Friday, February 29, 2008

Jumping Through Hoops – Or Fishing for The Right Name?

Recently I sent in an application for a potential client’s contract bid. Typically this involves sending a covering letter, along with other supporting documentation.

A week after I sent in my application, I receive an email back, from the editor of the publication, informing me that although the parent company was mentioned in the initial posting, the actual name of the publication wasn’t.

Furthermore, this editor says, after mentioning who and what this publication is, she says if I’m still interested, to please re-write another cover letter, explaining my continued interest.

The whole gist of her email was offensive. Not only is she asking me to jump through hoops for a contract which I may or may not actually take, she’s fishing for something more.

The publication, as it turns out, caters to recent Canadian immigrants. By the tone of her email, I’m thinking she’s fishing for specific people only to fill her writing needs – immigrant writers.

Now, I’m not an immigrant – I’m a proud Canadian. But as far as I can tell from the initial posting for this gig, anyone with a solid background in writing, and the experience to back them up, should be able to excel in this role.

The publication is published in English, so it isn’t as if I’d need to have a specific language under my belt to do the job. But I guess I just don’t have an immigrant enough sounding name, so she sent me this email, asking me to justify my desire to work with her.

I bet if my last name was Mohammad, Chan, or Szabutuko I wouldn’t have received such an unusual request – the email was sent directly to me. And that’s where I take exceptional offense to being singled out – for being a Canadian.

When Canadian’s can’t get work in this country because we aren’t the right skin color, or we just don’t have the right last name, then we might as well pack our bags and move someplace else. We aren’t wanted anymore. Maybe we should go to another country, that values our skills and abilities, our education and our values?

Wait a sec . . .

Why the hell should I be forced out of my country, so that someone else from someplace else can take all that I have worked for in the past?

Why indeed?

We’ve reached a tragic point in our history, where those who are born here are now second-class citizens. Discrimination against anyone is wrong, but to specifically target people of a different background and exclude those who were born here, because they were born here, is far more dangerous a crime against humanity.

When we turn the tide on racial discrimination towards the original offenders of that discrimination, it is no better than sinking to the original repressors level.

In other words, long ago, generations ago, we did live in a more culturally repressive state – where those who weren’t born here were discriminated against. Times have changed, and we no longer discriminate against people because of their ethnic backgrounds. But, there are some sadistic people, influencing those same ethnic backgrounds to now discriminate against those who were born here.

What goes around may come around – so this tide of reverse racial prejudice will probably reverse itself once again. And we’ll all suffer because of it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

BBQing During A Blizzard

The other night I enjoyed making a nice BBQed dinner. I tossed on the grill a chicken breast, and a hot Italian sausage.

All around me, it the winds were howling and the snow was falling.

I was BBQing in a blizzard!

I enjoy high-rise living, and with my westerly facing covered balcony, I rarely get the elements on my balcony. Instead, as I was grilling up a storm, I was watching Mother Nature’s storm unfold.

It was an interesting experience. I have BBQed while it was raining out, again, protected from the elements on my balcony. But this was different. Usually from my balcony, I can see the whole city. But with this heavy snowfall, I couldn’t see anything around me.

It was as if I was BBQing in the middle of a haze of nothing but white.

I could see the lights from the highway and cars below, but that was about it. It was a very peaceful evening, even though a winter storm was blowing up all around.

As I grilled my food, I heard the occasional honking of horns, the scraping of snow blows, and the constant hiss of the wind.

But other than those few sounds, all was quiet.

Snow is a natural insulator, dampening out sounds. It is usually quieter when it snows, because the snow falling from the sky is cancelling out the noise from the ground below. And the freshly fallen snow is insulating the sound from the ground, making the whole world around the snow vastly silent.

Still, the thrill for me wasn’t the quiet, the occasional muffled sounds, or even the snow. It was being able to BBQ in the midst of it all – that’s the real key.

BBQing is typically associated with summer-time activities, not winter ones. But thanks to my lofty high-rise, hidden from Mother Nature, I get to BBQ all year around.

Maybe next time I’ll BBQ during a lightening storm, and see if the sparks really fly?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Cool

We all look back on our youth and can recount warm and fuzzy memories. For me, I can remember things as simple as waking up early on a Saturday morning, grabbing my Lego building blocks, and planting myself in front of the TV. I’d spend all day watching cartoons, while creating all sorts of things with my Lego blocks.

Childhood is supposed to be a time of innocence, a time to make mistakes, and a time to just do nothing but play.

Kids these days spend far too much time worrying about being cool, hip or trendy, to really just be kids.

When I was a kid, a faded t-shirt, blue jeans and an old beat-up gym bag was my style. It wasn’t much of a style, but I was just being a kid.

These days, I see kids getting on and off the bus dressed in expensive designer labels, sporting IPods, Blackberries, cell phones, and other high-end items. These kids make it their whole point to show off their high-end gear. They blast their music as they pass by, or worse, while you’re stuck sitting in the same subway car on your way downtown.

Kids are so caught up in being cool, they actually are being far from it. Instead, often they annoy and alienate people not by being cool, but by being loud, obnoxious, and spoiled.

Granted, when I was a kid, cell IPods, BlackBerries and cell phones didn’t exist. But there were lots of expensive things out there when I was young, and I never had those things.

I never wore expensive designer labels to school, I didn’t have my real teeth taken out, and replaced with gold teeth, and I always respected those around me. I’d never blast music, put my feet up on other seats in the bus, and I’d even give up my seat for a senior or disabled person.

These days, parents give their kids the resources to go out and have all the cool toys, but in so doing, they neglect a very basic principal of good parenting. They don’t teach their kids to respect others.

Actually, I wonder if perhaps this is a societal problem, where parents – and other adults – don’t care about others enough to afford them the basic humanity with which they themselves want to be offered. Maybe that’s why parents don’t teach their kids manners and respect?

Regardless of where the problem lies, the problem is growing. Just today, a 16-year-old child robbed a bank. He was arrested and taken into custody by the police, but he was only 16!

When I was 16, I was begging and pleading with my parents to let me take driving lessons (and then later, begging and pleading to be allowed to take the car out).

This 16-year-old child actually went into a major financial institution’s branch, and demanded $150,000 in cash!

Driving lessons must have gone up in price – but not that much! Somewhere out there, this kid’s parents are sitting there wondering where they went wrong. Or far worse, and possibly more likely to be the case, the kid’s parent’s just don’t give a damn. And people wonder why society isn’t what it used to be?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fairness in Business – Unheard Of

Recently I turned down a contract from a client, and I have been thinking about this based on a meeting I had recently with a potential client.

The potential client was reacted with shock, that I would turn down a contract from a current client. I suppose her logic was, if they are good enough to be a current client, then why turn down anything they send my way.

When asked I why I turned them down, she reacted with just as much shock – which shocked me, as this person has a background in human resources management, so I thought my reaction was fair.

I told this potential client the primary reason for me turning down a current client’s contract – they didn’t give me enough time to seriously consider their new contract.

For those of you following this blog, you’ll know I typically require no less than two-weeks to consider a contract. Two-weeks is the bare minimum afforded to pretty much all professionals in terms of starting and leaving their current jobs. Actually, it isn’t all that uncommon for people in management and higher level roles to provide far more than two-weeks written notice, of any changes to their contracts.

So when a company, as my previous client did, comes to me within a couple of days of my contract ending, with a new contract in it’s place, I typically will turn them down.

I was shocked when the potential client was just as shocked that I would enforce such a basic requirement. Having her human resources background, I’m sure if an employee of hers just walked out of a job, without providing at least two-weeks notice, she wouldn’t exactly be all too thrilled.

Just as I wasn’t all too thrilled to be given pretty much the exact same contract I had signed a year ago, for a contract which was to end in a few days. This previous client had informed me they were considering me for a far greater role within the organization, based on my performance, and I had indicated I’d consider that role, so long as I had enough time to do so.

But not only did they fail to provide that role, they left it to the last minute and didn’t provide me with sufficient time to consider what they were offering.

So I turned them down, and moved on, as many professionals would.

Though from the reaction of the potential client, you’d think I had broken some sort of sacred trust set in stone.

Fairness in business must be a new concept, if it even exists. All the contracts I get are typically one-sided, leaving me to clean them up and make them more fair, by balancing out the client’s needs with my own. When it comes to negotiating these contracts, most companies expect and anticipate there will be some negotiations. They are often amazed that all I did was make it a fair and balanced contract – they were expecting I’d change the scales of balance to favour me.

So I suppose this should tell me that fairness doesn’t exist in the business world. People just care about their own skins, and not those of whom they have to actually work with.

That’s a sad and pathetic methodology in today’s high-tech world, where being fair is often no harder than simply re-writing a contract on your computer, or in the case of providing a reasonable, and professional amount of time to negotiate changes to a contract, no harder than setting a reminder in your Outlook (or whatever online calendar you use).

The wheels of the economy seem to continually go ‘round and ‘round, but those wheels must be square, because no one has realized the benefits of being fair in business.

Until the business world learns that the best business relationships are forged on trust, equality, fairness and balance, then the wheel really hasn’t been invented yet, as those wheels may spin, but a square wheel just won’t get you very far.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fonts, Fonts, Fonts, Too Many Freakin’ Fonts

We live in a world of words. Wherever we go, we are surrounded by words.

On television, we are bombarded with slogans, pitches, jingles, animated words wiping across the screen, words on items on the screen and more.

Even when we go to that one sacred place where everyone is entitled to be alone, words still hound us. I was a the gym recently, and they now have ads on the bathroom stalls. While I’m – ahem – doing my business, I can read up on the latest cars from General Motors.

Naturally, our wordy society requires ways to differentiate all these messages to us. Fonts tell us a lot about the person or company which created the words.

Big sweeping fonts often indicate openness, creativeness, even slightly off the beaten path. Closed fonts may indicate a more formal, logical and closed minded thought process.

However the fonts were used, one thing is for certain – there are just too many freakin’ fonts out there!

From the classics like Times New Roman, Arial, and Verdana, to new wave fonts like Acme Secret Agent, Balloon and Checkers, to silly fonts like the dingbats, there are thousands of font faces available to choose from.

There are also just as many countless font styles – many fonts come in different font types, from wide, narrow, compressed, expanded, outline, bold, extra bold, extra fine, thin, bold italic and more.

I’ve been exploring the fonts on my system and found there are just too many to categorize. I have my favourite fonts which I use often, but occasionally it is nice to play with fonts, to change things up.

But changing things up is time consuming, simply because there are so many fonts. You can even buy more fonts – why anyone in their right mind would want MORE fonts is beyond me.

And, when you embed fonts into some documents, you actually give the font to anyone who opens that document. This way, they too have new fonts on their computers.

I sometimes wonder if one day, I’ll turn on my computer and it will bury me in a sea of fonts.

In the old days, well before computers existed, typographers were professional fontsmisths. They carefully and painfully created complete font sets on huge chunks of metal and wood, for installation in gigantic printing presses.

These printing presses would literally hammer out each letter like a typewriter, to create the words on the page. As a block of wood or metal had to be created for every character conceivable, naturally there weren’t that many fonts to choose from.

Technology has ended those days of single use fonts, and replaced it with so many different fonts, it can take hours and in some cases days, to find just the right font for the job.

How easy it must have been in the old days to simply go to press, knowing the font was pretty much set in stone.

Oh well – back to searching for just the right font. . .

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Web TV’s Infancy

Admit it – will all do it. Yes we do. NO! Not that!

I’m talking about surfing the net. Most of us at some point in our busy lives will eventually just surf.

Maybe you overhear some gossip, and want to look it up, or maybe you see a flyer promising the best price, and want to see if it really is the best price.

Sometimes, those annoying ads that scream at you from the top of the search engines actually make you think, and surf too.

That’s what happened to me a week or so ago. I saw an ad for some new website which allows anyone to become a web TV broadcaster.

The website is BlogTV --- – and the concept it pretty cool. Using nothing more than your webcam, you too can broadcast live on the Internet to millions of people, just surfing the net.

Most television shows involve lavish sets, shot in big studios with hundreds of bright studio lights, expensive broadcast quality cameras and lenses, staffed by professionals from the lonely gaffer (the guy that runs the cables from the cameras to the truck or studio) to the camera operators, all the way up to the directors, producers, and all the other people that make a television show work.

Imagine being able to create your own television show, without all the fuss of a professional production?

Naturally, I watched a few live shows to see what all the hype was about. When you first go into a virtual studio room, you are entering essentially a chat forum. You can register for free, and chat in the chatroom by typing on your keyboard, while the person on their webcam responds.

Those in the chatroom can be promoted to co-host, and if they have a camera, can share in the on-camera spotlight too. A second window video window opens, showing the co-host.

If both the host and the co-host have microphones, you can hear both of them too – though there are still some technical things to work out, as the audio from one person gets fed into the audio from the other person’s sound. This causes an echo effect, which is quite annoying.

All this high-tech broadcasting was very cool, so I registered to participate in the chats, and even possibly host my own show. I’ve worked in television before, both in front of and behind the camera, so I figure my professional experiences would work well on BlogTV.

Sadly, that was the end of the road to cool.

BlogTV turned into what many online communities sadly have become – places where the lonely, the depressed and the frustrated people in our society go to vent their frustrations on the world.

Most of the shows involved hosts shooting from their living rooms, bedrooms, or other household rooms, and most were quite abusive to those watching. If you said anything, even if it was simply “hi” often it was welcomed with some comment about how “gay” your alias was, or you were berated for being intruding on their discussions.

Also, I noticed although it clearly states that you must be 18 or older to broadcast from your webcam, many of the hosts didn’t look like they had passed the decade mark, let alone hit puberty.

Some of the highest rated shows, involved young teenage girls in skimpy outfits, doing nothing but blasting music. And when I say nothing – I mean nothing. There were times when different teenage girls were talking on the phone, while their webcam was broadcasting just that – them on the phone, listening to music.

Sadly, when I tried to host a show, few entered my room. I had on a nice clean white shirt, and had created the topic “Customer Service Horror Stories” as I’m sure we all have had one or more of those. But after 10-minutes of broadcasting, only a couple of guests had entered my video chatroom. I then captured a still shot of a half-naked woman from a porno video, and within minutes, I had almost 40 people.

This speaks volumes about the nature of BlogTV, and sadly of the Internet as a whole. People that go onto BlogTV don’t want quality, they want to see hot babes. They are voyeurs looking for another source to entertain their addiction.

BlogTV has the potential to be something of value in our society – but I don’t think our society is really ready for it.

We as a society have not evolved to the point where intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken ideas can be broadcast online by just anyone. If those intelligent, thoughtful and well-spoken ideas are broadcast by a bimbo, showing a lot of cleavage and maybe some thigh, they stand a better chance of being received.

Now, I am by no means an ugly person, but I’m also not a high grade model. And even if I had the chiselled chin, was tall dark and handsome, sadly, I still would have faltered in my broadcast on BlogTV. I lack the boobs to make it work.

Most people on BlogTV, just as most people on the online chats and other so-called “social networking sites” are men. And most of these men lack the interest in seeing another man discuss anything, even sports. Most of these men are thinking with their penises and are only looking for one thing – some old fashioned tits and ass.

As many of the hosts on BlogTV are extremely young kids, obviously younger than 18, and probably broadcasting from their bedroom in their parent’s home without mom and dad’s knowledge, most of those men are actually encouraging illegal and immoral behaviour.

There are moderators that “wander” around the various video chatrooms, looking out for inappropriate behaviour. And there is a button which anyone entering these rooms can press, to alert one of these moderators about such things – but it appears few push that button.

Then again, it isn’t always easy to tell when these kids are or are not underage – I asked a few how old they were. They all responded “I’m 18.”

But anyone can say or do anything online. Just like those sad, lonely and depressed men, watching those young girls in barely anything can too.

Though parents need to know what their kids are doing online. I think giving a kid access to a computer is great. But placing that computer in a bedroom, or anywhere where the kid can be by themselves is just asking for trouble.

But that’s another blog on parenting.

As for BlogTV – I think it is a great idea, and they could have some pretty cool shows. If only there was a way to attract people to your show, other than having a pretty, underage face on it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Great Pizza Rip-Off Artist

I love to cook, but occasionally I just don’t have the time or energy. That’s when I’ll order in.

The other day, I ordered in pizza for me and my girlfriend from Pizza Pizza, one of our usual fast-food pizza places.

We usually get a medium pizza or two, and maybe a salad, garlic bread, stuff like that. I ordered a medium pizza, 10-chicken wings, and a Greek salad.

When the delivery guy arrived with our food, he made a special point to mention that there was no salad dressing, as there wasn’t any on the order.

I thought this very odd, as we’ve ordered many salads from them in the past, and they always include the salad dressing. And it says on their website that the salad comes with an Italian dressing. Besides, who has salad without dressing?

I was mad, and questioned the driver, but didn’t blame him – he’s just the guy who delivers the pizzas. Though he did make a special point to mention there was no dressing – which indicated he knew something was wrong.

Also the medium pizza was incredibly small – in fact it looked like a small pizza. I questioned the driver again, and he verified that was the correct size. I’m guessing Pizza Pizza recently changed their pizza sizes, because I’ve had medium pizzas from them before and they were quite a bit bigger.

I paid the driver, and took the food in. But I was angry, the pizza was smaller than I’ve had in the past, and I didn’t get the salad dressing which is supposed to come with my pizza.

So, I called Pizza Pizza’s customer service number. I told them that I didn’t receive a dressing for my salad, as indicated on their website. I didn’t mention anything about the size of the pizza, as that really was a moot point.

They asked me if I specified a dressing when I ordered. I explained that I’ve never had to specify one before, and that it clearly shows on their website that the particular salad I ordered comes with a specific dressing.

Then the customer service representative on the other end did what I thought all customer service representatives were told never to do – blame the customer.

She said it was my fault for not specifying a salad dressing, their order takers cannot simply decide which dressing to include with the salad.

I explained that I’ve ordered salads from them before, and I’ve always received the salad dressing which is included with the salad, without having to specify anything – all their salads are linked to a specific dressing on their menus.

The customer service representative just continued to blame me – me the customer – claiming next time I should specify which dressing I want.

I said I wasn’t going to argue, please just send us the salad dressing which goes with the Greek salad, as on your menu.

She continued along the same line of thought, telling me about next time, and how now I’ll know not to make the same mistake.

I couldn’t believe her rudeness and lack of respect towards a paying customer. So I hung up, and immediately wiped clean Pizza Pizza’s number from my phone’s directory.

I ended up making my own dressing, with olive oil and some spices, which turned out great. But I was really upset – not only did I pay for something which I didn’t get, I was blamed for not getting what I paid for by the very company which I had paid for the product I didn’t receive.

Pizza Pizza lost a long-time valuable customer that day. I have been ordering food from them on a somewhat regular basis for well over a decade. I’ve enjoyed going into their stores when hungry, to grab a slice of pizza.

But no more – it’s bad enough paying for something and getting lesser value. It is quite another to be treated so unprofessionally and poorly by one of their customer service representatives.

With all the pizza places around, I’m sure I won’t have any trouble replacing them with company that actually respects their customers enough to treat them with no less dignity than they themselves wish to be treated.

When I’m at work, a friends place, or with others, and we decide to order pizza – I’ll always make sure to recite this horrid tale if Pizza Pizza’s name is spoken.

Pizza Pizza’s been around a long time – but they still have a long way to go before they learn how to retain their most important asset – their customers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Snowfalls from the Past

While I was walking with my girlfriend today, I couldn’t help but talk about how high the snow banks were.

We had another major blast of winter yesterday – getting 15cm of snow in total. We’ve had a number of big snow storms recently, so much so, it appears as if we’re having a major snow storm a week.

My comment to my girlfriend speaks to just how much snow we’ve had this winter – so far. I said: “I haven’t seen snow banks that high since I was a kid, and we were up at the cottage.”

I remember when I was a kid, we’d sometimes go up north to the family cottage. Up in cottage country, where the ski hills are, they tend to get a lot of snow every winter. So much snow in fact, that many have to go up on their roofs to shovel it off so they don’t have a cave in.

Up in cottage country, getting snow squalls off the lake is a common cause for the major snow storms. The wicked winter weather we’re having here is due to the increase in the earth’s temperatures – global warming.

Because the world is warmer, more moist air is being picked up by the clouds. This moist air gets carried away by the clouds, which turns to ice and snow as the clouds move over cooler landmasses. Once the ice and snow are too heavy for the clouds to contain, it all comes back down to us. Though all that moist air has done other things too – mainly fuelling the storm cells.

Moist air is energy to a storm cell. Hurricanes typically start off as tropical storms, but only turn into violent and deadly storms once they travel over a warm body of water.

So, not only are we getting clouds with more “stuff” in them, we’re getting more active weather patterns. These highly active weather patterns mean the snow falls are heavier, the winds are stronger, and occasionally we get other things typical of strong storms.

Just last week we had rare winter lightening with the snow and wind storm. At least, this winter the winter lightening is rare, with global warming, that too may be a more common affair.

Winter lightening is just what it sounds like – it is lightening during the winter. We usually only get lightening during summer storms, but last week, there were quite a few bright bolts screaming through the sky.

I don’t mind snow, I actually think freshly fallen snow is pretty. But the consequences of all this snow down the road are going to be disastrous. When it melts, we’re in for a major flooding. Streets and sidewalks will be mini-rivers and streams, basements will become indoor cess pools, water mains will burst under the added strain and pressure.

Good thing I live way up in a high-rise. But even I have to go out and will have to splash my way through it to get to where I am going.

All this water could be a problem for food crops too. Farmers often complain that there isn’t enough snow in the winter, to keep the water tables at a high enough level during the dry summer growing season.

But too much water can wash away the good growing soil (which is lighter) leaving in it’s place, the heavier clays and other dirt and rocks which you just can’t grow good things in.

Farmers can always purchase good growing soil, but that’s a cost that will come back to haunt us at the grocery store.

Maybe it’s just that I’m a typical Canadian – never happy with the weather?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Searching for the Right Fit

I just wrapped-up a contract and so starts the time consuming and often educational process of looking for my next ‘gig.’

Actually, my previous client offered me another 12-month contract – with a mere three-days until my current contract ended. Originally, they told me they were going to extend to me a full-time permanent position. I said I’d be happy to consider this full-time offer – so long as I had sufficient time to consider it. To me, as I should suspect to most professionals, two-weeks notice is standard. Anything less, is just unacceptable.

I was actually quite shocked and somewhat disappointed that my previous client not only changed the offer from permanent to another contract (without even asking my thoughts on this), but also that they left it for so long. Their reasoning was, I was an excellent worker, and they didn’t want to lose me, but they hadn’t finalized their head-count for their fiscal year-end yet.

Their fiscal year-end by the way is October 31, and this was just last week, well into their so-called ‘fiscal year.’ I knew from discussions with senior management, that they still hadn’t completed their plans for the new fiscal year, which they already were in. Perhaps they’ll have a plan for this fiscal year just in time for the next fiscal year?

What it really comes down to is finding the right fit. Finding that perfect job is like slipping into your favourite pair of blue jeans.

That favourite pair of blue jeans didn’t just happen. You scoured through numerous clothing stores, trying on many pairs, until you found that perfect pair of blue jeans that just felt right – almost like a second skin.

Finding the perfect employer takes time too. You have to go through countless interviews, being asked the same questions repeatedly. You to ask the same questions over and over again, only to find six-months to a year later, you’re back out there, on the interview circuit.

Or at least, that’s the way it should be. Sometimes it is pretty easy and quick to find out just who is NOT the right fit, and eliminate them from contention.

Today for example, I went to an interview where I had my doubts. There was a little voice inside my head telling me after the initial phone call that this wouldn’t be the right place for me, but I decided to go forward with the interview to see how things panned out.

Turns out that little voice was right.

An interview should be a private affair, with only those directly involved in the hiring process, meeting with potential candidates one-on-one. It is an opportunity for these individuals to assess whether or not there is a good fit.

Today’s interview was done as a group, with four candidates at once. And there were no questions allowed on either side. Instead, we were herded like cattle into a big boardroom, and given a writing test.

“We were told to bring our portfolios so you could look at them,” I said.

“Oh, don’t worry, we’ll look at those if we call you back for another round,” said the dubiously deceptive interrogator.

I had lugged my laptop to this interview, as I do all interviews. This way, I can show off all my work, paying special attention to the pieces which most resemble the type of work for which I’m interviewing. I was pretty peeved that I not only was asked to bring my portfolio, but that it wouldn’t even be looked at today.

The others in the “interview” were pretty young, they looked like college kids. They probably just graduated from school. I’ve been around the block, so-to-speak, so I not only felt out of place, but really uncomfortable.

I’m way to “senior” a person to be compared to a bunch of recent graduates. That’s like comparing apples to oranges – both are fruits, both are good for you, but both are completely different.

I have mentored junior writers in the past, and I enjoy it. I even learn things from the “kids” too – but to compare someone with over a decade’s worth of real-world experience to some fresh and raw meat “kid” out of school, just doesn’t make any sense.

I knew this place wasn’t for me – not only by their hiring process, but by their lack of process.

Their writing test consisted of two parts – first to write a letter answering the question – and I kid you not, this is the interrogator’s own words: “Why Should We Hire You?”

Very arrogant and sadistic to have to write a begging and pleading letter for a job, for which you have already supposedly been chosen as a potential candidate, from your already submitted resume and cover letter.

The second part, was to write a promotional marketing piece for the company’s products and services.

I started to ask some standard questions about who the intended audience was, and which products and services they wanted us to focus on, as the company had several.

My interrogator said, anyone and anything – you choose.

One thing you learn very quickly in this writing business, is you always need to know who your audience is and what it is you are trying to say. I could roughly guess who this company’s audience was, and magically through mental deduction pick what I thought would be one of their better products to write about. However, the point of this “writing test” wasn’t to see how good we were at guessing – it was – as far as I was told – to see how well we write.

The fact that they are asking everyone to write this “test” without even asking them any preliminary questions says to me that they themselves don’t really know what they are looking for. And by them not allowing those in the running to ask any questions, prohibits people from figuring out if this is the right fit for the candidates too.

Normally, if I’m placed in such a situation, I usually find an out and leave politely. But I don’t know, maybe I was mesmerized by the interrogator’s full head of hair, his shiny smile, or the spot on his tie, because I stayed right through. I even wrote their stupid fishing experimental “writing test.” Though I was very generic, as I wasn’t on the payroll, and giving away free marketing information just doesn’t pay the bills.

Don’t get me wrong, often I am asked to write a writing test. I even get asked to write the odd grammar test too. However, usually this is a last stage in the process, after all the questions have been asked on both sides, and both parties feel confident and comfortable moving forward towards the next and final stages.

To ask someone to write a test within 10-seconds or less of meeting them, is no better than having a current client turn-around less than two-weeks before my contract ends, and offer me a mediocre continuation, when originally they had told me they were leaning towards something more substantial.

Neither “process” is professional or courteous, and it is certainly not well thought out.

It just goes to show how challenging it is to find the right fit. One may actually have a better chance of winning the lottery, being struck by lightening, or inheriting a fortune from some long lost relative. But the main thing is to keep trying, because if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Now, where’d I place that perfect pair of blue jeans . . .

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Stranded in the Snow

Last night I went out with my girlfriend to one of our regular hotspots. Every Wednesday they have all-you-can-eat ribs, and this being Wednesday, I went for the ribfest.

My girlfriend, like a lot of women for some reason, doesn’t eat ribs. Must be something in the male chromosomes that gives us men the desire to eat ooey, sticky and messy ribs. Or anything messy – my girlfriend won’t eat anything messy in public, but that’s another story.

It was starting to really snow as we left for the restaurant. And there was a snow storm warning for the area – with snowfalls expected to be around 15 or more centimetres.

We took the bus, and managed to catch our buses without any problems getting there. Coming back was another story.

We didn’t wait to long for the first of two buses, probably less than 15-minutes. But by now, the snow was really coming down hard. It was a near white-out, and the snow was really pounding us, and piling up everywhere. It was a blizzard.

We waited for our second bus to get us home. And there were already a number of people at the bus stop, which usually indicates the bus was just about to come. But not tonight. Not under all the snow falling.

We kept seeing buses go the other way, but none were coming our way. We waited for about 30-minutes and then figured they were probably being turned around. There is a big hill a little way before us, and chances are the buses were not getting up the hill in the snow and ice.

So, we decided to walk – a walk which took probably 30-45-minutes or more. Not only that, it was almost all up hill, and we were walking into the wind – so snow and ice was continually pelting our faces.

We’re Canadians, so we were dressed for the weather. We’re used to lots of snow in the winter. We were bundled up well in our winter coats, gloves, toques, and boots and scarves.

But even with all those layers of protective clothing, it was still a challenge walking through all that snow. We were passing all the cars getting stuck on the hill – it was like walking through a parking lot, only this parking lot had a lot of angry drivers desperate to get moving.

We had to stop about halfway up the hill to breath – and pat off the snow. We were both covered in the white stuff.

Then we began our journey and we finally reached our destination – home. But it was quite an experience to walk through a blizzard, up hill, wind and snow in your face!

Maybe next time there is a blizzard on the way, we’ll order in.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why Writing Just Comes Easy -- To Me

Writing is easy for me. I can write a two-page blog in under twenty minutes. The one you’re reading right now only took me fifteen.

Why is writing easy to me, but hard for others?

Once a wordsmith, always a wordsmith.

I love to write and I supposed that is part of it. Because if you enjoy something, you not only tend to do it well, but you tend to do it fast and effortlessly.

But I also have a lot on my mind, most of the time. So there again, I have lots of ideas of what to write about.

Funny thing though, I can start hammering out a blog, or anything once in front of a computer. But put me in front of a piece of paper and pen, and I instantly get writer’s block.

I guess I am so used to writing on a computer, the very thought of writing without a computer just blows my mind. I will eventually be able to write something down on that paper, but it’ll take longer to come by than had I been placed in front of a computer.

I never really knew I was a writer-type until I started volunteering for the campus paper way back in my university days. One long lazy summer, I ventured into the campus paper’s offices and inquired how to get involved. I wrote for every issue until my graduation after that day – and I really enjoyed it.

It was a lot of fun digging up information, interviewing people, taking photos, and then seeing my byline in the paper – usually throughout the paper on several stories.

I still wonder what would have happened, had I never taken the initiative to explore the school paper? I’d never know that I enjoyed writing, and I’d probably be working some joe-job at McDonald’s or something.

Then again, maybe I would have ended up the next Ron Jeremy, pursuing that porn career. . .

Yeah, right.

Though kudos to Ron Jeremy – he’s every man’s man. He proved that you don’t have to be tall, dark, handsome and nicely waxed to get the hot babes into bed.

I still would have probably stumbled into my writing ways somehow. Maybe if it wasn’t for the campus paper, it would have eventually been something else. Maybe all those essays I wrote while in university?

Once bitten by the writing bug, it is hard to let go. So the porn industry loses a potential talent, but the world has gained another writer!

Some people are good at math, some science, some drawing and painting. I’m not good at any of those things – though I can blow stuff up real well – does that count as science?

We take our strengths and build on them, to develop meaningful lives in work and play. Those that are good in math do math-related things, those in science do science-related things, and those good at art, usually sell their art door-to-door. . .

Well not really. Not all. Just some.

I’m a writer, and I peddle words for sale.

Wanna buy a vowel?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Groundhog Green

Recently all the media hooted and hollered about Groundhog Day.

There is a great movie with Bill Murray called Groundhog Day. It is one of those stupid but funny movies, where Bill Murray’s character keeps reliving the same day, every day, until that one faithful day, when he finally gets it right.

The recent hype wasn’t over this comedy. It was over a bunch of nuts, that put their trust in predicting the weather, into a furry creature that is a member of the rat family. Groundhogs are actually members of the rodent world, and rats are certainly part of their kin.

Up here in Canada, the groundhogs predicted an early spring thaw. In the States, the groundhogs had mixed views – some predicted more winter, while others ‘claim’ spring is just around the corner.

I don’t believe either larger-than-life rat.

Actually, I don’t buy into the weather forecaster’s either – who aren’t nearly as vane as to predict an early spring or a longer than normal winter.

I think the only way to see what will happen is to wait it out. The whole planet’s ecosystem has gone all funny, thanks to global warming.

We’re seeing more severe weather in all seasons, because of the earth’s temperature continuing to climb. In the summer, we get more severe lightening storms, which cause severe flooding, produce damaging winds, and wreak havoc with power systems. In the fall, we see more rain and high winds. While now in winter, we see more severe snow storms which shut down major metropolitan areas – though who doesn’t want a snow day every so often?

It wasn’t all that long ago, when I can remember we’d only get maybe one or two severe storms per year. Now we’re averaging at least four or five severe storms per year, and that number is on the rise.

Maybe the groundhogs are closer to Mother Nature than we are, so they really can predict when spring will come. But I’d bet easy money that the groundhogs are just as shaken up by the chaotic weather we’ve been experiencing.

Groundhogs, and all the other plants and animals which we share the world with, don’t have the luxury have being able to sit on the couch, sipping a hot chocolate, while watching the storm on the weather network – all safe under the protection of four walls and a roof.

Aside from us humans, all other forms of life have to – pardon the pun – weather the storm.

Which is really ironic when you think about it, as global warming has been caused largely due to human activity. There are some elements of global warming which are natural – but for the most part our reliance on fossil fuels, are disposable society, our use of various products which have increased ozone, and various other things, have all been the key factors creating the increase in the severity and length of wicked weather.

If I was a groundhog, I’d probably go on strike – work for humans which have torn up MY once comfy existence! Never!

However, groundhogs lack the intelligence to communicate such thoughts. Though those that trust their weather predictions may say otherwise.

We are getting better at reducing the human footprint we’ve left on this planet, through recycling programs, more efficient vehicles, and substituting older products with newer, non-environmentally threatening ones.

But it may be too little, too late, at least for you, me and the groundhog.

It took Mother Nature millions of years to balance out the environment after the last ice age, and it will no doubt take her just as long, if not longer, to bring balance once again to the human-damaged environment.

Think you’ll be around in a million years? Ask the groundhog for a prediction on that one.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Transition Lenses Really Work

I recently got new glasses – same prescription, just new lenses and frames.

I went all out and got everything imaginable on two pair of glasses. These lenses have everything – anti-glare, anti-scratch, anti-dust, extra thin and my favourite feature of all – Crizal Transitions from Essilor.

These lenses are clear indoors, but when I go out into the sun, they automatically darken to a full dark grey lens.

When I first experienced the actual transition, I kept taking off my glasses to see how dark they got. They get to a full sun-glass dark tint.

This is awesome as one of my pet peeves – as many eye glass wearers probably experience – is the constant changing of glasses. Every time I go from the outside in, there is always a delay, as I have to fumble with putting my sun glasses away, and taking my regular glasses out.

No more fumbling – my glasses automatically change back to clear lenses when I go inside. This is not only a real time saver, but better for the glasses. It lessens the chance that I will drop or scratch a lens as I fiddle with putting one pair away, and taking the other pair out.

I remember years ago, I had a girlfriend that had these transition type lenses. They always seemed to go dark in the wrong places. And sometimes outside, they wouldn’t get dark enough.

The technology has improved a lot since then – these new transition lenses go from clear to dark fairly quickly, and they go to the right levels of tint for the conditions.

I’m really happy with my new transition lenses, and I highly recommend them to anyone getting new glasses. It is easier and cheaper to get transition lenses, than opting for a pair of sun glasses and a pair of regular glasses.

Though I did get two pairs of glasses, both pairs have exactly the same type of lenses – they are both transition lenses. I needed a backup pair as my older backup pair was getting warn. It is always a good idea to have a backup pair of glasses, because you never know when something may happen to the ones you wear every day.

Though one of my new pair of glasses also has a flexible frame! It actually is designed to absorb some of the shock of an impact. This is great for someone like me, with a fairly active life style.

My other pair of glasses are titanium – they aren’t flexible, but they are very strong. So, if my regular glasses break, I have a strong titanium backup – with all the other features of the lenses as my regular pair.

Now, if only they can create an eye glass with a built in television and DVD player . . .