Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Two weeks after I moved, the street from my new place to Perimeter turned into a dust area, and a big orange sign informs me it will remain closed for the next 8 weeks (traffic fines doubled when workers present). So, recently I got to make a detour around some blocks where I haven't been since spring time. Now, fall is in the air, and partly already on the ground.

I pass by this corner with the giant maple tree. It must have like a leaf for every Canadian and when the wind blows they all sigh 'eeeeeehhhhh'. Last time I was here the ground was covered by aspiring maple trees. Tiny greens in the shadow, eternally hopeful, longing for air and sun. None of them survived.

I can't avoid thinking it's like my ideas. So many of them never grow up.

At the bus station, there is a women performing a little dance. She is maybe in her fifties wearing one of these jeans with fake holes that I can't stand. A guy is sitting on the bench, he looks somewhat younger than her. "Don't step on the cracks." he says. She turns around, her jacket swinging. "Oooh, do you remember how we used to play that as kids - don't step on the cracks." and she giggles.

I don't know why this always strikes me, stupid games like this that seem to traverse times, boundaries and oceans. My younger brother and I, we too used to played this game, different pavement, same giggles. If I made a mistake, he would go "Naaaaah-na-naa-naaaaah-na," - an intonation I've heard from children all over the world.

The guy grabs her jacket and pulls the women towards him. He is definitely younger than her, why do I notice this so prominently? Then she sees me watching them. I wonder whether I, in a twenty years from now, will get an eyebrow piercing, a younger boyfriend and try not to step on the cracks.

Walking on, I make sure to step on every crack, and imagine what the kids played before there was pavement. They might have tried to walk in other people's footprints.

I've been sitting at Starbucks for a while, but I am stuck with my book. I totally fail to get the point of this chapter. In comes a man with his daughter, they look like immigrants, maybe Mexican, but not sure. Both already wear winter jackets. He orders a venti coffee, and while he's waiting pulls out his BlackBerry. His daughter is bored, picks up and puts back things from the counter. She is maybe ten years. A strand of long dark hair falls into her face, and she pushes it back with an elegantly flowing movement that suddenly makes her look much older.

The coffee is ready, but he is still busy with the BlackBerry so the girl offers to get some sugar. "That's lovely, thank you honey." he says, typing emails.

She goes to the desk, and pours sugar into the coffee. One-two-three seconds, I count, white powder streaming into the venti cup. She takes one of the small wooden sticks and stirs the coffee, then throws the stick into the garbage and turns around. But her father is still pressing buttons.

So she takes some of the spices they have at Starbucks: cinnamon, vanilla, cacao, nutmeg, pumpkin and adds a bit of each. She pulls the stick out of the garbage, stirs, and frowns her forehead. She looks what else is there, finds the honey, and there goes honey on top of everything, another dash of vanilla, and stirring. Meanwhile other guests have begun to watch her, but she doesn't notice. She licks the stick, shakes her head, and decides it needs more sugar. The cup is full now to the rim, so she pours some into the garbage and carefully puts on a lid.

She brings the coffee to her father, who is done typing, but still reading and doesn't look up. "Here is your coffee.", she says. He takes a sip. The whole room is watching him, but he just smiles at her "Tastes very good, thanks so much." - "I tried it!" the girl says, and he playfully raises his eyebrows "So, you tried it?". She pushes back her hair and says "We have to go, mum is waiting."

I am in the queue at Sobeys. I shouldn't go shopping around 5pm. In front of me is a mother with her two sons, talking into the cellphone: "I'm on the dinner run." I look into her cart. Two huge packs of mini pizzas and three bottles of Coke. The queue slowly moves forward.

The younger boy, maybe four years old, grabs a magazine from the shelf. "Why is the women naked?" he asks, loud enough so people turn around. The women pictured is not naked, but her bikini doesn't leave much to even a four year old's imagination. Before his mother can answer the older son goes "Because she's hot." - "Jake!" His mother hangs up on the phone, takes the magazine, and puts it back into the shelf. "That's what Brian said," Jake explains. She frowns her forehead. The younger son looks confused, repeats "Why is the women naked?" Behind me someone laughs.

"Because sex sells." I offer. Everybody: looks embarrassed. Maternal anger focusses on me focussing on Cosmo's September issue: "His #1 Sex Fantasy!" .

"What are sex-cells?" the boy asks. I think I should work on my pronunciation.

"I can help you over here", comes to rescue me from the next register. So I leave the queue.


  1. Busy searching for hidden messages. Let's see, if I take letters 2,3,5,7,.....


    Can't stand holey jeans either. Man with daughter should put away blackberry, it is so rude!

  2. Blackberries aren't rude in Waterloo, they seem like an extra appendage for most residents.

    Sabine, do you think having children makes someone older and stodgier, psychologically?

    What book are you reading?

  3. "Sabine, do you think having children makes someone older and stodgier, psychologically?"

    No, a child just gives people an excuse to bring out their Inner Stodge.

    I know a woman who, literally, looks and seems younger and sexier after having a child. But she is the iron-willed exception: she was determined to lose her pregnancy fat, etc etc. I think that many women welcome the excuse to get fat and frumpy. And similarly for men: I'm a father, so I am entitled to sit in front of the TV balancing a can of beer on my gut...

  4. Hi Arun:

    I was about to add a sentence saying no meta-messages here ;-)

    I think the guy should get his daughter a BB too then they could sent emails clarifying the amount of sugar.

    Hi Garrett:

    Well, I hope your baby whose head I've allegedly been kicking won't make you stodgy ;-) But no, I guess it depends strongly on the person whether a child opens or closes doors, psychologically or otherwise.

    This book. I've decided to skip the part with thoughts and non-thoughts, there's too many words in there that I don't want in my thoughts. Consider this: "It is clear, then, that the term 'reality' (which in this context means 'reality as a whole') is not properly to be regarded as part of the content of thought. Or, to put this in another way, we may say that reality is no thing and that it is also not the totality of all things, i.e. we are not to identify 'reality' with 'everything'."

    Now you know why I have a headache ;-)



  5. I think the guy should get his daughter a BB too then they could sent emails clarifying the amount of sugar.

    This from a lady who just wrote a nice essay about Communication. :)

  6. How'd you get suckered into reading a book with "Implicate" in the title?

  7. Ha! I think the quantum interpretation brigade must have gotten to Sabine.

    I remember reading that book at a young and impressionable age. It is full of marvelously twisted abstract intellectual passages such as that one. No wonder about the headache.

    I'd love it if there was an objective reality, as Bohm does, but that demands bizarre, non-local quantum interactions. And no matter what pretty words one assigns to that, I think it's kind of ugly.

    What's your opinion on it? Do you think there are these non-local interactions?

  8. Hi Garrett:

    What's your opinion on it? Do you think there are these non-local interactions?

    The short answer is no. The long answer depends on what you mean with non-local interactions.

    Hi Arun:

    How'd you get suckered into reading a book with "Implicate" in the title?

    I am tempted to say coincidence, but I just recalled I don't believe in coincidence. It wasn't so much the 'implicate' but more the 'wholeness' that sparked my interest. Actually, the first some chapters I find pretty impressive (in various ways), maybe I should skip the middle part otherwise it might take me forever. Best,


  9. I very much believe in coincidence.

    E.g., some months ago, I happen to be driving down a highway at a time that I would normally not be there (some errand took me that way) and suddenly I see someone waving to me wildly from a SUV. I follow the SUV to where we can stop safely and it turns out to be a friend visiting from Spain; he was a passenger in his brother's SUV that had picked him up from the airport and noticed me as the vehicle overtook me.

    And that meeting had absolutely no aftermath of any kind. So, to me it is a meaningless coincidence.

  10. First World civilization is waiting to die. Do something against that. Mediocrity is a vice of the doomed.

  11. Bee, these are charming scenes, nicely observed. Particularly the one at Starbucks...

  12. Dear Bee,

    it's great to read that over all the technical papers you haven't forgotten to write these well-observed short pieces :-)

    Cheers, stefan

  13. Poor Bohm! In addition to being persecuted by the McCarthyites he decided to try to understand quantum mechanics - usually an ill omened quest. But how can you doubt non-locality in some form?

    The mini-essays are indeed small gems, as others have noted. If you give up physics you should definitely write - or stay with physics and write anyway.

  14. Arun, there is a hidden message in Bee's post: if you look carefully, you will realize that It's a lipogram in math signs.

  15. "Sex sells" and "sex-cells" have exactly the same pronounciation and if a Canadian doesn't get it, he should hire me or another qualified person as an English tutor. ;-)

  16. Skip the eyebrow piercing and go straight to the younger boyfriend. ;-) Sorry, Stefan, I'm just kidding!! :-)

  17. CIP, just hope some Hollywood filmmaker doesn't get a crazy notion in his head that there's a connection between Bohm, quantum non-locality, and McCarthyism. The mere thought of being subjected to yet another lame conspiracy thriller makes me wanna scream!

  18. Hi Lubos: Next time I have a question about dirty talk in English, I'll give you a call ;-)

    Hi Arun: How do you know it was coincidence and not determined?

    Hi CIP: I'll write about that maybe some other time... I'm still thinking about it.

    Hi Christophe: I don't know that book, but there is a very nice short story by Rafik Schami about a guy who invents his own 'simplified' language and keeps writing in it, but nobody understands him. (I can't recall the details). Unfortunately, I don't know what the title of the book is in English, the German title is 'Gesammelte Olivenkerne' but none of the English ones looks or sounds similar.



  19. Dear Bee,
    If you like scenes, you'll likely find many in New York City.

    NYT runs a weekly metropolitan diary feature:


    Here's one you can relate to :)

    "Dear Diary:

    As I was standing on the subway platform during a recent rainstorm, my BlackBerry slipped out of my hands, hit the platform and oh, so slowly, headed for the tracks. I couldn’t react quickly enough, and there it lay beside the rail. I ran for a conductor and asked for help.

    When I went back to the spot. a fellow commuter pulled out a glue trap. We commandeered an umbrella, attached the trap on the end and reached down to rescue the bruised device. It worked!

    With my fellow straphangers applauding, I gave my thanks and waited to board, as my anonymous helper handed me his card. He was an exterminator — and he asked if I had any pest problems!

    Al D’Elia"

  20. Dear Arun:

    You mean she didn't jump on the tracks? RIM should really work on their advertisement campaign...

    I'll make sure to always take a roach trap with me though.




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