Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year -- Again

Every year we do the New Year’s Eve Dance once again. People contemplate the year that was, and make predictions for the coming year.

We take time to reflect, to question and most importantly to drink large quantities of alcohol as we make resolutions of things we must do in the New Year.

I don’t make resolutions, I find it impossible to keep them. And making life decisions while under the influence of booze isn’t recommended by nine out of ten doctors – the tenth doctor was too drunk to reasonably trust.

So, instead of resolutions, here are some predictions for the year to come.

I predict we’ll hear more than we really want from washed up teen starlets, with little to no talent. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and their counterparts will continue to make headlines in bad ways. Britney’s 16-year-old sister is already expecting a baby – a baby at 16 – sheesh!

We’ll also probably learn more about Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Nicole Kidman than we really need to know – I bet they are secretly having a love triangle. Wonder who gets to be on top?

Politically, I predict Canada will go to the polls early again, to elect a federal government. We haven’t had a true Prime Minister worthy of the title since Pierre Elliot Trudeau, which has seen the once great institution continue to falter and fail. Maybe this time we’ll actually have someone worthy of leading us as a nation run? I doubt it. Look for another minority government, as Canadians are given a choice between people more concerned with their political careers, than the good of the nation.

The economy is due for a nose-dive – our dollar has been climbing and the economy has been booming – fast. When things climb fast in the world of money, they usually fall even faster. I bet an economic downturn will hit us hard and fast sometime in 2008 – and it will rival the depression of the dirty thirties. Start collecting your loose change.

North American automakers will continue to suffer as the economy goes from good to worse. They jumped on the customer service band wagon too late, so most now only trust imports. Add to their bad luck, when the economy turns, even those willing to buy a North American built car, won’t have the cash. Look for GM to gobble up Chrysler, and then GM/Chrysler to be bought out by some Japanese automaker.

Weather-wise, we’ll see more severe storms as global warming continues to heat up the planet. More hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and extra long and cold winters will be the norm from now until the end of time.

China will continue to produce dangerous products which will continue to be recalled. Pet food has recalls have already proven fatal for cats and dogs, just wait until the first human casualty occurs.

The American’s will continue to be the scurvy of the earth, bombing and raiding countries which are weaker than them, but hold vast quantities of oil, natural gas, and other valuable resources. Iraq will continue to be a country in turmoil, and Canadian soldiers will be called upon via the United Nations to help out. Look for more Canadian soldiers to die in 2008.

Technology will continue to impress and improve. High Definition DVDs will win the battle over Blue Ray discs in 2008, and people will finally realize that just because a television station is broadcasting in High Definition, unless the shows it is broadcasting were taped with High Definition cameras, it isn’t going to be in High Def. I am still amazed that people think that re-runs of Gilligan’s Island on some HD channel are HD showings of the classic show.

We’ll see an increase in hybrid cars in 2008, and a new plug-in version of the hybrid, giving them even more distance on a charge. Computers will get faster, hard drives bigger, and televisions larger. Completely useless, but “in” gadgets will dominate 2008. Look for self-cleaning underwear, family BlackBerry packages (why a 12-year-old needs a BlackBerry is beyond me), and remote controlled webcams which allow you to shoot complete movies from your webcam.

Satellite radio will die a slow and painful death in 2008, as people realize that they can get the same thing for a fraction of the cost just by ordering digital cable. Analogue cable will be phased out, so that those refusing to upgrade will be without any television at all, as television will no longer be carried over the airwaves in 2008 – those frequencies will be used by cell phone carriers to increase cell phone capacities on their networks. Rabbit ears will no longer work in 2008 – meaning if you don’t pay for television subscription, you won’t get any.

Speaking of television, reality shows will finally go too far, when they place a bunch of teenagers on a deserted island, and let them fend for themselves. The teenagers become savages, eat each other, rape the animals on the island, and all this is broadcast live, unedited and commercial free for the world to see. After public outcry, the big American networks stop producing reality shows, instead showing us re-runs of Gilligan’s Island in “high def.”

Yeah – hi def. Yeah, right.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Boxing Day Blues

I went to one of the local malls on Boxing Day. Boxing Day, for those of you not in Canada, is the one day of the year when stores try to sell off their inventory at discounted prices – it is the first day after Xmas.

Many people will line up over night to get into the stores first thing, trying to land those extra special discounts.

Maybe I’ve grown too cynical over the years, but I don’t really believe in Boxing Day sales. I think most stores actually raise their prices a few months prior to Xmas, so that when they hold these Boxing Day “sales” all they are doing is lowering the prices to the normal price.

Think about it – Xmas is the time when retail stores make or break most of their profits for the year. If they don’t do well during the Xmas rush, they will probably be out of business in the New Year. So it only makes sense for the stores to take full advantage of doing whatever it takes, to stay in business.

Which probably means raising prices for Xmas, and then lowering them back to what they should be after Xmas.

Hence Boxing Day sales aren’t really sale prices, they just appear to be so.

Still, people will do anything to get those Boxing Day “sale” prices. When I was in the mall on Boxing Day, people were overflowing everywhere – it was too crowded. People were also rude, shoving and pushing their way through the crowds.

Though manners have fallen to the wayside over the years, on Boxing Day, it appears manners don’t exist. Pushing and shoving is hardly proper behaviour for anyone.

I remember in the 1980s, when Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage. People would start fights over the last Cabbage Patch Kid on the shelf. Police would be called in, and these morons would end up on the evening news, being escorted in handcuffs to jail.

These days, the toy which is causing the same rage is the Tickle Me Elmo. How can parents set a good example of proper behaviour, when they themselves don’t behave properly?

Parents going out of their way to secure a Tickle Me Elmo – even by brute force – what are they teaching their kids?

No wonder our society is screwed up. Kids think it is okay to knock someone’s lights out, because they see mommy and daddy do it over a toy.

I think we should rename Boxing Day to taking parents to jail day – because that is what it has become.

Or even better, maybe we should eliminate Boxing Day all together – the sales aren’t real, but the violence is. And we don’t need either.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Being Sick on Vacation Sucks

Being sick anytime of the year sucks, but I always seem to get sick just as I get to take some well-deserved time off.

I came down with a nasty bug last Wednesday, and finally I am feeling back in top form. Though, go figure, I Wednesday was also my last day at work prior to me getting holiday time.

So, my first couple of days of vacation, I spent wheezing, hacking and coughing up a lung.

It wasn’t that bad, but it felt it.

I had a runny nose, a sore throat and an annoying cough. Thankfully, Contact C works wonders – I highly recommend it over other medications, as my cold is no more. Specifically, I got the Contact C Complete Cold and Flu stuff – and now I’m better.

I think.

I still have an annoying little cough, but no more runny nose and I don’t sound like I’m going through puberty.

Now I can enjoy my holidays in peace and quiet.

What concerns me, is where did I catch this cold? I’ve been trying to figure it out. Most likely places, work and the grocery store.

Some people were sick at the office, but not many. It is hard to tell if people were sick at the grocery store, when I did a grocery store shop earlier this week. People who work in and around food and consumables shouldn’t be working if they are sick.

But with those low paying jobs, often they only pay you if you work. So those that are sick may in fact be working.

I also had my annual flu shot earlier this month, but that was weeks ago. Still, my flu shot should have minimized my chances of catching a flu.

The mystery of where the bug continues. . .

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Going Green at the Grocery Store

Plastic or paper?

That’s what some stores were asking in the eighties. It was a time when the environmental movement was getting positive media coverage – instead of being linked to free-loving, unemployable, drug-using hippies as they were in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Times have changed – but the environment is still in the media’s golden eye.

These days, instead of plastic or paper, it’s cloth. Recently I went grocery shopping, and instead of letting the grocery clerk just put everything into plastic bags, I purchased several cloth bags.

The cloth bags cost me $1.99 each, and they have the grocery store’s corporate logo smeared all over it – but hey every bit helps the environment.

And it saves space. For years I’ve been storing plastic bags in my linen closet. My linen closet constantly overflows, to the point where I end up throwing out a lot of those plastic bags.

Instead of wasting plastic bags, I’ll bring with me the cloth grocery store bags.

They are nice bags, and they provide better protection of my new purchases than plastic, and far better protection than paper.

Paper bags get wet, and break. Plastic bags stretch and rip. Cloth bags – well so far they stand up to the pressures of my massive grocery shopping sprees.

Cloth shopping bags are good for the environment, great for me, and provide some free advertising for the store. It is a win-win situation. And a green one at that.

One day, maybe they won’t charge for the cloth bags – maybe they’ll charge for the use of plastic or paper bags? Then we’ll have moved forward.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's Almost Vacation Time!

I need a vacation. Actually, this has been the most stressful contract I have ever had. There is no project management, and there is a lack of any real management at all levels, making working at this company very hard.

Everyone is really nice – they’d make excellent friends. However, when it comes to work place standards, practices, policies and procedures – they are decades behind the competition.

People come and go as they see fit – they have the most flexible “flex” hours I have ever seen. Most don’t put in a full working day – coming in around 10:00am and leaving at 5:00pm or sooner.

When they are at the office, they yak your ear off about their lives, and they want you to tell them all about yours. They spend hours surfing the net for things which aren’t work related, and they often spend hours chatting on the phone with relatives and friends about things which have nothing to do with the office.

Things get done, usually – no ALWAYS – rushed and last minute. Nothing is ever planned organized in a consistently professional manner.

I joke that it’s as if the executives sit around their “planning” meetings, brainstorm great ideas, and without taking the time to think about how and who they need on these projects, they just say “let’s do it” and expect it done.

That’s why there is one fire of a project after another – often the one I’m working on gets dropped or rushed to completion, so that the new firestorm can be worked on. This complete disregard for resources usually bankrupts most companies, or at best, causes high turnover of employees.

Surprisingly, the majority of the staff have stuck it out and remained – the average lifespan is well over a decade for most people. The national average for employees staying at any one company is usually between three to five-years.

But I’ve noticed a distressing thing – the reason people stay isn’t because they agree with or enjoy the lack of any sort of real management. It is because they are lazy, and they know the lack of management is due to lazy bodies occupying senior roles.

Often, the argument why some companies are more heavily managed than others is based on creativity. Creative people, so the argument goes, tend to be poor planners, and need that creative freedom to do what it is they do, in their own creative way.

I don’t know about that argument, I’ve worked for many creative individuals, and they all had far better management structures in place. I think in the case of where I work now, that’s simply an excuse for a deeper rooted problem – apathy and laziness.

Planning – good planning – takes time, energy and effort. To plan is to think – to create a blueprint for success, and a backup in case of failure.

To create a blueprint, you have to take into consideration all the elements which you need to build the projects you want. This takes effort and effort requires people have enough energy to get off their lazy butts, and actually do the work behind the planning.

I see a significant lack of work in the planning area of the company. It isn’t because they don’t know how to plan, and it certainly isn’t because they are the highly creative types. I’ve worked with the highly creative types that lack the planning gene – they still have the energy and the wisdom to get someone else on the team that can do the planning for them.

What it comes down to is laziness. And that brings me to my initial point – why people have been here so long.

If the leaders are lazy, then the workers need to be lazy too, otherwise they don’t fit in. They stand out like a sore thumb, and you don’t want to stand out in this way. People that aren’t in the same mindset and business class as those they work with, either get handed all the work, or they get so frustrated with the lack of anything getting done at a professional level, they become disengaged from the rest of their team, and eventually either get fired or simply quit.

We all want to do a good job – but it is hard to do a good job when those leading you don’t put in the effort to do one in the first place. If everything is done last minute, rushed, and then has to be re-done to correct the mistakes made during the rush – which happens all too often where I am – then it becomes hard to do a quality job yourself.

But that’s the whole reason why people have been here so long – like attracts like. Lazy people are attracted to lazy leaders, because they can get away with being lazy. That’s why people that are supposed to be in from 8:30am to 4:30pm meander in around 9:30am and leave at 4:30pm. That’s why you have managers coming in at 1:00pm and leaving at 3:00pm for a “smoke break” – but then you never see that person for the rest of the day. That’s why people spend hours chatting instead of doing real work. And that’s why it is so very stressful when things need to get done, because they are left to the last minute, rushed through errors and all – only to have to be redone later on a second, and even possibly a third or more time.

Laziness attracts laziness. I’m not a lazy person, so I get dumped on – because people know they can count on me. Problem is, I’m tired of being the first one in the office, the last one to leave, and the one that everyone comes to, to get the job done. I’m not making millions of dollars, I’m not getting a share in everyone else’s salaries, and I’m certainly not getting all the overtime off which I put in.

Hopefully, there are still companies with a real vision, a real drive, and real leadership.

And now I’m off, to my vacation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Scary Neighbour Saga Continues

For the most part, the people in my apartment building are great. Most of them are very nice, friendly, honest, and hard working members of the community.

Then there is scary dude across the hall.

He’s really creepy.

He never seems to have a job, always lingers in the hallways, and tries to make friends with everyone, so that he can later mooch off of them.

He tried that approach with me, and for the past year, I’ve just ignored him.

Recently, I have had the odd encounter or two with him. We live on the same floor, and a few times I’ve been waiting for the elevator, when he comes out and waits for the elevator as well.

We just stand there, not quite sure what to say to each other. Actually, I have nothing to say to this creep. I stopped talking to him as soon as he started begging for money months ago. I did this, because I knew if I gave him cash, he’d keep asking for more. Also, he just seemed odd – he has some weird habits.

Like today – he came out in his PJs. I don’t know where he was going, but even if it is just around the building, you should be properly dressed. I don’t walk down to the recycling bins naked. I expect if I did, I’d be arrested for indecent exposure.

Last time I had the misfortune to get on an elevator with creepy dude, he stared at me the whole way down. I don’t even think he blinked. No wonder he seems odd and just not normal.

So this time around, the elevator came up, and he got on. I waited for the next one – took a little longer, but at least I wouldn’t have to wonder what psychotic episode the creepy dude staring at me was running through his perverted, twisted and sick little mind.

I have never said or done anything to harm or in anyway negate this guy. I just stopped talking to him. This was many months ago – if not a whole year ago – yet he seems to act like it was yesterday.

It’s sad when people have so little in their lives, they hold grudges against those they hardly knew in the first place, for so long. This creepy dude must have nothing in his life. No work, no friends, no family, no nothing – what a shame.

He could have more in his life, if only he stopped contemplating the past and moved on with his life. If he took the time to look for other things to occupy his time, he’d probably find them.

There is so much more out there, than holding grudges against those you hardly know.

Still, it does had to some excitement in my life, when the creepy dude makes an appearance. I have so very few creepy dudes in my life, it makes for interesting blogs.

I write the blog, and then move on with my life. If only creepy dude knew how to write.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Character Is Everything

Experts agree that you make up your mind about whether you like someone or don’t within the very first 15-30 seconds of meeting them.

Whether we care to admit it or not, we all judge the book by its cover, and once we’ve made up our minds, it is pretty hard to change them.

That’s why when someone gets off on the wrong foot with us, chances are they will most likely remain there unless they somehow manage to WOW us.

But it also works the other way too – if someone starts off on the wrong foot and continues to live up to that negative image, then they did themselves a deeper hole, so to speak.

Take the Marketing Manager where I work. She started on the wrong foot with me right from the start. She seems to think she is special, and has these executive banker type hours – or less. Actually, most of the marketing department has screwy hours – no one ever knows if they are working, or when they are working.

For the past two-weeks, the marketing manager has been out of the office – supposedly because her husband is very ill.

Now, normally if someone says their spouse or a loved one is very ill, you take their word for it and give them all the personal time they require to deal with the situation.

But this goes back to the first impressions the marketing manager has made on me – and most others in the office. Because those very first impressions were negative ones, that she is a slacker, that does whatever she can to avoid working at any cost, most doubt the authenticity of her sick husband claim.

It wouldn’t surprise me if her hubby is actually quite well, and she’s been vacationing with him in her personal time – instead of having to deal with a sick person.

She doesn’t respond to emails or meeting requests – I had sent her three meeting requests earlier, and she only turned one down. She never responded to the others. Then, she is like that even when her hubby is supposedly healthy.

First impressions come out of character. We all judge people based on the character or lack of character they embody. In a professional office environment, if someone carries the title of “marketing manager” I expect them to have a certain degree of character which fits with that high level title. Just as if someone is a stock person, I expect them to have a certain level of character for their job.

I’m not talking qualifications or expertise – that’s a given. I’m talking about CHARACTER – how they present themselves, how they handle business and personal situations, how they go about interacting with their colleagues and external parties in their work.

If someone lacks the level of characteristics that they should have for a specific role – then they will never be taken seriously.

Few take our marketing manager – or the whole department for that matter – seriously. Sadly, the whole department requires a major housecleaning. I’ve mentioned this countless times, and many agree – still nothing is done.

Everything comes from the top-down. If the managers are permitted to act like lazy-ass slackers, than guess what – so too will everyone else.

But hey, maybe the top brass like to slack off – takes less effort and energy than actually working for a living.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Let It Snow, Let It Snow

We’ve been hit with what could be the worst one-day winter storm in over 60-years here. It has been a pure blizzard since yesterday afternoon – and it is still snowing.

The weather stations are all predicting total accumulations of between 20 to 30cm – all in the span of 24-hours!

The roads are pure white – you can’t tell where the roads begin and the sidewalks end. Police are advising people that if they don’t have to go out – stay home.

Still, there are always idiots out there that just continue as if this were the norm.

Some have to go to work, others may have to run out and get supplies. Though the later is just a form of idiot too – we were warned well in advance of the winter storm, so those people should have did what I did yesterday.

Yesterday I went grocery shopping. I was planning on doing that anyway – I was running low on food stuffs and felt it was time to do some grocery shopping. Still, I had my choice this weekend of doing my grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday – and with the storm approaching, and all the media telling us about it – I chose Saturday.

Then there are those freaks of nature that drive like maniacs, despite the roads being in horrible shape. There is probably a good foot of snow on most roads – even the major highways are covered.

The blows and salters are out, but with the blizzard being so vigorous, the moment they clear the snow, it just reappears.

Last night, I was watching the accidents occur – you can always tell the idiots from the rest. They are the ones usually causing the accidents by going to fast, not using their wipers, or worse – not having proper snow tires on their cars.

I was watching cars skidding and slipping all over the place. It was like watching the bumper cars at a fall fair – only these weren’t bumper cars, and no one was happy with the damage they inflicted on the other.

As for me – I’m taking it easy. Doing my chores, watching TV, maybe a good movie . . .

Yeah – that’s what a good snow day is for – watching a good movie, curled up on the couch, munching on some goodies.

Good thing I did my shopping yesterday!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Joys of ZZZZZZZZzzzz

Sleep is one of the most important things we never seem to get enough of. We work eight or more hours a day, then need to spend time watching television, talking with friends, even just plain ‘ol eating, to unwind.

By the time we finally hit the sack, we’re more than sacked. But by this time, it is only a mere few hours until we have to wake up and do the morning rituals of getting ready for another day.

Is it any wonder then, why so many people go through the day angry, tired, frustrated and just not fully awake and alert.

There are more car crashes, pedestrian accidents, and even just plain stupid work related accidents these days than in the past. People simply aren’t getting enough sleep to be safe.

On weekends, we proudly rejoice in the right to sleep in. But here lies part of the problem. After sleeping in on a Saturday and Sunday, your body has adopted and is expecting this same time cycle. Come Monday morning, when you wake up earlier than the previous two days, your body goes “what the f*ck!” and keeps you drowsy, because it is expecting you’ll go back to sleep.

That’s why Mondays feel more stressful than other days of the week for most – we’re still in weekend sleep mode.

Of course, going out and partying on a Friday or Saturday night doesn’t help – again you’re changing your sleep cycle, and your body will compensate – thinking sleeping in and staying up late are the norm.

This means Monday morning you will be extra sleepy, and have trouble waking up. While Monday night, you’ll be wired and unable to fall asleep at your normal rate.

But hey, if life didn’t have those late night parties and those weekend sleep ins, it wouldn’t be very fun. It would be dull, dreary, and too commonplace.

I’ll stick to my Monday’s of stress – bring on the Friday night party!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Money Doesn't Matter -- Yeah Right

As the end of another year approaches, so too does my contract with my current employer. They have been talking big all year about how wonderful I am to the organization.

My manager is always giving me tonnes of compliments on my work, and tells me all the compliments she receives from other managers and executives about my work. I am personally thanked and complimented by other managers, directors and other executives too, for my hard work, dedication, and overall high quality.

My manager has been dropping not so subtle hints all year that she wants me to stay on. She insists she doesn’t want to lose me. She even asked me a couple of times, if they were to offer me a permanent staff gig, if I’d be interested.

I told her what every other client who has asked me – I’d consider it.

And I would – who wouldn’t consider an offer of employment?

I have bitched and moaned all year about a lot of the inadequacies and ineptitudes where I work. There are some serious problems there, and it makes the work environment less than ideal. However, I suppose that is the case at any office – if you stick around long enough anywhere you’re bound to find things you don’t like.

There are of course, things that I do enjoy where I work as well. And these make my concluding contract sad in some ways.

But what it really boils down to is money. Money makes the world go around. Compliments are always welcome, and sadly not often given in most circumstances. People will always chime in when they upset, but rarely do they speak up for no reason other than to say “thank you.”

So I am honoured and thrilled that I receive so many complements and words of praise – from managers, fellow staff, even the president thanked me recently – which surprised even me.

But complements don’t pay for a roof overhead, food in my stomach or clothes on my back. They don’t go very far in the world of work – and that’s the world I am in when I’m negotiating my next gig.

My manager recently gave me a performance review for the year just past. This was filled with exceptional complements and wonderful words of praise. But I’ve been on permanent staff before, I’ve had numerous performance reviews in the past – I know how these things work.

Most companies – including the one I’m currently on contract with – link the annual performance review to money. These performance reviews are used to determine everything dollars and cents – from the annual holiday bonus, to whether you get a raise and if you do, by how much.

Because performance reviews are linked so strongly to money, they intentionally make it impossible to achieve perfect. See, if people were getting perfect, or even near perfect, then the company would go belly up, as they’d have to continuously pay out large sums of money.

I know I’m not perfect, and I did very well on my performance review. But even I could see a pattern in terms of the rankings. If I scored high in one area, the next area was not so high. If I scored not so high in one area, then again, the next area was high. It was like looking at a multiple-choice score card, and looking for a picture among the answers.

I discussed at my review what the ratings would translate too in terms of dollars. She gave me general estimates. However, I was already starting to wonder if all those wonderful nice things people say about me are true.

It is amazing – no, it is awesome – to receive positive feedback. As I said, it is a rare occurrence to receive any feedback, unless it is negative these days. So to not only receive positive feedback, but to receive lots of it, that is exceptional.

But if that positive feedback doesn’t translate into dollars and cents in the end, I’ll move on to my next gig elsewhere.

Something a lot of companies fail to recognize for some reason come contract close outs – I’m a contractor, so I don’t have to fall in line with their small annual pay increases based on some annual performance review. Just because their ratings system says I qualify for a meagre raise, doesn’t mean I have to accept it. Unlike someone on permanent staff, if they don’t have my signature on something saying I’m continuing working for them, then once my contract ends, it ends.

One thing many an independent contractor has learned over the years, once you get a permanent job, you are tied to whatever salary increases they offer, if any at all. You lose your bargaining room, as you already are expected back in the New Year, regardless of whether they offer you more money or not.

But as an independent contractor, you have the ability to negotiate for something better. Just because they dragged you into a performance meeting, and told you this is where you stand, doesn’t mean you have to accept it.

All that is tying you and your employer together, is a thin piece of paper, with an expiry date. When that expiry date happens, you leave, unless everyone agrees about the terms and conditions of continuing.

Contract negotiations are never easy. People often assume when you turn down a contract it is because you personally don’t like them or their organization – even if you tell them it isn’t about them or the company, it’s about the terms of the agreement.

So, hopefully, when they do come to me with an offer, it will be one which I can accept right away. However, I seriously doubt it – they are stuck in a certain frame of mind, which is limited towards a certain line of thinking.

That line of thinking is all too common and goes something like this:

  • Jobs aren’t easy to come by – especially good ones in your field of expertise.
  • So, any offer of employment will automatically be accepted, unquestioned, because . . .
  • Jobs aren’t easy to come by.

Jobs are not easy to come by – but they are out there. It just requires some digging, a lot of interviewing and running around to potential employers. And above all else – it takes initiative.

Initiative to seriously look for the right fit, at the right price. Most people lack initiative. We are creatures of comfort. We like to take the easy road, and are often too willing to accept anything that comes our way, even, if it isn’t really what we want.

We’ll see how much initiative my current client has in offering me something of actual value to me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ho Ho Hold the Office Party Time


It’s that time of year again – time to go dress up, slack off and have a drink or two with the boss.

Office parties are very common this time of year. This week, we had our department party – well if you can call it that. We all met up in a board room and were treated to Swiss Chalet.

Swiss Chalet is nice – but it’s more up-scale fast food.

I’ve been to some pretty snazzy department parties over the years. When I worked at IBM many eons ago, the whole department was taken out to a nice formal turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Other places department parties have been at posh eateries, one was at a night club, complete with live entertainment.

Company parties are usually bigger and more extravagant.

A few years ago, the company I was with took everyone out to Alice Fazzoolies, and they served us very well. It was a very informal dinner right after work, but it was a very nice dinner. They just kept bringing out trays of food, and we just kept eating them. The open bar was a nice touch too.

That same company also had a more official holiday party at Wayne Gretzkey’s Restaurant, and then we went next door to Second City to enjoy some live improve. It was pretty good.

Then there are the formal banquet, at big halls in the middle of nowhere. These places are far, located in the middle of some Boreal forest hidden from the rest of the world, but they serve exceptional food, and usually have very posh atmospheres. Usually these are strictly suit and tie affairs, with lots of drawn out speeches by the executives, followed by the usual suspects getting toasted.

That’s another thing that happens this year – those whoops moments.

A whoops moment is one where you do it once, but WHOOPS it’s so idiotic that everyone remembers it forever. And we do mean FOREVER.

People that get drunk once at corporate event, are automatically labelled the company drunk. And people will remember you every time they see you at a corporate function – in fact they probably place bets on you to see how many drinks you’ll have before you have another whoops moment.

I’ve never actually had a whoops moment myself, but I have seen enough of them to be weary and limit my drinking to generally two drinks for the whole event. This way, I’m not the whoops poster boy for my stay at the company.

I’ve seen some pretty nasty whoops moments. I’ve seen managers walking with open bottles of wine down the hall, obviously quite tipsy, to people getting up on the dance floor, only to fall down and have to be taken off the dance floor, to people trying to pick up a vice-president’s wife, to people just falling asleep while eating.

Whoops moments make a corporate party more entertaining – they take away some of the boredom from all those long, drawn out speeches, toasts, and awards to those with no lives who have had perfect attendance and never taken a day off in their 40-years at the company. Forty-years and no days off?!?!? Sheesh – someone should check that person for a pulse.

I’ve got some time off soon too – so I won’t be winning that award – thankfully!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Eye Opening Experiences

On the weekend, my glasses broke – right at the sauder point, where the frame meets the nose piece. Instead of walking around with a big piece of white tape holding my glasses together like some nerd, I just popped on my backup glasses.

Always have a backup – always. Not just for computer hard drive failures, but also for bare essentials – like glasses. Without glasses, it ain’t all the easy to see – and seeing is living.

I can work with my spare glasses for a while. They aren’t as fashionable or as comfortable as my regular pair, but they are the exact same prescription, so they will do.
But I did go to the local mall and scout around the eye glass places to start looking into getting a new pair.

What an eye opening experience. Eye glasses are not like just any every day purchase. Where you get your glasses is important, as you want to ensure they provide exceptional quality lenses and frames, and just as exceptional service. Your vision is important – and when things go wrong you want to know you can count on the place you paid good money for them to make it right.

I was astonished to find that most of the eye glass stores don’t provide very good customer service.

First I went to Sears, and there they did have great customer service. When looking for glasses, you need to feel warm, welcome and be able to try on as many pairs as you want. That’s the whole point of trying on glasses – to see what looks best and what fits right. The sales staff at Sears were very helpful, and not too pushy. They made me feel welcome and I was glad I went there.

Then I went to Lens Crafters – a big chain which has major advertising on television, radio, newspapers and just about anywhere else. I figured they’d have just as good service, as they are so well promoted.

How wrong I was – one person said hi as we walked in, but didn’t get off his lazy butt to offer assistance. Most of their frames were behind locked glass displays, so I had to ask someone to unlock the display. While I was looking, instead of offering assistance, she just stood there, jiggling her keys as if to say “hurry up, I’ve got better things to do than help customers.”

I tried on a few pairs of glasses at Lens Crafters, but didn’t feel comfortable enough to really try on enough. And they didn’t provide the level of service I require to go back – so they lost my business.

Then we went over to a smaller store, with mostly high fashion designer frames. Almost all the frames were in glass cases, and all the sales staff were busy with other customers. No one even said they’d be with us in a moment – or even indicated we were welcome in their store.

Funny, I thought I looked like a regular customer that could spend money on their products – maybe I didn’t look rich enough to afford their time?

We walked around for a bit, then left the store.

I went to the Bay next, and they had closed early. Their hours were pretty short – although it was a Monday night, the mall was still open. The Bay was still open, so how come the Bay Optical wasn’t open?

My search for the right frames continues, but so far, I’ve only been to one store where I’d actually go back – and that doesn’t say much for a purchase that will easily cost me over $500.

I don’t go around dropping hundreds of dollars on a regular basis, so when I do, I expect the best service possible. I was only able to get excellent service at one shop – and that doesn’t bode well for an industry people depend on to do their daily living.

Hopefully the mall employees were just having a bad day – because my search for a place to get my next vision solution is turning into one big blur.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Snow Days Minus the Snow

We had a major blast of winter over the weekend. Come Monday morning, the roads were icy – but passable. Actually, most of the roads were clear and free by mid-morning, so it would be understandable for those in far off lands to be late – but to not come in at all is just plain lazy.

Still, surprise – surprise – many people decided to take an extra long weekend and “work” from home.

Working from home is okay if you really do work from home. Most don’t – instead they fake it.

How do you work from home without actually working from home?

Just send a few emails every couple of hours, make a few phone calls to those poor victims actually working in the office, and occasionally send out a memo.

Today, the whole marketing department was no where to be found. They were all “working” from home – though I seriously doubt anyone got any work done. Though much of the time, they don’t get any work done while they are in the office – so I guess that’s okay.

The president of the company came by earlier today, and asked where everyone was in marketing. I told him they were working from home. I thought about making those fake quotation mark gestures with my hands – but decided not too. He knows all too well how little the marketing department actually does. Which is surprising, seeing as they have done little to improve the department – other than sack the director. That whole department needs to be cleaned from top to bottom if they are to get back on track.

But back to the issue at hand – “working” with the fake quotation marks for emphasis – actually causes more problems than it cures.

For starters, you can never really ever reach anyone working from home. Funny how that is – when someone is in the office chugging away, you can almost always find them. But when they “work” from home, it is as if they enter this giant cone of silence and all you get is voice-mail.

But by calling them and leaving a message you give them the perfect opportunity to prove they are “working” – now when they return your call, you feel complete, like you’re not the only sucker working, because they must be working as they returned your call.

How much effort does it take to return a voice-mail?

Exactly.

You are still a sucker. And they are still “working” from home – comfy in their PJs, watching their favourite shows on television, while sipping their favourite beverages.

You on the other hand, are tackling your work, and probably some of their work too – because they aren’t around and things need to get done.

That’s another “benefit” of working from home. Things need to get done, so those in the office do them – while those out of the office “working” from home get to relax, and come back to a nice clean desk.

Though for some reason, my honest work ethic somehow lands me in the role of office cleaner, as I more often than not get stuck doing other people’s gigs when they “work” from home.

“So and so isn’t here, can you do it?”

F*ck!

More work on top of an endless stream of overwork and underpay.

They never pay me the other person’s salary for doing their job, they just tell me how wonderful I am for doing it.

Nice.

I’ll try that next time my bills come due. You’re wonderful for providing phone service – but sorry, no money this month. Maybe next time – but did I mention how good the phone service you provide is?

Yeah – that’ll work.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll work from home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Party Planning Joys and Sorrows

This is the time of year where friends and families get together to celebrate the holidays. Christmas, New Year’s, even Boxing Day for us Canadians is a celebration of sorts.

But it is also a trying time, for those that have to plan and orchestrate these parties.

Who do you invite? Where do you go? How long in advance to you make reservations? What about those that you invite that never show up?

Planning a party can be fun, but I’ve done it in the past couple years and I’ve grown tired of it.

What really annoys me, is when you invite a bunch of people, and the same people you invite every year bail out on you and your party at the last minute.

That’s not only rude, but disrespectful.

So this year, I think I’ll leave the planning to someone else. Or at the very least, who says you can’t enjoy the holidays alone, with a good bottle of wine, and unlimited choices of movies on the movie networks?

I love a good party as much as anyone else. But I hate having to organize the food, the drink, the list of attendees. Especially when many of those attendees decide at the last minute to do something else.

SO – this year will be different.

Where’s my wine?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Time Is Money – Except When In Lue

I’ve worked an excessive amount of overtime on my current contract. Usually I don’t mind too much, as I get paid by the hour. So the more I work, the more I make.

On my current contract I don’t get overtime pay. I did my usual objection to this when I first signed, but they assured me there wouldn’t be any need to worry – there isn’t that much overtime required.

Yeah right. The cheap bastards ripped me off.

When I get paid hourly, the more I work, the more I make – but also the more the client pays. It works to my advantage not just in more cash in my pocket, but as an incentive not to overwork me – because it’ll cost the client more.

Instead of overtime pay, I get time in lue. Time in lue is supposed to allow for every hour I work overtime, I get another hour paid off.

I’ve taken a few days in lue so far, because of the excessive overtime due to mis-management, or in most cases no management whatsoever.

Problem with lue time, is it is hard to take with this client, as nothing is managed, so everything is always rushed. As everything is always rushed, I find it hard to take time out from the busy day to take the time I am owed back by the company.

Also, without any form of incentive to keep their costs down, they just keep piling on the work.

Bad management and time in lue make a deadly combination. It makes for overworked, undervalued employees, that have excessive stress due to excessive overtime, and not enough time off.

I’ve done the occasional contract with time in lue – usually it works out okay. Although I don’t get paid for overtime, the amount of time spent above and beyond my normal working day is minimal.

But all it takes is one bad apple to sour the batch. Thanks to my current client, I will never do a time in lue arrangement ever again. If anyone is unwilling to properly compensate me for my time – which is anytime above and beyond a normal working day – than I will simply refuse to work for that company.

As it is now, I will no longer put in overtime on my current contract – regardless of what comes down the pipe. I’ve worked long and hard and have learned the hard way that this client has taken advantage of my diligence and strong work ethic.

They have imposed themselves on my personal time, and I don’t believe I will ever fully make up the time I’ve spent working overtime. I am even debating shortening my hours at the office, to make up for the excessive overtime.

Either that or send them a bill for my time. My time is valuable to me. My time is when I get to be with friends and family, do my housework, or simply rest and relax. When I don’t get my time, I get very annoyed, and the less time I have to myself, the more burnt out I become.

A burnt out employee is not a good employee, as you make more mistakes when you are tired. Also, the more time you are expected to work, the less time you want to spend doing a good job, so you quickly lose interest in your employer and the tasks at hand.

Lue time is not the wave of the future – at least not for me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Relaxation By Chore

There is something strangely relaxing about housework. Washing the floors, dusting, vacuuming, even doing laundry have a certain calming effect on me.

It is a lot of bending, stretching, getting wet and soapy, and dusty. But the satisfaction of a job well done, a nice sparkling shiny home – that’s the ultimate reward.

I enjoy taking down my recycling, dusting the furniture, and vacuuming the floors. Then I typically wash the floors and clean out the bathroom.

You can learn a lot about a person by how clean they keep their bathroom. A bathroom which is filthy says a lot about the living habits of the person. So too, does a clean and shiny bathroom.

But there is more to it than personal pride – there’s relaxation.

It really is soothing to not have to think, not have to type, not have write. There are no emails to go through, no meetings to sit through, and no piles of paper to read.

Doing housework is mindless work, and I think that’s why it doesn’t appear to be work to me. It is like down time for my brain. It allows me to just focus on shining up the sink, or shaking out the dust in my area rugs.

I think I even clean my place better when I am really stressed at my job, because this isn’t my job. It’s housework – which has to be done. But it isn’t like work where you have unrealistic deadlines, set by non-thinking managers that don’t really know anything about management.

I think I’ll go clean out my tub now. . .

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Adjusting to Change or Just Being Lazy?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the ideals, values and workplace methodologies at my current gig.

My contract ends in a couple of months, and I know they are leaning towards keeping me on past my current contract.

Problem is – I don’t feel that confident in the company to continue beyond my current contract.

Finally, after months of my nagging and complaining about the lack of project management, management is starting to admit to me that there is no project management at the company.

Usually when I nagged or complained about the lack of project management, management would always shoot me down with a snarky – we’re working on improving it, or in the case of the top dog, the president actually named someone in the call centre as being in charge of managing projects.

Funny though, when I asked the president why then, have I never seen a project plan, he simply refuted back that none of the projects I’ve worked on have been under project management.

My manager says I can adapt to this lack of project management system they have in place. She even claims she has books which discuss it.

That really surprised me, because most MBAs would tell you project management is the only acceptable way to run an effective and efficient business. Without project management, you have – well – you have what I experience every day.

Chaos. Confusion. Frustration. Exceptionally high levels of stress – and a never ending pile of work which just gets dumped in your lap, despite already being overloaded with more work than one person should be reasonably expected to complete.

So, one of the big questions I have been exploring is this – is it possible to adapt to a chaotic, unmanaged system of running a business, or is just those that choose to work under such a system have other reasons to give up the methods used in most successful businesses?

Why would someone give up something which is known to work better, in place of a less effective system?

I know most of the employees have been around forever. For many of the staff, this is the only job they have ever known. Right out of school, for the past decade or more, in terms of employers, my current employer is all they have ever worked for.

For the “old schoolers” as they have become known at the company, it is understandable that they adapted to this chaotic system. They have never experienced the efficiencies provided by a properly project managed system, so they think all offices work as scatter-brained as this one.

But then there are others who have worked elsewhere, most likely some of these people have seen the light, and know there is a far better way to run the shop. Why are these people here.

I’m starting to wonder if these people haven’t so much adapted to a less effective system, but instead just gave up trying to find something better.

Looking for work isn’t always easy. With more people than there are good jobs, it is easier to just toss in the towel and take whatever you can find, regardless of how stressful it really is.

And working under a chaotic system is very stressful. In all my working life – which is probably well over 15 or more years – this contract has been the most stress-filled experience I have ever endured. It may even be the most stressful thing I have ever lived through in my whole life – and that says a lot, because I’m not exactly a spring chicken.

People who give up and just accept where they are, regardless of whether it is the best practice (and project management is a best practice) probably aren’t very good at what they do. Getting another job isn’t easy, but if you’re that concerned about finding work that you’re willing to work someplace which one day may cause you a heart attack or a stroke, chances are you know you’re not very good at what you do.

There’s another possibility – pure and simple laziness. Managing anything takes energy and effort. It requires work. People that are lazy will find every reason in the book – and some that aren’t in the book – to avoid doing more than they absolutely have to, to get the job done. It may be done quickly, and it will be a shoddy job – but it will be done.

That’s pretty much how all projects are “managed” where I am now. They just happen, as fast as can be completed, and usually are full of errors, bugs and noticeable problems, that would have been caught had the project not been rushed, but properly managed from the beginning.

I think I’ve discovered the fatal flaw of this company – laziness. People don’t adapt to something of lesser value, they see their leaders slacking off and do the same.

So, now the real question – do I continue past my contract with a bunch of slackers?

Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, November 17, 2007

She’s Got A Great Personality

Funny how whenever someone tells me some woman they are trying to fix me up with, as soon as I hear them say “she’s got a nice personality,” then I know she’s got little else.

Personality is an important thing – it’s part of what makes us who we are. But when a guy tells another guy she’s got a great personality, usually it means she’s not pretty, she may not even be smart, and she may have other fatal flaws.

The same can be said for workplaces.

Everyone at my work is really, really nice. Doesn’t mean it is a great place to work, just means the people are very nice.

When I hear everyone tell me how nice everyone is at the office, it is the same thing as someone telling me a person has a great personality.

I’ve figured that out after living the experience – as we often do. The people at my work are really nice – but the work environment itself is not.

There is no management of any real kind – no project management, little to no executive leadership and although the managers are really really nice, they don’t really lead their teams all that well either.

Leadership comes from the top down in any company. Without it, you won’t have any leadership at the rest of the levels, and you certainly won’t keep the top performing employees on your pay roll – we notice these things.

Although everyone is really really nice, without any leadership, there isn’t enough to keep me at this gig longer than my contract allows. My contract ends in less than 90-days, and I’m already looking forward to moving on.

Though the people are really really nice – that won’t keep me there.

Why?

Well, here’s a good example – the other day we had an executive meeting for a conference we’re putting together. The conference was a week away (or less actually by a day or two) and everyone should be ready – especially the president and CEO.

He admitted the night before the meeting, that although he knows the importance of this conference, which is less than a week away – he still hadn’t written his speech.

Wait a sec – you’re the leader – the TOP leader – the big fish leading all the other smaller fish, and you can’t be bothered to lead by example and have your speech ready on time?

We’re all busting our buns to get this conference going without any problems and you don’t have the decency to get your stuff together at the very least?

I’ve been working outrageously excessive hours for the past month trying to get my stuff done for conference on time – what’s your excuse?

When your employees put in 12-hour days, to be ready, but you don’t – that’s not leadership. That’s dropping the eight ball and hoping it doesn’t make a lot of noise when it come crashing down the hole.

This is just one of far too many examples of the lack of leadership at this company. It is going to be hard to leave in some ways, because the people are really nice. But I’d rather work with assholes that got the job done, than nice people that don’t do shit all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why Home Made Burgers Rock


I love to cook – it’s a great stress reliever and is healthier than buying crap made in China. Actually, doing it yourself is a lot better than anything made in China these days.

I made some of my world famous home made burgers today.

The secret to a good burger is the stuff you mix with the meat.

First, nothing forms the basis for my home made burgers other than pure, extra lean Grade AAA beef.

I occasionally make chicken burgers, beef and veal burgers (yum!) but those are special. When I’m making traditional hamburger patties, nothing but pure beef. No fillers here.

Some people swear by bread crumbs. Filler – if I wanted bread in my burger, I wouldn’t need a bun!

Once I get all the beef in one bowl, I then add all the dry ingredients. Salt, pepper, and other spices.

I shred – shred, NOT chop – shred a sweet onion and toss it in. By shredding it you get a finer consistency and you also get more onion juice – which mixes better than if you chopped, diced or just sliced up an onion.

I love bad breath – I chop up a handful of green onions too. Can’t have too much onion!

Garlic rounds out the dry ingredients, then I go for the wet.

Some liquid eggs go in (to keep the meat solid on the grill), some teriyaki sauce for flavour, and then some olive oil.

Olive oil? In burgers?

Yeppers – the olive oil does a few things. Here’s cooking science 101 . . .

Olive oil has a lower flash point than many other oils. That means it heats up faster than other oils. It can burn faster too, but inside a burger, we’re going for the heat. So the olive oil will actually help the burgers cook faster, because they get hotter inside and out quicker.

Olive oil is also a great lubricant. It keeps the burgers from sticking to the grill – which is important as we want to eventually get them off the grill to consume.

And, Olive oil helps lower cholesterol, so it is actually good for you. That and it adds some flavour too.

Olive oil is a great thing to add to burgers.

Now comes the fun part – getting dirty. Roll up your sleeves and dig in – it is time to mix all this stuff together, by hand! No mix-masters or other kitchen gadgets here – just my two hands.

The feeling of the ingredients at first is somewhat slimy, but after getting used to it, you actually start to get into it. And that leads to the best part of all. . .(other than actually eating the burgers) . . .

POUNDING THEM!

Nothing gets out my frustrations from work more, than moulding, shaping and pounding out round beef patties. It’s a great way to beat out the anger built up over years of pain, anger and . . .

HEY!

You’re not my therapist!

Bashing burgers creates a uniform – or somewhat uniform – shape, while releasing tensions from life.

Then it’s off to the grill, for some fire. Fire makes everything better – just ask any arsonist.

Okay, maybe not – but unless you like your burgers raw, I’d suggest a good BBQ. You can bake burgers, or pan fry them – but nothing tastes better than a home made burger freshly BBQed off a hot grill.

Mmmmmmmm burgers!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Xmas Shopping Already?

I enjoy shopping for typical guy things – computers, stereos, and other electronics. But it seems every year the malls put out their Christmas decorations out earlier and earlier.

Already, most malls and their stores have the fake snow, the Santa dolls, and posters with elves out.

I enjoy the holidays – it means time off work and with friends and family. But every time I go into a mall and hear that Xmas music ---arrrgh!

It’s too soon.

I feel sorry for those that work in the mall and have to listen to it every day, all day. Imagine listening to “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” all day? I’d go mad!

Which is probably what some mall employees do – because working under those conditions isn’t the best. Sure it is fun, and it is a nice time of year. Everyone is supposed to be nicer to each other, and the holidays make people feel better.

But what often happens is you get people so frustrated, they aren’t nice at all. They push and shove there way through crowds, to get those holiday gifts.

I remember way back in the 1980s when Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage. There were riots by grown adults (mostly women) fighting to get the specific Cabbage Patch Kid that their kid had requested.

It was on all the news programs of the day – I still remember the images to this day, of parents kicking and screaming over some dolls for their kids.

These types of silly riots still occur, just the toys are different. These days, the latest “in” toy is Tickle Me Elmo.

I don’t know about you, but Elmo isn’t worth dying over.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Two-Week’s Notice Guy


We all want to be two-week’s notice guy from time to time. When work gets you down, and there is no end in sight, sometimes I just want to go into my manager’s office and say:

“F*ck it! I QUIT!”

And then I’d swiftly walk out, never to return.

Two-week’s notice guy probably would do it better. He probably has thousands of exciting, interesting and fun ways to leave our places of work. He’s probably scribbling innovative ways to tell the boss where to go as we speak.

I wish I was two-week’s notice guy. I’ve got big issues with where I work.

Actually, I’ve had big issues for a while now, but thought I could somehow manage to fit in – just as others are doing.

The problem is, there isn’t any form of project management at all. There doesn’t appear to be any management of any kind on any real level. They do have an executive level and a managerial level – what exactly these people do I often wonder, because it certainly isn’t “management” as I’ve experienced it at other companies.

One day my manager tells me project X is the priority and to focus on that. They very next day, she gives me a completely different priority, knowing full well she told me to already focus on something else.

I tell her the previous priority won’t get done, can’t work on it, if while I am working on her new project. She tells me she knows this already – just do it.

I shift gears, only to be tossed around to other priorities as they pop-up. Nothing really ever gets done until the very last minute. And because everything gets done at the very last minute, there is always something shoddy about it. It is never correct the first time around, simply because everyone is rushing around like their lives depend on it – so mistakes happen. Always. And everyone sees these mistakes, and accepts them as just part of the normal way business is done.

This has been going on since I started at this place several months ago. I’ve discussed project management with managers, executives and staff. They all tell me different things – but no one really knows what I’m talking about.

Turns out, the company (which has been around since the 1960s) has had most of the same staff since it began. And, this company has always done things the same way, forever. So, those working at the company don’t know any other way of doing anything. They think the “just drop everything and do it” approach is how all companies operate.
But many executives have supposedly come from other companies, where they do have sophisticated project management systems in place.

What’s there excuse?

I think I’ve figured it out – it’s their style.

Some people feel restricted under the riggers of good, solid project management. They know it is a necessary evil, because without it, the whole works falls apart.

But, when you go into a company where the majority of the worker-bees don’t know any better, you have an “a-ha” moment and realize that at very last, you can get away without letting on your knowledge about how to do things better. You can finally work under the style which you’ve always wanted to, even though you know it isn’t very effective.

A lot of very creative people hate being managed. But they know it is better to have some form of official management in place, to provide structured substance to the creative process. Without this process, things fall through the cracks, and you end up with burnt out employees, rushing around to get things done, producing shoddy projects, where everyone can see the mistakes.

I wonder what excuse two-weeks notice guy has to get out of this mess?

I’m highly creative, but I know the benefits – hell it is a necessity as far as I’m concerned” to have a formal project management structure in place. I’m looking to get out of this mess, so that I can breathe, and once again enjoy doing my work – without the heart attack never ending rush of priority one assignments.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rude and Ruthless – The New Canadian Way

People are so rude these days – when I’m walking from point A to B, if someone is in front of me, I don’t push them out of the way to get past.

Yet that happens all to often these days when I’m walking down the street, entering or leaving a building or any of a zillion other things I do daily.

People used to say “excuse me” or even “sorry” when they stepped on your feet. These days, they look at you like it is your fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – even though you may have just been standing still.

We’ve all heard about road rage, where people lose control and get into fist fights because someone cut them off on the highway.

Now we have sidewalk rage, where people get into fist fights for stepping on someone else’s toes.

Our society isn’t what it used to be – and it is very sad to have lost the innocence of being Canadian. Canadian’s used to be known as the world’s ambassadors, the most polite people anywhere.

Thanks to over-immigration from countries with far lesser values, our society has changed for the worse. Instead of saying “excuse me” or “sorry” people swear, threaten violence, or even just take matters into their own hands and punch, kick and even bite.

What kind of country have we become, when we allow biters in to our mists?

In order to fit into our narrowing and less welcoming society, good ‘ol Canadians who used to be polite, now have to be just as verbally abusive and violent as those we let into our once happy land.

If you’re not strong enough to be aggressive, you’ll be eaten alive – thanks to our changing society and its twisted values.

It would be nice to be able to go back to a more peaceful time, one where people held the door for you, instead of letting it slam behind them. A time where people were nice to each other, instead of mean, rotten to the core and potentially dangerous to one’s being.

But we’ll never be able to go back, so long as we continue to let the world’s rejects come and call our once peace-loving land home.

Immigration is good in controlled numbers, from selected sources. But when we let drug dealers, terrorists, and other rift-raft into this country as we have been, we lose our way and become no better than the rift-raft.

I remember a time not that long ago when it was very safe to go for a walk after dark in the city. These days, if you do that, you stand a very good chance of not returning home in one piece – if at all.

We never had sporadic gang shootings in the streets, guns in schools, drug loads buying up luxurious houses in well-to-do areas to grow their crap, and terrorists plotting their next strike, from the house next door.

Nope – those are all new “benefits” of our new society, where if you have a pulse, you’re welcome here.

Maybe we need to re-think that policy.

Funny, people come here from other countries to live in a better, safer, cleaner and more profitable place where they can actually have lives. But these very same people give a big F U to our Canadian values system, and continue to live their lives just as they did back home. This tarnishes our Canadian values, and makes the whole reason of their being here pointless – why live in another country, if you’re just going to do exactly what you did in your native land?

That’s why we see more guns – some countries, even kids as young as 10 carry concealed fire arms. That’s why we see more drugs – some countries, drugs are the easiest and quickest way for the poor and starving to make enough for basic food and shelter. That’s why we see more crime – in many of the poorer countries of the world, people are so desperate they will do anything to survive.

Because we let in anyone these days, they do whatever they want – and make it hard for good, honest, hard working Canadians to survive.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Bleed No More

I bought a new razor on the weekend – electric.

I used to always use electric razors, the Phillashave ones with the rotary heads. Then I switched to manual razors.

Manual razors give a nice close shave, but there is so much involved. You have to use cream or gel and you have to be alert – otherwise you can lose some skin too.

I’ve lost lots of skin over the past few years. When I wake up, I’m often still groggy, so giving me a sharp object isn’t exactly the best of ideas. Also, you have to keep buying replacement blades, which is a hastle.

So on the weekend I decided I had enough of the spurting blood, the constantly buying of shaving creams, the mess of cream and hair in the sink – I went back to electric.

I was looking at all the razors – there are so many to chose from. There are rotary ones, microscreen ones, ones which have beard trimmers, ones in funky colors, there are even ones which dispense aftershave or lotion to moisturize and refresh the skin after a shave.

I bought a really snazzy razor too – a Remington Titanium Microscreen. It is a rechargeable razor with a six-hour running time (that’s 20 days worth of shaving according to the box!) And it is washable – I can rinse it under the tap. The things they have these days!

When I was younger, we were always taught never take anything electrical and get it wet – but these new razors are washable! How cool is that?

It is sleek and has a great contour for holding and a three-position trimmer, for those nasty nose hairs.

I was so eager to try it out, I wanted to right out of the box. But alas, it says it needs a 24-hour charge when you first bring it home. After that it will only take 16-hours to charge.

They had quick charge razors too, but I figured who needed that? How often does one really shave anyway?

So, as I sit here typing this, it is charging away. But hey, I get to read up on the 30-day money back guarantee!

Yeppers, it says on the box “try it risk free for 30 days.” I like this 30 day trial period because razors are one of those things which may or may not be just the right one. Most stores won’t take back a razor once used – they can’t sell it again – but it is one of those things which is nice to try before you buy. I’m glad Remington razors come with this selling feature.

But until the thing is fully charged, I may still bleed – damn manual razors.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Everything is Priority One

I’ve written many times about the lack of project management at work.

Everything stems from the top-down, and obviously working under any of the standard professional project management methods isn’t a high priority for management.

What is a high priority is everything.

My manager will tell me one week that my high priority where I should focus all my work efforts is on one thing. Then the next day, she’ll just drop a bomb on my desk, telling me that is my high priority.

When everything has to be done now, right away, no exceptions, you end up with burnt out staff, and mistakes in the things we do.

Little tiny mistakes that normally would be caught, go out with a deliverable, simply because we’re too damn burned out to notice.

All this, because the executive doesn’t believe in project management.

Project management isn’t a hard concept to grasp – there are life cycles or stages of development for all projects. Every person knows where, when and what needs to be done at each stage, and time lines are created to accommodate those needs for each stage.

See – if I can describe it at a basic level in one paragraph, you’d think some high-brow executive with years of experience not only knows about this, but knows the consequences of not using it.

The consequences are evident throughout the organization – laziness, unhappiness, and the biggest complaint of all – there is never enough time to do anything.

The reason there is never enough time to do anything is because without project management of some form, everything comes out of nowhere, and needs to be done now, right away – priority number one.

But if everyone already has several priority number one’s – when do they find time to do them all? How do you ensure the jobs get done correctly? How do you test and re-test to ensure there are no mistakes?

The answer – you don’t.

Garbage in equals garbage out – an old saying with lots of truth to it. In comes more trash, just to be shovelled out as fast to make way for new trash. There are no checks or balances to ensure the projects get completed well, or even on time.

And because everything is so rushed, people stop caring. I don’t know how many times I have heard my manager say she doesn’t care about quality, just so long as we get it done. “We’ll worry about that the next time” or “we’ll fix it in the next release” are very common phrases my manager uses.

These phrases indicate the projects she does do, don’t matter anymore, because she’s burnt out just like the rest of us.

But those things that were supposed to be fixed in the next round – don’t get fixed, there isn’t any time. Garbage in, garbage out.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hellooooo Is Anybody There?

I remember going shopping with my mom for clothes when I was a kid. I never really liked shopping for clothes with my mom – we’d have to try on everything.

It was a whole procedure – my mom would pick out clothes for me and my brother and then we’d go to the fitting area and each go into the teeny-tiny rooms they had the nerve to call change rooms. Then we’d come out, and my mom would give us the once over – twice or more.

“How does that feel?” she’d ask – knowing we’d always say “fine” even if it wasn’t. We just wanted to get out of there.

But she looked us up and down and made sure everything was in the right place and that we were comfy.

Although I dreaded those small fitting rooms, and the hours of trudging through the mall looking for clothes, there was always some happy smiling face working in the area to help out. There was always someone there to go and get another size, or take any of the clothes we didn’t want back to the shelves for us. There was always someone around just to ask “can I help you?”

These days, there never is anyone around. I was shopping today for a new electric razor. I’ve been using a manual for a while, and felt after losing enough blood over the years, it was time to go back to electric.

First I went to The Bay. The Bay always has higher prices, but they usually can justify those prices by having sales staff that really cater to your needs.

Not today – I found the grooming section where they had razors, hair dryers, curling irons and other things.

There were a lot – and the expensive ones were locked behind a glass display case. I looked at the ones out on the shelves, and I was trying to look at the ones in the glass display, but it was really hard to see. But there wasn’t anyone around to offer any assistance. I looked up and down the aisle, and said to myself “F-this – I’ll go elsewhere.”

And with that, I went to Sears. Now Sears used to have great customer service – I love shopping there. I’ve got many household items from the Sears Robuck Corporation – my air conditioners, my wireless phones, even socks.

Surely there would be someone around to offer assistance.

Nope. Not a freakin’ pimply-faced teeny-bopper in sight to even offer to unlock the glass case, let alone find someone that had hit puberty to help a grown man find a shaver.

So, I went to Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart isn’t known for their customer service, but they are known for their rock bottom prices. But surprisingly, I was shocked – delighted in fact – to find several people able to help me in my quest for the close shave.

One Wal-Mart associate unlocked the case, another pointed out the ones on special. A third sales person happened by, saw what I had in my hands, and told me the one next to it is exactly the same razor, but much cheaper (the one I was holding had a bronze and fancier lettering on it, upping the price.)

I thanked all the sales staff for their help, and bought my razor from a store that actually helped me out. The other stores lost my business, because they appeared to not really want it in the first place.

Low prices are great, but being served by a knowledgeable sales person is also important. Sure they can be annoying sometimes – especially when they hover around you hoping you’ll buy from them. But I’d rather have someone hovering over me, so that I can ask questions, see products and make an informed purchasing decision – than having no one around so that I can’t make any decision at all.

I was pleasantly surprised that the store claiming to have the lowest prices, also had the best customer service. Maybe you don’t always get what you pay for?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Break Not For Me

Often I’m too busy to make my own lunch for work – or too burnt out. So, I rely on the fast food in the area.

Problem is, where the office is there isn’t really anything close by. So I often am forced to decide between two mom and pop shops – the cafeteria in the basement, or the cafeteria in the building across the street.

The cafeteria in the basement is closer, and it has a big screen TV. But it is also much dirtier and the food is very bland.

I had to eat there twice in the past week and it neither times was it enjoyable. In both instances the food was so bland, hospital food would have packed more flavour. They are very friendly down there, and they recently got a new menu addition – gourmet pastries from some high-class vendor. Nice muffins.

I also ate once this week at the cafeteria across the street. It is cleaner, and the food has more zing, but it still doesn’t compare to the big fast food shops.

Not that eating at fast food places is a healthy alternative, but when you’re faced with two poor choices, even McD’s would be nice.

If any of the fast food places is reading this – move into the area! You’d make a killing – there are nothing but office buildings in the area and there aren’t any satisfactory places to eat.

I prefer working downtown – lots more places to eat and there are even places to go with your home-packed lunch, so at least you can get out of the office.

The office I’m at now has a very small lunch room – so small it is often very crowded and very noisy. It’s also not the most comfortable of places to be.

I’ve been at companies that really have incredible lunch rooms. One place had a couple televisions, big cushioned chairs, funky wild color schemes, several microwaves, fridges, and lots of space for everyone.

Some even have game rooms – been to a few companies which have pool tables, fooze ball tables, arcade games, or even just quiet magazine racks full of things to read while taking a break from work.

I think that’s the big problem where I work – breaks. There is far too much work and not enough competent people to do the work. There are lots of people, but some are other job interview’s rejects. They are incredibly lazy, and lack any real motivation for their careers or their projects. Some have been administrative assistants for over 20-years – can you imagine being a secretary for the same company for that long?!?!? Never moving up on the corporate ladder, never taking any initiative or being given the opportunity to take a lead role. Speak of a professional photocopier.

Because of the office climate I’m in, often I don’t get to take a lunch or other breaks during the day. I’m constantly swamped with oodles of work.

I love what I do, but even I need a break occasionally.

Because I’m so busy – as are just a handful of others that actually have motivation and do the bulk of the work, when we do have a moment to take lunch, we’re disgusted to find the lunch room crowded with the lazy ass-wipes that never leave.

They are constantly taking breaks and extended lunches, to avoid work wherever possible. I guess their theory is if they aren’t at their desk, they can’t be tasked to do something. It must work, because they aren’t at their desks too often.

Maybe my next gig will have a more balanced work-life balance mode of operations – I’ve always wanted an office with a hot tub. . . or maybe my own kitchen in my office. I bar fridge, a microwave and a sink would be nice .

Then although I still might not have time to take a break, at least I won’t be stuck in the same room with the demotivating lazy-asses that have been in the same role for ever.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pimps, Hookers, Man-Whores, and the Sluts Who Want ‘Em

I hit the gym today to do my usual iron-pumping workout. Today being Halloween, they had some semi-nutritious treats (shakes), a live Disc Jockey, and people in costumes.

I was thinking about this prior to going in – how do you dress up safely and workout? Halloween costumes aren’t usually fit for the bench press – they can be lose and get caught in or on the equipment.

I found out less is more at the gym.

There weren’t many people in garb, but those that were in some sort of costume weren’t wearing much of anything at all.

In fact, some were wearing so little, that I felt embarrassed for them.

There were the three receptionists – all really young kids, probably in their early twenties. One was wearing a very sexy – or slutty depending on your point of view – French maid outfit, with very short and tight skirt. Another one was wearing another short and tight outfit, she said was Goldilocks from the fable Goldilocks and the Three Bears. And the third receptionist was wearing some sort of tight white thing, I haven’t a clue what it was.

They were wandering around the gym every so often, handing out free health shakes samples. They are great eye candy, unless you drop a very heavy weight on your foot . . .

Some of the other staff were in rather slutty outfits too. One guy was dressed up like a pimp – and I thought that was fitting as there were some girls that looked like whores. I bet their moms are proud. There was another guy dress up like a Chip N Dales dancer, no shirt, but he had a tie and tight pants.

A couple of the personal trainers dressed up too – one outfit was clever – it was what a trainer would have worn in the 80’s. Made me feel old – but it was clever and not too slutty.

Another trainer was all in black – no idea what she was, but hey, to each their own.

Some guy had put a big box around him, and a sign on it that said “God’s Gift to Women.”

Now I know I go to the right gym.

All I wanted to do was workout – and I did. Though I found it hard to concentrate with all the oddballs. I’m just glad that no one went naked – that would have been awkward. But I bet the guy dressed as the pimp would have hired her on the spot.

How much for the girl?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Easy On, Easier Off

I love to cook – it is great stress relief. Having someone over to enjoy my cooking is all the better, then I even get compliments.

And NO – so far no one has ended up in the hospital with food poisoning. That I know of.

Problem with cooking though, is someone eventually will have to do some cleaning.

All the pots, pans, knives, forks, plates, spatulas and other cooking utensils eventually have to be washed.

Last weekend I made a gigantic brisket pot roast. It was really good – I roasted with it potatoes, carrots and onions to make a great side-dish, and to add flavour to the gravy.

But the roasting pot I used wasn’t big enough. It was big enough at first to hold everything, but as the gravy built-up from the meat, it overflowed out and into my oven.

The mess afterwards was horrendous. Gravy and grease from the meat was caked on the bottom and sides of my oven.

Not even a self-cleaning range can cut through this tough stuff. So I got the Easy Off oven cleaner and sprayed the entire oven – from top to bottom.

I used an entire can – you’re supposed to right?

The fumes almost made me pass out – I could taste the oven cleaner. Not a pleasant thing.

I let the oven cleaner work it’s magic. It says on the can to let it sit for eight-hours or more. I sprayed it on Monday night, and waited until this evening (Tuesday) to wipe it out and clean it up.

It certainly did the job – wiping it out was easy. All that caked on dirt and grime came off as if it were melted away. And there lied a shiny metal polished finish underneath.

Though as I was cleaning it out, I became covered in the dirt too. So I had a shower afterwards – it is funny how no matter what I do in the kitchen, I always end up wearing something or other I didn’t intend too.

Now I have a nice, clean oven.

So that I can dirty it up once again with another home-cooked meal.

Dig in.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hollow Halloween

When I was a kid, I remember my dad taking me and my brother out trick or treating on Halloween.

We’d go around the neighbourhood, door-to-door, yelling out “trick or treat” and happy smiling faces would hand us loads of candies.

We’d often run into other kids in the neighbourhood – our classmates from school – being taking around trick or treating by their parents. We’d then walk together with them, going from house to house, comparing “loot.” Our parents would walk together, talking about parent-type stuff.

It was a nice community feel, that happened once-a-year. You could feel the excitement in the air, not just from us kids collecting candy, but also by the sense of strength that comes from knowing you belong. Everyone was having fun together in the community.

These days, it isn’t safe anymore for kids to go door-to-door. Parents paranoid about what the psychos living next door might be giving out, opt for non-traditional, non-community methods of trick or treating.

Parents these days take their kids to the mall, dressed up in funky outfits. Store clerks hand out candies, coupons and other goodies. Some offices have their annual “bring your kids to work” day on or around Halloween, so that the kids can come into a safe environment and get treats.

In my building, instead of parents taking their kids door-to-door, the property management office hands out goodies to anyone that happens bye.

There is something dreadfully wrong with society, when we can’t trust our neighbours next door. If you really can’t trust those living next to your home – who can you trust?

Where community spirit once was, has now been replaced with fear, paranoia, and the sad realization that our world is no longer a happy, safe and wonderful place to be.

There could be a grow-op with drug dealers next door, a child pornographer, or worse – just some ordinary Joe Average, with an average job and a peaceful life. Nothing wrong with that Joe Average. But you’ll never know who is living next door, because of the fear and paranoia which lurks in the mainstream press.

We’re always reading about some twisted sick people somewhere doing sick twisted crap to some poor sap that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But these news reports taint our vision to the point where everyone is evil. Everyone is out to do no good.

The worst part about all of this isn’t that we can’t live in peace in our own neighbourhoods. Nope – the worst part is the lost community feel – the lost feeling of belonging to something just by being home.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

WOW! They Have Everything These Days

I went to Wal-Mart today, to do some shopping – and WOW they have everything!

Who needs to go anywhere else, when you can get it all at Wal-Mart. From pictures and posters, to bathroom and house wares, even clothes, food and stuff for your pets and kids.

A lot of people don’t like Wal-Mart. They say they depend too much on foreign labour, don’t pay a fair wage and their all corporate motto is to divide and conquer.

Hey, wait a sec – sounds just like capitalism to me. Sounds like the very same political philosophy that has made Microsoft, General Motors, MacDonald’s and just about every other large mega-corporation a large mega-corporation in the first place.

Who can knock Wal-Mart when you can get everything you ever needed all from one place?

Wal-Mart is dangerous – but only to those of us that shop there. I always come out with more things than I had originally intended to buy.

But isn’t that the whole point of having these mega-malls?

It makes life easier – just go to one of these mega-mall stores and grab whatever you need.

I think the only ones really complaining are those who happen to work for or run the smaller stores these mega-mall stores compete against.

Granted, there lies the real danger. If the mega-malls completely eliminate the competition, then there won’t be any competition for price, and the mega-malls can charge whatever they want for everything. Prices will be dictated by those greedy suits and ties that run the store, rather than by market demand.

But until the competition is gone – I’m shopping at Wal-Mart.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Canadian Cooking Tradition


The leaves are changing colors, the temperature is getting colder, and winter is almost here. But I’m still out BBQing my meals.

I love to BBQ and despite the cold weather, I still enjoy a nice BBQed steak, burger, chicken or other such entre.

Granted, you don’t have the family and friends sitting with you outside on patio chairs, enjoying the hot, lazy days of summer.

Instead, I find myself alone, huddled by the heat of the grill, flipping the burgers, while my guests enjoy the cozy warmer climate inside.

They’ll never learn the joy of BBQing sitting inside, watching TV, while I enjoy the sizzle of the meat, the sensuous smoke in my eyes, and the satisfaction of braving a Canadian climate to put good food on the table.

I guess I do prefer summer over winter – the weather is more pleasant, there is more to do outside, and the women’s skirts get shorter.

But one thing remains, regardless of whether there is snow on the ground or green fields afoot. I will continue to BBQ.

BBQing is more than just a way to cook, it is a passion. The food tastes different when made in an oven. It also is so much easier in the oven.

When I make a steak in the oven, I just leave it in their for an hour, come back, and it is done.

But a steak on the grill involves work. You have to watch it carefully so it doesn’t get over done on one side, you have to carefully season it, so that the spices don’t burn, and you have to constantly drink beer while BBQing.

Drink beer?

Hey, it is the BBQing man’s prerogative to drink beer while BBQing. Drinking beer while BBQing is as Canadian as – well – as Canadian as hockey, the beaver, and Don Cherry.

Drinking a nice, refreshing cold beer while BBQing is as Canadian as going to Tim’s and grabbing some bits.

Pass me a cold one – I’m going out to check on the meat.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Age Be Gone! Long Live the Nothing Look

I was flipping around the tube the other day and came across Joan Rivers on the Shopping Channel.

Joan Rivers was hawking her latest perfumes, but something caught my eye – her face.

Her face looked like – well that’s just it – it didn’t look like a face. It sort of reminded me of what someone might look like, if you took the eraser tool in PhotoShop and erased out all the features which make a face look like a face.

There were no wrinkles, no indentations, no nothing. Joan River’s face was completely featureless.

Now Joan Rivers will be the first to tell you that she’s had plastic surgery. She jokes about it all the time and has for a number of years.

But I guess too much of a good thing really is bad for you, because after all of these years of facelifts and whatever else Joan has had done – now she looks more alien than human.

Sound familiar?

Remember the once black now mauve Michael Jackson. He too has had things done – so much so he hardly resembles pictures taken of him in his heyday.

Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers look alien to the human race. They don’t look like us humans, but it is because of human technology they look the way they do.

Scary and sad to think how far people will go these days to improve things which you shouldn’t.

The one thing that is certain in life is the constant march of time. We all age – from the second we pop out of the womb, to the time we finish decomposing in the grave.

Having cosmetic surgery to slow the aging process doesn’t work – because you can’t stop time. You can make yourself look younger, but only to a point.

Joan Rivers and Michael Jackson – and probably others too – have long passed that point. Now, thanks to pushing the envelope of plastic surgery, they no longer look their age. But they also don’t look like human beings either.

I’d rather look like an old person, than a personless person. Because we are a society of people, and if you don’t look like a person, you just don’t fit in.

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