It Pays to Be Boring…. Sometimes


Jean : Welcome to Canada bro.
Obama : Wazzup sis ?
Jean : Nothing much but I’m damn cold and my ass is freezing.
Obama : Yo, wazzup with the Raptors? They got their butts whipped all over the place. You think I can play for them?
Jean : You bet your purple butt. They need a bail out too 🙂  

Okay, those are my concocted words but it certainly looked like U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean enjoyed each other’s company. Obama and Jean sort of epitomize the changing face of leadership in North America, the difference being that while Obama was elected, Jean , an immigrant from Haiti, was selected by the Canadian Prime Minister and subsequently appointed by the Queen of England. While the presidential job wields tremendous power, the governor general’s role although defined as de facto head of state, is ceremonial more than anything.

Barack’s visit to Ottawa, the capital city of Canada last Feb 19 was brief, about 7 hours, but it cost the country some $2M in security related expenses. Manholes were bolted down, choppers were hovering in the air, plainclothes officers checked in at nearby hotels in droves to provide the president added protection. The tight security did not dispel Obama’s plan to visit the nearby Bayward Market to sample Obamatail, a donut named in his honor. He also bought simple gifts to his family – a key chain for his daughter and scarf for his wife. And yes, he paid in Canadian dollar currency. In the end, Obama showed is truly one of us – an ordinary guy who loves to play street basketball and that’s what endears him with ordinary folks like myself. He doesn’t exude moronic qualities like George W.Bush and consistent with tradition, he chose to visit his boring neighbors in the north first. Bush visited Mexico first and that was because he wasn’t keen to meet a Liberal prime minister.


I always tell my wife that if she wants a dose of boring news casting, to try the BBC (British Broadcasting Corp) first , then a Canadian news channel next 🙂  If Canadians are a boring bunch I am mystified at how funny men Jim Carey, Mike Myers, Dan Akroyd, Howie Mandel, Martin Short can be in fact Canadians. Prior to Obama’s visit to Canada, the country was once again on the US media’s radar, and it matters not if Americans think that moose roam the backyards of its motels and people ride dogsleds to watch a hockey game, something had to be written about the country. This Newsweek article talked about what Barack would likely find in his northern neighbor’s domain. He will certainly find that people are still polite and boring, and nothing has changed much – not a single bank needed to be bailed out, homes aren’t foreclosed by the thousands. Some of the comments by Americans were hilarious, like Canada is just like a colder Honduras and Canadians are no more than Mexicans on ice. Comedian Jon Stewart compared Obama’s visit as a diplomatic equivalent of a “pre-season tune up game ” 🙂 At the end of the day though, our banks are still profitable and many of us still own our homes and that’s what counts. I guess it pays to be boring… sometimes.


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Last Friday my wife called me at the office informing me that when I arrive home we were going to Niagara Falls to spend the long weekend . She booked a hotel room for us and our daughter for 2 nights. Monday Feb 16 is Family Day holiday in this province, recently legislated, two years ago in fact. It meant that we will spend Valentine’s Day at the Falls. Niagara Falls being in our “backyard”, meaning less than 2 hours drive is like going to a picnic at a nearby park. True, it is a celebrated world class tourist spot but going to the Falls isn’t what you do here when you want something really cool. But I guess we are in a recession, the weather had been sucky this winter and it was an impromptu trip so the Falls was a safe bet. The good news is the falls is still there, vibrant and intimidating as ever 🙂



Niagara Falls is an odd town. Half of it is in Ontario, Canada and the other half is in the state of New York, U.S.A. , separated by a bridge across the Niagara River. When you say you live in Niagara Falls you better finish it with a N.Y. or Ont. lest you forget 🙂 Canada however got the better part of the real estate. For starters, the smaller American Falls is on the U.S. side and the much bigger Horseshoe Falls is on the Canadian side. It follows then that much of the action is on the Canadian side – hotels, Casinos, amusement arcades, tours, shops and restaurants. There are a slew of hotels and tours on the American side as well and people just hop over the bridge to visit the other side to complete the visit. Just be wary that there is immigration on both sides of the border and depending on the passport one carries, crossing the bridge can be a hassle. ( click on photo for more detail)

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“To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” Henry David Thoreau

My daughter is in grade 2 and was given an assignment,  a presentation on non-fictional and fictional animals to the class. The other night I checked her presentation and discovered two words I never had a clue about – warren (burrow or tunnel) and leveret ( young hare). My oh my, and I asked myself a question – “now what do you really know, old boy ?”


“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” Anton Chekhov



In my previous job, we had an office mate who was dubbed  Mr. Know-It-All.  The guy always seemed to know everything more than anyone- cars, PC’s, stock market – name it and he has something to say about it. So one day, ” I took the man’s brain to the bank ” and invited him to be one of the evaluators of an entirely new service I was in charge of implementing, for he seemed to be knowledgeable with the subject. He agreed to my email invitation but never filed an evaluation report. One time at lunch he was telling us about an interesting shareware program he downloaded from the net. He promised to give me a copy of the software but never did despite a few friendly reminders from me. Strike 2. His actions made me think he was either a selfish jerk or a farce.  Surprisingly, I noticed his braggadocio ebb a bit after his no shows on my two requests.

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no20uI don’t know if you will agree with me, but a lot of us have extreme difficulty in saying no to a request, especially to a friend or relative. We have been totally brainwashed with the good Samaritan story and the nobleness of hospitality that we oftentimes tend to neglect our needs in the effort to “help others”. I sometimes question if the motive behind saying yes is truly genuine or simply a case of protecting our image as someone who is unselfish and caring. It could also be an expression of inferiority – the overwhelming concern of hurting others and losing their friendship.

I’m not here to say what’s right or wrong but here’s what I stumbled upon reading a magazine the other day :



Many of us say yes more often than we’d like. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself saying yes because you feel too guilty about saying no, here are some measures to help you protect yourself.

  • Stall. This gives you precious time to work up an honest rationale for a total refusal. Simply say : I don’t know.  I need time to think about it – give me an hour ( or a day, or whatever seems reasonable).
  • Use humor
  • Try flattery
  • Tell white lies, if necessary

Source : Barry Lubetkin, Ph. D. Institue of Behavioral  Theraphy, New York

Last week, a female colleague who manages projects and has no involvement in operation showed up at our weekly major changes meeting saying that she was sent by our boss to help us “refine” our controls and make it more productive. Her suggestions however called for stuff for herself to absorb, dipping her fingers in everyone’s pie, complicating the process.  I opposed her proposals in a firm but professional manner because it brought us another step backward rather than forward, which was unanimously supported by the group. In short, we killed her proposal because it was an absolute time waster. 

When she saw me at the office corridor  later on in the day she asked me in a light-hearted manner  “ are we still friends? “ I replied ” yes of course. I could give you a hug “. I did give her a hug 🙂 I felt guilty because I shot her proposal down. I sensed she was trying to expand her role for job security perhaps but on the other hand it was so glaringly extraneous and unproductive. It had to be stopped to preserve the integrity of the system.

Speaking for myself now, I honestly feel I am handicapped when it comes to saying no to people but I am learning. The bad part of not saying no is when you realize you short-changed yourself in a deal because you wimped out and forgot about your own interests.  It does reflect a lot on your self respect.


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Playing The Odds

lottery_winnerPictures of people – individuals, families, office workers proudly showing their million dollar checks in lottery winnings make us green with envy whispering to ourselves – “darn, I wish it was me” . Truth is, our minds are clouded by the million dollar bonanza, thinking “if they could win, I could win too “. Bloody right, but in this lottery game, luck is the only game in town. There is no such thing as some numbers having more probability of winning over others. In fact, every number has equal chance of winning so 1,2,3,4,5,6 will have an equal chance as 12,4,42,10,22,36 in a 6/49 lottery (6 out of 49 numbers).

What are the odds in winning the lotto ? Here’s it is :

Lotto 6/49 (6 out of 49 numbers) : 1 in 13,983,816

Super7 (7 out of 49 numbers) : 1 in 62,891,499

Now, since the Super 7 only costs $1 per ticket as opposed to $2 for the Lotto 6/49, you load up on the cheaper Super7 thinking you have more chances of winning. Not quite. Both are rip offs but you are slightly better off with sticking to the $2 tickets if you are playing the odds for a win.

Here’s a glimpse of how ludicrous these lotto odds are :

You have about a 1 in 2,000,000 chance of being struck by lightning.

A pregnant woman has a 1 in 705,000 chance of giving birth to quadruplets.

Someone eating an oyster has a 1 in 12,000 chance of finding a pearl inside of it.

Dream on. Good luck. 🙂


Here’s a line that really makes me irate ” I don’t like to go for physical exam because I’m scared to know that I have a serious illness “.

I’m more incensed with the fact that health care in this country is free, as in zero, nada, zilch ; translated – you have no excuse not to go for the exam. I’m wondering if some people think they’re superhuman or just merely playing caveman, entrusting everthing to their genes for survival. The funny thing is these people take their cars for regular preventive maintenance checks because they hate the idea of their cars breaking down. I wonder what gives them the idea that their bodies are much stronger than aluminum and steel.


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