Monday, November 20, 2017

"Giving good gifts isn't as complicated as you think"

Dec. 22, 2016 "Giving good gifts isn't as complicated as you think": Today I found this article by John Tierney in the Globe and Mail:

Social scientists bear glad tidings for the holiday season. After extensively observing how people respond to gifts, they have advice for shoppers: You don’t have to try so hard.

You’re not obliged to spend hours finding just the right gift for each person on your list. Most would be just as happy with something quick and easy. This may sound too good to be true, but rest assured this is not a ploy by some lazy Scrooges in academia.

These researchers are meticulous analysts of gift-giving rituals. Whether they’re drawing lessons from Kwakwaka’wakw Indian potlatches or wish lists, I’ve always found them the wisest mentors for the holidays, and this year they have more data than ever to back up their advice:

Don’t aim for the “big reveal.” Many shoppers strive to find a sensational toy or extravagant piece of jewellery that will create drama when it’s opened. But drama is not what recipients want, according to a new study by Jeff Galak of Carnegie Mellon University.

He and his colleagues have found that gifts go wrong because the givers are focused on the moment of exchange, whereas the recipients are thinking long-term: Will I actually get any use out of this?

Don’t “over-individuate” your gifts. People too often give bad presents because they insist on buying something different for everyone.

In experiments using greeting cards and gifts, psychologists found that people typically feel obliged to choose unique items for each person on their list even when the recipients wouldn’t know if they got duplicates – and even when one particularly good gift would work better for everyone.

The more gifts you select, the more likely you’ll pick some duds. If you can find one sure thing, don’t be afraid to give it more than once.

Don’t be ashamed to regift. Researchers have found that most people assume that someone who gave them a gift would be deeply offended if they passed it along to someone else. But these same studies show that most givers actually aren’t offended.

Let your recipients do the work for you. They know what they want better than you do. If they’ve asked for something, buy it instead of surprising them.

If someone hasn’t asked for anything, a gift card is an easy way to please, but don’t be too specific in choosing a store or a product. You may think a film buff would love a gift certificate for a movie theatre, but they’d probably prefer something less restrictive, such as a card allowing them to buy movies online, too, or some other indulgence that would never occur to you.

Mary Steffel, a psychologist at the University of Cincinnati, and colleagues have found that the more specific a gift card is, the less likely it is to be redeemed.

“If you’re not sure what your recipient wants, “Steffel advised, “give them the gift of flexibility.” Above all, remember this: The thought usually doesn’t count. This counterintuitive finding emerged from a clever series of experiments by University of Chicago researchers at the nearby Museum of Science and Industry.

Visitors to the museum were paired off – sometimes two strangers, sometimes two friends or relatives – and then one of them was led off to a separate room and asked to choose a gift for the other person among items from the museum’s shop. Some givers were told to pick randomly, while others were told to think carefully about the recipient’s tastes.

The thoughtful givers naturally expected their effort to be appreciated, but it usually didn’t matter. Even though the recipients knew which gifts had been picked randomly and which had been chosen carefully, it turned out they liked a thoughtless gift just as much as a thoughtful one.

As long as the gift was satisfying, they usually didn’t consider how much thought had gone into it, especially if it came from someone they didn’t know well.

There was just one situation in which the thought counted: when someone received a bad gift from a friend or relative. The researchers, Yan Zhang and Nicholas Epley, approximated this scenario by raising the recipient’s expectations.

They told the recipient to expect a gift similar in quality to a popular museum shop item, Newton’s Cradle, a gizmo with five swinging silver balls that demonstrates the conservation of momentum. But the recipients didn’t actually get anything so desirable.

The only choices available to the givers were cheaper items such as a pen, a deck of cards, a key chain or a refrigerator magnet. When the recipients opened one of these cheaper gifts, they were predictably disappointed, but less so if the gift had been chosen for them by a friend or relative rather than picked randomly.

While they weren’t thrilled to get a deck of cards, they could console themselves that it had at least been chosen by someone who knew they liked to play cards.

So if you fear you’re doomed to buy a bad gift, then maybe you should find something that shows at least that you made an effort.

 "Too much of a good thing": Today I found this life essay by Paula Williams.

The generosity of Paula Williams’s patients knows no bounds but it does cross more than a few boundaries

My medical office can look like Harrod’s Food Hall with small areas carved out for patient care at Christmastime. By the end of November it is bleak, we are down to our last box of chocolate biscuits to remind us of last year’s haul. But my beloved patients are already starting to drift in with goodhearted offerings – edible, homemade, plucked from dollar-store shelves and downright unforgettable.

I will receive many scarves. Some are tenderly crafted from scraps of that plastic wool they make from recycled garbage bags. Others are elegant: a pashmina, the same pashmina and another lovely pashmina almost the same as the other pashminas.

Plus the most exquisite hand-knit creation from an HIV sufferer, lacey and studded with hundreds of tiny pearl beads appliqued by hand. Patients crochet huge afghans for my cozy nest in front of the TV at home. They know I’ll be muttering about the cold soon, they crochet socks and slippers and a tiny purple jacket for my iPhone.

And they scrutinize. I did not know I needed an Ahh Bra. Or five pairs of knickers. Or hair conditioner. Or a different polyester blouse, always a discomfiting shade of purple and saturated with cigarette smoke, every year for five or six years.

I have had to learn how to check out lottery tickets (always offered singly). And I’ve opened some suspicious items of jewellery that may have fallen off the back of a truck. There are tips, too: A garrulous Irish grandma tucks a $20 bill into my lingerie before I can jump away and $10 is slipped into a pocket (thanks for the Viagra sample, the wife says).

Stop, I protest! I can’t take money! Our doctor guidelines tell us to accept small presents graciously. But there are challenges.

A large burly patient approaches the reception desk. He has a question for my trusty staff. “Does the doctor have a pierced belly button?” They don’t know but they suspect not. He leaves, promising to rush right back. It is presented, in Christmas colours: a red-and-green-flashing stick-on belly-button light! I’m touched, as this family has already gone all out and given me a bobble-head dancing doll and two cartons of fruit juice.

What do doctors like for Christmas? If you’re an elderly Chinese lady who speaks little English, you take the advice of your pharmacist. She arrives, smiling and bent under the weight of two super-size bottles of booze. I don’t drink, but never mind. I recall her first visit, how she crouched in the corner of the office on the floor, reliving the Japanese invasion of Shanghai after I had made a delicate inquiry about her early life.

Another year, she brings me a large box of pears. A fine and touching memory.

One year I was able to line up half a dozen bottles of Baileys Irish Cream in order of size and redistribute them to the next series of selected patients. There are some gooey liquids that even my family won’t drink, but they fall upon the chocolates and cookies, the Austrian cocoa-covered almonds, the Quality Street, the Turtles and the gift baskets, which all the staff share.

There is a lady who drags herself across town every year to bring me a new pillow or mattress cover. A psychiatric patient with a filthy temper who makes a special annual trip to the craft show for one delicate Christmas tree ornament.

A lonely man gives me a treasured book, a history of the British army in Turkey during the First World War. Amateur paintings are produced, “I have 400 more at home, doctor.” And a beaded tapestry made by a South American reformed drug smuggler hangs on our wall. Then there are the bringers of the Annual Very Large Poinsettia.

There was the season of many sequined elephants – as a patient could not control her online shopping – and heaps of sweets that diabetics have bought, then felt too guilty to keep. Diabetics can be naughty. “Are those by any chance chocolate bars sticking out of the pockets of your cargo pants?” I ask.

“Oh yes, but I brought them for you, doc!”

There are tiny gifts, too. A smooth pebble. A coupon for a free hamburger. A muffin. Greek pastries. Halloween candy (the molasses kisses that nobody likes). Lots of Timbits. A ballpoint pen. Home-recorded Indian veena music, installed on my computer by the veena virtuoso so I can listen any time.

A crystal frog and then a crystal owl to join him. An aloe vera plant, fridge magnets, homemade Italian biscotti (given in perpetual gratitude for a house call I made one Christmas Eve) – presents that demand to be opened in front of the proud giver, and others that my staff and I can take home to share.

I always ask patients about their Christmas plans, so I know if they have anybody to celebrate with or are planning to be brave and lonely. Patients of every religion and culture are welcome in my practice.

The newcomers to Canada assure me that Christmas is for everybody, it’s their favourite holiday, they will do the Christmas things, they will be happy and celebrate on a higher plane – what a gift! It is heartwarming to see Canadians sharing their traditions, and newcomers cruising the stores for chocolate biscuits, making every gift special and heartfelt … every pebble, every Timbit.

Dr. Paula Williams lives in Toronto.

Nov. 11, 2017 "Toy hall of fame inductees inspired generations of play": Today I found this article by Carolyn Thompson in the Edmonton Journal:

The board game Clue. In the National Toy Hall of Fame. With the Wiffle Ball and paper airplane.

The mystery of which toys earned the status of toy superstardom was solved Thursday with the announcement of the hall of fame's Class of 2017.

The whodunit game Clue, where players also must name the crime scene and murder weapon, continues to sell millions of copies each year since being patented by a British couple during World War II.

"Clue has also had its own movie, been featured in numerous television shows and books and remains an icon of pop culture," said curator Nicolas Ricketts, who added the game has spun off travel, junior and advanced versions, as well as collectors and themed editions.

The annual hall of fame inductees are chosen on the advice of historians and educators following a process that begins with nominations from the public.

To make the cut, toys must have inspired creative play across generations. Historic and modern versions of the winners are displayed in the hall, which is located inside The Strong museum in Rochester, New York.

This year's other finalists were: the game Risk, Magic 8 Ball, Matchbox cars, My Little Pony, PEZ candy dispenser, play food, sand, Transformers and the card game Uno.

Like Clue, the Wiffle Ball remains a big seller more than six decades after it was invented by a retired semi-pro baseball player in Connecticut whose son had given up on regular backyard baseball for lack of space and too many broken windows.

David Mullany began by cutting holes in round plastic parts from a factory, eventually developing a ball with eight oblong slots that allow the ball to grab air and change and slow its trajectory. A strike-out was called a "wiff," according to the family-owned Wiffle Ball Inc., which has produced millions of balls each year ever since.

Some initially pegged the lightweight ball as a fad, said Stephen Mullany, who with his brother represent the third generation to run the company. He credits its ability to level the playing field despite players' ages and ability with helping to keep it around.

"Here we are 60 plus years later," Mullany said, "so it's pretty neat."

Exactly who made the first paper airplanes is unclear, though artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci gets credit for designing flying machines out of parchment in the 15th century.

"Where some toys require financial investment, paper airplanes start with a simple sheet of paper, coupled with creativity and dexterity, to produce a toy with infinite aeronautical possibilities," said Christopher Bensch, The Strong's vice president for collections. "They allow the imagination to take off and soar."

The trio joins more than 60 other toys that have been inducted into the hall since its opening in 1998.

My opinion: I have the movie Clue on dvd.  I played the game once at my friend Heather's house in like gr. 5 or gr. 6.

My week:

Nov. 18, 2017: All week was really busy.

The highlight of my week:

1. Work: I got to work more hours this week.  It was 30hrs.  That is the minimum of full-time.  It's the holiday season so it's more busy.

2. Social event: I went to one social event this week. It was average.

3. Channel Zero: No- End House: This is the 2nd season of the show.  I got Showcase free preview for a month (October) and they aired all 6 episodes.  It was about teens who enter a haunted house and it transports them to an alternate reality.

It was scary, disturbing, and intense.  It's good.

4. I did 2 job interviews:

One was at a restaurant.

The other was at a jewellery store.  

5. Computer monitor: I got a new one this week.  My dad bought it at Wal- Mart.  My old one stopped working.  I don't know how long I had it for, but for some years.  I went to my garage to check if there is another one.  There was one and it also didn't work.  I tried it a few times.

I got my brother to see if he could fix it and he couldn't.  You can recycle computer monitors at Staples.  You can also recycle pens, batteries, and toners.

Nov. 20, 2017 Heart to Home Meals: I found this while I was looking for a job:

We make the meals so you can make the most of your day.

Relax and enjoy the things you like to do because we’re taking care of the meals. Heart to Home Meals has over 200 frozen meals, soups and desserts to choose from as well as products for special dietary needs. Each is designed by our chef and dietitian, and as a result you get the great flavour and the necessary nutrition. All you have to do is select the meals, order and our friendly drivers will deliver them direct to your home.

Dallas Smith calls out violent fans: I found this in the Edmonton Journal on Nov. 18, 2017: 

Because the violence broke out as he was leaving the stage, he didn't get a chance to call it out but "would have 100 per cent'' if he had an opportunity, Smith said.

"I was disgusted,'' he said. "It was really, really unfortunate that that happened to some guests at my show, that paid to come and see me.''

Some Dawson Creek residents felt Smith had unfairly blamed the whole crowd in his tweet, but he said he was simply calling out bad behaviour.

"It's something I would have commented on if it was last night in Prince George (B.C.) ... if it was in London, Ont., if it was in Vancouver, if it was my hometown show. I don't care where it is.

"It's not up to someone to protect themselves from being victimized. It's up to us as a society to police ourselves and to hold these people who are doing the grabbing and the punching accountable.''

Earlier this week, a viral video taken at a Drake performance in Sydney showed the Toronto rapper interrupt a song to demand that a fan stop groping women in the audience. Smith said he saw the video and commended Drake's actions.

"Good for him,'' he said. "That's the right move. That's all you can do.''

Oct. 25, 2017 "Combating the stigma of AIDS, again": I found this article by Corey Mintz in the Globe and Mail:

Casey House hosts a pop-up restaurant in Toronto staffed by HIV-positive cooks

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