Not To Be Trusted With Knives

{December 28, 2008}   Mi Navidad Mexicana

My Christmas vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico went a little something like this:

10:45 a.m. Wake up1.
10:55 a.m. Arrive at breakfast buffet restaurant.  Acquire coffee, refried beans, papaya and pineapple. Big decision of the day #1: French toast, omelette or fried eggs.
11:30 a.m. Grab beach towels. Apply sunscreen. Order non-stop delivery of Coca-Cola Light2 with a slice of lime from poolside server.
11:35a.m. Lay in sun. Alternate between reading, chatting with people and swimming. Reapply sunscreen as needed.
2:00 p.m. Have lunch, where lunch = french fries, onion rings, nachos with fresh guac and salsa.  And Coca-Cola Light.
2:30 p.m. Tod’s naptime. Big decision of the day #2: Decide between having a nap, reading, or going for a walk on the beach.
5:00 p.m. Nap (if not already napping)
6:30 p.m. Shower.  Dress up pretty.
8:00 p.m. Big decision of the day #3: where to have dinner.
10:30 p.m. Go to the disco, possibly followed by hot tub.
2:00 a.m. Order sandwiches from room service.
2:45 a.m. Re-order sandwich because they put bacon on my vegetarian sandwich.
3:15 a.m. Sleep.

Repeat for six days.

Seriously, I could get used to a life like that.

Highlights of the trip:

  • Los Cabos is gorgeous. Gorgeous!
  • The people we met were very friendly. Friendly!
  • Being a Vancouverite, I’m not used to sunshine, especially not in December.  Los Cabos was sunshine-y almost the entire time.
  • In Los Cabos, I didn’t have to think about work at all.
  • Standing on the beach, listening to the waves break3 and feeling myself sink into the sand as the waves rolled in and then back out.
  • 3 a.m. room service sandwiches. So. Tasty.

Lowlights of the trip:

  • Apparently, I’m the first vegetarian to ever set foot in Mexico.  To the point that on Christmas Eve, I was told that they couldn’t make me anything for dinner. After talking with one of the guest services peeps (who said, “Oh, would you like them to make you something special?” to which I replied, “No4, I just want something vegetarian!”) they agreed to make me… a salad. Because, you know, us freaks only ever eat salad. And who wouldn’t want a salad for Christmas dinner? In the end, I  managed to convince them to give me both the salad and a turkey dinner, hold the turkey.
  • Sitting in the San Jose del Cabos airport writing this blog posting. Our flight was supposed to have left 5:30 p.m. and it’s now, as I type this, 8:30 p.m.  The plane we were supposed to be on hadn’t even left Phoenix by 5:30 p.m. And apparently they can’t get us any other plane. And so now we are scheduled to leave here at 9:20 p.m. Which is going to make it rather difficult to make our 8:59 p.m. connection from Phoenix to Vancouver. So. Looks like I’ll be staying either in Phoenix (given that the 8:59 p.m. is the last Phoenix to Vancouver flight of the day) or here in Cabos5 (if this stupid plane decides never to arrive).

Books Read on This Trip:

  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (start to finish)6
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks (about one-third of the book)
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn (about half a page)
  • Research Design by Creswell (the chapters I hadn’t yet read) and Conducting & Reading Research in Health & Human Performance by Baumgartner & Hensley (bits and pieces – since I’ve been stuck in this airport)

Things I Learned On My Trip:

  • Spray on sunscreen, which starts out invisible, turns green. The towel you lay on while wearing said sunscreen will look like it has grass stains on it.
  • Coffee whitener is highly flammable7.
  • Broken bones don’t hurt until you move them8.
  • Los Cabos airport appears to be a tent.

1Important, as they stop serving breakfast at 11 a.m.
2Which is what they call Diet Coke in Mexico. I didn’t see diet Pepsi anywhere.
3Of course, being a Vancouverite, I can easily get to the ocean. This was a reminder that I should make a point of doing so more often.
4Seriously. I’m not asking for the moon here. I’m like, “just give me the veggies from the turkey dinner, hold the turkey!”
5Kicking myself for joking in my last blog posting about deciding to stay in Mexico. Staying sounded nice, but not if it means staying in the airport!
6Thanks to Sarah & Dave, who gave this to me for Christmas.
7Didn’t actually have the opportunity to see this in action, but we were assured that it is true.
8Didn’t learn this firsthand, but one of the people we were hanging out with broken his toe playing beach volleyball. I was sure it was just dislocated, given that it didn’t hurt and bones have lots of nerves in them. But when the doctor showed up, he said it was broken (as he was able to move the joints normally, meaning the joints couldn’t be dislocated) and that it didn’t hurt because it wasn’t moving.

Re. footnote 7: Confirmed by Mythbusters (and many others). Lots of everyday powders (e.g. flour) are flammable if aerosolized, i.e. mixed with a lot of air. Put another way: A cloud of non-dairy coffee creamer powder is flammable, a cup of it is not.

I don’t blame you about the half a page of Kuhn. 🙂

What did you think of Outliers? I am about 3/4 of the way through and I am annoyed as apparently only men are outliers…

Sarah says:

I am glad that you had fun, and hope that you get home soon!

I, too, want to know what you thought of Outliers. I LOVED it; I had a different take than shistzustaff. Gladwell is citing recent research in the social sciences, plus what he feels are compelling and illustrative cases (like in the 10,000 hours chapter). I thought that the Beatles, Bill Gates and Bill Joy stories were great examples. And I really liked the final outlier story (about a woman).

Ahh – Coca Cola Light. You will find that it isn’t just Mexico where that is its name. Almost all non-English speaking countries call it that. The “diet” concept doesn’t seem to translate well in any other language.

I liked the book and I found it interesting. I am glad to hear that there is a story on a woman. I think his theories make a lot of sense. I just wish he had tried a little harder to be a bit more balanced.

@shihtzustaff what would be “balanced” to you? 50% males, 50% females? That would take care of gender balance, but others might want geographic balance, race/ethnicity balance, a balance of individuals with different political/philosophical viewpoints, etc.

Beth says:

I’m thinking that the paucity of female “outliers” in the book might actually reflect what is being talked about in the book. Being a success is not just hard work or just inheriting the right genes – a lot of it has to do with circumstances/society/opportunity. Plus the whole needing 10,000 hours of practice to really become an expert. And since women have typically had fewer opportunities (e.g., being expected to keep house/raise kids makes it difficult to get those 10,000 hours in), wouldn’t we expect fewer female outliers?

shihtzustaff says:

I think you are on to something there Beth. Historically, women worked in the needle trades, for example, but did not have the same opportunities due to other responsibilities.

I think Gladwell could have looked harder for female outliers – what about some women hockey players? If in fact he could not find any it would have been good for him to mention what might have caused such a dearth of women in the outliers ranks.

Jan – what would have satisfied me? Well, I guess an attempt at finding some women outliers. Discussing why there were not as many women as men who reach that status. It seems like, in typical male fashion, he has not even recognized that there is an issue. As 50% of the human race I think we have a right to see ourselves represented in books like these. Certainly there are women playing all sorts of elite sports so that would have been easy for him to locate female outliers there. Due to historical timing he may not have found any professional women, like the lawyers, as that would not have been an acceptable profession for a woman at the time. I would not wanted to see tokenism though. Are there not female pilots or female members of flight crews? The problem with a book like this is that it is, in a way, a self-fulfilling prophecy. People read it, conclude that men are outliers and therefore men get more opportunities. I am simplifying it for sure but it irks me when something is broken down along gender lines due to, I am assuming, laziness on his part. I am sure there are women outliers. Highly educated women who have spent 10,000 hours doing something more than housework. Beth has a Ph. D, I have a Masters in history – not that this makes me an outlier by any stretch of the imagination. One area where I excel was the practical intelligence he was talking about. If there is a way to get it done and I really want it done I will prevail.

Beth, Jan – did it not bother you that women were almost completely ignored in this book? Do you believe women can be outliers as well?

Beth says:

You know, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but until you pointed it out, I hadn’t actually noticed that there was only one female outlier discussed in the book (have you read the end of the book yet? Don’t want to spoil it). Which is odd for me, because I usually notice that kind of thing right away (I run a training program in which sex/gender is one of the foci, and I usually have it top of mind).

I agree with you that I wouldn’t want a token mention of a female, but a discussion about if he’d considered female outliers/had trouble finding female outliers and why this was so would have been better. I got the impression from the book that he was making a case that since environment/society is so important, we really should be opening up more opportunities (e.g., having more than one hockey league with different cut off dates would allow those born in the end of the year a chance to get the opportunities that those born in January get), so if it was the case that females have had less opportunities come their way, then we really should be recognizing and rectifying that.

shihtzustaff says:

I noticed it about 1/2 way through. I would also argue that the last chapter was much more about race and racism than it was about a female outlier.

Honestly I think Gladwell was lazy. He could have found female outliers in predominantly female professions like nursing for example. The fact that he does not mention the lack of them indicates to me that he didn’t consider it. Maybe I will try and email him…LOL

I haven’t read the book. I don’t know the examples in it. I’ve read some of the promotional material about the book. I’ve also read and heard reviews that say it’s the weaker of his three recent books, with a rather obvious point.

@shihtzustaff: I’m not going to justify or excuse my having dared to compare gender inequality with other forms of inequality. I just raised a damned point: You looked at a small sample of data and saw a pattern of gender imbalance, others might have seen patterns of racial imbalance, geographic imbalance, etc. And they’d probably all be right. The history of our modern, western world is dominated by white men – modern history by rich white men and older history by white male clerics or white men from noble families.

That last chapter’s not much of a riddle. A non-white, female “outlier” in a book written for a US audience? Hi Oprah!

Yeah, the book sounds intellectually lazy.

[…] Knives {January 3, 2009}   For the record, I took 7 pairs of shoes on my trip Before my trip, I was having discussions about the appropriate number of shoes to take with me.  The general […]

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