Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Joy of Bigger Brothers...

Ah, summer. A time of getting the family together and setting out on idyllic family vacations. The memories of packing up the '57 Chevy station wagon with kids, tent, clothes and Coleman stove to head down east to visit grandparents. (That's me perched on my brother's knee. I was probably four. )

It's all coming back to me now: traveling packed between bigger brothers. The joy of being given nuggies, tickled into submission, wrapped in a foul-smelling sleeping bag and being told to eat bugs at rest stops.

The happy-go-lucky life of growing up with big brothers: Indian burns, wedgies, being told to touch my tongue to metal fence posts in winter, and putting on rubber boots filled with pudding. It was a time when being babysat meant long, leisurely hours locked in the bedroom closet (called a "fort").

My brothers used to tell me I came from either the bread man (who's name was Duffy), or from the milkman (who's name was Keith). I knew better, even at that age. Duffy was short, smelled of yeast and had a mass of dark hair on his arms and Keith was portly with very large feet and no chin. No similarities there.

I torture them to this day by constantly reminding them that I am their brother. And I'm much younger than they are. And better looking. Ah, time. The great equalizer.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Wanted: The Computer I Was Promised

What's with these machines anyway? It was predicted that with the oncoming of the computer age us humans would have more leisure time to sit on patios and drink those drinks with umbrellas and nibble on strange finger foods from foreign fingers...

But it seems like we're working harder and longer than ever. What is with that?

It's time is to make these blasted machines take the next step. Enough of the chains that bind us to them like lowly, second-class slaves. For crying out loud we got cars that can parallel park themselves, patio lights that automatically turn themselves on and off, non-stick frying pans and coffeemakers that turn themselves on!

Hear me Apple? Hear me IBM? Hear me software developers? If you want to give people what we really want, as opposed to what you think we need, stop fiddling around with frivolous upgrades, toy tablets, silly apps and puzzling programs and give us our freedom.

Let us walk into work, say hello, flip a switch, tell the computer what to do today, who to send the files to and how to respond to requests. Five, ten minutes tops. Then we're off. We have a life to live and it ain't in front of a keyboard and screen.

You have our order. Awaiting delivery.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Award Your Own Self

Recognition. Awards. Acceptance. Everyone loves to win. It's a point in life when it all seems to come together.

Companies spend thousands each year in fees and preparation of entries. Folks salivate at even the thought of that little statue, that piece of paper carefully framed and hung on the wall... those footprints in the sidewalk of fame. Having one means everyone else in the world lusts to be you. You become bigger than you. You become a star.

So, okay. We all can't be stars. If we were, the world would just be too bright, wouldn't it? But that's no reason we all can't celebrate a teeny-tiny bit. The next time you do something that you're especially proud of, give yourself the "Bitchin! Award". Throw your hands in the air and give out a whoop, then get out the kazoo and triumphantly play a bit of John Phillip Sousa. Break out the bubbly water and do a jig around a two-foot square. You deserve it.

Now, even a salami and cheese with dill pickles on rye bread sandwich with mustard and mayo (hold the lettuce) can be an award winner. That phone call you just made? Excellent. The way you poured coffee and didn't spill it? Remarkable. Just getting up some mornings? Absolutely bitchin!

Do this twice a day and you'll soon find other people in awe of the you that is you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spread The Word

The value of gathering opinion is not just hearsay.

It's the recording of testimonials, personal thoughts, information and social trends at the same time – all with personality. And it's all real. Unscripted. The resulting informal data resonates with stakeholders and peer groups alike.

Yesterday, an opportunity to do just that. The questions were planned in advance: designed to allow the folks being interviewed to provide a wide range of opinions and expertise. The responses were interesting and varied.

It's an inclusive process, where a wide range of people from various backgrounds are asked to provide their thoughts. And all invited to participate yesterday chipped in with enthusiasm.

No one said, "Oh, sorry can't make it."

Recording comments and support for initiatives is a great tool. In this day and age, technology allows us to capture these comments easily. With strategy, planning and the participation of a few key professionals, the final product can be very effective in presentations, posted on websites, blogs and all forms of social media.

Thanks to all who participated. Best comment of the day? "It's a no-brainer."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where Bad Thoughts Go

I know I'm going to evoke the wrath of the recycle police, but I must admit I throw out a couple hundred thoughts every day. I love to crumple them up and unceremoniously chuck 'em into the trash can. They are then picked up by the city every Monday and are gone. Somewhere out there, there is a toxic dump composed entirely of my discarded thoughts. My apologies to the environment. And to those living downwind.

If a thought doesn't help, or comes between two good thoughts that belong together: they're toast. Sometimes when I'm working I discard thoughts even before they halfway hit the light of day. And other times I'll do stuff and the next morning I'll wake up and want to deep-six it, saying to myself, "What the heck was I thinking?" (This includes yesterday's post... and perhaps, tomorrow – today's. lol)

In this toxic thought dump there are negative thoughts, thoughts that make you think it is okay to eat that three-day-old cold pizza from the fridge before you go to bed and thoughts that make you think too much. There are half-thoughts that go nowhere, mean thoughts and hasty thoughts. These are thoughts that clutter up your brain. You can't even give them away. You don't even want people to know you had them.

In my defense, I am not indiscriminate in my thought chucking. I do take care about which ones I turf. Because sure enough, if I accidentally throw out a good thought, I'll probably need it tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ensemble Success

Common definition of a bit player is one who plays a role that is not important, but that may not be entirely true these days. Bit parts throughout history have often been pivotal to the plot and can make or break a production. Ensemble groups, where everyone is equal and no one dominates, have laid the foundation of great art.

Constantin Stanislavski (January 1863 – August 1938) famously remarked that "there are no small parts, only small actors."

Stanislavski, a Russian actor and director became known for his 'system' of acting which lead to the founding (years down the line) of a New York City theater collective. It was intended as a base for a new kind of theatre — a forceful, naturalistic and highly disciplined artistry. It was a new approach, where the actors form a pure ensemble; where there are no "stars". Artists like James Dean and Ellen Burstyn were allowed to craft their art in this environment and ultimately allow their brilliance to shine.

This approach also gives business leaders a new way of thinking about teams. From ensemble teams, where all roles are important, spring well-rounded solutions. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and everyone is valued for their contribution.

I'm into it. Hand me that broom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Internet Buds

Two kids in a playground. Buds.

Buds are a special breed. They are more than friends. They are those who you can hang out with without fear that all they want to do is sell you insurance. They are the folks who know the meaning behind what you say even when you aren't really sure you know what you mean. And you can rest assured that they won't take off-handed comments the wrong way. You can stand with them without having to say anything. And when you get in a pickle with one of the other kids in the playground, they got your back. A look or a word is as good as a novel... okay, a short story.

Recently, I have found that you can not only meet buds in your childhood, in school, or in your workplace, but from your online acquaintances as well. It is somewhat of an enigma to this old soul. While not expecting it, over the past few years online I found a few. We hang out, shoot the breeze, share a laugh and when something goes down the garbage disposal of life that wasn't supposed to, we're there with a figurative wrench.

Shows to go you: good people are good people, even if they happen to live a few thousand miles away... and you've never really met.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Victoria Day

Unknown to many, today is a holiday for most here in Canada (and some other countries). Schools, offices, banks, liquor and beer stores are closed and public transportation is reduced to holiday schedules. Garbage pick up is delayed by a day and people traditionally head to the country to open up cottages, break out the barbeques from winter storage, do some spring cleaning and rescue shorts from drawers and Hawaiian shirts from the closet. It is also okay to wear white socks as of this day. But not with sandals.

Many Canadians use this weekend to attend to their gardens, because it's fairly safe that the freezing weather is past. The holiday is colloquially known as "May Two-Four" in parts of Canada; a double entendre that refers both to the date around which the holiday falls (May 24) and the Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (a "two-four"), a drink popular during the long weekend.  

Queen Victoria was a fairly short woman of five-foot in an era when people were shorter in general. She was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death on 1 May 1876. Her reign of 63 years and 7 months, which is longer than that of any other British monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history, is known as the Victorian era. May 24 or the last Monday before that date is a date to remember the late queen, who was deemed the "Mother of Confederation" and unofficially marks the end of the winter weather and the beginning of the summer social calendar. 

Us? Peanut and I are doing laundry, pigging out on our favorite foods and later I'll be giving him a "bad Rand haircut" to prepare for warmer weather. After all, heavy fur coats are not only unnecessary until the fall, they are bulky and tend to weigh down old bones... Suffice to say, he won't be looking in mirrors for the next few weeks...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Great Times At The Drive-Thru

It's wonderful working for a living. And it's fun picking from all the choices one has in the proper disbursement of disposable income. The buying power of my dollar is scintillating. Once income tax is taken off the top, the car payment paid, the insurance and utilities satisfied, the rent rented and the dog food store fed, it's time to spend, spend, spend!

The options for my almighty dollar in this modern day world are astounding. And dining out is my nirvana.

I can't afford an expensive outing often – not if I'm going to shore up my government's finances and keep the utility companies going at the same time.

I've learned to align both my budget and my expectations with my environment. If I pull into the drive-thru I'm not expecting a five-star event, just as much as I wouldn't expect burgers and fries on the menu of a fine dining establishment.

And I have to admit, the drive-thru experience is nothing to be sneezed at.

It's actually a wonderful culinary adventure. You can dress how you like, select your own mood music and choose the eventual place of your dining experience: perhaps with a view! You get to give your order into this tiny box, drive up and pay in one window, drive a little further and get your order from another window (separate windows so as not to contaminate the cuisine with sordid cash). And then, with a cheery smile, you are rewarded with your own bag of food containing individually wrapped items, as ordered. It's easy to imagine them custom-made and lovingly wrapped by elves. Your drink comes with its own hermetically sealed drinking straw and it's fun taking the paper wrapping off. You get to poke the straw through a hole in the top of the plastic drink cover. Then the best part: condiments and extras. Cute little packets of ketchup, mustard and sometimes vinegar. Salt and pepper. Sealed plastic bags with utensils and neatly folded napkins. And if you don't use them, you get to keep them to give out as party favors at birthday parties and such.

And then, to wrap up a wonderful outing, I suggest a trip through the Touchless Car Wash. Just like a ride in one of those fancy theme parks!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friendly Filing

I believe it was a change to freedom of information legislation that lead a corporate client to consider how to approach the subject internally with finesse...

For those in the trenches it is an opportunity for awareness of how to think about and deal with files in this new age of transparency. Not at all scary really, but it's a change nonetheless; so a bit scary.

Enter File Guy, a friendly character rendered in corporate colors who pops into print layouts and web posts with information about a more open file system, tips on cleaning up reports, and things to consider when writing memos, meeting minutes and electronic messages.

I think I said that right.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Just Hoping For A Ladder

So, okay. After hearing the news out of California this week that the world will end this Saturday, I've been looking for a sign. Something that would assure me I would not be left behind to "experience 153 days of torment."

Walking down the hall at work yesterday I think I found it. A sign!

Naturally cheered by this, I decided to explore the history of folks predicting the end of the world. I am, after all, here to serve. There is a long list. Here, for your edification, are the more notable ones (note: I could find no mention that the end of the Oprah Show would herald the Apocalypse).

The latest call (apart from the one above) is the end of the world will occur on December 21, 2012. It is the last day in the Mayan's system of calendars – winter solstice, when the earth will be aligned with the sun and the center of the Milky Way for the first time in more than 26,000 years, Most scholars agree, as do modern Mayans, that the fact they ended their calendar did not signify anything. (The authors probably just retired and moved to a nice garden home near Mexico City.)

Greek historian Diodorus was told in the first century B.C. by Egyptian priests that mortals would rule their country for little less than 18,000 years... turns out mortals have been kings of their country for a little less than 5,000 years. I'm not a math whiz but that would seem to give us a bit of time yet.

Isaac Newton noted on the back of an envelope that the end of the world would come in 2060.

William Miller, a Baptist priest, predicted that the second coming was arriving on October 22, 1844. He led his flock up a steep mountain, promising them the secret of life and its miracles. It was a long walk home.

In 1919, meteorologist Albert Porta predicted that the conjunction of 6 planets would generate a magnetic current that would cause the sun to explode and engulf the earth on December 17, 1920. (He lost some professional credibility.)

In 1980, televangelist Pat Robertson alarmed many when he informed his television audience that by the end of 1982 there was going to be a judgment on the world. He recovered his creds enough to go on to run for President in the Republican Primaries in 1988. 

Prognastigator Michel de Nostrdame (Nostradamus 1503 – 1566) quoted, "The year 1999, seventh month / From the sky will come great king of terror." Something probably got lost in the many translations of his writings.

So there you have it. No one really knows when the end of the world as we know it will come. And it's probably not going to be this Saturday (this guy was wrong once before).

Still, I think I'll hold off mowing the lawn until Sunday.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Rutabaga In The Corner

Here, we have a chair. Nod your head if you agree. Thank you.

Aha! There I have you. This is not actually a chair. Chairs are chairs only if they are sat on. And while this assemblage of wood, material, stuffing, wire and thread may assume to be a chair, it is not. Because it is never sat on. It might as well be a giant rutabaga sitting in the corner over there.

Because this chair is for COMPANY only. Growing up, these pieces of furniture existed in the thousands. No one was allowed to sit on them unless they were company. When friends came in, you were instructed to tell them, "Don't sit there, it's for company."

Funny thing was, no one ever told you what company was.

Many families then not only had chairs like these, some had entire rooms that were set aside for company. Upon entering their house, you were perhaps allowed a view of the room but you were quickly ushered past into other rooms. Rooms, like basement rec rooms, that could be bricked up and hidden when company came over.

Some went so far as to encase all furniture in these special rooms in plastic: the coverings only to be taken off in case they were expecting... you guessed it... company.

Such silliness. I swore at a young age to never have such an item in my home.

Today, I was dismayed to discover that I have such a chair. It has all the symptoms. Even I feel weird sitting in it. When I do I have to be in a suit. And if someone comes in and sits in it my blood pressure goes up. Cold sweat appears. Breathing gets rapid and shallow. Because what would I do if all of a sudden company should show up and someone is already sitting in their chair?

I think I may need professional help.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Still Life With Sneakers

Sneakers kicked off at the back door with laces still tied loosely. 

Shaking raindrops from his red jacket, he drapes it on a hook to dry and closes the door behind him.

A few moments for idle thoughts. He flicks on the lights, puts on some Mozart, opens his notebook and pen pauses over paper... 

What does success look like, he wonders? Is it riches and glam? Accolades and fame? Love and marriage? Truth and wisdom?

He smiles and writes...

"Sneakers kicked off at the back door with laces still tied loosely."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Fence Listener

I like fences. I'm no expert in fenceology, but I've met many in my life and I have had words with more than a few.

And I'm here to tell you that it doesn't matter what fences are made of or how sturdy or rickety they are, they all have something in common. Even at their smallest or biggest, shortest or tallest: none of them seem to be able to decide on their own if they're keeping things out... or keeping things in.

Here's another sweet thing about fences: the simple words "I'm on the fence on that one" is a cool strategic move. The view's nice, the air's a bit clearer and you're out of the mud. Not only can you listen to both sides from up there, you are allowed to yell rude things down.

Fences are wonderful things. They make good neighbors. They keep the riff-raff out and the good stuff in. And they are a slim margin of neutrality in an increasingly opinionated world.

Hug a fence today. Watch for the splinters and sharp bits.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Paths Of Our Pasts

We all come from somewhere. If we are fortunate, we live where we grew up and walk the paths of our ancestors every day.

Some of us have grown away over time, been places, seen wonders and settled in distant lands.

Still, we bring remembrances of our past and stories of those who laid the flagstones of our trip through life generations ago.

While where we are now is important, who we are is built on where we come from... our roots.

And when we get a chance to visit, even in our dreams, a tiny part of our heart comes alive.

Are You A Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobic?

Phobias. A testament to mankind's foibles. Exhibit one: a hapless dental surgeon with ergasiophobia (a fear of operating).

If you're like me and yell at kids to get off your lawn, you might have a fear of youth – ephebiphobia. Personally I don't think I suffer from anything other than memories of missing pink flamingos.

The next time you see a person with a full beard, you may justifiably wonder if he has geniophobia (the fear of chins). Ask him to touch yours. If he won't, he's a prime candidate. On the other hand, if you are invited to touch his beard in return and you break out in a sweat and start hyperventilating, perhaps you have a fear of beards (pogonophobia).

House painters who only paint white may have chromophobia (the fear of color) unless they also have leukophobia, which is the fear of white. In which case they either don't look at where they're painting or they only paint clear lacquer. Then, I suppose, they'd be limited to painting glass houses... (Moving on; before I get trapped in this paragraph...)

I once had a tanning salon client who had to take the mirrors out of her tanning booth cubicles. Naturally, I asked her if it was because her customers had eisoptrophobia (fear of mirrors), but she assured me it was because the body builders would stay in the cubicle forever, after their tanning session, flexing and admiring their muscles.

If you are shopping for a phobia, here's one that caught my interest: ergophobics have an exaggerated anxiety about work, whether they're in the workplace, called upon to do work or have to face anything associated with a typical workday. Gotta check the disability clause in my insurance policy for this one. 

And the king of all kings – phobophobia is the fear of phobias. In other words, it's the fear of fear. I hope I don't catch that one. Not that I'm afraid I will... really...

Oh, and hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia? It's the fear of long words, of course.

You can find an exhaustive list of phobias here!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fuelishness...

With gas prices soaring up 6 – 10 cents p/l overnight, with no corresponding increase in price per barrel on the world markets, you have to wonder if this is a note from one of the gas companies (who collectively posted profits in the billions last year) ...

But wait – quick research this morning puts government taxes (2008) taking around 32% off the top of pump prices.

So maybe it's a note from the tax man...

Help me out here. Trying to understand... or maybe I'm just being fuelish.

Think I'll walk to work. Luckily, I can.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Eight Notes to Diane

"Diane, I'm holding in my hands a small box of chocolate bunnies."

"Diane, it struck me again earlier this morning, there are two things that continue to trouble me. And I'm speaking now not only as an agent of the Bureau but also as a human being. What really went on between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys and who really pulled the trigger on JFK?"

"Diane, never drink coffee that has been anywhere near a fish."

"Diane, 6:18 AM, room 315, Great Northern Hotel here in Twin Peaks."

"Diane, last night I dreamed I was eating a large, tasteless gumdrop, and awoke to discover I was chewing on one of my foam disposable earplugs. Perhaps I should consider moderating my nighttime coffee consumption."

"Diane, it's 4:10 in the afternoon at the scene of the crime. Here's something we haven't seen before: a mount of dirt. Approximately a foot and a half in diameter. On the top is a gold necklace with a gold heart. Correction, half a gold heart. At the base of the mount of dirt is a torn piece of news print. Written with the words, which appear to be in blood: 'fire walk with me'."

"Diane, it is 4:20 PM. I'm standing on the bank of Wind River near the location of where the body of Teresa Banks was found. Diane, this case gives me a strange feeling. Not only has Special Agent Chester Desmond dissappeared without a trace, but this is one of Cole's blue rose cases. The clues that were found by Special Agent Desmond and Agent Stanley have led to dead ends. The letter that was extracted from beneath the fingernail of Teresa Banks gives me the feeling that the killer will strike again. But like the song goes, "who knows where, or when?"

"I'm going to begin today with a headstand.
[Cooper performs said headstand]
Diane, I am now upside-down. "

This moment of an unusual nature was brought to you by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks. Now back to your regularly scheduled blogness.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Of Squirrels And Mothers

Being Mother's Day, of course I want to talk about squirrels.

Squirrels have the ability to breed every year and the young are born naked, toothless, helpless, and blind (like me... and you). The mother looks after the young, which are weaned at around six to ten weeks of age; which in squirrel years is.... six to ten weeks of age. They are very protective of their young and have been known to attack both people and pets. They are always looking for new nests, which helps in the distribution of food for their young. Once the young are weaned and ready, off they go to do their thing. They go to work, buy condo nests, mate and continue the cycle of life. It's a rule of nature.

All to say that if you are a twenty-something squirrel who is still living in your mother's basement playing Nintendo all day, you are a freak of nature.

And if you are a young squirrel starting off on your own, a bit of advice: never let your mother live with you.

Once mothers identify you as a food source; beware. Every bit of chatter at squirrel family gatherings will be seen as an invitation to move in. Being spotted dangling from the bird feeder is a good indication that you a good provider. You should make a habit of burying your assets and professing poverty to her every chance you get.

As squirrels age, they remain both agile and wily... and should you find a nice home of your own to move into; three pointers. 1) Get cable. TV antenna towers leave gaps they can sneak into. 2) Prune. Trimming back tree branches within leaping distance of your nest is a good idea as well. 3) Keep balcony doors securely locked. Living in the treetops does not mean you are safe. Mothers are very good climbers and have been known to scale brick walls onto balconies twenty floors up. If you see your mother on your balcony, check back again in 24 hours. If she is still there with a pleading look on her face (with perhaps baby pictures) and a vision of domestic bliss; take care. You only have to open the patio doors once.

Many mothers will try to convince you they just want to live in your attic. Do not fall for this. Before long, they will assume run of the whole house, be after your nuts every chance they get and will invite their friends in. You'll find your time at home surrounded by a bunch of bushy-tailed retirees expecting you to serve them herbal tea and peanut butter cookies.

If you should come home one day and unexpectedly find your mother in your house, you shouldn't trap her with a net as this may cause harm. The best thing to do is make her want to leave (and this doesn't mean throwing her purse out the door and locking it after they run after it – that's just plain mean). You might try to make the environment unattractive to her. Leaving a radio on all day and night with a 24-hour talk radio station blaring, leaving sweaty clothes around, or distributing urine soaked kitty litter are all known deterrents. Warning: this may make you want to move out as well. If all this doesn't work and you still find your mother coming down the chimney; relax. Remove all breakables in the room, close all drapes and doors to the other rooms, open all windows and exterior doors, shut off all the lights and shout "Rand's cooking dinner tonight!"

They should run straight out of the fireplace and bolt for the light of outdoors... and freedom. 

Happy Mother's Day Mom. I know you had a laugh with this. Miss you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Just For Fun

Thursday, May 5, 2011

For All Those Sweating The Details

For all those who give up their nights, overnights and weekends for the cause... for all those who wake up at two in the morning with a thought and write it down... for all those who come in early and leave late; who drink a pot of coffee in one gulp... for all those who worry a job to death... and for all those who go out of their way to make sure their work is the best it is allowed to be... and in the end, act like it is nothing at all...  this is for you.

You are all the heroes of industry and the champions of professionalism, excellence, quality, client relations, patience and perseverance.

This pre-moistened towelette may not seem much in tribute, and I did rip it off from a luncheon that I wasn't invited to, and it is just a photo that I took on my kitchen table... but those in the trenches enjoy any weird, appreciative gesture. Sometimes the weirder the better.

To those not in the creative process, I can't really explain it except to say it's all part of the mojo of the scene and how dedicated artists and copywriters bond.

And so I announce the Refreshing Towel Award. Feel free to bestow it on someone who sweats the details day in and day out.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quick Thought

Takes a lot of hard thinking sometimes to come up with a substantive thought, and we all know the end result may be nothing at all. Because all that thinking has a habit of getting in the way.

And then we take a break from thinking and think about nothing at all for a while. Suddenly, a quick thought about what we had been thinking about before pops up.

The mind is a funny thing.

"I've been thinking Hobbes --"
"On a weekend?"
"Well, it wasn't on purpose..."
- Calvin & Hobbes

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Graphic Reflections

Connecting Vistas. Bridging Silos. Spanning Communities.

Reflecting Strengths. Building Futures. Constructive Directions.

(Beginning to work on visual concepts for a conference. Graphic identifiers for national organizations who hold annual gatherings are often location-based and themes are woven around a local feature. Hamilton is known for its Skyway Bridge, which brings out interesting thematic possibilities, and its nickname "The Hammer". )

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sniffing Hummingbirds

Witness the tiny hummingbird, able to hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping its delicate, hollow-boned wings up to 90 times per second.

They are the only birds able to fly backwards (without the aid of hurricane-force winds). They consume more than their own weight in nectar each day, visiting hundreds of flowers to do so. They are known to survive a decade or more, which in bird years is a ripe old age. Their heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute (even without the help of films with the word 'cheerleader' in the title).

It is said that the hummingbird order, Trochiliformes, may be over 30 million years old. Aztecs liked them enormously. Their sharp beaks were symbolic of both intimacy and weapons. Hummingbird talismans were thought to aid sexual potency and skill at warfare. I can think of a few dates where one of those might have come in handy for both reasons. Still, interesting symbolism from a designer's POV.

A few years ago I was vacationing at the family cottage; now owned by my brother. He and his wife (quite the birders) had hung a hummingbird feeder on the deck and the flying pipsqueaks would zoom in, hover and then poke their beaks to feed on sugar water. I thought nothing of it for the first few days but once my mind settled into idle time I began to watch these guys with more than a little curiosity. I noticed they always hovered before they fed.

My dog stops to sniff his food before he eats.

Huh, I thought. I didn't know hummingbirds sniffed. Go figure.

Next Sunday: Going Squirrely