Mood/Food Charts

About 10 years ago, my trusty friend Stephen Southall and I took off east from Peterborough, Ontario in my 1978 Ford F-100 pickup to deliver the life possessions of our friends Richard and Victoria to Halifax.

Once we dropped them in Halifax, we headed back west, and when we got to the fork in the road with one road taking us to Moncton and the other to Prince Edward Island, we flipped a coin and PEI won. And so we had a brief vacation in PEI rather than a brief vacation in Moncton.

Then, in a fit of careless abandon, we decided to return to Peterborough via Providence, Rhode Island. Those of you with a cartographic bent will realize that this isn’t the direct route.

I wanted to see the Rhode Island School of Design and Stephen wanted to see Brown. We caught the 10:40 a.m. ferry from Borden and arrived at the Super 8 Motel in Providence at about 1:30 a.m.

We were exhausted.

And at 3:00 a.m. someone decided that we were in their room, and a brief ruckus ensued.

In the morning we were even more exhausted, it was raining, and Stephen was starting to catch a cold.

While we had quite a pleasant time touring the college area of Providence, by the time we were ready to head north again we were both in pretty foul moods.

By way of distracting ourselves from this, Stephen came up with an analytical approach, and thus was born the “Mood/Food Chart.”

The idea is that for every occupant of the long-distance vehicle, you create a column on a chart. The rows on the chart can be developed as your needs and imagination dictate; we included things like “hunger level,” “honesty level,” “foods consumed,” and, of course “mood.”

The charts were a good distraction and they helped us from killing each other. And, interestingly enough, sometimes they pointed out one of those never obvious enough things like “30 minutes after you drink a can of Coke you fell horrible.”

The “Mood/Food Chart” has become a regular part of our family travel arsenal as a result.

So you can imagine my surprise when I came across a link on Doc Searls’ website to this software program called MoodStats. It’s described as follows:

Moodstats is an application that allows you to quickly record & rate how your day has been in six different categories. You can also attach comments to these values to further illustrate why your moods are the way they are.

After you’ve entered at least three days of data into the program, Moodstats springs into action and begins to generate multi-colored graphs & statistics showing you exactly how your moods have been over the last week, month, two months, six months or year.

Certainly a step up from a pad of paper in the back of a pickup truck, and maybe overkill for casual analysis. But interesting nonetheless.

Cold Hearted Heat

At the beginning of this week I wrote here about the different attitude toward children here in North America and in Thailand.

Apparently people actually read this page (something that always comes as a shock to me), and Catherine has caught some heat from her friends and colleagues along the lines of “hey, we like Oliver…”

Please note that my comments weren’t meant to be a “hey, you don’t love my son enough!” plea. Oliver gets plenty of attention, love, regards, waves, etc. in his regular everyday life here in Charlottetown, from our friends, family, colleagues, and sometimes even from the people that you meet while you’re walkin’ down the street.

So you can stop complaining.

In other cold hearted news, an anonymous friend — let’s call her Libertà — called me today with a story: she was in the bank, at a wicket beside a woman with small child. The woman was struggling to balance dealing with the teller and dealing with the child. By way of trying to be helpful, Libertà tried to engage the child in conversation, which prompted the woman to pick up the child and move him to the other side of her.

Libertà commented on this to the teller after woman and child had left, remarking that in other cultures she might have picked up the child so the mother could bank in peace. The teller recoiled in shock, and said she would never do that lest she be accused of molesting the child.

Which explains a lot about a lot of things.

Another friend emailed to say that our experiences in Thailand echo those that he and his wife experienced in Mexico with their son. This was reinforced tonight for us when we ate at Mexico Lindo for this first time, and found the Mexican chef doting on Oliver in a way we’d only ever seen at the wonderful Lobster Claw out in Brackley Beach.

Libertà, by the way, remains undaunted, and will return to the playing field with as much determination as ever to do right by the kids of town. More power to her.

Can Ban

The National Post has published an editorial coming out against PEI’s so-called “can ban.”

So I feel it only appropriate that I publish the contrary opinion. I have always thought the prohibition against selling pop in cans was a Good Thing. I don’t care whether it’s a anti-litter move, an economic assist to local Seaman’s Beverages or an aesthetic decision, it’s always made sense to me, from every angle.

The Post editorial’s main criticism of the law is that because other non-carbonated beverages are allowed to be sold in cans, the anti-litter, pro-environmental arguments for the ban must be false. Frankly, I don’t see the reasoning here; just because the law is incomplete doesn’t mean it’s ineffective or that the reasons underlying it aren’t genuine. Indeed it would seem to make more sense for the Post to argue for a complete ban on cans instead of an end to the partial ban we have right now.

Pop in bottles is one of the things that makes PEI a special place. I stand in full support of the current and former governments who, for whatever reasons, agree with me.

Conference Call Fun

Every Tuesday afternoon the friendly folks at Yankee Publishing, my western affiliate Johnny and I have a transcontinental conference call.

As related on his website, Johnny recently switched cell phone providers, and his new service with Bell Mobility appears to have some quirks: twice during the call Johnny lost his connection. Wasn’t a battery problem. Didn’t appear to be a signal strength problem (has was standing still throughout). He just disappeared.

The first time this happened, he called right back and I conferenced him back in.

The second time this happened, he called right back and I conferenced him back in.

Except the second time, it wasn’t actually him that called, but rather Irene Renaud from the PEI Crafts Council calling for Catherine. I didn’t notice the caller ID was different, and I didn’t say hello, assuming it was Johnny and he just listen in where he left off.

Irene patiently waited for a break in the conversation, and then chimed in, sounding somewhat bemused, to express her confusion at being included in a conference call about the minutiae of The Old Farmer’s Almanac and Yankee Magazine. She left a quick message, and disappeared again.

Lesson: always say hello when you answer the phone.

Cold Hearts?

As I related here many times during our sojourn to Thailand, we discovered that Oliver’s role in Thai society was completely different than his role here.

In North America, Oliver is a 15 month old infant, revered by his family and close friends but otherwise pretty well completely ignored, sometimes even resented, by everyone else.

For example, 9 times out of 10 when we go with Oliver to a “please wait to be seated” restaurant here, we get seated in some horrible back of the restaurant kid ghetto, far from everyone else.

In Thailand, Oliver is a 15 month old infant, revered by everyone. Monk, police officer, scraggly looking guitar player, waitress, riverboat driver. Everyone.

In Thailand, we get seated in excellent seats in the centre of the restaurant, and the wait staff take personal responsbility for Oliver’s happiness. If Oliver is crying, they pick him up and walk around with him. If Oliver needs a distraction, they distract him. And everyone in the restaurant waves at Oliver, and Oliver waves back.

And I’m starting to think this isn’t just a Thai thing. Oliver and I were at a Chinese grocery store in Halifax over the weekend, and he received the same sort of attention: I was struggling with a collection of grocery items and Oliver all at the same time, so one of the customers — I’m guess she was Chinese from her language and look, but that’s just a guess — picked up Oliver and squired him around. A good time was had by all.

I have anecdotal evidence from others to suggest that this attitude towards children, while perhaps amplified somewhat by the fact that Oliver is a rare white smiling baby in Thailand, reflects a general difference in the way children are regarded in other parts of the world.

If nothing else, it makes the Canadian “seen and not heard” attitude towards children appear cold hearted and mean.

When was the last time you picked up someone else’s crying baby to help them out? I certainly know I never have.

Bangkok Post

Most people have to wait until at least they’ve won an Olympic medal, or been elected President, or have developed a new way to purify water before they’re written about in the Bangkok Post. Not wee Oliver, though. In an issue of Harold Stephens’ travel online travel column Oliver gets top billing. Take a look and see pictures of our Sunday afternoon along Silom Road with Harold and his wife Michelle.

The only thing you might safely take as an exageration is Catherine’s statement that “back home nobody notices Oliver.” That’s not true of course. But compared to the attention he gets here, it’s not too far off!