Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Are You Smarter Than an American?

I’ve seen the ads on television for the FOX show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. The show’s concept never really caught my eye, so I never intentionally watched.

However, with over 500-channels, I sometimes catch things. As in last Sunday night, when I was flipping around and happened on this show.

So I figured, I had some time to kill before The Simpson’s was on, so I’d watch.

WOW! I know American’s lag behind us Canadians in terms of educational standards, and the costs are far greater there than here.

But every contestant they had on the show was just plain dumb. Far greater than dumb, born without a brain perhaps?

Maybe they intentionally pick stupid people to go up against the kids on this show, so the kids don’t look so bad. Then again, if these people represent a cross-section of American’s in general, then no wonder they are in an economic downturn.

One of the contestants said a Pocola was part of the percussion family, because they both started with “P!” (It is actually a woodwind instrument, because it has a reed.)

I was amazed at just how dumb the contestants were.

Granted, its been a while since these people were in school – but still!?!?!

I know not everyone can qualify to be on Jeopardy, but to have shows that showcase the common person in the United States, when compared to kids, and have the kids come across as being far smarter – sheesh.

We live in quite a sad society when adults just don’t have any sense and sensibilities anymore. And it appears Who’s Smarter Than an American might be a good show for up here in Canada.

If you can win a million or more – count me in!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

January Diet Dilemmas

Every January, people tell me they are on a diet.

“This is it, this is the year I’m going to drop 10-pounds,” some say.

My dad is on the Scarsdale Diet, which he’s been on before. He says he has lost 10-pounds in four-weeks.

From Weight Watchers to Jenny Craig, to all the other fad diets – that’s all they really are.

Whenever someone tells me they are on a diet, I always ask them the all important question – have you taken up working out too?

The answer is almost always “no.”

This tells me that although they may drop those pounds while on the diet, as soon as they go off the diet, they will quickly gain all that weight back.

Diets don’t work. They really don’t. Not at all.

The only real way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat healthy, and to exercise. This is what the experts have been telling us for years, and it is true.

I workout hard, hitting the gym usually three or four-times per week. When I’m at the gym, I usually workout for about two-hours.

I’m a workout freak – I love to workout. I enjoy the feeling of my muscles getting a good, healthy workout. I enjoy the burn of weight lifting, the strain my legs get while on the treadmill, and I like watching the heart-rate monitor rise, telling me I’m working out my heart.

You don’t have to workout like I do to be in shape. All you really need to exercise your body, is to workout for at least 30-minutes, three-times a week. You have to workout at an intensity that you break a sweat – or else all you are doing is tiring your muscles.

But still, people buy into the crap that some miracle diet will change their lives. I see the ads on late night television for diet pills, diet massagers, and of course, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.

None of these really work – and you don’t need to spend money on them. It is money wasted.

If you’re going to invest in your health – which is a wise investment – don’t spend it on some miracle diet or fad. Spend it on buying healthy fruits, vegetables and other low-fat foods. Spend it on an exercise or sport which you will ENJOY doing.

So many people join the gym in January with plans to lose weight. Gyms count on this – they force you into a one-year contract. So, when you realize that the gym isn’t for you, and you stop going after a couple of months, you still end up paying for the year-long membership.

I go to the gym, because I ENJOY it.

There are lots of fun things you can do to lose weight. You just have to figure out what it is that YOU enjoy.

Walking, running, riding a bike, playing tennis, even swimming and skating are all excellent exercises.

So, to lose weight, eat right, and find something active which you enjoy – and spend money on that.

Now leave Jenny Craig alone!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Could It Be the End of Crazy Neighbour?

My crazy creepy neighbour from across the hall was up to no good again last night.

Well – from his perspective he was having a blast. Apparently it was his birthday, and he had a big birthday bash.

From everyone on my floor, and a couple floors above and below, it was a lot of loud pounding, and chaotic confusion.

I was doing my laundry in the evening, and as I walked by his door, I noticed it was being propped open with a shoe. I thought that odd, as although this is a high security high-rise, we don’t live in a college dorm. You don’t want just any stranger walking into your private home.

There were doors slamming all night too, which I wondered about. I thought maybe someone was having a big fight, so I just kept to my own pad. And when I turned off the television, I noticed a thumping that I had never heard before. It was loud music pounding away.

I opened my front door and peaked out. Sure enough it was coming from the crazy creepy neighbour from down the hall.

This morning, when I went out to do my groceries, I ran into two other neighbours in my hall. One of them had a letter of disturbance and was taking it down to the property management office. The other, was laughing about it, thinking it must be fun to be young.

I just shook my head in disgust. How can anyone be so thoughtless about those that share their surroundings with others. I’ve been in the same place now for four-years, and usually it is a joy to be here. I hardly hear anyone or anything.

My crazy creepy neighbour must have been making a hell of a disturbance last night. According to my neighbour across the hall (who happens to be right next-door to the crazy creepy neighbour) people were pounding on her ceiling from upstairs, and on her floor from below, in protest to the noise. They thought it was coming from her place.

This building is very well maintained, but old – over forty-years-old. So between all the floors is a layer of thick solid concrete. I know – when I put up my drapes I had to get the super to do it for me, because it had the high-powered drill and special drill bits to go through the extra thick ceiling.

So, to be making such a racket that those above, below and next-door can hear you, it must have been quite the party.

Maybe though, this will be the end of my crazy creepy neighbour. He’s had a few notices given to him over the years, and I’m sure property management will only tolerate so much before they tell him to scram.

When I went to take out my trash this morning, I noticed a stack of empty cartons of pop and beer. No doubt from my crazy creepy neighbour’s party. Those shouldn’t be stacked in the garbage shoot room, they should be taken down to the big blue bins for recycling. He’s stacked things there before which he shouldn’t, and received warnings about it.

Now, if I can figure out where they came from, so can property management. That’ll be two infractions in one weekend – onto of the handful he’s already had for being a menace.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll finally serve him with notice to get out, for failing to abide by the rules. And there aren’t many rules here really, none that you wouldn’t expect in any high-rise.

All they really want is for you to respect your neighbours right to the same freedoms as you want, and to put garbage and recyclables in the right spots. But some people, like my crazy creepy neighbour across the hall, just don’t have the intelligence to figure that out.

So out is where he may be going.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Have You Heard Anything Yet?

When I talk to my friends and family, and some of my co-workers, they always start off with “have you heard anything yet?”

They are referring to my contract ending in under a week’s time, yet I haven’t heard anything from my manager or human resources as to what will happen when it does end.

About six-months into my contract, my manager told me she didn’t want to lose me, and said she’d like to keep me on past my contract.

A couple of months later, she verbally asked me if I’d consider a full-time permanent staff position. I told her I’d consider it – I didn’t say I’d accept, but I am open to the possibility.

Or at least, way back then I was. I figured someone would have told me something at least two-week’s prior to my contract ending.

“We’re sorry, we just don’t have the budget right now, so we can’t keep you on past your contract.”

“We’re happy to offer you full-time permanent, with all the benefits.”

Or even, “we don’t want to lose you, and I know we were talking about permanent staff, but at this point and time, we still haven’t finalized our headcounts and budget for the year. Would you be interested in a short-term 30-day, 60-day, or even a 90-day contract, until we figure things out?”

All three scenarios would have been acceptable. WOULD HAVE BEEN.

With five days remaining until my contract ends, and still not a peep as to where the company sees me after those five days, I am a little more than peeved.

It is not only rude, but exceptionally irritating to disregard a person who has received nothing but excellent reviews from his manager, and is always receiving compliments for a job well done by other higher-ups.

Just last Friday, I got an email from the president and CEO of the company, telling me that I did an excellent job on our weekly newsletter. Moments after, my manager comes to me and tells me one of the directors said that same newsletter was “awesome.” And one of the other directors who I was working with in putting together this newsletter, emailed both my manager and my vice-president, saying how wonderful a job I did.

I’ve been getting feedback like this all year long – yet my contract ends in five short days, and I still haven’t heard anything about my status after it ends.

“Have you heard anything yet?”

“Nope,” is my usual response, and the person asking usually follows up with a look of understanding my frustration, and disbelief in this unusual predicament.

What exactly is one to do in such a predicament?

You can’t exactly go to your boss and say, “oh, I’m going to be late today, because I have a job interview.”

I’ve already asked my manager if they were still interested in my services after my contract ends – three-weeks prior to it ending.

My manager did talk to human resources, and they apparently were going to make me an offer a week prior to my contract ending.

A week prior to my contract ending isn’t really all that professional, but I accepted it at the time.

But that week came and went – last Friday was exactly one-week prior to my contract ending.

So, when and if they do come to me – what then?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Is America Ready for a Black Woman President?

I don’t spend much time worrying about our American neighbours to the south. Being Canadian, I tend to focus on matters of interest to us northern folks.

But the American election in the US of Eh is raising some interesting questions.

Is America ready for a black president?
Is America ready for a woman president?

I think the answer to both is no.

If you have to ask such questions in the first place, then the answer is a definite no. When American society elects a woman or a black person to the oval office, and there is no fan fare, no pomp and circumstance, and no one has raised either of these questions, then, and only then will America be ready for either – or both.

Though if a either Obama or Clinton wins the election, it wouldn’t surprise me either.


How can I go out and say that America isn’t ready for a woman or a black person as president, and then say they could easily win?

Easy – they’d be the fall presidents.

America is in the middle of a recession. They have actually been in recession for a couple of months now, but the American Federal Reserve won’t make any announcements until the country has been in recession for at least two-consecutive quarters – that is the “official” designation of what a recession is.

And the so-called “war on terror” which the current bimbo – whoops – I mean current president George W. Bush has been leading, has been causing major problems for him and his government. They have spent billions more than they can afford on this war, and continue to spend billions more than they have on it. They have lost far too many soldiers in a conflict which is all about control over oil – and not terror. And the international opinion of America as a whole has hit rock bottom, because of this war, and what it has done to the innocent citizens of the countries the American’s have destroyed – all in the name of power.

SO, whoever wins the current American presidential elections will be the fall person for all the crap left over by the bimbo leader of today. No one can possibly solve these issues in one, or even a couple terms in office. Experts believe Iraq will take decades to clean up alone.

And these problems don’t include the issues which are local to the American people – education, healthcare, jobs – all the standard issues which all political campaigns eventually raise.

So, America may not be ready for a black female president, but they will elect someone who they know probably won’t last in office for very long. They can’t – they have too much to deal with, and too little to support them.

Give the new president a year at best.

Good luck Oprah – she’ll probably be the first female black president – when the time is right.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Power of Cyclonic Suction

My old Panasonic vacuum died a couple of weeks ago – long rest it’s cleaning soul. This past weekend I got a spankin’ brand new vacuum.

I’ve been shopping around for a new vacuum for a while. There are so many varieties of the dust-sucking appliance around.

From simple electric brooms, which have little to no suction power, to full-blown wet/dry shop vacs capable of not only cleaning out your goldfish tank, but everything inside.

There are those models which have a little turtle-like trolley you have to lug wherever you go. My grandmother used to have one of those, and every time I see one, I think they are ancient relics from a distant past. Surprisingly, these vacuums are very durable, powerful and usually last longer than their upright cousins.

Then there are the upright vacuums – the ones which you push the canister along with the whole sucking foot. These are what I am used too. You can feel the power as you push and pull it along.

They even have robotic vacuums, which I was also looking at. These things have very little power, but can be programmed to scurry about cleaning every day while you are at work. The theory behind these computerized cleaning devices is by cleaning every day, they keep your place so spotless, you don’t need a big and powerful manual vacuum.

All vacuums need a place to stash the dirt. Being a guy, I like things which require as little maintenance as possible. They have bag and bagless vacuums. The bagless ones require you to change the bag every so often with a new one; while the bagless ones you simply empty out the canister every time it gets full.

They have funky names to “sell” you on each specific brand too. From turbines, to wind-tunnel action, to cyclonic – you’d think you were investing in a piece of technology from NASA.

Prices range all over the map – from teeny tiny power sweepers of just around $100, to the supposedly “in” vacuum – the Dyson – which sells for just over $500. For a hundred dollars more than the Dyson, you can actually buy a centralized vacuuming system for your whole home.

SO – what did I buy and do I like it?

I got the Bissell Healthy Home Cyclonic vacuum. It is blue, has a bright headlight, and makes vroom vroom noises when I push it.

Just kidding.

I’m the one making the vroom vroom sounds.

But I do like my choice in vacuums. It is really powerful, 12-amps worth of power. Twelve-amps is the most power you can buy. It also has a very wide foot (cleaning path) of 15-inches. Means it not only sucks up all the dust, but I have don’t have to push it around as long, as it cleans a bigger area.

It also has a 35-foot hose, which is awesome, as it means I can reach high up and get my curtains clean.

This upright bagless vacuum is the Bissell version of the Dyson. It has all the cool features of the Dyson, without the hefty price.

My favourite feature so far is the turbo brush. This is an attachment for the hose, which is essentially a mini vacuum for the hose. It is a powered brush, about the size of the average person’s clenched fist. Perfect for vacuuming my couch, bed and other small but sturdy pieces of furniture.

No, this vacuum won’t clean my home by itself, but it has the power and features which make it a really good buy. It even has a two-year warrantee, which is very good, as most only had one-year warrantees.

I think I’ll go vacuum – just to practice with my new toy.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Crushed Ribs

I was at the local Dominion Grocery Store today. I was just passing through, to get to other stores in the mall. But as I was walking past the prepared foods counter, I saw some tasty looking ribs.

I thought these ribs and the fries next to them looked like a great dinner for tonight. So I waited patiently for the girl behind the counter to come out and serve me. She was at the other end cutting meat.

And I waited . . . and waited. I know she sees me, she’s looked up a couple of times. Though she still was cutting meat. Must be nice to have a job where you can ignore the customers paying your wages.

I called her over politely, though I was thinking of just walking out. She said she’d be over in a minute. It took longer than that, but eventually she got her lazy-ass butt over to the counter and asked if she could help me.

I asked for three racks of ribs, and a medium fries.

She gets out a plastic container for the ribs, and I see it and politely advise that she may need two containers. She takes the ribs, and out of the display and piles them into the container. They are too big for the container – anyone with half a brain could see that. And you’d figure she’d know what containers to use – as she works there. Though I was starting to wonder if maybe she just broke into the Dominion and started working for something to do.

She took a lid, and began to crush my ribs. She tried all that she could, using her entire body weight to push down on the poor crumbled plastic food container. The lid still wouldn’t stay on.

She asked if I’d mind two containers – which I advised her in the first place.

I began to say something – then I decided not to bother asking for non-crushed ribs. I told her not to worry about it, I don’t want them anymore.

And I walked out of the Dominion Grocery Store. I didn’t want crushed ribs, and I certainly didn’t feel like explaining something to some punk teenager that probably wouldn’t listen. So the Dominion Grocery Store lost my business.

I enjoy cooking my own food, but occasionally I am too tired and just want to have someone else do the cooking. Prepared food from the grocery store is faster and cheaper than getting take out, and it isn’t bad food.

I’ve had problems before at that prepared food counter. Often there is never anyone around to help out, and when you finally do get someone, they are rude, talking on their cell phones to their boyfriends, or simply just don’t listen and don’t give you even the slightest level of basic customer service.

I’ve been going to Longo’s for my groceries most recently, as their store is bigger, cleaner, and the service is exceptional. I was only passing by the Dominion Grocery Store and thought it might be nice to have some prepared food for dinner.

Won’t do that EVER AGAIN.

The Dominion Grocery Store chain has lost my business forever. I’m tired of dealing with their flakey people. I shouldn’t have to call someone over to serve me – isn’t that why they are there in the first place?

And when someone does take the time out of their busy day to actually come over and serve a customer, shouldn’t that person at the very least LISTEN to the customer?

So NEVER GO TO DOMINION GROCERY STORES – unless of course you don’t mind the lack of customer service.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Old Habits Die Hard

After a nice two-week holiday, I went back to work this past Wednesday.

I arrived at my usual time, around 9:00am. No one was around in my department – no one. It was a ghost town, all the desks were empty, not a person to be found.

Old habits die hard.

A few minutes later, one of my colleagues arrived. We chatted and caught up on each other’s holiday.

I mentioned he and I were the only ones in the whole department here. Neither of us knew exactly when or if anyone else would be coming back from holidays. So, we assumed it would just be the two of us until next week.

Then around 11:30am, another member of the department strolls in. Around 1:00pm – already half the day is gone – two other members of the department meander in.

Funny, I knew this day was my first day back, so I made sure to set my alarm clock to get up bright and early, so that I’d be at work bright and early. No one told me that first days back from vacation are come as you please. No one told me that I could just show up whenever I felt like it. No one told me come in after half the day has gone.

Old habits die hard.

All the managers and higher ups in our department are away on vacation until next week. When the boss is away, the rodents will play – as the saying goes.

In other words, there are no babysitters to watch over the nest and make sure we do as we should. Though in reality, we’re all adults and shouldn’t require a babysitter. Babysitters are for – well – babies!

But old habits die hard. Leadership, honesty, and professional ethics all stem from the top down. If the leaders don’t show true leadership, aren’t pillars of pride and honesty in their workplace, and don’t display strong professional ethics, than those they are in charge of won’t either.

I can understand one or two individuals out of a whole company taking advantage of situations where their bosses would be none the wiser. However, to have more than one individual in the same department doing so, that just spells problems for the department and those in charge of that department. It shows a severe lack of guidance, leadership and values from those in that department.

Old habits die hard – funny I keep ranting about that in this piece. But they obviously do, as the majority of people in the department have been in the department and with the company for more than two-years. Some have been with this company over 10, and even over 15-years.

Maybe it hasn’t always been the employees pulling the carpet out from under their manager’s eyes for all those years. But usually, people who have been working at the same place for many years develop a certain level of trust and respect for those they work under. That trust and respect, built over time, usually is showed by the level of professionalism when either party is out.

When the boss is out, if you respect and trust your boss, you don’t rape him or her by showing after half the day has gone. Likewise, when you are away, if your boss respects and trusts you, then your boss won’t take advantage of the situation, such as claiming your hard work as his or her own.

Trust and respect go hand in hand with solid leadership, strong guidance, and as always come from leading by example.

Leading by example isn’t intentional – it just happens. Whatever the boss does, the rest will follow – that’s why they call them leaders – because others follow their lead.

Old habits die hard – as the bosses have set a bad example, which their staff has taken as the norm.

Good thing the bosses aren’t around to see this – oh wait – they set the tone, so they probably do it themselves anyway.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Why Canadians Walk Like Penguins

We Canadians have a great country. We do live in one of the best places on earth – unlike our neighbours to the south, people from other countries actually like us.

Problem is, our sidewalks are not taken care of well – if at all. Or at least in my neck of the woods, the sidewalks are slippery, ice covered skating rinks, just waiting for someone to break their neck on. All while our roads are clear of ice, snow and slush – so much so they look like nothing ever was on them in the first place.

Why are pedestrians forced to walk like penguins, while those in cars get a free ride, so to speak?

Aren’t we all pedestrians at some point in time? No one can escape walking out doors in the winter. Even those with cars must eventually walk to and from them, usually on the very same sidewalks which everyone else must endure.

So how come our sidewalks are unsafe, while our roads are clear as glass?

Maybe those without cars are considered second-class citizens, unable to afford the luxury of a car, so their vote doesn’t matter.

But every vote in an election counts – or so we are lead to believe. Unless maybe there is something we don’t know about going on behind the scenes.

Even if there were, again, we are all pedestrians sometime.

All it takes is someone slipping and falling on the icy sidewalk, and next thing you know, the city has to deal with bad press and possibly a lawsuit. Then again, unlike our American neighbours, we aren’t quite as sue-happy here, so most Canadians would probably let it slide.

But they shouldn’t – we shouldn’t. We should stand up as best we can on the ice-rink of sidewalks, and head on down to city hall, demanding the same freedom of mobility as our automobile commuters.

We shouldn’t have to walk like penguins to avoid slipping. We shouldn’t arrive at work covered in slush. And we shouldn’t be treated with any less respect than those using a car.

Because, even those of us driving to and from point A to B, must venture out onto the sidewalk sometime – and that makes us all pedestrians.

Call your city and towns councillors and demand action. Stop walking like a penguin and start dialling. Everyone benefits from a clean and clear walk – especially YOU.