Monday, November 13, 2006

I’m Standing In Fog

High atop the city, in my high-rise home above the clouds, I feel the clouds wrap around me. Tonight I stood in the fog. Really.

Up on the second-highest floor of my building, my apartment has the best views of the city. I can see all the way to the lake in the south, and way up past the city’s borders up to the north.

Most of the time.

Tonight, the sky is covered in a murky thick fog.

I went out on my balcony, because the fog was so thick. I have never seen it quite this thick. It has been thick before, but not like this.

Then it occurred to me, hey, I’m standing in the fog. I really am. I can feel the droplets of water making up the clouds swimming around me. I can see the fog all around me. It was as if I was floating on a cloud – aside from my concrete balcony below.

Awesome. I was standing in the fog. It was an eerie feeling being in the fog. Sort of like being trapped in a bad b-movie horror flick, only this was real. I half expected some zombie or Buffy the Vampire slayer to come jumping out from nowhere.

But it turns out, all was quiet way up in the midst of the fog. I think I’ll go back out there, just to be in the clouds again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Isolation of Homework

My current client allows me the comfort to work at home. At least, that’s the way they described it. My typical day is filled with the occasional email, and not much else in terms of communication from the client.

Sounds like paradise, right?

No boss hanging over your shoulder, constantly bugging you to get your ass in gear. No office gossip, and none of that office politics.

However, it is actually quite lonely working from home.

I don’t like office gossip. Those who have all the time to talk poorly about someone else have too much time and not enough work. And I can’t stand office politics – people kissing someone’s ass to get that much anticipated big promotion.

But when you remove all the contact from the office, and reduce it to a mere handful of emails, you realize how alone in the world you are.

Granted, my current client is a little too carefree for me. I don’t like having someone constantly watching my every move. But, the client should have enough self interest in their invested dollars to at least call me every week and ask for a progress report.

I have gone weeks on this contract without talking to a single person.

I’m wrapping up this contract and I am looking forward to getting back out in the working world of the living.

We human beings are social animals – or so Darwin and many anthropologists tell us. Working all by oneself without any form of human contact, I can see why.

The isolation of being surrounded by nothing more than the voices in one’s head is all the proof I need. Guess I’ll just have to learn how to tolerate the office gossip, and live with the politics of an office.

That’s a small price to pay, for a little human contact at work.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Advice to Peter Jacobson – Less Is More

I just finished watching the King Kong. Nope, not the classic with famed screamer Fay Wray, this was the recent re-make staring Naomi Watts as the screaming babe.

I remember the original. It was a classic love story with the now famous tragic twist. A beautiful babe falls in love with a grotesque scary monster.

Peter Jacobson directed this re-make – you probably know him from his other major theatrical releases, the Lord of the Rings movies.

Jacobson did a wonderful job turning a classic into a Jurassic Park-like monster movie. The monster effects were even more realistic, with a full range of dinosaurs on the island where King Kong called home. The effects were amazing to watch, and the way they were incorporated with real-life actors was stunning.

Naomi Watts is hot – she can be my screaming babe any day.

Problem with this movie – as with the Lord of the Rings movies – was length. I was never a big fan ‘the rings.’ But I saw one of the movies, and afterwards I felt it was four hours of my life wasted.

Jacobson suffers the same fate with King Kong – the movie was over three hours long. I enjoyed watching the movie, it kept my attention throughout and I enjoyed comparing it to the original.

BUT, if I hadn’t been watching at home, from the Movienetwork onDemand, I’d probably not have enjoyed it. I probably wouldn’t have sat through all three hours straight. As it was, being onDemand, I paused it several times to get up, stretch, grab a snack, make dinner and other distractions which kept me coming back.

Less is more Jacobson. Less is more. Give us all the effects, the screaming babes, the love story with the tragic twist, but leave us wanting more. By creating mammoth length movies, I seriously question your story-telling abilities.

The best story tellers know how to edit something down into interesting and manageable bits – why don’t you?

Monday, October 30, 2006

New Year’s Bash

The year is winding down and that means P A R T Y!

Yeppers – I’m planning my New Year’s bash. But wait, Halloween is just a day a way, and we haven’t even talked about the Xmas holidays.


Halloween is cool when you’re a kid. Dressing up, running around from neighbor to neighbor gathering candy. But once you hit adulthood, Halloween is pretty lame. I don’t want to be one of those old geezers handing out candy to kids. And I’m too old to get dressed up and run around the neighborhood.

So Halloween doesn’t mean much too me.

I actually kind of feel sorry for parents forced to drag their screaming kids around the neighborhood. Sure, they say they enjoy watching their kids have fun gathering treats – but deep down they are bound to be tired, sore and probably wishing it would all just be a distant memory.

Xmas holidays are pleasant times for friends and family. Giving and getting gifts, time of work, and can’t forget Egg Nog with a touch of rum. Maybe add a bit more of a touch of rum. A bit more . . . ahh that’s good stuff.

But the real celebrating at the end of the year is the end of the year – or at least it is too me. New Year’s brings friends together, loads of food, and plenty of booze.

And New Year’s is filled with traditions rooted deep down in my growing up. Sure, the other year-end holidays have some traditional components, but nothing like New Year’s.

Who can forget huddling around the boob-tube, flipping between Dick Clark’s New York City Ball Drop and the CityTV Annual New Year’s Eve Bash at Nathan Phillips Square? Who can forget the big countdown?

New Year’s is the party of the year. That’s why I’m already excitedly planning what to do.

Let’s see – what to do?

It might be nice to go out to dinner with friends and then back to my place and watch the countdown. Then again I could host the whole shebang, complete with food and drink. Could go downtown and enjoy the ambiance of the crowds.

Whatever I do with my friends this New Year’s one thing is for certain – it will be the party of the year.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Any Schmoe Can Vote

We’re in the midst of a municipal election here in Toronto, and politicians – as always – make their never-to-happen election promises.

Though one of the latest election promises has got my nerves in a tizzy.

Toronto mayor David Miller says if he’s elected, he’ll reform the election act so that landed immigrants can vote. Currently, only Canadian citizens can vote.

Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. We enjoy the benefits of having the best of many worlds.

But allowing people who aren’t citizens to vote, is wrong. It sends the wrong message to potential candidates – those running and those who may one day contemplate running – for office.

As you have to be a citizen to vote, guess what – you have to be a citizen to hold office. You can’t be prime minister, premier or even mayor, unless you are a full-blown Canadian citizen.

But, if you allow landed immigrants the right to vote, yeah – you got it – we’d end up a country run by someone elses’ agenda. No nation on earth currently allows someone to rule, unless that person holds citizenship in said land. These days, when someone takes the controls and they don’t have citizenship, we call that war.

I’m not saying that landed immigrants – or any immigrants – are bad. But if an immigrant wants to be ruler of our great land, I think they should show some interest in it first. Apply to become a citizen, and, if you are so honored, then – and only then – may you run for prime minister, premier or mayor.

Hey, if I had to learn who was Canada’s first prime minister in high school (Sir John A. MacDonald), I think it is only fair that someone with the hopes and dreams to one day vote, and maybe even run this place, know who was first in those very hard to fill shoes.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Shhh . . . It is Like Breaking Into the Fort Knox

Finding work these days is like breaking into freaking Fort Knox. It used to be, you’d be offered a job based on a quick reference check – occasionally they didn’t even call the references.

These days, not only do they want your references before they even pick you from all the other candidates, they ask for criminal background checks, credit checks, intelligence tests, psychological profiling, aptitude tests. . . FUCK what’s next, asking to pierce me with a needle to get some of my DNA?

I don’t mind doing two or three interviews, and I certainly don’t mind a reference check – provided I have been selected for the gig and they aren’t just checking everyone elses references cart blanche.

As a contractor, I often get put through all the same hurdles that any other job seeker has – only I get it more often. I’m always interviewing for my next contract – so after a while you start to develop a thick skin.

Today for example, I interviewed some professional development association that requires someone with my skill set for a year-long engagement. The interview went very well, they asked all the right questions, showing me they knew what they wanted and were looking for the right characteristics in the right fields. I answered their questions well, and they were impressed with my wit and wisdom.

They explained that they would check everyone’s references, and those who’s references were solid, may – MAY – get called back for a second interview, and possibly even a third if the choices were very close.

FUCK! Double whammy!

They want to check references to see if I am worthy of INTERVIEWING further? That doesn’t even come close to narrowing the field of candidates.

They asked if I had brought my references. I had my laptop with me, and they were on the laptop. But I told them I hadn’t, but I could email them the references – I lied.

I have no intention of emailing references to some bozo so that they may call me back for a second and possibly a third interview. If they wanted to offer me a contract contingent upon a successful check of my references – fine – that’s standard practice.

But to simply toss me back into the ring with all the other contenders, that doesn’t justify bothering my very busy professional references.

My references are exceptional people. I have used them many times, and they have always come through. Every time I have submitted my references to someone who has already offered me work, I have landed that work.

However, I have noticed that when I have submitted my references for work without a firm offer, I have never won the prized contract. My hunch is, companies which ask for references up front do so as a standard procedure, and they either don’t contact them, or if they do, they are calling everyone’s references, regardless of whether or not they are really interested all of those people.

Fucking amateurs – acting all professional saying they need references to offer someone a contract. Offer me the contract first, contingent on a reference check – that’s professionalism at its finest.

So, if someone ever asks you for something out of the ordinary at a job interview, unless you are desperate for work, tell them to fuck off. Don’t take their crap – real professionals don’t dish crap out period.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Weirdos Nutballs and Me

Why are all the nutballs attracted to me? Or so it seems – they often flock my way.

When I first moved into my apartment a year ago, the guy a few apartments down from mine came over to say hi and introduce himself. I thought it was a nice gesture and it is good to know one’s neighbors.

He soon began approaching me often, to hang out, and talk. He was trying to be my friend. I thought that was nice, and tried to be his friend too.

We hung out, went out to bars and restaurants occasionally, he even met my immediate family and some friends. Things were okay, though he seemed to have a few oddities about him. But hey, none of us are completely normal, so I let it slide.

Some of his odd character traits were even impressive – wherever we went, he managed to chat up some member of the opposite sex. He is single, and he was hitting on these women – and he even showed some progress. Although he never got any serious dates out of these conversations, he did make these women smile and laugh, which isn’t all that bad.

Still, he had some oddball ideas, which were all the more scary because he was serious in these ideas. One idea he had, was for me to sell my unused parking spot to someone else to make money. Obviously, this is wrong and I didn’t do it – it isn’t my parking spot to sell, not to mention it would give some stranger access to our building. Still, this character was quite serious in this endeavor – he even had some one lined up for me to sell my parking spot too.

Another brainchild of his was to join him at work. He took a job in some call center, working for not even half what I make in my daily job. He said I should give him a resume and join him – it was fun and easy work.

I did some call center work years ago and never liked it. They pay crap, treat their staff like crap, and most people who work in call centers get out of it as fast as they go in. The turn-over in those jobs is outrageously high, mainly because it just isn’t a nice normal nine to five gig. Call centers usually try to catch people when they are at home, so the hours are usually when most people are at home. Which means the hours of work are usually when your friends and family are free, so if you work in a call center, you never get to see them – because you are working.

Most call center jobs are held by teenagers, the college or university students, or the working poor. So, if you’re over 25 and you work in a call center, chances are you have skipped out on any chances of having a productive life – because you are the working poor.

So, naturally, I despise call centers and would never work in them again. I didn’t voice my distain for call centers with my friend, as he seemed to really enjoy his job, but I did make it clear I wasn’t interested.

Now, if he was a friend, he should have accepted my answer. Nope, he kept on selling his job, and asking me to give him a resume. I kept telling him no thanks – I think it is great that he loves his job so much, but I just wasn’t interested.

For a whole month, every time I’d run into him, he’d ask me for a resume. He sometimes even seemed mad. A couple times he told me “I don’t see why you just don’t give me a resume.” Why should I give someone a resume for a job I am not interested in?

This went on for a month. I started to avoid him as I really didn’t want to get into another discussion about why I wasn’t going to give him a resume. The situation got so bad, I even asked a group of strangers on an online community what to do. Imagine asking strangers how to handle someone who claims to be your friend.

Then, one day, he comes on over – unannounced as always – and tells me things aren’t going so great at work. They are starting to put pressure on him to make more calls and it is starting to get to him. I am relieved, as now I will not be hounding me to hand in a resume.

I think the issue is done, and let him in, to join me and my brother. We watched a movie on the movie network, had some cake, talked, and joked around. It was nice.

Then he asked me for money.

He didn’t ask for a lot of money – only $40. It isn’t the money that bugs me -- $40 isn’t much, you can’t even buy much these days for $40. It is more the type of person he is – needy. Too needy.

I moved into my place a year ago this month – so I have known this person a whole year already. In all that time, he has never been stable financially. He has gone from one McJob to another, trying desperately to make ends meet.

In many ways I feel for him – I do. But in many others I really can’t stand him. If I knew him for many years, and he just happened to have a bad one, fine, I’d understand. But I only have known him for a year, and he has never demonstrated the potential to be anything to anyone in all that time. He’s been living off the kindness of his friends, because he hasn’t had a real job.

It is okay – even understandable – to struggle your first few years out on your own. But I’ve been living on my own for quite some time. I have gone through some rough periods where I wondered where my next pay cheque would come from. But I have always bounced back – managing to get work in my field.

I distance myself from those who mooch off others because eventually they will mooch off of me. I can’t afford to pay for someone else’s life – I have my own to lead.

So, I started to distance myself from this person. I stopped returning his calls, never answered the door when he came over, and essentially avoided him at all costs.

He creeped me out. He made me feel uncomfortable with his hairbrain borderline legal scams, his pathetically desperate attempts at getting a date, and his continuous griping about how he’s always in debt, can never afford something as basic as going out for drinks, and is always working to make ends meet.

I had enough of this, so I cut him off.

Then, oddly, I started getting calls on my cell from PRIVATE. I don’t know anyone named PRIVATE. Yesterday, PRIVATE left me a message. It was Mr. Creepy, telling me that he’s been busy too, but as still made the effort to call, the least I could do is the same. I’ve been avoiding Mr. Creepy now for a month – you’d figure most normal people would get the message and say “his loss” and move on.

Not Mr. Creepy – I had my parents over for dinner tonight, and he kept banging on the door for a couple of minutes. I had to tell my parents this whole tale and my mom agreed with me – she said he was creepy. Then he slid a note through my mail slot.

Hallelujah! Finally this nutbar gets the message. Maybe he’ll leave me alone and move on. Took him long enough – only a whole month of nagging voice-mails, uninvited interruptions to my life at my door.

I didn’t read it, my mom did and she told me he was “bad news” and sounds like he’s “trouble.” The note just said that he’s been trying to talk to me, and he thinks I have been avoiding him because of his request for $40. He wants an explanation, but if I don’t call him soon, he’ll just not consider me a friend.

I remember a couple women I dated years ago (at separate times obviously) that followed the same path after our breakup. These women had some nasty run-ins with men. One had been cheated on, and mentally and physically abused, the other had all those things, and she was also raped by a past boyfriend.

So, these women had some baggage, that I thought wouldn’t affect our relationship, so I tried to date them anyways. It didn’t work in either case, and after a couple of dates, I just stopped talking to them. We never got serious, and it was only a couple of dates. Normally, the standard approach to ending the “relationship” was avoidance.

It happened to me on the odd occasion, where I’d go out with a woman, and after a while, she just never called back. Although I felt sad, and wondered why, I took the hint and moved on with my life. I didn’t continue to leave “why aren’t you calling me” voice-mails. I certainly never showed up at their homes unannounced waiting to spring on them.

These women with all the baggage, when I stopped calling back, they too acted like my nutbar of a friend. They continued to call, leaving messages of pain, angst and wonder. They didn’t show up unannounced at my door, but one of them did leave me a rather odd letter in my mailbox, telling me she loved me, and wanted to make things work. I still wonder how she could have fallen in love with me after only a couple of dates.

It took a while, but eventually these women stopped calling. Took a long time, and there were moments where I wondered if I could ever live in peace without their constant pestering. But eventually they got the message.

I’m hoping that this letter is the last attempt of Mr. Creepy’s to get in touch with me. He’s got the message, and he doesn’t like it. Now it is up to him to get over it and move on.

People with issues often take time to clue into reality. Hopefully he’ll get over his issues, so that reality doesn’t completely leave him – otherwise he’ll really go crazy one day. I think the term is “postal.”

I don’t wish any harm on him – but I do hope he gets professional psychological help soon. He really needs it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Homework – Or Working From Home

As a consultant, I usually go to my client’s site and work with them in their offices. It involves a lot of traveling all over, from client site to client site, but I get to see how many different companies operate.

Some companies are very corporate, with people in suits and ties, then there are others where blue jeans are the workwear of the office. Some companies have big huge entrance ways, with big reception desks, colorful cafeterias, and warm colors in the halls. Others are dingy, dark and everyone has their teeny-tiny cubicle to hide in while doing their work.

One of my current contracts is a work-from-home gig. This isn’t the first time I have worked from home, but it has been a while. I don’t usually like working from home, I like to separate work life from personal home life. When you work at home, it is all to easy to allow your personal life to invade your work life and vice versa.

Still, there are some advantages to working from home. Although I have a 9am conference call tomorrow, I don’t have to get up extra early to beat rush hour – I’m already at the office when I wake up in the morning. I don’t even have to shower or shave – who’s going to know what I look like at home, while I’m on the phone?

I can take real lunch breaks. Often while working on-site, it is almost impossible to take a full hour-long lunch, as everyone is so busy they just work through lunch. Not when you work from home – I can take the time to cook myself a real meal, and sit down and enjoy it.

That’s another benefit to working from home – home cooking. I do take my lunch to client sites, but often the temptation to eat out is so great, I’ll grab some fast food, or if there is time, go to a sit-in restaurant. Eating out is fun, but can add up if you do it often. And it is nice to cook your own food fresh.

There are some downsides I’m finding to working from home. The big one is I use my own materials to do the work. My own paper spools out of the printer, my own telephone lines to make long distance calls, my own ink cartridges and so on.

But these costs are either expensed to my client, or added into my hourly rate upon calculation of my week’s work. So I make them back – sort of. I still have to go out and buy paper, ink and other supplies, to replace the ones I have used.

It is actually kind of nice working from home. There is none of that office politics to put up with, none of the water cooler gossip, and I don’t have to worry about what I look like while I work – I can type out my work while in nothing more than undies and socks.

Comfy and cozy at the office never had it so good.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Gobble Gobble Gobble

This is the Thanksgiving weekend, and even if you don’t celebrate the religious aspects of the holiday, chances are you will encounter some turkey, somewhere.

Turkeys abound this time of year.

Like the seemingly sweet little old lady that ran into me with her shopping cart while I was out grocery shopping. She did not say she was sorry, she didn’t say anything at all. She just kept on walking by, as if nothing had happened.

Then there are door-to-door sales people. I often wonder how they get into my access-controlled apartment building. You need a toggle passkey to open any outside doors to get in. And there is a clear sign telling people “No Solicitors” – but I guess if you have to go door-to-door to sell your crap, you can’t be all that intelligent. Never heard of Ford, GM, Microsoft or any of the other big names in business selling their stuff door-to-door. Imagine buying a car from some door-to-door salesperson?

Even in my own building, there are some turkeys living here. When I go to do laundry, there is this one woman, who uses ALL the machines at the same time. There must be at least 20 washing machines and the same number of dryers, yet this woman is always using all of ‘em. I can’t for the life of me figure out how many people she has in her apartment, but it must be a lot to generate that many dirty clothes. “Don’t worry, I’ll be done soon,” she often says when she sees me looking at all the taken machines. I’d like to put her head on the block, and chop it off – just like a turkey.

Oh well, at least the turkey I’m making tomorrow won’t have any bite to it. I enjoy cooking and I make a good turkey dinner. There will be turkey, stuffing, roasted potatoes, cranberry sauce and of course desert. Can’t forget the desert – I got a fresh honey crumble apple pie. Mmm . . . I can taste it now.

The best part about cooking up a turkey dinner is the smell – my whole home smells like turkey for most of the day and into the week. And then of course, there are leftovers – turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey smoothies. . .

Maybe leftovers go too far . . .

Happy Turkey Day!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Pizza Hangouts

I went to my local pizza shop to grab a couple slices for dinner today. Often it is busy, like it was tonight. But most of the people weren’t there for the pizza, they were there to hang out.

Teenagers often hang out at malls, donut shops and fast food places like, pizza parlors. But, these people weren’t teenagers – they were young moms with their noisy little bratty kids.

I just wanted a couple of slices to quash my hunger. Instead, I had to wade through a mountain of baby strollers, toys tossed everywhere, clothes on the floor, and don’t forget to watch out for kids running around into unsuspecting people.

The kid was stunned, I was upset, the mom just laughed and went back to eating her pizza.

I’m thinking to myself – how are these kids ever going to learn right from wrong if their parents don’t teach them?

I thought about giving the kid a quick boot the head – I was wearing my heavy boots at the time. However, I decided against it, I just wanted a couple of slices, not to go to jail.

So, I kicked a couple toys out of my way as I walked to a table, sat and ate my slices.

The kids kept running around, screaming, making like the pizza shop was their own personal play land. The moms didn’t seem to mind. But those working at the place and most of the customers seemed annoyed.

Then the unthinkable happened. More moms with strollers and kids and toys and all the other junk mothers bring with their kids – more of this crap walked into the pizza shop.

The place was already crowded, but now it was just plain full. There was no more floor space – all the real estate was taken with kids, toys, strollers and more clothes on the floor.

What a freaking mess. I’d hate to see what one of these kid’s homes actually looked like, because if this place had been made a mess in the short time they were there, imagine how much of a bigger mess they can make where they live?

Eventually, the pressure must have come from somewhere – thankfully – because the manger came out and politely asked these moms to take their kids home. He told her that this really wasn’t the place for them to play, and they had been here a couple of hours already.

A couple of hours already!?!?!?


Don’t these people have homes? Who spends a couple of hours in a greasy-spoon pizza house?

One of the mom’s got mad at the manager. She told him where he could stick his pizza, right in front of all those kids. She said she had paid for her food and was going to enjoy it.

Yeah, I could see her enjoy it – so much so that she didn’t have the time to tend to her little brats. Though I’m guessing that was the whole idea. I bet the moms brought their kids to the pizza place intentionally to relax, and let the pizza place take care of them for a while.

Though pizza places don’t generally offer babysitting services.

The manager then got tough – good for him. He told her if they didn’t leave, he was going to call the police.

“Call the police! Go ahead and call them, see if I care” – that’s what she yelled back. So, he calmly went back to the counter, picked up the phone and started dialing.

The moms quickly gathered up their crap – I mean kids – and hustled out the door.

I don’t know if the manager actually called the cops, maybe he didn’t even dial any number at all. But his trick worked.

So, the next time you want to get rid of someone else’s problem – just pick up the phone.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

One Language Isn’t For All

In the laundry room of my building there is a bulletin board where people living in the building can post various articles for sale.

Often, when people move out, there are great deals on furniture, cookware, electronics, computers and other things people have no use for anymore.

When I do my laundry, I always check out the board. I’ve never bought anything off of it, but you never know unless you look.

There was a sign that caught my interest. Not for what it had to offer. I didn’t know what it said. That is why it caught my interest, because it deeply offended me.

The sign was written exclusively in Chinese.

Now, living in Canada where the official languages are English and French – not Chinese – I was offended. I understand that there are Chinese-speaking people that live here, so it is okay to have Chinese on the sign. But to ONLY have Chinese on the sign, rudely excludes everyone else in this country who don’t read Chinese.

One of the great things Canada is known for is our acceptance of other cultures. We don’t stop people at the border and tell them they can’t practice their culture. We openly welcome other cultures into our Canadian mix – that is who we are – or as it appears today – were.

This mixing of cultures the world over has created who we are as Canadians. You can get authentic Greek, Italian, French, Romanian and Chinese food here. You see people wearing clothing which is customary of their culture. You hear people speaking their language on our streets. This is Canada.

But the problem occurs when people come here and fail to recognize that although we like learning about their culture, they have to accept the Canadian way of life and learn about being Canadian.

Far too many people come to Canada, become Canadian citizens even, yet they do not speak either of our two official languages. This is an embarrassment to our country, and has made living here all the harder.

Imagine, feeling like an outsider, a tourist, in your own country. That’s how I feel sometimes, when I see signs all in some foreign language, or I’m told by the shop-keeper’s daughter that she has to translate, because her mother doesn’t speak anything but Korean.

The problem is growing. These embarrassments to Canada don’t care that they don’t “fit in” with the rest of the country. Hell, they don’t seem to know they left their home country to have a life here. Instead, they set-up their own communities, small pockets of their hometown, where they can get by without speaking either of the official languages of the once great country they have decided to call home.

They create their own shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, even their own banks, phone companies, and other businesses, all so that they feel at home here – without really ever making a true Canadian home.

Canada’s immigration policies are to blame for this. Becoming a Canadian citizen should be a lot harder than answering a multiple-choice questionnaire, undergoing some health exams, and checking into a person’s past. In order to become a Canadian citizen, the government should make it a law that everyone must be fluent in at least one of our two national languages of English or French. Those that do not pass our language tests don’t get to stay here and enjoy the freedoms of our wonderful Canadian society.

That is the way it should be. It isn’t racist to expect someone who wants to call another country home, to be able to read, write, speak and understand that other country’s languages. This is the way it is in most countries around the world – except Canada.

Why is that?

I think our Canadian government is too politically correct and weak to impose the laws which most Canadian-born Canadians would openly welcome.

I just hope our pussy federal government comes to grips with reality soon – or we could end up with a prime minister that doesn’t speak either official languages. Could you imagine our prime minister needing a translator to translate what the opposition parties are saying? Or worse, just not caring about true Canadian values, and those that don’t speak whatever foreign language he speaks are just out of luck.

It could happen – if we don’t act soon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Suit & Tie Not For Me

On television and in the media you see people in suits and ties all the time. However, most people these days only wear suits and ties to formal functions, rarely to work environments.

I went to one potential client site a while back and was grateful for NOT wearing a suit and tie – the person who I had the meeting with was wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans! Not only that, his t-shirt had a fist, with the middle finger extended and the letters “FU” on either side of the “bird” finger. Hardly what I thought was proper in a business environment.

Clearly, some dress styles are just too lax for the office. I’ve worked in offices where people wear blue jeans, and it always seems too comfy to be work. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but blue jeans are only for Fridays, which is commonly called ‘casual Friday.’

Suits and ties are uncomfortable at best. The material is usually quite thin, and provides no protection from the outside elements. Even when you bulk-up with winter overcoats, scarves, mitts and a toque, suits are so drafty that somewhere the cold creeps in, causing no end to grief.

Ties have their own potential wardrobe malfunctions. If you don’t swing your tie up over your shoulder before going to the bathroom, it could easily find itself in the sink, or worse, the toilet. That’s not water on that tie. . .

Ties also can present a choking or a blinding hazard. On windy days, ties blow up and into one’s face. I’ve had my tie blow up and cover my eyes, while crossing major intersections. Definitely a dangerous situation – caused by something as simple as a neck tie. While eating, ties can get stuck in your food, not only making a mess of your meal and tie, but causing great embarrassment to those around you. Occasionally, while sitting outside on a patio enjoying a fine meal, a tie can blow-up into your mouth. Although I have never heard of anyone choking on their tie, it probably has happened somewhere.

I’m glad the dress code for most offices these days is business casual. A nice pair of casual pants, a button-down shirt with a collar, and comfy shoes. That’s my kind of work-wear.

Still there are offices where a suit and tie are the norm. These offices just are too stuck-up for my taste. If I go to a potential client’s site and they are wearing suits and ties, I’ll still be in my cozy and comfy business casuals. Why?

Most people spend most of their lives at work. Think about it – on average people work eight-hours per day, five-days per week. While on weekends you only usually have two whole days to relax. So, you might as well be comfortable while working all those hours and days, otherwise your work may not be to standard.

If you are constantly adjusting your tie, jacket, pants, belt or any of a zillion other things on your person, chances are you are spending more time worrying about trying to get comfortable, than doing your job.

I don’t mind wearing a suit and tie occasionally for special occasions. But in a work environment, I find the constant need to adjust my tie, make sure my jacket is on right, keep the collar tight and other suit and tie “things” a distraction from my job.

So, from now on, when I go to potential work sites I will be in business casual. If the potential client site is all suit and ties, then that worksite is just not for me.

Ahhhh . . . comfortable work clothes at last!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Women in a Man’s World

Why is it whenever I have to work with women in senior executive positions, they always try to act like men?

I know the world of work used to be – past tense – used to be dominated by men. But these days – hell since the 1980’s even – women and men work equally well together in business and commerce.

Still, whenever I have to meet with a woman CEO, she puts on a defiant posture, and is evasive and abusive towards me and the other men in the room. This isn’t really acting like a man, because if men CEOs did this in business, then there wouldn’t be any business at all.

It always amazes me how women CEOs act – and even more amazes me that their companies are still in business because of the way they act.

I had a meeting today with just such a CEO – a woman. One of the first questions she tossed out at me was “are you married? Do you have any kids?”

Oh boy – I knew instantly that this was going to be a long, dreadful meeting with that line of questioning. I never asked her if she was married with children – I don’t care. Whether you have a wife, a husband, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, children of your own or kids from a previous encounter – none of these things are relevant in today’s business world.

Though it is interesting to point out, as most women CEOs go, they don’t have a hubby and kids. Neither did the female CEO I met with today. They spend all their waking and sleeping hours working. Seriously – they work every day – even on weekends, and they rarely sleep. And when they do sleep, they dream about work – so it is almost like working.

Now I know what you’re thinking – how do I know so much about the life of a female CEO?

Well, every encounter with any CEO that happens to be a woman that I have ever had, has had some similar line of chatter at the start of the meeting.

Usually at the beginning of all meetings there is some small talk, to make everyone feel welcome. Small talk about the weather, traffic, something in the news – anything – unless the meeting is with a female CEO.

Female CEO’s must feel challenged in the male world – even though it isn’t a male world any longer – as all meetings – ALL meetings – I have ever had with a woman CEO present have revolved around the same small talk. This small talk always starts off with the female CEO asking one of the men – usually the most powerful one in the room, say another CEO, or president – if they have a wife and kids. Regardless of that person’s answer, the female CEO always smiles and gloats about how they are single and have never had any children, so they can concentrate all their hours on work – days, nights, weekends. Most female CEOs brag about working 24/7 even though most of us would rather die a painful death, than be tormented with work none stop.

Now not all of us want kids, but it is interesting to note how all female CEOs that I have dealt with – and I’ve had the honor of dealing with quite a few – have always been happy to be single, never married, and to never have had any children.

I guess these poor souls feel in order to compete with men in the business world, they have to be available at all hours of the day and night.

Odd thing though, most men who run their own businesses – myself included – value highly our free time. I don’t want to work 24-hours-a-day, seven days per week – that is a sure fire way to get a coronary. I work hard, but I also enjoy cutting lose, and taking it easy on weekends. I love being able to spend quality time with my friends and family. No, I am not married and I have no kids, but I have a family none-the-same. I have my parents over almost every weekend for dinner. I see my brother too, and then I have my friends too. I’d be lost without the free time to relax and enjoy these individuals company.

Not to the women CEO – they still believe they have to “stick it to the man” so that they can be as good or better than any man in a similar role.

I always cringe when I have to deal with a female CEO. Not because they are any less capable of doing the job, but because they all have chips on their shoulder telling them that us men are the enemy.

Why can’t women CEOs be more like us men, and accept anyone – male or female – in business?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

My Hallway Gives Me the Munchies

Walking throughout the halls of my apartment building, I can often smell different things going on in the building.

I can smell good old fashioned home-cooking, fast food smells like McDonalds and KFC, even the pleasantly alluring aroma’s of women’s perfume.

Those are the smells in all hallways except for mine of course. My hallway seems to always smell of marijuana. Pot – that is what my hallway smells like, which is odd, because I don’t use the stuff.

The neighbor across the hall is in a wheelchair and never looks well. Maybe he’s got some of that medicinal marijuana to keep the pain down. Then there are the neighbors at the end of the hall. They don’t look to lame to me, yet I have smelled pot emanating from their apartment too – you can’t miss it while waiting for the elevator.

Then there is that weirdo on the other side of the building on my floor. He always wears bright yellow pants, a green baggy top, and a Rastafarian hat from Jamaica. I don’t mean to stereotype, but maybe he does the occasional joint too? Naw.

Yep. I actually caught this weirdo one day committing said crime. I was waiting for the elevator, amidst the aroma’s of pot from the apartment at the end of the hall, when the doors to the elevator fly open, and there is Mr. Weirdo, smoking away. And he wasn’t smoking a cigar or a cigarette either.

Mr. Weirdo quickly placed the still lit joint behind his back, hoping I didn’t say anything. I didn’t – though maybe I should have, I could have sworn his bright yellow pants looked like they were on fire. . .

I don’t care what people do in the privacy of their own homes. That’s their business. But, when it affects me in my home, then it becomes my business. Walking through the hallway smelling pot isn’t pleasant. Nor is it pleasant to smell it in my own apartment – which happens often. These guys must get the good stuff from Vancouver – because often you’d swear I was smoking up in my own place by the smell.

I have thought about mentioning something to the property manager about all the druggies on my floor, but then, what good would come from it? They aren’t the cops, and so they can’t really do anything legal. They could issue a notice telling them that the guy down the hall (me) has complained.

Oooooh I can see the spray-painted graffiti on my door after something like that happens. Don’t want that – I like where I live.

It must sound like I live in some white-trash, Jerry Springer-type poor-house. I don’t – I actually live in a rather up-scale high-rise that is quite well maintained. I just happen to have some rather unique neighbors.

Yeah, that’s the polite way of describing them – unique.

Pass the chips, I have the munchies.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Technology of Time

In our wireless world we can communicate with anyone, anywhere and at anytime. This has been a boon to big business, but at the cost of something priceless – time.

The working day used to be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. These days, even when people get home they are still working – checking email, hammering out reports on their BlackBerry, participating in teleconference calls.

Technology was supposed to make the mammoth amounts of paper we use disappear. Instead, technology has made that fine line between work and home life disappear.

I’ve been out with friends on a Saturday night, coming out from a movie, and I’ve seen people busily typing away on their BlackBerrys.

I’ve been in meetings where others have sat in on a meeting – supposedly to add value to the discussions – but they were distracted by calls on their cell, emails on their BlackBerry, or even pages on their pager.

Where do we draw the line?

I could be taking a much needed bathroom break, only to hear some guy in the next stall talking on his cell phone.

Bathrooms are sacred places. Doing one’s “business” ought to be at the very least, one of the last vestiges of private time left.

When technology invades our time to pee, something is wrong, and it isn’t the technology.

Those who create – no invent – technology, are amazing people. They really are – who would have thought five or even 10-years ago that we’d be able to send and receive messages to someone while they took a crap?

I think the problem lies in those that use technology too much. You shouldn’t be allowed to take calls on your cell phone while pissing, hammer out emails on your BlackBerry while out with friends, or any of the other things people do that are work related in their free time.

When technical writers create documentation about how to use technology, they should also be telling us how NOT to use the technology. Maybe a list of acceptable times and places to use the technology and a list of unacceptable times and places.

Though really we ought to know better. What’s next – holding conference calls while having sex?

“What was that?”

“Ohhhh Ohhhh!”


Yeah. Right.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Why Am I Here – One Word: Myspace

Online communities are the new fad in the ever-changing online world.

Back when I started in the online world, we sat behind big clunky dial-up modems operating at a whopping 300 baud. When they came out with modems that zipped by at 1200 baud and then later 14,400 (14.4K) modems, we thought that was an amazing technological breakthrough.

I even remember a discussion I was having back in the day, with a bunch of other computer geeks, about how nothing will ever go faster than 9600 baud. Standard telephone lines can only send information at 9600 baud or lower – they can’t go any faster. It is physically impossible for a standard analogue telephone line to go beyond the speed limit of 9600 baud.

Naturally, we didn’t know about fiber optics and digital telephone lines, which now make broadband high-speed digital connections possible over telephone lines.

That brings me back to the whole point of this – why am I here?

Online communities are the new method to meet people – for dating, one-night stands, friends, or just to kill some time online while you wait for an email to arrive.

I’ve always been hesitant to join any of these online communities, who has time to spare online? I work on a computer all day, why would I want to spend my free time in front of the computer screen? Aren’t most people online depressed, possibly even deranged and psychologically unstable?

Still, after browsing through some of the online communities, I decided to try it. The profiles I saw weren’t all from nutty characters. Some actually seemed quite intelligent, well rounded and interesting.

So, I went and signed-up with the McDonald’s of online communities – Myspace.

At first, Myspace seemed like an all right online place to be. There were crazy people, and a hell of a lot of young girls just promoting their naked webcams. But there were also a lot of interesting characters, with interesting stories, jokes and experiences to share.

I really started to get into the whole online community through Myspace. I became a Myspace addict even – checking my place on Myspace at least once per day, and often more than that. I’d message back and forth with Myspace friends, post jokes and blogs and enjoyed the feedback I’d get back.

Maybe this isn’t so bad?

Then, just like any addict being weaned off his drug of choice, the shakes came tumbling in.

At first the technical problems with Myspace were minor annoyances. Pages wouldn’t load when you clicked on them, or they would be excessively slow to load. Occasionally I would get server time-out errors such as “Server too busy” messages. Sometimes the errors were actually quite funny – there was one instance when someone placing comments on my profile actually took my profile’s picture and placed it where the person’s was, making it look like I commented on my own profile.

These bugs were annoying, even funny, but the Myspace technical wizards fixed them all within a couple of hours. I was actually quite impressed, because Myspace – as most online communities are – is a free service. There is no cost to join, so in theory, the Myspace technical wizards can take as long as they want to fix something.

And that is exactly why I am here.

One of those little, annoying bugs became a big bug – one which made it impossible for me to continue to use Myspace.

I would receive and send messages to my friends all the time. That was something I really enjoyed doing on Myspace. Then, all of a sudden and for no apparent reason, I could receive messages, but anything I responded too, anything I sent out, was not getting to its destination.

My friends on Myspace would send me a message, and I’d respond. Only they would never see the response. The last message anyone received from me was Sept. 16. I reported the bug to the Myspace technical wizards. Within a couple of hours, I got an email back, telling me they were aware of the problem and working on it “please be patient,” it said.

I was relieved – they knew about the bug and were working on resolving the issue. Soon, I’d be back to happy Myspacing. . .

Nope. Nadda. Not going to happen. Not in my lifetime.

Days went by, which I thought unusual, as most bugs were fixed within hours. So, I sent another message to the Myspace technical wizards, and they sent me the exact same message they sent before, telling me that they were aware of the problem and working on it and to “please be patient.”

I tried being patient, I really did. It is hard to go to your online community, see your buddies sending messages, and knowing that no matter what you do, you can’t participate in this dialogue.

More time passed, days became weeks, but I was still unable to send messages. My friends seemed unaffected – they could send and receive messages no problem. It must be something to do with my account or a handful of accounts. I reported the problem to the Myspace technical wizards again, mentioning that I had reported this problem weeks ago and still was unable to send messages.

Shock, horror and disappointment. Nope, I didn’t get back the same response I had the last two contacts. This time, I didn’t get back anything from the Myspace technical wizards. Nothing at all. Not even a standard carbon copy of the previous responses – no messages whatsoever.

I was still receiving messages on Myspace from my friends, but as I couldn’t respond, I didn’t even bother to read those messages. I felt bad, but I was more frustrated than anything else. I felt left out of the very online community which I had joined to be a part of.

It wasn’t fair – why was my profile not working but everyone else’s seemingly unaffected? Why was Myspace not doing anything to help? Why me?

Life is often unfair, but in our battles to make it more to our own liking, we often solve our own problems.

For me, to solve this problem was quite easy – leave Myspace and take my blogs somewhere else. I’ll miss my friends on Myspace – though to be honest, if they were true friends they’d be in my life in more places than online.

I learned two valuable lessons out of this whole mess. The first one, your real friends are there with you, in real-time in the real world. There is more to friendship than hammering out your thoughts on your computer. To be a real friend, you have to be able to lend a shoulder to someone when they are sad, be able to go to the movies, coffee houses, bars, and other places in the real world, to really enjoy each other’s company. Real friends are really there for you – not just some artificially created online persona you may know as “Tickles.”

The second lesson I learned is the power of exclusion. When I was able to send and receive messages on Myspace, I was included in a virtual online world. As soon as I was unable to send messages, I was excluded from that world, and it made me feel like an outcast.

So, be gone shitty little fake online world of Myspace. You excluded me from your world, and so I have created my own online forum without you.

Myspace – where friends wonder why nothing ever works.

Good riddance to Myspace.

Test This!

As a consultant, often I go to potential client sites, selling my services. Usually these potential clients have a real need for a writer, so the only thing I’m selling is why I’m better than the rest.

Usually this “sell” job is much like a job interview. It consists of them reviewing my work, checking references of past clients, and meeting to discuss the project. Once they have chosen the consultant they want, there is a final meeting to discuss terms.

Today, I had a meeting to discuss a project with a potential client. The potential client had reviewed my work samples and was ready to meet to discuss their needs. This is where I go in, and wow them with my expertise and show them how I can solve their writing problems.

I knew things were off to a bad start when the person I was supposed to meet wasn’t even in the office during the time when we were scheduled to meet. “Maybe he’s still at lunch,” said the receptionist.

I said I could wait a bit, but that I had other meetings to get to later in the day.

Eventually this bozo shows up, about 10-minutes late. He’s lucky – he came within my fifteen-minute rule. I have a rule I use when meeting clients, friends, pretty much anyone. If you are late, fine, happens to all of us. I’ll wait fifteen-minutes, and if you’re still a no-show, I’m outta there. Gone, quick as lightening.

Luckily, this person arrived within my fifteen-minute rule, so I was still there. A little less enthused about this client, but hey, these meetings are for both parties to decide if there is a fit, so I gave him the benefit of doubt.

He quickly introduces himself, shakes my hand and leads me to the back. Pure and utter awkward silence. I try to make small talk.

“Nice office you have here,” I say, as their offices are in the distillery district, a historic area of town with lots of quaint shops and eateries.

“Um,” he says.

“How long have you been at these offices?” I ask, attempting to make small talk again.

“A while,” he mumbles.

Finally we arrive at a computer workstation – though I had my laptop with me. I always take it to client meetings.

“Here is a test I want you to do,” he finally opens up.



What test?

I’m a professional, I have an extensive portfolio of work, I have presentations, I have exceptional references from current and past clients – no body said anything about a test.

Tests are great for kids coming out of school and looking for their first gig. Tests are good for paranoid employers looking to weed out those that have nothing to prove they are who they say they are.

But a test to someone with my experiences, my portfolio, my references, a test to someone like me is an insult.

Not to mention we haven’t even met to discuss what exactly they need or want, and whether or not I’d be just the person to provide those services.

I look at my watch – I’ve set aside an hour-and-a-half for this meeting. He says this test won’t take more than 30 minutes – still leaves us an hour to talk shop.

Begrudgingly, I take his silly little test. They have given me two scenarios and want me to write a quick sample to show how I’d tackle these two scenarios.

Okay, so I write their test. It takes me 45 minutes.

I go and get Mr. Untalkative and show him my test. He prints it out and we go to a boardroom to finally talk about what I came here to discuss – my writing services.

Mr. Untalkative finally starts to talk, he goes over my test like a school teacher grading an exam. He tells me I did well, but asks me why I chose this and that, and few other things.

Time is ticking away. I don’t have all day – unlike Mr. Untalkative, I work for a living.

I mention to him that I do have other meetings to attend to, and if he’s got any other questions for me, he had better get to them.

Taken back, he tells me he’s booked off the whole afternoon, the least I could do is the same. Yeah, right – book off a whole afternoon to talk to some potential, non-paying client when I can be working at some current client making real money?

Yeah, right, this meeting is toast.

We do talk about his needs, and I whip out my laptop and go over things that I have done, which he is in need of. He seems happy, though he’s got a lot of questions, and time continues to tick away.

As he’s asking a few more questions, I see the time, and I start to pack up. He asks me what I am doing. I tell him that although I enjoy this discussion, I do have to be somewhere.

I think he is annoyed, but I think – I THINK – he realizes that the world doesn’t revolve around him, and he understands.

He tells me they will make a decision by Thursday.

“Of this week!?!?” I exclaim, partly because usually companies take a couple of weeks to make a decision, and partly because of his lazy-ass attitude, I couldn’t believe they’d make any decisions that fast.

He says, “we aren’t as big as some of your other clients,” which is true. I’ve got a few big names under my belt.

I thank him for his time, and he shows me out. He shakes my hand and tells me it was nice meeting me. I say the same, not quite sure what to make of this experience.

First he was late, then he was silent as all doom and gloom, then he springs a test on me without evening figuring out if we are in the same ballpark.

Did I mention, I hate tests?