Wednesday, April 5, 2017


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I love podcasts. I don’t have a clever opening line to hook you or something to make you laugh. I genuinely love podcasts. My music intake has plummeted with the rise of my use of podcasts. I first started listening to podcasts during the summer of 2008 whilst doing landscaping with my main man Mathew. Ever since, I try to almost always be listening to someone smarter than me try to teach me something or tell me a story. You’re never alone with podcasts; at least that’s what I tell myself.

Why listen? Well do you like to learn, be entertained, scared or enlightened? There has been a massive explosion of podcasts available to the masses lately which is one reason for this post. What is a podcast? Basically radio on demand covering any subject you can think of. Have a long commute or want to listen to something to help you fall asleep? There’s a podcast for that. Need something to distract you at the gym or something to listen to while your boyfriend talks about his new cute secretary? We’ve got you covered.

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The new hottest podcast right now is called S-Town. From the creators of Serial and This American Life,  they dive deep in a sort of murder/detective kind of vibe. So hot right now.

My personal favourite is If I Were You. I try to listen to each new episode as soon as I get the chance or save a few for a long flight. Readers email in with questions and hilarity ensues. Teacher Bert approved.

Start listening at 2:40.

They also have their own podcast network so if for some reason you don’t like them, you will find something in their network no doubt.

Waking Up podcast with Sam Harris. A hundred times smarter than the majority of the people on planet Earth. He talks and interviews with people about religion, philosophy, Islam, technology, politics and more. If you want to learn from someone who knows what’s up, check him out.

The Bills Simmons podcast is a must for people who love sports and pop culture. Loves the Patriots and Red Sox which can get annoying but tremendous guests and he’s quite knowledgeable.

Freakonomics. Discover the hidden side of everything. From the Freakonomics books, takes economics and applies it to everyday problems.

The Tim Ferris Show. Probably the most useful, actionable content. He’s a multimillionaire who excels at life and he interviews the most successful and good at life people on the planet. Need to check out at least two episodes. Deep dives so give yourself some time.

Ross Tucker Football podcast for those NFL lovers. He’s an ex-player who has great insight and weekly guests. Overall seems like a stand-up guy.

Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin. Alec Baldwin is all you need to know. Just listen.

The Herd with Colin Cowherd. Interesting take on sports and on life. Might be the best radio host in America.

Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell. The man behind The Tipping Point and Outliers is using his unique mind to blow yours away.

Notable mentions go to Hardcore History by Dan Carlin, Entrepreneur On Fire, Missing Richard Simmons is supposed to be entertaining and How I Built This.

Here is a link to some kid friendly podcasts if that is your current life situation:

Check out a few of mine or go head first into something you find enjoyable but at least try one then when you hear people talking about podcasts at the local watering hole, you can give your 2 cents. 

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"Work while they sleep. Learn while they party. Save while they spend. Live like they dream."

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Darkest Teacher

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My darkest teacher taught me that even if you want something extremely badly, the world does not bend to your desires. My darkest teacher has taught me that we shouldn’t rely on others for our own happiness. My darkest teacher has taught me that what our mind thinks and what our hearts seek can be two very different things. My darkest teacher has taught me that you need to be able to feel like you can walk away from any job, person, place or thing. My darkest teacher has taught me that no matter how badly you fight to forget, there are some things your mind won’t let go of. My darkest teacher has taught me that I might be someone’s darkest teacher. My darkest teacher has taught me that it shouldn’t take a stranger walking into your life to make you feel complete. My darkest teacher has taught me to hope to encounter my brightest teacher where we can both learn from each other until the end of time.

Who has been your darkest teacher and have they taught you?

Saturday, April 1, 2017


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Apparently having no money or zero affinity for malls had indirectly turned me towards having minimalism tendencies so I was thrilled to find out I didn’t need to make any drastic changes to reach my new goal of being a minimalist. But Emperor Bert, what is a minimalist?

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupe

It would seem to me that minimalism can take different shapes and adaptations. Minimalism is essentially about everything you owning in your life giving you value. You love collecting old robots to display around the house? Great! Get another one. You just need to have another Dallas Cowboys game worn helmet? Super duper! The key is being able to answer these two questions:

1         1- Can you afford it? Affording it does not just mean not going into debt buying it but also maintaining, storing etc. the item.
      2- Does it add value to your life?

The tipping point in me learning and trying to embrace minimalism came during my trip to Colombia. The night before leaving, my friend Kenora came over to hangout, drive me to the airport in the morning (top notch friend) and also watch me pack whilst we watched The Godfather. Granted, I was in the state of mind of hoping to be in Colombia long term and live there for the next two years so I packed slightly more than I would have normally. Not long after arriving in Colombia, I knew I brought too much stuff. I had one checked bag that is a classic backpack you see on guidebooks. I also had a gym bag completely filled and a school backpack with little to no room left inside. 

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Everywhere I went I had these bags. I took up entire back and front seats of the cabs I procured. It took some of the fun out of my trip to be sure. Every time I contemplated changing hostels or cities I inevitably looked at my bags as dead weight I’d need to lug around on the next leg of the tour. Eventually I was going to a national park/jungle near the sea and the hostel I was staying before leaving let people keep their bags while they were away. I WAS FREE! I still brought too much stuff and left a few things I could have used but net net it was a win.

“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.”
 Swedish Proverb.

After coming home, I promised I wouldn’t make that mistake again. I had heard/read about minimalism before but now I was motivated to make gains. I started listening to a minimalism podcast, watched a documentary on Netflix and their TedTalks. When my quick turnaround to China happened, I was excited to see how few things I could bring. Instead of bringing the three bags I brought to Colombia, I only brought my gym bag and my school backpack. A few pairs of pants, shirts, underwear, socks, my jacket, a few electronics, books, toiletries and a few other miscellaneous items and I was on my way. Granted, I needed to be talked out of bringing the largest book I’ve bought by my brother’s wife but overall, I’m proud that I have been able to live with fewer things.

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(Side note: I only brought 3 pairs of pants I can wear to work and two of them are blue and I wear a blue jacket every day so I look like a blueberry. Another teacher told me the kids have started calling me Blue Man. I bought new clothes this week mainly to shed this slur I’ve been given.)

My apartment barely has anything but I did buy a cheap piece of art from IKEA and I have a Canadian flag that decorates my couch. The students at my school go to a mall almost every Sunday and I want to tell them not to buy things but to embrace experiences but they already think I’m old and out of touch so I might wait to teach them about minimalism till next fall when I have more street cred.

“Love people use things because the opposite never works.”

What about Christmas and birthdays presents? Your Emperor is here to help.
Think about all the gifts you’ve received throughout your entire life. Think about it…….I said THINK ABOUT IT! DETENTION! Oh sorry…force of habit.

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That dress you received? New tires? Your colourful loofah? Eraser? New hair gel? My guess is probably not. You probably remember going to Disney with your family or that fishing trip with your grandpa. We remember experiences not things. I usually gives gifts that I can do with that person or gives them time with someone they like more than me. Books aren’t a bad idea as long as they are minimized after using i.e. given away to someone new. Go to a concert, art show, Wonderland, farmer’s market, skating, snowboarding, scuba diving, geocaching, picnics, sailing and countless other outside exploration ideas. Go on an adventure. I feel like these aren’t radical ideas but it is easier to just buy something that is on someone’s list and move on. I say put a little extra thought and think about what you two could do together or give them an experience to enjoy without you.

“This is your life and it is ending one minute at a time.”

Getting started:


Minimalism documentary on Netflix.

Minimalism articles:
Minimalism podcast:

Minimalism Books:

Everything That Remains-Millburn and Nicodemus
Live a Meaningful Life-Millburn and Nicodemus

If you are against clicking on things, here is another suggestion people use to get started. The 30 day minimalism challenge. Find a friend, family member or lover (preferably not all three in one) and attempt the 30 day minimalism challenge. Each day get rid of that many items.

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Day 1: Get rid of one thing.
Day 2: Get rid of two things.
Day 10: Get rid of ten things.
Day 15: Get rid of fifteen things….etc

Until you’ve reached the end of the month. If you both make it to the end of the month, everyone wins and you’ve gotten rid of around 500 items! Yaaay! Another good way to get started is to ask yourself “How could my life be better with less?” Getting rid of everything then coming home to each room being empty won’t make you happier but maybe not having that clutter or being able to park your car in your garage could add value. The average American household has around 300, 000 items. While you might not make it the thirty days, you could put a big dent into things you don’t need. Donate clothes, toys or books you no longer use. Reconsider if it’s worth paying hundreds of dollars each year for your storage unit to store things you probably aren’t using hence they aren’t in your house. Storage units really grind my gears if you’re wondering.

“You say ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake, if you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” 
Charles Spurgeon

To sum up, if you think this is silly and I’m a wacko, fair enough. If you think you might have a few too many things, start with one area of your house and do what you can. I wish you a minimum amount of luck with your journey.

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“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.”

Jackie French Koller

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pet Peeves

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What gets you? What really gets you? In no particular order, here’s what gets me.

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People who line up mad early in economy to be the first people seated on the flight. What is your hurry? You look silly. I’ve never been unable to put my bag overhead or been told to check my bags. How about you bring less stuff you savage? We are all getting on the same flight people.

Same vein, people who can’t wait to unbuckle their seatbelts, get up, attempt to get their bag then wait in the aisle for 10 minutes staring at each other. One time !a guy who was closer to the window asked if I could get up so he could get his bag. HOW ABOUT YOU LEARN A MILD AMOUT A PATIENCE YOU BAFOON

I’m only half joking when I tell people I would break up with a girlfriend if she was super picky whilst ordering at Subway. I wouldn’t last 30 minutes as a Sandwich Artist. Can I have extra pickles please? A few more…oh that’s too much. I QUIT!

Littering and smokers that treat the Earth like their trash can. I will punch you right in the mouth grandma.

Oh, so you want me to let you in but aren’t going to give me the semi-mandatory wave to acknowledge my driving compassion towards you and your Ford Focus?

You want to touch me with your freezing cold hands? How about I never look, think or talk to you for the rest of eternity?

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Don’t say thank you; I didn’t notice or care.

Sure, swear around your little kid. That seems appropriate and in the best interests of everyone long term.

You’re is equivalent to you are. How many days of class did you miss in elementary, middle and high school? 90%?

Too is tooooooo much or toooooo many things. I get toooooo upset over this.

Having wet hands. It just isn’t right.

Unable to connect to the Wi-Fi.

Losing essentially anything.

Thinking something is completely charged but the battery is dead. Hold me back.

Unsubscribing from emails but the emails don’t stop. Whyyyyyy?

Going out for dinner with a massive group of people then trying to split the bill evenly. I only have 100’s. I only have debit. I forgot my wallet. I’ll be eating alone next time.

People who call me Brett.

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When the dentist asks if I’ve been flossing. We both know the answer to that sir.

When you realize that almost every problem can be solved by making a list and thinking ahead then not ever making lists to get ahead.

Wet socks.

An empty ice cube tray in the freezer. That one gets me good.

Buying meatless meatballs by accident because it seems like they were trying to mislead me.

Not having enough podcasts to listen to.

Having someone constantly switching channels on the radio.

Commercials of any type. Mute, mute, mute. How does that not bother everyone?


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Having to ask for a Wi-Fi password. Just display it somewhere to save us both the hassle.

Paying $3.50 to use an ATM. It has gotten out of hand.

New Zealand.

Hearing both sides of a Skype conversation at a hostel or random spot.

Buy headphones to at least limit one side of this terrible conversation I’m being forced to listen to.

Babies who are out past a reasonable hour. They should be asleep and you should be in jail ma'am.

Brushing off a car filled with ice and snow super early in the snowy winter.

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People who insist on lining up to take an escalator as the stairs go unused. Don’t be lazy.

People who have storage units. Just sell that stuff. You don’t need it.


Needing to repeat myself over and over.

Cold showers.

Pens that don’t work.

Not having my headphones.

People who are generally late or unreliable.

Pitch black by 4pm during the winter.

People who complain other than on pet peeve lists.

Stopping in the middle of the busy stairwell to check you phone.

Driving and cutting in at the last second.

People on EI who work under the table.

Being on hold.

People who don’t believe in facts, research or science.

Needing to constantly use a VPN whilst in China.

Going to Blockbuster and your favourite movie has already been taken.

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Clocks that have the wrong time.

When people are talking about a place then ask “Have you been?” in a tone that I don’t appreciate.

People who drag their feet.

My phone.

Bailing at the last minute.

Talking on the phone whilst buying something and dealing with the cashier. You aren’t that important. I promise.

People who rush you when you are getting your change from the cashier.

Not giving people time or space to get off the elevator or subway. See China.

Deciding whether or not to bring an item, not bringing it then realizing it would have been the perfect thing to bring.

Phone chargers plugged in but not charging anything.

Paper jams, out of ink or out of paper.


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Well that list escalated quickly. I was a little worried I wouldn’t have enough. I did about 90% on my own then did some heavy research for the final 10% which ended up reminding me of even more pet peeves. They vary on how much they actually annoy me and when and where also plays a role. Am I way off or have I overdone it? It’s March Madness everyone! Yeah baby!

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"Money doesn't change you; it reveals who you are when you no longer need to be nice."

Sunday, March 5, 2017


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China. You might have heard a certain TV host and president* talk at great length about my new home. People have asked me if I’m dealing with culture shock but my time in Thailand has prepared for me for what I’ve gotten myself into. China.

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I’m as surprised as you are. Things escalated very quickly. One day I’m applying for jobs in Ontario and a few days later I’m on a flight to Shanghai. Why? (direct flights people!) Full time work as a high school English teacher with flights and apartment paid for and the ability to save enough money to get myself out of a little financial jam I willingly got myself into the last ten years. If you gradually spend even a little more money that you earn each year, it really gets you BUT we will stay positive and make a plan. I’ve never particularly cared about saving money due to the fact that I’ve never really made any significant amount of money at any of the jobs I’ve had but I feel like I missed the point in high school. Like DMX says, “Life ain’t a track meet, it’s a marathon.” I felt like I needed a few home runs to become financially well off when I should have been trying for singles, doubles and even the occasional bunt. If only my dad would have warned me and try to instill a love of saving in me…..

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Well we can get rid of one of those jars

I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty of my plan to become a financial mogul or my dreams of becoming a minimalist (ok the second one you will be hearing about) but I will let you into the window that is Shanghai. I live about 35k outside of the core in a rich suburb called Fengxian. I have a two bedroom, one bath, kitchen and decent sized living room that I rock alone and is a nice glimpse into a future of living and dying alone that is unfolding in front of me. I’m on the second floor which helps me avoid taking the smoked filled elevator each morning and evening. Did you know that smoking is still a thing? I come home sometimes reeking of smoke; not the best. My apartment is about a 10 minute drive to the school and there is a van that takes me and a few other teachers to the school every day. I’m looking at bikes to buy because it is healthier and I’m like a little kid who needs a bike to feel independent and not trapped. There are a few malls and cheap places to eat $2-3 dinner nearby. We live right by a river but I can only assume it would mean instant death going within a few meters of it. It isn’t as serious or a strict as I imagined mainland China being which has been a positive development.

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I go to Shanghai proper on the weekends which ends up taking just under an hour depending on how I get into the city but the bus is cheap cheap but good good so that looks like the way I will be entering the city from here on out. There are essentially zero other non-Chinese people in my suburb but certainly thousands more in real Shanghai. Not a ton but definitely a presence. I played lacrosse for the first time Saturday and I’m thinking about making it part of my Saturday morning routine. I’d get to learn a new sport and have access to a huge amount of expats which I am in desperate need of due to the fact that I may or may feel quite lonely. Again, good practice for what is coming.

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My initial thoughts on the food are not spectacular. I found a few dishes I like and my Instragram is quickly looking more and more like an Insta foodie personality but I will try to reign that in in the coming weeks. I think it’s easy to like China but I feel like it might be a hard country to fall in love with. Things I need:
3-Possibly Lacrosse equipment
4-A basketball
That doesn’t seem unreasonable, right?

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What else, what else…? Apparently you shouldn’t drink the water. There’s no Uber here but something less fun and less convenient instead. Buildings exist but many are empty and a few security measure seem only for show. Using Google and Instagram and other sites is a major pain because I need to pay for a VPN and it takes just a few extra minutes each time but that is going to slowly build all my rage that will be unleashed on an undeserving soul. Oh and I’m on my way to being famous:

There’s a Disney amusement park here that I will be sure to be writing a post about. It is my understanding it is illegal to gamble here which might explain why so many guests are in the Niagara Falls casinos. There aren’t any country bars here. Sad face. Bands come here. Some alcohol is supposedly fake which worries me. China is massive and very close to my one true love, Thailand. I may or may not have my next 4 vacations planned out. I was under the impression I had a slight affinity for ladies from this part of the world; I was incorrect. Shanghai has 14 metro lines. 14. 

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 I’m not far from going on a YouTube deep dive on wedding proposal videos. Not being able to speak, write or understand Chinese is going to be an issue. Being back in a place with cheap massages and beard shaves is refreshing. I heard that there is a pretty good wall around here that I should go find when I have the time. Ping Pong is no joke here. I like the show Riverdale more than I care to admit. 

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I enjoy going to work and I’m happy that I’m here. I need a routine and to eat more fruit and be more active but my sleep and reading levels are high and I’m cautiously optimistic I’m in the right place. China.

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"The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you."

Monday, February 20, 2017

So I live in China now

Shanghai Night City Wallpaper

Who saw this coming? Not I. Not I. At the turn of the New Year, I had the next two and a half years laid out in front of me. Go to Colombia, find a job till the summer then start working at an international school in the fall for a two year contract. Set it and forget it. I should have known I didn’t have life figured out. The biggest surprise from all of this and an option I frankly never considered was not enjoying Colombia/South America. Granted I only visited Colombia for just over three weeks but the time spent there left me anticipating my return flight home and essentially no desire to find a country I found more suitable. Maybe I would have fallen in love with Peru or Chile but I may rely more on my gut instinct than I should and my gut and heart was telling me I didn’t belong there and that I’d be happier at home.

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Colombia isn’t a terrible or incredibly dangerous place but it’s not the best and safe wouldn’t be the first would I would use to describe it. I never got robbed or go into a situation that made me fearful but a few friends got robbed and I also felt like I needed to look over my shoulder or be careful not to bring my wallet out or worried they would steal my not so modern phone that they would ultimately regret taking from me. It is more than possible that I could have moved there for two plus years and nothing negative would have happened to me but it wasn’t a chance I was interested in discovering the outcome to. On the positive side, Minca is worth visiting and was once filled with guerilla fighters who now drive you up the mountain on their motorcycles. I stayed on a coffee plantation and did a coffee tour, went on a little hike and ate delicious food. The mud “volcano” was the other highlight and fully recommended.

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Other small details that I didn’t love was feeling that Medellin was possibly more overrated than New Zealand. Almost. I don’t get it. Yes it has good public transportation and cable cars. Yes they have a rich area for foreigners and has an eternal spring climate but I didn’t find the nightlife as outrageous as advertised and the food didn’t blow me away. Overall, I’d give Colombia a B for effort and while it’s trendy to fall in love with Colombia, it just didn’t speak to me. If you have an inkling that it is for you, I definitely think you should make it happen but I’d also leave some room for exploring a few other neighbouring countries whilst you’re there.

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Other general thoughts on Colombia before this turns into a blog about all things Chinese is that I obviously knew that they spoke Spanish but I was under the impression some Colombians could speak English. They cannot. When a few of us were taking a mini-van/small bus to Guatape, (also worth visiting) I noticed they sell more tickets than they have seats so you have literally women and children sitting down in the aisle; it’s madness. Also on said buses, men will come on with dozens of treats and try selling them to you. Not overly delicious. You want drugs? Don’t worry, a thousand people will try to sell them to you….constantly. They have green fire hydrants! I brought my massive orange pack, my day bag and a fairly big gym bag with me to Colombia which was wayyyyy too much stuff. For China, I only brought my day bag and gym bag and carried both bags on. I’m on a minimalist mission and you’ll be hearing all about that later. Hint: less is more people! (Luckily being poor and without a home has naturally led me towards the path of minimalism)

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I will leave it at that and make a more complete Bert moves to Shanghai post later on in the week but I’m still alive and think things are going to be OK. Stay tuned.

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“The best way to meet someone is to have something better to do than meeting someone.”