Social Connections

Movember 2012

Happy Movember!

Since its humble beginnings in Australia in 2004, the month of November has been adopted by men (and women) worldwide to raise awareness and funds to support the fight against prostate cancer and men's mental health issues. The sign-post for the initiative?...the upper lip, in the form of a sharp looking moustache!

My Dad suffered from prostate cancer. It was a very dark time for him, and everyone around him. It literally was a battle for survival, as it always is with cancer. His saving grace was early detection. My motivation is to continue the fight...for awareness, a cure, and long-term prevention. The thought of prostate cancer becoming familiar with my family again is scary. Not just for my sake, but for my two boys. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). In 2012:

  • An estimated 26,500 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,000 will die of it.
  • On average, 73 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every day.
  • On average, 11 Canadian men will die of prostate cancer every day.

It's time for me to join the fight! I can't remember the last time I had a moustache. I matured early as an adolecent, and had a full beard at age 13. I wore it, simply because I could. Frankly, it made me look like a psychopath, but I kept my facial hair for a few years until it became less unique. As a result, I probably haven't had hair on my face in 30 years! This could get interesting.

I've joined my 'brothers and sisters' (referred to as Mo Bros and Mo Sistas) in this fight by registering with the Movember organization. Their website contains many facts about the charity itself, and how you can get involved as well. One simple way is to follow my progress over the course of the month, and donate to the cause through my Movember page at I promise to keep you up to date with images, commentary, and Movember information.

Feel free to leave me a comment and tell me what type of moustache you think I should grow. Handlebar? Fu Manchu? Frankly, as my upper lip already has a scar from my youth hockey days, it'll be interesting to see what can even grow there. And will it be brown, grey, or salt-n-pepper? No matter what it looks like, I'm sure it will make me look dashing! ;-)

Thanks for your support! Every little bit helps.



The FINAL result!


As a treat, here's a video of what happens after Movember ends...


The Fine Print

Can you read this?

Apparently, it contains important (legal?) information that the automotive manufacturer wants (or doesn't want) you to know. I can't read it either. But that's only the half of it...

This morning I turned on the TV to find out what the weather was going to be like for the rest of the day, when I happened to catch a car ad. It looked like the typical ad, until I saw a blur scrolling in a window at the bottom of the screen. I quickly grabbed the remote for my handy dandy digital video recorder, and went back to review. Sure enough, there was text at the bottom of the screen. I paused the image to read what it said, but there was no chance. The text was simply too small. I'm sure you could blame the standard definition video signal, or the fact that it had been stretched to fit onto a widescreen TV, or that the very bottom portion of the picture contained the weather summary thus squishing the rest of the ad into the top of the screen, but there was no way I could read the text. In fact, I carefully advanced through each frame, and couldn't make out a single word.

The fact that I couldn't read this important notice was troublesome. However, I was willing to cut them a break, and say that perhaps on a better TV, with a better signal, the text would be legible. I'll speak with my wife later and see what she thinks about upgrading our TV set and cable signal. ;-) Even with those allowances, I simply don't think I'd be able to consume the content as it sped by my view.

Time for a little math...

By squinting my eyes and using the frame advance function to find the best image, I was able to discern that there were 10 lines of text in that little window. While it was on screen, the text scrolled another 10 lines, for a total of 20 lines of important content. By capturing an image of the screen, reshaping it to a standard 4:3 aspect ratio, and comparing it to other text, I was able to estimate approximately 39 'words' of text per line. With 20 lines of text, that makes 780 words. Some paragraphs ended before the edge of the screen, so we'll call it 750 words to be fair.

Again using my frame advance button on the remote, I was able to count 35 frames from the very first hint of text, to where the text dissolved and went away. (Note the 1 second time difference in these two images)  At 30 frames per second, that's just under 1.2 seconds of air time. Scale that up to a minute's worth, and you get 37,500 words per minute! That's the speed you would need to read at to be able to consume this message (again, assuming you could read the text in the first place). The English version of the incredibly long novel "War and Peace" is said to be 560,000 words. Reading at 37,500 words per minute would allow you to finish the book in under 15 minutes. Now that's a skill I could use!

I did some checking online, and the average adult reads at a rate of 250 - 300 words per minute, with an 80% comprehension rate. That means that our brilliant ad designers are expecting us to read at a rate more than 125 times faster than the average person! Unfortunately, the average car-buying consumer just doesn't read that fast.

I understand that it's probably filled with incredibly boring legalese that they don't really expect you to worry about. If that's the case, why bother showing it at all?



The Four Stages of Life

I'm a very analytical person. It's part of my nature. I'm also a visual learner. As such, I like to come up with 'models' that help me sort out life's problems. Once I've built a model and mapped my understanding of the world into it, I usually picture it in some way to keep it clear for me. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how we advance through our lives, and phases we go through. My brother recently sent me a book for my retirement, and wrote on the card that I would now be entering the third and final stage of my life. I thought about it a bit (and wept quietly to myself), and realized there aren't THREE stages to life....there are FOUR.

The first stage is all about LEARNING. From the moment we're born, we learn to demand attention, and satisfy our basic needs. We go on to learn about human interaction and social conduct. We learn to talk, and walk, and do differential calculus (well, we learn to talk and walk anyway), and while our education never stops, it is the prime focus for us during our early years, until we're 20 years old or so.

The next stage is about BUILDING. We get jobs and build our careers. We make money and grow our possessions. We get married, have families, and grow our financial and parental responsibilities. It's hard work. We often don't have time for much else, but it's often thought of as THE reason for being.

Let's skip the next stage for a moment...

The final stage is, sadly, a stage of AGING. It's marked by decline. A decline in health. A decline in friends and family our own age. A decline in abilities and capacity. It doesn't have to be gloomy and unproductive, but there is a certain realization that our best years are likely behind us, and much of our energy is given to those who will outlast us.

So what about the third stage? Here's the good news. In between BUILDING and AGING is a stage of pure opportunity! It's a stage where anything is possible. It's a stage when we can take all that we've learned, and all that we've built, and take advantage of our not-yet-declining health. It's a stage of LEVERAGING. In this stage, everything comes together. We've made enough money that we don't have to worry about income. We've learned enough about our desired field that we can be immediately effective. We can look at the world through experienced eyes, before they develop cataracts. We can concentrate on all the wonderful things we like to do, and eliminate all the fluff and drudgery. It's a FABULOUS stage, and one that not everyone gets to experience.

When I think about goals, I think that our goal in life should be to maximize this stage. Some people will never get there, due to financial pressures, premature aging, or traumatic events. Others will never realize it when they do arrive. But the lucky ones will build a life plan around this stage. It doesn't mean you have to 'retire'...just take control over your situation. A friend of mine is a talented and successful business owner. Her 'job' is exactly what she makes of it, driven more by servicing people than by quarterly reports. She's been making the most of this stage for years. My Dad retired into this stage. He took up painting, and community involvement, and became an accomplished wood carver. I'm sure he got more out of this stage than his 35 years of government employment could have ever provided him.

We don't get to deal the cards in life, but we do get to play our hand. Make sure your life plan is more than just accepting status quo. And try to leverage as much as you possibly can! See you in stage 3...I plan to be there for a loooong time.