Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Tale of the Cracked Plates

This time of the month there are always people coming and going in my building. Towards the end of the month and the beginning of the next month, new people move in and others move out. It is the nature of high-rise living, as most contracts start or end on the first or thirtieth of the month.

There are wise people, that plan their move ahead of time. They go out and get as many boxes as they can, to ensure all their belongings will arrive at their next destination. They hire professional movers, to do all the hard stuff, so all they have to do is coordinate where things go, and make sure nothing gets broken.

Then, there are the nutbars that go out of their way to do it the wrong way ‘round. Like today – as I was doing errands today, I ran into a Chinese family moving out of the building. Nothing – NOTHING – was boxed, packed or even tied together. They were loading and unloading the elevators with everything as it was in their home – I saw stacked plates and dishes, rolls of toilet paper, toys were scattered everywhere – what a mess!

Obviously, this family had not planned their move – or if they had they hadn’t planned it well. I’d like to place a bet on how long those dishes and plates last before they get cracked and broken.

I’ve seen others pack their lives in garbage bags – which may be better than nothing, still provides little to no protection.

The family moving today, were not only risking damaging or loss of their possessions, they were holding up life for others in the building. They hadn’t booked an elevator for service use through the building management office (which they should have) and so they were using all the elevators to move their bits and pieces of a scattered life. They simply tossed everything into the elevator, and then tossed it out into the main floor hallway.

It was like walking through a wasteland – a garbage dump.

It also slowed down the movement of people – including me – in and out of the building, as you had to catch an empty elevator or else you’d never get down or up.

I hope the family that was moving today ends up with lots of damage to their stuff – it’ll teach them that maybe next time, it won’t cost so much to get some boxes. You can actually get boxes free from the liquor store, and many other stores will gladly give you free boxes – they have lots from all their regular shipments.

People that don’t plan, plan to fail. Good luck to those nutbars – they need it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Conspiracy Theories on the Home Team

This summer, when I was at a summer fair and approached a competing company’s booth, I sort of expected the cold shoulder.

Well, actually I didn’t expect it – that’s what I got. I wasn’t spying or looking to cause trouble, I just wanted to say ‘hi’ and see how they found the fair.

But the cold shoulder is what I got – they hushed up real quick once I opened my mouth.

It is one thing to get the cold shoulder from a competitor, it is quite another to get it from a co-worker where you work.

Supposedly we all work on the same team at work. Usually the goal of any employee is to help out his or her fellow employee – you’re all working to keep the company competitive, profitable and enjoyable for you and your colleagues.

So when I approached someone in marketing for information about a program I’m working on for another project, it surprised me at how fast the doors of information were suddenly thrust closed in my face.

Marketing again!

Another horror story from the depths of hell at my office, more commonly referred to as the marketing team.

I should preface this story of woe with a caveat – I was talking with a co-worker in the compliance department and she needed the same information that I needed. I mentioned that to the marketing person I was talking with, and that’s when she suddenly went brain dead about all that I needed to know.

Usually when you mention anything to do with compliance and someone has a mental crash, you just know they are up to no good.

Marketing has a nasty habit of no good deeds. They have over-spent their budget not once, but twice in a row. They leave everything to the utmost last minute. And despite all the money they spend, and all the money the marketing executives make, they don’t feel confident in their own knowledge and wisdom in their area. So they continue to over-spend their budget hiring the largest and most expensive advertising agencies in the free world to do the job which they should be doing themselves.


Sorry – I vented – but I feel slightly better now. I’d feel even better if the marketing team was fired and replaced with a competent, friendly bunch of people that actually knew what they were supposed to know and act on that knowledge.

In a perfect world perhaps, but not mine.

Anyway – back to the tale of marketing misfits and how they snubbed me and my colleagues.

I asked for the most basic, primitive even, of information – exactly the same types of information we give to our sales force. I’m designing training materials for the sales force on these initiatives of marketing.

The marketing person told me to go talk to the marketing director for that – knowing full well that the marketing director never provides anyone with anything. We’re not sure if it is because she doesn’t know where it is, or if she is covering up another fudged budget, which will cause our poor Chief Financial Officer to go into convulsions of rage, and despair.

See, for some strange bizarre reason, as publicly incompetent as our marketing team is to everyone else in the company, the executives have not taken any action to rectify the problem.

We had one person who’d been with the company 17-years just get up and leave, because she couldn’t stand working in the marketing collective.

I hear grumblings from other people that have to deal with them about their impending departure too. And those that don’t have to work with them, just complain about them and shake their heads in disgust.

Must be a sweet deal they have concocted in marketing – over-spend, don’t do any real work for yourself, never work with anyone not in marketing, piss off the entire company, but still – somehow – keep your job.

I wish the marketing misfits went to work for the competition. At least then, when they snubbed me, it would make sense. But to snub someone at the very same company – oh yeah – they are up to no good.


That’s it – that’s why they don’t have any information to provide. They don’t want to get caught doing no good.

But wait a second – they do nothing good all the time (in fact always) yet they still have jobs. So why are they suddenly afraid to get caught?

Stay posted – maybe I’ll be able to do the dance of joy on the FORMER marketing manager’s desk. . .

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

All the News . . . But WAIT . . . Oh . . . That's Not It!

How come in this fine city of mine, with no less than five twenty-four-hour news channels, when you see something going on which is really big, and you rush to one of these channels, they have nothing on it?

This has happened twice in the past week to me. I saw them close down a whole stretch of highway, and there were red, white, blue and orange flashing lights as far as the eye could see. Clearly something big was going on – but I couldn’t see it all. So I turned on the local twenty-four-hour news channels, watched and listened for at least 45-minutes – but nothing was ever said.

When the blackout occurred at my work, we noticed the whole street was dark, and there were fire trucks, police cars, and hydro crews everywhere. An ambulance left the scene with lights and siren – clearly taking away someone involved in a horrible accident.

When I got home, what did I do?

I ran to the tube, turned on the local twenty-four-hour news channel and watched to see what was going on.

Again, NOTHING! ZIP! Not even a little blurb in those really annoying scrollers that practically yell out at you as you’re trying to watch the cluttered screen.

What good is a twenty-four-hour news channel, if you can’t get news off of the thing?

Now I know a lot happens in a day, but back when I was a journalist, news was stuff that actually mattered to people. News was happening too people in your local community. News was about the people, places and things which affected you.

These days, whenever Britney Spears gets caught doing something stupid, that’s news.


Will it actually ever affect YOU?

If Britney Spears doesn’t wear panties and decides to spread her legs showing herself to the world – how on earth will that affect you?

But when something happens that causes all the offices, including yours, to send you and all the employees home – like the blackout at my work – that does affect you. Aside from getting to go home early, all those companies – including the one ya work for – lost business that day. There will be missed meetings, projects that need to get extended, angry customers to deal with – these things appear to have more of an impact on us than whether or not Britney Spears is wearing panties.

Still, the news media and their never ending quest for content to fill their twenty-four-hour news stations seems to find lots of stuff to put on there.

Problem is, most of it is irrelevant crap that really has no impact on those forced to watch it.

We tune into these channels for insight into the world around us, but instead we are fed puff pieces that just don’t deserve the oxygen used to voice them.

It’s a sad day, when you see news with your own two eyes, yet all the local stations cover some slutty celebrity and her decision to wear or not to wear underwear.

I think the broadcast regulators are the real villains behind all of this – they regulate and license the twenty-four-hour news stations.

As a requirement of having a broadcast license, each television station must provide the types of content described in its licensing agreement.

I don’t know what the lawyers in the television news business are smoking, but it must be pretty good stuff if their licenses provide for content which is meaningless, pointless, sexually charged, and potentially offensive.

I would hope that the regulators have clauses which tell the twenty-four-hour news channels to carry interesting, informative journalistically sound pieces, which have meaning and worth to the viewer.

But who am I kidding – the regulators probably get off watching clips – or is that clits – of Britney Spears imitating Sharon Stone’s infamous leg uncross.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Power of None

The power went out at work today. These things occasionally happen, and when it does, all joy breaks loose.

No – not hell – joy.

People love an excuse to not work and still be paid. It’s like winning the lottery. As soon as the power went out, you could feel the sense of relief and “energy” in the air.

I have a laptop at work, so the power failure affected part of my job, not all of it. I could continue on working away on my laptop until the battery died. I wouldn’t be able to access my email, or anything on the network, because those go down instantly the power fails. But my hands could easily type away locally on my work laptop.

But they didn’t.

There was too much going on around the office to work. Everyone was gathering in groups, discussing anything and everything – except work.

Power failures are like recess, you look forward to when they come, you enjoy goofing off and hanging with your friends, and you dread when they end.

But this power failure didn’t last your typical 10-15-minutes or less. It was over an hour before the company decided to let everyone go. Not everyone has a laptop – actually most don’t – and without lights, even with a laptop it is hard to see what you are doing.

The blackout also caused quite a scare for our computer geeks. We all have electronic pass cards which allow or deny us access to the rooms which we require to do our jobs. The server room, where all the computers are that run the network, is only accessible to those in the Information Technology (IT) department. My job requires a functioning network, but as I don’t maintain the network (thankfully) I don’t need to access the server room.

The server room lock mechanism failed during the power failure, and so it does what it is programmed to do – keep everyone out. None of the IT personnel could get into the server room.

“Get a crow bar,” one of them said.

Oh boy!

Breaking and entering our own computer lab.

Eventually they got into the server room, I don’t know how – maybe they did use a crow bar.

Our customers are probably affected too. As the entire call center is computerized, the entire staff was let go early today.

So, anyone calling the call center won’t get through. They may not even get a voice message telling them the system is down and to call back another time. Imagine calling some company you pay big bucks to and nothing happens?

We’ll have a lot of frustrated customers to deal with tomorrow – or rather the call center will. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with that.

While I was waiting around for the lights to come on, I decided to go to the bathroom. No lights, it was pitch black – I got as far as just behind the second door and decided I’ll hold it in.

I didn’t want to pee on the wall, or worse – myself.

The emergency lights lasted only so long, and so aside from the light coming in from the windows, it was dark like coal throughout the office – including the bathrooms.

The stairwell was also pitch black, so Human Resources was escorting everyone down and out of the building in groups of 15 with flashlights.

I’ve worked at other companies where the lights have gone out and it is always the same thing – fun times, no work – just like recess – yippie!

I think I’ll buy a flashlight for the office – so that next time I can go pee during my extended recess.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gold Teeth, Baggy Pants and Pimp Shoes

I’m no fashion guru, but even I know how to dress myself – or maybe not.

There seems to be a fashion trend going on, which just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Gold teeth, baggy pants which hang so low the guys have to pull ‘em up all the time, and neon colored pimp shoes.

I saw one guy wearing this outfit. His pants were so baggy, he had trouble walking, because every step they kept sagging lower and lower. I thought maybe he was dressed up for Halloween – but that’s not for another month.

What’s with fashion trends today?

You figure being in fashion wouldn’t just look nice, but be somewhat practical.

But how can gold teeth be practical? Baggy pants aren’t practical – unless you don’t mind walking like your pants don’t fit and have to keep pulling them up with every other step.

When I was younger, I’m sure we had outfits that the older people of the time thought were outrageous. When I was a teenager, balloon pants were pretty big. But so too were a good ‘ol staple which is still popular – blue jeans and a t-shirt.

These days, it seems anything goes, even if it makes you look like a misfit. And too me, someone wearing pants twelve sizes too big, pimp shoes and a smile of gold teeth is as big a misfit as they come.

I wonder what these people do when they grow up and out of their gold teeth phase? Do they go back to their dentist and ask for their original teeth back?

It’s why I never got any tattoos. When you’re young it might be cool to have a tattoo on your arm or shoulder. But one day, you could be a grandfather, and it would seem odd being a grandfather with a tattoo. Especially if you put on weight – that once pretty cool tattoo would be all stretched and not look like much more than abstract art – if that.

And these pants that don’t fit, they expose us to plumber’s butt. Oh – I’m sorry, butt cleavage. That’s the “in” term these days for it. Showing your ass in public is okay I guess – though when I was a kid, I remember the girls would get into trouble for wearing things too off the shoulder. But showing your ass is okay. Go figure.

Butt cleavage may impress dogs and other wild life – but it doesn’t impress me. So pull up your pants and get some regular clothes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Boxing for Fun and Someone Else's Profit

I went to another boxing class today at the gym. I really enjoy the class and it is an awesome workout – I really feel my muscles working during the session.

The trainer is really knowledgeable and has a great personality. The people in the class are friendly and it really is a blast to be a part of.

But today, the trainer was pushing his services a little too much. First he was offering for sale high-end boxing gloves.

“You can get cheaper ones at Wal-Mart for about $45,” he said. “But these – these are the good ones, you can’t buy these there.”

He tells me his gloves sell for $85, that’s almost double what you’d pay at Wal-Mart.

“You don’t have to buy my gloves to take the class,” he confesses. “But you’d be better off because then you’d have your own pair of professional gloves protecting your most valuable investment – your hands.”

Pretty slick sales pitch. I asked him jokingly if he took credit cards, and he made a joke about having to swipe it in his ass.

I laughed – figuring he’d say something like that.

He’s got a great personality, which is important in having a trainer. I don’t take the boxing class to learn to box professionally – at my age, I’m too old to enter any sport professionally. I take the boxing class because it is fun, an excellent way to burn off stress, and a very good physical workout.

After the class, the trainer begins his pushing again. He tells me I’d get more out of the class if I signed up for some one-on-one sessions. I have had one-on-one sessions with personal trainers before – many years ago when I first started working out.

If you spend most of your time eating, working and sleeping, and suddenly decide to join a gym and drop a few pounds – then a personal trainer is an excellent idea. They will help you learn how to do something you’ve never done before – workout safely and efficiently. They will also motivate you and get you started into a routine.

But if you’re like me, and you have been working out for a number of years, you have your own routines and you know how to do things safely – then you really don’t need to pay extra for a personal trainer. It would be nice to have, but so would a private jet. Can you afford your own private jet?

Me neither.

So I declined this trainer’s first push to sign up for personal training sessions.

“I can only give so much advice during class on form and technique,” he offers. “In class I have to focus on everyone, so I can’t spend time on each individual’s training.”

I understand that – and I expect that. I don’t want him or any other trainer to single me out in a class and provide one-on-one coaching. That would just be weird.

I told him I’d think about it.

I enjoy chatting with this trainer – and he does provide excellent training. But I’m not really looking at entering boxing professionally, so a prodigy I am not.

And if I could afford my own private jet – I’d settle for that over a personal trainer. I’ve already done the personal training thing. At the time I needed a personal trainer and I enjoyed his company and advice.

These days, I enjoy working out for me and my needs.

I just hope I can continue to enjoy the boxing class without having to listen to more sales pitches for products and services. I don’t go to the gym to buy anything – I go for me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Who’s More Dangerous – Those In the Know Or Those That Know Not?

No one likes a know-it-all. These people seem to have an answer for everything – though it is questionable whether or not their answers are right.

Sometimes playing dumb is best – because then you learn more than you had if you gave your two-cents. When I was a journalist many eons ago, one of the tricks we’d have in our proverbial journalistic judo kimonos was to play it dumb with a know-it-all source. The know-it-all source would just keep babbling away, and eventually we’d get more than enough information to write the story.

This trick also worked on those that didn’t want to talk to the media – out of fear, guilt or whatever nutty reasons people have for keeping out of the press. When you played dumb with someone that you knew more then you led on about, often they would confirm the information simply out of pity for your fake lack of knowledge.

I remember how this trick worked exceptionally well when a politician was known for using the town’s credit cards at a seedy strip club. By playing dumb, eventually the bozo said that many people on council used their town credit cards for personal use – I myself may have indulged in a little something here or there – he said.

Got ya!

Then there are situations where really not knowing any better can be bad – very bad.

I was at the gym today doing my usual body-building heart pumping workout, when I saw a new face, doing strange and dangerous things.

At first this stranger hopped on the eclipse machine next to me. She looked like she didn’t have a clue how to operate it – she just stood there staring blankly at the controls.

“You have to move to turn it on,” I explained. “Start walking.”

She did and a look of relief came over her as the display lit up and gave her some basic instructions on starting.

She wasn’t on that machine for more than 15-seconds, but had somehow managed to put it in the fastest setting. She was flinging about on it like a wild bore in a China shop. It was painful to watch, and could have been quite dangerous – she not only can pull muscles, loosen joints, and cause other damage to her body, she could also have fallen off. Falling off at that speed would be bad – as the machine wouldn’t stop right away and she’d probably get hit with one of the moving parts. She could have easily fallen onto the person next to her – which happened to be me! – and then we’d both go down and risk injury.

I looked at her and told it is okay to start slow and work up to a speed which you feel comfortable at. She looked at the controls and eventually figured out how to slow it down.

As I did my workout, this new face at the gym appeared again. This time she was attempting to hang upside down from the stretch bars on the wall.

I’ve seen some people do this, and for those that know what they are doing, it is okay. I think there are safer and easier ways to stretch your torso – like standing straight and tall, and reaching straight up – but hey, some people like to do things the hard way.

This new face obviously didn’t know how to do things the easy way or the hard way. She managed to get her foot stuck in the bars, while one foot came loose, and she fell and if it wasn’t for her head to break her fall . . .

Actually she was lucky – she landed on her ass. It could have easily been her head and that would be bad.

She sat their, shocked and probably quite embarrassed.

One of the trainers rushed over to see if she was okay. She said she was fine and they started talking about how she could sign up for personal training lessons – to familiarize herself with the equipment.

I hope she signs up – she’s a danger to herself and others around her – because she is someone who knows not the ways of working out safely.

But she does know something – how to fall off the stretch bars. Maybe I should ask her to teach me, so that I don’t land on my head . . .

Monday, September 17, 2007

Okay -- So Maybe I'm Not a Computer Geek After All

I’ve always had a talent for anything high tech – or so I thought.

Recently my own laptop has been acting slow. I did what anyone with some techno-know-how would do – I ran a complete virus and spyware scan.

Often the cause of computer slowdowns these days is thanks in large part to hackers trying to gain access to the system.

No viruses, spyware, adware or any other malicious code found.

Hmmm. . . what could have caused programs like PhotoShop which usually run no problem, to seemingly crash?

I put my IT hat on and started working out what the problem could be.

The it hit me – fonts. Recently I went crazy with a massive font install. I thought – hey you can never have too many fonts. Right? WRONG.

As it turns out, the more fonts on your system, the longer it takes applications which use these different fonts to load them. PhotoShop displays the actual font face in the fonts list – to do this it has to load the fonts first. This makes it load slower – a LOT slower – if you have or say – a few thousand fonts.


So now I am painstakingly going through all my fonts, to see which ones I like and will keep and which ones I probably would never have at all.

As I installed a few thousand fonts – hey I thought having The Simpson’s font among others, would be cool – this process is going to take me a month or so to do. It’s not like I have nothing else to do all day and night than go over fonts – so my spare time will be filled with filtering fonts.

Oh joy.

Maybe I can find an application which will do this for me?

On second thought – I’ll just do it myself. No need to make another techno-blunder.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Broken Promises and Kissing Babies

We’re in the midst of a provincial election here, so you know all the politicians involved are out making “the rounds.”

The rounds is what the news media often refers to as photo opportunities – shaking hands, kissing babies and standing behind some fancy podium making promises which will most likely be broken and forgotten.

The two opposition parties are running campaign commercials attacking the current party in power’s broken promises.

I laughed when I first saw this – then shook my head.

It is an old and common form of attack during an election. And it is the easiest and cheapest method too.

All politicians – ALL POLITICIANS – did I say ALL POLITICIANS make promises which they either know they will not keep, or they truly want to keep, but because life happens, they eventually don’t.

So, because all politicians break their election promises to a degree, it is a cop out to attack each other on this front.

Why not raise issues which really matter to people instead? Oh wait – maybe you just don’t have any idea as to what the people really want?

That’s why politicians attack each other’s previous commitments – because they don’t have the wisdom, the insight, the forethought and the drive to go out and really find out what us voters want.

Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians actually came to your door asking for more than just your vote and to put an election sign on your front lawn?

Imagine a politician actually caring what YOU – the eligible voter really wants?

But then again, since all politicians break their promises, you’d probably never see whatever you wanted anyways. It would end up just another election issue, which falls through the cracks once the government gets under way.

And pollsters try to figure out why voter turnout keeps dropping to appalling levels. Maybe if the pollsters actually listened to the crap that comes out of there media-over-handled political-wanna-be-leaders, and then watched the fallout after the election was long gone – maybe we’d have some serious change.

And change is what we really need. We need more than issues that don’t affect people en-mass as much as the politicians tell us. We need more than broken campaign promises which fall through only to resurface as campaign issues during the next election.

We need a better system for doing governance in this country.

Kissing babies and shaking hands might have worked in years gone-bye – but it won’t make the world rotate in today’s high-tech, over-populated, under-funded world.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Secret to Employment Success -- Shhhh

I’m very lucky to have the tools I require to do my job well – for the most part.

At work, I have one of the newest Dell laptops in the company, with a good sized hard drive, an average amount of memory, and most of the software I need to do my job.

But today I find myself at home working, because I don’t have a DVD burner at work. Actually, none of the computers at the office have a DVD burner. I have a CD Burner on my computer at the office, and it can play DVDs but not burn them.

So, here I sit, burning en mass 35 DVDs for our Branch Managers.

I don’t mind doing this – I actually have the day off, so this is my way of doing my part.

Actually, through my years in the working world, I have learned a very valuable lesson – one which will get you the gig when the competition is very stiff.

Less is more.

It really is.

I’ve worked at smaller companies, and even some larger ones, that didn’t have the money to go out and purchase every thing to do the job in the best way possible. This forces you to use whatever the company does have, to do the work – and still make it look like you had the best tools to do the best job.

I’m a big fan of the Adobe suite of software applications. The best tool to work with images and photos is PhotoShop. The most effective way to distribute a document which others can comment on but not change is in Adobe PDF. Even Dreamweaver – which I use to make stunning web pages is now part of Adobe – they bought out Macromedia over a year ago.

Still, I’ve had to the primitive, clunky and not very practical Paint program which comes free with Windows at some places, simply because they couldn’t afford anything better.

On my home computer, I have SnagIT – an exceptional screen capture program. At work, I just use the built-in key combination of Windows to capture a screen. Not as efficient, and you can’t capture the mouse pointer if you wanted too – but it gets the job done.

By being forced to use whatever tools you have at your disposal, you learn to adopt quickly and efficiently to any office. But more importantly, you learn how to use all the tools – from the most advanced to the most basic.

This makes you far more valuable to any office – because not only can you do the job regardless of the tools you have, but for others in the office who don’t have those tools, you can show them how to do things for themselves.

Essentially, you become an expert in all software areas in your field. People in other departments and teams are constantly coming up to me, asking for help with Word, PhotoShop, or asking how to capture a screen image without any screen capture software.

Managers looking to hire people that know this will instantly pick up on it during an interview and give you brownie points.

SO, my advice to anyone looking for work – and I know many out there are – is learn how to do with and without. Practice doing your thing – be it graphic design, writing, layout, video editing, website creation – whatever – practice using the latest and most common applications out there. But also practice doing your thing with the least effective tools too – ones which some companies may be stuck with simply because they don’t have big software budgets.

You’ll have an edge others won’t – and that will better your chances of landing a job in a very tough job market.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What Would You Do If You Had Two New Years?

I recently received a card from my mom, reminding me that I enjoy the benefits of two new years.

No, she wasn’t drunk, stoned or in any other way intoxicated. I am Jewish, and tonight marks the start of our new year – Rosh Hashanah.

My mom’s card got me thinking – are their benefits to having to go through new year’s twice?

I do have tomorrow and Friday off from work – I suppose an extended long weekend is a big plus. When I was in university, there were so many other Jewish students, the school had a holiday on the Jewish High Holidays (which includes the New Year).

I always thought it was nice to enjoy the extra holidays – and they are so close to the Labor Day weekend, it is like a mini extension of summer.

But people tend to make their biggest mistakes at New Year’s.

They make silly new year resolutions, which even they know they cannot keep. I’m still struggling with my resolution from some time ago, to become taller, darker and even handsomer – if handsomer is a word.

But alas, I am still just me.

Around the Xmas break and New Year’s, there are more drunk drivers on the roads than at other times.

Also around New Year’s, the cost of a stamp along with various other government services routinely goes up.

We tend to reflect on our year just past, on the good the bad and the ugly. But for some reason only the bad and ugly last in our memories clear as day.

Radio stations traditionally play the top zillion songs all week, hitting the number one song somewhere between “Happy” and New Year.”

And guaranteed somewhere, some couple proudly holds up the first baby of the new year. Hopefully they had better reasons than just that for conceiving the little guy, otherwise next year they’ll be in divorce court.

Pink Champaign. New Year’s is the only time a man can drink pink Champaign without looking like he plays for the same team.

So, are two new year’s better than one?

Let me sip from my pink Champaign and get back to you on that.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How Not to Exit Gracefully

A couple of weeks ago, one of the people in the marketing department where I work resigned.

Now, they say there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. She did it in the wrong way.

Always exit an office, a date, hell even a meal with mom – gracefully.

This person was pissed – fuming pissed – at the marketing manager and she wasn’t afraid to let the whole world know in her letter of resignation.

I understand her frustrations – anyone who has read my blog regularly knows the marketing team not exactly playing with a full deck of cards.

I’m actually surprised no one has resigned before under the current management – as the team lacks leadership, motivation and professionalism in a big way.

Still, when leaving an organization, you don’t want to burn your bridges or do it without having something else to fall back on.

The person who resigned had been with the company for over 17-years. That’s a long time, but pretty common at the company where I’m at. Many got their first gig out of high school with this company and just have never been elsewhere.

It shows longevity and job stability, but it also leads to a certain lack of awareness one can only get by moving around the job market.

Also, staying a long time looks good on a resume – shows you are dedicated and loyal. Staying too long though is bad – looks like you lack the drive to take your career into your own hands, and shows that although you maybe able to do the job, you probably aren’t up on the latest trends in the industry.

In a way, this lack of professional experience shows in the way the person resigned from the company. She did it via email, on a Friday, after five o’clock, long after all the managers – including hers – had gone for the day.

Even though I’ve never been employed by one employer 17-years – nor would I want to be – I would never resign in an email.

Emails are not personal – and this is one of those things you should do face-to-face. But there is more to it than that. If you are so frustrated with your gig that you’re resigning, writing an email is dangerous. We tend to write from the hip in front of the computer – saying whatever is on our minds.

Unlike a Word document, once you hit “Send” that email is already in the hands of the person or people you’ve sent it too. You can recall an email, but that doesn’t usually work, as email servers are faster than you can flinch your finger over the “Recall” button.

That’s probably what happened in this case. The person was having a rough day with little to no support from her team. But that’s the marketing team’s way – like I said, they lack a certain level of professionalism.

In a furry of anger, this person blamed her manager for all her troubles. She blamed human resources for not responding to her needs. And worse yet, she blamed the company president and CEO for ignoring her constant requests for help in dealing with the issue.

Now, I haven’t been at the company 17-years, but even I can see that regardless of how poorly the marketing team works, management has turned a blind eye on ‘em. Marketing has blown their budgets twice in as many years, and no one has been fired, shuffled off to a lesser post, or in any other way punished or reprimanded. Obviously, whatever marketing does, regardless of whether or not it is actually good for the company, marketing does.

The higher-ups obviously know all of this – they are the ones allowing it to happen. They probably have something to do with it. Maybe the marketing executives are related to the president and CEO? Maybe the marketing executives are all buddy buddy outside the office – who knows?

The point is blaming the highest levels in the company for your departure isn’t going to change anything – except maybe that nice reference you’d expect after 17-years of working there. After 17-years of working at one place, you’d better get a good reference, otherwise you are really in the dog house.

Think this person will get a nice letter of recommendation, or can leave her manager’s name as a reference.

I doubt it – not the way she resigned. Imagine working for one employer all your working life, and then, suddenly out of work, unable to use that very same employer as a reference.

Here’s a rope, go hang yourself – it’ll be less painful than looking for work.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

My Sniffle Snuffle Free Day

As summer draws to a close, allergy suffers like me can finally breath free, sans medication.

Every spring, as my nose starts to run, my eyes water and itch and my breathing becomes all the harder, I run to the local pharmacy and stock up on anti-histamines. The local pharmacy is always ready – just as allergy season approaches, they jack up the price of these anti-histamines.

All summer long I’m popping pills, so that I don’t look like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Around this time of year, I can usually stop the anti-histamines and be drug-free. Problem is, I never know exactly when Mother Nature’s schedule will ‘fit in’ with my allergies.

I know, I could wait until we have frost, but that might not be until October, or even November. So, I go a day or two without anti-histamines. I sniffle, I snuffle and I look like I’m either sick, or constantly crying.

Then I pop some more pills, and magically I’m back to normal. Only to have to try the whole process again, until that one faithful day comes, when I’m off the drugs and sniffle snuffle free.

Or so that used to be the case. Then global warming kicked in and ruined the celebration of my first sniffle snuffle free day.

I celebrated that sniffle snuffle free day a week ago. I went off my anti-histamines and was okay – no itchy watery eyes, no runny nose and hey – I could breathe!

But today the sniffles are back, the eyes are watery and I do have some trouble breathing.

See, with global warming, the planet’s natural cycles have all been thrown out of whack. We’re seeing unusually high temperatures this time of year, which is causing plants to continue producing spores, longer than they normally do.

It’s those spores which ACHOO – excuse me – BLOWS NOSE – it’s those spores which cause us allergy suffers so much agony.

So, allergy suffers like me, may stop our medications, only to have to go back on them suddenly, simply because the planet is a couple of degrees hotter than it was a decade or so ago.

They say you’re not supposed to mix alcohol with any sort of medication. Though the next time I celebrate a sniffle snuffle free day, I think I’ll celebrate with a bottle of Champaign – because I hope that’s the last sniffle snuffle day I have until the spring.

Hey, if I’m wrong, just means I get more Champaign

Guess there are some fringe benefits to this global warming thing after all.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Stomping Out Made in China Crap

The Chinese are known for many great things. There is the Great Wall of China, the beauty of their traditional dragon dances, and who can resist fortune cookies?

But lately, there has been a lot of product recalls – all made in China.

Everything from toothpaste, toys, dog food, even cell phone cover plates has been recalled because of health and safety issues. These issues are a direct result of cheap labor costs – which is why big name brand name companies like Mattel have been going to the far East for their manufacturing.

Cheaper labor costs in China make it more cost effective for companies to have their products manufactured in China, shipped to North America, and then sold. Or at least that is how it was – with all these recalls, it probably costs more to do business with China. Imagine all the money lost in recalling the thousands upon thousands of products.

Problem is, often these recalls don’t come into effect until the products have been in our hot little hands for enough time to cause some serious damage.

Hundreds of dogs and cats died across North America before the pet food was recalled. A dog or a cat is not a person, but when they are a member of your family, their death is felt just as deeply.

What happens if and when people do start to die because of the crap coming out of China’s factories?

How many people must die before someone takes some sort of action to stop it?

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to be one of those people who will die for some big name company too cheap to use quality North American labor practices.

Hard working, dedicated Canadians lose their jobs, so that some company executive can drive a Porsche. Meanwhile, those jobs that go to Chinese factory workers produce crap unsafe for sale in North America.

I will not die so someone else can drive a Porsche.


I refuse to buy made in China crap. That’s what it really is – crap. It is actually worse than crap, but this is a somewhat family-friendly blog.

If I see “Made in China” or anything of similar nature on something, I’ll put it back where I found it. I won’t ever knowingly purchase made in China crap again.

Though there is so much stuff made in China these days, it is pretty hard to stop all products from getting in. I suppose I’ll just have to wing it and hope for the best.

But maybe, if enough of us boycott anything and everything made in China – maybe eventually the evil executives will learn.

Maybe – just maybe – they will stop in their fancy Porsches and realize that their bottom line is down.


Yeppers – squash the enemy. And when thy enemy has been squashed, stomp mightily upon him, screaming your victory cry. . .

Sorry, got caught up in a war movie on television.

But stomping out made in China products isn’t a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

How to Avoid the Monday Surprise

This past weekend was a nice, lazy, long summer weekend. The Labor Day weekend typically marks the end of summer and the end of summer vacations. People get back into their regular routines.

But it was a long weekend, so you’d figure nothing would happen at the office over the weekend – right? WRONG!

I occasionally check my work emails from home. It is nice to be able to see what I might need to deal with right away, and what can wait for a while. It is also good to be able to check my schedule and see if I have any meetings first thing – so that I know when to be at the office (we have flexible hours).

The problem with checking your work emails from home is once you look, you work. I may log onto my work emails thinking I’ll spend five minutes or less reading them. But then you get into responding, looking up information, writing a report – before you know it, that five minutes has turned into three or four hours.

So, I have been avoiding my work emails at home. But this past weekend I got hit big time with some work whammies which I would have been better prepared for, had I simply checked my work email.

The first whammy was the resignation of a long-time employee in the marketing department. Anyone who reads this blog often knows that the marketing department is mis-managed. They blew their budget last year AND this year, they never seem to be around when you need them, and although they often work from home, nothing ever seems to really get done.

The marketing executives are also quite loud, and not very “corporate.” Although they rarely spend a whole day in the office (usually they are in around one or two in the afternoon, and gone well before four o’clock), when they do come into the office, the make enough noise to ensure everyone in all the neighboring office buildings knows. They come in laughing, wailing, talking big and loud with booming voices more appropriate for a beer-swigging party than the cubicle confining office environment.

I’m surprised others haven’t resigned under their form of “management.”

Still, when someone has been with the company for many years (the person who resigned has been with the company for over 15 maybe 20-years), it is big news when they decide to call it quits.

It is even bigger news when that person resigns during a fire storm of furry caused by her bosses.

We send out a weekly newsletter to the whole company – all 100-plus staff and the almost 800-strong sales force. In the newsletter we issued last Friday, we ran a piece on a new marketing initiative.

We had never heard of this new marketing program, so we ran it by our vice-president. Our vice-president gave it the go-ahead, said it was fine.

I get a chewing out by the vice-president of compliance and finance, and the CFO for running the piece, because the marketing program had not been approved at an executive level!

The vice-president of compliance and finance and the CFO later apologized for their hastily written emails, as we had done what we should have done – checked with our executive – our vice-president.

Turns out, our vice-president just rubber stamps anything the marketing department throws him, without consulting the other executives.

Still, I would have known all of this as it was happening – over the weekend – instead of being broadsided by it bright and early Monday morning. All I had to do was check my email.

Oh well – so much for technology making life simple.

I’m off to check that work email.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Where's Jerry?

Today is Labor Day – the last long weekend of the summer. This has traditionally been known as the last day of summer – though summer doesn’t officially end for another three weeks.

When I was a kid, Labor Day meant getting ready for school. We’d go with my dad shopping for back to school supplies. I had a blast running up and down the isles with my brother and shopping cart, looking for paper, pens, markers, binders and all the other typical things you’d buy for school.

Labor Day also often involved going to friends and relative’s houses. We’d often be watching the Labor Day telethon for Muscular Dystrophy with Jerry Lewis at home, and wherever we went, that very same telethon was on television.

The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon was a sure sign that summer was about to come to an end. I remember seeing the ads on television weeks prior to it, and thinking to myself – no – summer can’t be over not yet!

They even had posters in the local Mac’s Milk – promoting Jerry and his kids.

The Jerry Lewis telethon used to have some big name celebrities to – Ed McMahon, Bob Hope, Brook Shields – I remember seeing Sammy Davis Jr. sing and dance too.

What ever happened to Jerry Lewis and his Labor Day telethon?

I was thinking about this today, as I haven’t seen it on the tube. Hadn’t seen any posters for it. Hadn’t heard or seen anything about it.

Turns out it is still on the air – but with all the other media in our lives, it has taken a very small spot in the back seat.

With our 500-plus channel universe, the Internet, computer games, and other distractions, people just don’t hear much about anyone thing anymore, unless a billion or more dollars is spent to hype it up.

Or some talentless celebrity with nothing but money and looks promotes it, then it is popular. If Paris Hilton or Britney Spears took time out of driving drunk, partying too hard, and showing what they don’t have on underneath their skimpy slutty outfits to promote good causes like telethons to raise money for disabled kids, then everyone would be watching Jerry Lewis and his kids.

But the world doesn’t rotate that way.

Jerry is on the air, and he’s got some celebs rooting for him. He’s got the usual cute kids in wheelchairs too. And there are always large donations made in person by fire fighters, police, the military and others.

It is nice to know Jerry and his kids are still at it. It just wouldn’t be Labor Day without Jerry and his kids.