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?


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?”


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.


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.