Please stop assuming that I’m ignorant

Originally the title said “stupid”, but ignorant is a more appropriate word as it defines a lack of awareness.

So anyway, I’m buying a house. Yay! After a fairly long search, it came up pretty quickly and I’ve acted on it. As a result, everyone whom I talk to about it feels the need to offer the same advice. Advice that I’ve probably given to others in the past.

But that’s okay. People are trying to be helpful, and I appreciate it.

So here’s the thing: I’m buying the house jointly with my roommate and we’re splitting the title. Gets us both into paying a mortgage instead of paying rent. I think it’ll work out very well.

And if you say one word about us needing a contract on the shared equity and exit strategies and all that, I promise that I will block you from ever again posting a comment on this site.

And now you understand why I’m a little annoyed and a little sick of people assuming that we’re too ignorant to know better. So please, put your minds at ease: regardless of the fact that we’re good friends, I would never do anything like this without a contract. The reason being, it’s best to spell out the details right now, rather than having to do that two years in and potentially cause friction.

So thank you for your advice; now keep it to yourselves.

It’s not that I mind people giving advice…it just gets tiring of hearing it from everyone. And what I’m waiting for is for someone to say “obviously you’ve already thought about an equity/exit agreement”. Translation: recognizing that we’re not utterly naive.

Just because neither of has owned a home before doesn’t mean that we’re ignorant. I work in the architecture industry–a land of agreements and contracts and, hey, building ownership. I served on the WCRI board of directors for two years, where I discovered that perfectly nice people could be perfect jerks if they thought they could get away with it.

Of course, a lot of people don’t think of that stuff when they think of me, and that’s fair. It’s not the persona I present for the most part. Instead, people see me as someone who is fairly optimistic and arguably too trusting in the world around me. To which I say, yes, I do put a lot of trust into people and situations that sometimes do not deserve it. But do I do it blindly? No. That’s what people don’t get. I’m something of a risk taker in that sense, because I often recognize that something or someone has not shown themselves worthy of trust, and I do it anyway. Why?

Because I refuse to give in and become another skeptic who sees disaster around every corner. Not to say that you have to be one or the other–I just think I would be one or the other.

I gamble on trust. More often than not I put my trust into situations that don’t deserve it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, I live with it. A lot of other people can’t deal with life the same way. And that’s fine.

It’s my way of living life. It may or may not be yours.

To be fair, the advice givers aren’t all assuming that I’m naive. And to be fair, I’ve probably come across the same way in the past. People hear our plan, and they immediately think that a contract is a good suggestion. So they make it. I’d rather they do that than assume we know and say nothing. But I’d most rather that they assume we know and acknowledge it anyway.

So while this started out as a rant, it’s turned into a “this is a behaviour that I will seek to correct in myself so as not to be a hypocrite” statement.

In truth, I wasn’t expecting that. But I’ll take it.

A thankless job

What does it mean when people say that a job is “thankless”? Okay, that’s a dumb question. The meaning is obvious: it’s a job where they don’t feel appreciated or recognized for what they do. No one thanks them; hence, a thankless job.

And I guess that’s not what I’m really wondering. I’m more interested in whether there really are any thankless jobs, or if it’s just a phrase people use. More importantly, do people have a right do use it, or is it an unreasonable term?

You could argue that you’re getting paid, and that’s all you should need out of a job. You meet your responsibilities, you get paid, life goes on. You could argue that.

You could also argue that being paid is only one form of remuneration. If so, everyone who performs a job–from mowing a lawn to enforcing the law–deserves recognition and appreciation for their efforts. I could potentially get on board with that.

But the truth is, I don’t agree with either perspective. They’re too black and white, and I’m all about the grey matter. I mean, grey area.

I think that if you simply carry out the responsibilities of your job, your thanks is getting whatever was the agreed-upon reward, be it a salary, an hourly wage, or a weekly allowance. If you go above and beyond your responsibilities, you’re doing so of your own volition. You can’t demand payment for something if no one agreed to give it in the first place. So if you’re going to go beyond, then you should do it for your own satisfaction.

I don’t think anyone should expect a raise or a bonus for doing their job (other than a cost-of-living increase, which isn’t the same thing).

Doesn’t sound too thrilling, does it? Sounds like I think everyone should be satisfied with what they’ve got and not be upset when they don’t get more. And that’s true. That’s what I think.

I also think that if you go above and beyond your responsibilities, then those efforts should be recognized and appreciated, either with a thank you, a raise, a bonus, or getting to stay up a little later before bedtime. I think the people who are in a position to reward you should do so in a reasonable manner.

In a nutshell, no one should expect to receive anything more than what’s been agreed to. And everyone should try to give more than what’s been agreed to.

In many cases, it’s a smile and a heartfelt thanks. A little effort to let someone know that their work is appreciated. That’s all it takes.

What got me going on this? I suppose I was wondering if I do that enough. Wondering if I could make more effort to let those around me know that their efforts are appreciated. You see, it’s not just relationships involving managers and employees, or parents and children. It’s every interaction we have where someone does something for us.

It’s the cashier in the checkout line. He or she deserves my thanks.

It’s the guy who delivers the package. Same deal.

The waiter/waitress who gets my order a little wrong, but is doing the best she can and making the best of it. I’m thankful for her efforts.

It’s the friend who looks in on my cats while I’m away. Chet and Min appreciate it; so do I.

And I want people to know that. Even if they come into my life for one brief moment, I want them to feel that their efforts made a difference. Because whether you think they did something important or not, they did something.

There have been times in my life when I’ve gotten upset because I didn’t get the appreciation I felt should have been shown to me. There are other times where I tried–consciously or subconsciously–to make people notice my efforts.

I suppose I’m a little wiser, now. I know that if I do something, then I do it for what’s agreed upon, or I do it for my own satisfaction. I expect nothing more than that.

And I’ll give as much of it as I can.


The hits keep coming

Seems like this site is drowning in a deluge of “life must have meaning” scatterthoughts, or haven’t you noticed? Here’s another one: a commencement address given by Steve Jobs this past summer.

I have to admit, when someone e-mailed this to me as a Word document, I thought it was a repeat of the Kurt Vonnegut Commencement Address that has circled the Internet for years. The only problem is that Vonnegut has never given an address. Here’s the story on that.

So I looked it up in Google and was pleased to confirm that the Jobs speech is, indeed, authentic.

Here’s something else: Care2.com. A friend of mine has an e-mail address through this site, so we were chatting about it and I think it’s really cool. Care 2 Make a Difference. That’s a simple enough message.

Seeing as this follows on yesterday’s post of Random1, I’m now going to have to find something meaningful that ends in “3”. A little help, people?

Now, after all of the feel-good stuff, I was going to turn this scatterthought around by talking about something completely meaningless, but then another friend I was talking to on the phone asked me to tape “America’s Next Top Model” for her.


America’s Next Top Model.



And as a result, my VCR (yes, I still have a working VCR…I’m a dinosaur) is now set to tape a show that I can’t even begin to feign interest in. I mean, it’s not that I don’t appreciate attractive women (I do) or television (I do) or attractive women on television (I do). I’m just more than a little sick of all the so-called reality tv shows out there. Actually, does this even count as reality tv? I’m not sure that it does.

The irony, of course, is that I run Battle of the Bards. A bunch of people get up, perform, and then the audience votes for the winners. Hmm, sounds kinda sorta similar, don’t it?

In my defence…I blame John. And you should too.

Of course, Bards isn’t so fake and made up and melodramatic as the reality shows. It’s more like Star Search than American Idol. And in its day, Star Search was a fun show to watch.

So to all those who would call me a hypocrite I say: “bah”.

Anyway, the point of this aside was to tell you that I forgot what my meaningless topic was because of America’s Next Top Model. But I suppose that’s meaningless enough for now.

In other news, the same friend who asked for the taping left her hat on the bus, today. I hate when things like that happen. It’s such a rotten feeling when the realization of what just happened sinks in. The feeling of loss and complete helplessness. I’ve felt that a few times in my life, I guess. Most memorably, when I was very young. I had a favourite toy transformer that had some snap-on pieces, and one of the pieces fell off while I was walking home from school. I searched and searched through the woods, but never found it. And I admit it: I cried. Apparently I didn’t have a sense of what tragedy really is when I was eight years old.

Only now does something occur to me about that story. Yes, a full 20 years later, I’m having a thought.

I lost the piece of the transformer in the woods. The woods were brown and green. The piece of the toy was red.

And as long-time readers know, I am red/green colourblind.

(thoughtful silence)



If you’re going to get into an accident, do it on the way to your doctor’s office

There’s a medical office across the street from my workplace. About an hour ago, there was a major accident on the street right between us. I was standing near our reception desk when it happened, so I heard it but didn’t see it. As the receptionist called 911, I ran outside to see if I could help.

There was a minivan on our side of the street, and the driver looked pretty shaken but had already gotten out. He wasn’t in a state of mind to answer when I came over, but seemed largely okay. He leaned back against his seat, so I crossed to the other side, where a senior couple had the left-front end of their car pretty much smashed right in. The airbags had gone off, and they were very shaken up, but coherent. I got the driver to turn the key to make sure the engine was disengaged, and the lady in the passenger seat said that they were going to see Dr. Hicks. So I ran over to the office and the people outside went to get the doctor. Meanwhile, another guy was going through the same motions with the driver, having come over just as I was leaving. The horn had gone off, but we obviously couldn’t move the people out of the car. That’s when I noticed the trail of blood coming from behind the driver’s left ear. It looked as if the seatbelt might have cut him when it tightened up on impact.

Doctors came out of the medical office and police cars started to arrive at that point, so the other guy and I stepped back and were comparing notes; I guess that’s what you do when you can’t do anything else. That’s about when I realized that I wasn’t wearing a jacket in -8 weather. So as the fourth police car came up the street, I returned to my office.

I’m not sure how serious the injuries were, but things are getting cleaned up now. I don’t know how the accident occurred…where the vehicles ended up doesn’t make sense for where the damage is. But hey, that’s not my area of expertise.

I’ve seen accidents before. When I was younger, my dad and I were in a trail of cars on the highway and one happened in front of us. But my job was to just stay in the car and not get in the way. I’ve never been one of the first people on the scene, and I have to say how glad I am that no one died. Chalk another one up for seatbelts and airbags, which I fully believe saved the lives of the older couple.

Coworkers who came back from lunch in the aftermath were asking about it just now, and one mentioned her fear of being pinned behind an airbag. It seems there’s a slight misconception, so I’ll take the opportunity to clear it up, with a little help from How Stuff Works. I’m not going to go into detail (the link does an excellent job), but suffice to say that an airbag inflates explosively, and instantly deflates afterward. The bag isn’t capable of holding air for very long…just enough to counter some of your forward momentum.

The second thing that was wondered is what the powdery substance released by the airbag is. Turns out that that’s cornstarch or talcum powder, which is used to keep the airbag lubricated in containment. So it’s of minimal danger to an asthmatic person.

This discussion got me telling the group about the newer airbag technologies: side airbags, knee airbags, and curtain airbags. These ones aren’t quite the same as the front airbags, because their jobs are different. They aren’t so much countering momentum as providing cushions in case part of your body moves toward the door…or the door moves toward you. In many cases, these cushions actually stay inflated for a period of time to protect you. In fact, the curtain airbags in some vehicles have sensors that detect rollovers, and will keep the airbags inflated until sideways motion stops.

This is, as far as I’m concerned, some of the coolest automotive technology I’ve seen in recent years. Far better than the hybrid powertrains, fold-into-the-floor seats, and six-speed transmissions that I see on a regular basis. And I don’t just think that today…I’ve always felt that way. Today’s experience just reinforces my feelings on the subject.

Front airbags have been required equipment since 1988, and a lot of manufacturers are making the various side airbags available as options. But many owners choose not to take on the additional costs. After all, you hope you’ll never need to use them. And if you drive alertly and intelligently, you probably won’t have to.

But sometimes, it doesn’t matter how well you drive. A few years ago, I was nearly in a major accident when a driver ran a red light at full speed, barely missing me. No airbags in my old Civic. I could be the best driver in the world–I’m not, as evidenced by last week’s speeding ticket–but even if I were, I couldn’t predict what every other driver will do.

If your next car offers the option of additional airbags, please…just check the box marked “Yes”. They could prevent a broken knee or a split skull. For many people, they already have.

And please…drive safely. I can’t imagine if someone had died just now…hopefully I’ll never have to.


I have just come across one of the greatest tv shows ever

Random channel flipping revealed something truly great on television. Something entertaining and, more importantly, worthwhile.

Something that matters.

It’s a new program on A&E called “Random 1“, and it’s brilliant. I actually, for the first time in my life, wish I had thought of it.

Heck, I only caught the final five minutes of it, and I’m already shouting its virtues.

Basically, the crew of Random 1 roam the US and find people to offer help to. In the episode I just saw, they asked a random guy on the street if he wanted help getting sober. They helped him get through detox, and now he’s got his life back on track. Reconnected with his father, has a job, and sees his children.

That’s amazing. That’s what a small contribution can amount to when you’re willing to care about someone whom you have no reason to care about.

Something that matters.

I gotta get me some of that.