What’s it to ya?

Sign that says the right way to hang toilet paper is over the roll

A friend of mine shared a story at work the other day about a family gathering she was at. Her nephew was getting ready to go outside and had his left boot on his right foot and his right boot on his left foot. His grandfather pointed it out, suggesting the kid may want to change. The kid replied, “What’s it to ya?”.

The grandfather thought about if for a moment, realized he didn’t care, and said, “Nothing. Fill your boots.”

We all laughed, and started talking about things that drive you crazy if they’re not done “the proper way”.

For instance, we agreed the proper way to hang toilet paper is with the paper on the outside, not the inside, and yet some misguided people still hang it the wrong way!

Somebody else said they hate it when people cut toast because toast shouldn’t be cut. Who knew there was toast etiquette?

When you load the dishwasher, do you put the cutlery in facing up or down?

I remember when I was a teenager making grilled cheese with a friend. She told me I was doing it wrong (in my family, we always made cheesie melts in the oven instead of toasting them in a frying pan).

My best friend Leslie still tries to convince me to this day to make bacon in the broiler instead of on the stovetop because she says it’s easier to clean up and tastes better.

This week’s #HappyAct is to remember one phrase the next time someone tries to get you to change something that, in the end, doesn’t affect them one iota. What’s it to ya?

 

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It ain’t a beauty contest no more

Lush cosmetics

After 26 and a half years of marriage (but who’s counting), as Dave likes to say, “It ain’t a beauty contest no more”.

And yet, after a wickedly long winter, there’s a little part of all of us that wants to rejuvenate and renew ourselves.

Thanks to a new brand of cosmetics, there’s now a relatively expensive way to pamper yourself.

Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics is a line of cosmetics and creams that uses all natural ingredients made fresh. They are opposed to testing products on animals and use no preservatives and have minimal packaging.

My girls discovered Lush a few years ago. I never really tried their products until recently, when Clare brought home a bagful of creams and masks from a friend’s birthday party.

Yesterday I used their Cup ‘o Coffee Face and Body Mask. Within minutes, five months of winter washed away in the shower, leaving my skin soft, glowing and supple.

I felt like a new woman afterwards. Maybe not new enough to win a beauty contest, but I never did do well in the talent and swimsuit competitions anyway.

This week’s #HappyAct is to pamper yourself a little this week. Ed. note: After store hours, Lush offers private beauty nights, great for birthday parties, bachelorette parties or just a girl’s night out.

How to make friends with the bots

talking to a bot

Let’s face it. Bots are going to take over the world. One day we’ll all wake up, and every online interaction will start with talking with a bot. Think of them as Walmart greeters for the internet (except that Walmart just announced they’re laying off all their greeters).

I’m fascinated with bots. In my work, I’ve been helping our bot team choose language that is friendly, clear and helpful. But herein lies the problem with bots. For communication to be effective, you need to understand how people are feeling, thinking, and what you want them to do. It’s called knowing your audience. And with bots, you’re not exactly sure what the frame of mind is of the person at the beginning of the interaction, and just as important, at the end of the interaction.

I’ll illustrate this by sharing my latest interaction with Koodo’s bot. Koodo’s tagline by the way is “Choose Happy”. It went something like this:

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“Hi Koodo bot. I need your help. My daughter has fried her phone a second time and I want to know my options for my contract.”

(Four options popped up for me to choose, none of them was what I needed help with.)

So I said, “I think it’s probably easier if I just called you. What’s your toll-free number?”

(The bot in its programming must have picked up on the keyword phrase “toll-free number” so it answered this)

“1-800 numbers are free of Long Distance charges, but the local minutes to connect you to the network are still billed at the local minute rate. The numbers you can call are (list of numbers). If you run out of minutes, you will be charged for additional airtime. You might get a prompt to a recording message if the toll-free number isn’t available in your area.”

Then it asked me if their answer was helpful. I gave it a thumbs down.

We went back and forth a few more times. At this point, I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to just get their stupid 1 800 number from the bot and the UX tester in me went into overdrive, so I wrote,

“OK, so what’s the number you stupid bot” just to see how it would respond.

The bot answered, “Now, now, let’s play nice!” and send me a GIF of Maggie Smith looking affronted.

giphy

OK, so I don’t know how you would react to Maggie Smith raising her eyebrow in a supercilious manner just because you wanted to talk to someone in customer service, but my emotional response went from a ha, ha, I don’t believe it said that, to incredulous, to how dare you, you stupid bot? I showed it to Clare who had been sitting beside me the whole time and asked her how she felt about it. She said the exact same thing.

Let’s just say, I didn’t “Choose Happy” from Koodo in that moment.

To end the story, I ditched the bot, found their 1 800 number somewhere else, called them and finally found a human that was very helpful and resolved my dilemma. I did have to wait on the line for about 10 minutes though to speak to said human.

So if bots are here to stay, how do we make friends with them? Here are some tips:

  1. First, go in knowing their limitations. Bots do serve a purpose—they can answer simple questions, freeing up customer service agents to address more difficult issues and concerns.
  2. Be aware if you are dealing with a bot or a human. Sometimes this can be hard to know. If you’re not sure, ask. You’ll know after the first few interactions when five lines of text appear instantaneously.
  3. If after the first few questions it’s clear the bot’s programming isn’t giving you what you need, ask to speak to a live person. Most bots that are programmed well with have a human offramp, where you just pick “speak to a person” and they’ll redirect your enquiry.

If all else fails, you can always derive some entertainment value by messing with it. Just be prepared for the Maggie Smith gifs.

Learn which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn

Oprah Winfrey quote

Every once in awhile, I come across an article that resonates so deeply about what happiness is all about, I feel compelled to share it. This week, it was an article from Inc. called, “Oprah Winfrey Says One Decision Separates People Who Achieve Success From Those Who Only Dream.”

The gist of the article is to be successful, you need to move forward and embrace new opportunities, and that means sometimes knowing which bridges to burn and what baggage to leave behind. This includes

  • Worrying about what other people think
  • Worrying about what you have, instead of what you do
  • Counting on finding that one big idea or moment
  • Worrying about perfection
  • Worrying about what other people do
  • Worrying about whether you’re happy

It’s a great article. Read it. But there are two things I challenge the inimitable Ms. O on. She states that success and happiness go hand in hand. While there is a correlation between success and happiness, there are stories daily in the media of seemingly successful people who commit suicide or overdose who suffered from depression, feelings of low self-esteem or unhappiness. Success does not guarantee happiness. It all comes down to how you find and define success.

I also think that while you definitely shouldn’t worry about whether you’re happy, you should practice self-awareness and self-reflection about whether you’re happy. Only through self-awareness can you make changes and be brave enough to cross that next bridge.

This week’s #HappyAct is to think about which bridges you should cross and which bridges you should burn this year. And read the article.

Take the one thing different challenge

Funny meme

I was wandering around the grocery store the other day, filling up my cart with the same old items I buy every week.

As I unpacked the grocery bags, I realized I hadn’t bought one thing different. It made me sad.

You see, the problem is I’m a creature of habit. I come by it honestly from my Dad.

You could almost set your watch by my Dad. He’d walk the dog at the same time every day, go to McDonald’s for his daily coffee at the same time every day, read the papers, watch the ball game and have his supper at the same time every day. He even did his grocery shopping on Saturdays in retirement despite it being the busiest day of the week because that was his routine.

Dave says I’m getting more like my Dad every day, and yes, I’ll admit, I have my little routines, but I’ve decided to change it up a bit at least in the culinary realm. I am challenging myself to make one thing different at least once a week.

So last night, I made a delicious sweet and sour chicken dish I never made before called The Thigh’s the Limit from one of my favourite cookbooks, Looneyspoons. It got five stars from the fam.

This week’s #HappyAct is to join me in taking the “one thing different” challenge and mix it up in the kitchen. See my blog post “Spice it up” for more culinary inspiration.

Discover an undersea world

My friend looking at a shark

I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’s garden in the shade

-The Beatles, Octopus’s Garden

In January, on a very snowy winter afternoon, my girlfriends and I spent the afternoon at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. I’d never been to the aquarium before, but Dave and the kids had raved about it so I was looking forward to exploring it, especially the shark tank and tunnel where the sharks swim right over your head.

It was an amazing mid-winter afternoon escape. We watched one of their divers feed the stingrays just feet away from us. Stingrays are incredibly graceful, floating and gliding effortlessly, but at feeding time, they’ll flock around the diver like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, opening their mouths to gobble up the fish being offered.

Stingrays

At one point, since we had been hoofing it around the city in blustery snow all day, we just sat and watched one of the huge tanks for a half an hour. The longer we sat and watched, the more species we saw. Bright playful clown fish, luminescent mandarinfish, and fish with wonderful names like Love Bird Parrot and Moorish Idol formed a moving kaleidoscope before our eyes. It was very peaceful and beautiful, and dare I say, zen.

Fish tank

The main attraction was the Dangerous Lagoon which is North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel and which Ripley’s describes as a breathtaking underwater gallery. We hopped on the moving sidewalk three times to watch and wonder at the magnificent sharks, sea turtles and sawfish swimming just inches above and beside us.

Shark in tank

This week’s #HappyAct is to escape the cold and snow, and dive into an undersea world.

Looking for something ultra cool? Every second Friday, they host a jazz night with live music and cash bars throughout the aquarium. Or have a slumber party and sleepover with the sharks. You can drop off the kids or stay for a family experience.  You can sign up for their Scales and Tales e-newsletter with exclusive offers, news and behind-the-scenes info. They even have PD Day camps if you’re looking for something for the kids on the next PD day.

If you don’t have any plans to go to Toronto and live in Eastern Ontario, try the Aquatarium in Brockville. Here is an old blog post I wrote about it a few years ago.

Ed. Note: Have you ever wondered how The Beatles came up with the lyrics to Octopus’ Garden? As the tale goes, Ringo Starr wrote the lyrics after spending a day at sea in Sardinia with comedian Peter Sellers. A waiter mistakenly brought him squid instead of fish and chips and he said, “It was okay. A bit rubbery. Tasted like chicken.” The captain went on to tell Starr about how octopuses travel along the seabed picking up stones and other shiny objects and create gardens with them.

Stingray

Ten lessons on love and relationships from The Bachelor

Batchelor meme

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the girls and I thought we’d share our observations on love and relationships from our favourite show, The Bachelor.

  1. Don’t wear a chicken outfit or sloth costume on your first date—you will probably end up going home
  2. It’s never a good idea to tell two people you love them on the same night
  3. It’s much easier to think you’re in love on a helicopter date
  4. Never date a guy named Juan Pablo
  5. You know it’s going to be a good date if there is a limo or hot tub involved.
  6. If your date asks you if you want to spend the night in the Fantasy Suite, ask if there will be cameras involved
  7. When it comes to following your head or your heart, your heart will always win out (just don’t follow something else)
  8. Wear waterproof mascara, because at some point, you know it will all end in tears
  9. Always choose the person who makes you laugh the most
  10. And finally, if you’re a virgin, The Bachelor might not be the show for you

Happy Valentine’s Day!