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The other day I was doing my little agricultural thing, going to the u-pick to gather delicious fresh BC strawberries. It was a weekday, so my willing slave and I were the only adults there of working/childbearing age who didn’t have a bunch of little kiddies with us.

A couple of rows over, a child starts wailing and screaming. She’s tired of this picking business. Waah, waah, waah, and making noises that you didn’t know a human could make.

In my row, concentrating on getting at the ripest, most lovely strawberries, I think to myself, “I’m sure glad someone else has to deal with the little screamer.”

Double-dipped chocolate strawberries

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If you love someone, say it with cookies. Everyone loves cookies. Everyone does not like ice cream, or sushi, or bananas, but I would hazard a guess that everyone likes cookies.

Fresh baked are best, all warm from the oven, but fancy-schmancy bakery cookies will get you pretty far. Boxed cookies from the store might do in a pinch, depending on the intended recipient. But for the real cookie love, cream that butter and sugar, beat in the eggs and flavouring, mix in flour and baking soda, fold in your choco chips, your nuts, your dried fruit or whatever, and bake it up. Mmmm.

I don’t know why I bake cookies. It certainly does fill up an hour or two. I probably do it mostly to see the joy on Donovan’s face. He’s like a little kid, sneaking into the kitchen to stack up a bunch of cookies from the cooling racks and then washing them down with milk. In return, he brings home cupcakes for me. It’s a sweets cycle, kind of like the water cycle. Surprise begetting surprise.

On another note, the other type of cookies around here function as sort of a dog insurance policy. Levi will do anything if you just say the word “cookie”. Or “treat,” or “food.” I only have to touch his cookie jar for the dog to materialize from anywhere in the apartment (not a big place, but still). He can’t even concentrate on the trick, he wants the treat so bad.

As long as the cookie jars are filled, we all kind of stick together. Mutual bribery society.

It’s not as though there is a dearth of interesting topics to write about. Transportation, the Olympic$, the Climate Change Dividend, even the asylum next door – all kinds of people are doing interesting things and events are going on all around us. People are blogging about them too. Every day, something new to know.

As for me, I signed the papers I’m over the shock. And here I am again: my own boss and cruise director, tasked with doing something useful, not just the dishes. That means thinking up my own projects as well as mustering up the courage to go after all the opportunities that cross my desk. (At least the ones that don’t look too dodgy.) Sometimes when there is a legitimate posting, whether it comes via the Editors’ Association mailing list, Craigslist, Jeff Gaulin or Freelance Writing Jobs, I talk myself out of it before even applying. This habit must be stopped – if I plan to make any money.

I like money.

Writing for money is hard work – I’m not kidding – if you plan to get paid for it. It feels like that today at least. Getting a job was a way to get money that I needed at the time, but it’s the easy way out. You don’t have to think for yourself and the cheques come regularly.

My sister, a creative chick who’s been at the freelance game for awhile, said to me, “You have to stop working the backup plan and the safety net, and go do it.” She’s absolutely right. There is no happiness in mere acceptance at the workplace, I need to go achieve something and make a name. It would be easier to just fit in, but that is not to be.

In Japan, they have a saying: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” The message is that those who don’t conform, for the good of society, are a threat to harmony and must be brought down. On this side of the ocean, I’ve noticed that there is a similar societal pressure to be likeable and have a pleasing personality. No matter your other talents, it’s important to have a high “emotional intelligence” if you want to have success. It’s important to be popular, otherwise you’re a big fat loser, right?

The funny thing is, I’ve noticed that a lot of assholes are popular. It ain‘t scientific, but two individuals from my past who I consider to be absolutely piss-poor human beings for being selfish, vengeful, manipulative and just plain mean, each have over 200 friends on Facebook. Maybe they work at large companies with lots of co-workers on FB, but I suspect it’s just because they’re assholes who happen to be likeable assholes. In other words, they are good politicians.

This is not to say that everyone who is likeable is an asshole, oh no. I know many people who just seem to have that gift for easy rapport with anyone who they meet. My sister’s friends especially, seem to have the knack of making you feel remembered and important each time you see them. They remember what you talked about the last time you saw them, they ask how such-and-such is going, they share freely of wine and cigarettes and other little social lubricants. There is no agenda; they’re not just waiting for you to finish your thought so they can jump in with theirs.

I always wanted to be more like that, to get on easily with whoever life throws in my path, and have that sort of easiness with people. But I’ve never quite mastered it. I never remember anyone I don’t already know when a mutual friend brings them up in the conversation. Like someone I met at a party. Who? What did they look like? Oh sure I remember now… (no idea) I don’t remember birthdays. I’m told I put up walls when first meeting someone, or that I can appear rather cold and silent. I mostly just feel shy and awkward when meeting another person for the first time, and beyond that impatient and/or infuriated. Sometimes I can’t wait to just get home and get away from people.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been any good at hiding my feelings, and I’m an awful liar. So whatever I’m feeling seems to leak out and someone always seems to take it upon themselves to call me on it. That part always bewilders me, especially when it takes the form of advice, like “You should be nicer to me!” or insults, like my favourite: “You’re a cold-hearted bitch!” I mostly try to stay uninvolved, and I’ve never tried deliberately to hurt anyone, so it always takes me by surprise when others try to attack me for … being imperfect, unlikeable me. Bloody well mind your own business, is my usual reaction followed lots of imagined snappy comebacks.

Going back to my original point, it makes people angry to deal with someone who just doesn’t care what others think of them. Ah, now I remember where that came from, the novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. In the story, Toru constantly compares himself to Nagasawa, the future politician who shows him how to get laid without caring so much about it. He does have some lingering angst about it, and Midori, the independent love interest, tells him that not really caring about what others think is what sets him apart from society. I guess that’s me too.

I know myself pretty well, and I know I havewalls and defenses. I like to think I’m generous to friends (and I cannot stand cheapness in others!) but once you cross me, there’s pretty much no going back. It doesn’t even have to be a huge fight. I’ve had disagreements, passive-aggressive bitch fights, and although I’ll obsess for awhile over the conflict, I won’t make the effort to right things unless the other person and I are really close. Generally, I choose flight over fight.

Despite it all, though, people generally know where they stand with me, and I don’t much care about pretending to like someone I don’t, or sucking up for political reasons. You can like me if you want. I like to be liked.

I’m really not sure why I am this way, but I guess I had to get it off my chest.

I wish I could say I wrote that but it’s actually from a Barenaked Ladies song, “Blame it on me,” from their first major album Gordon.

I recently finished the Print Futures course. The downtime is nice, but I’m feeling a bit burnt out at the moment. I assure you this is not my best writing. It will get better. Something about the joy of writing is lost right now. It comes from overly analyzing what I’m writing as I’m writing it, like wondering if I’m using too many “I”s to start sentences. Grrr. This is hard.

This move to WordPress represents a new stab at blogging, this time under my real name. The plan is to eventually merge my blog with the shamelessly self-promoting website that I built during Print Futures.

And even though this is a brand new blog, I decided to brought along the old Blogger posts for the ride. Some of that bitter twisted stuff written during temp jobs is my best work. Could it be because I just didn’t care who read it?

Eventually, the writer and editor are going to quit their bitchin’ and let each other do their jobs. I’ve seen it done.

I’m still processing my Northern Voice experience. I am left thinking about two things: the quality of the interactions with other bloggers/attendees, and that blogging too has its elites. And like Hollywood stars, the elites of the blogosphere all seem to know each other. (I am tempted to label them as a clique, but hey, we all form our little communities online and off.)

I found personal interactions at the actual conference, well, shallow. I went hoping to reconnect with some of the faces from my past and meet some new people who share the blogging obsession. Somehow conversations at NV2007 were confused and distracted. While talking to one person during a coffee break, a third person joined us, and the next thing I knew, two backs were turned to me. There was a lot going on and people were really excited to be there so that probably contributed to the “can’t talk now” feeling.

The best part of attending Northern Voice has been the aftermath; that is, discovering a whole bunch of new fun blogs to read. Some of these belong to the presenters and/or “famous” bloggers. Others were ones discovered by my habit of snooping while in sessions i.e. checking out what was on the laptops around me. Such blogs include:

  • Ponzarelli
  • Chris.Pirillo.com
  • Christian Burns is Thinking It Through
  • Total Perspective Vortex, which led to Wasted Time, a blog written exclusively by drunken bloggers

  • I’m also still checking the Northern Voice blog feed thing whatever it is for more blog updates from other participants.

    The conference has made me think more about what makes a blog readable, and therefore popular. This is a sweeping generalization, but it seems that many blogs are either male or female in their character. The most popular male bloggers demonstrate mastery of technology and delivering information, while most popular female bloggers are often the ones who are willing to be open and revealing online about their personal lives. (I don’t just mean about sex, although NYC’s This Fish has done pretty well by blogging her love life.)

    Of course, this generalization ignores the fact that there are also millions of subject-specific blogs out there, but still, the ones people go to are the ones that have the information they want. The people that write them are popular because they are perceived to have expertise in their subject and they have the techno-savviness to publish it.

    Northern Voice has inspired me, but not in the way I expected. I expected to go out of there, all fired up to blog. It hasn’t been quite like that, but I was reminded how powerful this medium of communication can be. We may all be elites just for having the guts to put it out there. Mumble, murmur, mhm.

    In honour of that heartwarmingly unofficial holiday, National Delurking Month, I have decided to reveal my secret superpower: an amazing ability to stop conversations wherever I go.

    I first discovered my secret superpower at the tender age of 18. I had an office job at a engineering consulting firm, and my job was to copy and bind reports. Most of the time, I was in the copy room, where many people throughout the day would stop in, make copies, chat to one another and sometimes me, and leave. (I was hardly Rob Schneider, if that’s what you’re thinking.) One day, the sales manager was in the copy room chatting to my supervisor about a trip he was taking to Japan. I had been to Japan on an exchange the previous summer and loved it, so I piped up with a comment like, “Japan is great. You’ll love Tokyo.” The sales guy looked at me, fell silent, and left the room. Kachunka chunka went the copier. That’s when I knew.

    I’ve tried to chalk up this incident to being sort of a greenhorn, to not having learned the fine points of office small talk yet (see: Whisper Hello). But there seems to be more to it than that. I can stop group email conversations in their tracks with a mere click of the “Reply All” button. I can join a group conversation at a party, and without saying very much at all, find myself sitting alone 5 minutes later. At that point, if I’m lucky, some wag will wander over and ask “Why are you sitting here by yourself?” I’m tempted to answer something random like “Purple Monkey Dishwasher!” to hide the pain of having the secret superpower to stop all talking.

    The very worst permutation of my superpower is the ability to part the conversation like Moses parting the Red Sea. In this case, I join a group conversation and soon create two conversations, one on either side. At that point, I cloak the shame by trying to look like a part of one of them. Nodding the head, making agreeable noises. Hmmm. If I gets really bored with that act, I can always make a comment like “Yeah line dancing is hard,” to stop the conversation altogether, or at least drive my unwitting victims off to the buffet table.

    Like any superpower worth having, mine is sometimes put to the test. It sometimes fails against those who are absolutely determined to tell you their life story. My superpower appears to have little effect on those with the power of uninterrupted speech; I can nod and grunt and ask “How about that?’ all I want without stopping the conversation. Depending on the power I’m up against, saying something random or even offensive, might just pause them.

    In the spirit of delurking, I challenge all comers to overcome my mighty superpower. Your comments are proof of my defeat.

    I’m very excited to introduce a new look for the old blog here. It took forever to figure out how to reinstall my nifty Haloscan comment system, but was helped along greatly by this individual who took the time out to let everyone know how to do it.
    However, I’m not entirely happy with the new look yet. If anyone out there wants to show me some ways to customize this baby, I’d be much obliged.
    P.S. I still haven’t figured out how to get rid of the Blogger comment link on the individual post pages, so please continue to use the Haloscan links (The ones that say Validation, Sassback and Discourse Community).

    Yesterday, my blog was worth $14.20. Today:


    My blog is worth $2,822.70.
    How much is your blog worth?


    This little calculator converts your Technorati rank and number of incoming links into monetary worth. Could it be that a link from the mighty Raincoaster (where I go this from in the first place) made my stock shoot straight up? If so, champers and ciggies to you, Shebeen queen.

    I always wanted to take a poll where the question would be: “Am I annoying?”
    The Johari window seems to be the bloggy thing of the week, so here’s mine. Go on, tell me what you think of me.
    Between moving, adopting a new doggy (yay, Petfinder!) and the pay-to-get-in, pray-to-get-out funhouse that is Print Futures, I’m having trouble finding the time to just write. It’ll come to me.
    (By the way, the handsome boy to the left is Levi.)

    Flickr Photos