids born in the first quarter of the year, on average, are better at both than kids born the second quarter, who are better than the third quarter. Those of us unfortunate souls relegated to the last quarter of the year are, on average, the worst.

Ever since this book was released there seems to be very open conversation about how people really don’t want their kids born in the later part of the year. I know their opinions really don’t have any baring on my life, but it’s a slight jab every time some says something like, “I’m due mid-December, but really hope the baby waits until January.”

While I love books like Outliers, statistics are used to generalize large groups and they don’t really apply to the individual. Just like if you were to poll five dentists it’s not very likely that exactly four of them would recommend Colgate, just because you have a kid born from October to December, doesn’t mean you should start teaching them how to bag groceries early on.

So don’t sell yourselves short, parents, you probably have way more of an impact on your child than the date they were born. I’m sure if you provide a safe, nurturing environment they’ll reach their full potential.

Oh, and next time you meet someone with a birthday on or around Christmas, treat it like any other day and just let it pass. We appreciate it.

I Love Municipal Politics

There’s an election around the corner, which is always exciting to me. What’s even more exciting this time around is that the incumbent isn’t running again, meaning that people don’t have the option to default to what they know and there is 100% chance there is someone new in the big chair!

While I like following politics at all levels, municipal has always been my favourite by far, thanks to the absence of a party system. You know that what you’re hearing isn’t some party line that has to be toed, but in fact straight from the candidate. So with the individual structure comes the opportunity for accountability.

Not only that, but especially in a city like Winnipeg, it isn’t overly possible to meet the candidates. Either by going to an event or reaching out to them personally (let’s be honest, we’re all 2nd connections with them one way or another), the person who will be our next mayor transcends the talking head persona of so many other politicians and (s)he becomes a real person!

What’s more, the decisions of the mayor and city council are most likely to affect our day-to-day lives. So I encourage you to vote tomorrow and have your say! If you’re feeling uninformed, http://winnipegelection.ca/ is a great resource.

Remember, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

Crazy Commuters

I will never understand people who seem to drive into work with the plan to be in the incorrect lane for as long as possible and then cut everyone who was waiting off. Seems very selfish.

What’s more, they wait for their opportunity to change lanes, slowing down everyone behind them. If you can’t plan on leaving on time, why is it the responsibility of everyone else on the road to cater to your schedule?

Just to clarify, I’m not talking about construction, where I know the “zipper” is the correct protocol (though the rest of Winnipeg doesn’t seem to get it). I mean when I’ve waited in a line of cars down Main Street, only to have 5+ people cut in front of me between the crosswalk before Broadway and the turn onto St. Mary. Just waiting for the accident to happen…

Who Expects McDonalds to be Healthy?

There’s virtually no dispute that on average Westerners weigh more today than 10, 20, or 50+ years ago. The numbers speak for themselves.

While the concept of “health” is over-simplified, and how our weight factors into that is over-emphasized, there seems to be more risk of something bad happening the heavier we get. I don’t know if it’s years of brainwashing saying this, but that all seems to make sense to me. Being overweight is harder on your body.

All of this said, I can’t really (for obvious reasons) get all preachy about health. I’m more of an “As long as you’re happy,” type of person.

That being said I’m obviously writing a post about this, but it’s in more broad of terms. What I want to know is what is in the title: Why is fast food under fire all the time about people gaining weight?

I mean come on, obviously when you get a Big Mac meal it isn’t the best decision you made that day. It’s meat on bread, accompanied by deep-fried carbs, with sugar water to wash it all down. Not a fruit or vegetable in sight. We all know this, though.

If there are people out there who think that’s a well-balanced meal, I would argue that it’s the education system that has failed. And failed hard.

There’s some talk about how everything at these places are refined, have added preservatives and sugar. Guess what, SO DOES NEARLY EVERYTHING ELSE. Have you ever read the labels of what you buy in the store? If it isn’t free range and organic, you’re basically eating flavoured salt and sugar.

Fast food doesn’t even resemble a healthy meal. Do you think that on the day of a big competition serious athletes opt to have a burger, fries and a shake for their pre-race meal? Pounding red meat, refined starch and oils shouldn’t be an every day thing, regardless of where you get it from.

So let’s start taking some responsibility and realizing that our demands for fast food to be more healthy is ludicrous. Start making sure that everyone understands burgers and fries need to be balanced out, and maybe one day we won’t have this insane notion it’s the fast food joint’s responsibility to help us lose weight.

My Surprise With Kijiji

People love Kijiji. I have to admit that I’ve never really done too much with the website. I bought some camera equipment and a mini-fridge over the past 5 years, but that’s about it. That is, until I started trying to sell a few things.

I’ve been trying to get rid of some stuff lately and along with donations and the garbage, I’ve decided to try throwing a few things up for sale online. Turns out that Kijiji is a bad place for someone like me.

I made the mistake of assuming that everyone acts the same way that I do when on the buy/sell website. The few times that I used it I found the item that I wanted, took a look at what it would have cost new, checked out a few competing prices and then made an informed decision about what I was willing to pay.

What I’ve come to find is that’s not how the majority of people operate.

When moving to the “sell” side for the first time I did some research on the items I was looking to get rid of and attached prices that seemed reasonable to me. Yes they were on the higher side of the range, but I was expecting some haggling and wanted the wiggle room.

What I experienced was nothing close to that.

This is only an educated guess, but from what I gather the though process of the average Kijiji buyer is, “Oh, I like <insert item here>. I’m going to completely disregard the asking price as an indicator of what the seller would consider a starting point and offer whatever amount of money is currently in my couch cushions.”

Most offers that I’ve received have been for less than 50% of the asking price, with the lowest being 20%. To me people have to know that they’re just wasting both our time at a point.

What’s worse is the guy who offered 20% of asking price had the balls to get angry when I didn’t send a counter offer. Does he think I’m a jewelry sales person from an all-inclusive beach? I think he finally got the point when I told him that any offer that I would make depends on the quality of the vehicle, not the arbitrary number that he made up.

I know my experience isn’t isolated, because I have heard similar things from friends and family. They took some time to determine a fair price only to be rewarded with insulting offers.

The worst part is the buyers probably don’t realize the harm that they’re doing the system by acting this way. Now that I know people would rather try and undercut huge rather than buy based on value, next time I list something I’m going to inflate the price enormously in hopes of selling the item for what I wanted in the first place.

The saving grace is finding the one or two people who operate like rational humans and negotiating with them. They are usually good to deal with and at the very least seem to be people who actually want the item, rather than trying to make a quick buy to flip it later.

LinkedIn Sucks

Is it just me or has LinkedIn been really crappy for a while now. At the risk (as usual) of sounding like a hypocrite, the things posted on there are terrible. Worthless quotes or info-graphics that get recycled, and usually aren’t too insightful or profound in the first place.

I’m going to to go out on a limb and say that regurgitating some image that you saw someone else in your network posted doesn’t impress too many of you professional contacts. On the contrary, in many cases it could cause annoyance. To me most of the things that I see on there range from uninspiring to ignorant.

So as a friendly suggestion from Uncle Kevy, next time you see that five people have posted the same tired image about how managers and leaders are different, don’t just mindlessly share it. Think about the image and what it’s really saying.

By taking two seconds to think critically, you may realize that the post isn’t that insightful and is just plain wrong. How the attempt to look like an intelligent thought-leader may end up portraying you as a dull sheep.