Monthly Archives: February 2009

Father-Son Bonding

I called my dad on his birthday this week. After the divorce I would never call him, special occasion or not, simply because I needed to distance myself from the situation. He did call me on mine last year though, which reestablishes a sort of precedence and ritual, and he actually thanked me for the call.

We made the usual small talk, about work and home.

Mercedes Benz SLK 55 AMG 2006

He told me he bought a car: a 2006 Mercedes Benz SLK 55 AMG hard-top convertible with 18″ rims and 7-speed-automatic transmission. He’s going to keep the Beemer for winter driving. It filled my heart with quiet joy when he said I could drive it the next time I visited him. Not so much because he was letting me (for I was always allowed to drive the Sportline 300CE while living at home), but because I could tell in his voice that he wanted me to try it.

I asked him if there’s any history of colorectal cancer in the family, which the doctor wanted to know at my last appointment, to which my dad answered, thankfully, no. He shared with me his own health concerns, the medical terms of which he only knows in Chinese. These are things I avoid asking about when I visit him, as he pops some pills from a bottle kept with the dishes in the kitchen, and I realize that I’m learning more about my dad than ever. It’s not so much out of a need for privacy or avoidance of embarrassment, but simply out of convenience, as these topics would never get brought up.

It’s strange to bond with him in this way, only after so many years of leaving home.

I remember him trying to teach me photography when I was younger, but he soon lost interest, in both photography and me1. Maybe it’s the distance that makes us appreciate each other more, and it wouldn’t be the same if we lived in the same city.

In a way, I’m glad to have the relationship now, and I’m able to forget that I’ve never had it for most of my life.

  1. As such, all my photography is self-taught, aside from one trick used to zoom a lens towards the subject so that the edges are blurred that he showed me at the Statue of Liberty. []

Turkey At Work

Free turkey

Yep, there’s a turkey roaming around the parking lot at work. And in sub-zero temperatures, no less. People try to shoo him away, scared that he might get run over, but he just weaves in and out of the cars in circles. At one point, he even perched himself on the spoiler of one them. It was a lawyer’s car, so no one cared. Except the lawyer of course.

Free turkey

I remember an online buddy driving here to visiting me from Illinois back in 2002. It was his first time in Canada, and he remarked that the scenery was really nice, with lots of trees and wildlife, unlike the concrete jungle of American cities. I guess I take Canadian nature for granted.

Free turkey

Sunday Pot Luck Brunches

Gathering in the living room

Thumbnail: One of my smoothies
Thumbnail: Tim cooks bacon
Thumbnail: Wooden trivet
Thumbnail: Pancakes
Thumbnail: Fruit bowl
 

Tim is, as he puts it, cut from the same cloth as his uncle, insofar as they both enjoy entertaining. They also live in a four-storey house, which is perfect for such a thing.

So every Sunday, people come together for a casual pot luck brunch, where guests are invited to bring food, the idea being that it’s be easier to bring a dish somewhere and share with everyone than sit at home and make breakfast for yourself. Last time, I got to try fancy smoked bacon, and a pancake-batter-cooked-in-bacon-grease experiment.

At this point, enough people know about it that no one has to mention ahead of time whether they’ll be coming, but there’s enough food for all.

Tim described this pretty well in a recent e-mail:

Dear Everyone,

I’m fascinated by coordination problems.

Coordination problems are situations where all the actors involved are more or less on the same side, but there is imperfect information. Everyone wants the same general outcome but isn’t sure how everyone else is going to get at it.

Driving is a solved coordination problem. No one wants an accident so we all want to drive on the same side of the road, but there is nothing special about choosing the left or the right side. How do people pick?

In 1958, Thomas Schelling ran this experiment on a group of university students in Connecticut: “Imagine that you are to meet someone in New York City at noon, but you don’t know where and you can’t get in touch with them in advance. Where do you go?”

Without consulting one another, the majority of them picked the same location. I wonder if you can guess what it was (where would you go?).

Every week, we solve and re-solve a coordination problem with brunch. Everyone wants a good and varied brunch spread. Different people come every week and no one RSVPs, so you can never be sure what other people will bring. We don’t consult in advance, I don’t assign dishes or types of dishes. The only information we have is what was at brunch the previous week and my written suggestion about fruits, which is mercifully ignored by most of you.

Yet every week brunch has a wide range of delicious foods. Isn’t that amazing?

I think it’s amazing.

Hope to see you on Sunday,

Tim

If I was participating in Schelling’s experiment, I would have chosen to meet at the clock in Grand Central Station; it’s always stood out to me because of the way it was prominently featured in the fantasy waltz sequence done by Terry Gilliam in The Fisher King. I had no idea that this was also the information booth, and it’s this place exactly that most students chose.

And it goes with the people at brunch as well. When one person eats, another will get up to cook. When everyone is done eating, the dishes are all put away, the pans are all cleaned. With the wisdom of crowds, nothing needs to be said.

I think it’s amazing too.