Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Call it woolgathering, lollygagging, or just plain daydreaming, it’s something we don’t do often enough. Hardly surprising when we think back on the number of times we got our knuckles rapped in grade school for sitting and staring out the window on a nice spring day. Or the times the boss found us seemingly mesmerized by the blank wall in front of our desk and asked if we didn’t have anything better to do. We have been trained to think of it as wasted time, non-productive time.

And in today’s fast-paced world  we need no knuckle rap or scowling boss – an external enviroment populated with smart phones, email, tablets, iPods, a perpetually-on television and/or radio ensures we rarely have any quiet time, time to sit back and think. It’s go, go, go all the time.

But the fact is this little guy has it right. It’s good for us to spend time with our heads above the clouds. Improved productivity, better overall health, enhanced memory, improved relationships, more creativity are but a few of the documented benefits that can arise from daydreaming. 

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to ‘the nothing box’. Mark Gungor is a marriage expert who has a hilarious take on men’s brains versus women’s brains, one of the basic tenets being that men’s brains contain a ‘nothing box’ where men’s thoughts typically go when fishing, for example. And while he plays on crass stereotypes and broad generalizations there is, in spite of what we’d like to think in a politically correct world, a nugget of truth in what he says. (Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29JPnJSmDs0)

But my take is slightly different. I don’t see it so much as an empty box, but more of an incubator of ideas, sort of a box containing a primordial ooze where random thoughts bubble to the surface. Most will burst and disappear into the ether without leaving an impression, but every so often one of those bubbles will contain a gem, a prize to be captured, cherished, and placed in its own box for a more detailed exploration at some later time. Would that same idea have surfaced while you were listening to AC-DC’s Thunderstruck? Or while watching episode 485 of CSI Miami? Probably not.

So go forth and gather wool – it’s good for you. And the next time you’re standing in the shower thinking about nothing in particular except perhaps that irritating ear worm you heard on the radio at breakfast and you get a sudden brainwave for a new project, a brilliant insight into the human condition, or finally recall what other roles that actor in last night’s movie played, just remember it’s all because you were spending some time in your nothing box.

(No sheep were harmed in the production of this post.)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The cat man

Last Thursday Dan Smith, a 65-year-old retiree using a cane and carrying a plastic bag containing his meds turned himself in to Gatineau police to begin serving an 11-day sentence for refusing to pay a fine for having an unlicensed cat.

It turns out our hero was separated from his wife and living in Ottawa, but he frequently visits her in her home across the river in Gatineau. That’s where he got nabbed.

One day Dan answers the door and there’s a bylaw officer there who claims he has an unlicensed cat. “I don’t have a cat” he says, “There’s a stray that comes by periodically and we sometimes feed it. But it’s not our cat.”

“Too bad” says the officer. “You feed it, it’s your cat.” And Dan’s given 10 days to purchase a $30 tag for the cat. “Not my cat” he says and ignores the warning.

Ten days later the bylaw officer is back, with 2 police officers in tow, and issues a $100 ticket for not licencing the stray cat.

Dan says, “Not my cat; I’m not paying.” and goes to court to fight the ticket.

At court he presents ID that shows he lives at a different address. His ex-wife confirms that Dan doesn’t actually live at the house where the ticket was issued, and that it’s a feral cat that she occasionally feeds. Doesn’t matter, says the judge, and hands him a bill for $326 that covers the original fine plus court costs. Or jail time.

At this point our hero really digs in his heels and refuses to pay, so jail it is. His ex-wife doesn’t seem to mind the jail option. “Maybe I’ll have a rest for a few days” she says.

And that’s how Mr. Smith ended up surrendering to police last Thursday, which was when he got the first bit of good news - he was only going to have to serve 3 days instead of 11. He spent Thursday night in an overcrowded cell (3 inmates, 2 beds) where he was treated like “a rock star”, and then Friday got the second bit of good news – due to overcrowding at the jail he was being kicked out to make room for other scofflaws who were arriving to serve weekend sentences.

Apparently his ex-wife has since licensed the feral cat.

And that’s your tax dollars at work. Pathetic.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rrroll Up The Rim (It’s a Canadian thing….)

Anyone who follows my posts knows that I’m an unapologetic Tim Hortons fan. In fact I believe that anyone who does not frequent Timmies deserves to have their Canadian citizenship questioned. I mean that would be tantamount to being an American and not being a rabid football fan. It just shouldn’t happen. But I digress.

Like all fast food outlets, Tims is struggling with the issue of waste – cups, lids, styrofoam containers, napkins, etc. – that litters the landscape around such establishments. One part of the solution is to offer reusable travel mugs for sale. Selling merchandise is a revenue stream, but it also helps to cut waste when people reuse their mugs. Great idea. In fact the Tim Hortons website even advertises their travel mugs as being a way to “Help reduce waste.”

Hold on, not so fast.

IMG_20160203_161209031Right now Tim Hortons has one of their periodic promotions underway. Called Rrroll up the rim, the idea is that every paper cup sold represents a contest entry and has a potential prize notification hidden under the rolled rim of the cup, anything from free coffee to a Honda Civic (but not very many of those). It must be a successful promotion for them because they’ve been doing it for 30 years, and Mac’s Convenience Stores have now copied the idea with their Flip The Lip promotion.

Here’s where it gets stupid. When I stopped at the drive-thru window today and presented my travel mug for filling the server gave me my mug back (filled) and also handed me a new paper cup “So you can roll up the rim.”

So now, even though I am using a travel mug, I also have a completely unused (except for the rolled up rim – and, no, I didn’t win anything) paper cup to dispose of. Makes absolutely no sense. Why not have a scratch card or something similar so those of us who use travel mugs can still participate but not at the cost of additional trash?

Well I posed that question to Tim Hortons some time ago and here is a part of their response:
We have investigated the option of producing an alternative contest entry form to replace the hot drink paper cup.  In performing this assessment, we have determined that producing an alternative contest entry form (such as a scratch card) may actually increase our paper waste because it does not decrease the number of hot drink cups printed.  Our current system allows our hot drink cups to serve a 'double purpose'. (i.e. as a drink container and as an entry form)
There’s an obvious fallacy in their argument in that they seem to be saying they will print the same number of cups whether people reuse travel mugs or not, and therefore, using a travel mug does not, in fact, “Help reduce waste.” Clearly not the case.

Saving the world is really hard some days. Time for a nap.