Archive for June 2010

The Viking Approach to Life

June 28, 2010

Some people will permit their children to play dodgeball, but only after putting on safety glasses, a helmet, and bubble-wrap.

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Vikings will encourage their kids to go outside and “play with something sharp”.

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Some people prefer to take a Zen-like approach to life, and will try to live with a minimum of material possessions.

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Vikings will help these people achieve their goal.

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Some people like to relax with yoga

Vikings like to tie their enemies into knots.

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Some people enjoy a nice, soothing, hot cup of caffeine-free herbal tea.

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Vikings have no use for boiling water, except to pour on invaders trying to storm the perimeter.

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Some people deal with stress and conflict by invoking the Serenity Prayer

Vikings will count to zero, before losing their temper.

(Maybe).

When confronted with disasters like major oil spills, some people might hold drum circles, and offer their prayers and positive energy, so that Mother Earth may heal herself.

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Vikings would stab and poke Mother Earth,  just out of spite.   And to coax out more oil out of the ground.

(Well…because they’re VIKINGS!)

Random Thoughts on Random Doodling

June 24, 2010

Hello, my name is Friar, and I have a doodling problem.

I’ve always doodled.  It started when I was three, and Friar’s Mom would give  me crayons and scrap paper to draw on.  (Possibly,  to get me out of her hair).

My doodling increased in elementary school, and then continued all the way through high school, university, grad school, and into my adult life.

And I like to think I’ve gotten good at it.    Because  I’ve had over 40 years of practice.

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And there’s  an art to doodling, too.    You just can’t sit down and decide  “I want to doodle”.

No….that’s called drawing.

Doodling doesn’t work that way.

In order to doodle, your brain has to be occupied elsewhere.

You need something else to think about, something brain-dead, not very mentally challenging…but just distracting enough that you can start to unleash your subconscious thoughts.

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The best doodling for me occurs when I’m forced to sit and listen to something boring.    Like school teachers, university lectures, tedious phone calls,  conference presentations, senior managers, or those painful meetings at work that never seem to end where you want to gouge your eyes out.   That’s when I do my best work.

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Not that it’s necessarily a good thing to scribble when you’re supposed to be listening attentively to a distinguished speaker.

But somehow, I’ve managed to retain enough information in my school years to get a PhD.   And I’ve always had good performance reviews at work.

So I must be doing something right.

Sometimes my doodles start off small, with just random shapes in the corner of the page.

Don’t ask me WHY I draw these shapes, or where they come from…I have NO idea.

All I know is that is that it “feels good” in my brain, when I draw them.  It seems to make the neural circuitry flow better.

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If I’m in the right mood, the illustrations get more elaborate.   Less shapes, and more pictures.

aI think this one must have been at an especially boring event, because I had written:   “Aieeee.   Hear that?  That’s the sound of a brain cell dying”.

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I also seem to like drawing  numbers and letters.

Any words I write (like “Walker” in this case) don’t necessarily have anything to do with the actual conversation I’m listening to.   Again, they’re just shapes my brain wants to draw.

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And then, when I pull stuff like this, I know I’m in “The Zone”.

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Not all doodles are random.  Sometimes, I’m in the mood to draw something coherent.

This one follows a botanical theme, for example.

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While this one’s either a wedding cake, or a basilica.  I haven’t decided yet.

Sooner or later, if I doodle enough, I start to get ideas for my cartoons.

See the weasel-critter in the bottom left?

That was  one of my first attempts at a later cartoon:  Berserk! Goes the Weasel!

This one was my first sketch of Vikings Versus Ninjas.

Notice I didnt’ even have to draw the picture in detail.     I just needed to hint at some barely legible shapes, to imprint the idea onto my brain.

But the idea was there…Here’s the scene I drew several weeks later:


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I wonder what will happen, when I retire and I no longer have to attend courses, or listen to boring meetings?   Will my doodling suffer?

Perhaps.

But then again,  I could always sign up for a night course at the local community college that I’d have no intention of passing.

Just for someplace to show up and not listen, and take out my pad and pen again!

Friar’s Fishing Philosophy

June 19, 2010

Any day you catch a speckled trout, no matter how small,  automatically qualifies as a fantastic,  special, magical day.

Random Doodle of a City…

June 18, 2010

….while playing Scrabble with Friar’s Mom.

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A Quick Weekend Road Trip with the Bear

June 14, 2010

This weekend, the Bear and I decided to do a overnight road trip.     Our destination was as far North as far as I could reasonably get, leaving Saturday and coming back at a decent time Sunday evening.

One of the first stops I took photos was Cobalt.

The town peaked about 100 years ago, when there was a big silver boom.

I think it’s always great when a town is named after a metal.

That’s a sure sign that it’s a happenin’ place.   Woo hoo!

Further north,  between New Liskeard and Kirkland Lake,  the Bear and I found a giant critter by the road.  (Can you spot the him? …the Bear, I mean.)

Seems it’s a mandatory by-law in Northern Ontario to have a giant critter every X-number of kilometers.

Though I question the relevance of the bison.  As far as I know, these animals had nothing to do with the development and settlement of Ontario.  The nearest wild bison is about 1500 km away.

But at least its legs were wrapped up in Christmas lights, which I found to be a nice touch.

Next, was one of my favorite stops…the Arctic Watershed

This is the dividing line, north of which all water flows into Hudson’s Bay.

I love crossing the watershed.   It makes me feel I’m getting way up North (even though we’re still not even at 49 degrees latitude).      But there aren’t many places in the lower 48 States like this, except parts of Minnesota, the Dakotas and a tip of Montana.

What’s somewhat surprising, is that the further north I went, the busier and more populated it become.

Parts further Southwest  like the Sudbury or the Soo are all rock and lakes.   But this stretch of Highway 11 is well-farmed with fairly large towns peppered along the way.  In some places, it hardly feels north at all.

We finally reached our destination target, which was Cochrane.

As you can see, it’s VASTLY different from downtown Cobalt.

Cochrane is close to the furthest North Highway 11 gets, before it veers west towards Kapuskasing,  Hearst and eventually dips back down towards  Thunder Bay.

Cochrane is only 49 degrees latitude,  hardly what you’d call the sub-Arctic.    It’s no worse than North Dakota, Idaho or Minnesota.

Hell, even Calgary is further north.

But the difference here, is that in this part of Ontario, Cochrane is the last town.

There’s nothing above Cochrane except some access roads to hydro dams,  logging roads,  and the occasional mining camp.

Even those rustic roads eventually end…and then you’re as north you can get by car (in this part of the continent, at least).

I’ve been there.   It’s a pretty awesome feeling, to be at what I call the End of the World.

(But that was on another trip, and that’s for another story).

Anyway, these is one  way you can get further North.   Cochrane is the Southern Terminus of the Polar Bear Express.    It’s a train that will take you across hundreds of miles of muskeg/swamp, until you get to Moosonee on James Bay.

(I didnt’ have time this weekend to do that…that will be on my to-do list…for another trip.)

But I did get a picture of the Bear with another giant Critter.

Cochrane really enjoys milking it’s “Polar Bear” status.    Though I suspect the nearest wild polar bear isn’t found within 500 miles of this place.

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On the way home, I decided to take 60-mile detour at Matheson and  take Highway 101 east toward the Quebec side.

One thing you’ll find on Northern Ontario back is lots of evidence of logging.     They manage to hide it quite well on the major routes where all the tourists drive,  but on the back-roads, sometimes they dont’ bother to try.

Next, was Rouyn-Noranda,  a town 500 km Northeast of Montreal.    It’s claim to fame is its big copper smelter.

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It was kind of a shock, to drive through 100 km of forest and lakes, to suddenly come across this dirty mill town that looks like it would better belong in the Rust-Belt down south.

I mean, how’d you like to have THIS in your back yard?

And judging from the Quebec flags flying around, I suspected this wasn’t exactly the type of town you’d want to go waving a Canadian flag around on July 1st.

In this case, I decided it would be best to NOT put the Bear in the middle of the street, and NOT to take a photo.

The drive home after that was rather uneventful, driving through several hours of boring farmland.    This part of Northwestern Quebec was just as boring as the Ontario side.    I felt I this could have been anywhere.

Ironically, it was within the last 90 minutes of my drive, that the forests and scenery began to look nice again, like the Canadian-Shield wilderness that I’m used to.

1300 km in two days.   Not bad.

Wonder what I’ll do NEXT weekend?

Stormy Weather

June 10, 2010

 

I love storms.

And not just the regular run-of-the-mill thunderstorms.  But the SEVERE kind…that only happen a few months of the year    The kind that Weather Network warns you about…the kind that spawn microbursts, funnel clouds and tornado warnings.

I love how these storms are spawned on those days that are stinking hot…”stupid hot”, I call it.   Where its’ stifling, miserable, and you can cut the humidity with a knife.  Where being outside is just damned stupid

I love how,  at the peak of daytime heat, a subtle haze starts to form.   And puffy clouds start to appear, and a hot wind blows.

I love how, even if the sun is still out, you can hear a rumble in the distance, like artillery.   So low, it’s almost at the threshold of your hearing, where you almost feel it before you actually hear it.  

And that’s when you know that the storm will probably be a decent one.  

I love how the sun slowly gets dimmed by the clouds, and the rumbles get louder and louder…and the clouds start to organize themselves and get darker.  But it’s still stinking hot…and you know something is up. 

I love how you see cloud formations start to form…billowing,  churning, nasty…forming into columns and anvils and mushroom and other shapes that “ain’t quite right”.    

And you wonder just how bad it’s gonna get.

 

I love those surreal pre-storm moments, where the car headlights come on in the middle of the day, and the birds stop chirping, and the dog retreats to the basement with their tail between their legs. 

I love how the air crackles with energy, how the barometric pressure and temperature plummet.   

I love that sinking feeling of dread in you get in your stomach, coupled with that feeling of exhiliration…because you know that soon, all  hell’s gonna break loose.

I think it’s at this moment of anticipation, just before the storm, that I like the best.   

My senses are at their keenest, and I’ve never felt more alive.    I want to run to a mountain top, challenge the Gods, and scream profanities at them.   At moments like this, I feel I can take on the WORLD.

But the ultimate for me would be to see a tornado.    

They don’t happen very often in the area of Canada where I live, but they do happen.   And on the rare occasions we get a tornado watch,  I’ll make a special effort to go out and watch the storm.  And chase it, it time permits.  

First tornado watch I remember as an adult was 23 years ago.  My sister and I walked down the road to watch for it, and I took photos with my cheapo Kokak camera.   And Dad gave us shit.

There was another tornado watch seven years ago, where I distinctly remember,  for the first time, being a little frightened.   

Though fortunately (or unfortunately),  I’ve never managed to see a tornado.

Oh, I’ve been close, though.   

Once I was stranded in the woods in a violent storm.   The wind made a weird sound like a freight train and there was an unconfirmed report  funnel cloud in the area.     

Other times, there have been confirmed tornado reports within tens of km of where I’d been….yet  I ALWAYS seem to miss seeing them.  

Like during the 9-year period I lived in Hamilton, Ontario.  The  two times  a tornado within the city limits, which happened to coincide with the times I was out of town on vacation.   (I swear, it’s  almost a conspiracy…)

Though several people have lectured me:  “Believe me Friar, you do NOT want to see a tornado!”

Oh..but I DO. 

And I’ve been known to drive several hours chasing storms to find them. (Not that I have the faintest clue what I’m doing, though)

But I don’t need death and destruction.   I’d be perfectly happy with a tornado touching down in the field next to me, destroying an abandoned barn, and  nobody gets hurts. 

Is that too much to ask?

Perhaps. 

But until that happens, I will not die happy.

Mis-management 101: How to sabotage your own company and drive it into the ground by killing your staff’s morale.

June 7, 2010

If an important deadline is approaching,  repeatedly remind the person responsible.    Nagging them 4-5 times a day instead of once means that they’ll get the job done 4-5 times faster, right?  

Death or illness in the family.    Health problems.   Circumstances beyond one’s control.    These are NOT acceptable excuses for someone missing a deadline.   If someone says they will do something by a certain date, the expectation is that they will do it.  Keep repeating this to them while  you hit them on the head with a ball-peen hammer.    Eventually they’ll start seeing things your way.

Nothing generates more respect, or more company loyalty, than chastising an employee in front of their peers.    Give yourself bonus points, if you’ve managed make that person cry. 

Pass on the responsibility, and give your staff ownership of their work.   For example, if the monthy report isn’t submitted by the end of the week, the company will go bankrupt,  polar bears will become extinct, and little baby Jesus will cry in his manger.

Refuse to allow give staff to work from home, because they can’t be trusted.   Better to have them work in a noisy distracting cubicle-farm where you can keep an eye on them, than for them to concenrate in a quiet environment where they might actually get the job done faster.

The last thing anyone wants to do is hear of company news (like lay-offs or funding problems) first-hand from their own leaders.   Best to let the mainstream media announce it first, at least a week before-hand.

Cancelling everyone’s vacation is a sure-fire way to improve everyone’s morale and get them to work harder.

Set a good example by skipping meals and working through lunch.   If nobody follows your lead, then schedule mandatory meetings from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, with no breaks.   Your staff will respect your dedication. 

Assert your alpha-dominance by using the words “expectation” and “challenge”  as often as possible.

Treat your professionals like they’re hourly workers making widgets an on assembly line.    Every minute they’re chit-chatting by the water cooler and not sitting in their cubicle equals lost time and lost revenue.  Let them know this.

Regarding punctuality, demand to have it both ways.    Scold someone for coming in late, but refuse to acknowledge when they work past quitting time.    And expect that they’ll attend work-related functions held after hours, on their own time, because it would be “good for morale”.  

If one of your staff is going through a serious personal crisis, that’s the time to toughen up and assign them more work.    In hindsight, they’ll appreciate your lack of compassion,  which will be seen as a sign of moral fortitude.     

Always assume the worst in everyone.    For example, whenever someone’s laid off, have them immediately escorted off-site.  Preferably in handcuffs.

What ever you do, never tell the staff they’ve done a good job.    Nobody needs to hear an “attaboy”.   That may foster dangerous feelings of self-esteem and contentment, which can be detrimental to the company.