The Tweets
The Tweets

Entries in Lessons (5)


We've all been that umbrella before

About halfway through my commute home on this rainy Thursday, I noticed a lone umbrella hooked onto one of the horizontal bars of the bus, right near the rear door. Nobody was around it and I started to wonder if it was a forgotten umbrella, but mostly I was curious if anyone else would notice it. A young mother had it pointed out to her by her daughter, but that seemed to be about it. During the next twenty minutes maybe five or six people either stood beside the solitary umbrella, or passed it as they exited the bus at their stop.

Usually I try to be one of the first to get off the bus so I can make the next transfer, but I had become intrigued by the story of this lost umbrella so I decided to hang back to see if anyone else would take notice, and if so, what they would do. As the last of the people got off the bus, headed to their next stop, not one single person gave it more than a cursory glance. It was nice to see that nobody stole the lonely umbrella but nobody really did anything about it at all, either.

I admit it; normally, I would be one of them. I always tell myself that I do the right thing, and hopefully that's true in most cases, but I know that sometimes I'm just so "internal" that I ignore--or rather, choose to ignore--dropped change, abandoned bags and solitary umbrellas. As I got off the bus, rather than rushing to the stop where my transfer was probably just pulling up, I picked up the still damp umbrella and brought it to the driver who was stepping off the bus into the rain to stretch his legs. I actually had to repeat "I think someone left this on the bus" twice before he took the umbrella and thanked me with a bemused, but genuinely grateful look on his face. 

As I made my way downstairs to wait for the next bus, I was reminded of the jacket I left on a bus maybe 6 years ago when I was in too much of a hurry to get home to make sure I had everything with me. I never did check the lost and found; did someone else take the time out of their day to try to return my jacket or did it make its way to the end of the line untouched, or worse (for me) to someone else's home?

Maybe I'm just feeling overly sentimental today, but knowing that not only have I had my own "lost umbrella" but I've actually been the umbrella before too, wonder why it's so hard to break out of your own personal bubble even it it's just to pass something along into somebody else's... especially when I got a warm fuzzy from "doing the right thing."

Oh, and I still made my original transfer, so thanks karma (or something).



It's like one of those old Weird Science comics, but infinitely less cool

One of the problems with this new age of technology is the vast amount of choices we have to make. We are presented with the ability to learn about virtually everything, but in most cases we actually have less time in which to spend on figuring things out. The challenge, of course is no longer how to remain relevant, but how to figure out exactly what relevant is.

This is nothing groundbreaking, but the dichotomy is that while we live in a time where we can be connected to most of the planet, we often end up with very individualistic world views.

I'm reminded of an old issue of Weird Science that I found in my local library when I was a kid. The basic plot centered around this scientist who finds himself shrinking. As he gets smaller and smaller, he disappears into other worlds contained in the atoms making up things like tables. Just as he learns about one world, he disappears into a chair or the sidewalk and into a brand new planet.

I could go on and on about how nerdgasmic that whole concept is, but I'll stick to the topic at hand.

I look at people in my office, people on the bus, even people at the grocery store and its harder and harder to group people together by what they feel is important in their lives. People who have the same views on healthcare, for example, might have an entirely different view on education. At the end of the day, I think that this is a good thing; but it also means that you have to dig deeper to figure out if and where you fit in your community and in the world as a whole.

We all make choices now based on a plethora of information. What's important to me might not be to my best friend. Hell, they might not be important to me in six week based on some other piece of information I was not yet aware of. The kicker is that even though we all have vastly different outlooks and areas of interest, somehow we all expect everyone else to be up to speed on what we spend our time on.

And that makes it infinitely harder for me to stay--much less define the term--relevant.


Occupied bathroom stalls... a chicken and the egg style anecdote

It's funny how one seemingly small event can end up shaping your actions for years and years. We don't often think about why we pull back before turning a sharp corner or why we might hold our breath as we pass by a certain type of shop, but there's usually some reason behind all of the quirky little things that we do. It is a great relief to me that I am not 100% to blame for my weird little actions and behaviours... although there is this thing I do when I pay for things at cash registers... well, let's just say it's weird (not disgusting, just weird), and I have absolutely no idea where it came from.

What got me started on this, strangely enough was during a rewatching of Zombieland the other day. I won't go into things for those that haven't seen the movie, but there's a part near the beginning involving bathroom stalls and the dangers they can pose.

This scene got me to thinking that I, also, have an interesting way of approaching bathroom stalls when the need arises for them to be occupied by myself. In short, I tend to poke the door open slowly to ensure that they are free to use rather than assuming an unlocked stall is, in fact, unoccupied. Those of you with the stomach for it can dig through my past tweets and they'll come across one about a time when my naive dreams about the corrolation betoween unlocked stalls and empty stalls were shattered forever and I won't go into it here.

Needless to say, I have had no illusions about the horrors of public bathrooms since that incident. Where I am slightly confused is where my poking of the door habit started to take hold. Was it due to the aforementioned scene in Zombieland subconsciously getting into my head, or was my near run in the deciding factor in how I now approach the now dreaded stall? I know that I was never one to brashly fling open said doors in the past, but now I have an image of the film in my head whenever I need to enter one of these most private of areas, overlayed with a fear of reliving that traumatic event of months(?) ago. The emotions are so intertwined, that I can't seperate them any more, and I am left confused as to which one deserves the credit of completely rewiring how I do this one, very specific task.

Does any of this matter? Probably not, but if I didn't get this out of my head in some way I probably wouldn't be able to get to sleep tonight.

So thanks Internet, the unoccupied bathroom stall of Cyberspace!


Now if only saving the Princess were this easy!

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I will attempt to discuss applying video game logic to real world situations without losing whatever credibility I may have.

Neat trick, if I can pull it off, no?

After a long hiatus of specifically scheduled physical activity, I've decided to get into the running game. It's only my second week and already I've learned quite a few things. I've already touched on the whole goal within a goal issue that I have, so I'm going to focus on how I've learned to enjoy my new activity using my experiences playing video games.

I have an app (of course I do) that tracks each of my runs for distance, time, pace, location et cetera. The great thing about it is that it is much easier to track my progress and improvement from run to run; week to week. That is also the worst thing about it. If I happen to have a bad day, or don't beat my best time--or even my average time--that little voice inside of me starts talking about what a failure I am. Logically I know that this is ridiculous, but we all know how that little voice can get inside your head... because he/she is already there.

So if real world logic doesn't work, where is a poor nerd to turn? Why, to video games of course! I've started thinking of each of these records that my app keeps track of as high score leaderboards. Of course the ultimate goal is to get the new #1 score for each mode/level, but who can honestly say that every time they pick up a controller, they beat their own high score (let alone someone else's that rests mockingly above your personal best)?

Sometimes you have a bad day. Sometimes your finger slips and you hit the wrong button. Sometimes you focus too hard--or not enough. Whatever the reason, you're not always going to improve on a purely quantitative level.

But you always learn things: what pitfalls to avoid, how to better approach a roadblock, or most importantly, how to keep going when you suddenly run into a brick wall (or into that bottomless pit). Just getting on that horse (or adorable dinosaur) is a victory.

And just forget about trying to knock off that other person's score. They're not even playing the same game as you are. Just work on getting that local leaderboard clear of all of those placeholder scores and once that's done, focus on replacing some of your old scores from time to time.

Competing against anyone but yourself in an individual sport is a recipe for disaster because then you become the person on the street yelling at someone only you can see.

Just keep the competition friendly; we don't need any real life Tyler Durdens stumbling about.


Must everything be a life lesson?

Well I did it. I completed something on my new personal calendar. As I sit here trying not to get sweat all over my keyboard, I can allow myself a pat on the back for finishing my second run of the season (proudly wearing the third nerdiest t-shirt in my wardrobe!). This is definitely not going to turn into a self congratulatory thing--and I never will post any measurable results in an ugly attempt to garner support/sympathy (read: I'm slightly embarrassed by said results)--I will allow myself a rare moment to revel in the fact that so far, I'm actually sticking to something (two things if you count what I'm currently doing).

Not to bore you with the details, but something else hit me as I was walking back home. I've forgotten how to pace myself. I'll probably repeat myself early on in this process, but it's more to knock things into my thick skull than for you, faithful reader (I'm going to go on pretending people are reading this from the get go so that if I actually gain an audience, there won't be as much performance anxiety).

My first kilometer was relatively good, time wise, but it drained my tank pretty good so that I couldn't end as strong as I wanted to. Back when I was playing organized sports on a regular basis, I had learned how to pace myself so that I wouldn't tire myself out too early. Of course, the same can be said of other aspects in my life (big revelation...). I tend to throw myself completely into things, once I convince myself to start, that I'm so tired all I can think of is "when can I stop and relax?" 

A trick I've learned from others (and Super Mario World) is to set up checkpoints at various intervals along the path to a goal (physical, or mental) so that the whole task is not so daunting. The problem is that once I'm in sight of these checkpoints, I tend to burn myself out trying to reach them, forgetting that the checkpoint is not the goal; hell, the goal isn't even really the goal. I also forget to take in everything around me, always looking too far into the future for what's coming next.

The fun is supposed to be in the journey, and somewhere I lost sight of that… and now off to the shower before I short out my computer!