Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Quote for Thought

My parents treated books, all books, with great reverence. We were to TAKE NOTES, not underline an important thought in a book. We were to USE BOOKMARKS, not turn a book upside down or--HORRORS--dog-ear pages to mark the place where we left off reading.

So it is with some trepidation that, these days, I dog-ear book pages. I do it not to mark my place (I own dozens of bookmarks and enjoy using them) but in lieu of note-taking. Or to mark something I will write down in the future, when I get around to taking those notes. (I usually do get around to taking notes because then I need notebooks. NOTEBOOKS! and PENS!)

In any case, here's a quote from a page I dog-eared recently.
Which may finally be the only real difference between one place on the earth and another: how you think about the people, and the difference it makes to you to think that way.                                                                     --Canada, Richard Ford

Earlier in that paragraph, the narrator quotes a different character as saying, "Canada had everything America ever had, but no one was mad about it."

I'm not sure I 100% agree with either quote, but both are interesting to ponder, in these times when it feels as if political news is impossible to escape. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Most of the messages "out there" these days have to do with being the unique -- the outlier:
* How does your business differ from all the others in your sector?
* What is your unique selling proposition?
* What are you adding to the conversation about your chosen topic?
* How does your project advance knowledge in a particular field?
* How do you tell a story that's been told a thousand times before in a unique way?

Being the outlier is great. It's how your book gets picked out of the slush pile/it's why customers want to entrust your company with sweeping their chimney/it's what people come to YOUR restaurant for-- when they could have picked any of a zillion others.

As I waited for a medical checkup today, I was reminded of situations in which you DON'T want to be unique. As in, healthcare. If you have a health problem, you want it to be something lots of other people have. You want it to be something that you can change with lifestyle or something they can hand you a prescription for.

Even when the diagnosis is bad enough to treat with surgery or chemotherapy, you want to hear some statements more than others. For example, you want to hear, "Yes, generally bypass surgery holds few complications and returns patients to an optimal level of health," or "Yes, we can remove your tumor and give you this form of post-surgical care, and we've had good results with that." You want to know that your surgeon has done dozens of surgeries like yours--not that you're the first one.

I was fortunate today. For one thing, I have a family practice physician, so between the Canadian healthcare system and my family practice doc, I got the adult female version of a "well baby visit," no fuss no muss. Nothing about my annoying symptoms, however unique (and did I mention annoying?) they are to me, was deemed out of the ordinary. i am so lucky!

The protagonist of this story I've been working on, however--too predictable. Gotta fix that.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Meaning of Life, Here and Elsewhere

It's part of a traditional university experience--the late-night conversations about Big Ideas, the ones that settle all the world's problems.

Once mortgages, families, and other adult realities infiltrate our daily lives, most of us don't have time to debate Big Ideas anymore. Even (or especially?) in election years, we like to make our points without listening. But maybe we should make some space for those conversations again.

A website by a Thunder Bay writer gives people a chance to ponder some of the Biggest Ideas around--as a speaker and as "listener" or reader.

Maureen Arges Nadin recently launched "The Awakening" blog to start a conversation around the question, "When life is discovered elsewhere in the Universe, will faith and science collide or merge?"

On her site, she asks four questions (listed down the right-hand side) that serve as a great starting point. People of faith, and those who aren't part of a faith tradition, can share views on what it might mean when (and Maureen says "when," not "if") life is discovered elsewhere in the universe.

Maureen has several links with related content to provide some background and further reading--topics range from astrobiology to exoplanets, with new content added to the blog regularly.

So if recent developments in space exploration have you re-evaluating the role of humans and our place in the universe, check out this blog and add your voice to the conversation.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Do Good Work

I've written before about the value of the Scriptnotes podcast. A few days after they post each podcast, they also post transcripts (and interesting links in the shownotes).

In a recent show in which they interviewed Lawrence Kasdan (writer of Body Heat and The Big Chill, among others, and oh yeah The Force Awakens, the most recent Star Wars movie), Kasdan spoke about making good work. (Boldface is mine, for emphasis.) I like this a lot.

And you have the freedom of your computer. When we’re done here today, go home, sit at your computer, and say, “What is the story I most want to tell? And I know that it’s going to be really hard to get it made. And everyone is going to tell me I’m crazy because it’s not a franchise and it’s not a brand. But I really want to tell this story.
And then work as hard as you can to tell that story. That’s actually how you do good work. And it’s also how if you are charged with creating a franchise movie, it’s the same process. What’s the best way we can do this? Without cynicism. Without presumption that people already like it when they don’t. How can I make this particular movie honorable? How can I make it true? How can I make it worth people’s time and money?

Because that's what I want: to do good work. That's how I define "successful work," too, at least on the good days.