Nov 28/11

Three years ago we got a new van - just a plain one to transport our two young kids. Suddenly, I didn't have to bend down to undo their car seats. No more worrying about breakdowns, either, which were around the corner had we kept our old sedan.

A more subtle difference came with the van: satellite radio. After I was used to the van, I started exploring the radio, and discovered choice like I'd never known. Soon I knew the top 20 songs, and all the new artists - Lady Gaga, for example. If a song came on I didn't like, I could just hunt among my dozen favourite channels for something else.

Satellite radio brought more than choice: it brought a youthful energy. The DJs were enthusiastic about their particular types of music, and they didn't have to work around commercials. The hits channels were especially exciting.

Soon I realized I could listen on my computer as well. I'd spend hours with the radio as I did housework or surfed the net. I learned more about old artists I'd always loved - including songs of theirs I'd never heard before.

For me, satellite radio breathed new life into an old medium. It taught me that radio - like the top 20 countdown - could still re-invent itself and surprise you. There are many DJs I could mention, but on the freeway the other night I heard Spyder Harrison saying to find him on Facebook.

Here's to you, Spyder, for being part of the satellite radio revolution - maybe the most exciting transformation since Marconi started it all. Ironically, a radio man is our face of the day.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

Spyder Harrison Home

Nov 29/11

You know, I love horses. I don't like to ride them, but I love being out at the barn in the spring, with the fresh smell of new grass and the budding sun. My kids ride, although we don't go very often - maybe about once or twice a year. It's a great environment, though - especially, I think, for kids. I grew up around farming (even though, once again, I wasn't a farmer myself). I think the farm is a good place for kids because kids are growing and of course a farm is all about growing things.

Once I mentioned horse boarding to one of my students - a teenage boy who'd grown up around horses and horse owners.

"Can you make money at that?" I asked.

"You could...but you sure wouldn't want to," he shook his head.

"Well...why not? I think it's a great environment. I wouldn't mind taking care of the grounds while people came and rode."

"Horse people are crazy. You don't want them around."

A couple of years later my horse affinity was under attack from another angle when I first heard of people's resentment about horse racing. Once again, I've never been to a horse race. However, I love watching the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont when they come on. Some people, it seems, were arguing the races were cruel and exploitive towards the horses.

Nowadays, you can barely walk through a door without someone saying you did wrong. All I'll say is that I think those horses are amazing to watch, whether walking across the fields or charging down the track. The people are interesting too: it seems half the celebrities in the world attend the Derby. It's an incredible event.

Obviously the Derby resonates with people on an instinctive level. It appeals to two ancient sources of power: livestock and competition. People love to be part of the elite, among the best horses - hence the fiercest competition - that the world can produce.

One dimension of the event I would have completely ignored was the jockeying. However, I couldn't for long, because in 2007 Calvin Borel schooled me. When I saw him do it again in 2009 on Mine that Bird (an incredible race - he came up from the back of the field to win!), I couldn't believe it.

Calvin, here's to you. I've no doubt you knew you'd win from the very start. You showed me the American Dream in two minutes and two seconds.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

Calvin Borel Home

Nov 30/11

Employee or contractor? The debate swells in families, businesses, and on the Hill.

After I got out of university, I couldn't get a job. However, I started a business with my wife, and it's proved very successful. It's been sixteen years since I had a job; I couldn't be happier.

The business was my mother-in-law's idea, though she wasn't really hoping I'd end up doing it full-time forever. She saw it as a nice side-line to supplement a "real" income - from a "real job." My father was a military man: he collected a salary for twenty eight years, then a monthly pension ever since. My father-in-law was an industrial man, very dedicated to his job. He believed you needed a job to be successful - like he was. Now he gets a good pension, too.

Both my father and father-in-law had fathers who ran their own businesses, and both grew up poor. Hence, both were terrified of depending on a business for a living. Who can blame them - especially as they were each such good, secure providers for their own families?

Within a year of being out of university, I realized that while a job for twenty dollars an hour was very hard to get, people were willing to pay twenty dollars an hour to a contractor - even for work they could do themselves. Why was this, I asked. In fact, I asked myself that question for about fifteen years.

The arrival of social media brought me my answer: people don't have jobs just for the money, or even mainly for the money. They have jobs as much for the social structure it gives them. Making money isn't that hard by itself, but it is hard to get accepted by people in a workplace - unless they like you. People are social animals, and their identity is largely who they know. When someone lets you know them, it changes their identity. People are very guarded about that because the change could cause someone else not to like them any more. So when you want a job, you're asking to join a group of people and enter their lives, and that's something much more valuable than money.

On the other hand, a contractor has no expectations of acceptance. You can hire a contractor without being associated or identified with them. When the "contract" has been executed, the contractor is gone, not to return unless you call. He or she doesn't affect your identity. The premium you pay is worth it, because there's no risk of a relationship.

I'm a contractor; I don't need to become part of anyone's life. Most people, however, have that need, so have a job.

One man who didn't, though, was Philo Beddoe (played by Clint Eastwood) of Every Which Way but Loose (1978). A prizefighter - you can't get more freelance than that! Although most parents would reach for the heart pills if their kid became a prizefighter, I'd much rather be that than do any job I've ever done.

Looking good, Philo! (By the way, I guess you fall for a lady in the movie, so in that way you are looking for a relationship. Well, I'm married, so in spite of our maverick tendencies, we both have relationships to some extent).

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

IMDb was a source for this article.

Philo Beddoe Home

Dec 1/11

As I've mentioned, I watch daytime TV with my wife. Of course, we both work or take care of the kids during the day, so we watch the shows on the computer at night.

One of my favourite characters from Young and Restless is Adam, the billionaire Victor's "evil" son. He's the scapegoat for almost everything bad that happens on the show; not one person trusts him.

Yet, Adam enjoys himself. His long-term motives are unclear, but he seems to like making enemies and keeping them. He gets attached to his enemies in a way he can never manage with people he's on good terms with. Moreover, he's funny.

The other day my wife was imitating a teenager. She said, "I hate you people: you're boring." We all laughed, but she was spot-on. To some people (and often teenagers, though not always), being boring is the worst crime. I've known people like that, and I confess I'm a bit that way myself.

Which must be why I'm such a big fan of yours, Adam Newman. Your machinations are always fascinating and usually unpredictable. Thanks for being the Genoa City Bad Guy and enjoying it.

Looking good, Adam.

Adam Newman Home

Dec 2/11

Tennis, anyone?

I played tennis for awhile when I was twelve. Before I could get into it seriously, we moved (Dad was a military man) to a place where it wasn't feasible. Anyway, I played enough to know that tennis is a brutally competitive game.

My interest in tennis began one surprising day in 1980 when my mother happened to be watching it on TV - which I hadn't ever known her to do before. A twenty-one year old McEnroe faced Borg, who was only three years older but was playing for his fifth Wimbledon title. It turned out to be a grueling match, which Borg won: I remember his kissing the cup. But Borg said McEnroe had "all to win and nothing to lose." McEnroe won it the following year.

McEnroe had to beat Borg to become the tennis champion. However, Borg was much further along; his 1980 victory at Wimbledon was his fifth, and he'd won the French Open five times as well. By 1982, McEnroe was no longer playing Borg for championships; he had other opponents instead.

My mother always said that, once Borg was out of the picture, McEnroe just wasn't the same. I agreed. He continued to win - he won Wimbledon and the US Open as late as 1984 - but his heart just didn't seem in it.

My life took over and I wasn't able to watch tennis again until 2002-2006, when I had new babies and would give them their bottles on the couch. One day I flicked on the television and recognized the voice immediately: it was Johnny Mc, now commentating. But to me it was like old times, having tennis on with McEnroe in my living room again. He's a great commentator - he loves tennis, the game itself.

If there is a Valhalla of tennis, I'm sure Borg and McEnroe will play there.

Wikipedia was used as a source for this article - both for Borg and also for McEnroe.