Thursday, June 19, 2008


Andrea and I went riverboarding this past weekend. For those of you (probably all of you) who have never heard of riverboarding before, it's like white water rafting - except instead of a large inflatable raft and a paddle, you get a large foam board and a pair of flippers. You then proceed down white water rapids.

If you would like to simulate riverboarding, grab a pair of flippers, a boogie board, and a friend. Put on the flippers, lie on the boogie board, and have your friend grab a large rock. Now, put your hands on a dock and start kicking.

If you stop kicking, your friend gets to club you over the head with a rock. Every ten minutes, your friend should flip over the boogie board and, if you don't get back on in less than 18 seconds, they get to club you over the head with a rock. Now, do this for about 6 hours.

Needless to say, I'm feeling a little stiff right now.

I also have the world's most ridiculous sunburn - I was wearing a Farmer John wet suit, and I neglected to apply sunscreen to my upper arms and shoulders. This was about a week ago, and I'm still putting on aloe about twice a day.

Anyway, if you are in Ottawa and want to go riverboarding, we went with Esprit. They did a really good job, and I'd recommend them in the future. If you have wet suit booties (you'd have them if you do SCUBA or snorkelling), then I'd recommend you bring them.

Also, there's absolutely no shame in admitting that you're tired and getting the hell out of the water. You spend a good portion of your time (A.) fighting the current so that you can get into an eddie and (B.) fighting the eddie to get into the current. It tends to take a lot out of you.

Every time you reach a rapid, your guide gives you a briefing. Most briefings tend to go something like this:

"Okay, the next rapid is called Bus Killer. Off to your right, there is a massive whirlpool about the size of a bus. Whatever you do, don't get trapped in the whirlpool. To your left are rocks, so don't go too far left. You want to start slightly left, and then end up slightly left. Then, go to the eddie that's off to the left. Whatever you do, don't continue down the river, or you'll enter a class 4 rapid and die."

The problem is, it's very easy to get tired and miss the eddie. Then, you need to find another eddie before the class 4 rapid. So, it's important to be well aware of how tired you are. By the end of the day, 3 of the 5 riverboarders were in the safety raft, including someone who was a white water rafting instructor.

If you're looking for a good way to celebrate the end of a successful day of riverboarding, I recommend getting take-out from A Light of India and watching CSI: Miami. No matter how much you eat, I guarantee you'll be unable to make up for the calories you burned during the day.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 16, 2008

Good for Me

Six weeks into my year off, I've noticed a distinct trend in how people respond when I explain that I work full-time running a small charity - they almost always say, 'Good for you!' You might think this is a nice thing to say to someone, but what it really means is 'Better you than me.'

To illustrate my point, please answer the following multiple choice question.

1.) Which of the following statement are you most likely to respond to by saying, 'Good for you!'
A.) I am an investment banker.
B.) I am a model.
C.) I am taking a six-month 'round-the-world vacation.
D.) I am going to spend a year toiling under 40C heat in Uruguay, helping to build roads for orphanages.

I'm guessing that you chose D.

As someone who's said 'Good for you!' before, that's what I would choose.

My objection to being told 'Good for you!' is it implies I am some sort of self-suffering martyr, and that the only reason that I'm doing this is because my compassion for others outweighs any kind of sliver of self-interest that I may possess. This assumption does not bode well for charitable work, as there is only a small number of people who are willing to make such self-depricating gestures. Moreover, in my case it's simply not true - I'm having a great time, and am doing this for myself as much (or more) as I'm doing this for others.

There are so many personal benefits to this kind of work that I'm not going to try to list all of them, but here are just a few: sleeping late, being able to pursue my own interests when my mood suits, being able to have a beer and a cigar while I work, setting my own hours and judging my effectiveness by what I accomplish and not by how many hours I put in.

Lastly, there's also the most important benefit of all: it gives me the chance to create something meaningful. I take pride in my work and I enjoy what I do. That's no reason to say, 'Better you than me.'

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Balcony Time

I'm on my balcony now. I practically live out here these days, except for any time between the hours of 2:00 and 5:30 pm, when the sun wreaks its evil havoc against my pasty whiteitude. There's just enough foot and vehicle traffic to keep me from gorging my need for novelty consumption on and, but not so much that I would actually be prevented from doing whatever it is I'm trying to do whilst on the balcony. Right now, I'm trading a few e-mails with assorted organizations regarding the school project.

So, how's that not-working going? Well, someone asked me the other day whether I was getting the itch to return to work. The answer: Not so much. I think I expected that there would be a bit more of an adjustment period, but the truth is that I really enjoy what I'm doing right now. I still end up working about the equivalent of a full work week, but it's done at my pace, when I want to work. If I get up tomorrow at 6:00 am and want to start sending out e-mails, I can do that. If I want to sleep in until 11:00 am and watch Godfather II, I can do that instead.

I've been a procrastinator for so long, it's hard for me to realize that I'm not really procrastinating any more - nothing really needs to be done. Ultimately, it's all optional. For a procrastinator, that's a scary thought. That's like skydiving without a parachute. It's like that old joke: Why's the sky blue? Because if it was green, we'd never know when to stop mowing. Well, how does a procrastinator know when to start working if nothing's ever due? Won't he just keep playing Guitar Hero forever?

Surprisingly, no. I think I've managed to short-circuit the procrastinating. That doesn't mean that I don't play the aforementioned Guitar Hero or check out the latest on Stanely Bing's website, I just do so with the knowledge that whatever I'm doing, I'm doing it because, of all the things in the world I could be doing, that's the one thing I want to do. If so, great. If not, then I go and do whatever it is that I'd rather be doing.

Right now, that happens to be working on my balcony. It's odd to think that I'd want to work at 10:00 pm at night on a Sunday, but when you enjoy what you do...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How's that not working thing going?

Some of you may be wondering how my recent career change is working out. Well, aside from the fact that I can't seem to stop staring at this site (mostly safe for work, but not always), it's going swimmingly.